"Loved every minute of it ... cannot wait for the next one". Hopefully the other 148 riders also enjoyed their first Welsh League 'cross of the season albeit on a greasy Llantarnam High School course - they were at least spared the heavy showers that plagued other parts of the Principality. There were new faces aplenty with a large contingent sporting Bynea CC jerseys.
A record 35 U10/U8s eagerly started the day's racing and Abergavenny RC's Rhys Thomas soon established a sizeable gap on a chasing group comprising team-mates Jim Smith and Aled Trott and Towy Riders' Emma Finucane and Eluned King, with leading U8 Ashley Cole (Abergavenny RC) not far behind. At the finish Rhys had a commanding lead over Jim (2nd) and Aled (3rd) and Emma held off Eluned to win the U10 Girls' race. Ashley was the only U8 to finish on the same lap as the U10s, with Ieuan Owens (Bynea CC) just holding off Daniel Wylie-Morris (Abergavenny RC), and Heledd Hunt (Towy Riders) was a comfortable winner in the U8 Girls despite riding the last lap with a flat tyre.
With several of last season's U12s having moved up to the Youth category, Megan James and Joe Beckingsale (both Abergavenny RC) were left to continue their friendly rivalry in the U12s' race. However, with Megan well out in front, it was team-mate first year U12 Huw Higgins-Worrall who harried Joe throughout the race, with Towy Riders' Charlie Firth and Newport Velo's Joe Perry having their own battle further down the field. Megan comfortably took the win with Joe 2nd and Huw 3rd.
There was a healthy line-up of 25 riders for the Youth race. Again it was Abergavenny RC to the fore with Sam Beckingsale leading the field through after the first lap. Chasing him were team-mate Alister Williams, Bynea CC's Joe Holt and Brecon Wheeler Ben Dunster, U16 Girl Ffion James (also Abergavenny RC) and U14s Jessica Roberts (Towy Riders) and Teifion Best (Abergavenny RD). Beckingsale looked strong out front and the chasers started to string out behind him, the two U14s dropping back to have their own battle. Williams was clearly the danger as he distanced himself from Holt and Dunster and closed the gap on Beckingsale. The final lap saw Williams overhaul Beckingsale and take victory, with Dunster also getting the better of Holt to finish 3rd. Ffion James was 1st U16 Girl in 5th place and Jessica Roberts was 1st U14 by less than half a wheel in a sprint finish with Best.
Winner on the course last season, it was 2010 Welsh League Senior Champion Andrew Baum (Cwmcarn Paragon) who took the early lead in the main race of the day with 2010 Welsh Senior and Junior 'Cross Champions Lee Williams (Team Wiggle) and William Worrall (Towy Riders CC) for company. Also in the mix was "local lad" Daniel Lewis (RAF CA) and Joe Lally (CC Abergavenny). Worrall and Lally were soon dropped, however, by the trio of Baum, Williams and Lewis. Sat in behind Baum, Williams looked to be biding his time and sure enough, halfway through the race, he took to the front, leaving Baum with Lewis glued to his wheel. Williams held a comfortable lead to the finish and Lewis overhauled Baum to take 2nd, with Worrall finishing 4th and 1st Junior. Ross Porter (Cwmcarn Paragon) was 1st Veteran and Hanneke van der Werf (Cardiff Ajax) 1st Woman in her first "proper" 'cross race.
Go to www.timbowersphotography.ifp3.com for some great images from the event.