A day of outstanding racing saw a second national title for Ian Field, but Helen Wyman’s amazing run came to and end. Meanwhile, Grant Ferguson unseated another national champion, whilst the crowd had a local hero to cheer in the Junior men’s race.
The testing Bradford course, intially lightly frozen, softened as the day went on and became increasingly tricky as the subtle cambers began to catch the riders out as they became greasy. Yet, it remained quick and flowing throughout and a big crowd was treated to some excellent racing.
Grant Ferguson won the Under-23 Cyclo-Cross national title, overcoming a brave ride by defending champion Steve James and an aggressive performance from Ben Sumner who was third.
For Ferguson the race was a great shop window for his all-round talents as a bike rider and will have alerted quite a few spectators to his abilities. Although primarily a mountain biker, he came to the race fit and race hardened after his fifth plave in the previous week’s National Trophy.
However, it was Kenta Gallagher who made the first impression on the race, leading the charge away from the start with Nick Barnes, Adam Martin and Ferguson close behind.
A big crash early on seemed to detune former champion Luke Grey and by the end of the second lap a six rider lead group had former, with Steve James leading from Hugo Robinson, Martin, Barnes, Ferguson and Ben Sumner.
James did much of the pace setting in the first half of the race and eventually Martin and Barnes lost touch with the leaders. However, it was Ben Sumner who finally broke up the race with an big effort at the start of the fourth lap. Ferguson was the only rider to go with him to start with, though James eventually managed to work his way up too to make a lead group of three.
With the bell approaching, Ferguson finally made his move and he broke clear, with James chasing for all he was worth and Sumner locked in a couple of seconds further back. However, Ferguson was able to stretch his lead to around half a minute at the line as he claimed his first national Cyclo-Cross title. James gamely chased him all the way and took second as Sumner slotted in to third.
1 Grant Ferguson Superior-Brentjens MTB Racing Team 46m 30s
2 Steven James Hargroves Cycles/Specialized/Trant @ 0:33
3 Ben Sumner Beeline Bicycles RT @ 0:40
4 Adam Martin Metaltek - Knights of Old RT @ 0:58
5 Hugo Robinson X RT/Elmy Cycles @ 1:18
6 Kenta Gallagher Superior-Brentjens MTB Racing Team @ 1:35
7 Nicholas Barnes www.Zepnat.com RT/Kuota/GSG @ 1:48
8 Luke Gray Trek Cross Collective @ 2:06
9 Taylor Johnstone Ibaigane Opel @ 2:35
10 Jack Humphreys Wheelbase.co.uk/MGD @ 3:19
What They Said
Newly-crowned Under-23 National Champion Grant Ferguson said: “I‘m really pleased. This has been a big target for me. Since the MTB season has stopped I’ve been working to get faster and improve a few things.
“It was a really tight race and then it split up a couple of times. I had a few little goes and someone got away, so I just went for it on the last lap and a half.”
Runner-up in the Under-23 race, Steve James said: “The goal was definitely going for the win and retaining the title, but today wasn’t my day as Grant has amazing form at the moment and I couldn’t match him.
“I had a puncture before I even got to the start line, which didn’t really throw me too much, but about three laps in coming out of a big climb I just caught my rear wheel on something and had another. I had to work pretty hard to stay with the group and change bikes. It wasn’t too far from the pits so I didn’t lose much time.”
Third in the Under-23 race, Ben Sumner said: “I’m well happy. On the first lap someone took me down and I was nearly last and I was angry, so I pushed on, but not too hard so I didn’t ruin myself. Looking at the field I saw about eight people I thought could win, but to get on the podium is always good.
Nikki Harris made history when she became the rider who broke Helen Wyman’s winning run of seven senior titles as she won the Women’s championship.
That eighth title had looked on for Wyman who went into an early lead and was gradually stretching it out towards ten seconds after a couple of laps. However, the firm going of the first part of the day was gradually softening and the course was both slippery and cutting up in places and Wyman fell heavily on the third lap.
Harris took immediate advantage, passing her rival and upping the pace at the same time. By the end of that third lap it was Harris in the ascendency over ten seconds clear, though Wyman had recovered her poise and looked to be racing normally. However, from then on in, she simply could not make any impression on Harris who had built the lead to some 40 seconds by the time she crossed the line to claim her first title.
Harris can look back on the win with the satisfaction that she beat a rival still at the top of her powers – Wyman’s European form this season is testimony to that – and that it is her own progress over the past couple of seasons that had put her into the position of contender. Hopefully there will be more battles like this one between these two fine riders over the next few years.
