Paul Oldham clinched his first national elite cyclo-cross title in Derby this afternoon.
The Hope Factory rider rode away from his rivals on the treacherous and twisting course, which used the bowl-banking around Moorways Stadium to test the riders.
After years of challenging - not to mention three consecutive podium finishes at 'cross nationals - no-one could argue that Oldham didn't deserve his place on the top of the podium. "I'm really pleased with that. I got the gap, kept it and didn't make any mistakes," the 33 year old said at the finish.
As the day progressed and the sun shone, the course went from icy and compact in the morning to increasingly torn-up and treacherous, making it hard work for the last racers of the day, the elite men.
Pre-race favourite Ian Field took the lead at the start, being joined by Oldham and Hargroves Cycles teammate Jody Crawforth.
However, as Oldham put the pressure on, first Crawforth, then Field, were distanced. Chasing hard, Field then crashed on a corner, losing more time.
A ding-dong battle for podium positions ensued over the closing laps, as Commonwealth Games mountain bike XC champion Liam Killeen pushed the pressure. Getting the loudest cheers of the day, he first passed a fading Field and then threatened 2009 champion Crawforth.
Crawforth had the energy to fend off the late-burning Killeen, but Oldham was gone.
"Well done to Paul: he was flying. I think he probably always had that little bit in reserve. I was keeping an eye on keeping second place," Crawforth said at the finish.
The pair have a chance to renew their rivalry as early as next weekend: it's the last round of the National Trophy, and Crawforth leads Oldham by a point. Whoever finishes ahead of the other will win the series.
Wyman takes a flyer
Helen Wyman made it six national titles on the trot with a display as slick as the quickly-deteroriating surface she rode on.
The gulf in class between the Belgian-based trio and the rest was illustrated from the start, as Wyman, Gabby Day and Nikki Harris pulled away.
After changing to mud tyres, Wyman tested Day and then distanced her. Looking composed, she slowly increased her advantage.
Behind, Harris clawed back Day and got the better of her on the last lap to take the silver medal.
Despite her national championship pedigree and strong performances this season, Wyman was still anxious pre-race.
"I was so nervous because Gabs and Nikki are riding really strong. You never know - in a race full of a lot of other riders, it's much easier to get a gap on someone. When you have to make the pace, sometimes it's harder."
Junior Grace Garner was riding impressively in fourth until her mid-race withdrawal, leaving Hannah Payton to take the honours.
The men's U23 title went to Hargroves Cycles rider Luke Gray, taking full advantage of the double mechanical trouble occurring to long-time challenger Kenta Gallagher.
The pair had pulled away from the pack, only for Gallagher to crash and snap his seatpost bunny-hopping the planks on the second lap. Upon taking a new stead from the pits, he rolled his tub soon afterwards and was forced to run half a lap.
In front, Gray was a picture of determination and power, punching up the course's short, sharp rises and never looking like being caught by closest challengers David Fletcher (Boardman Elite) and Billy-Joe Whenman.
"The main thing was not to make mistakes; that's how I won it. Kenta made a mistake and I didn't fall off at all," he told CW afterwards.
Robinson juices the opposition
First-year junior Hugo Robinson rode away from the rest in the junior men's race, leading from start to finish.
"My plan in races this season has been to get a quick start, try to lead into the first corner and really put the pressure on everyone else in the first lap, and then from there assess the situation, see where I am in relation to the rest," he explained post-race.
Robinson had pulled out a 15-second gap and he pressed on, keeping ahead of the scrap for silver between Grant Ferguson and Luke Grivell-Mellor.
Youth national champion at Sutton Park last year, Robinson evidently has had little trouble moving up an age-group.
Just behind, Scot Ferguson prevailed, making the long journey back up north more worthwhile. "There were three inches of snow on the way down, it looked a bit dodgy," he joked at the finish.
Elite men's cyclo-cross championship (60 minutes)
1. Paul Oldham (Hope Factory Racing)
2. Jody Crawforth (Hargroves Cycles) at 0-18
3. Liam Killeen (Giant) at 0-21
4. Ian Field (Hargroves Cycles) at 0-43
5. Nick Craig (Scott UK) at 1-31
Elite women's national cyclo-cross championship (40 minutes)
1. Helen Wyman (Kona Factory)
2. Nikki Harris (AVB Cycling Team) at 0-54
3. Gabby Day (The Chainstay) at 1-10
4. Hannah Payton (Stourbridge CC) at 4-17
5. Victoria Wilkinson (Private Member) at 4-45
V40: Isla Rowntree (Stourbridge CC)
V50: Hilary Johnson (Team Empella)
Elite men's U23 championship (50 minutes)
1. Luke Gray (Hargroves Cycles)
2. David Fletcher (Boardman Elite) at 1-24
3. Billy-Joe Whenman (Private Member) at 2-08
Junior men's championship
1. Hugo Robinson (Elmy Cycles XRT)
2. Grant Ferguson (Dooley Cycles) at 0-18
3. Luke Grivell-Mellor (Mid Shropshire Wheelers) at 0-28
Men's - Vet 40
1. Nick Craig (Scott UK)
2. Darren Atkins (Team Jewson) at 1-02
3. Chris Young (Wheelbase.co.uk) at 1-50
Wyman makes it six in a row
Oldham shows off his hard-fought gold medal
Field leads the bunch into the first corner of the race
Cyclo-cross national championships 2011 full photo gallery by Andy Jones
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