Jo Smith (Thanet RC Race Team) retained her British National 800m Grass-Track title at the weekend, winning a thrilling final at the Mildenhall Cycling Mini-Fest.


In both the semi and the final junior rider, Ellie-Mae Pledger (Lee Valley Youth CC) attacked early on opening up a sizable gap but her legs were just not powerful enough to maintain her advantage. In both, 32-year-old Smith showed her experience, admitting afterwards “I tried to race with my head, which I have to these days and it worked.”


That’s the hardest I’ve ever won (National 800m) certainly since the first one I won in 2011. It was a good field, a big field and strong field, a really strong field. It is great to see these first-year juniors coming through, pushing us all the way. One day they’re going to get me, I’m still there and not this year!” she gleefully said.


In the end she had a comfortable margin ahead of Charlotte Parnham (Team Jadan-Weldtite) and Harley Pell (Liv Awol) who Smith had finished as runner-up to in last month’s Women’s National 5km Championship at the Plomesgate CC Grass Track Meeting, near Woodbridge, also in Suffolk.


Mark Burchett, Chairman of the organising Club, Mildenhall CC, said “With one of our own members, Victoria Pendleton CBE, having won this National title several times, the Ladies National events’ are of special importance to us. In addition to that, seeing Pledger testing herself against the crème of women grass-track riders is a further testament to this event and its predecessor, the Mildenhall Rally, as she has been coming since she was six in 2008!”


As in her Juvenile racing days, there was again this year some very competitive racing spread across all the age-groups, which bodes well for the future of this aspect of the sport.


On one of the hottest days of the year the men had the unenviable task of riding the National Endurance League counting event, the 8km Mini-Milk race on the energy sapping grass-track. Despite a consensus amongst the riders that they would keep it neutral for the first 20 laps to preserve their energy, that soon went out of the window as there were several attempted breakaways. However, like Smith, the league’s current leader Laurence Lisher (Rocks & Road Bikes) rode a sensible race not chasing down every attack. He was left ideally placed to make his move in the closing stages when it mattered, riding away from Tiago Fouga (GS Strada) and Dave Mitchinson (Contour CRT) in the finishing straight.


The Cycling Mini-Fest was held in and around the Village Hall in West Row which is where the event’s long-standing Cycle Jumble was held as the Juvenile racing came to an end on the Saturday afternoon.


The event had begun at 5am that morning, when 23 intrepid cyclists set off on the 300km Audax ride, with amazingly the first rider checking back ten and a half hours later! Over the different routes of 60, 100, 200 and 300km 92 riders finished from the 93 that began.


While the Audax riders were out enjoying the Suffolk countryside, the Come & Tri It On and Off-Road Time Trial took place. Mitch Powell (Team Terminator), who punctured on the mixed 23km course of byways, tarmac and Fenland Droves last year made no mistaking this year, storming round in just 42 minutes and 5 seconds, over 7 minutes ahead of Mark Wyer (CC Ashwell). Darren Baker from nearby West Suffolk Wheelers was next to stop the clock at 51m 40s.


The complete results with pictures are available on