Thomas Mein (Tormans Cyclo Cross Team) and Harriet Harnden (Trek Factory Racing CX) won the 2022 British cyclocross championship titles, tackling a claggy course which the women's winner pronounced to generate "real cyclocross" conditions.
Heavy and continuous rain over the preceding Saturday resulted in a long lap that could rival some of the best Belgium has to offer, with a steep quarry descent and climb sandwiching off-camber corners.
The races, at the South of England Showground near Crawley, were the first of their kind to take place since 2020 - the 2021 event having been cancelled amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
That made Harnden the defending champion, having won at her elite debut in 2020; outgoing men's champion Tom Pidcock chose to continue training with his Ineos Granadiers team in Mallorca ahead of the upcoming cyclocross World Championships.
Zoe Bäckstedt, who was third in the Gullegem elite women's race last week and has won three junior World Cup rounds this season, was not on the start line in the women's race, the 17 year old having tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of the weekend.
Harnden, who also won the Under 23 women's category, finished 15 seconds up on second placed Annie Last (Scott Racing), with the third spot on the podium going to Anna Kay (Star Casino CX Team), 28s back; the leading trio separated themselves from the field by over three minutes come the finish line.
Speaking after the race, Harnden said: "I loved the course. I think that was real cyclocross... they put everything into it, the banks and the off-camber bits and stairs, everything was just amazing."
The men's race quickly became a battle between Mein, and Cameron Mason (Trinity Racing), the pair riding closely early on. However, a mistake by the Trinity rider halfway through the race saw him crash, forcing him to chase back to the now-leader.
Mason was able to claw back some time, but not enough, finishing second and four seconds behind the winner, but still taking the Under 23 title; Joseph Blackmore (Rotor Race Team) rounded off the podium.
"I just tried to conserve my effort the whole time, riding within my limits and not trying to go too early, because I knew that this course is going to sting towards the end," Mein commented after his win.
Of the course, he added: "It was challenging, it was a battle as much against the course as the rider, it was brutal."
Taking to Twitter after the race, a disappointed Mason wrote: "I have a bitter feeling from today. I was close but couldn’t match Thomas in the end, congrats man."