Paul Oldham (Hope Factory Racing) drew first blood in the battle for the 2011-12 National Trophy Cyclo-Cross Series with a strong performance in the opening round at South Shields on Sunday, but he had to settle for second place on the day.
The usual foreign invasion saw four Belgians and one Dutchman finish in the top ten and helped spice up the racing at the Temple Park Centre, which featured an exposed course which, coupled with strong winds, made it difficult for lone breaks to survive.
The elite race was won by Thijs Al (AA Drinks) who just edged out Oldham in a sprint finish, while Jody Crawforth (Hargroves Cycles) was third, 15 seconds off the pace.
Talented Under-23 Belgian Floris De Tier (Cycling Champs) had been at the forefront of the action and was a good bet for victory until two crashes in quick succession left him dazed and out of the running with an unshipped chain and course marking tape caught around his bike.
In other categories, there was a popular victory for Sheffield-based Adela Carter in the women's race, the WXC MTB rider having missed last season with a knee injury.
The Series continues in three weeks time, with Leicestershire Road Club staging round two on October 30.
Elsewhere, Andrew Nichols led a one-two for PCA Ciclos Uno with team-mate James Whatling taking second place in the fifth round of the Eastern League at Gloucester park in Basildon on Saturday.
The 21-year-old from Chelmsford has a maximum points haul from the first five rounds, and is already looking a fair bet to win the lead this year.
He crossed the line 1-28 ahead of Whatling, who has finished second behind Nicholas on every occasion he has raced this season.
London Phoenix rider Matt Webber took victory in the fifth round of the Mosquito Bikes London League, crossing the line 22 seconds clear of Wouter Sybrandy (Sigma Sport RT).
It was Webber's second league win of the season following his victory in round two last month. But earlier in the race it had looked like Gary Record (Bike Tart.com) would take the win after a strong early attack. However, he was chased down and finished an eventual fourth.
In the Lincolnshire League, Bycka Sport Racing's Mark Cotton took a comfortable win by 53 seconds from Gabby Day Racing rival Richard Lister in the third round of the league held at South Ormsby Hall near Louth.
And in Gloucestershire, Charles Coleman (Adeo Cadence RT) won the Team Striking bikes cross, round four of the Western League at Stratford Park in Stroud. Second spot went to promising junior Matt Woods (Hargroves Cycles).
24 hours before finishing fifth in the National Trophy Series opener, former British Under-23 Champion David Fletcher secured a comfortable victory in the Notts and Derby League event at Heanor, but just nine seconds off the pace was Buzz Cycles' Adam Biggs.
And there was also a close finish in the third round of the Welsh League in the Foxley Estate near Hereford, where CC Abergavenny's Joe Lally won by just 13 seconds from Phil Morris (Dambusters).
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