Location: Shrewsbury Sports Village
Event: 5 January 2014
Report: Rob Rowlands
Photos: Andy Whitehouse
The wind, rain and most importantly the mud returned for this final round of the British Cycling National Trophy Series in Shrewsbury, the Welsh Marches book-ending the series with its weather.
The deceptively technical course would prove a challenge for all riders especially as the day unfolded and the churned up mud got more and more treacherous. This round would test the riders' limits and draw out the true champions.
The men's race was led by the young riders with Belgian under 23 rider Yorban van Tichelt (Sunweb-Revor) riding away from the field and leaving Paul Oldham (Hope Factory Racing) to confirm his series win with second place.
And in the elite women's race Hannah Payton (Kinesis Morvello Project) held off the challenge of Beth Crumpton (Hargroves Cycles) to win the race and secure her series title.
With Oli Beckinsale (Endura) absent through injury following a Christmas Eve training crash, Paul Oldham (Hope Factory Racing) secured the series title without needing to ride.
Not that this would stop the consummate professional from racing, especially in conditions that suited a technical cyclo-cross expert. However, this was a race within a race as the U23 series title remained up for grabs and this was likely to shape the contest as a whole. Going in to the race Steve James (Hargroves Cycles) led Adam Martin (Metaltek) and Ben Sumner (Beeline Bicycles RT) by six points so it was game on.
From the off this was catalysed by the under 23 riders. Martin made his intentions clear by making the early pace and leading the field through the initial half lap. However, the treacherous descent onto the finish straight took its first victim as Martin hit the tarmac.
He was forced to play catch up as his main rivals for the under 23 series, James and Sumner, forced the pace of the field. In turn, Sumner's pressure put James under pressure and it was early advantage in the series race to the Beeline Bicycles rider. However, at the front of the race it was another two under 23 riders who were making the race as National U23 Champion Grant Ferguson (Superior Brentjens) pursued Belgian rider Yorban van Tichelt (Sunweb-Revor).
From this point the race became a solo virtuoso performance by van Tichelt. Left out of the Belgian team for this weekend's world cup race he used the experience gained from the highly technical Belgian 'cross circuit to destroy the British field.
Making light of the sticky under-wheel conditions, van Tichelt rode away from his rivals and established an unassailable lead by the mid-point of the race. Behind him Oldham moved into a lone second place which only once looked threatened by Ferguson. With the podium places for the race looking almost settled, all eyes were focussed on how the U23 series would be resolved.
It was Ben Sumner who took up the mantle. Sitting sixth in the race by its mid-point and with James looking fragile behind him, Sumner continued to ride strongly and maintaining a large gap between him and the series leader.
Yet time was unimportant in this race and it is was finishing positions which would matter. In this respect, James was doing just enough to retain his lead. Coming in to the closing laps it looked like James had done the job he needed but starting the last lap James struggled with mechanical problems, first failing to engage his pedal and then slipping his gears. This allowed Sumner to increase his gap and for riders to challenge James.
Crossing the line in sixth overall and third under 23 rider was sufficient for Sumner to take the overall series title. This was a fitting end to a series which had seen an ongoing tussle between two outstanding riders.
At the head of affairs, van Tichelt continued to plough his way through the mud completing an emphatic victory. Oldham finished in second to rubber stamp an overall series victory which has seen him entertain throughout with crashes, mechanicals and victories. Grant Ferguson rounded out the podium on the day and showed strong form going in to next weekend's national championships in Derby.
Race winner Yorban van Tichelt said: "I didn't expect to win. I thought it would be more about power today but in the end it was more about technique. When I saw Paul Oldham wasn't with us on the first lap I just went for it."
When asked if his Belgian experiences had helped he said: "The under 23 category in Belgium is so fast this season with riders finishing second in Pro races behind Niels Albert. There's so much competition. There are 10 riders who could go to world cups races yet only six can race in a team!"
Second place rider and series champion Paul Oldham said, "It was hard conditions out there and a lot depended on when you swapped bikes. I was swapping every half lap so I have the pit crew to thank for that. But Yorben put 20 seconds into us in one lap and went like a train. He was something else."
Uunder winner Ben Sumner: "I didn't worry about the race win or the elite series it was all about the green under 23 series jersey. I just had one goal in mind. It was between me and Steve for the title and I was just driving and driving. Those last two laps were the hardest I've focussed ever. I've sorted out my diet and been stricter than usual so I could win this and now the main aim is for the Nationals next week."
In a race which would determine the outcome of this season's series title, a fast paced start saw Ffion James (Abergavenny RC) take the initial lead.
The racing behind was frenetic in the early stages. The ever present series leader Hannah Payton was accompanied by Beth Crumpton (Hargroves Cycles) and Abby-Mae Parkinson (RST Racing) with Tracey Mosely (Malvern Cycle Sport) not far behind in pursuit.
The earlier veteran's race had compounded the wet winter weather and the course was already causing problems for the already strung out field. Among them was Crumpton who, in trying to make an early race defining move snapped her rear derailleur and was forced into the pits. Luckily for her the run was short and she fought her way back into the field.
At the head of affairs James' lead was short-lived. The gap diminished as the second lap progressed with Payton doing most of the chasing and soon a quartet had formed at the front. But again it was the conditions that animated an already fraught race.
As she descended the mud strewn slope of the technical section, James' effort led her to crash onto the tarmac of the finish straight allowing a determined Payton to use he speed to press ahead and spread out the quartet. Parkinson and Crumpton both showed their fighting spirit by chasing Payton's wheel. The race, barring incident, would now be between these three.
