Millie Couzens and Matt Fox took maiden National Circuit Series wins in the second round at the Ilkley Races.
Matt Fox outsprinted his breakaway companions at the end of a fast night of racing, taking a popular home victory for the Wheelbase CabTech Castelli team at the Lister Horsfall Grand Prix on a night that was marked by a pause in the race and plenty of action.
Finishing second at the Otley Grand Prix earlier in the week, Fox bridged across to a decisive move made by George Kimber (Embark Spirit BSS) and Adam Lewis (Saint Piran) that had gone clear after Kimber took an intermediate sprint.
Saint Piran started the race well, with Leon Mazzone forcing the early pace and a flurry of attacks lighting up the evening. The hard course meant that most of the damage was being done at the back of the bunch as riders were distanced on the twisting lanes and steep climb after the finish line.
Kimber attacked hard to take the early intermediate sprint, coming through the line with a small advantage. He carried his momentum up the climb and was joined by Lewis with the pair working well together to build a small advantage.
Fox and Ed Morgan (Wales Racing Academy) bridged across the gap, making it four up the road and a group of twenty chasing behind, but the race was paused for an ambulance to cross the circuit. After a short wait, the riders were set off again with the time gaps reinstated.
The quartet launched into action with an advantage of just over 20 seconds, chased with renewed vigour by a fast-moving bunch led by Jim Brown (Cross Team Legendre) and Jacob Scott (Bolton Equities Black Spoke).
The gap started to close seconds, but a lull in the chase saw the breakaway seize its chance coming into the final few laps, squeezing out enough of a gap to be certain of contesting the victory.
With two laps to go, an acceleration by Kimber proved too much for Lewis, who was dropped from the front group and, coming into the final lap, it would be a sprint between Fox, Kimber, and Ed Morgan to decide the order on the podium.
As the riders rounded the final bend, Fox opened his sprint early and pulled clear of the others, leading the race home in emphatic style. Morgan just pipped Kimber to the line, while Lewis held on for fourth ahead of a charging bunch sprint, won by Fox’s Wheelbase CabTech Castelli teammate, Tim Shoreman.
With Otley’s winner, Bob Donaldson, not at the race to defend his Series lead, Fox takes over in the overall classification heading into Round 3.
Millie Couzens sprinted to victory in the Ilkley CC Women’s Grand Prix, headlining an emphatic 1-2 for Fenix-Deceuninck ahead of her teammate Flora Perkins.
Couzens was an early aggressor, getting away from the start line quickest and leading the bunch through the line with probing attacks in the first few laps. With Otley’s winner, Sophie Lewis, absent from the race, the overall series lead was up for grabs and Couzens was well-placed to move up the rankings.
Frankie Hall (Loughborough Lightning) was another rider that stamped her mark on the first half of the race, pushing on up the climb of Riddings Road after the finish line and forcing a selective race that punished riders further down the field.
As the back of the peloton fragmented, Couzens was active at the front. She took the intermediate sprint and was wise to the danger posed by the DAS-Handsling squad - winners of Round 1 in Otley.
Attacks from Monica Greenwood (DAS-Handsling) and Jo Tindley (Pro-Noctis-Heidi Kjeldsen 200-Degrees Coffee) were heavily marked but Robyn Clay, who was third at the first round of the series, was struggling at the back and chasing hard.
The bunch was down to fewer than 20 riders and a brief period of calm ensued before Hall led the bunch down the home straight with five laps to go.
Two laps later, Amy Gornall attacked hard, stringing out the peloton in what seemed like a perfect move with three teammates as backup in the main group. However, she couldn’t make it stick and the massed lead outs of DAS-Handsling and Pro-Noctis-Heidi Kjeldsen 200-Degrees Coffee swung into action, with Maddie Leech (Lifeplus-Wahoo), Isabel Darvill (Team Spectra Cannondale), and the Fenix-Deceuninck pairing of Couzens and Flora Perkins ready to navigate the melee behind.
Coming into the final bend, it was the two blue jerseys of Fenix-Deceuninck that were at the front. Couzens carried her speed from the descent perfectly, leading all the way and punching the air in celebration ahead of Flora Perkins, with Darvill pulling clear of the splintering bunch to take third.
Couzens’ win means she leaps to the top of the overall series standings thanks to her fourth place at Otley.
- Matt Fox (Wheelbase CabTech Castelli)
- Ed Morgan (Wales Racing Academy)
- George Kimber (Embark Spirit BSS)
- Millie Couzens (Fenix-Deceuninck)
- Flora Perkins (Fenix-Deceuninck Development Team)
- Isabel Darvill (Team Spectra Cannondale)