| | Location: Hadleigh Farm, Essex
Event: 18 August 2013
Report: Rob Rowlands
Photos: Andy Whitehouse
On the same circuit where Jaroslav Kulhavý and Julie Bresset took the Olympic gold medals 12 months ago, the 2013 National Mountain Bike series came down to its conclusion, with Grant Ferguson (Superior Brentjens) and Githa Michiels (Belgium) securing victories.
Following the first four rounds, both Elite men’s and women’s were delicately poised, each with four riders still able to win the series going in to this round.
The day would see the first elite racing on the Olympic circuit, and the riders did their best to deliver the positive legacy required of the venue and continue to inspire all generations with their determined racing.
Honours in the Elite Women’s race were taken by Githa Michiels (Belgian National Team) whilst Grant Ferguson (Superior Brentjens) wrapped up victory in the Men’s elite race to seal the series win in what was crowd favourite Oli Beckingsale’s final Professional mountain bike race.
With a field of 58 the racing always promised to be tough and so it was. Entering the final round the National Series was led by Oli Beckingsale (Endura MTB Racing) with Dan Fleeman (Dig Deep Coaching - Pactimo) in second.
Yet lurking in third it was national champion Grant Ferguson (Superior Brentjens) who had the most to gain. If he could win the race and Beckingsale and Fleeman finish down the field the series would be his. The question was, could he capitalise on his current rich seam of form to add to this season’s successes.
The race got off to an explosive start with the riders strung out on the initial climb up and through the finish line, and by the end of lap one a group of 10 riders seemed to be making the initial selection as the early cracks began to appear in the bunch. The key riders were all in this move together with the Belgians Van Hoovels and Luyten and Dutch national champion Van Der Heijden.
The group was whittled down to six, and two chasers by the start of lap three. And at the start of lap four it was the young national champion Ferguson who made a decisive move.
Pushing hard he split the group, and despite the best efforts of the Belgian riders Ferguson used the Triple Trouble climb to his advantage and open up a huge gap. It was clear that Ferguson meant business and he soon opened up a gap of 28 seconds.
Van Hoovels was the rider making the chase and attempting to peg Ferguson’s lead. Could he hold on to the lead or could Beckingsale and Fleeman bridge any of the gaps and keep their title hopes alive?
Going in to the last lap Ferguson led Van Hoovels by 34 seconds. Behind them, Gallagher continued his determined chase followed by teammate Hans Becking. All Ferguson needed to do was avoid accidents and mechanical problems.
Swooping down Burry’s Burn and into the final half lap of the race, Ferguson was displaying the class he had shown all race. With the plunging final descent behind him he crossed the line, arms aloft.
Van Hoovels crossed the line in second but it was Superior Brentjens Mountain Bike Racing Team’s day with as Kenta Gallagher rounded out the podium with third and team-mate Hans Becking took fourth.
Fleeman eventually finished sixth and Beckingsale - in his last ever competitive mountain bike race - taking seventh, meaning that the Ferguson took the series title by a margin of 40 points.
What They Said
“I was racing to win obviously, it’s been a while since I won the National Champions jersey so I’m very happy to be wearing it and be doing it proud and getting the win here,” said winner Grant Ferguson.
“Next up is the U23 World Champs in South Africa, where hopefully I’ll be racing on the front row. I’m going to put some work in over the next couple of weeks. I’ve done quite a lot of work already so it’ll be a bit of rest of steady stuff, travel next week and prep for the race.”
And after his last MTB race following the announcement of his retirement, Oli Beckingsale said: “I feel good because it’s on my terms. Some people get stuck with injury, some go slow and can’t get a deal. If I hadn’t have had injury a few years ago I might’ve stopped, but I wanted to get back into it.
“I put a lot of effort in today. I really wanted to win the Nations but got beaten by a better guy. If I had won it people would’ve expected me to keep riding.
“I’m still going to ride the cross season. I want to defend my title and do right by my sponsors. I will enjoy it and I know I can get better with technical changes.”
With both Beth Crumpton and Maddie Horton missing from this final round, the contest for the series title came down to just two riders: Lee Craigie (Cannondale Racing) and Melanie Alexander (Contessa Scott Synchros).
Barring accident and incident the series was almost guaranteed a last and final leader at its conclusion. Yet with an international field for this UCI registered series nothing could be taken for granted and it was Belgian National champion Githa Michiels (Belgian National Team) who was determined to take the race by the scruff of the neck.
Michiels made her intentions known on the first climb of the race leading together with Craigie and Hannah Barnes (MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling) and by the end of the first lap had opened a gap of over one minute over the chasing Craigie. But it was a keenly fought race behind.
As Michiels race lead grew so the positions behind her began to cement themselves. National champion Lee Craigie settled into second making a strong bid to seal the national series title with Melanie Alexander and Hannah Barnes looking comfortable in third and fourth. Whilst the Belgian’s lead settled at around a minute and a half, this race looked all but decided.
