Cyclo-Cross National Trophy Round 1
The 2009-10 National Trophy Cyclo-Cross series got underway in brilliant sunshine, more reminiscent of summer than early autumn. The venue, Bicton Arena, Budleigh Salterton in Devon was pretty much bone dry, with dust, crumbling soil and slick polished grass more of a problem than the mud, rain and cold normally associated with the sport.
The senior and under-23 men's event makes for an amazing landscape shot
Hardcore 'Cross riders swear that it's not proper racing until those winter elements have had their say, but the truth is that the racing on fast, dry courses like this one is often exciting in its own way, with high speeds lending something of crit' racing to the tactics and approach of the riders.
Having said that, Gabriella Day was in no mood to circulate in the company of the other riders in the women's race, as she tested herself from the off, breaking clear of the other ten riders almost immediately and going on to a convincing win, almost a minute clear of Jasmine Adams-Friend.
Day now heads off for a winter or racing in Belgium, content with having given herself a good workout, a relief no doubt following a recent bout of illness.
Third in the race was mountain biker Maddie Horton, making her 'Cross debut at National level and enjoying every minute of it, despite finding the vagaries of riding a 'Cross bike in combination with the artificiality of the course's tricky hurdles as much amusing as technically challenging. Maddie was also one of several riders to benefit from some great prizes supplied by local kit manufacturers Kalas, who forked out for category winners and also for the best SW riders.
Returning to the women's categories, Hannah Barnes was the first Junior home and Louise Day the first veteran (and over-50).
Contrasting board-hopping shots of Gabriella (left) and Louise Day
The Senior and Under-23 men put out a big and high quality field of 48 riders, including classy Belgian visitor Jan Van Dael. With their speed and power, the elite riders were lapping at a phenomenal pace. Dave Collins, newly resplendent in his Hope colours, led out on the first lap and set a demanding tempo. Hard on his heels were Van Dael, Paul Oldham, Jody Crawforth, Ian Field and Stuart Wearmouth.
Oldham was content to let his Hope team-mate dictate the early pace and it was Ian Field who eventually decided to take the initiative, attacking and breaking clear on his own. However, he almost immediately crashed and before he could regain his full rhythm, he also picked up a puncture. Sadly for Field this came just after the pits and he was forced to run almost a full lap before picking up his replacement bike. He fought on and did well to make his way back up to ninth at the finish, but it was a day of what might have been for the Hargroves rider.
Ian Field's spirited attack came to nothing after he punctured and had to run round to the pits
Field's attack precipitated further pressure at the front of the race and suddenly things splintered dramatically, with Paul Oldham and Jan Van Dael going away together at the front. The traditional wisdom in these situations is that the classy overseas rider disposes of the plucky Brit. However, Oldham was having none of it and he slugged it out lap after lap with the Belgian. Van Dael did everything he could to get rid of the tall Lancastrian on the climbs and banks of the last lap, but he could do nothing to prevent it coming down to s sprint, which Oldham won well. The Hope rider was understandably delighted with his win, his third in the three weekends of the season, following victories in the NE and Yorkshire series.
Behind them Dave Collins found himself in a battle for third with Jody Crawforth, who had earlier been looking very good, but suffered a bit after a trip at a dismount for some cunningly placed boards. Crawforth grimly hung in with Collins and was rewarded with third place as he predictably won a sprint to the line.
A few more seconds down, Wearmouth and Mark Thwaites also found themselves battling together, with Wearmouth getting the verdict in the end.
Commissaire Kelvin Hoy likened the racing to that seen at the Melton Cicle Classic, "but without the roads!"
Paul Oldham wins his sprint to the line to take the senior race from Jan Van Dael
The Under-23 race featured a fine tussel between Ben Roach and Rob Watson. Roach took the early initiative but picked up an bad dead-leg in a tangle with Will Bjergfelt at the boards and Watson was able to get away from him to win by some 6 seconds - he was an impressive 11th overall in the race as well.
The Veterans' races are always quality affairs with each season beginning with an air of uncertainty as the established riders wonder who of the newly qualified riders might give them some problems. This was emphatically the case in the Grand-Vets, where Martin Eadon was making his bow in the category and duly blew away the outstanding riders of the last few years, Ian Wright and Roy Hunt. Eadon moved clear straight away and was almost a minute clear of Wright at the finish, with Hunt third.
In the Veteran's race, national champion Noel Clough was off to a typically quick start, but a puncture and the re-occurrence of a bad back which has been troubling him recently took its toll and he faded out of contention. National Series winner for the last 3 seasons, Geoff Giddings had a poor start and compounded that with a broken chain, which took him further out of contention.
With these two leading contenders out of it, the race nonetheless shaped up nicely with the ageless Chris Young overcoming a sluggish start to be joined at the front by Ian Jeremiah, Darren Atkins and fast-starting Phil Roach. Roach faded in the closing stages and Jeremiah slipped off whilst contending for the lead on the last lap, leaving Young and Atkins to fight it out for the win: Young getting the verdict after an exciting sprint finish.
Chris Young, left, wearing his first ever series leaders' jersey, apparently. Right, Ian Jeremiah
In the other categories there was a win for Dan McLay in the Junior Men's race. He saw off the challenge of mountain biker Steven James, who was second and Luke Gray who was third. National champion Tom Moses had a crash and trailed in a disappointed fourth.
In the Youth categories, Lucy Garner was the leading female Under-16 rider, winning happily on her birthday. Ffion James was the leading under-14. Ed McParland took the Under-16 race from Hugo Robinson and Dan Murphy, whilst the leading under-14 rider was Billy Harding.
Did You Pick Up Andy Smith's Mavic Askiums?
Swindon Road Club's vet Andy Smith had a pair of his Mavic Askiums picked up by another rider from the pits. If you picked them up by mistake drop us an email with your contact details and we'll put you in touch with Andy.
More action shots:
Above top and left, Youth race action, right Dan McLay the Junior winner
Left, Martin Eadon, grand vet winner and right, vets on the start line
Vin Cox looking suitably relaxed used his vast 'Cross knowledge to good effect as commentator
The women's categories on the podium, topped off by Gabriella Day
Martin Eadon looks chuffed with his Grand-vets win
Paul Oldham tops the senior podium
Rob Watson won the under-23 race
Chris Young tops the Vets' podium