Behind the leading duo, Annie Last rode a largely uneventful race to take the bronze medal. Last could not stay with the early pace of Wyman and Harris and although never in danger of losing third, she didn’t threaten the two leaders. Louise Robinson moved up after a slow start to claim fourth and with it the Veterans’ title, whilst Alice Barnes secured the Junior title.
1 Nikki Harris Telenet Fidea Cycling Team 43m 6s
2 Helen Wyman Kona/FSA Factory Team @ 0:50
3 Annie Last Trek Factory Racing @ 1:32
4 Louise Robinson (V) Islabikes @ 3:22
5 Bethany Crumpton Team Scott Contessa @ 4:45
6 Hannah Payton The Kinesis Morvelo Project @ 5:45
7 Delia Beddis Vicious Velo @ 7:08
8 Adela Carter Team Hope Factory Racing @ 7:26
9 Rebecca Preece Red Rose Olympic CC @ 7:34
10 Claire Beaumont Vicious Velo @ 8:20
11 Alice Barnes (J) Twenty3c.co.uk Orbea @ 1 lap
What They Said
Winner Nikki Harris said: “Three 2nd places, and I was getting tired of second place and I really wanted to win today! I’ve definitely set my stall out this year and every race I’ve been getting better. When I came to look at the course it was heavy and hard and that’s good for me, so I’m made up – really happy!
“It was so nice having great support and everyone shouting on the last couple of laps it really helped because it’s not an easy course and I had to keep digging in all the time.
“This is great for the sport, the level in GB is definitely moving up each year and I think we’re the second nation in the world at the moment and not far off Holland which is really good.
Runner-up Helen Wyman said: “I had a small gap and I wanted to keep the pressure on. I took a silly line on a corner and crashed, and when Nikki came past me I thought ‘oh no!’ but she’s been riding so strong this year.
“But we’re only 60 UCI points off the world No 1 nation which is awesome. I’m second in the world, Nikki is fourth and Gabby is 11th or 12th, British women’s cycling has always been good in cyclo-cross and this year it’s incredible. I’m so proud to be part of it and I know Nikki will wear the champions jersey with as much pride as I have for the last seven years. But she had better watch it next year!”
The Bradford crowd had something to shout about in the Junior Men’s race when local lad Billy Harding emerged as the national champion after a fast and dramatic race.
It was Harry Franklin who set the early pace, moving some 7 seconds clear at the end of lap one, with Jack Ravenscroft in second and Harding and Matt Hargroves close behind. Ravenscroft in particular had problems with the increasingly greasy course and although clearly keen to force the pace, he was unsettled by a very twitchy looking bike – perhaps his tyre choice was a bit off.
Harding, by contrast, looked in control throughout the early skirmishes as Franklin was brought back and a lead group of four formed as Hargroves joined them.
The third lap was decisive as Harding made several big moves to up the pace and soon forged a small gap. With Franklin, Hargroves and Ravenscroft all still full of fight, his lead was pegged for a lap or so, but on lap four Harding started to pull away.
Whilst Ravenscroft continued to struggle with his sliding bike, Franklin’s pace oscillated and Hargroves also looked to hit a bit of a wall. That was enough to allow Harding to build a lead of nearly 20 seconds which he effectively held to the line.
Ravenscroft kept his composure well to secure second whilst Franklin also did well to recover enough to claim third after his early efforts.
1 Billy Harding Paul Milnes/ Bradford Olympic RC 44m 19s
2 Jack Ravenscroft Solihull CC @ 0:19
3 Harry Franklin Hargroves Cycles/Specialized/Trant @ 0:22
4 Matthew Hargroves Hargroves Cycles/Specialized/Trant @ 0:33
5 Jake Womersley Sportscover Altura RT @ 1:23
6 Adam King Cardiff JIF/Cyclopaedia @ 2:20
7 Dylan Kerfoot-Robson Rhos on Sea CC @ 2:37
8 Michael Thompson TEF / Richardsons RT @ 2:38
9 Iain Paton Ben Wyvis CC @ 3:12
10 Sean Dunlea Ciclos Uno @ 4:28
What They Said
Winner Billy Harding said: “I’m absolutely thrilled. The crowd here were amazing, so loud going up that last bit. They made a massive difference I could hear it all the time. This was my target this season, I’ve been building well and the last few weeks have been going well for me so I knew I had good form coming into this. I’ve had loads of great support from Paul Milnes Cycles and loads of help here today.
Second place went to Jack Ravenscroft who said: “I’m really disappointed today. My chain came off early on. I tried to get it back on the crank but I ended up having to push it on, and I think that gave Billy the springboard and I didn’t have anything left and Billy took 20 seconds out of me.
