Fighting off the Storm of Day One

Back on site on Saturday only the pit crews and competitors match the frenzied activity of the event staff, all are vying for position both on and off course, not long now before nothing else can be done. As start time approaches the final preparations are made, the PA increases in volume and the hot drinks are put to one side in readiness for a packed program on day one of racing

Categories from 40+ to 70+ and Under 16 to Under 14 as well as kids have a go races right down to Under 8’s are all fought out in windy conditions and occasional rain on day one. Hardy tiny riders clad in lycra practice alongside their hero’s in the few gaps in the program, each absorbed in learning the course, practicing lines and finding where the passing points are before returning to the event arena where riders as diverse as the five World Masters Champions and Elite Womens eight time National champion Helen Wynman of Kona are discussing the course and how they are feeling with supporters, fans, media and competitors alike.

Titles are won, legends of the UK off road scene like Nick Craig in Scott colors and Isla Rowntree of Islabikes show why they can win on day one then go into day two and be competitive against riders 20 years+ younger. New faces like Tom Pidcock racing for Chevin Cycles, in only his fourth cyclocross race, step onto the podium for the first time joining already established young talent like Dan Tullett of Specialized who is consistently unbeatable both at home and on the continent.

Yet through it all the special cross family atmosphere is to the fore, friendly competition in the face of adverse conditions that have slowed the course throughout the day mixed with the selfless non stop work of the increasingly mud covered pit crews. With day two still to come the town was filled that evening with skinny athletes fuelling up for the following days race, officials and media debating the days racing and performances, and spectators, supporters and riders done racing for the weekend mixing with the bemused locals all sampling the delights of the restaurants and hostelries.

A Brighter Day Two for Cyclocross

A brighter sun rises over the mountain behind the course on Sunday as day two of racing dawns in the welsh valleys, late night revelers heading home are passed by weary crew returning to make sure everything is ready for the remaining four races. The main UCI categories will be fought out in sunshine and a steadily warming day as the course gets progressively faster and faster towards the last race of the day, the Elite Men’s race.

Before that though the day starts with the Under 23 men’s race, a select field filled with riders who have represented their county on the World Cup circuit and the World Championships lined up earlier than their usual race time and after groans and moans, like a bunch of teenagers in the race category they have moved up from, a furious race emerges with the riders making the most of the faster course conditions, Grant Ferguson of Betch Superior Brentjens defends the title he won the previous year in some style and shows lasts years win was no fluke.

With their usual enthusiasm the Junior men line up as soon as the preceding race finishes and if anything this starts even faster, the course drying out almost as fast as the crowds start building in anticipation for the last two races. With the action flowing thick and fast the announcers and live TV have their work cut out following the fast changing action but it is off road specialist Tom Craig of Scott who repeats his win of the previous year matching the back to back wins of his father this year and last, a feat that will surely take some time before it will be repeated.

New for this year there is equal prize money for both men and women so after her long campaigning for equality Helen Wyman of Kona had something to smile about before the start of her race, but it was full on race face she sported when the multi-time national champion lined up alongside Niki Harris of Young Telenet Fidea, the only rider to interrupt her winning streak. Previous Bronze medalist and Olympic XC rider Annie Last was looking to break into the domination of the continental based Harris and Wyman but would have to look out for the challenge from Abergavenny rider Ffion James, the junior defending champ whose bedroom overlooks the course, racing alongside the more experienced senior women but also in a battle for Junior honors with National Series overall womens winner – Amira Mellor of Paul Milnes Cycles and GB XC squad rider Evie Richards, riding bikes borrowed from World Enduro Champ and regular CX racer Tracy “T-MO” Moseley. As was to be the case at the World Champs 2 weeks later the women’s race saw what was arguably the most exciting race of the weekend fought out though out its duration with Helen Wyman taking her 9th women’s title and Amira Mellor showing why she was the best UK based rider not only at Milton Keynes CX World Cup but also at the Cross World Champs in Tabor in taking the National Junior title and 4th in the race overall.

With the crowd enjoying the late days sun defending champion Ian Field, riding for his long time team Hargroves Cycles, was the man to beat in his pursuit of a fourth straight championship win. As often the lone British rider in the Men’s World Cups and Superprestige races he certainly had the experience and pedigree to win but could he recover from a possible illness. Looking to profit from any weakness were Olympian Liam Killeen and Lewis Craven of Wheelbase but Field was to be backed up by his Hargroves team mates and possible medal contenders Jody Crawford and Steve James the former patrolling any moves made by the competition and the later blasting out from the gun to set the early pace forcing Field’s rivals to chase and expend energy early in the race. Mid way through Field made his move and no one could stay with the fast pace and the Hargroves Cycles rider extended his lead all the way to the chequered flag as the weather turned inclement while the sun and the temperature dropped.

With the medals hung around well deserving necks, bikes jet washed down and the competitor’s cars, vans and motorhomes forming a convoy many miles long away from Abergavenny it was just a matter of removing a few hundred stakes, miles of course tape, taking the empty 35000 litre water bowser away, and while the grass will grow back, the start and finish line paint will fade, the memories will be with all who witnessed the British Cycling National Championships 2015 and the winners names will be in the record books forever.

For full race reports and results for day one:

For full race reports and results for day two:

About Matt Payne

Matt Started racing at 13 and raced anything with 2 wheels on and off road in the UK and abroad while working in bike shops and running a race team until retiring from both in 2004. He has worked on events as diverse as Festivals and Royal Visits to races such as the Tour de France, the World Track Championships, the Brompton World Championships and almost all of the National level races in the UK. Since retiring from racing Matt has a successful career announcing not only at the Milton Keynes CX World Cup with Richard Fries but also every National or Major CX event in the UK along with the XC National Champs and Series and the Road and Time Trial National Championships.