The late, great Muhammad Ali famously said: "Impossible is not a fact.
It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare.
Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is
nothing." Had he been present to witness Britain’s leading para-cyclists
contest the National Championships in Essex last weekend (9/10 June),
Ali would have been proud.
Athletes with a variety of conditions - ranging from cerebral palsy to visual and physical impairments - gathered in Canewdon (Saturday 9 June) and at Ilford’s Redbridge Cycling Centre Road (Sunday 10 June) to compete in disciplines involving handcycles, tandem bikes and Time Trial machines.
Local cycling club, Southend Wheelers, hosted the weekend’s events and made sure that all the competitors were given a very warm welcome and plenty of enthusiastic – and very vocal – support.
Saturday saw the time trial events start from King Edmund’s School in Rochford, with the competitors then heading out to Canewdon for a number of laps around the village.
With eight categories, there was plenty of action to be seen on the lanes. Reigning C5 champion, William Bjergfelt, trains six days a week, twice a day and his efforts certainly paid off, as he crossed the finishing line five minutes clear of his closest challenger, Paul Simmons. Simmons however, revealed post-race that he had been diagnosed with broken vertebrae in March following a motorcycle crash. In the Tandem class, Stephen Bate MBE and Adam Dugglebury MBE were in a class of their own, also winning by nearly five minutes. The pair took home gold medals and national champion’s jerseys. Laura Cluxton and Matilda Gurney took the honours in the women’s class, with a ride that shaded some of their male counterparts.
In the female C Class, Frances Brown’s time of 34.44 saw her lead home Katie Toft by a comfortable margin. South Londoner Alex Brooke-Turner triumphed in the H4/5 hand cycle category, while Dan Hopwood will wear the white jersey with red, white and blue bands in the H3 class for the next twelve months.
The following day’s road races were staged at Redbridge Cycling Centre, near Ilford, with the competitors tackling the full course, complete with the gruelling ‘Hoggenberg’ climb at the end of each lap.
William Bjergfelt’s ambition to claim back-to-back titles was thwarted in the MC5 class, as he was gapped by Norwood Paragon’s Christopher Moore’s on the run to the finishing line. Craig Preece crossed the line in 3rd place, winning the MC4 race. In MC2 Matthew Robertson finished comfortably ahead of Louis Rolfe. Finlay Graham’s trip from Glasgow was rewarded with victory over Benjamin Watson.
The women’s champions are Chloe Selman (WC3), Katie Toft (WC1) and Elizabeth Saul (WC4).
A total of thirteen hand-cyclists contested the MH4, MH3 and MH5 categories. Alex-Brooke-Turner was the class of the field, leading home fellow MH4 athlete Michael Swain by over three minutes. Luke Jones claimed the MH3 title ahead of Dan Hopwood, while Matthew Faucher will proudly wear the white jersey in the MH5 category.
Fired-up by their blistering ride in the previous days’ time trial, tandem stars Stephen Bate and Adam Duggleby again powered to victory with another impressive display. The duo took the chequered flag a full lap ahead of their nearest challengers Chris McDonald and Andrew White. The pairing of Laura Cluxton and Matilda Gurney also added to their TT success with their second win of the weekend in the women’s tandem race.
Road Race Results