Location: Milton Keynes Bowl, Milton Keynes
Event: 1 December 2013
Report: Rob Rowlands
Photos: Andy Whitehouse
Ian Field scored an impressive victory in round four of the National Trophy, although main rival Paul Oldham struggled after crashing out at the beginning of the second lap.
Under perfect blue skies and with sunshine flooding many parts of the technical course, round four of the National Cyclo-cross Trophy Series arrived at the National Bowl in Milton Keynes ready to rock.
From the monsters of rock it was now time for the masters of mud. Could a returning national champion, Ian Field, contesting his first national trophy race of this year's season provide a challenge to the seemingly imperious Paul Oldham?
Would Hannah Payton extend her lead in the Elite Women's series or could Annie Simpson reclaim the leader's yellow jersey that she relinquished in the previous round in Durham? The stage was set for a day of entertaining racing.
So far, Paul Oldham had made a procession of this National Series. With fine weather and good under wheel conditions, the return of the exiled national champion Field, as well as the continued ambitions of his closest rivals Oli Beckinsale (Endura MTB Racing) and Adam Martin (Metaltek - Knights of Old Racing Team), this race was going to be his sternest test yet.
With this in mind, the field made an explosive start as Steve James and Adam Martin tried to stretch out the field in the opening twists of this winding course.
By the end of the first lap a group of eight had formed containing Oldham, Beckinsale and a quintet of Hargroves Cycles ridings, including Ian Field and a personal battle between Ben Sumner and James for U23 race honours. But how quickly fortunes can change in cyclo-cross and in the early stages of the second lap, Oldham crashed and was forced to make an early visit to the pits.
Despite a quick change he was forced to spend the remainder of the race chasing the lead group. Although fighting his way quickly through the groups of riders ahead he would remain on a bungee cord just behind the lead group.
Meanwhile, at the head of affairs, Tom Van Den Bosch (Hargroves Cycles) made an attack opening up a critical gap between him and the leading group. With three Hargroves Cycles riders in the chase group it was going to be down to Sumner, Beckinsale and Fletcher who would have to make the chase. Would numbers tell? Would team tactics come to play in this ever changing race?
It would not take long to find out. As Sumner brought back Van Den Bosch, Field showed his dominance on the steps section of the course to ride away from the group and establish a decisive lead with some speed.
From here on, Field ploughed a lone furrow around the course, the design of which allowed his chasers to see the ever increasing gap. Behind, Sumner led a forlorn chase, given enough reign by the Hargroves teammates to string out the field but provided with no help to shed any fellow chasers.
But at the same time, Sumner was in a battle with James for the honours in the under 23 race. This seemed to be the only way the team tactics might fail and the race be brought back to Field. As the race progressed this seemed increasingly unlikely. The Belgian experiences of Field paid dividends as he undertook a one-man demolition of the field.
Coming into the last lap, the question would be whether the Hargroves riders would capitalise on their numbers and take a clean sweep of the podium. As the riders emerged from the trees having completed the staircase one last time, Steve James had secured himself in second place and with it the U23 win.
Behind, Jody Crawforth and Van Den Bosch were fighting with Fletcher and Beckinsale for third spot. With Beckinsale already looking the most tired of the quintet and Fletcher worked over by the Hargroves pair, it was Crawforth who sealed his comeback from last season's injuries, outsprinting his teammate for third.
Oldham would eventually finish battered and bruised in eighth, enough to keep his series lead. In the U23 race, Ben Sumner finished second to Steve James and with it took the series lead from Adam Martin.
Ian Field said: "When Paul crashed, I was waiting for him to get back on and I was going to hit them. But he never did. Ben Sumner attacked before the steps, then Jody [Crawforth] rode the steps so I just decided to take them and I hit them over the top. The gap grew and I just settled into the lead.
"I've definitely stepped up a level this year - 18th in the World Cup standings and top 15 in Super Prestiges. But it’s always nice to come back here and show the colours."
Steve James added: "The past couple of races I've felt OK, coming back into form but I’m not quite there yet. But I finally feel back on my old form again now.
"I'd love to say it was a perfect team ride but it wasn't. The other guys [Beckinsale, Sumner and Fletcher] didn't make it easy for us. In the end it was every man for himself, though we did manage to protect Ian and let him show the colours."
Paul Oldham: "I got taken off line in the second line, came off camber and I'm not sure quite what happened but I winded myself and got a dead leg. I just couldn't get back into it. As soon I got back on and tried, I couldn't breathe. Eighth isn't a bad result but I'm hoping that's my bogey round."
Coming in to this race, the series was finely poised. Hannah Payton's victory in Durham had secured her the series leader's yellow jersey but Annie Simpson (Team Hope Factory Racing) was seeking revenge.
From a quick start both riders made it clear they were ready for business and it was Simpson who pushed the pace to take an early lead.
By the end of the first lap she had established a small but meaningful gap, but would it be a race winning break? Only time would tell. Behind her Payton was continuing to fight to stay in contention with the Spanish rider Merce Pacios Pujado (Blue Motors) in close attendance.
These three riders were showing they were in a different class to the rest of the field who were already trailing in their wake.
