Words: Paula Hasler Photos: Jemma Wells

Cycle World Dunedin kicked off the 2017 Cyclocross season in style with a record turnout at the Beachlands Speedway course on Sunday. The weather was unseasonably warm, however the cyclocross Gods delivered up plenty of rain in the preceding days which created the “perfect” muddy course conditions.

With the wrecked speedway cars creating a classy backdrop, 77 riders across the CX, MTB and Singlespeed categories revved their proverbial engines – being amongst the speedsters into the first lap of the speedway would prove vital to a good result. Taking the fastest line across the claggy clay to ride the narrow inner concrete circuit paid dividends – the hesitant risked being stuck in the logjam of riders, or worse, epic bike failure through clogged wheels and components, with a few crashes thrown in. Aggressive riding at the front of the field saw the early moves made by Jeremy Furlong, Johnny Van Leeuwen, Paul Gough, Tom Kaminszky and Kashi Leuchs who went on to take out the top five placings completing eight laps of the 2.3km course.

Furlong (CX M2) and Van Leeuwen (Singlespeed) managed to pull away in lap one, both taking the win in their categories, with Furlong first overall. A road racing style two-up alliance between Gough (CX M3) and Kaminszky (CX M2) was unable to reel them in. With Gough lapping out on the fast sections and Kaminszky in the technical, the two remained together for most of the race with a couple of “offs” thrown in. Gough took third, Kaminszky fourth and Leuchs (CX M1) not far behind in fifth. A further eight riders completed eight laps a few minutes back. Highlights from these riders included an outstanding effort from the first female, Sam Hope (Singlespeed) who took a hard-earned victory over father Ray by a handful of seconds. And race director Matt Dunstan (CX Open) delighted nearby riders who witnessed his spectacular superman style dive over the bars into an ankle deep muddy section. Kerrin Williams was the first MTB rider in eighth overall.

Many competitive duels were taking place a little further back in the field, as well as some entertaining antics for the supportive spectators dotted around the course. The action at the bottom of the steep downhill into the infamous Island-Park bogs was particularly popular – it was equal parts the quicker the better (good line, cut through clean), and the quicker you go, the bigger the mess (slip out, game over)! The sand trap and the raceway were also responsible for plenty of crashes and near misses. Good-natured heckling amongst riders might have contributed to some wipeouts, apologies to Viet Tieu who tumbled after losing traction on the pinch connecting the field and the back track!

Cyclocross is unique in bringing together all categories of riders into one race – men and women across ages, the experienced and the newbies, competing on different types of bike. The smiles and post-race banter confirmed that a huge amount of fun was had by all. This is looking to be a great season in terms of participation, and competition – race one has set the scene for tight battles across the categories. Race two will be held at Logan Park on June 11th.

The Beachlands course offered a variety of mud, sand, clay and gravel, some technical sections, fast sections, and the novelty of racing the speedway. A huge thank you to Beachlands for their permission – this course is a favourite amongst the Cycle World CX races. The riders and organising team would also like to acknowledge Emersons for their ongoing support. The perfect end to the day was a race debrief at Emersons Taproom and Restaurant.