As the race neared its conclusion the wind picked up blowing in squally from the Thames estuary, a sign of the Belgian storm which was brewing as Michiels lapped all but 11 of this elite field before taking the bell.
By the time she took the win she had passed another two riders and opened her gap on second placed Craigie to an emphatic 2:24. Melanie Alexander closed out the podium to set up a tight finish in the overall series. Hanna Barnes took fourth and Maxine Filby finishing the top five.
So it was down to the maths and Craigie had done enough to hold off Alexander’s challenge to seal the series win. Despite her absence Bethany Crumpton had already done enough to hold on to second overall.
What They Said
Second in the final round and overall series winner, Lee Craigie said: “It’s been a good month, I’m very pleased. Today’s race was just about consolidating and riding a steady race and not taking any risks and going all out.
“I wanted to try and stay with the Belgian girl but she was off from the gun and was obviously riding an aggressive race, so I just did the best I could. Maybe I should’ve tried a little bit harder to stay with her, but it wasn’t to be today.
“It’s a great course and it did suit me I was able to race enough on the descents to be able to hold my own on the climbs.”
1 Grant Ferguson (Superior Brentjens)
2 Kevin Van Hoovels (Belgian National Team) @ 43 sec
3 Kenta Gallagher (Superior Brentjens) @ 1:05
4 Hans Becking (Superior Brentjens) @ 1:43
5 Jeff Luyten (Belgian National Team) @ 2:42
1 Githa Michiels (Belgian National Team) 1h 40:00
2 Lee Craigie (Cannondale Racing) @ 2:24
3 Melanie Alexander (Contessa Scott Synchros) @ 5:56
4 Hannah Barnes (MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling) @ 8:06
5 Maxine Filby (XCRacer.com) @ 12:54
With the Juvenile Men’s series already wrapped up Daniel Tulett (Hargroves Cycles) missed this race and so it was left to Tom Nesham (Cardiff JIF) to take the spoils on the day and ‘move into second place in the final overall standings.
Patsy Caines (Yeovil CC) put in a fine display to take the win in the Juvenile Women’s race to secure second in the series.
Both youth categories were finely balanced going into this final round. In the men’s race went to Thomas Craig (Team Scott UK) whose dominant performance blew away the rest of the field to take the overall title by just one point ahead of Fraser Clacherty (Richardson Cycles) and further point ahead of the erstwhile leader Mark McGuire (Team Bicycles.co.uk).
The women’s race saw the lead changed hands on each of the three laps with Sarah Lomas (Scott Contessa Epic) eventually taking a deserved win ahead of Fion James (Abergavenny RC) and Martha Gill (Bolton Hot Wheels) and early race leader Hannah English (Guernsey Velo Club). James’ second place was enough to take the series win by just 8 points from Amira Mellor (Holme Valley Wheelers).
Elizabeth Clayton (Lichfield City CC) won the Grand Veteran Women’s race with a final lap surge, overcoming a 40 second gap built by long time race leader, national champion Kim Long (Certini), and with it sealing the series win.
The Junior Women’s race was won in domineering style by Isla Short with a ride which saw her not only take victory by almost 4 minutes but place her within the top 10 of the Elite women’s race.
Series winner Alice Barnes (Scott Contessa Epic) will be happy she wrapped up the title with a perfect four in previous rounds having punctured on lap on and spent the rest of the race chasing in vain.
The Masters Women’s race was won by Gillian Pratt (Team Leslie Bike Shop), Catriona Ross (PSUK Cycle Race Team) the Veterans Women’s race and series title, Nicky Healy (Mammoth Lifestyle) wrapped up the Expert’s title with victory and Vanessa Holmes (Arrow Cycles) the Sports category race with Fiona Innes second place enough to take the series.
Tom Hooper (All Terrain Cycles) destroyed the field in the Men’s Sport category and added to his win in round 4, Ashley Evans (Run & Ride) taking the series.
Issac Pucci (AW Cycles) made a solid case for stepping up to Elite as he tore apart the Expert male field for his 4th win in securing the series title. The men’s Junior race was won by national champion Michael Thompson (Nutcracker Racing) in a close race with Ian Paton (Ben Wyvis Cycling Club) and with points tied after 5 rounds, Thompson took the series thanks to this win.
In the final race of the day Paul Newnham (Team Leslie Bike Shop) took victory in the Masters Men’s race, Jonathan Pugh having previously won the series. In the Veterans categories, Ian Taylor (Jedi Cycle Sport) took victory in the Veterans race with Paul Hopkins (Merida Factory Racing) taking the series title.
Paul Turnbull (Team Leslie Bike Shop) won the Grand Veteran race with Peter Harris’s (Pearce Cycles RT) second place securing his series title; and Denis Smith (Team 300) underlined his second place in the series with victory in the final race.
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