Crumpton continued her comeback and midway through the third lap she had taken the lead from Payton. The series leader was not going to let this race slip through her fingers and kept Crumpton in check. As the trio traversed the treacherous and precipitous quagmire of the edge there was nothing between them.
However, with the bell on this lap, Payton used her road speed to open a gap. The chink of light was followed by Crumpton whose form looked good enough to match the majestic Payton. The casualty of this effort was Parkinson who, despite showing maturity above her years throughout the series and a continued determination in this race, was distanced enough to put her out of the picture for this race at least.
And so there were two. Neither rider looked like giving in and the race would be won whoever had the strength left to capitalise on a mistake. Midway through the final that rider looked like Payton. First she made a big effort to break her companion and the gap grew until she led by 60 metres.
But Crumpton was not going to give in and slowly reeled Payton back in until, at the bottom of the steps it looked like there may be one last twist in this race. Payton looked laboured as she carried her bike up the slope and Crumpton looked to have a renewed freshness as she bit at her heels. Yet somehow, Payton was able to re-establish her small advantage.
Gingerly but determinedly she strode through the mud of the edge, the pursuit of Crumpton now looking in vain. Sweeping into the finish straight, Payton lined up for the win and with it confirmed her series title.
Race winner and series champion Hannah Payton: "It was really close for the first two or three laps with four of us locked together, then it whittled down to three. It was a really pressured race and there are lots of places where you could make mistakes on that circuit. Beth was really coming back to me on the last lap and she was quicker than me in the woods so I knew it would be down to the last section.
"Coming into the steps there was lots coming into your head - you think you are going to win but at the same time you might lose because of a simple mistake. I couldn't feel my legs and the last section is all a blur.
Second placed Beth Crumpton said: "I got into a my own rhythm in the race. I struggle on the straight sections so I had to make the time up through the technical parts of the course."
Commenting on her mechanical misfortune she said, "I snapped my rear mech but luckily it was just before the pits so I didn't have to run far."
All remained to be played for in both veterans men's categories and neither race disappointed. In the 40-49's race, any of the top three could take the overall series title. Therefore it was no surprise to see all of these riders at the head of affairs from the start.
It was Crispin Doyle who made the early move but soon it was to be the contrasting styles of series leader Darren Atkins and Ian Taylor who rode away from the chasers to duel their way to the finish. Neck and neck coming into the final technical section of the course it was Taylor who bettered Atkins on the day but Atkins had done enough to seal the series title.
In the 50+ category series leader Steven Davies was absent at the World Championships together with newly crowned World Champion Dave McMullen. Therefore Mick Davies knew that a win would secure the series title. Having played second throughout the series, Davies capitalised on his namesake's absence to ride away from the field and take his first win and with it the overall series title.
The Junior Men's race saw series leader Sean Dunlea (Ciclos Union) have early problems, allowing his rivals to take advantage in a late pursuit of the series title.
It was Thomas Craig (Team Scott UK) who made the most of this state of affairs, stamping his authority on the race and winning by a huge margin. But it was the race behind that was important for series honours. Dylan Kerfoot-Robson (Marsh Tracks RT) slowly moved through the field establishing a comfortable third place and eventually overhauling National Champion Billy Harding (Orange Monkey Pro Team) to secure second in the race.
Behind him, Jake Poole (S2 Cycles / Raleigh) had moved in to third to set up a finely poised finish to the series. Dunlea eventually finished in eigth, in the process doing just enough to hold off the Kerfoot-Robson's late challenge for the series title.
Dan Tulett (Hargroves Cycles) rounded out the under 16 boys' series with a perfect score, taking a 6th straight win with a majestic display. Tulett made light work of the difficult under wheel conditions, looking like an express train as he distanced his nearest rivals early in the first lap and making his way through the slow traffic ahead of him.
Behind Tulett it was David Barnes (Condor Cycles), Alfie Moses (Paul Milnes Cycles) and Josh Waters (Sherwood Pines Cycles) who fought it out for the podium places. Eventually Waters who secured second before Moses finally bettered Barnes for third.
The under 16 girls race witnessed another contest between series leader Charlotte Broughton (MG Decor) and her only title challenger Jessica Robert (RST Racing). This duo made the early pace before Broughton stamped her authority mid-way through the race to seal both race and series honours.
Megan James (Abergavenny RC) took a well-deserved win in the under 14 girls race with Lucy Horrocks (Hope Factory Racing) riding a superb race in second place to seal her series win ahead of Poppy Wildman (Nottingham Clarion).
And finally the under 14 boys race was won by Soloman Kerfoot-Robson (Marsh Tracks RT) ahead of Euan Cameron (East Bradford CC) as early race leader Tom Dussek (Nottingham Clarion CC) crossed the line clearly disappointed with third. Second place was sufficient for Cameron to take the overall series win from erstwhile leader Craig Rogers (Birkenhead North End CC).
1. Yorban van Tichelt (Sunweb-Revor)
2. Paul Oldham (Hope Factory Racing)
3. Grant Ferguson (Superior Brentjens)
4. Nick Craig (Tem Scott UK)
5. Jack Clarkson (Hope Factory Racing)
1. Hannah Payton (Kinesis Morvelo Project)
2. Beth Crumpton (Hargroves Cycles)
3. Abby-Mae Parkinson (RST Racing)
4. Ffion James (Abergavenny RC)
5. Merce Pacios Pujado (Blue Motors)
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