Grant Ferguson and Beth Crumpton raced to victory in the fifth and final round of the British Cycling MTB Cross-country Series in Cannock.
British champion Grant Ferguson took victory in the final round at Cannock Chase, but it was the ever present Paul Oldham who secured the overall series victory, the Hope Factory rider finishing in eight spot was enough to keep Steve James into second.
A fast run down from the start gate saw the national jersey lead the field away and into the starting loop. Oldham took an early opportunity to nip to the front on the first bend but it was Ferguson who had the faster legs and led the field out of the arena and away into the woods of the Chase.
Liam Kileen, Oldham, Jason Bouttell, Martin Gujan, Steve James, Michael Thompson and Iain Paton all sat in close contention, but on the narrow paths it was proving hard to make any kind of move.
With the race settling down it would be Swiss rider Gujan who took up the pace, coming into the arena to start the second lap a group of four were making a small gap on the rest of the field. Gujan, Ferguson, Kileen and Bouttell were keeping the pace high and making the chasers work and Steve James and Oldham were both in contact but were starting to feel the effect of the lead group.
Bouttell began to stretch the legs of his companions, but the Velopro rider probably over-cooked it and by the end of the third time around he had started to drift back to the chasers.
The three leaders looked to have the race sewn up for the podium positions but Bouttell was holding his own in fourth, holding off Paton and Thompson who were unable to make inroads.
Big gaps were beginning to form back to James and a tired looking Oldham, but the calculations had been done and experience was showing. Adrian Lansley and Alex Welburn completed the top ten.
With one lap to go the three leaders had worked to secure a useful 50 seconds to the good of the chasers, Mike Thompson had worked over Bouttell and was looking comfortable in fourth, while Paton had followed and had pushed the early pace setter into sixth.
With a kick coming out of the final wooded section it was Ferguson who appeared out of the trees and into the arena ahead of Kileen and Gujan, the young Scotsman just having the legs to take the win from Kileen, while Gujan took a well-earned third place.
“I've had a pretty busy few weeks, I think I've raced every weekend since the last round at Sherwood,” said Ferguson. “Today was a hard race, Martin (Gujan) took it on quite early and with the flat tracks round here it’s so important to get the right position as it’s so narrow in places.
“If you make a mistake, you can lose just five or 10 seconds and that could be race over. Parts of the course are quite technical and physical but it’s the mental side of it that’s just as tough, it’s a course you have to concentrate on all race. You really have to be switched on to ride here.
“Liam, Jason and Martin all did a hard turn on the front and pressed on but I probably didn't contribute too much to the pace to be honest. I was racing in America last week and the travelling back has probably left me a bit tired but you just have to crack on, its racing.”
Beth Crumpton took the race win - and secured the series championship - with a dominant display at Cannock where she beat Alice Barnes into second by more than two and a half minutes.
A quick start saw Trek Racing's Annie Last hit the first bend on the front stringing the field out into a long line but the National Champion's race was cut short on the opening lap when a rear derailleur went into her back wheel and left the rider to walk back to the pits for technical help and ultimately ending her UK MTB season.
Crumpton saw the chance to capitalise on Last's misfortune and dominated the remainder of the elite race. By the second lap the local girl had pulled a one minute gap on nearest rival Barnes who was looking comfortable in second keeping Nicky Healy, Jessie Roberts and Mel Alexander at arm’s length.
Although Barnes was starting to pull Crumpton back, it was all but a handful of seconds and even with a crash at the foot of the rock garden the North West MTB RT girl had plenty of time to recompose herself and keep a race winning lead.
With the nature of the course it was proving difficult for any of the front runners to make any real headway into the rider ahead of them and barring any mechanicals or bad crashes it would be a time trial to the finish line. Mammoth Lifestyle's Nicky Healy took third and Jessie Roberts and Mel Alexander completed the elite podium in fourth and fifth respectively.
“Today was my second win of the series and third win of the year so I'm pretty happy with that,” said Crumpton. “I grew up racing round Cannock and used to bring my dad up here to ride with me so it has been good to win on a 'home track'.
“I knew a lot of the trials the course was on so I knew what to expect. I slipped off on the rock garden but one out of five isn't too bad, it’s racing and we all make mistakes in races but I wasn't worried about it.
“It was a shame that Annie [Last] had to pull out, I was riding behind her and we came out of the single track and her rear mech just snapped, I waited a bit to see if she was going to get back on but I could see it was major so I just cracked on.
“I love racing against Annie, I learn so much just watching her so it’s just a shame we couldn't race against each other today, it would have been a really good workout going into the world cup and the worlds.”
Jack Ravenscroft took the victory in the junior men’s race holding off the challenge from Malvern Cycle sport's Dave Creber, Paddy Atkinson took the final step on the podium.
Malvern were ever present in the day’s events but with Isla Short away on Great Britain Cycling Team duties it was down to Evie Richards to carry the flag in the junior women’s event, the youngster riding through most of the elite field to secure the win some five minutes to the good over Sarah Lomas, Lucy Allen took third.
Banjo Cycle's Phil Pearce again dominated the expert men’s race to take the win crossing the line on the back wheel as now has become his trade mark, he also took the series overall, James Hyde and Nicholas Corlett took second and third respectively.
Mel Paddington took the honours in the expert female race from Venessa Holmes finishing a little over a minute to the good, Flo Dannah completed the podium
Phil Morris took his third win of the series in the master’s race and secured the overall victory, holding off Paul Lloyd and Tom Fowler who crossed the line together just 10 seconds adrift after a tight race long tussle.
Marc Chamberlain crossed the line first in the veteran’s race, riding VC St Raphael's Sam Humprey into second and Paul Hopkins into third.
Alison Holmes again secured a dominant victory in the veteran women’s event, riding for the host club, Holmes held off Caroline Goward by some three minutes to carry home the series overall.
Mark Chadbourne secured the grand veteran’s race holding off a welcome return to the podium for second placed Ian Wright, Grant Johnson took third.
British champion, Elizabeth Clayton took the victory in the grand veteran women’s race. Ian Petherbridge, again took the win in the super veteran’s race, holding off Vic Barnett into second and Tony Wilkins into third.
Megan James added to her national jersey wit the race win and the series title in the juvenile girls’ race. The Abergavenny rider kept her closest rival, Kim Baptista, into second and Harriet Harnden into third.
Harry Birchall had to work hard to secure the win in the juvenile race holding off Ben Healy by a single second to complete the series overall, Sam Culverwell took the final step on the podium.
Chris Rothwell celebrated the win and the series in the youth male race, Matt Fratesi took second and Miles Wormer third. Sophie Wright took the youth female event holding off British Champion Emily Wadsworth into second and Ella Conolly into third
1 Grant Ferguson (Betch.NL Superior Brentjens) 1-42-51
2 Liam Kileen (Malvern Sports) at 5sec
3 Martin Gujan (Orange Monkey Pro Team) at 35sec
4 Mike Thompson (Team Hope Factory Racing) at 2-24
5 Iain Paton (Pioneer Scott Synchros) at 2-51
1 Beth Crumpton (North West MTB RT) 1-42-51
2 Alice Barnes (T-Mo Racing) at 2-40
3 Nicky Healy (Mammoth Lifestyle RT) at 3-27
4 Jessie Roberts (Trek Bicycle) 4-12
5 Mel Alexander (Contessa Scott Synchos) at 7-29