Report – Mildenhall Cycling Rally

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Torrential rain on Bank Holiday Monday brought this year’s Mildenhall Cycling Rally to a premature end!

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Report – Mildenhall Cycling Rally

Organisers of the Rally, Mildenhall Cycling Club, reluctantly took the very difficult decision at lunchtime, as with many of the hundreds of campers having already left or about to leave early, there was no point in prolonging the agony for the traders, caterers, visitors and riders of getting any wetter.

Mark Burchett, Chairman of the Mildenhall Club said, “After the months of planning and hard work by the Rally organising committee and then the time put in by members over the weekend, it is so disappointing and frustrating that it ends like this. There is nothing that we can do about the weather, but this is now the second year running that the last day has been curtailed by unseasonal wet weather.”

Although, the Cyclo-Cross events on the Monday morning did go ahead as planned in what were typical conditions that the riders would expect to encounter in the middle of the winter. Afterwards Sherilyn Powell (Team Terminator) who finished fifth with her brother and club-mate Mitch in the Madison said enthusiastically to the organiser of the ‘Cross events, Mandy Burchett, “I really enjoyed that!”

In addition, amazingly 19 riders signed on to race on the very heavy and rain soaked grass-track in the afternoon. Max Pendleton, organiser of the grass track racing, duly obliged with a revised shortened programme events over longer distances to avoid potential accidents in the sprint races.

It was a completely different picture for the first two days of the Rally, with what rain that did fall doing so overnight, meaning the many events and activities went ahead as scheduled. The main camping field was full of caravans, motorhomes and tents of all shapes and sizes on the Saturday, a day that had begun at 5am when a hardy group of cyclists started the 300km Rally Roving Audax ride. Many more followed in their tyre tracks leaving the Sheldrick Way site of Mildenhall College Academy to cover 200km, 100km or 50km routes throughout Suffolk and the surrounding counties of Norfolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire. The last of the ‘300’ riders finished late in to the night! Audax’s are timed touring routes with checkpoints that you need to reach before a cut-off time.

The grass-track racing on Saturday afternoon was proof of the upsurge in the interest in cycling with 73 Under 16 year olds competing in the five age groups, with many split into boys and girls due to the numbers. The youngest were just 7 & 8 year olds, who showed great composure on fixed wheel bikes that would put many older and experienced riders to shame.

The highlight of the grass-track programme on the Sunday was the British Cycling National 8km Championship. It was a race that was very unpredictable to the end with no riders, as so often happens over this distance, making a breakaway and came down to Mitch Powell (Team Terminator) to cross the line first ahead of Grant Martin. Of the pre-race favourites, only Martin Smith (Chesterfield Couriers) got among the medals to claim the Bronze. Later in the afternoon, the Derbyshire rider was brought down just after the sprint for the finish line and was taken to Accident & Emergency at West Suffolk Hospital for precautionary checks, but was declared fit and was back at the Rally site to enjoy breakfast in the Food Marquee the following morning.

Before the track racing began family and friends flocked to trackside to watch the Children’s Duathlon, where a full field of 75 under seventeen year olds ran and cycled varying distances according to their age grouping. William Holland-Leader (NunSigma Sport – London RT) was the first across the line in the 3-5 year old age group, as was Jack Bowser (Spalding CC) was in the 6-8 year olds race.

Before the track racing began family and friends flocked to trackside to watch the Children’s Duathlon, where a full field of 75 under seventeen year olds ran and cycled varying distances according to their age grouping. William Holland-Leader (NunSigma Sport – London RT) was the first across the line in the 3-5 year old age group, as was Jack Bowser (Spalding CC) was in the 6-8 year olds race.

In the 9-10 year old age category, Harley Gregory (West Suffolk Wheelers & Tri Club) beat local rival Will Morrison (Colchester Rovers), with Mildenhall’s James Carrington finishing in 8th place.

The hosts were well represented in the 11-12 year old age group With Francis Robb (10th), Joslin Carter who has only recently moved to Ely from London (11th), Colin Mantle (14th) and Oliver (18th). It was won by Bryn Richards (Bourne Wheelers) with his club-mate, Emily Richards, the first girl.

Aaron Freeman (Chelmer CC) won the 13-16 year old age group, with Mildenhall’s Alex Robb in 8th place.

In the rain soaked Madison, brothers George and Henry Thompson (Sleaford Wheelers) beat regular competitors in the Rally Madison, father and son team of Kevin Payton (Stourbridge CC) and Tom (Islabikes), while it was another family affair in third with Jake and Kevin Darragh from Maldon & District CC.

For the host club, Ryan Skeats was joined by his neighbour Daniel Sutton who was racing in his first competitive event to finish a very respectable seventh, ahead of older and more experienced club-members! In ninth were David Robb and Zak Towler, 12th was Matt Cook partnering Chris Ife (Chelmer CC) and in 13th place was Matthew Mantle, paired with Selby CC’s Carolyn Bell, which brought a mock protest from his wife Diane, officiating at the finish line!

Brothers-in-law Richard Carrington and Paul Pearson were sixteenth while Paul Flack rode with his nephew to finish in 22nd place.

Will Raymond (Welwyn Wheelers) was a deserved winner in the Under 16’s Cyclo-Cross ahead of another experienced juvenile rider Matty Egglestone from Penrith based Beacon Wheelers. Mildenhall CC was well represented with Colin Mantle finishing 13th, Millie Flack 15th and her sister Aimee immediately behind her.

In the Under 12’s race, Scott Fisher from South lakes club Furness Future Flyers edged out Oliver Griggs and Jack Emerson from local Clubs (West Suffolk Wheelers & Tri Club and Colchester Rovers respectively. Joslin Carter who like his brother has only just joined the Mildenhall Club finished in a very respectable 10th position.

Seven-year-old Finley Bracewell (CC Ashwell) beat Evander Wishart (Fenland Clarion) in the Under 9’s section.

Over the three days hundreds of cyclists daily took advantage of a different area to explore, either using the Touring Sheets produced and sold by the organisers, or following their own routes or destinations.

As ever, it was very difficult to find any spaces in the local accommodation or the restaurants & cafes, which were kept busy throughout the weekend. In 2012, a survey by Mildenhall Cycling Club and Forest Heath District Council calculated that financial benefit to local business was a quarter of a million pounds.

Mark Burchett added, “I would sincerely like to thank everyone associated with the Rally for their help and support, without which it just would not be possible to stage this nationally recognised event.”

For a full result roundup go to www.mildenhallrally.org.uk

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