Inter-Area Team Championships 2007

By Mark Wyer - ECXA Youth Team Manager

A team of 8 riders were selected to ride the Youth Inter-Area Championships in 2007 on Sunday 21st January. The Championships were held at the Bicton Arena, an equestrian centre near Exeter. Due to the distance to the event it was decided to hire a mini-bus and stay overnight before the event.

The riders selected were:

A Team
Elliott Brooker - CC Ashwell
Matthew Cook - Mildenhall CC
Luke Newby - Diss & District
David Nichols - Chelmer CC

B Team
Tom Castle - Ipswich BC
Jake Hales - Interbike
Will Meadows - Ipswich BC
Hugo Robinson - Ipswich BC

Saturday afternoon, the team met up at the South Mimms services and loaded the bikes into Jim and Vera Stainesí van. The couple had agreed to provide transport and help for the team over the weekend. Helping with the mini-bus driving was professional driver Steve Nichols along with Team Manager Mark Wyer.

The team was due to stay overnight at the Exeter Youth Hostel. However the first job when arriving at Exeter was purchasing food for the eveningís meal and breakfast for the next day. The cooking and washing up was undertaken by the team members allowing the drivers to recover. Dinner was followed by a team briefing. The team manager had the responsibility for the difficult task of selecting which riders would ride for the A or B team. This was always going to be tricky this season after the close racing we have experienced in the youth category.

The weather overnight was wet and windy and we were concerned as to what the conditions would be like at the course especially as we only had two spare bikes between the 8 riders. However the morning though windy was dry and sunny. The course looked mainly firm and an interesting challenge, snaking round the show jumping arena. A couple of practice laps confirmed that the mud was not too heavy but the team support were kept busy with a series of mechanical niggles.

As expected, Michael Butler from the race favourites London A hit the front first at the starting charge. London with 3 of their best riders missing were always under pressure from the East Midlands. Elliott Brooker was Easternís best starter, charging through from the fourth row of the grid into a top 6 position. Unfortunately he was to suffer for this fast start and he slid back down the order. David Nichols then took over the running as best placed Eastern rider. Tom Castle was last placed of the Eastern riders early on after jamming his chain. However he was soon back racing and all the Eastern riders were well placed in the top half of the field. At times there were groups of 3 or 4 blue and white jerseys of Eastern riders working together.

Unfortunately this was when things started to go wrong. Eastern League winner Luke Newby looked uncomfortable on his spare bike and came into the pits to change. He had been forced to start on his spare due to a problem with his gears during practice. He never really got going again finishing down on his expectations. Worse was to follow when best placed rider Nichols pushing hard, caught course marking tape in his handlebars and this was dragged into the chain and cassette. He was left with just one gear and was soon dropping places. He swapped onto the spare bike (the one abandoned by Newby) but had lost much time by now.

Storming up from further down the field were the charging Castle and Meadows. Meadows in particular was having his best ride of the season and had paced his effort really well. Into the last lap and Castle hit the front of the Eastern bloc with Meadows on his tail. One slip by Castle and Meadows was away. Castle was then the victim of a puncture on the run in to the line but finished as second best Eastern rider. So far so good but the team manager was left to explain why the first two finishers were from the B Team! Next up was a great sprint for the line, led in by Brooker just pipping Matthew Cook and a London B rider. With all the riders in and the calculations done it turned out that the Eastern B team had placed 4th team overall just one point ahead of the Eastern A team! Whilst this caused some hilarity at the presentation it does show the strength in depth of the Eastern Youth league this season. The B team were well ahead of the next placed B team. As expected London A took the overall honours ahead of East Midlands and Wessex. However the Eastern squad is still young and 5 of the riders will still be young enough to be selected next year.

The final positions were:

Will Meadows 10th
Tom Castle 11th
Elliott Brooker 12th
Matthew Cook 13th
Luke Newby 16th
David Nichols 18th
Jake Hales 19th
Hugo Robinson 22nd

The trip to this event was only made possible due to financial support from the Beastway series so a big thank you to the organising team. The team themselves have made a great gesture in donating their prize money from this event to the squad budget for next year.

Thanks must also go to Jim and Vera Staines and Steve Nichols for their help over the weekend. It was no easy job cleaning 10 bikes, keeping track of 8 energetic teenagers and driving such long distances. Well done to the South West region for putting on such a great event and making everyone very welcome. Finally well done to all the riders for their efforts in the race and making the weekend such an enjoyable one.

The picture shows the team after the race. (A few grumpy faces due to the slow moving camera operator!)