Round 5 - Sunday 11 December 2011: Peel Park, Bradford
Bradford’s Peel Park is the venue for the fifth round of the 2011-2012 National Trophy Cyclo-Cross series. The parkland course is both popular and challenging: spectators love the big views of the course, which make races easy to follow; riders appreciate the mix of technical challenges, including steep bankings often liberally coated in mud.
Bradford hosted the 2009 National Championships and will host them again in 2013 and last year’s National Trophy event showed just why this is such a popular venue, with a partial thaw producing some of the slipperiest conditions ever seen at a ‘Cross race. The resultant slide and crash-fest didn’t detract from a series of outstanding races, culminating in a fine battle in the Senior men’s event, where Ian Field eventually triumphed over Paul Oldham. The spectators loved every moment.
Video Review: That incredible 2010 mud-fest of a Senior Men's race
Race Previews (Bradford Start List)
First off, as always, will be the Veteran Men. In the 40 plus category, the series looks to be going to either Jim Bryan, winner of rounds one and two, or Darren Atkins, the defending series champion, who won rounds three and four. Atkins’ slow start to the season means Bryan has a cushion of 16 points, with two rounds (including Bradford) to go. Atkins effectively needs to keep winning and hope that Bryan finishes lower than second in at least one round. Noel Clough, who won his national title in Bradford in January 2009 and Chris Young, who won in this series later that year, look the two most likely break up the Atkins and Bryan domination.
The Veteran 50 series is similarly poised, with Steve Davis now only 10 points behind Mick Bell. Davis missed round one, but has won all three subsequent races. On paper, Davis looks well set to overtake Bell and seal the series at the final round. However, after a fourth and a third in rounds 2 and 3, Bell was on top form again at round 4, staying with Davis and taking the fight to him until a late mechanical dropped him to second. It looks like being a cracking final couple of rounds for these grand old men of the sport!
The Junior Men’s series has a slightly strange dynamic to it. The best rider in the category this season is clearly Hugo Robinson. However, the National Champion is racing extensively on the continent and missed the opening two rounds, which effectively puts him out of the running. He won rounds 3 and 4 convincingly and will be favourite to make it a hat-trick of wins at Bradford.
But, the real battle for the series honours is between the consistent pair of Joe Moses and Alex Welburn. They shared the opening two rounds and have both made the podium at each event. Moses has a slim 8 point advantage, though he has actually beaten Welburn three times out of four. Moses is also on home territory at Bradford and if he gets the better of Welburn again, he ought to go on to take the series.
Of the other riders, Adam Martin must be the most frustrated. Second in rounds one and two, his series has been wrecked by illness at Southampton and an ill-timed crash late in the race at Derby, where he was battling for third. He will be looking now for a consolation win, with little to lose in the process.
Another category which has the potential to go all the way is the Women, where Hannah Payton and Adela Carter are separated by only 4 points, but completely out of sight of their rivals. There appears to be very little between them, with only Payton’s illness at the opening round and Carter’s back row gridding (after missing her call-up) at round 4 keeping them off the podium.
However, at Bradford at least, Carter and Payton will have to contend with the race dynamics caused by several other potential winners in the field: Lucy Garner, winner of round 3, is expected to race again, as are veterans Isla Rowntree and Louise Robinson, both of whom led at Derby before Robinson went on to win. Top mountain biker and experienced 'Cross rider Annie Last will also be at Bradford and given her progress in the last 12 months she might just be the one to put your money one, despite her lack of racing this season.
Whoever wins, it should be an excellent race and a taster of what might be on offer at the National Championships, when Nikki Harris, Gabriella Day and Helen Wyman will return from Europe.
The Youth categories offer contrasting tales as the series goes into the final two rounds. Daniel Tulett and Charlotte Broughton both remain unbeaten in their respective Under-14 series and have accrued huge leads in the process. Both should wrap up their titles in Bradford, as long as they avoid injury, illness or major race mishaps.
The Under-16 female riders face a contrastingly tense end to the season, with Jessica Wilkinson leading Grace Garner by 8 points. Amira Mellor, Sarah Lomas and Abigail van Twisk are also still in the hunt, just a few more points adrift. Garner ought to be the favourite, having won two of the first three rounds before missing Derby on Talent Team duty. However, all the riders will have to be wary of the in-form Abby-Mae Parkinson, who won by 46 seconds at Derby, having looked in control throughout.
A fluctuating Under-16 male series saw Jack Ravenscroft take a big step towards securing the title when he became the first rider to win twice this season with a strong ride at round 3 in Derby. He came out on top after a race-long battle with Dylan Kerfoot-Robson and Billy Harding. However, Ravenscroft still has only a slender 12 point lead over Solihull club-mate Dan Fox, who was off-colour at Derby. With Kerfoot Robson getting stronger as the season goes on and Bradford’s mud likely to suit local lad, Billy Harding, this series is far from over.
Senior & Under-23 Men
The final race of the day will see the Senior and Under-23 men in action. Paul Oldham and Jody Crawforth will renew their rivalry, which has been one of the highlights of recent seasons. In this series, Oldham held the upper hand until Derby, where his first lap mechanical – he rolled a tub – meant that he finished behind Crawforth for the first time this campaign. A brave ride back to fifth was, in his own words “damage limitation” and left him with a four point lead.
Last year’s Bradford mud seemed to detune Crawforth, whilst Oldham came through strongly to claim second behind Ian Field. However, Crawforth won his only senior title at Bradford in 2009, so it’s a course which doesn’t really seem to favour either.
Thus far in the series, the influence of a strong Belgian contingent has helped shape the races, but with none of the Belgians entered so far, there is the potential for it to develop into a straight battle between Oldham and Crawforth. In that case, only Liam Killeen, winner of a round last season and a rider with the class to get involved even though it’s his first outing this time around, looks like the only rider with the potential to influence events at the front of the race.
Finally, we turn to the Under-23 category. Here Steve James has built up a healthy lead of 18 points with a series of strong rides, with only a mechanical at Southampton interrupting his progress. All of his rivals have lacked that consistency, with the two nearest to him, Jack Clarkson and Luke Grey, mixing good days with bad. One extra factor might just be the Bradford mud, which caught out James worst than most last year. The tall Hargroves rider has the class to overcome his rivals as long as his mental scars from that day have healed.