Grant Ferguson and Annie Last both took victories in the final round of the British Cycling National Cyclo-cross Trophy Series.
Held at Moorways Leisure Centre in Derby, the sixth round saw Ian Field of Hargroves Cycles finish second to Ferguson, but it was enough for him to take overall victory in the elite men's category of the series.
Annie Last won the elite women’s race with series winner Amira Mellor finishing second. Mellor had already sealed top spot overall after the penultimate round in Bradford with the 17-year-old placed on the podium in every race.
Grant Ferguson put in a flawless performance to take victory in the final round of the British Cycling National Trophy Cyclo-cross Series, crossing the line 23 seconds ahead of overall winner Ian Field.
Ferguson, riding for Superior-Brentjens, made a strong start to the race as he and another under-23 rider, Yorben Van Tichelt, controlled the opening stages.
Back in third, Tom Van Den Bosch was looking after Hargroves teammate Ian Field with the three-time national champion on his wheel.
Ferguson and Van Tichelt opened up a ten-second lead on the four Hargroves riders behind them and Jack Clarkson, who was holding a two-point lead in the under-23 category going into the final race, also chasing hard.
Clarkson’s quick start took its toll and rival Ben Sumner chased him down to move into fifth.
On the third lap, Ferguson dropped Van Tichelt on the far side of the course as the fog came down and the temperature dropped massively.
Clarkson continued to drop back leaving Sumner to push on to take the under-23 title and with four laps to go, Ian Field had moved ahead of Van Tichelt but Ferguson had a 15-second gap on him.
Alex Paton, Field’s closest rival going into the race, was struggling to break into the top five and all Field had to do to win the series was to hold on to his position.
Field managed to get Ferguson in view but couldn’t catch him as the leader looked full of confidence, bunny-hopping over the hurdles.
With Paton down in ninth by the end of the race, the path was clear for Field to cross the line 23 seconds behind Ferguson to take his first ever National Trophy title.
Field’s team-mate Van Den Bosch finished third and Malvern Cycle Sport’s Liam Killeen made a late surge forward to finish fourth. Sumner held on to fifth to take the under-23 crown.
Speaking after the race, Grant Ferguson said: "Today has set me up for next week I guess and it has been a good warm up but I did come here to win, I really wanted to win here.
"I’ve been trying to beat Ian (Field) for a while and this is the first trophy race I’ve won so pretty pleased to do that. It was a fast course today and the bikes worked really well, they rode really quick to be honest.
"I’ve put a lot of training in since the last round at Bradford, put a couple of changes in to the training and it seems to have worked pretty well I think."
Ian Field said:"I went into the last round of the Trophy knowing that a top 2 or 3 finish was enough to secure me the title so I could afford to go in a bit tired.
“I had heavy legs for the first few laps and then it was only with two to go I started to feel them a bit too but it’s looking good for this weekend. It was really nice for me and Hargroves to win."
Annie Last put in a commanding performance to take victory in the final round of the elite women’s category of the National Trophy, showing that her injury woes are far behind her.
Last, who still hasn’t yet signed a contract with a team for 2015, made her dominance clear on the opening lap of the race, powering off the front to open up a gap on Annabel Simpson (Hope Factory Racing) and overall series winner Amira Mellor (Paul Milnes – Bradford Olympic).
The front three had a small gap back to Beth Crumpton who had made a steady start to the race and behind her, Merce Pacios Pujadó (Beeline Bicycles RT) was struggling to keep up.
Merce, who went into the race second in the series standings, had an off day and just couldn’t match the furious pace of the leading riders on a fast course.
By the second lap, Last had further stretched her lead and had no problems with a tricky climb which saw a number of the riders fall off at various stages of the race.
Hannah Payton (The Kinesis Morvelo Project) worked her way through the field to catch Simpson whose challenge was now dwindling. Adela Carter (Hope Factory Racing) was challenging at the sharp end of the race, as were Diane Lee and Ffion James but they could do nothing to stop Last romping to victory.
Amira Mellor was comfortable in second and Adela Carter took third to finish second in the overall standings. Pujadó eventually finished in tenth to take third place overall.
