Once again, Exeter Wheelers put on a fantastic event for our series finale and we finished the season with a bang! Rockbeare is a small village just outside of Exeter and the 11km race course winds it’s way through the back lanes, up a long shallow climb which steepens before turning into the finish line straight and then joins onto a long stretch of the B314 (with a prime sprint on some laps) until you turn back towards the village. First time round, it doesn’t feel that tough but after climbing up to the finish line a few times your legs really need some coaxing to keep going. Last year’s field was split into three groups early on and eventual winner Heidi Viles (Somerset RC) rode away on the climb unchallenged.
It was a beautiful, warm September day and the local cycling club cheering squads were out in full force. Defending winner Heidi joined us on the start line, as well as current series leader Emma Cockroft and second placed Alex Sheehan (both Bikeshed-Bianchi). We also had company from National Hill Climb Champion Maryka Sennema (Paceline RT), Lucy Shaw (Matrix Vulpine) and some very strong riders from the Southern region in the shape of Corinne Clarke (Ride 24/7) and Georgina Panchaud (Cycleworks) who had been climbing well all season. Luckily, the first time up the climb was neutralised so the bunch had a chance to settle into a nice rhythm. As we hit the climb the second time, Maryka was already itching to go and the pace ramped up with riders dropping off the back and eventually catching back on as the course flattened out. This pattern repeated itself a few times until we lost some completely and the bunch was whittled down to a small strong group with Maryka, Heidi and Emma all visible at the front pushing on. The first prime was taken easily by young track sprinter Lucy Shaw with Maryka and Sarah Godwin (Team Tor 2000) in hot pursuit. As the pace slowed slightly and riders freewheeled down the B314, Emma pushed on, keen to not give those sitting in a chance to ease up. The next ascent of the climb saw another dig from Maryka and the elastic was stretched more than once in the group, the sound of heavy breathing replacing any small talk in the bunch.
The second prime saw Jessica Duffy (Feather Cycles Racing) chasing after Maryka and Corinne’s sprint and then pushing on ahead for a brief leg stretch. The bunch, lead by Emma, soon caught back up shortly after the village and the pace slowed momentarily as many of the riders sitting in refused to come though. At this point, it would have been nice to see a break go away but with many tired legs and lots of looking around, the group stayed together. Coming into the final corner, Maryka was leading after a powerful final climb with Heidi and Corinne tailing but Emma managed to move up around the outside and give it one last push to take second behind deserving winner Maryka and cement her series victory. Joanne Jago (Performance Cycles) and Georgina crossed the line next and an incidental shoulder barge from Jennifer Powell (Elitevelo) saw her taking 7th and Jessica coast the last metre for 8th place. Lucy and Zoe Betteridge (North Devon Wheelers – South Fork) rounded out the top ten after refusing to let the climb get the better of sprinter and time trial specialist respectively.
1 Maryka Sennema Paceline RT
2 Emma Cockcroft Bikeshed – Exeter Uni
3 Corinne Clark Ride 24/7
4 Heidi Viles Somerset RC – The Bicycle Chai…
5 Joanne Jago Performance Cycles
6 Georgina Panchaud Cycleworks.co.uk
7 Jennifer Powell Elitevelo Kalas Sportswear CRT
8 Jessica Duffy Feather Cycles Racing
9 Lucy Shaw Matrix Fitness Development
10 Zoe Betteridge North Devon Wheelers – South F…
11 Sarah Godwin Team Tor 2000
12 Lucy Burgess Bristol South CC
13 Wiebke Rietz 1st Chard Whls
14 Julia Hesselberg Elitevelo Kalas Sportswear CRT
15 Karen Wyle Smith Elitevelo Kalas Sportswear CRT