Grant Ferguson and Annie Last both took their third consecutive British Cycling MTB Cross-country Championship titles at Hadleigh Park.
Ferguson made the race his own after a sluggish opening lap which, by his own admission, was to see how the course was riding.
Banjo Cycles’ Phil Pearce took second place. Pearce, in his first year as an elite, buried himself throughout but was no real match for the British number one and was happy to take a podium place after a hard fought race on the Olympic Course.
Dave Fletcher (Pines Cycles-Felt-Enve) completed the podium after a race-long battle with Seb Batchelor (Fluid Fin RT). Fletcher's attack mid way through the last lap was enough to take the bronze medal.
“Hadleigh is a tough course to race,” said Ferguson. “It’s really easy to make a mistake on the fast bends, they are so loose so you have to give it 100 per cent attention.
“It’s a really tricky track so you are learning every lap and gaining speed as the race goes on. You try a few faster lines but it takes a while to really get into it. But it’s a bit of a balance - if you push it too much, you could break the bike so you’re always just on the edge, it’s a bit harsh on the bikes round here with the rocks.
“I sat in on the first lap then I had a bit of a dig just to see how things were but once I was on the front I could ride my own race and take my lines. Phil [Pearce] rode a good race, he’s always hunting you down which was good, it pushed me on a bit to be honest.”
And Pearce himself added: “I am very happy with second place, I pushed hard all race but Grant was a much better rider on the day and I couldn’t get near him as the race went on. I’ve had such a good year and getting silver has given me a lot of UCI points which means I get a better grid position in the World Cups which in turn hopefully gets me better results.
“I started the race pretty strong but when Grant passed me I knew that really it was game over. He is so strong but he is the British number one and he deserves everything he wins.
“I still have a full time job which makes things a bit trickier with the training, I managed about three hours this week but you just have to work round it and fit the training in when you can, but I just love to race so you adjust so you can do it.”
And Dave Fletcher said: “I’m happy with third. I struggled a bit mid race with cramp, I’ve been plagued with it on and off all season and it came back at the wrong time today but I was able to get bottles of water every half lap which helped cool my legs down.
“I had to fight back from fourth and chase Seb [Batchelor] down and I got him on the long switch-back climb half way round the last lap. I sat on him there then went round him on the rabbit hole, I could see him suffering a bit so I put the pressure on.
“Hadleigh is a really hard course to ride so I had to ride my own pace, if you try and race it too hard too early it can finish you off in the later stages so I think it raced it pretty well today.”
Annie Last defended her position as the British number one in the senior women’s race after a dominant ride that saw the Liv Cycling rider cross the line minutes ahead of Alice Barnes (Betch.NL Superior Brentjens).
2015 National Champ. Like it! https://t.co/ey3ai7XUHp— Annie Last (@AnnieLast1) July 19, 2015
Barnes, riding up from the under 23 category, couldn't match the top end speed of Last once into her rhythm, but held a solid position throughout to claim the second spot on the podium.
Annie Simpson took third passing Kerry Macphee mid-way through the final lap, entering the arena to score one of her best results for a number of years.
“I’ve done a lot of laps round here over the last few years,” said Annie Last. “It’s nice to be back on the Olympic course and back racing on it, Hadleigh is a nice course to race.
“I rode myself in today, really just to see where everyone was then I squeezed on a bit to ride my own race. I’ve made a few changes recently to my riding, early season wasn’t as quick as I would have liked but I think I’ve started to come through now so I’m looking forward to the second half of the season. I’m loving my riding again and I think it shows in the results.”
Iain Paton took victory in the men’s under 23 race after the Team Wiggins rider had ridden a measured race and proved strongest on the Hadleigh course.
A group of three attacked early on - Paton, Dylan Kerfoot-Robson (Mountain Trax RT) and Hope Factory Racing’s Mike Thompson, and although the three were together early on it was Paton who put the pressure on as the race progressed to take a clear victory from Kerfoot-Robson and Thompson.
Frazer Clacherty took a fine win in the junior men’s race to retain his National title after fighting off a strong challenge from Will Gascoyne (Pine Cycles-Felt_Enve).
Clacherty was one of a group of four, including Gascoyne, Mark Macquire (Mountain Trax RT) and Tom Craig (Scott Racing) who took the race on from the gun and had got around 30 seconds on the rest of the field on the opening lap.
Craig dropped off the group mid race and although he chased hard wasn’t able to get back in the mix and had to be content with fourth. Gascoyne was in sight of the leader throughout but Clacherty proved too strong for the chasers and took the finishing straight with time to celebrate.
Beth Crumpton (North West MTB) retained the National title in the under 23 women’s race. Crumpton attacked from the gun and never looked back, working her way through the senior field to sit third place behind Alice Barnes and Annie Last. Lucy Grant took a fine second in a race that really was going one way but the Peebles CC rider rode well to take the silver on a testing circuit, Lucy Allan (Mazing Tree) completed the podium.
Ffyon James took the win in the junior women’s race with a dominant performance. The Abergavenny rider looked strong throughout and rode quicker on each of her four laps.
