Grant Ferguson timed his race to perfection to claim his fifth consecutive HSBC UK | National Cross Country Championships title at Cannock’s Tackeroo site, as Annie Last took an emphatic victory in the women’s race.
Ferguson (CST American Eagle) was part of an initial three-man break that eased away from a strong field on the second lap of a seven lap race.
As expected it was the eventual race winner who, along with Phil Pearce (BW Cycling) and Ian Field (Hargroves-Ridley), made the first move of the race which was, ultimately the move of the race.
Tom Bell (Delv) put in a big effort and managed to hook the lead trio and by the midway point the lead quartet were driving the race.
Sherwood Pines’ Dave Fletcher missed the initial break and spent the race sitting in fifth place unable to bridge the now increasing gap to the leaders.
As the leaders entered the final lap, it would be anyone’s guess when the attack would happen. They stayed as one on the big loop out of the arena and through the second feed but, as the race took to the single track descent away from the arena, Ferguson attacked, knowing he could not be passed.
It proved to be the money move and he held a big enough gap on the final few kilometres to climb onto the finish straight with enough time to straighten his jersey and take a well deserved victory.
“I had in my mind it could have been a close finish so I wanted to go before the finish straight,” said Ferguson.
“I did have a go on the first few laps just to try and get a gap but Fieldy and Phil were strong so it made sense to share the work. I’m really happy to get a fifth title.”
Frazer Clacherty (100% ME) retained his National title with a fine win in the Under-23s race.
Clacherty, fresh from his recent World Cup rides with Great Britain, carried his good form from the gun and controlled proceedings throughout.
Chris Rothwell (Ride 24/7) and Westbridge Foods CC’s Dave Creber took Clacherty’s wheel for most of the race but the eventual winner had the measure of the pair and jumped away in the closing laps to ride solo to the finish line.
Iain Paton (Leslie Bike Shop) found his legs midway through the race and worked his way through to overhaul both Rothwell and Creber to take second spot across the line whilst Rothwell had to be content with the bronze.
And in the junior men’s race, Dan Tulett (Specialized Racing) took the win after a five lap tussle with Cameron Orr (SF Racing).
The pair rode away on the second lap from a strong looking group of seven that included the pre race favourites, while a clever ride by Calum Fernie (Nottingham Clarion) ensured a bronze medal.
In the women’s race, Last’s victory saw her claim her sixth national title.
Carrying her good form over from her recent World Cup victory in Switzerland, the OMX Pro Team rider was never troubled from the gun and took the win some 14 minutes to the good of the rest of the field.
Kerry MacPhee (Rock & Road), who took second place in 2016, rode a steady race to add another silver to her collection but couldn’t make any inroads to the race leader.
Jane Barr (Velocity 44RT) looked to have a strong opening few laps - the current series leader was in the mix with MacPhee until around the midway point when a chasing Jo Clay (TORQ Performance) came into the finish arena ahead of Barr with a gap that kept her in the hunt for the silver.
But MacPhee wasn’t going to roll over easily and she kept enough pace to prevent Clay from stealing her place.
“It was a good course today, you can never second guess Cannock because you are never sure what parts of the course they are going to use but it was a good mix this weekend,” said Last.
“I enjoyed riding it, it made you think all race, there weren’t any simple sections to ease up.”
Evie Richards took a fine win in the Under-23 race, although the 100% rider had to work hard throughout the race to keep a gap from a charging Isla Short (OMX Pro Team).
Richards, who has won two rounds of the national series this year, started as pre-race favourite, but from the gun didn’t have an easy time with Short, but managed to keep her at bay for silver, with Ffion James taking bronze.
And in the junior race, Emily Wadsworth (Beeline Bikes RT) took the lead from the gun and never relinquished it.
Posting the quickest times every lap, it became obvious she would take the title, with Patsy Caines(Merida Factory Racing) taking silver and Nutcracker Altura’s Kim Baptista the bronze.