Preview: National Cyclo-Cross Championships
6-7 February 2010, Sutton Coldfield
Updated Start List, Course Map & Schedule
EVENT RE-SCHEDULED - UNDER-12 CANCELLED
The event had originally been scheduled for 9-10 January at the same venue, but was moved to 6-7 February 2010 due the weather. Note -- The non-championship under-12 event has been cancelled - Full detail of re-schedule
The Senior Men's race should always be the highlight of the weekend. The 2009 championship produced a thriller as Jody Crawforth, Paul Oldham and Roger Hammond took an epic battle almost to the line, with Crawforth just getting the verdict ahead of Oldham. It's hard to see anyone outside these three challenging for the title this year.
Right: Defending National Champion, Jody Crawforth
Hammond has now confirmed that he will not be able to ride the re-scheduled event, which leaves the race wide open - he'd only been beaten to the title three times in the last 10 years and he won the last five championships to have been held at the Sutton Coldfield venue.
Paul Oldham, who has never won the title, now looks like he has a golden opportunity to claim that first title. He's just clinched the national trophy series and was the best British finisher in four of the six rounds and is more consistent than ever. It would be a shock if he failed to win a medal and a win would be very popular as he is one of the sport's nice guys.
Jody Crawforth is the defending champion and on the evidence of his recent results - including a win at the December Trophy in Bradford and a strong ride at the recent Rutland event, despite a tangle with a marker post - he's coming into form at the right time. A great all-rounder, he's well know for his sprinting prowess and if he enters the last lap in contention, he'll take some beating, as he showed winning the title last year.
If you want a couple of other riders to watch, try Ian Field, who has spent the majority of his season on the continent and has the class to win the event if he gets a few breaks. He also beat Oldham and Crawforth by a significant margin at the world championships, though the conditions will be very different at Sutton Park. Also capable of contending is Ian Bibby, the mountain biker turned road rider, who was in contention for much of last year's event, and who hasn't had the grueling season some of his rivals have.
Our Tip: Jody Crawforth to make it two in a row
The Senior Women's race is full of interesting sub-plots. Will Helen Wyman pull off a record-equaling five titles in a row? Caroline Alexander won from 1994 to 1998 and Wyman's recent form in Europe suggests she's in a class of her own once again this year.
Right: Will Helen Wyman make it five in a row?
Fellow Euro-stars Gabriella Day and Nikki Harris should also be in contention for medals and if Wyman has an off day they will be ready to pounce. Harris, in particular, looked very good at the World Championships, where she beat Wyman and was pushing for a top ten slot when she crashed late on and lost several places.
However, even after finishing eleventh at the World Championships Annie Last will not start, due to the resumtion of her mountain bike training in the coming week - a commitment Lily Matthews must also make.
Outside bets now include Sue Clarke and national series leader Hannah Barnes. Hannah will also be the favorite for the integral Junior women's race along with Ruby Miller. Isla Rowntree ought to win the veterans' title, with Louisa Day a likely winner of the over-50 title.
Our Tip: Wyman to win for a fith time
The Under-23 Men's race ought to be one of the most open of the weekend. In the absence of defending champion Dave Fletcher and runner-up Jonny McEvoy, national series leader Tom Payton is one of half a dozen riders capable of winning the race. Watch out too for David Nichols, Tom Lowe, Rob Watson and Ben Roach, all of whom have shown they are capable of winning at this level over the last few months. Jamie Harris has also moved into the frame with excellent results in the last 3 national trophy events - he was the first home under-23 rider at Rutland.
Our Tip: coming up on the rails, Jamie Harris
The Junior Men's event will be one of the most eagerly awaited of the weekend, with this season's national racing being of a high standard. Three riders really stand out: Tom Moses, the defending champion has two national series wins under his belt this season and has wrapped up the series with a series of consistent rides; Daniel McClay has beaten Moses and won three times and would have arguably have won the series if he'd ridden every event; Luke Gray has also won a round and only just lost out to MClay at Rutland. McClay's power might just give him the edge on the fast Sutton Coldfield course, whilst Moses and Gray may prefer it if it's icy or very wet.
Right: Dan McLay in action
Finally, Perry Bowater might also have an influence on the medals, having visited the podium three times at the Trophy events.
Our Tip: Dan McLay unless he has an off day
Massive fields for the Veteran Men's races underline the all-round appeal of the sport these days. The Over-50 categories open proceedings on the first day and a lot of attention will be on the ongoing battle for supremacy between defending over-50 champion, Ian Wright and multiple champion Roy Hunt. Hunt is not as consistent as he once was, but he still manages to win from time to time and is impossible to discount if Wright is not at his best. Martin Eadon may also have a say in the race, having won the first and last rounds of the national trophy and visited the podium at three more.
