Multi-time National Champion Ian Field and talented under-23 rider Harriet Harnden conquered muddy conditions on their way to victories in the second round of the National Cyclo-Cross Trophy Series.
In contrast to the fast racing of round one, the tough mud at Westmorland Showground in Milnthorpe, Cumbria led to exciting racing throughout the weekend.
The venue which was used in the National Trophy Series for the first time proved a popular one with the course including short banks and tricky off-camber descents which tested the skills and fitness of competitors.
Neon-Velo CT rider Field is looked for his seventh consecutive National Trophy title and took back the yellow leader’s jersey with an impressive ride from the front.
Following the opening exchanges Field took the lead on the second lap and forced the pace taking Goose van der Meer (Bombtrack Bicycles p/b Hunt Wheels) with him.
Youngsters Callum Macleod (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes) and Toby Barnes (RST/Cycle Division RT), who had led the initial charge, were left chasing after the leading pair early on.
Cameron Mason (Trinity Racing) joined the chase before Macleod faded away, not helped by a heavy fall in the tricky off-camber descent.
Van der Meer was next to have issues as his chain came off allowing a charging Mason to bridge the gap and Field to get away.
As the race wore on the senior riders proved their strength with van der Meer gapping Mason leaving him to battle with fellow under-23 David Conroy (Scott-Eurocycles.com) for third place, with Barnes dropping back.
Conroy caught Mason and passed him, only for his fellow youngster to remain on his heels and regain third place coming into the final lap.
At the front Field had built a winning margin of over 50 seconds ahead of van der Meer while Conroy overcame Mason for third.
Meanwhile Field took the overall leader’s yellow jersey while Barnes took the under-23 green jersey.
“It was pretty tough and hard to ride around that course let alone trying to race around it,” said Field.
“The under-23s went off like rockets and I was a little bit worried after half-a-lap but then they all calmed down and I made my way through.
“I was just trying to keep it smooth and just trying to not make mistakes. It was one of those races where I was trying to do the same thing every lap and it was more of a process than trying to go as fast as possible.
“I was just trying to keep it smooth and get to the finish with no trouble really. I changed bike every lap and in the final lap had a half-lap change as my chain rode off in the mud.
“Apart from that, it was pretty simple. I loved the course and it was proper cross, that’s my kind of thing, running, on and off the bike, skills and mud. That’s what I love I don’t particularly enjoy criteriums.”
Field was joined in the early stages of the race by van der Meer, Field added: “He never came past me so I presumed he was under pressure and there was a few little bits where I was getting a gap every lap on him.
“I was trying to break the course down and ride the easy bit easy and the hard bits hard. He would come back to me on the easy bits so I thought I had it under control but you never know.”
Harriet Harnden (T-MO Racing) used her technical skills to ride away from her opposition and to clinch victory in the women’s race.
Harnden, who was the junior women’s National Champion last season, missed the opening round at Derby but returned with vengeance to ride away from her opponents on the opening lap.
However, it was junior rider Josie Nelson (RST/Cycle Division RT) who chose the perfect line up the opening muddy climb and stretched away to an early lead.
Harnden soon closed the gap and worked her way to the front, taking the lead before the opening lap had finished.
She was chased by under-23 series leader Sophie Thackray (SCOTT Racing) and Millie Couzens (PH-MAS/Paul Milnes).
After her quick start Nelson initially dropping back to a chasing group of four fighting out the category positions.
Thackray led the chase behind Harnden keeping her effort steady while Couzens had a few problems in the difficult conditions.
However, with a lap remaining Couzens replied and drew back level up the starting climb.
Thackray responded but saw her margin pulled back again before Couzens snatched second overall with her rival settling for third.
The result also saw Couzens take the junior leader’s jersey with Anna Flynn (Edinburgh RC) finishing second junior and Nelson third.
Thackray’s third place finish saw her retain her under-23 leader’s jersey lead.
