Grant Ferguson (Betch NL) and Anne Tauber (Habitat Mountainbike Team) opened their accounts with victories in the opening round of the British Cycling MTB Cross-Country Series in Pembrey, Wales.
Reigning National Champion Ferguson had to wait until the penultimate lap to make his mark on a strong field at the new venue.
A select group of four made the running on the early laps with Ferguson, Liam Killeen (Malvern Cycle Sport), Milan Vader (Netherlands National Team) and Phil Pearce (Specialized Racing) taking control.
Coming off the technical section of Corby’s Drop, those four had a slim gap on Dave Fletcher (Pines-Felt-Enve) and Benoit Jeanniard (Cyclopassion Bourgogne).
It took two laps for the race to settle down and it was the mid-way point before the front runners got into their stride.
The original four had been joined be Jason Boutell (Xrt/Elmy Cycles), Giles Drake (Leisure Lakes) and TORQ’s Alex Welburn, a group that could arguably have taken the win.
As the group took the fourth lap, Vader punctured and had to make a wheel change. That change took a long time and the Dutchman fell from the leaders with Pearce picking up the lead. Killeen and Ferguson were in second and third and the rest of the group had to dig deep to hang on.
Ferguson made his move on the penultimate lap and nobody could match his acceleration.
Pearce and Killeen had dropped some 13 seconds on the leader but Fletcher, sitting in fourth, was beginning to crawl back towards the top three.
Ferguson increased his lead to 43 seconds as he crossed the line for his final lap and barring any problems the victory was his to lose.
Killeen held on to second but it was Fletcher who had bridged the gap and came into the arena to take third. Vader had fought hard to climb back to fourth while Pearce took fifth.
Speaking after the race, Grant Ferguson said: “There were five or six of us for the first four or five laps. There’s a drop feature and it’s quite muddy there. The tracks got pretty slippery. I made a move late in the lap and got a bit of a gap.
“The course has changed a bit since yesterday, it’s mostly sandy and fast. It got a bit slippery in the woods which made it exciting. The drop’s a nice feature. I’m off to the World Cup in a few weeks so I’m going to be working towards that now.”
Anne Tauber (Habitat Mountainbike Team) took a fine win in the Elite women’s race. The Dutch rider hit the front early in the opening lap along with Isla Short (Novus OMX Pro Team) to make a useful gap away from the chase group of Beth Crumpton (Boot Out Cancer) and Lucy Grant (Peebles CC).
Joanne Clay (TORQ Performance) and Jane Barr (Velocity Stirling) were sitting a few seconds off the chasers.
As the race got into a rhythm, Short broke a skewer jamming her back wheel against the frame, forcing her to pit to get the problem sorted.
Tauber, seeing Short’s misfortune, capitalised and opened a gap which couldn’t be closed down by anyone.
Crumpton and Grant also saw Short in the pits and attacked the field. Clay was sitting in fourth while Maxine Filby (Cannonade Gilrs) had made her way up to fifth.
Kerry MacPhee (Rock and Road) and Lucy Allen (Mazing Tree) were unable to make any inroads on the now slippery surface due to heavy rain.
Barr had slipped slightly back to eighth. Short was back on her bike and was fighting through the field after having to start back in dead last, eventually taking a fine 10th place.
Tauber was unstoppable, her lead giving her extra minutes on the rest of the field. Taking the final lap alone, the Dutch girl didn’t put a foot wrong and took the chequered flag over two minutes ahead of Lucy Grant and almost four minutes to the good of Beth Crumpton. Jo Clay and Maxine Filby completed the top five.
Anne Tauber said after her win: “On the first lap, I tried to look for the lines for the girl in front of me. I was looking for a point where I could pass her. Then I saw she had a technical problem. It was a shame for her, she was a good technical rider.
“I really like to ride in the UK, in the rain. For me, that’s the best, I like to ride in the rain when it’s slippery. It was a really fast course with some short climbs, which is also good for me.
“The first two times I practiced the drop off, I crashed really hard and I just kept trying again. But in the race, every time it went great.
Sean Flynn (Edinburgh RC) took a fine win in the Youth Males race after a four-lap battle with a select group that included Ben Tulett (Beeline-Gener8), Sam Caulverwell (Guernsey Velo), Harry Birchall (Certini) and Tim Shoreman (Dales Cycles RT).