With categories in five year bands going all the way down to 70 plus, the over-50 race will also feature many sub-plots and individual battles - and with over 80 riders entered it will be one of the spectacles of the weekend.
Our Tip: Ian Wright if he can get rid of Roy Hunt and Martin Eadon before the last lap
The youngest category of the weekend (the under-12 racing is non-championship), the Under-14 races are always some of the hardest to call. But, if recent form is a guide, the boys' race ought to be a decided by the relative fortunes of Harvey Lowe, Billy Harding and Jack Ravenscroft. All have national wins to their names this season, with Lowe perhaps that little bit more consistent, which makes him a narrow favourite.
The Under-14 Girls race features two riders who are already in the upper echelons of the Youth field, in Ffion James and Grace Garner. Their head-to-head record this term just favours James.
Our Tips: Harvey Lowe and Ffion James
Almost 60 male Youth riders are set to take the start and at least five will have a great chance of taking the title, though Sam Lowe will be a clear favourite after wrapping up the national series with back-to-back wins. Hugo Robinson has been consistent, but lacks that confidence-giving win. Ed McParland has faded a little since his opening round win, but has the strength and class to be in contention, give a bit of luck. Joseph Fox had back-to-back wins at Ipswich and Mallory, yet has been off the pace recently. He's a contender, as is Jonathan Dibben, who is never far from the top three. The last couple of rounds have also see Adam Martin and William Worrall stake their claims - they finished second and third behind Lowe at Rutland and, along with Lowe, are the men in form. It's another tough one to call and should produce an outstanding race.
Our Tip: Sam Lowe
A couple of months ago you would have said this was the easiest race of all to call. Lucy Garner took the first three rounds of the National Trophy at a canter. However, since then her rivals have come back at her with first Bethany Crumpton winning at Mallory and then Amy Roberts at Bradford. Add in Hannah Payton, who has been on the National Trophy podium regularly this season and you probably have your medal winners covered off. But who will rise to the occasion? Garner's recent win at Rutland suggests she is coming back into form again and she ought to win.
Our Tip: Lucy Garner to re-discover the art of winning
For many, the Veteran's race is the most anticipated clash of the weekend. A huge field of 130 riders in the over-40 and over-45 categories should make for a great spectacle. However, it's the quality of the riders expected to be at the sharp end of the race which really attracts attention. Defending champion Noel Clough will have a mighty fight on his hands if he's to hold on to his title. Clough has had a mixed season after early back troubles, but runner-up spots in the Ipswich and Mallory rounds suggest he's still a contender.
Right: Noel Clough, the defending over-40 champion
National Trophy leader Chris Young has been at his best for much of the season, with three Trophy wins, including Bradford, where he got the better of Darren Atkins in a vey close and exciting race. Young has made the podium for each of the last five years, his only title coming two years ago at Southampton, but his form has dipped since Christmas and he wasn't really in the final Trophy race at Rutland, though he did wrap up the series.
Atkins must also be a strong contender, having two wins and two seconds in his four National Trophy appearances this year. He alone coped with the pressure of handling Veteran newbie Nick Craig at the Rutland race, staying with the Scott man and then out-sprinting him at the end.
Geoff Giddings, the National Trophy winner for the last three seasons has had a slightly quieter season this year, with a trio of third places mid series his best results. He's also never won the national title, though he came close at Sutton Coldfield two years ago and can't be discounted. Neither can Darren Atkins' Coventry team-mate Phil Roach, who has also had a couple of visits to the podium and whose fast starts are legendary and no doubt painful for his rivals!
There are two further riders who make this race a bit special. The first is Steve Knight, who won the senior title in 1999 and the Veteran's crown in 2008, both times at this venue. He doesn't contest the National Series and didn't defend his crown in 2009, but he came from nowhere to win in 2008 and the other riders must fear his class.
The second rider with the potential to really throw a spanner in the works is Nick Craig. The three-time senior champion is in his first year as a veteran and up to Rutland hadn't contested the age-category national series, preferring to have a couple of run outs in senior races instead. With his last senior title as recent as 2005 and with his amazing Three Peaks win still fresh in the memory, Nick has to go to the start line as a contender. His policy of avoiding head-to-head racing with his rivals up to Rutland was an interesting approach. He seemed to have the Rutland race at his mercy, but couldn't get rid of Darren Atkins, who beat him with a fine sprint. Nick will have learnt from that experience and knows he probably has to get rid of all his rivals before the final sprint if he's to win - that could be a challenge on a generally flat and fast course.
Our Tip: Nick Craig to learn from his Rutland defeat and claim his first age-related title