Wrekinsport CC Hannah Phipps-Jones 20.7
The curse of road works struck again with two sets of lights affecting both first choice and the reserve course for the Wrekinsport Hannah Phipps-Jones Handicap, with a second course change to two laps of The Tiddly circuit requiring the event to be brought forward and some frantic field rearrangement to ensure all the riders would finish and have time to get back to HQ by official sunset at 20:40 – although the bizarre conditions had other ideas of when things were going to get dark.
CC Bridgnorth RWG rider Will Lewis took the win in 44 minutes 18 seconds by the narrowest of possible margins – one second, from reigning SB Sports Injuries Series Champion Dan Watts after being split by just three seconds at the 10 mile marker, showing how evenly matched the pair paced their races. Lewis’ plans for the season were ripped up due to Covid, and so some readjustment saw him trying to find a new outlet to gain fitness, as he explained: “I originally had plans to race competitively in National road races this year, but they went out of the window due to the outbreak. I needed a new focus to maintain some fitness and training for next season. A couple of work colleagues persuaded me to enter the Wednesday night time trial. I gave it a go not expecting a lot and surprised myself. It’s a great event for cyclists of all abilities, and well organised for a small fee. I hope to be back for the remaining events and possibly some open events. Who knows maybe a couple of course records! Its great clubs are now allowed to put on these sorts of events for riders”.
Looming thunderclouds thankfully held their contents within for the entire event despite protesting regularly on a humid, sultry evening, accompanied initially by the lightest of breezes - but that was all to change midway through the second lap when a vicious wind sprang up which made bike handling problematical. Riders then had a second race on their hands to get back to HQ at Shawbirch under an almost pitch black sky frequently lit up by sheet lightning, with the incredible sight of anything to the north of Shawbirch island staying dry whilst conditions to the south were so torrential if an ark had floated past it would not have been surprising.
I was a case of ‘almost’ for Watts as the narrow loss still saw him take 18 points in defence of his title, with an additional five mile blast back to HQ to try and miss the gathering storm. He stated: “I didn’t know what the bigger prize was, winning the event or racing back to the HQ after to avoid the storm and subsequent rain! In the end I missed out on the win by the narrowest of margins, but I avoided the rain, so half a win in my books. I’m happy to be back racing and in close competition, it keeps it very interesting for the shortened season”.
Taking third spot Nova Raiders’ Dean Callister was clearly affected by the worsening conditions judging by his split time – at 10 miles he was just three seconds off Watts’ pace, but lost a further 13 seconds on lap two after taking a battering which made things down the finishing straight a very tough deal with many competitors, clinging onto the bike for dear life whilst trying to stay upright. Eventually crossing the line in 44:35 he commented: “I was pleased with my time on a very strange evening of weather. I enjoyed the course, but for some unexpected high winds on the second lap which was tough. Glad we all missed the storm, thanks to Wrekinsport for putting another great evening of racing on”.
In the Veterans Chris Halford took the honours for the promoting club after making his first appearance of the Series this year, with a fine +10:54 for clear win 37 seconds ahead of Series leader Tim Beardmore spite fighting to control his bike on the second lap. Halford stated: “The first lap was OK, but the second lap was a real handful with the conditions. It was definitely nine miles too long for me”! Beardmore meanwhile was suffering due to the effects of dehydration over the two previous days of incessant heat which had triggered the post-race deluge, and knew he hadn’t put in his best effort: “It was not my best race. I think working in the heat and humidity for the previous two days had taken its toll somewhat. The first lap went OK, but the wind really picked up on the second lap which made controlling the bike tricky in places. I also got stuck behind a load of traffic for a couple of miles on the way up to Epsley island, but hey, that's racing! I was hoping to go sub 45 minutes but it was not to be. Still very happy to get second in the Veterans and pick up some good points and it could have been much worse if the "Biblical" rain had come an hour earlier. Massive thanks to all at Wrekinsport for organizing another event”.
Normally challenging for maximum Veterans points Beardmore’s club mate Deb Hutson-Lumb had to be content with just the Women’s win and third Veteran’s place thanks to a decision not to use her regular time trial bike, still posting a very efficient time of 53:54. She explained: “With storms threatening and not wanting two bikes to clean I decided to ride this on my road bike with clip-ons. Very pleased with the first lap managing to keep focus on power but got a bit distracted by the rising cross wind on the second lap. I was very pleased overall; and good to get practice on a course that features in the VTTA National in September. Thanks again to everyone involved in making these events happen”.
16 year old Henri Bedford had actually beaten Tim Beardmore at the 10 mile point, crossing the line for the first time two seconds ahead but lost a bit of time being buffeted by conditions to take the Junior win and the maximum 60 points available over the three rounds in a sterling defence of his SB Junior title. His 45:49 saw off a challenge from Revolutions Racing team mate Harry Corney, making his first appearance in the Series with a fine 54:02. Bedfordstated: “I enjoyed doing two laps of the Tiddly course, even though the weather took a turn for the worst on the second lap but luckily the rain held off. Big thanks to Wrekinsport for putting on the event and to all the marshals out on the course”.
Wrekinsport were running their Hannah Phipps-Jones Handicap within the event which usually rewards the most improved rider – and that went to Clare O’Donnell in an adjusted 39:24 after she has lowered her PB consistently week after week. O’Donnell beat Derek Fleming into the Silver medal spot with Phil Roberts taking Bronze to pick up her first-ever cycling medal. She commented: “I can’t believe it! My old PE teacher would never believe it. I’m super, super chuffed”.