The opening race of the day had arguably the kindest weather which made the course fast and dry and presented no real problems with the steep Corby drop. Flynn made his move entering the final stage of the race and rode across the line a handful of seconds ahead of Tulett. Culverwell took the sprint for fourth.
Malvern Cycle Sport’s Harriot Harnden proved too strong for the rest of the youth girls field. A fast opening lap ensured she had a gap that, barring any incident was un bridgeable. SRAM Development’s Poppy Wildman took second, some two and a half minutes down and the only rider under five minutes to the leader. Emily Ashwood(WXC Racing) completed the podium.
Certini’s Freddy Birchill took a solo win in the Juvenile Boys race, setting the pace in the opening lap Birchill was untroubled all race, Jamie Johnston (Pro Vision) the only rider to get close to the eventual winner. Tim Freeman (Dreigiau Coed Y Brenin) took third.
Anna Flynn took the win in the Juvenile Girls race, proving too strong for Maddie Wadsworth (Beeline Bikes RT) and Charlotte-Louise McGreevy (WXC World Racing) who finished second and third respectively.
The Veterans race proved to be a close affair from the gun to the flag. A strong field that saw Dave Collins (Hope Factory) moving up to the category and a returning Stu Bowers (SCOTT Racing) ignited the start line.
A select group dominated the six laps, Collins, Bowers, Paul Lloyd, Marc Chamberlin (Cotswold Cycles RT) and Paul Hopkins (Merida Factory Racing) were among the group that swapped the lead throughout the race.
Coming into the final lap a group of seven were locked together and it looked as though there could be a seven-man sprint for the win, but it was Lloyd who had the legs to ride into the arena a bike length ahead of Chamberlin and Collins to claim the win.
Tim Gould (Zepnat.com RT) made light work of the new course in the Grand Veterans race. Taking an early lead, Gould paced his race to take the win some 47 seconds to the good of Mark Chadbourne (Ridebike.co.uk) and over a minute to third place Richard Cross.
Ray Crosthwaite (Pedalon.co.uk) took an easy win in the Super Veterans race, finishing over six minutes ahead of Andy Firman (Cycle-Tec) and Southdown Bikes’ Ian Petherbridge.
In the Veteran Women’s race it was Bolsover and District’s Maddie Smith who took to the top step again. Taking the lead on the opening lap, Smith couldn’t be reeled in. Caroline Goward (SCOTT Racing) took second and Nicky Hughes (Specialized Racing) completed the podium. Sarah Bardwell (Club Beicio Mynydd Dyffryn) took the win in the Grand Veterans race ahead of Sue Mcintyre(Walden Velo) and Marianne Heffron (Zepnat.com).
Jacob Phelps (Muddybumbikes) claimed the victory in the large, expert race after a close race with Robert Rogers (Birkenhead NE CC) and Jonathan Shuster. Phelps had a quick opening two laps which neither Rogers or Shuster could bring back, the winner finishing just over a minute ahead of the two chasers.
Rosie Brown (Westbury Wheelers) took victory in the Expert Women’s race, holding off Hannah Saville (cxmagazine) and Emily Quantrill (Kings Lynn MTB) into second and third.
Harry Yates (Hargroves Cycles-Ridley) won the sprint with Malvern Cycle Sport’s Stan Pritchard to take victory in the Junior race. The pair were together from the gun, neither giving a bike length to throughout the race. Ross Harden (Malvern Cycle Sport) took third.
Charlotte Broughton (Team Ford EcoBoost) took the win in the Junior Girls race. Broughton rode away on the opening lap and increased her lead lap on lap.
Sitting in the top ten of the elite race by the second lap, the rest of the field had no answer and were left to fight it out for the lower places. Anna Kay (Nutcracker Racing) took second and Klaudia Bajolek (Scott/Eurocycles.com) took the final spot on the podium.
1. Grant Ferguson (Betch.nl) 1:42.43
2. Liam Killeen (Malvern Cycle Sport) +0.31
3. Dave Fletcher (Pines Cycles-Felt-Enve) +0.37
4. Milan Vader (Netherlands national team) +0.49
5. Phil Pearce (Specialized Racing) +1.01
1. Anne Tauber (Habitat Mountainbike Team) 1:35.59
2. Lucy Grant (Peebles CC) +2.09
3. Bethany Crumpton (Boot Out Breast Cancer CC) +3.45
4. Joanne Clay (TORQ Performance) +4.53
5. Maxine Filby (Cannondale Girls) +5.19