THE final event in the Lewes Wanderers racing calendar, The Circuit of Chailey, took place on Sunday on a still and warm autumnal morning.
Riders lined up nervously at the start, with the prospect of a testing and technical course ahead of them.
The start of the event is a brutish climb up Cinder Hill which soon has heart rate monitors bleeping in protest as the ever-increasing gradient pushes competitors perilously near to stepping over the bodies red danger line mark. To exceed this threshold so early in the race could prove disastrous as it is almost impossible to salvage the situation if the body is pushed too far at this point.
After the climb there is a heady mixture of thrilling descents, where riders are topping speeds of 40mph, to be followed by some leg sapping climbs around a loop centred at the Rainbow Inn. The jagged profile of the course makes it difficult to maintain a steady rhythm and heart rate and usually favours the stronger climbers in the club.
Pre race speculation was at fever pitch on three fronts. Who would be top dog on the day, reed thin expert climber Pete Morris, flat course legend Nick Dwyer, or the powerful Rob Pelham? Would the long-standing course record set by Jim Cheek in 2005 be broken? The final question to be settled was that of the Ladies record, set in 1994 by Heather Wimble; could it at last be broken?
The main race proved to be a ding-dong battle between Nick and Pete, which proved a fitting denouement to the year. Peter was powering past Nick on the climbs, only to be overtaken by supreme stylist Nick as he glided past Peter on the downhill sections.
Peter dug deep into his reserves and pulled off a splendid victory in a stunning time of 41:04, and in doing so clipped a small, but nevertheless significant, nine seconds off the course record. Nick made light of his alleged frailty on climbs and was only 31 seconds behind Peter at the end of this, the most thrilling race of the season.
Rob Pelham could not quite relive his winning performance of last year, but his fast time of 42:51 secured third podium spot.
Natasha Fuller completed an historic day for the Wanderers by pulling off the ride of the season to smash the existing Ladies record of 51:21 by nearly a staggering three-minute margin in a time of 48:31. Natasha has made incredible progress this year, a reflection of all the hard work she has put in over the season coupled with increasing self belief as her times have tumbled.
Nick Dwyer was first on Standard with Dominic Lowden and Graham Jeffs claiming second and third spot respectively. At 77, Horry Hemsley was the oldest rider in the field and his time of 62:46 was good enough to give him the first on handicap. At the other end of the age spectrum, 15-year-old Dan Gardner recorded an impressive time of 47:38, which gave him the second handicap award.
All in all, riders enjoyed a convivial and competitive day, which seemed to epitomise the positive and forward thinking ethos of the club. Your correspondent, the organiser on the day, would like to extend a personal note of thanks to all the marshals and helpers who gave up their time willingly.
Three Wanderers elected to ride in the Epsom 25 event on the Sunday.
On a fast day Tom Glandfield narrowly missed his PB in a time of 56:41 with Mark Paton a mere two seconds slower. Steve Dennis, of East Grinstead CC, won the event in a rapid time of 51:23.
Next Sunday sees the running of the Gent’s Grand Prix, an unusual event where a rider paces a veteran rider around the course in the fastest time possible. The Laughton based race starts at 9am.
More details of this event and other club activities can be found at the club’s website at www.leweswanderers.co.uk