Post-race interview with winner Gemma Melton below!
Trinity Park in Ipswich hosts two big races at this time of year: first a round of the National Trophy, the biggest and most important cyclocross series in the country, and then a round of the Eastern League a week later – and with the course left standing in between, it gives the Eastern League riders a chance to race on a top-quality circuit which this year featured not one but two bridges.
Although it had rained heavily for several days before the Eastern League event, the Park is on sandy soil and drains rapidly, meaning that while there were muddy sections the course didn’t become the quagmire some other rounds would have done. With much of the course being flat (except for the bridges and the famous steps section, which is one of the most challenging sections) and bright sunny conditions, the stage was set for a fast race – and it didn’t disappoint right from the gun, with Lee Valley Youth’s Ellie-Mae Pledger leaving the start like a top fuel dragster with Harley Pell of Liv-AWOL hot on her heels. Harley caught her and got past soon after the first corner, but it wasn’t long before the two 16-year-olds who are racing against the seniors for the first time this year having just moved up from the Youth category were caught and overtaken by the super-strong Gemma Melton of PedalPower and Alison Hogg of Push-Barford Van Hire, who have battled one another (and Harley’s team mate Lauren Higham) all the way from the first round and enlivened the Series so much).
Alison has had a spectacular season so far and won at Mistley in fine style on the highly technical Mistley course back in October, but for anyone who has followed Gemma’s cycling career these last few years it was virtually impossible to see past her in this race – although organisers Ipswich Bicycle Club have made big changes to the Trinity course to make it more technical (and done an extremely good job of it – whereas the most interesting action all tended to be around the steps in previous years, there’s much excitement right around the whole course now. Great job, Ipswich BC!), the long, straight, fast sections were always going to suit Gemma’s strengths just as the fast tarmac finish at the Princess Helena College round in Hertfordshire did. In that race, Alison and Gemma traded blows all the way, each taking turns on the front and making it impossible to call out a likely winner until the final lap; in this one, however, Gemma rapidly dominated, catching and overtaking first the slower riders in the V50 Men category that had started out on the course before them, and then a lot of the faster men too. By the final lap she had an advantage more than sufficient to cruise and still win comfortably but, being the sort of classy rider she is, she didn’t; instead, she kept pushing and having turned onto the long finishing straight sprinted to the line, finishing 1’26” ahead. Alison took second, while Harley (who is going to win one of these outright before very long) was first Junior in third place at +1’43”; second and third Juniors were Lauren Higham and Ellie-Mae Pledger. Jo Newstead (Elmy Cycles-XRT) was first Veteran, finishing in sixth place at +2’31”; second and third vets were Donna Dale (Walden Velo) and Jackie Field (CC Ashwell).
The Under-10s, Under-12s and Youth girls had provided plenty of excellent racing earlier in the day, just as they always do. Isabel Beale (Lee Valley Youth), Abbey Thompson (Suffolk Youth) and Peggy Knox (Vicious Velo) took first, second and third in the U10 race (fourth, fifth and sixth overall, beating most of the boys comfortably), while Cambridge Junior CC duo Emily Miller and Madeleine Tingay were first and second in the U12s with Lee Valley Youth’s Abigail Biggs in third. Martha Lebentz (Hadleigh MTB) and Bethany Barnett (Liv-AWOL) have had their own rivalry all season, which has been every bit as exciting to watch as Melton and Hogg; this time. Martha took the honours and scored her second victory of the series. Bethany was second with Abigail Miller (WCX) in third.
Inteview with Gemma Melton
Neutral Service: Gemma, congratulations on the win today! Was riding the course last week for the National Trophy a real advantage?
Gemma Melton: Yes it was, although it has changed because it is a lot more muddy this week and it completely different being an Eastern League race as well, not the same kind of hype as last week.
NS: What was your plan for to day? You took off pretty hard up the road to start with – was it to get in the lead and hold everybody off?
GM: That’s the bit I’m most used to, having raced here in the summer for the SCRS Trinity Park series, so I kind of know the road really well and I just wanted to get ahead before the technical sections in the woods and the 4×4 section and I felt confident from last week doing that.
NS: It seems to be a better more compact course and a slightly more technical this year but still with some long road sections. Do you prefer the way it’s now laid out?
GM: I can’t really remember the other course that well, but I do really like this course. I often like the longer laps, you can settle into it a bit more and it flows nicely.
NS: At any point did you feel under threat or did you think you had it wrapped up pretty early on once you had taken the lead?
GM: No, I heard some people saying in the pits I only had an 8 second lead, but I think that at was to spur me on so I didn’t give up. I felt quite confident, but sometimes when you’re in front you can quite easily lose it, just because you get the pressure of being in front.
NS: That’s your second win of the series.
NS: You won the CC Ashwell race at Princess Helena College and also had a number of second and thirds. How are you finding your cross season this year?
GM: It’s gone better than expected – probably better than my road really and I’ve been pretty consistent and I’m really enjoying it!
NS: How did you find the National Trophy last week?
GM: It was good! It was the next level, I needed to step it up – it was really good to be mixing it with the best.
NS: Did you have the confidence to say ‘I can be here’?
GM: Yes, I didn’t feel out of place – they’re super-quick, the fast girls, but it’s good to have something to push on to.
NS: What’s next?
GM: More Eastern League races – and see if I can step up to win the League maybe. Lauren Higham is very close.
NS: Good luck with your next few races and we will see you after Christmas!
GM: Yes, see you then!
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