The HSBC UK | National Trophy returns to the South East this weekend, with Ardingly’s South of England showground hosting round 4.
A popular event last season, the organisers have this year promised some enhancements to the course that, although not offering a great deal of elevation, is nonetheless technical and attritional with its combination of heavy grass banks, bombholes, and gravel tracks.
With the UEC European Cyclo-cross Championships taking place concurrently in Italy, a number of series high flyers, particularly in the U23 and junior categories are missing, opening the door to a number of riders looking to gain valuable series points in their absence. Therefore round 4 sees a huge entry from continental riders, particularly in the elite men’s division, with around 30 Belgian and Dutch riders making the trip to Ardingly, promising some enthralling racing.
In the men’s division Ian Field (Neon Velo) leads the series and has been imperious in the opening three rounds, with his characteristic smoothness of technique and power looking every bit as effective as ever as he goes in pursuit of an incredible seventh national trophy series title.
Field brings good form into this race having placed highly on the fearsome Koppenburg in Belgium 10 days ago, but he faces a huge challenge here from the Dutch and Belgian contingent making the trip to the UK in search of UCI points. Previous round winner Gosse van der Meer (Bombtrack Bicycles p/b Hunt Wheels) is in attendance, as is Field’s team mate and series regular Yorben Van Tichelt (Neon-Velo), but realistically you could look to around a dozen of the Dutch and Belgian entrants as serious contenders for the win in what promises to be a fascinating race.
Other UK-based riders to look out for are the U23 division’s Jenson Young (Garden Shed UK-SCOTT-Verge Sport), Callum Macleod (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes) and particularly Sean Flynn (Team Inspired) who, despite starting way down the grid in the previous round in Scotland, stormed through the field for a podium finish, earning a place on the third row of the grid this time out.
Senior & Junior Women
The women’s race is the division most affected by riders chosen to represent Great Britain at the European championships, with all the leading series contenders and previous rounds’ winners in action in Italy. An indication of how strong the women’s field has become is that, despite the absence of so many riders, the race still boasts a high-quality field and, as in the men’s race, a high number of continental riders will challenge the British contingent for the win.
The highest-ranked of these is Suzanne Verhoeven (XALT Cycling) who lines up alongside domestic favourites Beth Crumpton (Tarteletto – Isorex) and Ffion James (Hope Factory Racing), both looking for their first national trophy wins of the series. U23s Sophie Thackray (SCOTT Racing) and Fiona Turnbull (Slingshot) start on the front row alongside junior Maddie Wadsworth (Beeline Bicycles), all sure to put in a strong challenge for podium places.
Great Britain boasts a powerful junior men’s squad in action in Italy over the weekend, opening the door here for a first series win for a number of riders who have been contesting podium places so far this season.
Daniel Barnes (Garden Shed UK-SCOTT-Verge Sport) starts as favourite but could be pushed hard by Alec Gregory (8point8 Group) and William Truelove (Abergavenny RC) who had a storming ride in the previous round at Irvine. Look out also for a serious challenge from Joe Blackmore (Rotor Racing), a local rider who is in great form and targeting a good performance here.
The weekend’s action kicks off on Saturday with the veteran men’s races where Nick Craig (SCOTT racing) has looked unbeatable in the 50-59 category in the previous two rounds. He starts as clear favourite but will be wary of a strong challenge from all the leading series contenders, led by Pete Middleton (www.Zepnat.com RT - Lazer helmets) and Mark James (Dream Cycling), while Andrew Peace (Shibden Cycling Club) has also been in good form so far this season.
The concurrently-running 60+ men’s category sees Nick Welsh of the organising club Crawley Wheelers looking to challenge Malcolm Cross (VC Venta) for a local win, and expect a strong challenge from Dave McMullen (Cotswold Veldrijden), who’s also on the front row of the grid.
In the 40-49 men’s division, Adrian Lansley (Pedalon) is looking for a fourth straight series win in Ardingly and such has been his margin of victory in the previous three rounds that it’s hard to see anyone toppling him here, but Tony Fawcett (SCOTT racing) and Paul Lloyd (Banjo Cycles/Raceware/Specialized) - his nearest challengers - are both in attendance and will jump all over any mistakes that Lansley makes.
The women’s categories see a return to racing for the dominant Maddie Smith (Bolsover & District CC), who, despite missing the previous round through injury, starts as favourite in the V50 race, while Kate Eeedy (Team Empella Cyclo-Cross.Com), another rider in search of a fourth straight series win, starts as favourite in the V40 race.
In the 60+ category, series leader and world champion Nicola Davies (www.cyclocrossrider.com) is not in attendance at this round which should open the door for her main series rival Sally Reid (Magspeed Racing) trying to capitalise with a win.
The most hotly-contested categories of the day are likely to be between the massive number of boys starting in both the U14 and U16 races. In the U16s, Max Greensill (Hope Factory Racing) and Oli Akers (Garden Shed UK-SCOTT-Verge Sport) have both been in imperious form, taking a win and a second each at the iconic Koppenberg and Ruudervoorde races in Belgium last weekend.
The two re-join the battle on UK soil here and it’s hard to see anyone beating them to the line despite a high-quality field in attendance trying to do just that. The U14s looks a lot more open, with a number of riders trying to overcome the winner of the two previous rounds, Sebastian Grindley (North Cheshire Clarion).
Winner of round 1 Alfie Amey (DB racing) was in great form in winning the London League race six days ago and will put up a strong challenge, but any number of riders from the front row of a strong grid could be in contention.
Another rider making a name for herself on the continent in the previous week was Zoe Backstedt (Storey Racing), who returns after missing the previous round. Wins in the opening two rounds of the U16 girls makes her clear favourite for the win here but a strong front row of the grid should make the race very interesting.
Maddie Cooper (Jam Cycling RT) returns full of confidence after an impressive maiden series win in Scotland with Libby Bell (Leicester Forest CC), Emily Carrick Anderson (T-Mo Racing), Hope Inglis (JRC Racing), Ella Maclean-Howell (Cardiff Jif) and Niamh Murphy (Pedalon) also all looking to make like difficult for Backstedt in pursuit of podium places.
The U14 category sees another rider aiming for four straight wins, as Carys Lloyd (VC Londres) looks to continue her domination. Lloyd has proved a master of race-management in winning the opening three rounds, and the rider most likely to push her closest is team-mate Lucy Wollaston, who missed round two but starts fourth on the grid in Ardingly.
As well as Lucy Glover (Derwentside CC) putting in a strong challenge, expect a hard push from Gretta Carey (Pedalon), who unluckily suffered a race-ending mechanical in the previous round when challenging for a podium spot and will be looking to make amends on her local course.