Ashby triumphs as riders are caught out by icy traps in Thetford MTB/Bike Art Winter Series
A sparkling day with some dramatic turnabouts in the race order made for a memorable second round of the Thetford MTB/Bike Art Winter Series.
Breckland is famous for its extremes of temperature and for its flints – and both were much in evidence.
All day frost lay hard on any ground which was not in direct sunlight. On the first lap, rider after rider fell on icy corners, and later on, in sunny spots, ice was disguised.
'It looks like mud, but it's ice,' said male two-hour 18-39 winner Lewis Parker (Gipping Racing Team).
There were a dozen punctures in the first mile or so, and many more throughout the race. Perhaps the icy ground held flints firmly in a cutting position. The sealant used by riders with tubeless tyres probably works more slowly in the cold, and in any case cannot cope with substantial cuts.
The lead in the four-hour men's race kept changing hands. Regular winner Andrew Cockburn led early on, but after four of the six-and-a half mile laps, round-the-world-cyclist Richard Dunnett (Team CCN) took the lead, but soon 'blew up' (it would be hard to claim that he 'lacked the miles').
Tom Wragg, Shaun Wells and Ditchingham rider Shaun Aldous (Team CCN) remained in contention with Paul Ashby (MT-Zoom), but the latter punctured twice and Wragg (Flatoutcycles) looked set to win.
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However, the never-say-die Fenman put a tube in his originally tubeless wheel and on the last straight fireroad just caught sight of Wragg ahead.
With a supreme effort, Ashby caught Wragg and managed to win by six seconds.
'It's a good thing it didn't come down to sprint – I'd have had nothing left,' said Ashby afterwards.
There were no surprises in the Veteran's Two-Hour, where Norwich rider Andy Manning (Team CCN) shot 50 yards off the front straight from the start and had six minutes in hand at the finish. Behind Parker in the 18-39 Two-Hour, Tom Stanford (Team CCN) produced the ride of his life to take second place, just 44 seconds down, while other top Norwich riders were Matthew Thurston, sixth in the 18-39s (out of 158) and Jodie Cole (HMF Pedalpower) ninth in the women's 18-39s.
• At the dinner of the Norwich Amateur Bicycle Club the Clubman of the Year award went to Andy Blackwell and major racing award winners included Duncan Lorne (10 and 25 miles and Criterium Champion), Ed Dean (Short Distance BAR and Vets 25 Champion, among others) and Jason Turner, whose 263-mile 12-Hour broke the club record that had stood since 1959.
Cold-weather time trialists are reminded that entries for the CC Breckland New Year's Day 10 close on the non-standard closing date of December 12.