Arguably the pre-race favourite, Evie Richards who didn’t start through injury may have changed the outcome but it would have been a close call with James who took the race to the rest of the field. Team Thompson’s Erika Allen took silver and Charlotte Broughton(Corley Cycles) took the bronze.
Katy Simcock (Corley Cycles) took the female masters title by over ten minutes, Simcock who almost didn’t start, proved too strong for the rest of the small field to take the win.
Nicky Hughes (Specialised Racing) took the jersey in the veteran women’s race with Alison Holmes taking silver and Anita Buxton claiming bronze. A close race was anticipated but with Maddi Smith and Caroline Goward retiring after the opening lap it was down to Hughes to put the pressure on the remaining field.
Sarah Barnwell (Clwb Beicio) took the title in the grand veterans race, Barnwell passing second-placed Lydia Gould (Torq Performance) on the second lap didn’t put a foot wrong throughout to claim the gold medal. Janet Burthem (Velo Club Melyd) completed the podium.
Luke Moseley (Climb On Bikes) took the masters title in a hard-fought win over Jody Burnett. Moseley was part of a group that attacked early on in the race along with Burnett, Warren Bates (Mountain Trax RT), Andy Cockburn (Newdales Cycles), Kim Little (Merida Factory) and Ed Mosely (Malvern Cycle Sport).
They started to gap the rest of the field but the heat and the tough course soon saw some of the group dropping off the pace and as the laps reduced it would be Moseley, Burnett and Bates who formed the head of the race. Cockburn put chased back on the final two laps but it was a charge too late to claim a podium spot.
In the veterans race it was an elated Mark Chamberlain (WDMBC / Specialized) who not only dominated his category but also took the win overall in race two. Chamberlain set his stall out on the opening lap setting the quickest time with only Paul Hopkins (Merida Factory) able to match him. As the race progressed Chamberlain set about riding through the masters field and onto Luke Moseley’s wheel before passing him on the finishing straight. Sam Humphrey put in a consistent second half of the race to pass Hopkins and ensure the silver medal. Hopkins took a well-deserved third place.
Tim Gould (Zepnat.com) added to his collection of National titles in the grand veterans race. Gould was in a small group on the opening lap with Grant Johnson (Sunset Cycles), Richard Cross, Mark Chadbourne (Ridebike.co.uk) and Team Jewson’s Kirby Bennett but the legend that is Gould made his play on the second lap and proved unstoppable to claim the title. Johnson and Cross took silver and bronze respectively.
Roy Hunt (Colnago / BBB / Morgan Blue) dominated the field in the super veterans race, taking the title by some seven minutes over Ian Petherbridge (Southdowns Bikes-Casco) and Bronze medallist Vic Barnes(Wellend Valley CC).
Dan Tulett (Specialized Racing) retained his National title in the youth boys race but was pushed to the line by Malvern Cycle Sport’s Ross Harnden in a close run four laps on the Olympic course.
Harnden led the field out of the arena on the opening lap with Tulett, Calum Fernie (Nottingham Clarion) and Sam Culverwell (Guernsey Velo) with the rest of the field strung out.
As the race settled it would be Tulett, Harnden and Fernie who would be away from a chasing field, Culverwell retired on lap three with a mechanical. As the race progressed it was Tulett and Harnden who would exchange the lead throughout, Fernie dropping back slightly but remaining in third place.
A battle royale was being fought out further down the field between Cameron Orr (Team Velocite/SRAM), Thomas Mein (MTS Cycle Sport), Tim Shoreman (Dales Cycles) and Sean Flynn (EdinburghRC), Orr holding on for fourth place.
Coming into the arena, past the pits and on to the finishing straight for the final time the two leaders were together but Tulett found the legs to take the sprint from Harnden.
Lichfield CC’s Lewis Askey took his fourth National title this season in the juvenile boy’s race. Askey rode well and avoided any problems to take the title after Ben Tulett and Harry Birchall retired with punctures. Thomas Timberlake(Banjo Cycles) and Chalie Aldridge(Stirling Bike Club) took silver and bronze respectively.
Sophie Wright (Strada Sport) took the win in the youth female race to take the title. Wright, who has been dominant all year in the National Series, once again proved too strong for the rest of the field. 2014 champion Emily Wadsworth (Beeline Bikes) took the silver and Kim Baptista completed the podium taking the bronze.
Harriet Harnden (Malvern Cycle Sport) took the title in the juvenile girls’ race while Peebles CC’s Anna McGorum took silver and Anna Flynn (Edinburgh RC) completed the podium for bronze.
1 Grant Ferguson (Betch.NL) 1:34.06
2 Phil Pearce (Banjo Cycles) 1:35.27
3 Dave Fletcher (Pines Cycles) 1:37.20
4 Seb Batchelor (Fluid Fin) 1:37.47
5 Ian Field (Hargroves Cycles) 1:39.36
1 Annie Last (Liv Cycling UK) 1:36.42
2 Alice Barnes (Betch.NL) 1:41.14
3 Annie Simpson (Hope Factory Racing) 1:44.39
4 Jules Toone (Torq Performance) 1:45.49
5 Kerry MacPhee (Rock and Roll Cycles) 1:47.15