Early season races bear no resemblance to the proper mudfests of November onwards in cyclocross. So it was a fine, dry day at Oxford Spires Academy this weekend for the hotly anticipated first race of the season hosted by Oxonian CC who had laid out a slightly more technical course from last year which was truly challenging, including several steep climbs, wooded sections and flat playing fields.

Sotonia had entrants in every single category from juniors to vets which was really great to see. First up in the juniors (under 12s) was Tom Wilks aged just five and he looked to really enjoy his first taste of cross racing. Next was the combined women and vets 50+ race, in which we had Gemma Wilks and Mike Maclachlan (John Phillips travelled but with a calf injury, decided to sit the race out). The women starting a minute behind the men, Gemma finished a creditable 13th place in her category – beating some of the men too! Mike came in 57th out of 83 riders.

There were 81 vets in the ever growing 40-50 age category.  After a year away from racing while recovering from a ruptured achilles tendon, Jez Hart lined up with Phil Connell, with Phil getting gridded on row three, Jez lined up four rows further back.

By the end of the first frenetic straight, there had been one blowout and another crash somewhere in front but Jez had moved up and after the third corner, Phil was only six riders ahead. After two more laps they were still together and Phil only fell back when he dropped his chain on the steep and bumpy technical bankings, most of which were just about rideable, given a clear run up. After that it was a case of maintaining the same pace – not easy when the speed is full gas!  Jez finished 27th, Phil 31st.

In the seniors, Tom Budden, Phil Wilks and David Baxter rode strong races to finish 22nd, 24th and 32nd – good results considering Phil had done a hilly road race the day before and Tom’s training has been mostly geared towards his triathlons and spot on the GB squad for the upcoming race in America. We can see Phil and Tom being really closely matched this season too!

Thanks to Oxonian CC for putting on such an excellent event. Next Sunday, the venue for round two is Mary Hare School, Newbury, which always has a cracking course… can’t wait!

Thanks to Graham Robins for his photos.

Full results can be found here

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