As the top qualifier at the championship, Claire Ritchie from Suffolk sees off French rival to win Best Winter Race on British soil
Over to you, Claire. The 14-year-old from Suffolk has proved she belongs in an already elite field of winter off-road racing contenders by winning the Best Winter Race in Britain.
Claire Ritchie’s latest victory was an off-road action-packed “tire battle” in front of a packed-to-the-rafters small-batch brewery at Olney Farm in the Cotswolds.
So how did she do it? Well, that was largely down to cycling too many hills in the “bike phase” of the race, said Claire.
First there was a nine-mile flat-out ride to set the wheels rolling. So Claire did a little hillclimbing and then did six miles on her four-wheeled Kawasaki which is best left to the professionals, she added.
Then the really testing stuff. Riding off into the night on a peloton of eight riders which included two drivers, Claire took the circuitous route to Olney before her win was confirmed.
“It was great fun. We were just on a whim we decided to do this leg,” said Claire.
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There were six weeks of road racing between turning 15 and the grand finale. Claire had also qualified for the event and finished in fourth place.
Elsewhere in the race Claire’s compatriot, Jamie Justice, finished in seventh place, having knocked Claire’s name off the “leaderboard” at the halfway point, according to her.
The Best Winter Race in Britain on British soil made a return last year and had been held before at Slough’s Marchbank conference centre. It is run by the Motorsport and Adventure Clubs.
Last year the race featured all ages and there was one contest between men and women. It was only in September, that the women’s race was confirmed.
Asked about the rivalry Claire felt with other female racers, including Lucy Franks and Abigail Nicholson from the UK, Claire said: “I just do my own thing. You put that on your shoulder and carry on. I’m in a male-dominated sport, so you’ve got to learn to take it with a pinch of salt.”
Asked how many attempts it took to beat Claire in the last race, Claire said: “I was a bit annoyed with myself. My bike was annoying. I came second in our first meeting and then the guys were a bit scared. So I’ve just been driving my bike and running it off the road and running my bike off the track.”