Eluned King came out on top of a reduced bunch sprint while Sam Watson claimed the victory in a crash-marred finish in Round 2 of the National Circuit Series.
A rain-soaked course greeted the riders at Round 2 of the National Circuit Series in Ilkley but that didn’t deter the large crowds from coming out in force to support the riders.
The winner from Otley and current series leader, Charlotte Broughton, had opted not to start the race in Ilkley, instead choosing to rest in anticipation of the upcoming Stockton Grand Prix. That meant the series lead was up for grabs for a host of riders who placed well in Ilkley: Eluned King and Flora Perkins of Le Col-Wahoo, Jo Tindley (Pro-Noctis – Rotor – Redchilli Bikes by Heidi Kjeldsen), and Amira Mellor (Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus).
The flag dropped and the riders were away, but the slick corners meant they were taking fewer risks than normal. As the roads started to dry, the pace ramped up and Perkins made the first big move of the day.
She forced her way clear of the bunch on the climb after the finish, attacking solo and earning herself a small lead that never reached more than 15 seconds.
However, the bunch wasn’t letting up. The riders from CAMS-Basso led the chase, steadily eating into Perkins’ lead before pulling her back 10 minutes later.
Perkins’ move would prove to be the only one that stuck. The bunch was taking no risks and the pace remained high, deterring serious attempts at breaking away.
With two laps to go, Mary Wilkinson (Team Boompods) came to the front with a powerful surge. She set an infernal pace in an attempt to break the group and drop sprinters, pulling hard until the final lap.
A much-reduced bunch of 15 riders came into the final lap together and King rounded the corner at the bottom of the descent first. Holding her speed to the line, she narrowly held off the fast-approaching former national champion, Tindley. Perkins had recovered from her earlier breakaway to take third in the sprint.
King now leads the standings ahead of Perkins and Amira Mellor. Tindley’s high placings and her teammates’ consistency means that Pro-Noctis – Rotor – Redchilli Bikes by Heidi Kjeldsen lead the team standings ahead of Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus.
The rain returned for the men’s race and there was a palpable tension as the riders prepared for the race. Slick corners on the hilly town centre course meant that racing from the front would be the order of the day.
As with the first round in Otley, the riders launched off the line and the racing was aggressive from the start. The newly-crowned national champion, Matt Bostock (WiV SunGod), was conspicuous in the national stripes, pushing on from the very first corner.
The high pace forced a small group clear on the climb: Bostock and his teammate Rob Scott, Ollie Rees (TRINITY Racing), and Samuel Watson (GROUPAMA – FDJ). The bunch was splitting under the pressure of the attacks, but caught in the middle and chasing hard were Jake Scott and Jim Brown of WiV SunGod.
A lap later, the two chasers made contact and the breakaway immediately got to work building a gap. The six riders worked well together - a small group collaborating was difficult for the bunch to chase on the wet roads and there was little impetus with three of the big teams represented in the break.
Just over halfway, Scott surprised the small group and made a move, accelerating hard and moving clear over the climb. Watson and Rees saw the danger and went with him, and they quickly saw the new situation as beneficial, having dropped three of the WiV SunGod riders, and set to work trying to build the gap.
Suddenly, disaster struck Rees at the top of the climb. A problem with his rear derailleur threatened to cut his time in the breakaway short -cue half a lap of frantic attempts at fixing the problem - first kicking the derailleur and then, finally, reaching down on the descent to precariously man-handle it back into place.
Whatever Rees did, it worked, because the next time up the climb, he made the first move from the leading trio. His move was quickly brought back, only to be countered by Watson. Scott covered the attacks but did not make a move of his own, opting to wait for his teammates instead.
On the penultimate lap, it was touch and go for the leading trio, with Rees and Watson now resigned to working together in an attempt to hold off the chasing WiV SunGod riders, while towing Scott.
Those three riders were approaching fast, and with one lap to go, Bostock led the chasers up the climb to make contact with the leaders.
As they approached the finish, Bostock had the lead, but disaster struck as the motorbike outrider got caught between a bunch of lapped riders and the leaders, narrowing the road considerably.
The moto moved safely out of the way, but the lapped riders were fanned across the road. The leaders squeezed to the right of the lapped bunch and Sam Watson nipped into first place ahead of Bostock and Scott, but Brown was brought down in the melee.
It was an unfortunate end to an otherwise brilliant race, denying the leaders a straight sprint and a chance to really test themselves against one another.
After that finish, Watson leads the National Circuit Series ahead of Scott. Brown and Rees, who are tied in third place. WiV SunGod lead the team standings after once again dominating the racing.