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Preview: National Cyclo-cross Championships

Event Dates: 8 & 9 January 2010
Venue: Moorways Leisure Centre, Moor Lane, Allenton, Derby DE24 9HY

Links: Start List | Last Year's Reports & Video | Event Website

We take a detailed look at the National Cyclo-cross Championships, starting with the all-important spectator information and race schedule, before moving on to look at the runners and riders in a detailed preview of all the main races.

Spectator Info: The championships will take place on 8th and 9th of January 2011 at the Moorways Leisure Centre, Moor Lane, Allenton, Derby DE24 9HY. The event is to be organised by the experienced team from Derby Cyclo-cross lead by John Holmes. Derby Cyclo-Cross is an amalgam of cyclo-cross enthusiasts across several Derbyshire clubs – Derby Mercury CC, South Pennine RC, Heanor Clarion CC and empella/cyclo-cross.com RT.

A large crowd is expected and there are good parking facilities at the adjoining Rolls-Royce site. The riders’ helpers will also find it easier this year with the pits in a more convenient location close to the car park. Moorways is well situated on the Derby ring-road which has good links to the country’s major road networks in all directions.

Course Map

Schedule

SATURDAY   SUNDAY
11:00 am Veteran 50+
12:15 pm Youth U-14
1:15 pm Youth U-16
2:30 pm Veteran 40-49
  10:15 am Under-23 Men
11:30 am Women
12:45 pm Junior Men
2:15 pm Senior Men


RACE PREVIEW | Start List

We take a detailed look at the runners and riders for this year's National Cyclo-Cross Championships and look back at three of the best races at last year's event.

SENIOR MEN

The Senior Men's race is always a highlight of the national championships weekend. The last couple of years have seen multi-rider battles settled only in the closing stages of the final lap. In 2009, Jody Crawforth pulled clear of Roger Hammond and Paul Oldham to claim victory in Bradford, whilst 12 months later he was forced to relinquish his title in the last few seconds of the race after a strong run up the finishing straight by Ian Bibby, with Oldham coming in just behind them.

With Hammond absent, Bibby (pictured right) will join Crawforth, Oldham, Liam Killeen and Ian Field as one of five riders who, on paper, all have a pretty equal chance of winning the title. That's a pretty exciting prospect and should guarantee a great race.

Bibby started his ‘Cross season late after a heavy summer on the Road, but he won in 2010 from a similar build-up and looked good when finishing second to Oldham in the Macclesfield Supercross, just after Christmas. He has looked a stronger, more confident athlete since turning to Road Racing full-time and his title winning ride was masterful in its timing and tactics. It was also his fifth national ‘Cross title in all - he won two each in the Junior and Under-23 ranks - which suggests he's pretty good at closing out winning opportunities.

Crawforth and Oldham have dominated national level racing in this country in recent seasons and have, in particular, monopolised the National Trophy series. However, they have both found it harder to win the national title. Crawforth finally broke his duck in 2009, and has been back to his best in the second half of the 2010-11 season. With his renowned sprint finish, he has the option of just sitting in any race long battle knowing that he'll have a great chance of winning a last lap gallop.

In contrast, Oldham tends to win his races by gradually wearing down his opponents. His strength and consistency make him a formidable opponent in the multi-event National Trophy Series, but in the one-off national championships he finds it harder to force an opening. He's usually still in the race at the finish, but without a big sprint has been left to settle for silver and bronze in the last 2 years. He will probably need to be away alone on the last lap if he's to win a first national title.

Ian Field is our fourth leading contender. A run-away winner of the last two National Trophy races, he's the man in form. Primarily based in Europe, Field consistently races in higher level events than his opponents. However, his European commitments arguably make it more difficult for him to peak for the nationals, which perhaps explains his hitherto average record in the event. He has never won a medal in the Senior championships at and missed out again in 2010 despite being in a four-man group which went into the last lap vying for medals.

