Joolze Dymond's View From a Ditch
Reporter and photographer Joolze Dymond looks back on the first weekend of national Cyclo-Cross action and reviews the action from some hot and dusty races.
The Cyclo Cross season kicked off in earnest for me with the first round of the National Trophy. A merry jaunt down to Devon to watch the UK's finest start the battle for those all-important points. Each race had its own drama, with mechanicals and punctures putting paid to more than one riders dream, not to mention the dry dusty conditions that turned the course into a fast crit with some devilishly slippery corners that caught out quite a few competitors along with the obligatory boards which for some became a hurdle too far!
The racing was electric with some breath taking sprints deciding many outcomes. In the Vets races they certainly proved that age is just a number as they hurtled at full pelt round the tricky circuit. National Champion Noel Clough started proceedings with a blast from the front leaving the rest of the race in chase mode, he was quickly swallowed up and spat out after a puncture and recurring back problems slowed him right down. Chris Young put his words into action, following up his protégés wins earlier, as he out sprinted Darren to take the win claiming his first National Trophy leaders jersey in 30 years of trying. In the over 50's race Martin Eadon embraced his new category with gusto, taking a confident win in his first outing leaving Ian Wright and Roy Hunt firmly in his wake.
In the junior race Dan McLay put his road background to good use storming from the front to take an early lead, which he never lost. Meanwhile all the drama unfolded behind him as current National Champion Tom Moses was looking for a good result until a crash put paid to his chances leaving him in full-blown chase mode. Not one to let any chances slip him by was mountain biker Steve James who's had a fabulous season this year, with many World Cups under his belt. Having recently returned from the World Champs Down under he wasn't really looking for a result today but the sniff of a podium spot was too much to resist and he went a hunting to finally bag 2nd spot ahead of Luke Gray who in turn has just returned from a horrific broken pelvis earlier in the year. He's now looking in good shape and I'm sure the battle of the juniors will be one of the finest throughout the year with the top range of talent throughout the field.
Gabby Day stamped her authority on the women's race leading it with confidence and a grace that now sees her heading off to Europe to fight her season long battles over there. Elite Mountain biker Maddie Horton swapped her full sus, fat tyred rig for a skinny wheel experience and despite a few wobbly moments loved her first National Trophy experience stepping up to the podium in a cracking 3rd. In the senior race it was a bag of mixed fortunes. Flashes of green prevailed as Hope riders Dave Collins started to drive the race forward, while team mate Paul Oldham and last year's National Trophy Series winner bidding his time. Soon a small compact group headed a splintered field. Containing National Champion Jody Crawforth, Ian Field, Belgian visitor Jan Van Dael, Paul Oldham, Dave Collins and Stuart Wearmouth, all with ambitions for that first win.
As the race progressed, the group slowly shed riders. Field punctured just after the pits leaving him a lap on his feet losing places left right and centre, he was down but defintely not out. Crawforth also suffered a moment's slip of concentration as he collided with the hurdles, leaving Oldham and Van Dael out in front and taking full advantage. Crawforth soon joined forces with Collins while further behind Field gallantly battled his way back into the top 10.
Meanwhile all eyes were on the front of the race as Oldham and Van Dael matched each other pedal stroke for pedal stroke. In the past our Belgian visitors have usually darted from the front leaving the GB boys in their dust, but today things were shaping up differently. Try as he might he just could shake the confident Oldham and as the neared the final corner Oldham took off entering the finishing straight all guns blazing, this time leaving the Belgian in his dust trail to pick up his 3rd straight win in as many weeks.
Crawforth repeated that exercise with Collins out sprinting the Hope rider to pick up a consolidatory 3rd, while Field finally battled his way back to 8th spot a sterling ride after a disastrous incident.
The National Trophy now heads for Derby, were we can perhaps expect a bit more mud and an equally testing course. The racing will again be tough but exciting and it'll be interesting to see how the season unfolds as each rider starts to come into their own. It's gonna be a corker!