Braam Merlier and Bethany Crumpton (Storey Racing) got their seasons off to a winning start by clinching victories in the men’s and women’s events at round one of the HSBC UK Cyclo-Cross National Trophy.
Both riders attacked from small groups and held off the chasers to celebrate their wins at Moorways Leisure Centre in Derby.
Belgium’s Merlier, 24, won three rounds of the National Trophy last year and as the men’s race in Derby unfolded, he stayed with a group at the front which included Wietse Bosmans (Steylaerts-777) and Thomas Mein (Hope Factory Racing).
Bosmans put pressure on Merlier coming into the final two laps as he took to the front, but the Creafin-TUV SUD rider made his move going into the wooded section and forced his winning gap despite a valiant effort by Under-23 winner Mein, with Bosmans in third.
Last season’s National Trophy overall series winner Crumpton earned a slender victory in the women’s event to take the leader’s jersey.
The race was dominated from start to finish by Storey Racing trio Crumpton, Ffion James and Anna Kay, who built an unassailable margin by the halfway distance.
Approaching the final two laps, Crumpton attacked her teammates and pulled out a gap of a handful of seconds.
Despite slowing in the closing stages, Crumpton held on for victory and had time to celebrate while Kay sprinted for second and first Under-23, with James third overall.
Conditions on the course
Over 700 riders competed across two days of racing, with the ground remaining firm in the sunshine for Sunday’s events - leading to some fast races.
The fast 2.6 kilometre course seemed to work in the favour of some racers: “I’m starting to like the faster courses now because of my road season in the summer,” said Crumpton.
“I’m starting to become a bit stronger on these faster and dryer courses. It’s a long season ahead so hopefully I can be a bit more consistent.”
What they said
Merlier commented: “At the beginning it was not easy as it was a fast race today and we had six riders at the front which made it difficult to ride faster than the others.
“Three laps from the end I got a gap but it wasn’t enough and then it was everything in the last lap. Before the technical zone I took the front and attacked and it was enough to win the race.
“The last laps were my best laps. I do many races in Europe but I don’t know if I will come back to Britain, maybe in November.
“It’s very important for me to come in the top 50 of the UCI ranking for the World Cup.”
After winning the women’s race, Crumpton commented: “It was so fast and properly on from the start as we were going so fast through every corner.
“It was pure brutal and once us three got away I knew we could start tactics with each other making it a bit more fun and interesting.
“I got a good gap and was trying to press on and make it a bit bigger but I got a massive stitch on the last lap so was just trying to hang on!
“I knew once I had a five-second gap on the last bank that I would get the win so I’m really happy to start the National Trophy with a win.
“I’m going to try and defend my title. I’m starting to like the faster courses now because of my road season in the summer.
After a mechanical on the start line, Ian Field was left chasing the race and whilst the form was good, the end result not so ... we chatted pic.twitter.com/jr9zOm7bos— British Cycle Sport (@VeloUK) October 7, 2018
Yaasss!! Super happy to hold on for the win... darn you stitches for making racing hurt twice the amount! apart from that loved racing with these classy team mates of mine https://t.co/859UrG9AgI— Beth Crumpton (@BethCrumpton) October 7, 2018
The rounds come thick and fast in the HSBC UK Cyclo-Cross National Trophy, with the competitors heading to Round Two at Irvine in Scotland in the last week of October.
Round Three is two weeks after that, in Crawley, while Round’s four, five and six will all be completed by early January.
1 Braam Merlier (Creafin-TUV SUD)
2 Thomas Mein (Hope Factory Racing)
3 Wietse Bosmans (Steylaerts-777)
1 Thomas Mein (Hope Factory Racing)
2 Daniel Tulett (TP Racing)
3 Ben Turner (Corendon-Circus)
1 Bethany Crumpton (Storey Racing)
2 Anna Kay (Storey Racing)
3 Ffion James (Storey Racing)
1 Anna Kay (Storey Racing)
2 Ffion James (Storey Racing)
3 Emily Wadsworth (TP Racing)
1 Josie Nelson (RST Race Team)
2 Katie Scott (Hargroves-Ridley-Montezuma’s
3 Anna Flynn (Edinburgh RC)
1 Ben Tulett (IKO-Beobanks)
2 Jenson Young (Oldfield/Paul Milnes Cycles ERT)
3 Simon Wyllie (Halesowen A&CC)