Hard-fought national titles were handed out on a tricky first day of the HSBC UK | National Cyclo-Cross Championships in Bradford’s Peel Park.
Soft ground mixed with a number of off-camber sections and slippery descents led to some exciting and close racing throughout the day.
Maddi Smith (Bolsover & District CC) gave Yorkshire their first victory of the weekend taking a convincing win in the weekend’s opening race.
The 45-year-old from Sheffield retained her veteran’s national jersey in emphatic style, taking the lead within the opening half lap and distancing her opponents early on and keeping her gap.
Helen Pattinson (Hargroves Montezuma) led the initial charge on the road uphill section before losing time on Smith early in the race.
Pattinson was initially passed into third by HSBC UK National Trophy Series winner Isla Rowntree (Islabikes), riding her faithful single speed on the hilly Bradford course.
However, Pattinson responded on the second lap and passed Rowntree before continuing to open the gap.
“I was quite lucky with how muddy it was really as it suited me power riding,” said Smith following the win.
"Isla deservedly won the National Trophy and I was second so I really needed this. I didn’t expect this but I have worked hard all year.”
Over-50 Veteran Women
Age group World Champion Tracy Fletcher (Team Empella) was a clear over-50 age category winner.
She initially joined a group riding for fourth overall before riding clear of her opponents by the mid-way point.
“I’m very pleased as it’s been a long season and this tops it off,” she said. “The course was proper cyclo-cross in England, as in Belgium it’s more sand which we don’t get here.”
Over-50 Veteran Men
Chris Young (Pedalsport CC) took a memorable victory in the over-50 veterans category, coming from behind to take a home victory.
The Keighley-based former professional bided his time to ride up to fast starter Peter Middleton (Zepnat) before running clear and extending his advantage over the closing lap.
Behind, Steven Davies (Hargroves-Ridley) and previous champion Tim Gould (Zepnat RT) became locked in a battle for third.
Both riders took the lead before slipping, with Gould making the final error on the last muddy climb allowing Davies to sprint clear to claim third.
“It went to plan for the first time this year and I did what I wanted to do,” said Young. “I was happy to stay in second for the first few laps and then make my move.”
“I practiced here yesterday and I was pretty confident but the other guys have been beating me so I was hoping for a podium. A win is out of this world really.”
Dave McMullen (Cotswold Veldrijden) was first over-60 rider, clinching fifth overall in the race.
The clearest winner of the day was Harriet Harnden (T-Mo Racing) in the under-16 girls race.
The 15-year-old mountain bike specialist took the lead on the opening lap kept extending it to take a clear win.
Harnden never looked in any difficulty and the National Mountain Bike Champion, who is unbeaten in both disciplines this year, raced into a clear win.
She was initially joined by Maddie Wadsworth (Beeline Bicycles RT) but the pace was too high for her companion who was passed by Eluned King (Towy Riders) who took a clear second.
“It was tough and the running was really hard,” said Harnden. “This is just something else I do on the side of mountain biking so it’s a bit of fun. The national title is not something I would have thought I’d have won a couple years back.”
The under-14 girls race was a close battle with Eva Young (Pedal Power RT) battling with Millie Couzens (Zappi’s CC) and Anna Wadsworth (Beeline Bicycles RT).
Eventually Young broke clear of the other two with Couzens finishing second and Wadsworth collecting bronze.
Young said: “I’m glad to get my first national title as I was looking for a top five today so it was definitely not expected.”
Ben Tulett (Beeline-Gener8) retained his national under-16 title in dramatic fashion sprinting clear of Charlie Craig (Scott Racing) to clinch the win.
The two spent the race out front matching each other from the outset.
Lewis Askey (RST Racing Team) saw his chances go with a gear slip on the starting straight and despite working his way through the field and tried he had to settle for bronze.
Tulett, 15, took advantage of a last lap bike chance for Craig to attack and get a decisive gap.
Despite a valiant chase running up the final climb by the National Trophy Series winner Craig was beaten in the sprint.
“We got away really fast and were playing cat and mouse the whole race,” said Tulett. “He made a mistake so I pushed hard. In the sprint I kept going and nobody was there.”
In the under-14 category Adam Bent (Border City Wheelers) came from behind after an early crash to take a comfortable win.
Behind initial leader Joe Kiely (Welwyn Wheelers) faded away to bronze and Finlay Pickering (Hull Thursday RC) came through for second.
“I got onto a few wheels to get back up to them after the crash and then ended up riding away,” said Bent.
40-49 Veteran Men
Nick Craig (Scott Racing) also retained his over-40s title in superior fashion using his skills to ride away from the opposition.
The 47-year-old from High Peak in Derbyshire was joined at the head of proceedings by Rob Jebb (Hope Factory Racing), Darren Atkins (Ride Coventry) and Ian Taylor (C and N Cycles RT).
Craig kept the early pressure high and gapped Atkins and Taylor who fought it out for third.
Jebb eventually cracked and Craig increased his lead bit by bit into an unassailable one.
Behind, Atkins and Taylor were locked in a close battle for bronze until on the final lap a slipped chain for age group World Champion Taylor allowed Atkins to ride away for third.
“Technically it was a good course,” said Craig following the win. “Rob [Jebb] was as strong as ever and I had to be wary of him on the run-ups.
“I got a few seconds on him after a few laps and just grew it to have a buffer. Then I could ride my lines and my technic so it went well from then on really.”