Evie Richards (100%ME) and Liam Killeen (Malvern Cycle Sport) were the elite winners at round two of the British Cycling MTB Cross-country Series in Plymouth on Sunday.
The pair were both several minutes ahead of their rivals as they powered to victory on a Newnham Park course that was to their liking.
Killeen took the win 3-48 ahead of his nearest rival Iain Paton (100%ME), while Richards was 10-17 ahead of Isla Short (Novus OMX Pro Team) in the elite women’s race.
Liam Killeen (Malvern Cycle Sport) took his first National MTB Series win at Newnham Park – a venue which he admits to having a lasting affection for after entering his first World Cup race there some 20 years ago.
He tamed the demanding course to take victory from 100%ME rider Iain Paton but it was David Fletcher (Pine Cycles-Felt-Enve) who took control in the opening lap, heading up a group of some five riders including Killeen, Paton, Jason Bouttell (XRT- Elmy Cycles) and Paton’s team mate Frazer Clacherty.
The group set about opening up a safe gap from a chasing Dylan Kerfoot-Robson (Team USN) and Torq’s Alex Welburn.
As the race settled into the second lap, it was Killeen along with Paton who took the lead and opened the gap at the front of the race.
The long drag up to the first technical section at Cottage Carnage looked like taking a toll on the riders exposed to the sun.
Fletcher looked comfortable in third, pegging the gap to the lead pair but with Bouttell looking fresh that third spot would gradually be wrestled away from him.
Kerfoot-Robson had moved into fifth and along with Tom Bell (Delv) started to chase the leaders.
Killeen and Paton had settled into a steady rhythm at the head of the race and with 20 seconds to the good, their lead looked safe.
The battle for the placings was being fought out a little way back but Fletcher was still holding third place. But Bouttell was now sitting on his wheel and spinning the gears a little easier than the Pines rider and it was only a matter of time before he would skip by.
Bell and Kerfoot-Robson were still having their own tussle for fifth place. The chasing field were now off the pace, Wilburn was keeping a steady pace but Clacherty looked to be fading on the hilly course.
Giles Drake (Leisure Lakes) was beginning to find some pace and had begun to chip away at the front runners.
With the race entering its final third, Killeen stamped on the gas and left Paton to chase him back, pulling just over a minute and barring any issues Killeen wouldn’t be seen again.
Bouttell jumped over Fletcher and went chasing after Paton for second place but Fletcher kept on his wheel. Kerfoot-Robson and Bell started to attack, the pair still inseparable, but it was Drake who found his second wind and went from ninth to fifth.
Killeen took the final lap alone and his lead wouldn’t be troubled again. Paton completed his last lap with enough time to retain second.
Bouttell held off Fletcher to take third. Fletcher only took fourth by a mere three seconds from a chasing Drake.
“I felt a lot more in race shape today than I did a few weeks ago,” said Killeen. “I really enjoy this course. I first came here to watch a World Cup race and I have quite a few good memories of racing here myself. It’s well over 20 years since I first came here.
“Bits of the course are similar, but it’s a lot harder than it used to be! It’s one of those courses where you’ve got to pace yourself because the climbs are steep.
“I’m happy with how things went today. It was just a case of natural selection as the course was so steep, so if you’re one gear harder than the rider behind you’ll pull away - race winner Liam Killeen.
“On the first couple of laps it was good to be near the front of the race. Dave Fletcher is going really well at the moment so I knew he would be a good wheel to follow as he always has good line choices so was good to be with on the first lap.
“The race naturally split just because of the physicality of the course as there’s the best part of 200 metres of climbing per lap.
“When you get the technical descents you’ve got to be careful negotiating the back markers and put safety first, and that’s where I needed the gap.”
Evie Richards (100%ME) destroyed the field in the Elite Women’s race.
The Malvern girl went on the attack from the gun and by the time the race had started the ascent up to Cottage Carnage on the opening lap there was fresh air between her and the rest of the race.
Lucy Grant (Bicycle Works RT) and Isla Short (Novus OMX Pro) headed up the chasing field with Beth Crumpton (Boot Out Breast Cancer) and Ffion James (100%ME) a few bike lengths behind. Max Filby (Cannonade Girls), Jane Barr (Velocity 44) and Jo Clay (Torq) were still in sight on the long drag up to wards the top of the course.
It was Richards though who had increased her lead to two minutes as the race moved onto Picnic Rocks, the final technical section before the finishing straight, the 100%ME rider cruising over the rocks without so much as a twitch.
With the race into the second lap Richards was away, the lead increasing to some four minutes from second-placed Short who had no answer to the leader. Meanwhile Crumpton was sitting in third, almost 30 seconds off Short and the race was all but over for the chasers.
With just over half the race gone, Richards was now over six minutes ahead, Short and Crumpton were still sitting in second and third respectively with Ffion James holding onto fourth.
Kerry MacPhee (Rock & Road Cycles) had snapped her chain on the start line, but had quietly worked through the field to take fifth and was lapping just about a minute quicker then James.
On the final lap Richards had again increased her lead, churning over a big gear she had time to go for lunch, but it was the fight for fourth place that was proving interesting.
MacPhee had caught and passed James and was chipping away at Crumpton’s third place but it would be a question of ‘what if’ for the Rock & Road rider who took a very respectable fourth across the line.
“I didn’t really think about a plan, but I wanted to get away early,” said Richards. “The hills suited me to start with so I put in a big gap, and when nobody went with me I thought I would just keep pushing the gap open.
“I’m not great at race plans, I just go hard and keep going until I can’t do any more. - race winner Evie Richards.
“My dad was shouting the gaps at the top, and I wanted to maintain it or put time into it.
