The national cyclo-cross championships this weekend are set to be a fierce battle between the Belgian-based Brits and the best domestic riders.
Ian Field is the favourite to claim his first elite national title at the Moorways Stadium, Derby on Sunday afternoon. "A lot of people want to see it being worn in races. It would help me out a lot having the jersey: for one, the crowd wouldn't shout ‘venga venga' at me thinking I'm Spanish," Field joked, referring to his red-and-yellow Hargroves Cycles kit.
In recent months, the 24 year old has legitimately staked his claim as the man to beat, riding well in continental World Cup rounds and returning to the UK to win the Bradford and Southampton rounds of the National Trophy.
"It doesn't really bother me being called favourite. It's the same guys I raced at Bradford and Southampton: I've raced everyone and beaten everyone," Field told Cycling Weekly.
He won't have it all his own way though, with 2009 champion Jody Crawforth and Paul Oldham offering resistance. "We're going to have to do something special. He's the big favourite, but I'll certainly try," said Oldham, who is a point behind Crawforth in the National Trophy standings.
Then there's the forgotten man - the defending national champion. Ian Bibby hasn't shown the national jersey in competition this season, which Field called "annoying", but could be in the mix. "He's been in Spain the last four weeks training, I wouldn't be surprised if he's going well," Field said.
Mountain bikers Liam Killeen and Oli Beckingsale are also outside contenders. Eight-time champion Roger Hammond is a notable absentee.
Wyman chases six in a row
Meanwhile, after a year in which she has further progressed in Europe, Helen Wyman is the heavy favourite to make it six national titles in a row, as she builds her form towards the world championships at the end of the month.
The biggest challenge is likely to come from fellow Belgian-based ‘cross riders Gabby Day and Nikki Harris.
The Moorways Stadium, on the outskirts of Derby, is new to the cross racing scene, first used for the second round of the National Trophy last year.
German Johannes Sickmueller won that day, finishing 24 seconds ahead of Paul Oldham. Little has changed in the circuit for the weekend's racing.
"There's been a slight alteration moving the pits; it's now two long straights from the pits, then there's lots of twists, turns and adverse cambers," organiser John Holmes told Cycling Weekly. "There's a set of planks, hopefully some will try to bunnyhop them."
The venue of Moorways Stadium means a tight course but a fine vantage point from the grandstand. "You can see about 70% of the race - straight from the start, then the riders as they go up and down the banks," Holmes said.
A tougher course ought to favour Ian Field, who did not ride in Derby last year. He said: "Hopefully there's some tough aspects like the Bradford course; hopefully it's a real cross' course for a real cross rider."
Field may have been referring to the national championships at Sutton Park last year, postponed till February and held on a firm, fast course which arguably favoured Ian Bibby.
No matter what the weather, a second postponement in a row is unlikely. "It will go on if it snows - one of our sponsors, Total Hire, will be clearing it," Holmes added.
British national cyclo-cross championships website
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