Report by Tom Simpson . . .
The 2016 Varsity mountain bike XC was held on a chilly Sunday in February at Crowthorne Woods in Berkshire. The team, which left Cambridge at 6:00am (already demonstrating their greater commitment over Oxford by waking up an hour earlier), consisted of captain Matt Rodgers, myself, old hand Fin Allen, ‘retired’ 24-hour racer Andrew Clark and fresher Danny Taylor. Reaching Crowthorne two hours later we threw in a practice lap of the course, Danny making good use of his kneepads after snagging a tree; between us, our 780mm bars made us more rad but also more bloody-fingered on the twisty woodland course. We had time for a brief introduction with the team from The Other Place [Oxford] and found that our universities’ engineering prowess had resulted in not one but two home-built bikes being raced.
The nine of us lined up on the start line together after giving the category with which we shared the race a five minute head start. Oxford’s female rider, Tamara Davenne, competed separately in the women’s race, topping the podium. Meanwhile in the men’s Varsity, split seconds after the starting horn, a loud crunching and cursing indicated a bad start for Oxford’s Tom Everitt with a broken chain. The start was fast, but I held second followed by two more Oxfords and the Cambridge team into the first single track section. Unfortunately they soon edged past, but I held the third’s wheel with Matt in close pursuit behind, managing to pull him back and take a chunk of time through the second and third laps. The winding course gave regular sightings of Andy and Fin working their way through the men’s field with which they had made contact soon after the start.Continue reading