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Killeen and Last Crowned British XC Champions
Promoted by Bikelicker Events Ltd in association with Dare2B
Event: 16 - 17 July 2011
Venue: Aske, Richmond, N.Yorkshire | Event Website | Our Event Listing
Report: Snowdon Sports | Link: Dave Yates' Photography
Photography By Andrew Kennedy
Liam Killeen and Annie Last both made successful defences of their British XC Championship titles with strong performances in the 2011 races in North Yorkshire.
Killeen (Giant Factory Racing) proved too strong for a quality field in the senior men's race, crossing the line well clear of Oli Beckingsale (Endura Racing).
On a course hit by rain 24 hours pervious, the opening salvos were fired early in the race. Lee Williams and Paul Oldham lead out the field on a exploration of two steep climbs and two technical descents, before crossing the road to tackle a combination of forest tracks and singletrack - all encompassing a slippery coating of mud.
On the final climb of the opening lap Killeen and Beckingsale had established themselves at the front, Lee Williams at a tantalising three seconds back and Paul Oldham a further ten seconds adrift. Missing from this lineup was Dave Fletcher - expected to be racing his first senior championship in his final year as an under-23 - but absent due to a broken wrist sustained on a training ride.
As the race went on Killeen started to eke out a gap on Beckingsale, leading the 2007 British Champion by five seconds up the final climb of lap two and launching a sustained assault on the title.
Such a move was enough to distance Williams significantly, leaving Paul Oldham (Hope Factory Racing) to monitor the leaders from around ten seconds back. But Williams hit back in the later stages, dropping Oldham and coming back to haunt Beckingsale on the final lap.
As Killeen crossed the line two minutes clear for his fourth consecutive British Championship title, Beckingsale upped his game to dispatch of Williams for a second time, leaving the Welsh number-one to ride in for third.
Behind Williams, Paul Oldham finished a race which was all about chasing - first the lead group and then Williams. Dave Collins completed the top five.
After the race Killeen spoke of his happiness to retain the title, following a long-haul flight back from the USA on Monday, where he had competed in the Mountain Bike World Cup and didn't have the greatest luck.
"I was disappointed with my result there - I was in the group fighting for eighth to twelfth, I'd closed the gap with a puncture, but on the decent I lost more air and I was just trying to hold on to some team positions. So top twenty was good but the top ten was there for the taking. I guess I just have to wait for another opportunity."
But on his retention of the British Championship jersey, Killeen was more upbeat.
"I'm really pleased today, because getting back from Windham on Monday has meant I've been trying to recover all week.
"I think Oli was in the same position. I thought he would be the guy to race against earlier on, but Lee was also in the mix. He's had his ups and downs, but when he gets it right he can go pretty quick and that's good to see.
"We're also lucky the the rain held off, I was worried about weather the course would hold up if the forecast was right - fortunately though we escaped it.
"It's nice to retain the jersey, it's the biggest domestic race and it's good to wear it again. Oli was putting the hammer down on the first lap on the steep climbs - but I didn't think that was where the race could be won. There was too much flowing singletrack. Basically it was an all rounder course, the wind was a factor today. if you could sit on a wheel it was a big help, but once the race was blown apart it was man againt man"
With the Olympics constantly on the two-time Olympian's radar, Killeen is unlikely to ride the Test Event, instead opting to chase races with a more significant UCI points haul.
"I'm now assessing my next races - I'm doubtful over the Olympic Test Event - the UCI points aren't there and I have to be smart about that to actually get to the Olympics. If I train through a weekend and hit a good race for points then that is probably the better bet."
Annie Last continued to establish herself as one of Britain's great cross country racers with a completely dominant performance at the British Championships. Moving into a solo lead from the early stages of the action, Last distanced herself from Nikki Harris and Lee Craigie.
Last - still an under-23 rider - used two years of Mountain Bike World Cup experience to ride clear of the chasers, before making her way through the under-23 men's lineup, eventually taking the win six minutes clear of the chasers.
Behind, Harris extended her lead to three minutes over Craigie to conclude her brief mountain bike season, before returning to the cyclo cross circuit.
Kenta Gallagher marked his first year in the under-23 race by taking his first title since winning the Junior category in 2009. Leading from the front, Gallagher was tracked by Billy Whenman and Steve James. Within one lap Gallgher had shaken James but not Whenman, who continued to stay on the wheel.
However, a crash in the closing stages of lap two for Whenman opened Gallagher's small lead, and suddenly the race was between Whenman and James. Each rider attacked on the final lap, but it was Whenman who had the strength to move clear, Seb Batchelor moving up on James in the closing stages.
The win for Gallagher served as a tribute to injured team-mate Fletcher - and for a season of hard work in his rookie under-23 year, but it wasn't the perfect race.
"Off of the start I dropped my chain - at first I didn't know what to do, but I stayed calm and in touch, just wanted to see what everyone else was doing - I didn't want to lead too early and get over excited. I let Billy lead early on, at some stages he wouldn't come through. But I kept calm - even though when I had a lead, I knew the mechanical I'd had earlier in the race was costing me time later on as my gears were slipping.
A small but competitive field contested the Under-23 women's title, and it was the distinctive colours of WXC World Racing that swiftly came to the fore, Carla Haines holding off her more experienced team-mate Jessie Roberts to take her first title. Roberts held on to second place to complete a WXC one-two, while Anna Buick secured a second bronze medal of the day for the Buick family.
With race-favourite Grant Ferguson choosing to race the European road race championships, Matt Sumpton assumed lead position in the Junior men's race, moving alone ahead of chasers Alex Baker and Ben Sumner.
Beth Crumpton's win in her rookie year was the most emotional of the day, crossing the line in tears and deposing Katie Winton the story of three laps. Crumpton moved away from the start of lap one and was never troubled on what she described as a "flawless ride."
"It's the first race I've finished since April where I've crossed the line in one piece, it's overwhelming really. I knew at the start of the year winning today was possible, I just had to put in the hard work and today it paid off - it's a dream to do what I'm doing now and the past few months have been the best of my life, from travelling to World Cups to winning today."
Youth & Juvenile
Innerleithen MTB's Stuart Wilcox won the Youth Men's Championship, covering two laps of a challenging technical course to win by 26 seconds from Iain Paton (Square Wheelers), and Motorpoint's Alice Barnes proved victorious in the Youth Women's race, winning by 1-42 from Peebles CC's Lucy Grant.
Peebles CC's Calum Magowan was crowned Juvenile Men's champion, beating Matlock's Arthur Green by 43 seconds over two laps of the course, while Ffion James (Abergavemmy RC) won the one-lap juvenile women's race by 42 seconds from Stirling BC's Erika Allen.
Master & Veteran Categories
Matt Dennis took a long anticipated win in the Master Men's race from Ed Moseley, their battle going right down to the last lap, Geoff Beetham always in contention should something happen to either of the leaders.
Paul Hopkins retained his Veterans' title - despite nerves on the start line. With a plan to attack on the opening climb and judge the race as it progressed, the multiple British Champion never looked in doubt.
"I wanted to test it on the first climb, there were enough twisty bits out there to move away. It was great to keep them at bay - it was down to riding one day a week more than last year. I'm getting married next week and I was given special permission to do that and it's nice to finish on this note."
Meanwhile, Isla Rowntree won the Veteran women's race, with Fiona Paton taking the Grand Vets and Caroline Goward the Masters title, whilst Steve Davis dominated the Grand Veterans' race and Victor Barnett the Super Vets.