However, Thackray’s third place overall saw her narrowly miss out on the overall leader’s jersey, which went to fourth place on the day Flynn.
“I was a bit shocked as it’s my first cyclo-cross race of the season having just come back from racing the Trophy of Nations in Enduro [MTB] so I haven’t really ridden my cross bike, said Harnden.
“It was 25 degrees and sunny where I was a week ago and I’ve come to 10 degrees and chucking with rain, so it’s a big difference but it’s how I like cyclo-cross.
“It was crazy, really tough with so much running and it was a real shock to the system. I prefer the mud over a dry course and think that I would have really struggled at Derby with it being so fast.
“With this being slower with a lot more features including banks and hurdles in the wet, it was definitely my thing.
“I was lucky enough to start on the front row so was close to the front from the start fortunately.”
Rory McGuire (Leslie Bike Shop/Bikers Boutique) made it two wins from two in the series, despite being pushed all the way in the junior men’s race.
After riding away from his rivals in the opening round McGuire was joined by Oliver Stockwell (Flamme Rough) throughout the race in Cumbria before a last lap attack gave him victory, despite a late scare.
The pair took the head of the race from the opening muddy climb and traded blows throughout as each made small mistakes on the slippery surface.
Behind the battle for third saw seven riders within a chance of a podium place.
Daniel Barnes (Garden Shed UK-SCOTT-Verge Sport) led the charge for third and was initially joined by the fast-starting Joseph Pidcock (Fensham Howes- MAS Design).
Barnes distanced the chasers before making a mistake and allowing them to draw back, however he was able to increase his advantage back out to over 30 seconds.
At the front of proceedings McGuire attacked Stockwell leaving the pits on the final lap and powered through the mud away from his rival.
Meanwhile, Barnes kept his momentum to seal the final podium place.
“It was very slidey but I actually enjoyed it,” said McGuire.
“It was really hard with a lot of running, but I’m quite good at running, so it was pretty good.
“I thought he (Oliver Stockwell) might be strong and I tried a few times to get on the front, but he was so strong.
“At the end, I’m good at short efforts so I just went really hard in the last three minutes and managed to get a tiny gap.
“I got a really good bike change and got straight into the pedals and it was only half-a-lap to go so it was now or never, I gave it a go.
“I felt really dead up the run but thought to myself that he would be feeling the same so just pushed on to see if I could get a gap.
“I made a tiny mistake at the end but had a big enough gap that it was alright. There was a lot of small mistakes as it was so muddy.
“I’ve not done a mud race in a while, I’m pretty happy, I really enjoyed this race as it was closer racing and I thought it was really fun.”
The veteran men over-50 kicked off proceedings and as expected heavy conditions were made more interesting as the morning dew left a slippery top surface.
Nick Craig (SCOTT Racing) was very much tipped as pre-race favourite but suffered an early mechanical when his shifter snapped after a small collision early in the race.
The bike remained rideable though allowing Craig to get to his spare bike in the pits. He then chased down leader Pete Middleton (www.Zepnat.com RT) before opening a race-winning margin to take the victory.
Mark James (Dream Cycling) fulfilled a dream of his own with a first National Trophy podium after a fine ride to third behind Middleton.
Favourite and round one winner Adrian Lansley (Pedalon.co.uk) continued his rich vein of form with a dominant performance to take the win in the veteran 40-49 age category with Lewis Craven (Wheelbase CabTech Castelli) in second and Tony Fawcett (SCOTT Racing) rounding out the podium while Roy Hunt (Team Kinesis UK) took the veteran’s aged over-60 honours.
A repeat of round one saw the veteran women’s categories put on a great spectacle of racing with them making light of conditions that were rapidly changing from slippery to grippy as the course dried out.
In the veteran aged 40-49 category, Kate Eedy (Team Empella Cyclo-Cross.com) took a second National Trophy series win in a row with a fine performance where she never looked threatened.
