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It’s no picnic in Thetford forest as rivals go wheel to wheel on new course

PUBLISHED: 16:31 06 November 2018

Paul Groombridge (left) and Will Dorsett overtake lapped riders at the Thetford Forest MTB racing Picture: Fergus Muir

Paul Groombridge (left) and Will Dorsett overtake lapped riders at the Thetford Forest MTB racing Picture: Fergus Muir

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Local riders Paul Groombridge and Will Dorsett were among the winners when Thetford MTB opened their winter racing series on a new course based at the St Helen’s picnic area across the river from Santon Downham.

The Vet Men’s 90 Minute podium, from left, Chris Hunter, Paul Groombridge and Ben Findlay at the Thetford Forest MTB racing Picture: Fergus MuirThe Vet Men’s 90 Minute podium, from left, Chris Hunter, Paul Groombridge and Ben Findlay at the Thetford Forest MTB racing Picture: Fergus Muir

Those racing in the Three Hour option started at 10am, then at 11.30am a mass start saw nearly 200 competitors stream off for 90 minutes of racing in a forest displaying rich autumn colours.

Groombridge – racing in the Vets over 40 category – was soon in company with Mulbarton rider Dorsett, who led the 18-39s. Groombridge largely set the pace and sometimes opened a gap in the long single-track sections twisting through trees. However, Dorsett, a former North Norfolk Wheelers time triallist and runner, always closed the gap on the straight fire roads and the pair finished just one second apart.

The new course was widely praised.

“Technical in a good way – not technical dangerous” was one comment.

Sam Davey (VC Norwich and TIMBER) leads Glenn Stanford  at the Thetford Forest MTB racing Picture: Fergus MuirSam Davey (VC Norwich and TIMBER) leads Glenn Stanford at the Thetford Forest MTB racing Picture: Fergus Muir

It was hard on arms and backs – but more use will cure that.

Women’s winners were Elvita Branch, Laura Sampson and Sarah Hewitt, while Andrew Cockburn and Dan Howe were the three-hour male winners.

West Suffolk Wheelers cyclo-cross marked a return to the West Stow Country Park venue after many years. With the help of St Edmundsbury District Council, under-used areas were mown, rolled and opened up. A sand-pit proved a bike-handling challenge and spectator attraction while several climbs of the central hump – a well-landscaped former municipal tip – tested everyone’s fitness.

Junior Lauren Higham made short work of these climbs and had one minute over Gemma Melton and two on Alison Hogg in the women’s race.

Vet Women’s winner Laura Sampson from Stowmarke at the Thetford Forest MTB racing Picture: Fergus MuirVet Women’s winner Laura Sampson from Stowmarke at the Thetford Forest MTB racing Picture: Fergus Muir

Bethany Barnett from King’s Lynn has now joined Higham in the Herts-based LIV AWOL young women’s development team, and was winner of the Under 16 Girls’ event at West Stow.

Norwich rider Jimmy Piper swept all before him in the Vets 50-plus, while Seb Herrod from Lowestoft moved up though the Senior Men’s field to take second place to James Madgwick (Bloodwise QSW). Less than 24 hours later he was astride his MTB and taking second place in the Thetford Three-Hour.

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