Location: Hopton Woods, Hopton Castle, Shropshire
Event: 2 June 2013
The battle for British Cycling Mountain Bike Cross-Country Series glory intensifies this weekend with round three at Hopton Woods, Shropshire.
The third round of five will continue some incredibly close fought competition across the field with the elite men’s and women’s disciplines no exception.
Overall leader in the elite men’s discipline Grant Ferguson competes on the back of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic where he finished 23rd in the under 23 event. Victory in the last round at Redruth has handed the Superior Brentjens rider a 20-point lead over second place Hamish Batchelor.
He is joined by Great Britain and Superior Brentjens colleague Kenta Gallagher who celebrated a first world cup win in Nove Mesto, triumphing in the eliminator race.
Elite men's standings
1. Grant Ferguson 112
2. Hamish Batchelor 92
3. Sebastian Batchelor 92
The 20-year-old missed the first round at Sherwood Pines before second behind Ferguson in Cornwall placed him ninth overall. But with the best four scores from five counting towards each rider’s overall points result there is scope to ascend the rankings.
Also notable in the start list is South Africa’s Rourke Croeser, the under 23 national champion makes his first appearance in this year’s series and will be considered favourite to mark it with a win.
In the absence of second and third placed Hamish and Sebastian Batchelor, Nick Craig (Team Scott UK) and defending champion Oliver Beckingsale (Endura MTB Racing) can eradicate the deficits from their fourth and fifth respectively.
Lee Craigie (Cannondale Racing) and British Cycling Olympic Academy Programme rider Bethany Crumpton (Hargroves Cycles/Specialized) will resume their absorbing duel at the top of the elite women’s standings despite neither rider winning a race so far in the series.
The promising Crumpton, who took eighth in the under 23 field in last weekend’s world cup, is eight points behind reigning champion Craigie.
But, as with the elite men a South African, Mariske Strauss, (Orange Monkey Pro Team) will mean the British duo will need an exceptional effort to beat the round one winner.
Hannah Barnes (MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling) returns to the field, the former national criterium champion having opted for the National Women’s Road Series over a trip to Cornwall for round two.
Elite women's standings
1. Lee Craigie 108
2. Bethany Crumpton 101
3. Melanie Alexander 95
Second place at Sherwood Pines underlined the 20-year-old’s championship credentials and another profitable performance in Shropshire would see her emerge a genuine series contender. Round two victor Sally Bigham misses out, competing in the Alpentour Trophy.
With only 18 points separating the top four in the junior men’s rankings, it is Michael Thompson (Nutcracker Racing) who leads with second and first places recorded thus far. Fourteen points further back is Iain Paton (Ben Wyvis Cycle Club) and round one winner Jack Ravenscroft is (Solihull CC) level with Samuel Stean in third.
In the junior women, Alice Barnes (Scott Contessa Epic) has been imperious in her two victories and will be a favourite to maintain her 100% record.
Behind her Imogen Buick (Newdales Cycles RT) and Isla Short (WXC World Racing) sit second and third, and there is a return for Lucy Grant (Peebles CC/ Alpine Bikes) who took second behind Barnes at Sherwood.
Venue Hopton Woods is best known as a downhill site before the south Shropshire Hills location benefited from extensive cross country trails after development by Dave Pearce.
The venue is situated eight miles south-west of Craven Arms, adjacent to Hopton Castle.