Zak Dempster has won the 2011 Dengie Marshes Tour after riding away from a breakaway group in the race’s last eight miles.
Graham Briggs made it a Rapha 1-2, while Magnus Backstedt of UK Youth finished third.
“I’m really happy to get my second win of the year,” Dempster told Cycling Weekly on the finish line. “It was a really hard race. You’ve just got to look at
the size of the groups coming in to see how hard it is.”
The race isn’t called The Hell of the East for nothing. Most of the big British teams were down in deepest Essex for the devilish 83-mile sufferfest, consisting of corkscrewing, narrow lanes and devilish sections of rough road, the worst being “Bomb Alley”. Flanders, eat your heart out. Fortunately for the bunch, there were warm, dusty conditions rather than lashings of rain.
The racing was characterised by strong, controlled riding by Rapha-Condor-Sharp from the off. The men in black forced a thirty-man split in the bunch within the first ten miles and rode on the front throughout.
While the field did come closer together on its tarmac sections, the constant pressure applied by Rapha and the fragmentary effect – crashes and punctures galore – of “Bomb Alley” meant that few made it back to the front after being distanced. Sigma Sport, Motorpoint and 100% ME were the best represented teams.
As the lead group whittled down, with punctures, crashes and tiredness galore, Rapha came out in the strongest position. They had Briggs and Dempster in the decisive six-man group.
Luke Rowe (100% ME), Wouter Sybrandy (Sigma Sport-Specialized), Backstedt and Jonny McEvoy of Motorpoint joined them in the lead.
There were attacks aplenty as that group entered the race’s final stages and headed back towards Burnham, with former Paris-Roubaix winner Backstedt covering moves and riding especially strongly.
However, making the most of the numerical advantage, it was Dempster who made his escape stick. Hitting out with eight miles to go, the Australian finished approximately thirty seconds ahead of the rest.
After avoiding the bike and body of Jonny McEvoy, who came a cropper leading through the final corner, Graham Briggs completed a heavenly day in Hell for Rapha, outsprinting his companions for second place: no mean feat after sustaining four punctures during the race.
Amongst the race’s casualties were Ian Bibby, who retired early on after a crash also involving Rapha’s Dan Craven, and Andy Magnier, who suffered a broken collarbone.
For more details and a comprehensive report from The Hell of the East, stay tuned for the April 7 edition of Cycling Weekly.
1. Zak Dempster (Rapha-Condor-Sharp)
2. Graham Briggs (Rapha-Condor-Sharp)
3. Magnus Backstedt (Team UK Youth)
4. Luke Rowe (100% ME)
5. Wouter Sybrandy (Sigma Sport-Specialized)
6. Jonny McEvoy (Motorpoint)
7. Kristian House (Rapha-Condor-Sharp)
8. Tobyn Horton (Motorpoint)
9. Simon Gaywood (Corley Cycles)
10. Marcel Six (Twenty 3C-Orbea)
11. Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Rapha-Condor-Sharp)
12. Dean Windsor (Rapha-Condor-Sharp)