And sure enough, the dogged determination of Payton paid off as early in the second lap Simpson seemed to falter and drop back through the field. Payton now had the upper hand to extend her series lead.
But with Pujado shadowing her every move the race was only just unfolding. Behind them, Simpson continued to fall backwards and it was the crouching figure of Abby-Mae Parkinson (RST Racing Team) who yet again was showing her strength as a junior amongst the elite senior women by continuing to pursue the leaders.
Pujado has had a good series so far but had yet to grace the top step of the podium. She cut an expectant figure behind the determined Payton yet her constant presence on the series leader's shoulder suggested she might change things in today's race. Could she make her technical ability pay and outfox Payton?
Initially it was Payton who looked like she might have the upper hand midway through the penultimate lap. Continuing to make small breaks, she was doing enough to force the Spaniard to dig that little deeper to keep in contention.
However, midway through the penultimate lap, advantage swung back to Pujado first passing and then finally dropping Payton. By the bell, Pujado had established what was to become the race winning gap over a tiring Payton.
And so with her victory, Pujado had added another twist to this season's women's series. Not only had she put herself in contention for the overall title but became the first Spanish winner of a National Series race.
Behind them, Delia Beddis (Vicious Velo) showed persistence pays, finishing a valiant third. Parkinson took a well deserved fourth and in the process was the first junior woman and Marie Jackson finished first veteran in fifth place.
Merce Pacios Pujado said: "I'm really pleased. I didn't know I could be in front because I didn't know what the circuit would be like here. But little by little I managed to make an impression. I feel really excited to be the first Spanish winner [of a national series race]. Back in Spain it is really difficult to get real cyclo-cross races but Britain is more like Belgium so I'm really pleased."
Hannah Payton: "Annie always has a hard lap. I don't like starting as hard as she does and I never know whether to go with her or hold back. After the second lap Merce and I knew we could go harder than she could so we went for it and got a gap. The two of us were working well together until the last two laps but Merce's strength showed. I'm happy because I've still got the lead and there's a bigger points gap between me and Annie [Simpson] going into the next round.”
Explosive starts appeared to be the theme of the day. The junior men meant business from the gun as they sprinted down the start-finish straight and it was a group of six who established themselves in the early twists and turns of the first lap.
Despite Daniel Fox's best efforts to animate the race, it was a group of three riders - Jack Ravenscroft (Solihull CC), Dylan Kerfoot-Robson (Marsh Tracks Race Team) and Liam Earl (Team Corridori) - who made the race winning move.
Earl was dropped on the penultimate lap as Ravenscroft and Kerfoot-Robson caught and passed the leaders in the women's race and midway through a last lap tussle Ravenscroft eventually dropped his erstwhile partner to secure the win. Earl finished third and Sean Dunlea (Ciclos Uno) retained his series lead with fourth.
Intentions were clear from the start of the 40-49 Veteran's race as a small group containing series leader Darren Atkins (Team Jewson) together with Crispin Doyle (Hargroves Cycles), Dave Ash (Nottingham Clarion CC) and Ian Taylor (Jedi Cycle Sport) splintered the field on the first lap.
These four would animate the race with a virtuoso display of cyclo-cross riding. Despite the best efforts of Doyle to make a decisive break it would be Atkins’ day. On the final lap he pulled away with Doyle and eventually broke his rival, soloing across the line. Dave Ash completed the podium.
In the Vets over 50 race - and riding on the course where he won the junior international race in 1976 - national champion Steve Davies (Hargroves Cycles) put in another dominant display to continue his perfect score from all four rounds.
Mick Davies (Team Pedal Power) was a distant second with Phillip Roach (Team Jewson) winning his race-long duel with Dave McMullen (Cotswold Veldrijden) for third.
A record field for the youth races saw 135 riders take to the line in four categories. In the U16 men’s race this caused an early crash which split the field on the first lap.
And it was a group containing the unstoppable series leader Dan Tulett (Hargroves Cycles) that made the pace in the early stages of the race. Tulett, already a marked man, was even more so following his win in last weekend's World Cup round in Koksijde (Belgium).
He was left to lead as the other riders followed his every move. A race of attrition saw the lead group reduce to a trio of riders - Tulett, Alfie Moses (Paul Milnes) and Joshua Waters (Sherwood Pines Cycles).
Into the final lap, Moses put in an attack which was countered by Tullett to set up a tense final lap, neither of which was enough to see off Waters. Coming into the finish straight all three were together with Tulett taking the sprint from Moses to complete his 100% record in the series.
The U16 girls saw a battle between series leader Charlotte Broughton (MG Decor), Connie Hurton and Jessica Roberts. No rider was prepared to let up in their pursuit of this win making for a tense, frenetic and constantly changing race. Eventually Roberts distanced her companions to take victory ahead of Broughton with Hurton in third.
Series leader Craig Rogers took victory in the U14s boy's race ahead of Ben Tulett (Hargroves Cycles) and Matthew Ellis (Sherwood Pines Cycles).
And rounding out the day's results, the U14s girl's race was won by Lucy Horrocks (Team Hope Factory Racing) ahead of Ellie Russell (Mid Shropshire Wheelers) and series leader Poppy Wildman (Nottingham Clarion CC).
Round Four Results (click to download):
Overall after Round Four (click to download):
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