The first round of the British Cycling National Youth Circuit Series - the Kudos Youth Circuit - took place at the Hetton Lyons Park circuit which, like Fowlmead in Kent and Bryn Mawr in South Wales, is on the site of a former colliery.
The riders may all have been minors but for most of them this was their first major race of the year and the conditions weren’t kind with a strong and bitterly cold wind.
The under 8s race kicked off proceedings with the best solo win of the day. James Brown of Palmer Park Velo rode away from the start and although Joel Hurt of Stockton Wheelers look as though he was making inroads at half distance, in the final couple of laps Brown started to pull away again. He was so dominant that he managed to lap everyone up to third place.
Hurt’s team mate Daisy Freer took the win in the girls’ race, giving the local club three of the top six places.
Last year's under 10 Champion Ben Askey of Lichfield City CC looked like the one to beat on paper this season, although some very strong under 8 riders have moved up with Daniel Wylie-Morris of Abergavenny Road Club, Niall Colquitt of Team Royal London 360 Isle of Man, Awen Roberts of Towy Riders and Finn Hawkins of Palmer Park Velo all likely to be in the mix.
In the end, only Roberts figured, taking third in the girls’ race behind Evelina Black of Bolton Hot Wheels and Grace Castle of Newcastle Phoenix. Perhaps because of the strength of the field the boys’ race came down to a sprint and it was James Higham of Eastlands Velo that took it from Lewis Dolan of organising club Marton Racing Team with Griff Lewis off West Wales Cycle Racing Team in third.
With a lot of last year’s field moving up to the under 14s, the under 12s field was wide open and initially the race looked like it might be another bunch sprint until three from home when Robert Donaldson of Mossley CRT rode away from the field to take a solo win. Guto Dafydd of Towy Riders took second with Matti Egglestone of Beacon Wheelers in third.
Becky Surridge of VC Londres won the girls’ race from Anna Flynn of Edinburgh RC and Maddie Wadsworth of Beeline Bicycles Racing Team.
Under-14 and under-16 girls
The top three from last year's under 16 girls category have moved up to the junior ranks, leaving Charlotte Broughton of MG Decor and Sophie Capewell of Lichfield City CC as pre-season favourites for this year's Series - although with four of last season's 2013 under 14 top five - winner Jessica Roberts – now riding for RST Racing Team, Lowri Thomas of Abergavenny RC, Elizabeth Bennett of Cardiff JIF and Lauren Murphy of Team Milton Keynes all on the grid, the older girls weren't going to have it all their own way.
They weren’t going to waste any energy either so, inevitably, the under 14 girls who had started 30 seconds behind them caught them within a few laps of the start. They were smart enough to take advantage of the situation, creating a large, mixed bunch that circulated – give or take the odd probing ride off the front – for the remainder of the race.
The bunch sprint saw Eleanor Dickinson take under 16 honours for RST Racing Team with team mate Jessica Roberts showing that she’s going to fit right in to the older age group by taking third, just behind Rhona Callander of Stirling Bike Club.
Further back in the bunch, Ellie Park – who’d led the charge to join with the older girls – took the win for Glasgow Riderz ahead of Ann Docherty of Clifton CC and Pfeiffer Georgi of Giant Cycling Club-Halo Films.
Runaway 2013 under 12 champion Lewis Askey of Lichfield City CC moves up to the under 14s this year along with runner-up Owain Roberts of Towy Riders and with all of the top riders in the category either riding as under 16s this year or not present at the opening round, they looked to have a good chance in a wide-open field.
But the move from one age group to another can be tough, and although Askey was a prominent feature in the bunch and would finish a creditable seventh, he was the best of the new intake by some way.
The race started off at a fast pace with the bunch gradually shrinking as it lost riders out the back, but it came down to a gallop up the hill towards the finish line and it was Euan Cameron of East Bradford CC who took the win from Jack Ford of Wakefield Triathlon Club with Benjamin Moody of Achieve Skinnergate Racing taking third.
All of the top five from last year's under 16 championship moved up to the juniors this year - underlining how tough the transition from under 14 can be.
Nonetheless, William Turnbull of host club Marton Wheelers, Anthony Anderson of Sigma Sport, Harry Hardcastle of Kirkland Academy and Harry Yates of Lichfield City CC would be trying to carry over their good form from last season. And, once again, it was the Lichfield City CC rider who proved the best of the new graduates and, again, he was seventh.
The race was fast and furious and saw a number of attacks – particularly in the later stages but, in truth, none of them looked likely to stay away. Grant Martin of Spokes Racing Team built up the biggest lead of the race, pulling out over 20 seconds at one point, but when the bunch decided they wanted him back, back he came.
The well organized new Sports Traider Race Team was frequently at the front and often involved in pulling back the breaks, and were rewarded with second place for Sebastian Dickens as the race, again, came back together for a bunch sprint.
The other team that had been active at the front was Velocity WD-40 and it was Matthew Walls who took the win for them – with his team mate Reece Wood in third.
Under 8 boys
1 James Brown Palmer Park Velo
2 Joel Hurt Stockton Wheelers CC
3 Adam Makepiece Stockton Wheelers CC
Under 8 girls
1 Daisy Freer Stockton Wheelers CC
2 Imogen Peatfield Bolton Hot Wheels
3 Amelia Cleathero Hetton Hawks
Under 10 boys
1 James Higham Eastlands Velo
2 Lewis Dolan Marton Racing Team
3 Griff Lewis West Wales Cycle Racing Team
Under 10 girls
1 Evelina Black Bolton Hot Wheels
2 Grace Castle Newcastle Phoenix
3 Awen Roberts Towy Riders
Under 12 boys
1 Robert Donaldson Mossley CRT
2 Guto Dafydd Towy Riders
3 Matti Egglestone Beacon Wheelers
Under 12 girls
1 Becky Surridge VC Londres
2 Anna Flynn Edinburgh RC
3 Maddie Wadsworth Beeline Bicycles Racing Team
Under 14 girls
1 Ellie Park Glasgow Riderz
2 Anna Docherty Clifton CC
3 Pfeiffer Georgi Giant Cycling Club-Halo Films
Under 16 girls
1 Eleanor Dickinson RST Racing Team
2 Rhona Callander Stirling Bike Club
3 Jessica Roberts RST Racing Team
Under 14 boys
1 Euan Cameron East Bradford CC
2 Jack Ford Wakefield Junior Triathlon Club
3 Benjamin Moody Achieve Skinnergate Racing
Under 16 boys
1 Matthew Walls Velocity WD-40
2 Sebastian Dickens Mid Devon CC
3 Reece Wood Velocity WD-40