Saturday, 31st of March and the best riders in Britain have converged on Essex as has VeloUK, pictures and report …
Saturday, 31st of March and the best riders in Britain have converged on Essex as has VeloUK with me, Larry Hickmott in charge of the camera and laptop, and Graham Harper in charge of the motorbike.
I drove the 250 miles from the Wirral this morning leaving my girl with her young man (grandson Toby) to tend to the garden which will no doubt look even prettier than it did when I left. On arrival in Essex, there was a little misty rain on the course but not enough to wet the roads or even calm the dust down on the off road sections.
Riders from the top team in Europe, Endura Racing, get out of the warm cars and into the chilly cold of Essex to look at the course for the Maldon Dengie Tour.
I spent a few hours getting acquainted with the course which like others during the day, just led to me getting lost! I saw the By Way though and that is so tough! Smooth dirt, rough rocky road, bits of mud, lots of dips, a drag up to hurt the legs, everything that Andy Lyons (Twenty3C-Orbea) said in the preview, it is going to be, and that’s decisive with a capital D.
After a look at the course, I headed to the Premier Inn at Chelmsford and there were the GB Academy all very quiet in reception, the team from Raleigh and the Endura Racing team who were treating me to a ride out in the team ‘bus’ to see how they prepare. They are fully aware of the challenge ahead and know their results in Europe count for nothing. This is a British race and the best of British are here to take their scalps. They may be the top team in Europe outside of the World Tour but they are taking this race very seriously.
Pete Mooney, organiser, rider and hard working mechanic for the Raleigh GAC team. He’s getting the bikes ready for a trip out to the course.
Their rivals include Node4 who were out on the course at the same time as Endura. I never got to speak to them but saw their Kiwi signings Ricco Rogers and Mike Northey out in the team colours. I also spoke to the riders in Endura Racing. Zak Dempster, recovering from illness was cold as he stepped out of the warmth of the hotel as were all the riders.
Rob Partridge came out and promptly went back in to put another layer of Equipe Endura clothing on to stay warm. The temperatures are a far cry from what last year’s race winner, Zak Dempster, is used to in Australia and Girona where he now lives. He also said this year’s course is tougher after riding the finale.
The Endura Racing riders had a long ride today, doing a 12 mile lap of the circuit before heading to the finish via the three final sectors. Alex Blain (France) was very up for it so look out for him on Sunday and certainly appeared to be enjoying the off road, racing through at the front of the Endura pack …
Pete Williams of Node4 leads new signing Ricco Rogers and Dave Clarke over the farm track on the circuit.
The Director Sportif from Endura Racing Julian Winn says there is no point having a single protected rider out there and anyone of them in his team he says, on their day, can win it. So, they’ll see who is riding best on the day and the team strategy will no doubt be ride it from the front.
The mechanic at Endura Racing Richard has been very busy at the service course putting on special 28mm tubulars for the team and they also have wheels with tyres (clinchers) but the opinion seemed to be that the tubs were going to be best. Putting such large tubs on has also meant a few tweaks to the bikes (brakes) and the riders took care of those adjustments on their ride before leaving their mechanic with a list of wants — Richard will no doubt be busy tonight with final tweaks so the bikes are ready for battle. Rapha Condor Sharp are also expected to be on 28mm tubs….
Clayton Velo Spring Classic winner Richard Hepworth was also out on the course this afternoon.
Special mention for the organiser Alan Rosner who was out on the course later in the afternoon still putting signs out. It’s a thankless task and like any organiser of a race at this level, it takes a great dedication to the sport to put in the hard years. It’s the organisers who make these races happen and who deserve the credit!
All we need now is the bike race …. VeloUK will, providing we don’t have any technical issues like today, be posting live updates and photos from the race. After all, no-one gets closer to the action than VeloUK….
Graham Briggs red, white and blue Raleigh bike for Sunday’s race.
Marcin from Node 4 and Mike Northey out today on the circuit.
Training buddies, Jonny McEvoy and Ian Bibby were in good spirits today keeping the laughter flowing in the team.
Lincoln Grand Prix winner, coming into form… Scott Thwaites. Will Dengie be his first win of the year …. a good chance says a team insider.
Last years winner Zak Dempster well rugged up against the cold thanks to his layers of Endura Equipe clothing. Right: Frenchman Alex Blain was looking really up for it .. will Dengie be his second British race win after the Halfords Tour Series crit win at Southport a few years ago.
Ian Wilkinson tinkering with his bike after a saddle change.