Frazer Clacherty and Sophie Wright were the big winners at the fourth and penultimate round of the 2018 HSBC UK | National Cross Country Series held at Suffolk’s Phoenix Bike Park.
Both riders claimed their first national series victories with Clacherty’s impressive solo effort ensuring the race for the elite men’s title will go down to the final round after Grant Ferguson was unable to make it a hat-trick of wins.
With no major climbs but a couple of tricky drop-off features to contend with, it was the sheer speed of the dry, dusty trails that provided the main technical challenge for the riders, creating a thrilling spectacle of fast paced racing.
Delight for Wright as Harnden impresses
With the previous three round winners not in action at Phoenix Bike Park there was a huge opportunity for a maiden national series victory for someone.
It always looked likely the race would feature a head to head battle between Sophie Wright (Renvale RT) and current series leader Kerry MacPhee.
And so it transpired in the early laps as the two broke away early on, following a spirited attempt by the ever improving Amy-Jo Hansford (Mud Sweat & Gears) to go with the early pace.
When the two favourites finally managed to snap the elastic to Hansford they were quickly away and clear and trading blows off the front of the race in a high speed dog-fight.
With two looking destined to fight to the finish, the spectators were then treated to the amazing spectacle of Harriet Harnden (T-Mo Racing) coming past them having started in the junior race, some two minutes behind them.
This was an amazing display of power and technique from Harnden and served to pull Wright away from MacPhee as she managed to hold the wheel of the flying junior for slightly longer.
Finishing a lap earlier than the elites, Harnden celebrated a hugely impressive victory leaving Wright to finish a solo, final lap and take her first senior national series victory.
“The road racing has been really helping me lately and I’m noticing the difference” said Wright, referring to her second-place result in the CiCLE Classic road race seven days previous.
“I’ve been tending to go well towards the end of races recently so I was confident I could do well if the two of us stayed away.
“Then when Harriet came across I didn’t worry because she wasn’t in our race but I stayed with her for a while and that pulled us away from Kerry.”
Clacherty denies Ferguson
The smile says it all! @FrazerClacherty wins today’s British National Series at Phoenix Bike Park. So good to see our rider on the top step, and always special to do it on home turf. #weareOMX #BornToBeFast #SilverbackOMX pic.twitter.com/4Vi8tRSHGx— Silverback OMX Pro Team (@OMXProTeam) June 10, 2018
Grant Ferguson was fully aware that following wins in the previous two rounds, a hat-trick in Suffolk would tie up his first series title since 2013 with a race to spare.
But things could hardly have started worse when the CST American Eagle rider suffered a puncture before getting half way round the first lap.
Fortunately, with the pits strategically positioned early in the lap, a quick change saw him back and chasing hard after an active lead group of around ten riders that contained all of the main contenders in the series overall.
The group was followed by a similar sized chase group which acted as a stepping stone for Ferguson as he first joined the back of the pursuers then calmly completed the bridge across to the first group snaking its way through the by now roasting hot, dusty single track.
On seeing Ferguson join the group at the head of the race, eventual winner Clacherty made his move, putting in an attack that saw him draw clear of the bunch and gradually open a gap of around 30 seconds with a third of the race to go.
The chasing group eventually fragmented into a main chase group of four riders with Ferguson attacking on the final rise before the finishing arena to take second ahead of the impressive Isaac Pucci (Sigma Sports x Threo).
This was Clacherty’s first senior national series win and also the first national series win for his Solverback OMX outfit.
“I knew that Grant had had a problem and when I saw him chase down the group I realized he might have been quite tired so I attacked,” revealed Clacherty after securing a first national series win for his Silverback OMX outfit.
“I felt a lot safer on this kind of course riding out front alone. I feel really good to win on this type of course because I wouldn’t have considered it to be my kind of track.”
The junior men’s race developed into a battle between Charlie Aldridge (Stirling Bike Club) who eventually won it after a rear wheel puncture forced series leader Marcus Holmes (Lichfield City CC) out of the leading group. Cycling Ulster’s Lee Harvey impressed to take second.
1. Sophie Wright (Renvale RT)
2. Kerry MacPhee (Unattached)
3. Amy-Jo Hansford (Mud Sweat & Gears)
1. Frazer Clacherty (Silverback OMX Team)
2. Grant Ferguson (American Eagle)
3. Isaac Pucci (Sigma Sports x Threo)