2014 British Cycling National Cyclo-cross Championships
Event: 11-12 January 2014
Location: Moorways Leisure Centre, Derby
Report: Snowdon Sports/Rob Rowlands
Images: Andy Whitehouse
On a day of two halves, two international exiles displayed their class in the mud of Derby’s Moorfield Stadium. Ian Field (Hargroves Cycles) successfully defended his elite men’s national cyclo-cross title whilst Helen Wyman (Kona/FSA Factory Team) destroyed the domestic field to regain the title she lost last year in Bradford.
Earlier, in the crisp, frosty conditions of the morning, Tom Craig (Team Scott UK) followed in his father’s footsteps to take a deserved and hard-fought victory in the junior men’s race whilst in a interesting duel Grant Ferguson (Superior Brentjens) beat teammate Kenta Gallagher for the men’s under 23 title.
Ian Field was made to work for his third consecutive national title in a race where the mud forced numerous errors.
Field renewed his battle with British Cycling National Trophy Series winner Paul Oldham (Hope Factory Racing) and the race fell into a familiar pattern. By the end of the first lap this pair had distanced their competitors and the title looked to be headed for a two-horse race.
There was nothing between them as they traversed an increasingly difficult mud-strewn course. Only small errors gave either rider an advantage as they gingerly descended the bends and slid around the sticky corners. This was to be a tale of things to come.
Field, showing his international class, began to open a gap on Oldham and by the third lap the race looked to be over. However, a meeting with the tape by Field allowed Oldham to close the gap and rejoin his rival.
With three laps to go it was all square once again and both riders descended into the woods together. However, Field would emerge out onto the bank alone and the crowd waited for Oldham to appear behind. Seconds ticked by and it was David Fletcher (Orange Monkey Pro Team) who emerged next in second and Nick Craig (Team Scott UK) in third.
Eventually Oldham appeared carrying his bike with tape hanging from the bike where the rear mech should be. This error enabled Field to open up a lone lead over the chasing but tiring Fletcher.
Craig remained in pursuit of second but knew that a persevering Oldham was in pursuit behind. Fletcher almost came to a halt at the bell following a confusion by the commissaire but nothing was going to stop Field from claiming his hat-trick of title wins.
As he soloed down the finish straight he saluted to the crowd, clearly pleased with the win. Fletcher maintained his second place whilst Craig added to his veteran’s national title of Saturday with a fine third. Despite a spirited and determined fightback Oldham was left to claim fourth.
“I’m really pleased with this. I had to keep my head in tricky conditions and keep it to the end. I had a fairly big lead on Fletch and had to be sensible to bring it home,” said a shell-shocked Field.
"It’s like if I win then I should have won but if I lose it’s a big deal. But national champs is a big deal for me and it’s just a relief to have won.”
Second placed Fletcher said: “Halfway through Ian and Oldham had quite a gap so I was just plugging away to maintain third. But unfortunately Paul had a problem and I was able to capitalise on it which is one better than last year. I kept looking behind and Craigy was closing on me so I had to dig deep. To get second I couldn’t be happier.”
Commenting on his third place, Nick Craig paid tribute to Paul Oldham: “It was unfortunate for Paul, had he not had a problem I would probably have been fourth. It was disappointing for Paul not to be racing Ian for the title.”
Helen Wyman (Kona/FSA Factory Team) regained her national title in majestic style, beating defending champion Nikki Harris (Young Telenet Fidea Cycling Team) by over a minute and consigning the domestic field to also-rans.
It was clear from the start that the advantage the two continental based riders would have over the field would be telling and on the opening lap Wyman and Harris made their intentions plain by riding away from any challengers.
Verity Appleyard (Brotherton Cycles) tried to be the filling in the Belgian sandwich but was soon distanced by the pair. However, less expected was the way in which Wyman soon made Harris look human, riding away into a lead which would only increase throughout the race.
Barring incident it was clear that Wyman was riding to victory and Harris would secure silver. So attention turned to the race behind for bronze and it was the junior women who were animated proceedings.
For much of the race Abby-Mae Parkinson (RST Racing) was showing the maturity she has displayed all season and looked to secure third spot and the Junior title but behind her Ffion James (Abergavenny CC) and Amira Mellor (Paul Milnes Cycles) would not giving up.
With two laps to go, James dropped Mellor and joined Parkinson in a duel which persisted until the end close of the final lap. Both riders were neck-and-neck as they shouldered their bikes through the hurdles and Parkinson looked to have a slight upper hand.
However, as they approached the technical traverse on the far side of the course James managed to pull away, Parkinson’s pursuit on foot all in vain. Wyman crossed the line with plenty of time to savour this dominating win.
Harris crossed the line one minute behind looking disappointed that her off day had arrived today. Meanwhile James sprinted down the straight to finish arms aloft, clearly pleased with her comeback.
A clearly delighted but surprised Wyman said: “I was surprised by the gap. When I rode round this morning the course was very firm and I thought it would be a close battle. The whole season Nikki has been amazing at World Cups and I’ve been better than her in the B-Post races.
