National-level cyclo-cross made a welcome return in England this weekend, with Amira Mellor and Toby Barnes taking victories in the elite categories at the first round of the HSBC UK | Cyclo-cross National Trophy series.
The event, which was held at Westmorland County Showground in Cumbria, featured a range of new Covid-mitigations to ensure the safety of all attendees, and was well-received by the competing riders.
Amira Mellor was back to her old form to take her first national series win in the elite women’s race for Albion Cycling Co – her first for some five years. It was Mellor who, along with Sophie Thackray (Garden Shed UK-SCOTT-Verge Sport) and Ffion James (Hope Factory Racing), set the early pace to get a gap on Maddie Wadsworth (Team RYTGER), Josie Nelson (Cero-Cycle Division) and Xan Crees (Team Empella) in the opening laps.
By the half-way point it was Mellor and Thackray who distanced James and set off to take a Yorkshire 1-2, and Mellor proved too strong for Thackray and distanced the under 23 rider on the penultimate lap to take a solo victory. As in the previous day’s racing a changing surface would play its part in the outcome, and Nelson took advantage of the tricky conditions to take third.
Toby Barnes (Cero-Cycle Division) took the win in the elite men’s race after an early tussle with brother Dan Barnes (Garden Shed UK-SCOTT-Verge Sport), Jenson Young (Saint Piran) and Ian Field (CX Syndicate). The quartet made the move early on the opening lap and set a blistering pace, which saw a good number of the field out of contention before the end of the first lap.
A front wheel puncture saw six-time national trophy series winner Field having to exchange bikes on the second lap, which dropped him to seventh place before a battle back to re-join the front-runners.
Toby Barnes powered on to victory at the head of the race, doing enough to keep a safe gap to the chasing pair of Dan Barnes and Field. The pair were locking bars coming into the final bend but it was Field who found the legs to take the sprint and the silver medal.
Millie Couzens took an emphatic win in the junior women’s race, in the first outing for her new team IKO-Crelan. Storming away from the grid the current national champion built an unassailable lead which left the rest of the field fighting it out for the final two podium places.
While the trio of Maddie Cooper (Jam Cycling RT), Ella MacLean-Howell (Cardiff JIF) and Lotta Mansfield (Cero-Cycle Division) battled to close the gap, it would be Couzens who dominated the first race of the day to take the chequered flag. Mansfield suffered a slipped chain mid-race, allowing Cooper and Maclean-Howell to take second and third respectively.
Joe Blackmore (ROTOR Race Team) put in a storming ride to take the junior men’s race. The ROTOR Race Team rider had a poor start but steadily worked through the field to take the lead on the penultimate lap, and made no mistake once there to take the victory.
It was Nathan Smith (BNECC) who settled into an early lead with Adam Bent (Green Jersey CC RT), Callum Laborde (Iceni Vleo) and Ben Askey (Backstedt Bike Performance), but with an ever-drying course the shape of the race continued to change throughout. However, once the lead was established by Blackmore the remainder of the podium slotted into place in the closing laps.