The overnight deluge of rain made for interesting conditions in this first day of the British Cycling National Cyclo-cross Championships. The day opened with a spectacular duel in the women’s veteran race as Tracey Fletcher edged out Claire Smith by less than half a wheel to secure her first national title.
A familiar face in Nick Craig was crowned 40-49 veteran men’s champion whilst Philip Roach beat reigning national champion Steven Davies and world champion Dave McMullen to secure the 50+ veteran men’s crown. In the youth races Dan Tulett was forced to fight it out for the win in the under 16 and Euan Cameron won the scrap for the under 14 title whilst Megan James and Charlotte Broughton both soloed to the under 14 and under 16 victories.
Tracey Fletcher (Team Empella) opened the national championship weekend with a hard fought win an a pulsating veteran women’s race. A break of three riders formed in the first lap of the race. Claire Smith (Cotswold Veldrijden) forced the initial pace stretching the field on this already muddy course, pursued by Fletcher and Marie Jackson (Paul Milne Cycles).
A mistake by Smith allowed Fletcher to take the lead and she soon set about settling into a rhythm and what looked to be a winning break. However, with a lap and a half to go, Fletcher slipped in the mud. Smith took full advantage, closing a 20 second gap and using her better technique to regain the lead crossing the hurdles.
These two riders took the bell neck and neck, both fighting to make a decisive move. And it was Smith who looked to put her misfortune behind her by again putting 15 seconds into her rival. But nothing can be taken for granted in cyclo-cross.
As Fletcher descended through the final bends her chain jammed. Smith made contact, briefly moving into the lead before the pair entered the finish straight head to head. The race culminated in a tense sprint finish with Fletcher winning by a quarter of a wheel.
After her victory, Smith said: “It was a great race. With two laps to go Smith caught me. I stayed with her and then in the pits I just decided to go for it. On the last lap I fell of and shipped my chain. She caught me again and it was just a sprint for the finish. It was a really good race and I’m very pleased.”
Over 50 men
Following this frenetic curtain raiser the 50+ Veteran Men took to the stage and it was Philip Roach (Team Jewson) who took the honours from defending champion Steven Davies (Hargroves Cycles). 95 riders took to the field to fight it out for the title and the pace was high from the off. Philip Roach made his intentions clear by leading the field into the early bends on this heavy course.
He was followed by National Trophy winner Mick Davies (Team Pedal Power), newly crowned world champion Dave McMullen (Cotswold Veldrijden) and Dave Philips. Steve Davies looked to be struggling with this initial pace. However, the race soon settled into a more stable pattern. Roach pulled clear of the following group establishing a lead which he would not relinquish.
A majestic mastery of the mud saw him outclass last year’s winner and secure a deserved win following a season of injury and misfortune. Behind him Steve Davies soon settled into his rhythm to plough a lone furrow in pursuit of the leader. And so attention turned to the race for bronze. Midway through the race Mick Davies was trying to make this his but with Sean Beswick (www.zepnat.com RT) and Douglas Fox (Crawley Wheelers) in close pursuit. However, the experience of the Pedal Power rider that told as he secured third.
Following the race, Roach said: “The course was great. I used the experience from last week’s Worlds which was on a really tough course to know I had strength in the mud. i went hard from the start. If I was at the front I knew I’d have nobody in my way so I could ride where I wanted to ride. I even finished the last lap on a flat. It was sheer mental determination.”
Under 16 boys
Dan Tulett (Hargroves Cycles) took the victory in the under 16 boys race in unfamiliar style as Joshua Waters forced him to work hard for this title. Throughout the season Tulett has led from the front and stamped his authority on races but today Waters took the race to the Hargroves Cycles leading the race into the first lap. And this lead was decisive for the race.
Tulett initially looked thrown and was accompanied by Alfie Moses (Paul Milnes Cycles) and David Barnes (Condor Cycles) in the pursuit of Waters. Waters ground his way around the course opening a gap of some 20m on the pursuant Tulett. But with the memories of last year’s failure in the U14s race, Tulett dug deep.
Despite looking like he had a convincing gap mid-way through he second lap, Waters was caught by Tulett as they approached the hurdles. A technically proficient Tulett closed the gap and as they approached the technical off-camber sections in the second half of the lap moved ahead of and started to gap Waters. And so at the bell Tulett had a small gap over Waters yet this race looked far from over.
Waters kept Tulett in check and behind Moses was pushing hard to join them. As they went into the pits for the last time Waters was back with Tulett and not letting go of his wheel. However, again it was Tulett’s technical ability which allowed him to re-establish the lead and despite intense pressure from Waters behind he did not let up until he crossed the line. Waters took consolation in second and Moses had distanced his erstwhile partner Barnes for the bronze.
Tulett said: “Really hard fought. I’ve had a cold for the last couple of weeks and I didn’t feel 100%.”
“It wasn’t my usual race and I had to chase Josh back a few times. I felt that I could do it. I knew I had to be first into that technical section as I knew I was better there. It all seems to have worked out fine.”
Under 16 girls
Charlotte Broughton (MG Decor) added to her National Trophy Series victory with another solo display in the U16 Girls race. In the first lap she rode away from the field forcing a gap which would only grow throughout the course of the race.
Behind her, a small group of three riders formed the only yet futile pursuit: Isabelle Boon (Derby Mercury), Rhianna Stoves (Derwentside CC) and Jessica Roberts (RST Racing). Yet even the race for the minor places was finalised by the end of the second lap.
There was no bringing back Broughton. And so Broughton was able to prepare herself for the win as she rounded the final bends of the course, zipping up her jersey in readiness for crossing the line. Behind her local rider Boon had established herself in a lone second place and Roberts fought back from earlier problems to claim the bronze.
