Cambridge take cycling Varsity, securing one-two finish in BUCS time trial

Tom Higgins Toon 2 May 2017

John Mulvey and BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) 10-mile champion Seb Dickson took gold and silver respectively as Cambridge riders swept the field away at last Saturday's race, held in the Cambridgeshire countryside.

However, it could have been an entirely different story for Mulvey, who had to forgo the warm-up following two punctures to his rear wheel. Fortunately, another Cambridge rider was on hand to lend him a spare, allowing him to join the others on the start-line near Newmarket Heath Airfield to the east of the city. 

The Light Blues also clinched the top two spots in the team classification, with the final time taken as an aggregate of the three fastest riders for each university. Finishing in just 2h39, the first Light Blues cohort came in more than six minutes ahead of the next team — another Cambridge trio, this time composed of Oli Mytton, John Grenfell-Shaw and Rob Walker. Remarkably, all six finished within the top ten, in a clear statement of their dominance at the top of the university cycling pyramid.

Speaking exclusively to The Cambridge Student, Mulvey was effusive in his praise of the team's extraordinary achievement: 'As far as we are aware, it's unprecedented in the history of BUCS cycling (and the last decade of BUSA before that) for a University team to put in a performance as dominant as our men have this year'.

Indeed, this competition carries particular weight for CUCC (Cambridge University Cycling Club) as it serves as the official annual Varsity race, in the absence of any direct competition between the two universities. Finishing more than ten minutes ahead of Oxford — who came in sixth — the Light Blues secured the bragging rights for yet another year, having last succumbed to defeat back in 2010. 

Though the women's team eventually lost out in their Varsity, they could scarcely have come closer to securing their first victory since 2014 — when British Time Trial champion Hayley Simmonds crossed the line in a remarkable 57 minutes dead. This time round, only 19 seconds separated the Light Blues from their Oxford counterparts in an agonising finale. 

Nevertheless, there was still plenty to cheer about with regard to the individual qualification. At an average speed of 24 miles per hour, captain Jess Atkinson led by example, powering to fifth place overall, whilst Lottie Mallin-Martin clocked an admirable 01:04:45 as she clinched tenth place. With less than a minute separating 6th and 10th place, Mallin-Martin can class herself unfortunate not to have finished even higher in the general classification. 

Cambridge's achievement really comes to the fore when  the difficulty of the course used for Saturday's race is considered. Taking the the riders twice round a triangular circuit that features over 750 feet of climbing, the E33/25 route follows for the most part minor roads that are highly exposed to the perennially windy Cambridgeshire conditions. Setting record times is therefore never really an option, but it allows for a tactical race, which Mulvey exploited to full advantage. Saving his efforts for the lumpy third section, he made the most of the headwind on the second lap to power his way to victory seven seconds ahead of teammate and captain Seb Dickson.

Indeed, a healthy rivalry clearly exists between the pair, with Mulvey feeling 'chuffed' to get his own back following a third-place finish behind Dickson at the BUCS 10-mile event a couple of weeks ago. Nevertheless, he was quick to point out areas of improvement when I asked him how he felt the ride played out: 'I didn't feel like I paced my ride as well as I could have. I arrived at the start line with a bit too much adrenaline'. 

Source: Snowdon Sports.