A beaming TJ Baldwin explained after winning the All England title for the first time that this was a long held dream for him. Earlier in the season he had foreran the Norfolk Club National and explained that he was coming back in September to try and win the race. A veteran of World Championship races (Garmisch 2011), World Cup races and many British titles on snow, Baldwin explained that this was ‘up there in career highlights.’ Laurie Taylor, a current British Team racer, took second with Craig Speed taking third. Declan Huppach and Toby Case rounded out the top five.
The talk on the morning of the race was very much about how would Laurie Taylor fare in the race. An astonishing racer on the snow, highly rated by many of the World Cup already having made his break through last season, Taylor was a late entry into the race and took the lead after the first run. Two hundredths was the gap to Declan Huppach with Speed in third a tenth behind Taylor and Baldwin in fourth just 0.15 behind Taylor. The ability and the talent of the leading racers was great to see and reminded many of the older spectators of the hey day of dry slope racing. The challenge of a number of the more fancied racers faded on the first run with David Hatcher straddling at the top and Gerard Flahive losing the line half way down. The strong coaching staff at the British Ski Academy had Brad Morgan racing as well and he too was another to fall victim to the first run course.
The second run saw strong runs from the likes of Sam Carson, Overall winner of the Combined GBR Series as well as Robert Holmes, winner of the Outdoor GBR Series. Carson would end up in 10th behind Ryan Bloom (Under 16 Slalom Champion at the Delancey British Championships last season). Rory Farren held on to take 8th place behind Holmes with Josef Huppach in sixth.
With five to go Case took the lead before Baldwin destroyed his time by almost half a second. The challenge was set and Speed could not live with it as he dropped into second almost three tenths behind Baldwin.
With such small margins between the top four after the first run, Declan Huppach made one mistake and dropped into third. Could he stay on the podium?
Laurie Taylor has had an impressive season and while he had tried to encourage other British racers to race in the All England, the ability he has on all surfaces meant that he left Norwich with a new army of fans that were impressed. With Baldwin unable to see the clock from where he was standing in the finish area, he had to wait until his father came round to be aware that he had won the race. This was, he explained after the race, the first time he had won it let alone won his age group. The smile he had was beaming from ear to ear.
The 2017 All England Championships may have rescued the image of the great race with its appeal to racers from all levels. Two great courses that could truly be described as Championships courses helped as well.
The age groups were won by Jack Upton (Under 14, 16th Overall); Toby Case (Under 16, 5th Overall); Ryan Bloom (Under 18, 9th Overall); Craig Speed (Under 21, 3rd Overall); TJ Baldwin (Senior, Race Winner) and Will Manns (Masters, 12th Overall).