Behind her a string of riders duked it out in a high speed chase group containing Helen Pattinson (Hargroves-Montezuma’s), Alison Kinloch (PH-Mas/Paul Milnes Cycles), Jennifer Forrester (www.Zepnat.com RT- Lazer), Lucy Siddle (Allen Valley Vello) and Helen Dussek (Garden Shed UK-Scott-Verge Sport).
The drying conditions saw gaps appearing by the latter laps and Siddle emerged as Eedy’s closest challenger at the line, taking an impressive second place with Kinloch coming through in third.
Maddie Smith (Bolsover & District CC) was once again in untouchable form in riding away from the field to take the veteran 50-59 age category win once again.
One of the races of the day saw Sally Reid (Magspeed Racing) and Nicola Davies (www.cyclocrossrider.com) locked in a battle which saw the lead change several times as they literally went shoulder to shoulder through some of the course’s off-camber banks.
Again, it was Davies who took the win on the line for her second series win.
Zoe Backstedt (Storey Racing) executed a trademark ride-away performance to take the under-16 girls win and once again it was her Welsh compatriot Ella Maclean-Howell (Cardiff JIFF) who proved her closest challenger.
But the race was memorable for the performance of Hope Inglis (Team JRC) who as a first year under-16 is proving to be an emerging talent of some stature.
Inglis pushed Maclean-Howell hard and was always in touch with the second placed rider, eventually taking her first podium in third.
The under-14 race saw another repeat performance of round one as Carys Lloyd (VC Londres) rode off the front to take her second, consecutive win.
She was pushed very hard in the final lap by her team-mate Lucy Wollaston who, after an early mistake relegating her as low as 16th on lap one stormed through the field leaving everyone wondering what might have been if she’s had a solid opening lap.
Cat Ferguson (Cycle Sport Pendle) continued a recent run of impressive form by taking third.
The under-14 boys’ race was won in imperious fashion by a strong ride from round one runner-up Sebastian Grindley (North Cheshire Clarion), who rode off the front early and never looked like being caught.
With series leader Alfie Amey (DB Racing) only managing to finish eighth in a chase group slightly distanced from the top three, Grindley took over the overall leader’s green jersey.
After his barnstorming ride to win the first round from a grid position of 63, Max Greensill (Hope Factory Racing) was nailed on favourite to take the win in the under-16s category from a position on the front row.
However, Oliver Akers (Garden-Shed UK-Scott-Verge Sport) had other ideas, attacking early and riding away from the field with a classy performance.
Greensill was nonetheless impressive in finishing second following a couple of early-race mistakes that left him off the pace.
He calmly picked off riders one by one with overall series points in mind, eventually overcoming the diminutive Bjoern Koerdt (East Bradford Race Team), himself on a stellar ride to third, late on the last lap to retain the series leader’s jersey.
1 Ian Field (Neon-Velo CT)
2 Goose van der Meer (Bombtrack Bicycles p/b Hunt Wheels)
3 David Conroy (Scott-Eurocycles.com)
1 David Conroy (Scott-Eurocycles.com)
2 Cameron Mason (Trinity Racing)
3 Toby Barnes (RST/Cycle Division RT)
1 Harriet Harnden (T-MO Racing)
2 Millie Couzens (PH-MAS/Paul Milnes)
3 Sophie Thackray (SCOTT Racing)
1 Harriet Harnden (T-MO Racing)
2 Sophie Thackray (SCOTT Racing)
3 Fiona Turnbull (Slingshot)
1 Millie Couzens (PH-MAS/Paul Milnes)
2 Anna Flynn (Edinburgh RC)
3 (RST/Cycle Division RT)
1 Rory McGuire (Leslie Bike Shop/Bikers Boutique)
2 Oliver Stockwell (Flamme Rough)
3 Daniel Barnes (Garden Shed UK-SCOTT-Verge Sport)