SIXTY hardy souls (or should that be foolhardy?) took to the line in torrid conditions for the Sussex Cycling Association 10 mile championships on Saturday.
While a number of riders chose the duvet over the skinsuit, there was still a good field assembled, with local rivals In Gear and Lewes Wanderers providing the strongest line-ups.
On a normal May morning, the gently rolling out and back course along the A283 between Steyning and Shoreham presents some of the more forgiving terrain in the region, but this May is far from normal.
With frigid temperatures and howling winds, not to mention Shoreham being officially the wettest part of the UK on Saturday morning, this was Sussex time trialling at its grimmest.
Conall Yates, of In-Gear, produced a blistering ride to complete the course in 20:59, with Nick Dwyer (Lewes Wanderers) and Richard Gifford (In-Gear) completing the podium.
Ably backed up by Dave Pollard in seventh, In-Gear took the team prize, while Wanderers’ Dan Gardner scooped the junior award in 24:25, and Helen Bullimore, of In-Gear, was fastest lady in 26:43.
The In-Gear and Lewes Wanderers hegemony – as well as the horrendous weather – extended into Sunday’s 25 mile championships.
Based again largely on the A283, this course kicks off with a hilly six-mile leg warmer over badly potholed roads, with the added bonus on Sunday of a block headwind and yet more rain.
The battered riders are then spat onto the A24 and thence back via Washington to the by-now familiar Steyning-Shoreham out and back section.
Fifty-one-time National Champion, Michael Hutchinson (In-Gear), added a much-needed injection of glamour to a very wet and miserable-looking field, and duly won in a scarcely credible time of 50:44.
A mere 17 seconds off Sean Yates’ course record, this gave Hutchinson a very comfortable three-minute margin over second-placed Jerone Walters (VC St Raphael), with Lewes’ Nick Dwyer a fine third.
With such a commanding victory, it was inevitable that In-Gear would pick up the SCA team prize, and so they did, with strong supporting rides from Rupert Burbidge, Jason Le Goff and Trevor Chilman.
Dan Gardner and Helen Bullimore both had stonking rides to complete 10 and 25 mile championship doubles in their respective categories.
Among a great many other epic rides in truly foul conditions, Pete Morris (Lewes Wanderers) overcame excruciating cramps and a nagging groin injury to record a very respectable 57:42.
Special mention must also go to event organiser Mike Anton, who went above and beyond the call of duty, pitch-forking storm drains to release pooling flood water and effecting ad hoc repairs to tattered race signage. Chapeau!
Run over the same roads as Sunday’s race was the Steyning Triathlon, with Lewes Wanderers’ Debbie Evers competing in the SuperVet category.
Fresh from sixth place in the European Championships, Debbie completed the 800m swim, 36km cycle and 8km run in a stunning two hours 17 minutes to win her category and finish third lady overall.
More details of all these rides and other club activities can be found at the website www.leweswanderers.co.uk