Last said after the race: "I was planning to do a few more races before the Nationals next weekend but today was my first 'cross race this season, in fact I didn’t do any 'cross races last season either, so today was the first one since the worlds two years ago.
"I haven’t concentrated on any specific 'cross training this year. I'm just worked on getting fit and strong again generally and moving forward.
"My back is all good now which has allowed me to get stuck in with some serious training. Today has give me a good indication of where I am, you can train all you like but until you actually race you don’t really know where you are fitness-wise.
"So today has boosted the confidence for me and the legs felt great after 40 minutes of racing, they felt really good."
Just four points separated Ian Taylor and Darren Atkins after a series-long battle in the over-40 veterans category, and it was always going to produce an epic finale between the two rivals.
But with a returning national champion Nick Craig taking the start line the final outcome was to be anyone’s guess.
Once again a huge field started the day’s racing. A foggy, frosty morning produced a fast surface and soon had the field strung out. Atkins, Taylor, Welsh champion Tim Davies and Crispin Doyle were soon away from the rest of the field but with the race settling down, Nick Craig started to show his cards and was working through the field and – along with Mike Simpson - was soon knocking on the door of the leaders.
As the laps counted down Craig was setting a blistering pace with Atkins and Taylor as the chasers now looked content to fight for the lower places.
Tim Davies slipped on a tight downhill after the hurdles which ultimately took the Welshman out of contention for a podium spot but he worked well to finish in fourth.
With three laps remaining Craig upped the pace and rode away, Taylor trying to hold the wheel but to no avail. Atkins had started to slip back a little but was still in touching distance to his series rival but a hard, fast race had really decided the final positions on the podium barring any problems.
Still the fight went on between Davies and Simpson but it was Davies who got the better and rode Simpson into fifth. Doyle consolidated his outing finishing sixth.
“I was a bit slow to get going today, I think it was the cold that affected me,” said Nick Craig. “I couldn’t feel my fingers when the mist came down, it was a cold day today. These guys today know how to race, it was a proper race, really fast.
“Ian looked strong today, Darren was looking a lot better out there and was mixing things up, also Tim and Mike weren’t too far behind us so it was really good battle up front.
“I’m racing to defend my jersey next week. I’m looking forward to it, I hope it’s muddy down there, it’s a great course at Abergavenny. I haven’t ridden a national champs there for 10 years and I won the elite race there so it’s the 10-year anniversary which is a bit of an incentive for this coming weekend.
“The effort Abergavenny put into their events is great, everyone gets involved so we know it’s going to be a great event. It’s going to be tight race, we’ve put the training in so it’s time to rest up for a week.”
Meanwhile, Ian Taylor said: “That was a hard race and I really wanted the win as well. I know I had to keep away from Darren and when Nick went I just had to go with him. I don’t think I would have gone if it was just Darren and myself but the last two laps I was really hanging in there.
“It was a really quick race and when Nick decides to go - usually mid race - I think that helped me. I couldn’t have gone that hard on my own so it was good to have him in the race.
“The series was my target this season. I’ve been second in the last two years so I’m pretty pleased with that. I’ll be looking for a podium at the nationals next week, Nick is defending his title but anything can happen so you just never know what may happen.”
Chris Young took a fine win and the series title in the over-50 veterans race after another close-fought battle with old rival Tim Gould.
With title contender Phil Roach away in Switzerland at the world masters championships it was - barring any serious incidents - a parade race for the Yorkshireman. But Gould is never a rider to just turn up, and gave Young a hard race from the off.
The two were soon away and setting a high pace, some 30 seconds on the chasing field along the sweeping Derby course. Mick Davies was heading the field up in third spot, arguably out of any running for a race win.
There was no separating the two leaders until two laps to go when Young made his move and got a gap on Gould, a gap that the chaser would not make back. Mick Davies kept his step on the podium.
“It has all gone pretty much to plan this year, apart from the odd cold, I’ve enjoyed the racing,” said Young. “Having the legend that is Tim Gould back in the races has pushed the racing up a level, just riding with him is just like old times, it’s like going back 30 years.