Broughton said: “I was quite shocked really. At the start of the year I was focussing more on the track. After I finished doing a lot on the track three weeks ago I starting focussing on the ‘cross so I’m really happy I put all this effort in and got this result. The Championship is what everyone looks to because they want that stripey jumper.”
Asked about the conditions she said: “On a course like this you’ve got to forget the time gaps and focus on not falling off.”
Under 14 boys
The under 14 boys race definitely showed that you should never give up as Euan Cameron battled it out with Lewis Askey (Lichfield City CC) and Alistair Leivers (Blackpool Youth Cycle Association). It was Leivers who led the field away but immediately slipped as the field hit the sticky mud. This allowed Craig Rogers (Birkenhead North End CC) to move to the front with Cameron in close attendance. Soon this trio were fighting for the head of the field and stretching the race.
The race leadership swung first to Rogers, then to a resurgent Leivers and back to Cameron. With less than a lap and a half to go it looked like Leivers had made the decisive move, opening up a gap which not only put Cameron in second but allowed a resurgent Askey to challenge him.
Leivers led through the bell with Cameron and Askey neck and neck and far from out of it just behind. Despite trying to impose himself on the field Leivers could not drop the attention of his pursuants and the trio were back together.
Finally, Cameron decided to attack, moving clear of the other two through the quagmire of the off-camber bends. Leivers continued to chase hard but in doing so fell on the final bend allowing Askey to take the silver medal. Cameron crossed the line for a hard-fought title, Leivers crossed the on foot with his broken bike to take the bronze.
Cameron said: “It didn’t go to well. I think I had too much pressure in my tyres as I was slipping on all the corners. I was trying not to take too many risks but when I saw Alistair [Leivers] had dropped his chain twice I just knew I had to go for it, chase him and then drop him. So I’m really happy. It’s my first National Champs so I’m over the moon.”
Under 14 girls
Megan James (Abergavenny RC) took the Under-14 girls title with a majestic display of cross riding. Her intentions were clear from the start as she set off at blistering pace to lead the field into the opening bends. And she was to be show she was in a different class on this tough course.
Where others struggled in the mud, James mastered the difficult conditions. Despite a couple of falls she remained composed and had sufficient time in hand over her rivals to calmly remount and continue at the head of affairs.
Despite a final bend slip James crossed the line with her arms aloft, a massive smile on her face and plenty of time to savour a fine victory. Some three minutes behind, a tired looking Lucy Horrocks (Team Hope Factory Racing) crossed the line for securing the silver whilst Ellie Russell (Mid Shropshire Wheelers) rounded out the podium to take bronze.
Megan said: “I didn’t know I could make such a gap. I knew if I was going to win I had to go hard from the start. It’s my kind of course. It’s technical and it’s fast so it suited me well.”
Asked about her couple of crashes she commented: ”You have to have a couple of crashes in cross, don’t you?”
Veterans men 40-49
The day was rounded off with an emphatic victory in the Veteran Men 40-49 race for Nick Craig (Team Scott). Riding the first of two races this weekend, Craig rode away from the rest of the field to secure the title.
The race was initially led by a familiar trio of names, Crispin Doyle (Hargroves Cycles), Ian Taylor (Jedi Cycle Sport) and Darren Atkins (Team Jewson), though Craig was never far away and tussled his way to the front.
Together with Atkins he pushed the pace with only Taylor able to respond. But it was not to be Atkins' weekend and coming through the pits on the second lap he retired from the race reportedly with sickness. This allowed Andrew Peace (Jedi Cycle Sport) to move into third with Pete Middleton in close pursuit.
At the front Craig demonstrated why he is still riding with the elite men and was even heard telling his fellow riders how he rode where many of them had run. Taylor took the silver with Peace completing a 2-3 for the Jedi Cycle Sport Team. The force was clearly not with them today as Craig showed them who was master of cyclo-cross today. However only tomorrow will tell if this effort was too much or a useful reconnaissance for the showpiece race of the weekend.
Craig said: "It was really good fun. It was a difficult decision whether to ride today. The first lap was a bit shocking for me; there’s lines everywhere and I got caught in the tapes from riding at the edges. It was chaos but it makes for great racing.”
“It’s a great course and I’m looking forward to riding tomorrow but realistically Ian Field and Paul Oldham are going to be difficult to beat. I’ve just won the National Championships for Vets and I’m really chuffed.”
Results (click links to download as PDF):
1. Dan Tulett (Hargroves Cycles)
2. Joshua Waters (Sherwood Pines Cycles)
3. Alfie Moses (Paul Milnes Cycles)
1. Charlotte Broughton (MG Decor)
2. Isabelle Boon (Derby Mercury RC)
3. Jessica Roberts (RST Racing)
1. Euan Cameron (East Bradford)
2. Lewis Askey (Lichfield City)
3. Alistair Leivers (Blackpool Youth Cycle Association)
1. Megan James (Abergavenny CC)
2. Lucy Horrocks (Team Hope)
3. Ellie Russell (Mid Shropshire Wheelers)
1. Nick Craig (Team Scott UK)
2. Ian Taylor (Jedi Cycle Sports
3. Andrew Peace (Jedi Cycle Sports)
1. Philip Roach (Team Jewson)
2. Steven Davies (Hargroves Cycles)
3. Mick Davies (Team Pedal Power)
1. Tracey Fletcher (Team Empella)
2. Claire Smith (Cotswold Veldrijden)
3. Marie Jackson (Paul Milnes Cycles)
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