Chris Rothwell and Evie Richards showed their class as they came out on top in the fifth and final round of the 2018 HSBC UK | National Cross Country Series in Builth Wells.
Trek Factory Racing rider Richards claimed victory at the Royal Welsh Showground in her first appearance in this year’s competition, while Rothwell (BW Racing) achieved his first elite win in the men’s race.
The men’s 2018 series title had already been wrapped up by Grant Ferguson (CST American Eagle) before the finale, with Kerry MacPhee officially crowned overall women’s champion after nearest rival Sophie Wright (Renvale RT) not in action.
Consistency key for MacPhee
MacPhee and Amy-Jo Hansford (Mud Sweat N Gears CC) had been the most consistent riders over the series and were rewarded with first and second in overall standings, respectively.
However, they were beaten on the day by a commanding performance from recently crowned U23 national champion Richards on a blistering hot day around a typically challenging course.
The top three protagonists quickly set off from the front of the pack and opened up gaps between each other and the chasing pack that always looked likely to stay significant to the end.
The only challenge to the three came from junior Harriet Harden (T-Mo Racing), who despite a unusually bad start which saw her dead last off the line, caught and passed all the juniors and seniors except Richards in another stellar performance.
Speaking afterwards, MacPhee said: “This is my fourth season of racing and I’ve never been consistent enough to win the series I am very patient though, so this is great.
“Consistency is good and I’ve finished second at every race this season apart from the first round, but I’m still waiting to get on that top step so I’ll keep chipping away.”
Race winner Richards said: “It was a hard one, I’ve recovered from a bit of illness that I had going into nationals and had a hard block of training before this so I wasn’t feeling too fresh.
“The course was dead dry and fast like all our local trails are at the moment though, so I felt quite comfortable on the course.”
Harden completes hat-trick
The junior women’s title has been one of the most hotly contested all season, with Merida Factory Racing’s Patsy Caines duelling it out with Anna McGorum (Peebles CC).
Caines held a slender lead going into the final round, but both were left in the shadows by new national champion Harden in only her third race of the series.
She duly completed her third straight victory with a trademark ride-away performance, while McGorum rode strongly to finish second and take the series overall.
Rothwell takes charge
The titles in the men’s divisions were decided before the final round but strong fields in both age categories made for no-less exciting racing.
In the senior men’s race, both previous round winners Frazer Clacherty (Silverback OMX Pro Team) and newly-crowned national champion Ferguson (CST American Eagle) were missing.
Ferguson sat the race out with one eye on representing the Great Britain Cycling Team at the European Championships in Glasgow, which left the race open to the other series riders.
An elite group of four formed after the early laps with series high-flyers Jason Bouttell (KTM), Rothwell and Cameron Orr (100%Me) being joined by French challenger Arthur Tropardy (Sunn).
Orr fell away after suffering a couple of mechanical issues, before Rothwell attacked Bouttell on the long road climb and powered to his debut elite victory.
“First Elite win yeah, so really please with that,” he said. “I had a little tumble at the back of the course but got back on quickly.
“I’ve been climbing a bit stronger than Jason so attacked on the hill. I pushed the pace hard and it managed to stick.”
Flynn dominates shoot-out
With the title already sewn up by a string of consistent performances from Lichfield City CC’s Marcus Holmes, the junior men’s race was a simple, straight shoot-out for victory in the final round.
And the Scottish pairing of new national champion Sean Flynn (Edinburgh RC) and Charlie Aldridge (Stirling Bike Club) repeated their dominant performance from two weeks beforehand.
They set a quick pace at the head of the race and soon got away from the rest of the field, before Flynn rode away from Aldridge for a convincing win.
1. Evie Richards (Trek Factory Racing)
2. Kerry MacPhee (Unattached)
3. Amy-Jo Hansford (Mud Sweat & Gears)
1. Chris Rothwell (BW Cycling)
2. Jason Bouttell (Team KTM UK)
3. Arthur Tropardy (Sunn - Beaumes De Venise)