Opening weekend brings with it a number of classic races in Belgium, and in Essex it means the first serious rendezvous of the season. The Crest Road race and its nine ascents of Littlebury hill is the race that keeps the region’s riders focused throughout the dark winter months, and those with the form would have relished the conditions they awoke to on Sunday morning. After a snowy hiatus last year, it looked likely to be a similar epic to two years ago, as wet and windy conditions were present before and during the race. As usual, the field was close to full as plenty of riders started, but alas this race can be as tough to finish as any across the season.
Action started with a sizeable group trying to get away on the first lap, before Benjamin Beyon (Strada Sport) broke the elastic on lap two. He was joined by Colin Ward (Essex Roads) and Martin Smith (London Phoenix), and they quickly established a decent gap to the chasing bunch. By lap four a chasing trio had emerged and were trying to make inroads to the leaders. Seb Herrod (Strada Sport) was trying to bridge across to his team mate ahead, with Liam Fenner (API-Metrow) and Timothy Torries (Vitus) for company. Their gap was 45 seconds at this point with the bunch at a minute and a half.
As we crossed halfway Fenner was jettisoned from the chasing group, but he was soon absorbed into a further chase that had fragmented from the tiring bunch. Entering the final two laps it was left to just Beyon and Ward at the front, with Smith, Herrod and Torries all trying to stay in contention. Seven riders now made up a larger contingent that had managed to detach itself from what was left behind. Thomas Arkell (ELV), Toby Miles (Finchley), Sean Purser (St Ives CC), Colin Peck (Chelmer CC), Benedict Thompson (Team LDN), and Toby Parnell (PCH) joined Fenner in the third group on the road.
Entering the last lap it was Beyon who tried to go it alone, but the small lead groups fractured under the distance and it was Torries who emerged solo to take victory on the finishing climb. Coming in together it was Beyon who held off Ward for second, with Herrod crossing in fourth. Fenner managed to emerge from the third group to round out the top 5, with the first twelve placings taken up by the riders from the three advance groups.
A small bunch was left to fight for the remaining points with Michael Auger (Iceni Velo) first to emerge, with another group having been pulled the week before.
Good work by Paul Elliott, the Crest CC and all else involved, especially after a late cancellation last year and some on course traffic lights in the days before this year’s race!