British champions Grant Ferguson and Annie Last lead the field as the 2016 British Cycling MTB Cross-country Series gets underway this weekend in Llanelli.
The five-round competition opens at Pembrey Country Park in South Wales, a venue new to the series, before heading to Plymouth, North Yorkshire and Builth Wells and the final round in August in Staffordshire.
National champion Grant Ferguson just missed out on a podium place in last year’s series, despite only competing at the first three rounds.
Ferguson was first across the line in Plymouth and Builth Wells in 2015 and the Betch.NL Superior Brentjens (BSB) rider will take to the Llanelli course as the red-hot favourite.
One man who might think otherwise is Liam Killeen. The Malvern Cycle Sport rider only took part in two rounds last season, finishing second in Builth Wells and winning in Staffordshire.
Fresh from becoming British Cyclo-cross champion in January, the former Commonwealth MTB Cross-country gold medallist will be amongst Ferguson’s main competition in South Wales.
Another major contender is current British Cycling MTB Cross-country Series champion Phillip Pearce. Now of Specialized Racing, Pearce finished in the top five in four of last year’s races on his way to taking the crown by an impressive 20 points.
Last year’s series runner-up, David Fletcher, will look to go one better in 2016. Representing Pines Cycles – Felt – Enve, he took second place in the Sherwood Pines opener in 2015.
All three of last year’s overall podium finishers will take to the start-line in South Wales as Jason Bouttell of X RT – Elmy Cycles looks to continue his fine form from last year. Bouttell finished the 2015 series strongly, taking second place at rounds four and five on his way to an overall third place.
Leading the field for the women is British champion Annie Last. Like Ferguson in the men’s competition, the 25-year-old finished last year’s series just outside the podium places – but only took part in three of five rounds, picking up two wins.
The Novus OMX Pro Team (OMX) rider was first across the line in Plymouth and Glasgow and will be keen to start this year’s series with a win.
Last year’s British Cycling National MTB Cross-country Series champion Bethany Crumpton will also be amongst the favourites. Representing Boot Out Breast Cancer CC, Crumpton secured the title at the final race of the series in 2015 after a dominant performance in Staffordshire.
Kerry MacPhee was the long-time series leader in 2015 before a first-lap retirement cost her the title. The Rock and Road Cycles rider was consistent in the first four rounds last year before a combination of asthma and a grass-allergy forced her to withdraw – she’s expected to be amongst the high-flyers again in 2016.
Last year’s series runner-up was Peebles CC’s Lucy Grant. Two second place finishes in the final two rounds saw her claim second overall – finishing just three points behind Bethany Crumpton.
Another rider hoping build on 2015’s performance is Lucy Allan of MazingTree IT. Allan finished ninth overall in 2015 as one of only a handful of women to compete at all five rounds. With four top ten finishes in last year’s competition, the Plymouth rider will surely have her eye on the podium places in 2016.
The opening round of the British Cycling MTB Cross-country Series takes place on 2-3 April at Pembrey Country Park, Llanelli and is organised by A Cycling.
Elite races take place on Sunday, with the women’s competition at 1pm and the men’s race at 3.15pm. Races last approximately 90 minutes, with riders taking a mass start before negotiating a series of 15-minute laps. Courses are designed to be spectator friendly and events are free to watch.
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