Location: Abergavenny Leisure Centre, Monmouthshire
Event: 13 October 2013
Report: Rob Rowlands/Snowdon Sports
Photos: Andy Whitehouse
In Abergavenny they say if you can’t see the top of Blorenge mountain that it will be raining soon. If you can see the top it’s already raining.
So with the clouds blowing in and out it the scene was set for one of those typical cross days to greet the first round of the 2013/4 National Cyclo-cross Trophy series. Despite deteriorating conditions across the course the standard of racing was high setting up some keen battles in the forthcoming races.
Amongst these Paul Oldham (Hope Factory Racing) came out on top in a duel with the soon to retire Oli Beckingsale (Endura MTB Racing) whilst in the women’s race the battle between youth and experience was won by veteran racer Isla Rowntree (Islabikes).
With a course badly cut up by the earlier racing, the elite and under 23 men took to the stage.
It was Paul Oldham, 36 and from Colne in Lancashire, who made the early moves setting a high pace on the front chased by under 23 rider Adam Martin (Metaltek - Knights of Old Racing Team) from County Durham.
The field was immediately strung out around the technical bends of this Abergavenny course as riders slid through the trees and down the banks. The script for the race was set as the riders completed the first lap: Oldham led but was chased by a speeding Bristolian Oli Beckinsale, a rider with a mission to complete a successful swansong.
Behind them Tom Van Den Bosch (Hargroves Cycles / Specialized / Trant) led a lone pursuit whilst Dave Collins (Team Hope Factory Racing) and Adam Martin began their own duel, Martin showing his strength by ably competing with the senior men.
With five laps to go and with Beckinsale fast approaching, Oldham knew he could not hang around and sure enough within a lap Beckinsale had closed the gap and was tantalisingly close to Oldham’s rear wheel. Beckingsale knew he had to pass Oldham and make a decisive move if he was going to secure victory but the tussle continued. And still Van Den Bosch was not totally out of the picture.
As Beckingsale caught Oldham he took the front. As Oldham took his turn to follow the wheel, Beckinsale took the chance to open out a small gap. This gap slowly grew, inching wider with each twist and rise of the sticky course. Would Oldham’s early effort now cost him the victory? With three laps to go it was certainly looking this way as Beckingsale continued to eke out the gap. But the Team Hope rider didn’t give up, never losing sight of Beckinsale and eventually making the bridge with less than two laps remaining.
And so as the leaders approached the bell Beckingsale and Oldham were riding like a breakaway on the road, swapping the lead and seemingly sharing the work. Neither rider looked like they were able to shake off the other. That is until they entered the final technical bends at the rear of the course. Oldham pushed on the penultimate steep rise of the course and this time Beckingsale was unable to respond.
As the lap continued the lead grew and Oldham entered the finish straight with enough time to sit back, zip up his jersey and savour a series opening win. However, this battle looks like it will be revisited again and again in the weeks to come. Behind them Van Den Bosch secured third place. Adam Martin hung on for a well-deserved win in the under 23’s race and secured fifth place in the senior race.
“It was good, I wasn’t expecting to come here and win," Oldham said. "I’ve had a bit of illness this week. It was nice to have a good race with Oli. We were knocking lumps out of each other all the way round - it was really good fun. It’s one in the bank so a good way to start the series.”
Beckingsale added: “I had a flat on the first lap, so that’s why I dropped back a bit and had to ride on a flat which wasn’t a problem in the conditions.
"I got back to Paul quite happily and was riding alright. We had a good old ding-dong. I was stronger in some bits, he was stronger in others. Where he won it in the end was on the two little steep rises. I cracked on the second to last and he gapped me. It looks like it’s shaping up to be a great series.”
Coming into the first race of this season, it was Annie Simpson (Team Hope Factory Racing) who was expected to do well. Having now finished her studies and with a good block of training under her belt she was in good form.
But it was the veteran rider Isla Rowntree (Islabikes) fresh from her win in the Three Peaks in Yorkshire, together with Hannah Payton (The Kinesis Morvelo Project) and newcomer Abby-Mae Parkinson (RST Racing Team) who would provide a stiff challenge in this race.
From the start and with persistent rain only looking to get heavier it was Rowntree who animated the field, establishing an early lead with Payton in close attendance. Simpson, Parkinson and Merce Pacios (Blue Motors) formed a chasing group metres behind. Yet these gaps would grow and soon it was Rowntree who tried to stamp her authority on the race.
But Payton was not one to be pushed into second place easily. Each time through the finish line it was Rowntree who looked dominant, only for Payton to close the gap and even take the lead on the technical bends at the back of the course. Behind these two, Parkinson and Simpson had settled into their own battle, valiantly chasing a growing gap.
Could Rowntree cement a lead? Could Payton pass and drop Rowntree? Could the junior Parkinson drop the in-form Simpson? First, second and third was still all up for grabs coming into the final lap and both pairs kept swapping positions throughout the penultimate lap setting up a grandstand finish.
By the bell, Rowntree had opened up a 50 metre gap over Payton and she was looking on course to open the series with a win. For Payton it looked like the elastic had finally snapped and she was destined for second place.
However, knowing the win was still a possibility Payton dug deep in worsening conditions and not only caught Rowntree but passed her to take the lead. Disappearing into the woods for the last time the race was poised for a grandstand finish, the battle coming down to the line.
Coming into the finish straight the riders were neck and neck but it was the experience of Rowntree and her strength on the flat which paid dividends as she sprinted away from Payton to seal the win. Behind, Simpson had finally got the better of Parkinson to take third.
Parkinson had put up a strong fight and demonstrated an ability years ahead of her age. She finally finished fifth with Pacios passing her on the last lap to take fourth.
In the under 16 boys race, Dan Tulett (Hargroves Cycles / Specialized / Trant) looked to begin his under 16 career where he left off in the under 14s by taking the race to the rest of the field.
Establishing an early lead he looked dominant and looked like he had sewn up the race early on. But William Gascoyne (Matlock CC) would not let him have it all his own way and continued to plug away, slowly pegging back the Tulett’s lead. Tulett eventually claimed victory but with these contrasting styles of racing this contest could be one to watch in the 2013 series.
Meanwhile in the under 14 girls race, Megan James (Abergavenny RC) - sister of Great Britain world track champion Becky - looked to have secured the race after the first lap.
However, a steady fightback by Poppy Wildman (Nottingham Clarion CC) saw both riders enter the finish straight within sight of each other and it was Wildman who took the win by a wheel on the line.
The under 14 boys race was won by Alistair Leivers (Blackpool Youth Cycle Association) whilst the under 16 girls race saw Charlotte Broughton (MG Decor) take a commanding win.
The junior men’s race was won with a virtuoso display by Jake Poole (Dirtwheels Cycles) who stretch his gap on every lap, finishing some 30 seconds ahead of second place Daniel Fox (RST Racing) with Christopher Barnes (www.Zepnat.com RT / Kuota / GSG Clothing) rounding out the podium places.
The 40-49 veterans was keenly fought with last season’s series winner Darren Atkins (Team Jewson/M.I. Racing/Thule/Polypipe) and Ian Taylor (Jedi Cycle Sport) establishing an early lead in the race. With different styles across the hurdles it was Taylor who eventually came out on top, taking victory by 30 metres from Atkins.
In the 50+ veterans race the flying Steven Davies (Hargroves Cycles/Specialized/Trant) showed off his national champions jersey with panache as he destroyed the rest of the field. McMullen (Cotswold Veldrijden) fell on the final lap, handing second place to Phillip Roach (Team Jewson/M.I. Racing/Thule/Polypipe) and extending the already dominant winning margin of winner Davies.
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