“I’ve still got another year as a junior, but it would’ve been nice to wear the jersey.
Third-placed Harry Franklin said: “I wanted to get away early and control the race and get a gap, then if I made a mistake I could still maybe hold the lead, but obviously Billy had other ideas! He got in front of me and did the same thing.
“It was a hard battle between me, Matt and Jack, we’re all very close on ability. I loved this course - I like mud and the gradient. I rode as much as I could because I’m not very good at running and I cramp up a lot. I’m happy with third. I would’ve like to have been champion, but it’s not to be, and there’s plenty more years to come.”
Ian Field, so long without a national Cyclo-Cross title, made it two on the trot with a strong front-running performance in the Senior Men’s race. Having endured a disrupted season with injury, Field’s form was a little unclear coming into the race, but right from the off he looked determined to dominate.
And it was Field who led going away from the start, with Ian Bibby, Oli Beckingsale, Dave Fletcher and Nick Craig soon forming up behind him. By the mid point of the second lap Field had a slender 7 second elad over Bibby, who in turn was just ahead of Beckingsale and then a group containing Craig, Fletcher, Paul Oldham and Lewis craven.
Field continued to build his lead through the next couple of laps or so until he was almost half a minute clear and one wondered if he was on his way to an untroubled win. Behind him, a number of digs saw virtually all the chasers lead the pursuit, but eventually Fletcher broke free and also began to close down Field.
Fletcher’s chase brought Field’s lead down to less than 15 seconds, but at that point stalled. Bibby then made a big move and caught and passed Fletcher and launched his own chase of Field. Again, Field was pegged back to a lead nearer ten seconds than twenty and again the chase stalled as Bibby in turn ran out of gas.
At the bell Field was going away again and an untroubled last lap meant that he was able to celebrate retaining his title in style. Bibby held on well to claim second. But, behind him, a chaotic series of battles involving Beckingsale, Craig, Oldham and ultimately the tiring Fletcher resolved itself into a spectacular sprint between Fletcher and Beckingsale, with the bronze medal at stake. Fletcher looked the more fatigued, but he managed to dig up one last effort to take it by a wheel on the line.
Nick Craig was fifth, though he had been up to second at times in the early laps. One can only wonder what he might have done if he had not ridden the Veterans’ race on the Saturday. At 43, he remains one of our leading riders. However, for the second year in succession, Ian Field is a deserving and impressive champion.
1 Ian Field Hargroves Cycles/Specialized/Trant 1h 04 m 09s
2 Ian Bibby Madison Genesis @ 0:26
3 David Fletcher Orange Monkey Pro Team @ 0:43
4 Oli Beckingsale Endura MTB Racing @ 0:44
5 Nick Craig Team Scott UK @ 1:04
6 Paul Oldham Team Hope Factory Racing @ 1:31
7 Lewis Craven Wheelbase.co.uk/MGD @ 2:21
8 Dave Collins Team Hope Factory Racing @ 4:23
9 Robert Jebb Team Hope Factory Racing @ 5:14
10 William Bjergfelt MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling @ 5:48
What They Said
Winner Ian Field said: “My plan went out of the window! My plan was to stay in there and then hit them with 20 minutes to go, but I had a gap with no time at all and I attacked them and from then on I was trying to control things and keep it at around 20 seconds.
“I was trying to stay within myself. This track is so hard that you can’t get anything down. Fletcher had a go at getting across and narrowed the gap, and Bibby had a go too.
“I think Roger was the last guy to retain the title so it means a heck of a lot. A lot of people don’t realise how good you have to be to ride out in Belgium, so this should show them that I’m a pro cross rider.
“I got a gap out of nowhere early on and that was that, so I had to push on. I rode at my own pace for 40 minutes but then I had to dig in to hold the other guys off, but luckily I had something left in the tank.”
Runner-up Ian Bibby said: “On the first off camber section Fieldy was off already and I dropped back about ten seconds and he was off. Eventually I just got my head down. I had good power in my legs but it was just a case of getting it down on the road.”
Third place in the senior men’s race, David Fletcher said: “Ian got away from the start and got a decent gap straight away. I was trying to plug away keep my rhythm going through the technical section and keep it smooth.
“I brought the gap down quite a bit but suffered with stich towards the middle and had to ease off to try and get rid of it so I could come back, but that’s where he got away from me.
“I’m pleased with third. I was fifth last year. I’ve had a few illnesses this year and missed about a month’s worth of racing. I’ve done a couple recently and have been going well.”