Double Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee wins inaugural British Gravel Championships alongside Ruth Astle in The King's Forest between Bury St Edmunds and Thetford
Alistair Brownlee was among a stellar line-up for spectators at The King's Forest, between Bury St Edmunds and Thetford, yesterday as organisers Golazo Cycling hosted a thrilling inaugural British Gravel Championships.
The former two-times triathlon Olympic gold medallist did not disappoint as he went on to claim the new jersey.
The 33-year-old finished the 70km course as the first British male rider, fractionally behind New Zelander Ryan Christensen of Canyon DHB Sungod.
Brownlee, who was riding for Scott Uk, crossed the line in one hour, 59 minutes and 55 seconds to take the acclaim of the crowd in the new stylish white top alongside out-right female winner Ruth Astle (2:16.43).
The King's Cup Gravel Festival took place over three days from Friday and included a 'gravel fondo' – essentially a gravel-based sportive for amateurs to try their hand at the sport on – on the same course as the championships.
Participants were able to choose from the long course (78km) or short course (52km), which both consisted of laps of the sandy and scenic King's Forest, situated near Culford and West Stow.
The 70km course that was used for Sunday's headline events was a mixture of gravel track, grass, sand and woodland trails and featured 400m of climbing.
The 19-34 Men’s field impressed with a stellar line-up of riders including Christensen and Euan Macleod of Canyon dhb SunGod, Brownlee, Cameron Mason of Trinity Racing and many more.
Spectators witnessed a thrilling race, as Christensen, Brownlee and Mason broke away from the leading pack just after the Strava sprint segment on the second of three laps.
The trio set a blistering pace as they raced towards the finish. Mason led the group down the penultimate straight, but Christensen attacked into the final corner, taking the inside line and racing home to take the race win.
Mason ran out of space on the outside of the turn and Brownlee snuck through to come home second for the race and first British rider and therefore securing the British Gravel Champion jersey.
A 19-34 Women’s field was also packed with talent. The field comprised of former UCI Women’s Tour rider Hannah Payton, now of Team Spectra, UCI World Cup Glasgow 2016 – Team Pursuit & Madison champion Manon Lloyd, Amy Roberts, also of Team Spectra, and Astle, Ironman World Championships 2019 age category winner.
Astle attacked on the Strava Sprint Segment on the first of three laps and then put on a stellar performance to open a commanding lead.
India Lee, in second, and Danielle Shrosbree, in third, could not follow the pace as Astle powered on and opened a near five-minute gap, seeing her become the inaugural British Gravel Champion.
Further age category winners included Jason Bouttell (35-39M), Helen Ralston (35-39W), Mathew Bottrill (40-44M), Laura Massey (40-44W), Steve Calland (45-49M), Karen Price (45-49W), Andrew Rigg (50-54M), Julie Bratton (50-54W), Graham Baxter (55-59M), Aisling Baird (55-59W), Brian Williamson (60-64M), Janet Burthem (60-64W), Nigel Herrod (65-69M), David Mcmullen (70+M).
King’s Cup race commentator David Reeve was blown away with how things went in its first year.
He said: “Seldom have I worked on an event with such an astonishing array of talent in its first year; world champions, national champions, world cup winners, professional riders and a double Olympic gold medallist gave the crowd thrilling racing across all the age categories.
"When you have athletes of the quality of Alistair Brownlee giving 100 per cent effort to become British Champion, you know you’ve hit the jackpot. You’ve concocted the formula of the perfect gravel race. The King’s Cup is here to stay."
Golazo Cycling's director Malcolm Smith was also left delighted.
He said: “We’re absolutely stoked to see the thrilling racing on show this weekend.
"The start lists throughout all of the age categories were stacked with some of the best riders in the country and we’re thrilled by their support and positive feedback on the event and race format.
"I extend many congratulations to Ruth and Alistair along with all of the other age category winners and wish them a fantastic year of riding in the British Gravel Champion jersey.
"Our gratitude also goes out to our presenting partner Canyon and headline partners Strava, Bioracer, POC, HIGH5 and Muc-Off along with our many other event partners for their support in making this historic event a reality."