Liam Killeen (pictured right) completes our list of joint-favourites. Three times a runner up in the event, he has ridden a fuller ‘Cross this season this winter than for some time and won the Ipswich National Trophy event. After a break from competition in early December he was back to his winning ways over Christmas in a West Midlands league event. If he's 100% on the day, he'll be tough to beat.

Apart from the "big five" there are a couple of other riders who could just force their way into contention for a medal. If conditions are bad, especially if it's muddy and slippery, both Rob Jebb and Nick Craig come into their own. Jebb's ability to cover the ground off the bike is unrivalled, whilst Craig, now a veteran (he's defending his over-40 title on the Saturday) although perhaps lacking a little of the top end speed of his best years, is highly skilled and canny and will make the most of any opportunities which come his way.

Whoever wins, it should be a superb race to watch and it will produce a worthy winner.

Video: Watch last year's outstanding race again

WOMEN

The Women's race has a very different dynamic, with five-times champion Helen Wyman (pictured right) a clear favourite. A sixth title will take her clear of Caroline Alexander - who also has 5 titles to her name - and it's hard to see anyone stopping her. Once again, Wyman has had a strong season on the continent. Expect to see her ride clear of the opposition sometime in the first couple of laps and cruise to victory.

If Wyman is to be challenged, fellow European-based riders Nikki Harris and Gabriella Day are the most likely to push her. They are both highly experienced and even if they can't stay with Wyman, they should have enough to spare over the rest of the field to make the podium.

Of the UK-based riders, there's little to choose between Juniors Hannah Payton, Hannah Barnes and Lucy Garner and the consistent Corrine Hall. This quartet have dominated the National Trophy series and will be keen to test themselves against Wyman, Day and Harris. A final rider to look out for is Victoria Wilkinson. Now primarily a runner, the former national series winner made her first National level appearance for several years at Bradford in early December and promptly won. Like Jebb and Craig in the men's event, Wilkinson's best chance may come if the weather turns foul.

Video: Watch Wyman make it 5 in a row in 2010

JUNIOR MEN

The Junior Men's race is often one of the best of the weekend. This year's contest may be an exception as Alistair Slater has been an increasingly dominant presence as the season has gone on. He has won three of the last four National Trophy races and pretty much has the series wrapped up. He's also been impressive during the Junior Development Programme visits to Europe. Tall and powerful, he's a clear favourite.

If Slater is to be challenged, Jack Clarkson (pictured right) might just be the rider to take him on. Clarkson hasn't been off the podium in the National trophy and he won in Southampton. Although less than two years into his cycle racing career, Clarkson has learnt fast and if he's still prone to the odd crash and the occasional random mechanical, he's fearless and confident and will be giving it everything.

Of the rest, Hugo Robinson, last year's Youth champion, can look very classy and quick and should be in the mix for a medal. Taylor Johnstone won the Abergavenny National Trophy, but his form has suffered since and he was reportedly unwell at Bradford. If he's 100% he could easily be in contention. Luke Grivell-Mellor and Joe Moses (brother of 2009 champion Tom) complete the list of main contenders. Both are tall, strong athletes who have had consistent seasons.

UNDER-23 MEN

The Under-23 Men's race is a tough one to call: riders in this category race most of the season in the company of the senior men and it's therefore hard to judge how they will perform head-to-head. In the National Series, Tom Payton, Ben Roach and Rob Watson are separated by only 3 points, with a round to go. Watson's form has perhaps been the best in recent weeks and he won the penultimate round of the Yorkshire series with ease just before Christmas.

However, Scottish mountain biker Kenta Gallagher was the leading British under-23 at the Bradford National Trophy event, his first ride of the series and that makes him a serious contender. Fellow mountain biker Steven James also has the talent to get into the race and, like Gallagher, could benefit from having had little racing this winter.

Dave Fletcher should also be in with a shout. He was an impressive winner of this title in 2009, coming back brilliantly from a first lap crash to win.

Finally, last year's Junior champion Luke Gray should not be ignored. He showed class and the ability to raise his game for a big event when defeating defending champion Tom Moses to claim that title.

