Round 6 - Sunday 15 January 2012: Shrewsbury
The 2011-12 National Trophy Cyclo-Cross series comes to a climax at Shrewsbury Sports Village on Sunday 15 January 2012. After a series so-far untouched by the harsher extremes of winter – the mud at Bradford is reportedly an all-year round feature! – this event looks set to be the coldest, with top temperatures hovering around 3 degrees C. So, there’s no real prospect at the time of writing of a proper freeze or snow. Mud, therefore, looks like the most likely scenario at the course, which centres on the closed road circuit, playing fields and woodland between the A49 and the river Severn.
As ever, the final round of this series, where every round counts towards a rider’s final tally of points, has its share of edge of seat battles to be settled. With Cyclo-Cross’s penchant for ripped off mechs, punctures and other sudden misfortunes, even those riders in the mathematical ascendency will start their races with a niggling fear that they may fall at, literally, the final hurdle. Only a small select band are already out of reach of their rivals, but even for them there is the pride of finishing on a high to be considered. Let’s look at the key rivalries.
Paul Oldham is in the driving seat, but a win by nearest rival Jody Crawforth would still him needing third place to regain the title from his arch rival. Fourth would tie the two riders, with Crawforth winning by virtue of his higher placing in the final round. Under-23 leader Steve James needs to beat David Fletcher to overtake him for the senior series bronze, which would give him a notable double presence on the end of series podium. Liam Killeen and Nick Craig appear the best equipped of the rest of the field to split up these leading contenders.
Steve James only needs to be 10th U23 finisher to secure the title, with Jack Clarkson similarly safe in second place. With Kenta Gallagher giving the event a miss, Rob Watson and Lee Westwood are just a point apart in the battle for third place.
This is one of the easy ones to call: with Adela Carter not riding, Hannah Payton has already retained her series title, a fine achievement for the second year Junior, who successfully defended her title last weekend. She will, nonetheless be keen to claim her second win of the series. Louise Robinson looks the most likely rider to deny her.
With a healthy 25 point lead, Joe Moses will win the Junior series if avoids any major disasters. His consistency – two wins, two seconds and a third – speaks for itself. Alex Welburn, who pipped Moses to silver at the National Championships, is equally safe in second place and will be eyeing another win to round off a solid season. National Champion Hugo Robinson is not racing.
After a tight opening three rounds, Jack Ravenscroft has steadily pulled clear of the other youths in the last couple of events and 16th place is all that he needs to secure the title. Dylan Kerfoot Robson has emerged as his closest rival and would no doubt love to win the final round and wrap up second in the series from Dan Fox, who is 11 points behind him.
The only rider with a 100% record in the series, Daniel Tulett, has the series well and truly wrapped up and will be looking to end the season with another win to go with his national title. That would be 7 national event wins on the trot for the diminutive Hargroves rider.
This is by far the hardest race to predict, with just 5 points separating the top 3: Jessica Wilkinson, Grace Garner and Sarah Lomas. New national champion Abby-Mae Parkinson could have a say in the race – perhaps in support of teammate Garner – but missed an earlier round and is out of overall contention.
With four wins from five starts, Charlotte Broughton needs only to finish in the top 10 to guarantee a series victory. Henrietta Colbourne has dogged her all the way, making the podium at every round and winning at Bradford when Broughton was off-colour and is safe in second place.
First-year Veteran Jim Bryan needs to finish in the top 8 to guarantee series victory from Darren Atkins. Atkins is similarly relatively safe in second, but there’s still some mileage in the battle between Noel Clough and Chris Young for third spot. The pair are team-mates and know each other very well from their numerous battles in this series and the Yorkshire league. Young won a sprint for third at the national championships, so expect more wheel-to-wheel action from the northern duo!
The Nationals revenge match. Steve Davies missed round 1 but has won the 4 subsequent rounds, leaving him just 4 points adrift of new national champion Mick Bell. If, as expected, they are at the head of affairs, then winner takes all. Davis looked a strong favourite a week ago, but that loss to Bell at Ipswich must have knocked his confidence. Can Bell seize an double which seemed so unlikely after Bradford, or will Davies respond to his disappointment with another commanding ride?