A large contingent of Welwyn Wheelers’ youth riders made the trip to Derby for the opening race of the Cyclocross National Trophy series.
Being the first in the series and situated smack bang in the middle of the country there were enormous fields. For the first time the organisers split the U14 and U16 boys’ races to allow more participants. The Girls had nearly 50 U16 and 40 U14 entries, surely a record!
A bright, but crisp morning greeted the early arrivals at Moorways Stadium. A previous day’s Veterans racing programme in wet conditions, combined with the early morning dew had left conditions slippery, and a few tumbles were had by most on the tricky off cambers. Air was let out of tyres and those with a choice opted for full on Knobblies. For mud connoisseurs, this was a thin layer of treacherous slime as opposed to the thick claggy stuff that wrecks your rear mech and makes your bike weigh a ton.
First off were the Juniors. With a world champion in the form of Ben Tulett on the start line nobody could accuse this race of lacking quality. Hopes were high for Oli Stockwell, last year’s U16 series winner as the whistle was sounded and the riders sped off. Unfortunately Oli rolled a tub about a minute in and was forced to run perhaps a kilometre leaving him in dead last place and some. He gamely rode on for a lap before throwing in the towel having exhausted himself from the run. Adam Lightfoot, returning after a bit of a sabbatical rode very strongly taking 17th place. Joe Bennett was 30th, Archie Peet 48th and Rizwan Hameed 62nd.
Next up were the U16 and U14 girls. Again the standard was very high. The Welwyn girls all showed grit, determination and skill. In the U16 category Ellen Bennett took an excellent 5th with Iona Moir not too far behind in 13th. The U14’s saw National Trophy debutants Millie Coleman and Beth Bennett compete. Millie, a fist year did amazingly with 7th whilst Beth was 35th.
In the U14 boy’s race, from a huge field of 80, Mark Lightfoot only just missed out on the podium with 4th whilst Calum Moir was a strong 18th. First year and National Trophy debutant Dylan Starkey was a commendable 48th.
By the time the U16 race arrived, conditions had changed quite a bit. In a reverse of what usually happens with Cyclocross courses the track had got quicker instead of slower. There was more grip on the off cambers and sharp climbs as the moisture was all dried up by the warm autumn sun shining overhead. This lead to a very fast, tactical race, with the massive field of 103 starters split into many small groups. Joe Kiely managed to get himself in to the front group of three that stayed together for most of the race. A bit of a stalemate ensued with no one quite strong enough to drop the others, Joe managed to get on the front before the last technical section, opening a small gap which he held on to for the win. Being the first race it also earned him the series leader’s yellow jersey. Euan Woodliffe and Tom Sharples were 23 and 24th respectively. Nathan Hardy was 37th and George Gould 95th.
A few people stayed to watch the Elite races and then it was back down the M1 to home. The next race in the series will involve a little more travelling though as it’s being held in Irvine, Scotland!