FEATURE: Merlin Cycles Classic Series review

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Through rain and shine across the country, the Merlin Cycles Classic Time Trial Series tested competitors over five rounds before the overall winners were deservedly crowned.

Those targeting the series started the season early with the Birkenhead North End CC 22-mile event greeting riders on the undulating roads of the Cheshire-Shropshire border.

Team Bottrill rider Phil Williams got his season off to a cracking start, breaking the course record with a 43-36 despite a tough wind to win the men’s event.

Spindata had predicted that Williams would take the victory out of all those starting but conditions on the day meant his winning time was slower than the 43-02 predicted.

Joss Lowden (Drops-Le Col s/b Tempur) was an emphatic winner of the women’s event with her time of 46-40 over four minutes quicker than Francesca Hall (Loughborough Lightning / TRG) while Abi Smith (Team Breeze) finished third.

Leading the veteran’s category in the opening round was Tony Cullen (TricentralUK) who set a winning time of 46-14.

Travis Bramley

The series also had a competitive road bike category with Jacob Tipper (Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling) taking the opening round.

A gruelling 41-mile course greeted competitors for the second round of the series three weeks later in the Beacon RCC event.

A true Classic Series course, after an initial 17-mile loop the tests came in the second half with several gruelling climbs combined with fast, technical and twisty descents.

Local rider Richard Bussell (AeroCoach) used his prior knowledge of the course to pace his effort and post a winning time of 1-37-08 to win the men’s event by over three minutes.

Hall was pushed all the way for victory in the women’s event with her time of 1-57-56 just 22 seconds quicker than Megan Dickerson (Škoda DSI Cycling Academy) while Jessica Rhodes-Jones (AeroCoach) placed third.

Quickest veteran over the tough course was Tim Wood (Team Echelon) while Gerald Henry (University of Warwick) was fastest male on a road bike and Rebecca Richardson (Team Brother UK) the best female.

With Covid-19 restrictions still effecting some areas the third round was postponed until later in the season.

The fourth round of the series took riders to the Lake District for a 14-mile loop on the Circuit of Greystoke course organised by Border City Wheelers which the men completed twice.

Dan Bigham led a one-two for Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling with his time of 1-00-08, beating team-mate James Shaw by over three minutes.

Spindata had predicted that Bigham would take victory but he went three minutes quicker than the 1-03-03 predicted.

Sarah Storey (Storey Racing) was the fastest woman over one lap (14 miles) in a time of 36-14, beating Rachel Brown (Carlisle Tri Club) into second while Rhodes-Jones recorded another podium finish.

Ben Harrison (Crimson Orientation Marketing RT) was quickest veteran, while in the road bike category Richard Butler (Giant-Kendal RT) and Nikola Matthews (Halifax Imperial Wheelers) were the fastest men and women respectively.

The fifth round of the Merlin Classic Series incorporated the National Circuit Championships with stellar fields attracted across the categories.

The NC16N course saw riders complete three laps of a loop around the rural roads of Northamptonshire starting and finishing in Naseby. One of the flatter courses of the series, the rural nature meant it was equally as challenging.

Christopher Fennell (The Independent Pedaler – Nopinz) was in unstoppable form all season winning five national titles with this being his first one.

Fennell covered the 32.5-mile course in 1-06-50 which beat Michael Gill (AeroLab Ward WheelZ) into second while Thomas Day (SEG Racing Academy) finished third.

With the women’s event also combining the national title a strong field assembled which was headed by Hayley Simmonds (CAMS Racing) in 1-17-04 ahead of Kimberley Morrison (Drag2Zero) in second and Jennifer George (The Independent Pedaler – Nopinz) in third.

Quickest veteran on the day was Richard Oakes (Team Ohten Aveas), Jordan Peacock (Spirit Tifosi RT) was best road bike rider while Richardson repeated her result from the previous round in the women’s road bike event.

Spindata had predicted that Fennell and Simmonds would be the men’s and women’s winner respectively.

The sixth round of the series saw riders travel to Nottinghamshire for the Team Sheffield event over 14 miles, which included a climb up past Whitwell Wood.

After finishing second in the fourth round Shaw was back to take the men’s victory in a time of 26-45.

Fellow professional John Archibald (Eolo Kometa) had to settle for second on this occasion 30 seconds behind in 27-15 ahead of overall contender Leon Wright (Race Hub).

Spindata had predicted a reverse of the result with Archibald the predicted winner in 27-55 but Shaw went two minutes and 45 seconds quicker than

Simon Dighton

his forecast time to take the win.

Giving their overall hopes a boost Simon Dighton (Beacon Roads CC) was quickest veteran and Jessica Rhodes-Jones (AeroCoach) the quickest woman clocking a time of 32-49.

She was pushed for victory by Keri Parton (Pro Vision RC) in second (33-32) while Louise Scupham (Liv AWOL) finished third (34-33).

In the road bike category Graham Briggs (Clancy Briggs Cycling Academy) was the victor in 30-09.

The final round of the series was the reorganised third round organised by Dumfries CC over 26.2 undulating miles near Castle Douglas with the course having 1,000 feet of climbing.

Cameron Richardson (RT 23) was a clear winner in the final round of the series, covering the course in 52-41.

Tommy Murray (GS Metro) finished second in 55-47 while Rorie Downie (Roarsz Performance) completed the podium places (57-30).

Meanwhile, in the women’s competition Becky Storrie (Brother UK - Team OnForm) took the women’s honours ahead of Alexandra Hayden (Vanelli-Project GO) in second and veteran Hazel Smyth (Vanelli-Project GO) in third.

Douglas Watson (GTR - Return to Life) was the quickest veteran while B Xavier Disley (AeroCoach) and Jemma McNeill (Newton Stewart Triathlon Club) took the men’s and women’s road bike honours.

Overall honours

Travis Bramley (Nopinz Motip Race Team) showed his consistency and form in the early rounds to win the men’s title with a race spare.

Meanwhile, Keri Parton (Pro Vision RC) won the women’s overall title ahead of Louise Scupham (Liv AWOL) – both of whom were absent at the final round.

The prestige of winning the overall series saw B Xavier Disley (AeroCoach) make the trip to Scotland for the final round from his home in Droitwich in Worcestershire.

Keri Parton

Disley did just that defending his overall lead by winning the final round to take the road bike title back south of the border.

The overall honours in the veteran’s scratch category went to Simon Dighton (Beacon Roads CC) ahead of Mark Sanders (Mid Devon CC) while Daryl May (Sheffrec CC) finished third.

Para-cyclist David Murphy (Liverpool Mercury CC) won honours in the final race after beating rival Graeme Church (Team Milton Keynes) for the title.

Patrick Casey (Team Lifting Gear Products/Cycles In Motion) took the overall junior victory.

* All reports and features are copyright of Cycling Time Trials/Snowdon Sports. Not to be used without permission.