Loughborough Students show strength in depth in team racing

Loughborough win All England team championship Loughborough Ski University beat Manchester over two legs to be crowned All England club team champions. ... 

The day started off with a group stage where the top four of each group would qualify for the knockout stages. Throughout the morning there was some very highly competitive racing which was great to watch for the spectators. Not one club looked like outset winners with many teams competing at a similar level to each other. It was also clear to see it took the racers a while to adjust to the course with many struggling on some of the offset turn sections.

After a hard mornings work the groups were finished. In Group A Loughborough (LSU) were the most impressive having been unbeaten all morning. Midland's B team had a great performance finishing second in the group. However there was a three way tie for the last two qualifying spots between Aldershot A, Norfolk B and Pendle A.

The officials announced that a timed playoff would decide who qualified. Unfortunately for Pendle a crash in their pursuit for qualification hampered their chances, finishing with a time of one minute two seconds. Norfolk B were the fastest in the playoff with a time of 58.28 so they qualified third, while Aldershot A grabbed the last qualifying spot with a time of 59.09.

In Group B Norfolk A were unbeaten so qualified first with Midlands A just behind them in second place. Another timed playoff took place for the final two qualifying spots this time between Aldershot B, Manchester and Ravens. Manchester qualified third with a 58.32 ahead of Aldershot B who finished fourth with a 58.96. Ravens were knocked out of group B after getting a time near the minute mark.

The first knockout race was between group A winners LSU and Aldershot B. After the third runner LSU were only half a gate ahead but Christopher Corr was easily able to bring the victory home for the university to take them into the next round.

The next race between Midlands A and Norfolk B was a much tighter race both teams neck and neck before the final racer. Loyal club member Harry Hornsby was able to take his team to next round after piping the home club to the finish line meaning Midlands got through to the next round.

Midlands B team didn't have such luck against Manchester however after being well beaten in the first knockout stage. Manchester who struggled in the group stage looked like they were starting to gel as a team.

The home crowd had something to cheer about as Norfolk A beat Aldershot A by a good margin. Daniel Molloy was able to safely take his team through to the next stage.

The first semi final showed that LSU stepped up a gear after the first knockout as they beat a good Midlands A team by a healthy margin. So LSU were the first team to reach the final while Midlands had to go into the third place playoff.

Norfolk A were called for a false start in the middle of their semi final meaning that Manchester were given the win in the second semi final. The Lancashire team scrapped through qualification but found themselves in the hunt for the championship.

Third place was awarded to the home side Norfolk after a tight third place playoff against Midlands.

Then it was time for the final. Gerard Flahive had a great start the first leg meaning his teammates had a two-gate lead to work with. James Grant and Ellen Hathway consolidated that lead whilst Corr finished off a fine team performance. Manchester had to overturn a 1.8 second advantage in the second leg.

What was worse Manchester had to overturn that lead on what was deemed to be the slower running side of the slope. The second leg furthered LSU's lead after a clinical end to the tournament. Once Corr crossed the line for the last time LSU were crowned English team champions.

To top it off the LSU also won the Open team event that ran beside the official championship. The LSU open team defeated Aldershot Bandits over two legs to make it a great day for the University.

It was another exciting day of racing for all the teams that were involved. It'll be interesting to see where LSU's future lies when their team members graduate and shift age groups next year but for now they'll be delighted with their 2014 titles.

Words: Peter Davies

Picture: Gerard Flahive competing in the Individual race on Saturday, credit RACER READY - All Rights Reserved


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