After a few days in sunny Mallorca acting as a guide for cycle tour specialists GPM10 Merida UK rider Paul Hopkins was back in the saddle of his trusted 99 Carbon Team at the South England Championships at Wasing Park, Berkshire. This was an important race for more than one reason, not just the fact that it is the first championship of the year, but also because it is where the National Champs is to be held later in July.
Here Paul’s report: "A very different race to the last at Dalby, not as technical but somehow dry and super fast. Great course to ride at speed, the final kilometre being riddled with exposed roots made my Ninety Nine the perfect bike to be on! I could fly over these like the ground was flat.
With a packed grid and a lot of the top flight national riders being present it was going to be a hard race. There were more than a couple of riders I needed to watch, all had the chance of taking the title.
It was no surprise that Lewis King and Mark Chadborne went out all guns blazing from the start line. Mark led the way up the first incline as I found myself back in about 7th a bit boxed in I took an outside line to get to the front.
As we hit the first fast climb someone lit Lewis’s touch paper and off he went, I chased and managed to stay in contact but his fierce attack from an already fast pace broke us way from the pack.
Half way round the first lap Lewis lost his front wheel on a sketchy slippery corner and hit the ground, I could not avoid him and had to bail which left our bikes slightly entangled. We both got up quickly but I got away first and Lewis got on my wheel.
As the race progressed we both had a few digs at each other to try and get away to no avail. The third lap was a little more sedate as Lewis probably knew that if it came down to a sprint finish the odds were in his favour.
I led the whole way round the third lap and started the final lap with Lewis on my wheel, Mark Chadborne in third had been chipping away at our lead and we could now see him coming as we rode through the arena for the last time.
I decided I needed to make a move early to see if I could get away 1 km into the last lap on a zig zag incline I went all out. Lewis reacted straight away staying on my wheel, so all I could do was keep pushing as hard as possible. Brutal is the only word I have for it.
After another kilometre of what only be described as the longest sprint for home I have ever contested a gap started to appear. This encouraged me to keep piling on the pressure.
When I got to the rooty 1km home run before the arena I had a decent 15 bike lengths lead. I knew the Ninety Nine was capable of flying down here and even a bike handler like Lewis would have a job to make the gap before the sprint into the arena.
He did keep coming though and did not give up, as I had to give it everything right to the line to secure victory by a mere 5 seconds.
A win is so sweet if you have to work that hard for it!"
Congratulations from everybody at Merida HQ and we are looking forward to more wins later in the season .