After Ciara, Dennis and Jorge, there came the earliest glimpse of Spring. With it the traditional Opening Weekend rendezvous at the Crest CC Spring Road Race, where winter training programmes would be given their first true examination, a cruel and unforgiving one. Having seen two sodden and one snowed off edition in the last three years, the sunshine and dry roads were greeted warmly by the peloton, but with the caveat of a harsh cold breeze, to remind the riders that winter was still lingering at their backs and not consigned to hibernation just yet.
Seven riders made an attempt to break free on the first of eight laps, but to no avail. It was on the second lap that the elastic snapped through the punishing drag of Littlebury Green. Josh Copley (TBW23 Stuart Hall Cycling), Benjamin Benyon (Strada 2020), Craig Rogers (Cambridge University CC), and Jack Brown (Active Edge Racing Team) established a lead that hovered between 30 and 45 seconds for a number of laps.
By lap four, with the bunch fragmenting behind, a committed chasing trio of Charles Bailey (Lee Valley Youth CC), Toby Parnell (PCH UK RT) and Colin Ward (Essex Roads CC), succeeding in bridging the gap to form a leading group of seven.
On lap five the gap was around 45 seconds to a number of fragmented chasing groups, with around a minute to the bunch itself. It was looking likely that the winner would come from our leading seven, before Jack Brown was the first to be jettisoned, followed by Josh Copley and an unlucky Charles Bailey, the victim of cramp.
With two laps to a quartet remained in front, committed to stay away, as the gaps behind started to lengthen and a number of riders formed small chasing groups. At the bell the four remained together, with a chasing group including Tom Cullen (Otley CC) and Colin Peck (Athlon CC) some way behind. The leaders attacked each other on the final lap, but without anyone fully breaking free. It was to be Rogers who climbed the dizzy heights of Littlebury for the ninth and final time at the head of the race, to take victory in this most revered of second cat races. Beynon took second with Parnell third, and Ward rolled over fourth, so often a factor in this race.
Cullen attacked his chasing companions on the rollers past the radiant gardens of Audley End House to take fifth, with Peck holding on for 6th. What remained of the chasing groups followed across in a tired collection of small group sprints. The top 10 was completed by Nicholas Candy (North Road CC), Alexander Cross (Meudon Pedal Heaven Le Col RT), Tom Yiangou (UEA Velo) and Adrian Beer (St Ives CC), the latter two the only third cats to break into the top ten.
Another cracking edition of this Eastern Region classic, with the Cambridge Blue of Craig Rogers proving the strongest at the conclusion of nearly 70 miles of blustery racing, and now carrying a target on his back for the upcoming races with such a prestigious victory.