“I’m slowly getting better at the technical side of it, and although I don’t like going down hill I find it quite exciting. I like the climbs and a nice descent gives you some thinking time between the hills.”
Nick Craig (Scott Racing) took victory in the Over 40s Veterans’ race. The 47-year-old, who has committed to the category for the 2016 season after riding with the seniors last year, made light work of the hilly course.
After having to start the race at the back of the grid, he fought his way through to sit in second spot by the time the field had reached the first technical section at Cottage Carnage. Paul Lloyd had a strong start but would fade as the race progressed. Craig would be at the front as the race entered the second lap, a lead he would never relinquished.
National Champion Marc Chamberlain (Cotswold Cycles) kept in contact with Craig throughout and Scott’s Stuart Bowers took third just a handful of seconds behind place to give Scott two riders on the podium.
Nick Craig: “I’m really happy to be in this category as it’s really competitive. If you were going to pick a course for me, this would be it. I’m not in the best shape yet, but the course and being in reasonable shape meant I went round quite quick.
“People are saying this is a really hard and technical course, but it’s just mountain biking. There’s nothing wrong with it for me! They’ve done a brilliant job here and I hope racing continues in Newnham Park - winner Nick Craig
“A flat rolling race is hard physically, and you don’t want too many of them in the series.”
It would be a day for the old guard at the famous venue with Tim Gould (Zepnat.com) taking the win in the Over 50 Men’s race. The National Champion made it two wins from two as he proved too strong for the rest of the field, the technical sections looking to un-seat a good number of the field.
Mark Chadbourne (Ridebike.co.uk) took second and Richard Cross completed the podium.
Roy Crosthwaite (Pedalon.co.uk) put over 10 minutes into the rest of the Super Veterans field. The course again looking to unseat a good number of the field over the three laps. Andy Firman (Cycle-Tec) took third and Nigel Herrod completed the podium.
Maddie Smith (Bolsover & District CC) took the chequered flag in the Female Veterans race. Smith attacked from the start and her lead wasn’t troubled for the three laps. Nicky Hughes (Specialized Racing) took second and Caroline Goward gave Scott Racing their third podium of the day.
Tory’s Lydia Gould dominated the Female Grand Veterans race taking almost six and a half minutes from second place Katherine Kilburn. Sue McIntyre (Walden Velo) took third.
In the Expert race, Torq Performance’s new signing Jacob Phelps repaid the trust with a strong win in the big field. Paddy Atkinson (Team Bikesoup-Bianchi) had to happy with second, unable to make any serious inroads to the Phelps. Ben Wadey (Clee Cycles) completed the podium just a handful of seconds off second.
In the Expert Female race it was Concept Group’s Heather Shanks who held on to take the win after a hot four laps. Erica Moks (Mountain Goat) took second after a strong mid-race faded on the final lap. Angela Laycock (Army Cycling Union) took third but was some way down on the two leaders.
The Junior Men’s race once again would prove too difficult to call, any one of a dozen riders could have won, the technical sections looking to suit the front runners in the field but it was Will Gascoyne (Pines Cycles-Felt-Enve) who would ride a measured race to take the win.
Malvern’s Ross Harnden attacked mid-race and looked as though his attack would stick but was chased down, Gascoyne and third-placed Cameron Orr (SRAM Youth Dev) quick to respond.
It was Gascoyne and Harnden though who had the legs to ride away on the last lap the pair together coming into the finishing straight but Gascoyne just had the jump on the Malvern rider to take the win.
Rental’s Sophie Wright romped away to take the Junior Female race. Wright who was up to second overall in the elite race was unstoppable from the gun was putting two minutes into the field on each lap. Emily Wadsworth took second and Ella Connolly completed the podium.
In the Under 16 Boys’ race it was Ben Tulett (Beeline-Gener8) who took the win after a head on tussle with Harry Birchill (Certini) and Sean Flynn (Edinburgh RC).
Birchill took the early lead with Tulett and Flynn in contact but Tulett with the same attack as his elder brother Dan pulled away putting in a strong second lap to get the gap. Birchill brought the leader back on the last lap, Tulett crashing but was able to remount to keep the lead, crossing the line a mere eight seconds to the good of Birchill. Flynn took third to complete the podium.
Harriet Harnden (T-Mo Racing) took the win in the Under 16s Girls’ race. Harden put in an early attack from the gun to take the lead, a lead she wouldn’t be troubled over. Patsy Caines (Certini) took second whilst Poppy Wildman (SRAM Youth Development) finished third.
Freddy Birchill (Certini) went one better than his elder brother by taking the win in the Under 14 Boys’ race. Tim Freeman (Dreigiau Coad Y Brenin Drago) finished second, although putting a solid second lap in, Brichill’s opening lap gave him a good enough lead over the field. Jamie Johnston (Pro Vision Cycle Clothing) took third.
Anna Flynn (Edinburgh RC) made it two wins from two races in the Under 14 Girls’ race. Flynn was dominant throughout taking over two minutes to second place Charlotte-Louise McGreevy (WXC World Racing) and Beeline Bike’s Maddie Wadsworth.
1. Liam Killeen (Malvern Cyclesport) 1:42:54
2. Iain Paton (100%ME) at 3-48
3. Jason Bouttell (XRT-Elmy Cycles) at 4-40
4. David Fletcher (Pines-Felt-Envy) at 5-05
5. Giles Drake (Leisure Lakes) at 5-07
1. Evie Richards (100%ME) 1:38:49
2. Isla Short (Novus OMX Pro Team) at 10-17
3. Beth Crumpton (Boot Out Breast Cancer) at 11-54
4. Kerry MacPhee (Rock and Road CC) at 13-54
5. Ffion James (100%ME) at 15-15