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Veteran Ben Findlay takes first place in the opening round of Winter Series

PUBLISHED: 06:32 06 November 2019

Watton rider Robert Smithers heads for a senior win in Thetford Forest. Picture: John Styles

Watton rider Robert Smithers heads for a senior win in Thetford Forest. Picture: John Styles

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Mountain bike riders raced amongst spectacular autumn colours at the opening round of the Thetford Racing's Winter Series near Santon Downham.

Lowestoft rider Seb Herrod leads Andrew Cockburn away from the start. Picture: John StylesLowestoft rider Seb Herrod leads Andrew Cockburn away from the start. Picture: John Styles

Watton rider Robert Smithers scored a notable win in the 90 minute seniors race, though a fast final lap from veteran Ben Findlay got him home first by a few seconds. Veterans - the over 40s - are often fully competitive in MTB racing.

Smithers' closest senior (18-39) challenger was Ely & District CC's club sponsor and MTB star Mat Eley who was nearly three minutes down, while Findlay's runner-up was Epic Orange's Hingham rider Glenn Stanford, just 1:40 behind.

Likewise in the women's 90 minutes races Senior winner Elvita Branch was only three seconds faster than her veteran Sussed Out teammate Laura Sampson, each winning their category.

In the Three-Hour races the senior win went to Andrew Cockburn - the only one to complete eight of the six-mile laps, though second-placed Seb Herrod was only just beaten by the three-hour deadline.

CC Breckland rider Adam Cross leads  Laura Sampson, veteran women’s winner. Picture: John StylesCC Breckland rider Adam Cross leads Laura Sampson, veteran women’s winner. Picture: John Styles

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CC Breckland's Adam Cross described the course as fast and flowing, though sticky in a few places - but slick as drizzle arrived in the final stages.

In West Suffolk Wheelers cyclo-cross at West Stow Beccles veteran Stuart Pryce (Strada Sport) took his first win of the season in the V40-49, though Shaun Aldous (Renvale) was never far behind.

Top national rider Ffion James stirred up the order in the women's race, coming over from Cambridge where she is a student. Her duel with Gemma Melton dominated the race, though in the end James took a clear win. Top Norfolk finisher was third-placed Bethany Barnett.

Women’s winner Elvita Branch leads Richard Muchmore at Thetford Forest. Picture: John StylesWomen’s winner Elvita Branch leads Richard Muchmore at Thetford Forest. Picture: John Styles

The women had the best of the weather at this race in the country park on the site of an Anglo-Saxon village.

Earlier there were some extremely wet youth riders after their race copped the worst of the rain. Nevertheless all the 49 starters made it to the finish line, headed by Joseph Smith (Iceni Velo).

First-year Senior Jack Parrish took his first senior league win after outlasting James Madgwick, the pair well clear of Norwich rider Angus Toms who made the junior prize his own.

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