BMCR Result: Wibtoft ‘Griterium’ Gravel Series 1

B grade rider Jamie Murray winner of BMCR’s  Wibtoft ‘Griterium’ Gravel Series race; legend cross rider Tracey Fletcher was first woman

BMCR Result: Wibtoft ‘Griterium’ Gravel Series 1

Today was the first of the ‘Griterium series gravel race.’ That’s lifted from the RHQ description of the race. A clever little pun on the word ‘Criterium’ though plainly spelled out is the descriptor, ‘Gravel.’ In good faith, robust of constitution though clearly of unsound mind, a colourful group of enthusiasts gathered on the gravel strewn lane that led to the gritted, concreted, hard standing area to sign on.

It ended there.

Just beyond lay the course. It looked familiar. I recognised this farmer’s field dirt track, wide enough for a tractor, inclusive of tyre indentations that would later bounce the tyres in a bone juddering shock if the pressures were too high. A switch left followed by a sharp right led to a long straight with only the one correct line to take.

Any overtaking would mean going on to grass under which it was either soft and slowing or rutted and roller coasting. After which another sharp turn left. This one gave me deja vu as later I was to swing too far right, plough through the greenery and managing to stay upright, regain the course. I’d done the same before, two years ago when the inaugural mtb event was held. Martin, kindly allowed me to participate on a CX bike.

This course was looking more and more familiar. Though the corn field was missing we were following much of what I’d done before; 12 inch wide pathways on the edge of fields. Mud, earth, soil, organic matter, muck.

What was missing was ‘grit’. Not from the Northerners who’d made the trip down or to be fair to my softie southern brethren who’d packed a passport and chanced a day in the ‘Mudlands.’ For that’s what we rode.


Now the consistency of soil is something Radio 4’s Gardener’s Question Time has explained for years. Needless to say there’s mud. Different consistencies and today’s was stodgy like drying clay but not crumbly like suet.

Malleable then. Like my backside after an hour.

This mud thing mattered as the vast majority of riders seemed hard core Gravel types. Proper fat tyres on bikes that looked like road versions only with the extra clearance. So Panaracer Gravel Kings were a common sight. 40 mm mostly and well north of the few CX bikes in evidence, shod with 35 mm and knobbly with it.

My point is the fast gravel tyred machines were shod for fast, compacted gravel surfaces. It’s a science choosing what’s right and the gravel world defines types of gravel accordingly but today we were on mud.

Mud and nothing else: dried, moistened, moist, malleable like a ball of play dough.

But as for gravel, for grit, for particles of rock, flint, stone; Fred and Barney couldn’t find any today.

So having had ample ‘sighting’ laps in search of said granular formations we were left in no doubt what lay ahead. Mud, compacted mud, nothing quite like it for boiling the blood.

Our merry bunch in pre-race sunshine which relaxed the mood were set off in well disciplined and organised waves. Almost like doves. Almost pub landlord like the ‘ladies’ were first off with a 3 minute buffer, to be followed by the younger gentlemen and then my cohort, the old[er] lads.

Now despite the flash frames, the wireless shifting, the tubelessly set up, low pressure rubber, some chose conventional road pedals and consequently like a greyhound finishing off a bone, were left at the start.

A start which was electric but not eclectic. Selective according to Darwin, a man who says we crawled out of the mud, Morganucodon like, 200 million years ago. Today, not exactly head in the sand, we were however, heading back to our roots.

A line out of a dozen at most immediately formed as the speed was cranked up. Full threshold power on show and the elastic was only going one way.

Riders was full gassing it to stay in contention and the gaps grew exponentially. The first three that were still within sight were well distanced from each other, almost equally spaced. Then a growing gap and so it went on until it reached me, well distanced by now but giving it a good go.

Up there apparently was Freeman who at the time of penning this I believe took the G category. A fine explosive ride where he held the power and the gap. After 30 minutes I’d got the juggernaut that is Ellerbeck, finally clipped in, up to speed and about to steam roller me into oblivion.

Or mud.

Try as I might I couldn’t hold that wheel as his wattage is stellar and the time trialling forte stood him in good stead.

This wasn’t a road race. It was a constant battle to turn the cranks. There was very little chance to free wheel and if you did you were simply slowing to those behind who pedalled. Even the turns were being taken with no let up. The effect of the gooey mud in paces held up the speed enough to allow a full on tilt at getting round the corner.

There was a tight 180 where technique came into play but it was more about correct line and balance and then getting back on the pathway and upping the cadence. Hence, that became a procession where the fastest younger riders were coming by simply through the pure speed they could hold.

It wasn’t technical like a Cross or technical like a gravel race where the danger is of the loose stuff sliding away under you.

This was almost like riding the burn as the mtb community excel at.

Like many a cross race, it comes down to holding the position, the gap established. Over taking was a game of chance as there literally was the one line. To stray off it had the teeth rattling. It was bumpy, uneven and rutted whereas the racing line was much smoother, being flattened mud.

