What a stonkingly good weekend of racing! The UK National Cyclocross Championships certainly provided some true champions on a course that was praised by all. It seems that subtle changes to previous versions of the Peel Park course had turned this regular venue from a good course into a great course, according to more than one top racer. And top racers were all around – there were some very decisive performances put in by riders in every race on Sunday, with no doubts over who were the deserving champions of the day.
In the Senior Men’s race (we’re covering it in reverse because that’s the way the photos have uploaded – don’t worry, there are plenty of pics of the women’s race too) the race was between defending champion Liam Killeen and hot favourite (and former champion himself) Ian Field – who’s recently moved up to the North and who reckoned he could almost freewheel home after the event. There were also Three Peaks Winners aplenty, with Nick Craig, Rob Jebb and Paul Oldham – and it was Oldham who kept up the pressure behind the dualing Killeen and Field to wrap up third.
We sent our hairylegged Wil around the course on Saturday, guided by Hannah Payton.
There were some great crowds at the event, even on for Saturday’s younger and older categories. And on Sunday, even the U23 men’s race at 9.30am was well attended, so that by the time the Senior Women’s and Men’s races took place in the afternoon, some parts of the course were two or three deep on the trickier parts of the course, with huge cheers for anyone who managed to ride up the ‘off-camber-climb-of-doom’
And this was Bruce’s tricked out ride.
The course itself was well laid out in the large grounds of Peel Park, and a looping back, almost cloverleaf style allowed spectators to see many parts of the course without moving and also allowing them to see the whole course without walking to the ends of the earth.
The course had several ‘feature pieces’ and the long, straight run down the banking helped show which riders were big of bottle and skills. Luckily it didn’t take too many people out, though there was a dramatic-sounding (from where we were) over the bars in the U23 womens race and a few slide-outs in the seniors.
There was much talk about tyre treads and pressures. Many riders were on tubulars, running them at under 20PSI for grip. Nick Craig confided to running more knobbly tyres over his racing tubs purely for grip in the corners, where the faster wide-open speeds made tubs a little drifty.
In the end, no one could catch Ian Field and he won comfortably over Liam Killeen, taking one back for the cyclocrossers over the more mountain-bike-focussed Liam. Now for Field to take it to the World Champs in Luxembourg at the end of the month.
In the senior women’s race there was a similarly dominant performance from Nikki Brammeier – who you’ll recognise more as Nikki Harris. She led from the start and just rode away, without any real challenges or difficulties, which was good inspiration and return to form for the rider who’d been injured in 2016.