A clear sunny morning greeted a classy entry of 50 plus riders for the 72th running of this prestigious Open to Centre event the ' Harold Avery Cup ' where in the past such great riders as John Avery, Sammy Miller, Don Smith, Brian Devereux, Bill Faulkner, Pat Lamper and John Reynolds have all been triumphant.
The event staged at Howe Wood Oxon was also a round of the SMC Intermediate and Novice champs where four laps of eleven sections were to be ridden.
First up at section one was eventual premiere winner Vinny Branch 300 Gasser a nice easy starter although some overnight drizzle had made the first rooty climb somewhat slick on the ensuing laps.
Kevin Nolan's long drive from the depths of the Southern Centre nearly paid off and was only four adrift in the Expert class with a loss of 38. Kevin aced ' Axford's Hill ' first attempt but this was to be the only clean of the day a section starting low in the wood before snaking through a gully then a large fallen tree to jump next a slippy camber ducking under a medieval Yew before a very tough triple branch crossing.
Joe Snelling put an excellent performance in on the little Beta 125 and took best Youth B for his efforts riding the Expert route.
Ryan Tomkins was best on the 50/50 route with a loss of twenty nine, section 8 was no problem four clean sheets this hazard was a series of short sharp climbs with cambered flint out-crops.
Dean Devereux was out on his trusty 350 Bultaco this machine had what it took to conquer the steep flint banks and could be heard echoing through Pine Forest from afar. Unfortunately the Bultaco had Sat-Nav failure on several occasions but I guess a forty year old plus original machine will be starting to lose it's memory as do we all. Dev still managed a third spot in his class.
The Yellow standard Clubmen route was as always competitive and this time it was Phil Ducker's turn to lift the Philip Howkins Cup for best adult performance with a loss of fifty two. Section 6 was the toughest of the day and would bring all class winners to the fore with Phil no exception it started with a simple looking drop then a rooted climb around a big tree before lining up a four foot recently cut oak stump a two here was good by any standards. Close on the heels of Ducker was local 'Watlington Wobbler' Rowan Hill finding Montesa 260 power more than adequate on all sections unfortunately Rowan missed out by a single mark for best performance.
Milton Buzzard raider Mark Toms TRS 280 showed respect for the challenging sections and persistence paid off with a win in the Novice class on 62 marks lost. Mark going particularly well at section 10 Chris ' Firestarter ' Hurworth was on the pencil a very slick bank up over a rotting log to start then a bottom gear drop over clay with a choice of lines up a lattice of steep roots then a third gear blast and turn to the welcome end cards.
The white sportsman route had varying marques of machine and various skill levels on parade today and those who chose to stick it out once the heavens opened were rewarded with an excellent day of challenging sections which can only mean one thing practice makes perfect. Ian Homer Beta 250 is going through a bit of a purple patch at the moment with another overall win Adam Hughes Montesa 260 came home in second and also worthy of a mention is young Freddie Davidson Youth B whose little 125 Gas Gas was pulling high gears all day and a third spot was secured.
Many thanks to all the observers who braved the rain and bitter cold wind.
Report Ken O'Brien
Harold Avery Cup Vinny Branch 300 Gasser 34
Expert Kevin Nolan 300 Scorpa 38
Stephen Douglas 300 Gasser 47
Youth B Joe Snelling 125 Beta 98
50/50 Ryan Tomkins Beta 300 29
Steven Clements Beta 300 77
Dean Devereux 350 Bultaco 101
Phillip Howkins Cup Phil Ducker 250 Beta 52
Clubman Graham Groves 250 Beta 86
Inter Rowan Hill 250 Montesa 53
Novice Mark Toms TRS 280 62
White eased Sportsman route.
Ian Homer Beta 250 54
Adam Hughes Montesa 260 63
Fred Davidson Gasser 125 93