British Cyclo-cross National Championships Preview
Defending national champion Paul Oldham
Britain's top cyclo-cross racers will have been training hard over Christmas and New Year as they head to Ipswich's Chantry Park this weekend [January 7-8] for the Cyclo-cross National Championships.
Riders from across the UK and Europe will descend on the grounds of the stately home for the pinnacle of the domestic ‘cross season; all of them eagerly aiming to make 2012 the year they wear the stripes of national champion.
The event itself will also be a dry run for the European Cyclo-cross Championships which will be run on a very similar course in late 2012.
"The course is quite rolling and firm going; its not much of a mudbath but it can get slippy so it suits a bike handler," event organiser Steve Grimwood explained.
"Paul Oldham will be the one to beat," Grimwood tipped, "he's got the form and he's got the skills. Though my eyes will be on Ian Bibby - he's a dark horse who knows how to win."
Grimwood favours Nikki Harris for the women's race after her fine run of performances in Europe, and hopes for a home win for Hugo Robinson in the Juniors.
"Hugo's grown up with the events that we've been putting on. It would be great for the town if we can get a home win [with Robinson]," he said.
The podium finishers of the last four years will all line up against each other in the men's race. Defending champion Paul Oldham has proven himself this season on the domestic circuit, where even a series of mechanicals have been unable to stop him reaching first place on the series leaderboard.
2009 champion and Oldham's closest domestic rival, Jody Crawforth will have a point to prove as he hopes to go one better than his second place finishes in 2010 and 2011.
Far from being a two-horse race, Ian Field, Liam Killeen, Ian Bibby and Roger Hammond will all be in the mix during a frenetic 60 minutes. Field, despite regular top-level racing in Europe, has never made the podium in the national event.
"I've not raced in the UK so it's hard to look at events and see where you are," he told CW back in December. "But I can gauge a bit off the Belgians who have been winning when they come here.
"That's pretty promising for me, because I'm a step above them in Belgium so I think I've got a good chance."
2000 Roger Hammond
2001 Roger Hammond
2002 Roger Hammond
2003 Roger Hammond
2004 Roger Hammond
2005 Nick Craig
2006 Roger Hammond
2007 Phil Dixon
2008 Roger Hammond
2009 Jody Crawforth
2010 Ian Bibby
2011 Paul Oldham
Helen Wyman has certainly got used to winning when it comes to the nationals. Success this year could give her an Armstrong-like, and unprecedented, seventh consecutive title.
Her dominance may well come to end this year as Nikki Harris, who has been consistently finishing above or around Wyman in Europe, has her heart set on the title.
"I want to win the National Championships more than anything!" Harris said. "I've been surprising myself with my form this year, and I'm confident that I can put in a good showing."
However don't count out fellow continental racer Gabriella Day, or indeed National Trophy leader Hannah Payton who, along with the experienced Louise Robinson, will be aiming for the win too.
2000 Louise Robinson
2001 Nicole Cooke
2002 Isla Rowntree
2003 Isla Rowntree
2004 Louise Robinson
2005 Louise Robinson
2006 Helen Wyman
2007 Helen Wyman
2008 Helen Wyman
2009 Helen Wyman
2010 Helen Wyman
2011 Helen Wyman
Saturday sees the Veteran and Youth competitors give the course a thorough going over before the showcase events take place on Sunday, kicking off with the Under-23 Men's race. The favourite, Steve James, will relish the chance to race free of the usual senior riders.
Local boy Hugo Robinson has local knowledge on his side for the Junior Men's race and comes fresh from his first serious foray into European competition. He will be sternly put to the test by Trophy Series leader Joe Moses, who has proved himself more than equal to Robinson on occasion this season.
WHERE AND WHEN
Suffolk Cricket Club, Chantry Park, London Road, Ipswich, IP2 0BP
Saturday January 7
11.00 - Veteran 50
12.15 - U14 Youth Male & U14 Youth Female
13.15 - U16 Youth Male & U16 Youth Female
14.30 - Veteran 40
Sunday January 8
10.15 - U23 Men
11.30 - Women
12.45 - Junior Men
14.15 - Senior Men