The last couple of weeks have seen the start of what looks to be a promising season for DUCC (Durham University Cycling Club). At this time of year most of the more seasoned campaigners bring out the ‘too early to start my season’ excuse, preferring to only begin racing a bit later. However January and February is traditionally when local team Velo29 host a winter series of crit races on the Croft motor racing track near Darlington, and DUCC usually field a healthy showing of fine athletes.
With racing categorised into different levels, it’s always a good chance for less experienced riders to get some practice in, either in the ‘Go-Race’ or the ’4th Cat’ race for riders with licences. The action kicked off on Saturday 2nd February, where the highlight was women’s captain and club President Kat Broadbent’s close second place in the women’s race. Unfortunately she lost out in the end in a tactical battle with elite rider Iona Sewell of GB Cycles, but this looks to be the rivalry to watch out for over the coming season. One feels it’s only a matter of time before Kat gets that coveted win; her condition this season appears to be top notch already, despite all that slaving away for her finals.
Two weeks later on the 16th February the turnout was even better however. There was palatinate patrolling the peloton in all three races, so success was always on the cards. The days racing began with the ‘Go-Race’ which is commentated by racing prodigy Ed Nixon:
“Nerves were running high in the clubhouse as the four ‘go racers’ signed up. Alex Reid remained cool and composed having raced the week before and therefore knew what to expect. As for Edward, Chris and Callum, although each of them had trained tenaciously for the race with countless winter miles under their belts, nothing could truly prepare them for race but racing itself. The riders had time to have a quick warm up before the race was underway. At first it the pace was controlled, each rider reading the others, determining who would be the dominant players as the race unfolded. This approach continued with some minor attacks quickly being reeled back in by the semi organised peloton until a defining attack came from the DUCC member Edward Nixon. Thinking this was their chance to shatter the peloton all the fellow DUCC riders followed quickly in pursuit completing the lap in a TTT fashion. Although all members but Chris (who was saving his legs for the sprint) put considerable stints in on the front thus taking the wind, the group was caught by three other riders. The move was still a success, dropping two thirds of the peloton. After the blistering breakaway Edward could no longer keep up with the pace and waved his team through with hopes they could bring in the club silver wear as his chances in the race were over. The race continued with six members in the breakaway for two more laps with no rider willing to make a move, meaning the possibility of a bunch sprint was ever more likely. As the race entered the final half a lap the pace increased significantly but having gone so far, no rider was willing to drop off at this stage of the race. The pace escalated climaxing on the home straight where Chris decided to make his move, with Alex and Callum quickly in pursuit. The finish line was quickly approaching and 1000 watt Chris was leading the pack almost tasting the glory that lay before him with a ‘go race’ victory, but unbeknown to him Jamie Corcoran was locked onto his tail. When Chis began to tire duo to his long sprint down the home straight, Jamie piped him at the line by half a wheel. Although no victory for DUCC in the ‘go race’ results of 2’nd for Chris Mulliner, 4th for Alex Reid and 5th for Callum Stephen was a good yield for a relatively inexperienced team. Hopefully the team can do one better next time and get the win.”
Then it was time for the 4th cat race. We had less riders in this one, but that wouldn’t matter. Dan Bryant is known in the team for his inability to sprint, so he was looking to avoid a sprint finish at all costs. With only a couple of laps completed, he made a daring move and managed to escape the bunch alone. He wouldn’t look back, single-handedly holding off the chasing pack to score his first win on the road, and with it the requisite 10 points to move up a category. Not bad for race 1 of the season.
The Elite, 1,2,3 race would be DUCC’s least successful of the day, unfortunately not managing to place any riders in the top ten. Our best hope was veteran campaigner and former road captain Andy Miles; however despite trying several times to form a breakaway, luck wasn’t going his way, and when the bunch sprint came round at the finish he found himself with no space to manoeuvre.
Elsewhere, the team’s European contingent, led by Ruari Grant in Sicily, has had a slightly slower start to the season. Racing in Italy tends to be slightly more agressive, and so the constant escape attempts can take some getting used to after experience of the often sprint dominated racing in the UK. However after a 3rd in category result in the season’s opener two weeks ago, the upcoming weekly races provide plenty of competition to build towards. Visit his blog (here) for more in depth analysis of racing on the continent.
Unfortunately the region’s first sizeable race of the season, the North East Trophy was cancelled this weekend. It usually attracts several fairly big names from the area, and some of more senior members of the team were looking to begin their season there. However it looks like they’ll have to hold off for another week or two until the snow clears!
All told, this has been one of the most successful openings to a season DUCC has had in recent years, so all bodes well for the rest of the season. With any luck this promise will gradually start bringing in more BUCS points; something essential to the club in its ever-present search for funding from Team Durham.