“It’s been a competitive series,” he added. “We’ve had four different winners which is great for the sport. I didn’t think I’d be racing at this age but it’s a lot of fun. We have a new world champion (Steve Davies) riding with us at the Nationals so I have to beat a world champion to get a national title. It’ll be a good race between myself, Tim, Steve and Phil Roach.”
With the series lead already wrapped up, it was the green leaders jersey of Ben Tulett who took another fine win in the Under 14 boys race, but a hard fought comeback by Lewis Askey gave Tulett something to think about.
Again, it was Charlie Craig who set an early fast pace but relented the lead to a chasing Askey and Tulett. A slip at the hurdles by Askey early in the race offered Tulett a gap which he never relented.
Askey worked hard to pin the race leader back, but once Tulett had the gap it was always going to be difficult to claw it back. Charlie Craig took the final step of the podium and Jenson Young took fourth.
Poppy Wildman took another win in the under-14's girls race and the series overall.
A chasing Nicole Clarke was unable to get a handle on Wildman throughout the race and had to content with second, Harriot Harden rode well throughout the race sitting in third spot until Elena Smith got the better of her relegating the Malvern girl into fourth.
Dan Tulett took another superb win in the under-16's race, once again looking untouchable in the national champion's Jersey. The Hargroves rider was a cut above the rest of the field, but some fine riding by Cameron Orr saw the Sherwood Pines rider take the second spot.
The yellow jersey of series leader Harry Yates finished in third, Yates riding a measured race and consolidating his series lead overall after slipping mid race and losing touch. Harry Hardcastle secured fourth and Durham winner Thomas Mein was fifth.
“I think I’m getting stronger every year,” said Dan Tulett. “We’ve increased the amount of training recently and I’m feeling really good. I’m on the ODP (Olympic Development Programme) with British Cycling this year and its working really well for me.
“Getting second overall in the series is honestly unexpected so I’m over the moon with that, I was expecting top five if I was lucky but to get second is really amazing so yeah I’m happy with that.
“I’m feeling good for Abergavenny and will be looking to keep the title, but anything can happen. Just thinking back to Bradford two years ago, I learnt a big lesson that day so I know anything can happen but my form is good and I’ve never felt better, so next weekend should be a good one.”
And Harry Yates added: “I’m happy with the series overall. It has been a good series of racing and I’ve enjoyed every minute.
“I don’t mind Dan sitting on the line, it’s good to race against a guy who wins world cup races, I know if I choose this career path I’m going to be racing against him for most of that time. He’s just a great rider. For the nationals I’m feeling good - anything can happen in a race. And as we know, I do like Abergavenny and hopefully it’s going to be very muddy.”
Sophie Thackray took her first win in the under 16s race after taking the lead from Emily Wadsworth on the opening lap.
Maddie Gammons’ race was almost over as soon as it started, as a touch of wheels at the start saw the Bourne Wheelers rider lose her footing. But with some deft bike handling she was soon challenging with the leaders.
Thackray’s turn of pace saw the Yorkshire girl open a big gap to a chasing Wadsworth and looked comfortable on the front. Gammons, with her confidence restored, was back into third and closing on Wadsworth but with series leader Riannah Stoves out of contention for the lead, Gammons had to ride clever to ensure the overall victory and content with third she took the series overall.
Tom Craig took a well-earned victory in the juniors race, the current national champion holding series winner Alfie Moses at bay for the majority of the race.
A blistering start by Tom Seaman took the rest of the large field by surprise, but Craig and Moses soon got the measure of the course. Will Gascoyne took third place in arguably his best series race of the season after getting the better of Arthur Green.
A good showing in the early laps by Solihull’s Cameron Biddle was soon overshadowed by Josh Waters and Tom Seaman who had to settle for fifth spot behind Arthur Green.
An exuberant Maddi Smith took victory and retained the series overall in the veteran women’s race.
A close race from the flag saw Smith having to ride hard to fend off Elizabeth Clayton and national champion Tracey Fletcher, but Smith did enough to keep the lead throughout and had the finishing straight to celebrate alone.
Clayton had to work to the finish line to keep Fletcher at bay just four seconds separating the pair, Alison Kinloch took fourth spot and Marie Jackson finished fifth.
Results (with lap splits)
Final overall points (best five from six rides)