Hall, Oh and Melton take top places on East Anglia’s most beautiful parcours
The Bulmer Course, a 21km circuit straddling the Essex-Suffolk border, is surely among the most beautiful in East Anglia and winds its way along narrow country lanes between rolling fields, visiting a number of pretty villages which, were it not for the SUVs and wheely-bins, probably wouldn’t look very different to how they did when John Constable was scouting out scenes to paint (it’s a pity there were no bicycles in his day, some of his paintings would have looked fantastic with a cyclocross race going on in them). With a good selection of short but steep climbs, some very difficult corners and road surfaces ranging from “smooth and fast” to “probably the subject of many irate letters in the local newspaper” it always provides some hard, challenging racing, too – and with bright sunshine and warm temperatures quickly drying the roads after the very wet men’s race in the morning, this year’s edition promised to be a fast one.
Once the end of the neutral zone was reached, there was the usual hustle and bustle in peloton with numerous riders having a turn on the front, but it wasn’t very long before a strong front line consisting of Anna-Marie Hughes (1904RT), Gemma Melton (PedalPower), Nicole Oh (Les Filles) and DAP CC duo Polly Mason and Frankie Hall formed at the head of the group and rapidly made it clear that they were taking charge. Nor was it much longer before they made their move, switching up to a slightly higher gear and gradually pulling away – several riders from the bunch tried to go with them, but the five leaders got away and began to increase their advantage. By the time Hughes dropped back (but never, ever gave up chasing – respect to her), their lead was almost four minutes and the race organisers took the decision to pull the bunch from the race at the end of the penultimate lap of four.
With the remaining four riders having spent so much time sizing one another up but giving away nothing, there was really no way to predict a likely outcome as they reached the final corner leading into the long, straight run-in to the finish, and then no further clues as they began to sprint. No more than metres from the line the race could still have gone to any one of them, but in the end it was Hall who took glory by mere centimetres from Oh. Melton, whose superb bike-handling skills are a benefit of the many cyclocross races she competes in each winter, had been first round the corner but took third while Mason was only a little way down the road behind her for fourth. We caught up with the three podium finishers after the race to hear their take on the day…
Results and more photos below the video!
1 Francesca Hall (DAP CC; Cat. 2) 30pts
2 Nicole Oh (Les Filles; Cat. 2) 25pts
3 Gemma Melton (PedalPower; Cat. 2) 21pts
4 Polly Mason (DAP CC; Cat. 2) 17pts
5 Anna Marie Hughes (1904RT; Cat. 2) 14pts
6 Donna Dale (Walden Velo; Cat. 3) 12pts
7 Helen Bridgman (1904RT; Cat. 3) 10pts
8 Michelle Arthurs-Brennan (1904RT; Cat. 2) 8pts
9 Caroline Humphries (Cat. 3) 7pts
10 Sophie Holmes (Datalynx-Parenesis; Cat. 2) 6pts
11 Miriam Bullock (East London Velo; Cat. 2) 5pts
12 Nicola Lynch (Newmarket Cycling & Triathlon Club; Cat. 4) 4pts
13 Ruth Stapleton (St Neots CC; Cat. 3) 3pts
14 Isabella Torrie (Liv-AWOL Spok’d; Cat. 3) 2pts
15 Jennifer Lake (Lovelo Squadra Donne; Cat. 2) 1pt
16 Lizzie Jenkins (Islington CC; Cat. 3)
DNF Francesca Derbyshire (Army Cycling Union; Cat. 2), Kirstin Hamilton (Ipswich BC; Cat. 2), Holly Hoy (Team OnForm; Cat. 2), Vivienne Tomlin (1904RT; Cat. 2)
Want even more photos…? You’ve come to the right place, because we have loads. Here are Simon’s, and here are John’s.
© Neutral Service / Simon F. Blackwell / John Lloyd. Please do not reuse our photos, video or text without permission (if you’re using it on social media and link back to us, we won’t mind 🙂 )