Liam Killeen warmed up for next weekend’s National Championship with a winning performance in the tenth round of the Waldrons Solicitors West Midlands League at Top Barn Farm near Worcester on Sunday.
Killeen, the 29-year-old from Malvern who has won the National Mountain Bike Championship title for the last four years, crossed the line around a minute ahead of former cross champion Roger Hammond (unattached), while Dan Booth was third in the colours of his new 2012 team, Hope Factory Racing.
Third in last year’s cyclo-cross title race, Killeen looks in great form and could well challenge for the 2012 title.
Killeen, Hammond and Booth were joined at the front by Simon Richardson (Sigma Sport) in the early laps, while Matt Barrett (Cycleshack) was just off the pace in fifth.
By lap three Richardson had also dropped back, leaving the trio to forge ahead. But Hammond slipped on a right hand bend, and he lost about ten seconds as Killeen and Booth powered on to maximise his misfortune.
However, by lap five Hammond was back up with them, and it was soon Booth’s time to drop back on lap seven, where he was 15 seconds off the pace of the two professionals.
By the penultimate lap Booth was around 40 seconds back, but at the bell Killeen put in a strong attack, dropping Hammond and crossing the line around a minute ahead.
Second in the National Trophy Series over-40 rankings, Darren Atkins (Team Jewson) secured victory in the supporting race for veterans, juniors and women at Top Barn Farm near Worcester.
Atkins held off Phil Roach (Rugby Velo) for the win, while Atkins’ team-mate at Jewson Mark Jones was third. The pair were together in the early stages, as part of a leading group which included Joe Fox (Rapha Condor CC) and Jacob James (unattached), while not far behind were Steve Knight and Mark Jones (both Team Jewson) with the rest strung out behind.
Atkins, Roach and Fox had 30 seconds by lap two, but on the fourth lap Fox suffered a mechanical with his chain getting stuck in his rear block and it took him two minutes to run to the pits for a spare machine.
The leading duo powered on, until the bell where Atkins attacked and put around 30 seconds into his rival.
A crash between Steve Knight and Rob Burns (Wolverhampton Wheelers) saw Knight drop down a few places, while Jones came through to third and Pete Harris (Pearce Cycles) slipped through to fourth overall and top over-50.
National Trophy Series youth leader Jack Ravenscroft led a one-two for Solihull CC in the youth race after a strong performance from both him and team-mate Dan Fox.
The pair hit the front early in the race alongside Lichfield City CC rival Chris Welburn, and it looked set to be a three-up sprint finish. But a bike change saw Welburn drop back.
He did manage to battle back to the leaders for the last lap, but the Solihull duo kicked on and dropped him again, while Ravenscroft attacked on the final lap to take the win alone, around 15 seconds ahead of Fox, while Welburn was another 20 seconds off the pace.
Solihull CC’s Ethan Lee took fourth from top Under-14 girl in the National Trophy Series, Charlotte Broughton (Leicestershire RC) having battled hard throughout to stay in contention and finishing an eventual seventh.
Lee, Broughton and David Creber (Malvern) mounted a sterling chase of the leading trio, with Euan Grivell-Mellor (Dave Mellor Cycles) and Harry Yates (Lichfield City CC) also in the hunt.
But by the third lap the leaders had 1-30 on the chasers, while Lee had pulled clear of Creber, who in turn was starting to drop Broughton.
What They Said
Dan Fox: “Myself and Jack [Ravenscroft] were really messing around in the race, I got second but my dad wasn't very happy with us. We wanted to do well today, which we did but the Nationals is more important to both of us so we really should have buried ourselves today instead of messing around.
“We shouldn't have left anything in the tank which we did, we had more than enough in reserve to sprint away from third placed rider Chris [Wellburn] but we learn so we won't be doing that again.
“Generally the training for the Nationals has been going quite well, I've been ill recently which hasn't helped so I've had to get over that, but I'm back on it now and I've just finished a hard training block so now it’s just getting ready for Ipswich. I'm confident for a good result along as I get everything right this coming week.”
Jack Ravenscroft: “It was good to win but we played around in the race when Dan and myself should have just smashed it to bits. We got a bit carried away thinking more about the result today then the bigger objective of the National Champs.
“I had a heavy period of training over the Christmas period so if everything from that goes into next week’s race I think I should do pretty well. Everything is on track.”
Darren Atkins: “I'm feeling pretty good for the Nationals. I'm feeling healthy enough, the racings going ok so I just need to get that little bit of extra rest this week but you just never know. You try to watch the form - mine and everyone else’s - you can ask how everyone else is riding but until you get on the start line you just never know.
“The man to beat is Jim Bryan and I can give him a run for his money, and of course Chris Young. If it rains heavily he's the man to watch in the muddy conditions and that’s the forecast, but there are probably ten guys who are riding within a minute of each other so you only need one who has a good day and that changes everything. I'm feeling confident in myself, I'll race hard and go and enjoy it.”
Roger Hammond: “That was a good race, a good work out for me. I feel a lot happier than I did a few weeks ago.
“I was really sick for a few days after the Tackeroo race. I was in a bad mood all day there and I couldn't really work out why so I felt a bit bad about some of the things I said but I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. When I got home that day I was sick and spent the next two days in bed so at least I knew why the day didn't go too well.
“I've just been shown how to race by Liam [Killeen] and I don't think he'll be too far off the title but it was good to gauge myself today. I didn't race last weekend so I missed out there, cross is all about keeping consistency.”
Matt Barrett: “I'm looking forward to racing next week, came here today and had a really good training session. I spent most of the race riding on my own but there obviously a few big hitters here today.
“I find flat courses a struggle, I haven't got as much power as the big guys so I prefer the hillier courses. I haven't raced since Boxing Day so I was looking for a bit of form today. As far as the Nationals go, I'd be really happy realistically with a top twenty place but it does depend how I feel on the day, if I can get the right amount of rest this week.”
1 Liam Killeen (Giant UK)
2 Roger Hammond (unattached) @ 1:00
3 Dan Booth (Hope Factory Racing) @ 1:30
4 Simon Richardson (Sigma Sport RT)
5 Matt Barrett (Cycleshack)
1 Darren Atkins (Team Jewson)
2 Phil Roach (Rugby Velo)
3 Mark Jones (Team Jewson)
4 Pete Harris (Pearce Cycles)
5 Jacob James (unattached)
6 Steve Knight (Team Jewson)
7 Joe Fox (Rapha Condor CC)
8 Mick Davis (Pedal Power Loughborough)
9 Joe Atkins (Coventry RC)
10 Phil Blacker (Team Jewson)
Over-50s: Pete Harris. Juniors: Jacob James. Women: Louise Robinson (Stourbridge CC).
1 Jack Ravenscroft (Solihull CC)
2 Dan Fox (Solihull CC) @ 15sec
3 Chris Welburn (Lichfield City CC) @ 35sec
4 Ethan Lee (Solihull CC)
5 David Creber (Malvern)
6 Euan Grivell-Mellor (Dave Mellor Cycles)
7 Charlotte Broughton (Leicestershire RC)
8 Harry Yates (Lichfield City CC)
Girls: Charlotte Broughton.
British Cycling would like to thank the organising team, officials and everyone else who helped promote this event. Our sport could not exist without the hundreds of people, many of them unpaid volunteers, who put in many hours of hard work running events, activities and clubs.