This year’s Road Cycling Varsity clash was always going to be a close one, due to the number of in form riders on both sides.
Despite heavy driving rain and a chilling wind beneath a dreary grey sky both teams met up at the Uni stronghold; The Arts Tower and rode out together via Chatsworth House for the Hill Climb on Wednesday 31st March 2011. Routinely of Varsity, the day started with some good old-fashioned banter, and Dave ‘The Poly Captain’ Starkey bashing.
There was some confusion between the teams in terms of timings at the start causing a slight delay, but Clara Sinderland kicked things off monumentally by single-handedly winning the Womens title for Uni. Overall, Hallam’s boys were quicker off the mark for the Hill Climb and beat a Uni team without Andrew Cater by 1 minute and 25 seconds at Beeley Moor. Jonathan Shuster particularly impressed for Uni by laying down a winning time of 10:26 whilst next years Hallam captain Phil Wilkinson was another 19 seconds down on ‘The Shusternator’. Poly fresher Jonni Conway showed real potential with a good first-time effort of 11:20 whilst other notable performances included Adam Dunajko (Uni), Dave Starkey (Hallam), Jamie Caldwell (Uni) and Ollie Doy (Hallam) just struggling to beat the 11 minute mark and XC Captain Robin Groves managing to grab Uni’s 5th best rider spot just behind Jerome Jacob’s pleasing 12 minutes 22 seconds. Had Cater’s mechanical misfortune not occurred, the Hill Climb could easily have swung the other way had he not visited Hallam’s sponsor JE James that morning to coincidentally be given the wrong gear cable leaving him bike-less on his birthday. However, in the words of Uni Chairman Henry Marsh “no point in coulda-woulda-shoulda, just got to nail the ITT” and so Uni did.
Nine minutes. That was the bike-busting difference between the men and the boys at this year’s varsity as Uni rinsed Starkey’s lads of their sports technology and physiotherapy degrees by this monumental gap.
Unable to ride, Hallam’s Blair Davies leant his extravagant Cube bike to his Captain for the day complete with full carbon Bontrager wheels, only for Wolverhampton’s ‘hottest talent’ to get a puncture on the way round the Tideswell-Litten 21km course and then have to bare the shame of getting picked up by the Uni team Car. With an initial climb up Miller’s Dale, a daring descent down Monsal Head and a leg-destroying climb up Cressbrook, the course made a great rolling Individual Time Trial but saw a couple of riders taking a wrong turn and not finishing including novice Ruari Hallam and newcomer Tom Fothergill (both Uni). Jammy Jamie Caldwell smashed the field with a mind-boggling in-form time of 38:50 whilst Phil Wilkinson ‘Sword’ beat Uni’s newest hot racing prodigy Shuster by a single second who claimed to be having one-of-those-days and who suffered in the heat of what was a gloriously hot mid 20 degree day.
The much feared-by-Hallam combo of riders Tom Stewart and Andrew Cater put in an excellent varsity performance that along with Shuster meant 3 of Uni’s top 5 riders finished with times under 41 minutes (only Hallam’s best rider managed this), which along with Caldwell’s mesmerising 38:50 and Nyle Howards sub 45 minute effort (as Jerome Jacob followed closely by another 17 seconds) created the strong 9 minute gap that so embarrassed Sheffield Hallam University on Wednesday 6th March 2011 and proved the (real) University of Sheffield’s depth of talent and racing prowess. It really was a great day and John Albaya, Ed Harris, Luke Chen, Tom Stocker and Robin Groves all deserve credit for their fine performances and blistering levels of effort that insured their times respectfully ranged from 46-49 minutes. It was a fantastic turn out for Uni and the ride back was just as much fun as both parties rode back into Sheffield together where everybody humoured Starkey’s fresh legs up Grindleford and went on to Bolehills BMX track for a cracking Barbie and a bit more banter. Due to the DH and BMX victories for Uni (both of which were completely dominated), the University of Sheffield’s RC ITT victory secured the full Varsity point for 2011.
That night saw a cracking bar crawl to ROAR take place which memorably featured Jerome Jacob’s Karaoke rendition of Where Is The Love? in The Cavendish to complete a perfect day for all.
Road Cycling Varsity 2011 was exemplary and has truly set the bar for future years in both levels of enjoyment and fun and a strong dedication demonstrated by both teams to see their Uni/Poly succeed.
By Jerome Jacob