Shropshire's time trialling season opened with a statement of intent from Matt Garthwaite as the Holohan Coaching rider won Round 1 of the Friction Hydraulics Series in some style at Worfield - despite some pre and in-race problems. With Wrekinsport's Chris Edwards Hilly 18 featuring the fearsome climb of The Hermitage Garthwaite's eye was on the competition from the holder of several local hill climb records, Jonny Morris, who was guaranteed to make up time as gravity did its worst.
But gravity wasn't the only consideration on a tough day blighted by a strong, gusting south-westerly wind that ensured riders had to take care to hold their line as they were hindered in all but the final two miles. Garthwaite won the race in 40 minutes 6 seconds, 2:17 ahead of Morris, but his mood was more one of thankfulness for getting his first event under his belt: "I was relieved with the win, especially after I struggled to put my skin suit on for the first time this year - I must still be carrying some Christmas indulgence! Jonny has the Strava King of the Mountains record up The Hermitage so I knew the course would suit him. I had a bit of trouble with traffic backing up behind slower riders in front of me that resulted in some dodgy undertaking skills, but thankfully the rain stayed away".
Fishface RT rider Morris was also glad to get his first event out of the way and despite the winds appreciated not having to contend with 'The Beast From The East' that postponed last year's race. He stated: "It was a great race to start the cycling season, and thankfully no snow this year! The crosswinds made it very interesting at times heading towards Sutton Maddock, but The Hermitage is a hill I know very well so it was good to finish with it. I'm looking forward to testing myself against the clock a bit more this year at more SCCA events".
Garthwaite wasn't the only local rider setting out is stall as Nova Raiders' Tim Beardmore took the County runner-up spot on a course he is very familiar with. Beardmore stopped the clock on 43:23, exactly a minute behind Morris and stunning reigning Shropshire Best all Rounder Victor Chetta by 7 seconds. This was a superb performance by Beardmore, equalling his best ever position in this Series attained in the final round of 2018. But he went one better in the Veteran's Series, taking an impressive win in +4:48, the best of only nine riders to beat their standard showing just how hard conditions were. Beardmore wasn't finished there either, leading Nova Raiders team mates Dean Dovey and Nick Long to the team win.
Beardmore commented: "The wind made for a very nervous warm up, but when I got racing I coped with it pretty well. This is my local course, and one that I always enjoy, and I felt good all the way round. I was surprised and very happy with my time and the Veteran's win. It was good to see so many strong rides from my team mates at Nova Raiders, with the team win being a nice bonus. Thanks to the timekeepers and marshals and to everyone who helped out".
Chetta meanwhile probably lost that 7 seconds through riding conservatively thanks to conditions, finishing 3rd County rider in 43:30 but was still pleased with his efforts. He revealed: "The strong winds certainly made for some hair-raising moments on the north end of the course, I came very close to crashing which made me ride a bit more cautiously after that. I enjoyed pushing hard into the headwind on the return leg and was pleased with my effort up The Hermitage, a good way of reawakening the competitive drive". The Mid Shropshire Wheeler lost out to the same rider in the Veteran's Series - but by a bigger margin of 1:01 seconds when the age-related standards were applied, posting a good +3:49, 27 seconds ahead of Dovey.
In the Women's Series it was another Nova Raider who took the win with Charlotte Chapman setting a 1:40 advantage over Hafren CC's Emma Serjeant. Chapman ended her afternoon on a fine time of 49:26. Chapman had both the help and hindrance of light weight helping her fly up The Hermitage but getting blown around on more exposed parts of the course. She was happy with her efforts and pleased to meet up with many friends around the Shropshire time trialling scene: "It was lovely to see everyone! I was chuffed to take the win and to see a big improvement since my first go at the course two years ago. Looking forward to the rest of the season now - hopefully with less wind though"!
It was a two-horse race in the Junior Series, with Kieran Morris gaining victory in a fine 47:05 - good enough for 11th spot overall. The 18 year-old was challenged by a first-timer, Nathan Hester, who was left rueing his bad luck after puncturing near the foot of The Hermitage. Morris suffered in conditions and battled to control his bike, with tri-spoke wheels notorious for misbehaving at awkward yaw angles - exactly the conditions down the 'Rabbit Run'. Despite this he enjoyed the testing course: "Thank you to the organisers, a great course. I really struggled using my front tri-spoke and couldn’t even get on my time trial bars because of the wind. Looking forward to the rest of the season now. Well done to everyone who rode. Not an easy day".