With the A442 closed at Bridgnorth due to floods the weekend before the event, more rain, a potential shortcut out of action and a standby version of the course called into use due to new, permanent traffic lights at Stableford bridge organisers were sweating on everything falling into place for the kick off of the Shropshire time trialling season at Worfield for Round 1 of The Friction Hydraulic Series, Wrekinsport CC’s Chris Edwards Hilly 18. Fortunately everything did despite competitors having a few additional potholes and some leftover mud to contend with as the winter cobwebs were blown away – almost literally with a strong wind adding grist to the mill.
That wind made things particularly difficult for the first 3.7 mile leg to Sutton Maddock and put the ball in the court of the strongest riders, with a new rider to the County, David Griffiths making an immediate impression by taking a win right from the off. Riding for Bioracer Moriarty Bikes, Griffiths has a strong palmarès being a four-time Scottish Team Time Trial and three-time Hill Climb Champion, and he put those climbing skills to good effect on the immediate tough start and on the fearsome climb of The Hermitage to steam around the Sutton Maddock – Bridgnorth – Rudge Heath course in 39 minutes 5 seconds.
Griffiths hadn’t joined the SCCA in time to gain points in this event but now has and is likely to be a serious challenger on the County scene given his post race comments: “I've recently moved to the area from Scotland as part of my GP training so was unfamiliar with the course beforehand. The course was an undulating, winding one with road surfaces that at times reminded me of the neglected tarmac of Glasgow! I enjoyed the varied terrain and tried to power up the hills and grab some respite in the downhill sections. The strong wind made it challenging to hold an efficient aero-tuck at times. Thanks very much to Wrekinsport CC and all the volunteers - I found the event to be well organised and was very pleasantly surprised with the option of gluten free homemade cake at the HQ! I hope to be able to compete in the majority of the Shropshire Series and get to know the local competitors”.
Taking the maximum 60 points on offer was former professional Liam Holohan, taking the honours for Holohan Coaching in 39:59. Holohan’s race did not go to plan however, with vital time lost due to a mechanical incident that could have seen him take the overall win, as he explained: “Not great! I had a dropped chain on the final run in that cost me around a minute looking at the data. The positives were that the sensations were good in what was my first competitive outing of the year”.
Nova Raiders’ Tim Beardmore entered the HQ looking at peak fitness and lighter than in the 2019, boding well for his race. That prediction came true as Beardmore took the County runner-up spot in 40:54 as well as the Veteran’s win in +7:29, having a terrific tussle with Holohan’s team mate Chris Pook along the way that pushed the pair to their limits. Beardmore stated: “It’s good to be racing again. You’re never too sure how the first race is going to go and exactly where your fitness is, but I’ve had a good couple of months of training and was hopeful of posting a descent time. The wind got up just in time for the start, with the first leg to Sutton Maddock particularly blustery. My power felt good all the way round, and I was very pleased to get under 41 minutes - thanks to Wrekinsport for a great event”.
Pook meanwhile had started a minute ahead of Beardmore but was caught on the flatter sections of the course whilst managing to pull away on the hills. He took third County spot in 41:48, managing to stay 6 seconds ahead of Beardmore on the road after a determined effort: Pook commented: “I had a good battle with Tim Beardmore who made good ground on me in the cross wind section to Sutton Maddock. After that I pulled away on The Hermitage, only for him to close up again. It helped motivate me to a faster time as I was determined to finish ahead of him! Testing conditions with the wind, but overall I was pleased. Thank you for organising the race, it was a good early season test of form and a course like that is well suited to someone with more of a road racing background like me, given the hilly nature”.
In the Friction Women’s Series Deb Hutson-Lumb set out on her title defence with a maximum 60 points, stopping the watch on 48:21 after a close battle with Hafren CC’s Emma Serjeant who finished 28 seconds off the pace. Hutson-Lumb struggled a little on the fast descent of Windscote Hill, with mud at the bottom courtesy of the recent floods not conducive to taking risks: “My first race of the season and it all started off OK. However I completely lost my nerve on the winding descent on the A442 - the brakes were used - and lack of focus in the last few miles cost me time. A great event and I think I enjoyed it - afterwards! Many thanks to everyone involved in organising and running it”.
Last year’s Friction Junior Series Silver medallist has his eyes set on a bigger prize as 16 year-old Henri Bedford finished a strong 5th overall in 42:06. Revolutions Racing’s Bedford had the advantage of light weight to propel himself up the climbs but that nearly proved his undoing without the weight to gain traction on the broken road surface, which was especially poor entering Rudge Heath island. He stated: “A tough and challenging first ride to start the season with. I got unseated on a couple of occasions due to the road conditions - deep potholes and traffic. Glad the weather was kind even though the hills weren’t so nice. Thank you to organisers Wrekinsport CC for hosting the event”.
Wrekinsport were running their own Championship within the event in memory of Chris Edwards, with Tomos Hales putting in a successful defence of the trophy in 43:27, 1:15 ahead of new club member Ben Rawlings.