Sunday 16 December 2012 - Shrewsbury Sports Village
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The penultimate round of the 2012-13 National Trophy series brings the riders to Shrewsbury. With this week’s freezing temperatures expected to be replaced by warmer and wetter conditions, mud could well be on the agenda on the Shrewsbury Sports Village course, close to the mighty River Severn.
Video Course Guide: Last season Dave Haygarth rode the course on the eve of the race and although you can expect tweaks to the course layout, it's a great guide as to what to expect.
Darren Atkins is now is a strong position in the Veteran 40 series, with a 22 point lead over Ian Taylor, who is similarly well clear of Richard Lister and Chris Rathbone in third and fourth respectively. For Atkins, Shrewsbury is a happy hunting ground and he will be able to look back on his win in the final round of last season’s series for inspiration as he sets about defending his lead. In truth, if he has two trouble-free rides he should wrap up the series with some comfort in Derby just after Christmas.
The Veteran 50 category is a little closer, with Steve Davies and Phil Roach having monopolised the top two steps on the podium is all four rounds to date. Davies leads by 12 points, having taken three wins, but Roach knows that a couple of wins of his own could still give him the title.
This volatile category has seen the usual fluctuations in form, but current leader, Jack Ravenscroft and Jake Womersley, who has been the most consistent rider this season, are just 2 points apart. They have, in turn, a small lead over Adam King and Billy Harding, but a couple of wins could be enough for any one of them to win the series. Watch out for more full-on racing!
What can you say about Louise Robinson? Unbeaten in the series to date and a winner at this venue last January, she will start as a hot favourite for the race. Another win will probably not make the series her but Adela Carter, 28 points back in second, will need to avoid trouble make the podium again if she is to keep the series alive through to Derby. Delia Beddis and Annabel Simpson will be equally focussed on their battle for third place in the series, with just two points between them.
The Under-16 male category is building up into an exciting final two races, with series leader, William Gascoyne pegged back to just a six point cushion after managing only fourth last time out in South Shields. A win then for Tomas Franklin blew the series wide open and will have given the Hargroves rider the confidence to go after the overall win.
The Under-16 female category is contrastingly settled, with Abby-Mae Parkinson well clear of Amira Mellor, thanks to three wins and a second. Mellor is thirty points back and knows she needs to win in Shrewsbury if she is to pressure Parkinson. These two riders are well clear of the rest, though Jessica Wilkinson, Sarah Lomas, Grace Garner and Abigail van Twisk are involved in a great battle for third, with currently only six points separating them.
Under-14 male leader Dan Tulett will almost certainly become the first rider to be confirmed as a series winner if he continues his awesome form at Shrewsbury. Four straight wins have lifted him 43 points clear of Mark Donovan, with Thomas Mein just one point further back. Tulett just nees to stay in front of these two again to make the series his. Donovan and Mein will no doubt be equally focussed on their own battle for second and on keeping ahead of Harry Yates who is jusy 7 point behind Mein.
The under-14 female series is another building up to a close finish, with Jessica Roberts and Emily Wadsworth having taken the top two positions in all four rounds to date. Roberts leads by 12 points, courtesy of her three wins, but she will know that this is a margin that can easily be closed if she slips up in Shrewsbury.
Senior & Under-23 Men
The Senior and Under-23 Men’s Race has several intertwining plot threads. At the head of matters is the battle for the senior series, with defending champion Paul Oldham just two points behind MTB legend Oli Beckingsale. This pair have been consistent throughout and have beaten each other twice. Oldham leads by two points, whilst they have an unbridgeable gap of over fifty points back to the rest of the contenders.
Oldham will be hoping that his experience, not least in the art of staying fit and healthy at this time of year, will give him the edge in the final two rounds. But Beckingsale seems to have relished the challenge of a discipline he has never before been able to give his total attention to. Whoever comes out on top, it’s going to be great to watch them sort it out at the front of the races.
The Under-23 race will see Steve James returning to racing after a crash took him out in South Shields. That result gave Adam Martin the chance to turn a 20 point deficit into a ten point lead in the series. Martin has been outstanding all season – his first in the category – and James will know that he has a fight on his hands if he is to regain his authority.
Behind them, Ben Sumner will also be looking to build on a promising season, though the return to the UK of round one winner Hugo Robinson, the return to full health of Jack Clarkson and the addition of Belgian Joeri Hofman should make for a closely fought race.
And, adding a bit of a fat-tyred flavour to the proceedings, GB Team Academy Mountain Bikers Grant Ferguson and Kent Gallagher are also down for their first rides of the series and both have the class to get involved at the front of the race, despite their recent lack of racing.