The postponed National cyclo-cross Championships finally takes place this weekend [February 6-7] at Sutton Park for the 25th time since 1977.
The Midlands venue proved to be unusable in January due to heavy snowfalls in the days leading up to the championship weekend. Winter weather is far from over, but the Birmingham area looks to be safe from a repeat of the countrywide chaos seen last month.
The new date will undoubtedly have a bearing on the results, with eight-time men’s champion Roger Hammond now unable to race on a course where he has taken the title five times. The former junior World Champion prepares for the Spring Classics this week at the Tour of Qatar.
And the outcome of the women’s race is also likely to be affected, with GB’s top finisher at last weekend’s World Championships in Tabor, Annie Last, also unlikely to start. Coach Phil Dixon said Last is aiming to ride Het Volk later this month with the under-23 academy team before concentrating on the mountain bike season.
We have the unusual luxury of being able to look at World Championship performances ahead of the Nationals, and it was the Belgium-based Ian Field who was first Brit home in 35th position.
The Hargroves Cycles rider adapted well to the frozen slippery surface in Tabor. “We had a week practising on it, so if you couldn’t get used to it in that time, you were never going to get used to it,” he said. “On Thursday it was sheet ice, so the race on Sunday was comparatively easy after that.”
With Hammond out of the picture, the trio of Field, Paul Oldham and defending champion Jody Crawforth should be fighting it out for the top spot on Sunday.
“Last weekend I comprehensively beat Paul and Jody, and the previous weekend I was ahead of them until I snapped my rear mech on the last lap, so I am pretty confident. But it will be totally different on the day.”
Field has a couple more names to throw in the hat since the four-week postponement. “It has probably favoured the people who haven’t been racing ‘cross for the whole season. They will have had another three weeks training. Ian Bibby will be up there, and I have heard Dan Booth has been going well, but I can’t see anybody else challenging,” he said.
2000 Roger Hammond
2001 Roger Hammond
2002 Roger Hammond
2003 Roger Hammond
2004 Roger Hammond
2005 Nick Craig
2006 Roger Hammond
2007 Phil Dixon
2008 Roger Hammond
2009 Jody Crawforth
Crawforth takes the 2009 championship in Bradford
Annie Last’s 11th position in Tabor was a revelation, so it will be a shame not to see the youngster on the grid at Sutton Park. The 19 year old was fifth in last year’s under-23 mountain bike World Championships, a fantastic result in her first year with the seniors.
Last’s ride in the Czech Republic was all the more impressive as she started from the back of the grid. “She went through the field like a dose of salts,” said GB team manager Phil Dixon. “She had a little ‘off’ on the second lap, but most people did, to be fair. The performance was outstanding.”
Helen Wyman should have a clear run at her fifth consecutive title, although her performance on the ice in Tabor was far from convincing. Nikki Harris will be snapping at the 28 year old’s heels and has the ability to snatch Wyman’s crown, so this has the potential to be the closest-run women’s championships for several years.
2009 silver medallist Gabby Day will be close behind should these two slip up. And keep your eyes peeled for former champion Isla Rowntree. The veteran is a podium regular at the nationals.
2000 Louise Robinson
2001 Nicole Cooke
2002 Isla Rowntree
2003 Isla Rowntree
2004 Louise Robinson
2005 Louise Robinson
2006 Helen Wyman
2007 Helen Wyman
2008 Helen Wyman
2009 Helen Wyman
Helen Wyman: five in a row?
WHERE AND WHEN
Birmingham B74 2YT
Saturday February 6
Veteran 50+ 11:00 Youth U14 12:15 Youth U16 13:15 Veteran 40+ 14:30
Sunday February 7
Under-23 10:15 Women’s 11:30 Junior 12:45 Senior 14:15