VETERAN 50

The Veteran-50 category opens the weekend's racing and should be a straight two-horse race between defending champion Ian Wright and this season's runaway leader in the National Trophy, Steve Davis. Davis has won four out of five rounds of the Trophy with Wright taking the other win and three second places. Expect to see this duo go clear early in the race and settle the top two spots on the podium in the later laps.

Dave McMullen hasn't been too far behind Davis and Wright, making the podium four times in five events. Mick Rowson, Peter Wilkin and Martin Eadon have all been consistent scorers and along with Malcolm Cross, who was third in Bradford, they will be battling to make the podium.

There are also titles to be awarded in the 55, 60 and 65/70 plus categories, who race alongside the 50 plus riders. Watch out for some true legends of the sport, including Roy Hunt, Mick Ives, Vic Barnett, Martin Booth and Cliff Featherstone.

YOUTHS

Perhaps the hardest categories of all to predict, the Youths compete hard, take no prisoners and, with their races lasting barely 30 minutes, there's little chance to make up for a mistake, mechanical or slow start.

In the Under-16 male category, Jake Womerlsey leads the national series standings, but only one win in five events suggests that this will be a very open race. Fellow Yorkshireman and reigning under-14 champion Billy Harding has actually won twice, but has also been inconsistent. Harry Franklin, and Joe Kirkham have also won national series races and complete a quartet of riders from whom the winner should come.

In contrast, the Under-16 female category does have a clear favourite: Alice Barnes has won four rounds of the national series, including the last three back-to-back. Her closest challengers are likely to be the consistent Emily Nelson - who has been on the podium every time - and Rebecca Hunt.

In the Under-14 Categories, look out for Arthur Green and Charlotte Broughton who have eight wins between them. Both have had just one slip-up this season and will line up with every confidence that they can claim their respective titles.

VETERAN MEN

Reigning champion Nick Craig will start the over-40 (Veteran) men's race as one of the strongest favourites of the entire weekend. Although he doesn't compete in the category in the National Series, preferring to continue to pit himself against the Seniors, Craig will feel he has the measure of his opponents.

Last season Craig entered the Veteran category for the Rutland National Trophy, perhaps to test the water and lost a two-up sprint against Darren Atkins. He didn't make the same mistake a month later when he claimed the national title in Birmingham, disposing of Atkins early in the last lap and going on to cross the line alone.

Atkins has been dominant in the National Trophy this season and will once again looks the most likely to challenge Craig. Former champion and last year's bronze medallist Chris Young is another rider who might just be able to give Craig some trouble. A win and three second places in the National Trophy suggest he's likely to be on the podium and he looked good in winning the final round of the Yorkshire series, just after the New Year, albeit after the disqualification of Rob Jebb. Nonetheless, the indications are that he's in top form at just the right time.

Chris Young, in yellow, chased by Darren Atkins at Derby in October 2009

The Veteran's race always produces a huge turn-out and there are several other classy riders who might just sneak onto the podium if any of the top three slip up. Matt Denby has had his best ever season and has made the podium three times. He's been locked in a season-long battle with Phil Roach for third in the series and both have the grit and experience to get themselves into contention early on.

Video: How Craig wrapped up the 2010 title

THE VENUE

The scene is now set for an exciting weekend’s racing at the Moorways Stadium in Derby. Following last year’s championships which took place at Sutton Park in Birmingham, it's a move east to a new venue for the event.

Moorways has previously played host to popular local Notts and Derby League races and held a National Trophy race last season - 2009 Derby Report. The course itself has again been designed by local league winner Ben Eedy and will be technically demanding using the stadium’s steep banks and off camber sections.

Coupled with woodland and a tarmac start/finish section, the course gives the riders a varied course to race over. Most of the course can be seen from the grandstand which makes it spectator friendly whilst fans will be able to get close to the riders on the popular technical sections such as the banks and hurdles.

Currently, the course is in pristine condition with no races having been held there this season.

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