"She’s incredible competition and you never take anything for granted. But as the conditions altered significantly from pre-race to race it just swung in my favour.”
Second-place Harris said: “I’m kind of frustrated, I didn’t really feel myself and didn’t have it today. Helen was better than me. Some days you have good days and others you don’t. Today I just couldn’t get to grips with the course.
“I was making so many stupid mistakes, But that’s racing.”
Under 23 men
Grant Ferguson (Superior Brentjens) successfully defended his title in the under 23 men’s race following a race long duel with his teammate Kenta Gallagher. The early pace was set by National Trophy winner Ben Sumner (Beeline Bicycles RT) but an unfortunate slip whilst bunny-hoping the hurdles on the second lap saw him fall and slip back to 10th.
The pace was immediately taken up by the Superior Brentjens duo of Ferguson and Gallagher who exchanged the lead as the stretched away from their rivals. It was a race of contrasting styles: Gallagher used his technical expertise to bunny hop the hurdles each lap to build a slight lead on the following climb and force Ferguson to chase; Ferguson’s determined chase enabled him to force the pace on the rear of the course and through the sand-pit. Nothing it would seem could separate these two riders.
Meanwhile behind the chase saw an ever-changing cast. First it was Steven James (Hargroves Cycles) who took up the gauntlet followed in quick succession by Adam Martin (Metaltek) and then Michael Thompson (Hope Factory Racing). Eventually it was Sumner whose determination paid as he rode past the fast-tiring chasers to secure a well-deserved bronze medal.
However, the title was yet to be decided as the leading duo took the bell neck and neck. And it was Ferguson who used his favoured section of the course to his advantage, putting Gallagher under pressure and eventually stretching he gap to 10 seconds.
Leaving nothing to chance, Ferguson chose to run the hurdles for a final time but was able to ride through the muddy final bends before entering the finish straight. Pumping the air in delight he took the title as Gallagher entered the finish straight in the distance. Ben Sunmer fought back from his earlier disappointment to secure the bronze medal.
Following his victory Ferguson said: “That was hard and it was close all race. Kenta was riding technically well and it was tough competition. I knew I couldn’t wait until the end as my sprint is not my strong point. I managed to create a small gap with a lap to go and just hung on. I’m very pleased with the win.”
Gallagher added: “It’s nice to be fighting with him after he spanked me all of last year.”
Thomas Craig (Team Scott UK) overcame a race-long battle with Dylan Kerfoot-Robson (Marsh Tracks Racing Team) to secure his first junior national title.
A series of crashes in the first bends of the opening lap saw a number of riders taken out of contention, among them defending champion Billy Harding (Orange Monkey). It was Craig who capitalised most from the chaos moving to the front and stretching out a small lead.
Behind Kerfoot-Robson was chasing hard and brought with him Jack Ravenscroft (Team Thomson Cycles). As the three made contact Kerfoot-Robson moved to the front and only Craig was able to respond to his pressure.
This pair continued to ride strongly at the front and it was small errors which allowed one or other rider to briefly capitalise. However, there was never much in it. Behind, Ravenscroft and National Trophy winner Sean Dunlea (Ciclos Uno) who were locked in a private battle for third.
Indeed, this duo briefly made contact with the leading pair before another push by Kerfoot-Robson saw him and Craig move clear again. With two laps to go it looked like Kerfoot-Robson was distancing Craig but coming out of the wooded section Craig had the upper hand not only moving into the lead but opening up a gap on his erstwhile companion.
Through the course of the lap Craig maintain a 10 second cushion and at the bell it was Craig who looked to be in command, his easy style allowing him to fly around the banking. But there was one last twist.
Somehow Kerfoot-Robson pulled back the gap and in the final technical bends almost made contact with Craig who, looking behind and seeing the danger. was forced to put in one last effort. He powered onto the finish straight on raised his arms only as he crossed the line. Kerfoot-Robson’s valiant pursuit netted him silver only a second behind the winner. And behind them Ravenscroft eventually won his duel with Dunlea to take the bronze.
“That last lap was so hard. I got a little gap and I just gave it everything,” said a delighted victor, Tom Craig.
Results (click links to download as PDF):
1. Ian Field (Hargroves Cycles)
2. Dave Fletcher (Orange Monkey) @ 20sec
3. Nick Craig (Scott UK) @ 40sec
1. Helen Wyman (Kona)
2. Nikki Harris (Young Telenet Fidea CT)
3. Ffion James (Abergavenny RC)
1. Grant Ferguson (Superior Brentjens)
2. Kenta Gallagher (Superior Brentjens) @ 15sec
3. Ben Sumner (Beeline Bicycles) @ 40sec
1. Thomas Craig (Team Scott UK)
2. Dylan Kerfoot-Robson (Marsh Tracks) @ 1sec
3. Jack Ravenscroft (Team Thomson) @ 15sec
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