Johannes Sickmuller battled Paul Oldham in a thrilling duel to take round three of the National Trophy Cyclo Cross at Chantry Park, Ipswich. We've got the full results and extensive galleries from all the races with trackside reaction and analysis from Luke Webber.
Germany's Johannes Sickmuller took his second consecutive win at the National Trophy on Sunday, leaving it late against Brit Paul Oldham who had the visitor pegged for all but the last lap.
Atop the podium post-race Sickmuller refused to pop a cork, later revealing the champagne was headed straight for the cooler. That's presumably where the tall German came from, because as the pressure was applied throughout the race by Jody Crawforth, Bjorn Rondelez and finally Paul Oldham, there was no panic on the face of the eventual winner.
Not even the vocal support provided by a partisan crowd and commentator would be enough to return from a searing attack that left Oldham with no answer. Five laps previous however, the race took a different shape.
As Crawforth and Rondelez bridged back up to the leading duo who had distanced themselves at the half-way point, it was Oldham that attacked with five to go. After the race Oldham rued that move, but admitted he had little option but to take a risk.
"It was a bit early and a move I never really recovered from. It was essential to keep it to a small group though because on this track there is nowhere to rest or recover and plenty of places to make mistakes in the corners. With a big group it increases the chances of a crash and any gap here would have been impossible to bridge. I expected Jody to stay on longer than he did - he was quiet the first few laps and you never know with him - he's a good racer. As it turned out it was Johannes who took full advantage with two to go."
Sickmuller used that mental insecurity to the fullest and tore up the Chantry Park course, which lent itself to sprint finishes throughout the day. A combination of two short ramps, a windy, open flat on top of the hill where no rider wanted to be alone, a wooded singletrack descent and a winding lower slope all culminated to produce close spectator-friendly racing. For Sickmuller the only crowd pleasing agenda was to come across the line with arms aloft - something that is becoming a familiar sight.
Behind, Oldham would take a comfortable second place, retaining his leaders' jersey and underlining his credentials as the favourite for the National Championships. To settle the final podium position Crawforth and Rondelez, the pairing only ever good enough to match, but not threaten the leaders, would sprint it out on the finishing climb. Rondelez took it comfortably against a Crawforth looking out-of-sorts.
A new leader was established in the under-23 competition where brothers Dave and Andy Nichols recorded a one-two. Andy may have been feeling the effects following second place in the British Universities Hillclimb Champs held the previous day, but Dave was happy to take the green jersey, with a plan to defend it and gain selection for the European Championships.
Nicola Juniper was the surprise winner of the women's Trophy in only her fourth cyclo cross race and first National Trophy. Despite two crashes, three bike changes and the constant challenge from Hannah Barnes and Corrine Hall, Juniper had enough for the sprint to the line. This came as even more of a surprise as both Barnes and Hall were competing for the British Track Championships in previous days at Manchester Velodrome.
The morning races were packed full of excitement as the sun shone across Chantry Park. On a mainly dry course with few sticky sections, close and aggressive racing throughout was the common theme.
The Junior men's race was perhaps the most exciting of the year so far even when considering that Dan Mclay and Steve James were missing from the starting lineup. Luke Gray strung the main protagonists out over the opening laps before Perry Bowater took his attack midway through the race, distancing Gray and taking Tom Moses for company. As the race continued however, all three riders came back together for a thrilling final lap showdown where Gray attacked and held his lead to the finish.
For Gray this completed his comeback from a fractured pelvis sustained earlier in the year at a German mountain bike race, and his return to form and the acquisition of the leaders' jersey was clearly to his delight.
"I'm just getting back to form now, I felt good at the start, judged my effort in the middle of the race then caught up at the end. I just went flat out up the hill and tried to make no mistakes from there."
In the U14 race Harvey Lowe escaped an early spill over the hurdles to come back and take the win comfortably, while in the Youth category Joseph Fox took a surprise win ahead of the favourites.
A sprint finish was all that separated Chris Young and Noel Clough following forty minutes of wheel to wheel action. After spending the duration on the front, Young led the sprint out and despite Clough's best efforts, there was no getting past the series leader.
The over-50's competition was wrapped up by Ian Wright.
As a taster for the 2012 European Cyclo Cross Championships which has been awarded to Chantry Park, the organisers could not have hoped for a better day of racing to showcase what could be possible in little over two years. On a morning with conditions perfect for cyclo cross, the Ipswich National Trophy was contested with barely a slip. The adverse cambers were safe with only a small section of tacky mud on the lower edge of the course. Following a wet week there was some overnight rain - the puddles on the roadside were testament to that. But accompanied by a good breeze blowing off the west cost, rippling warm-up jerseys, race tape and leaves from trees on this classic autumn day temperatures warmed to 12 degrees thanks to a cloudless sky and strong, low-level sun. This is in contrast to previous years at Chantry where deep mud has been the key theme - something that was key when I talked to cross aficionado Geoff Shergold before the race.
"We anticipated that it was going to be a muddy race today, based on the history of this course, but it is the exact same as the previous two races. Because of these conditions this track will suit the stronger road based riders as opposed to the smaller riders. The track looks a good one and today's hard ground will mean harder tyres."
Further Images from 'cross racer and photographer Jacob James