Not the clingy stuff at all. The tread picked up almost none and even in the hippo wallow bits that were only damp, at worst it sucked at the wheels and strained at the legs. Grass maybe grippy but the bumps that lurked within knocked the speed off.

Finally, after what seemed a very long hour the marker board came out like sunshine after a shower. This shower of now tired, in my case knackered riders, were glad to see it. By now I’d been passed by one female rider and I wouldn’t let the wheel go.

I’d lapped others but now I was spurred on by the quite recent 400,000 year old Neanderthal genes coursing through me that kept telling me not to beaten by a woman. Strange one for me as Linda had seen me off at the Abberleys and beating Mim is now a thing of the past.

But the mud, the lack of modernity by way of metalled roads, meant my own primeval scream was echoing not to be beaten.

The kindness of Martin Eadon, I think he knocked off a lap of the final 3, encouraged me to sprint for the line and come by the female rider, possibly the winner, and one guy.

Small victory. But then every yard is fought over and riders are battling every rider near them. After all, all soldiers are known as heroes and yet not all soldiers get the medals. A few guys took the honours today and talk afterwards was of the ‘turn ups’ the ‘good rides’ and the ‘I’m pleased with it.’

It was a good event. It was superbly organised by Martin and his team of helpers and he’s clearly at the forefront of bringing something new to BMCR. It deserves your support.

It was an immense success. I think we all finished pretty shattered; it was a long hour full on. Very little respite. Though in discomfort and breathing like a stuck pig, sweating like one on a spit and only missing an apple in my mouth, I did finish with a smile on my face.

I hope we can have gravel. Find gravel courses. ‘Grit’ is something we northerners don’t have a monopoly on. That was proven today by the strong, fierce, uncompromising racing that too often lapped me as those young Romeos rocketed by with only a ‘Left’ or ‘Right’ to warn of the lightning bolt shooting by.

Great event! Thanks to Martin and Team.

1 Jamie Murray – B – 01:11:05
2 Alan Gunner – B – 01:11:34
3 Gavin Howell – A – 01:12:40
4 Crispin Doyle – C – 01:12:44
5 Richard Wood – B – 01:13:52
6 Nick Popham – C – 01:11:05
7 Darryl Thomas – C – 01:11:10
8 Mark Gallagher – C – 01:11:12
9 Chris Garner – B – 01:13:22
10 Steven Burton – A – 01:13:22
11 Rich Edwards – D – 01:13:25
12 Andy Smith – D – 01:13:42
13 Paul Aldridge – C – 01:13:43
14 Glenn McMenamin – C – 01:14:13
15 Stephen Walker – E – 01:14:49
16 Mick Davies – F – 01:15:07
17 Paul Caton – E – 01:15:14
18 Stewart Phipps – B – 01:11:45
19 Mathew Stonley – C – 01:11:51
20 Paul Wheeler – C – 01:12:02
21 Adrian Hill – D – 01:12:12
22 Richard Norris – D – 01:12:34
23 Andrew Cole – E – 01:13:44
24 Andrew Roberts – G – 01:13:54
25 Jason Brotherhood – B – 01:14:38
26 Robert Hunt – E – 01:14:56
27 Ian Wheeler – D – 01:15:05
28 Martin Davis – D – 01:15:06
29 Duncan Rimmer – B – 01:11:26
30 James Dyson – C – 01:11:28
31 Tracey Fletcher (Female) – G – 01:11:31
32 Lewis Cunningham – A – 01:12:25
33 Larissa Alexander(Female) – D – 01:12:45
34 Deano Sibthorpe – E – 01:12:45
35 Ralph Harris – D – 01:13:52
36 Patrick Ellerbeck – G – 01:14:28
37 Andy Offler – D – 01:15:08
38 Richard Lowe – C – 01:15:09
39 John Hill – E – 01:15:28
40 Lindsey Clarke (Female) – E – 01:15:31
41 Nigel White – D – 01:11:09
42 Krzysztof Zakreta – A – 01:11:13
43 Tony Carter – G – 01:11:28
44 Elisa McDonagh (Female) – C – 01:11:48
45 Paul Freeman – F – 01:12:13
46 Claire Sharp (Female) – F – 01:12:29
47 Jess Elliott – C – 01:12:54
48 Rory Screaton – E – 01:13:02
49 Michael Ward – D – 01:14:37
50 Di Vallance (Female) – G – 01:14:55
51 Marc Fairclough – B – 01:15:18
52 James Heslop – A – 01:12:32
53 Keith Walton – G – 01:12:40
54 Ruth Shaw (Female) – F – 01:12:50
55 Dave Woods – H – 01:14:10
56 Peter Varian – E – 01:15:54
57 Steve Collins – F – 01:16:56
58 Ian Forrester – G – 01:17:01
59 Trish McPherson (Female) – H – 01:12:33
60 Steven Clarke – F – 01:11:37 | Bike racing for the over 40s


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