Nikki Harris, Evie Richards and Sophie Wright – National Champions!
On Saturday, when the Under 14s, Under 16s and Veterans at the National Championships put on a show of such fine cyclocross skill and excitement, NS wondered aloud on Facebook if the Juniors, Under 23s and Elite races could possibly be as good. They were, of course.
Once in a while, a rider appears on the scene with so much talent that even in the early days of her career it’s obvious that she’s going to be one of the greats; for example, Nicole Cooke and Marianne Vos. It seems it won’t be very long until we can point to Sophie Wright, too: with the U23s and Juniors racing at the same time, sixteen-year old Sophie (Renvale RT) was third overall – more than two minutes behind U23 winner Evie Richards but more than two-and-a-half minutes ahead of the next Junior, Sophie Thackwray (Oldfield-Paul Milnes ERT), a fantastic and portentous result.
However, the race belonged completely to Richards (100% ME), who took charge right from the start and never looked to be in any danger of giving up her lead, even when a mechanical problem forced her to finish one lap with non-functioning gears. Bethany Crumpton (Boot Out Breast Cancer) was the only rider to come close, managing to get onto Richards’ wheel for a while in the early stages, but Richards soon opened up a gap and then continuously added to it for the remainder of the race. By the time the 18-year-old crossed the line, she had an advantage of 1’52”. Ffion James, also 100% ME, was the third U23 over the line; Emily Wadsworth (Beeline) was the third Junior.
Nikki Harris is another rider who showed phenomenal promise in the early part of her career (U16 CX Champ, U16 Circuit Champ, U16 MTB Champ… the list goes on), and now she’s 29 and in her peak years she shows every sign of delivering the goods – as when she won her first ever World Cup round at the infamously tough Namur “Citadelcross” a few days before Christmas last year. Helen Wyman, meanwhile, has been National ‘Cross Champion nine times and European Champion twice, making her one of the most successful British athletes in any sport of all time. Everybody expected the Elite race to be a battle between the two of them, and as is always the case when friends go up against one another it was going to be a spectacular fight.
Wyman, typically, left the line like a dragster, powering through to the first running section where she started to drive a wedge between herself and Harris. This was an ideal course for her: in addition to her almost peerless ability when running, she has a talent honed through her many years racing in Belgium for seeing the best lines through deep mud, and with Shrewbury getting well and truly water-logged before Saturday’s races churned the circuit up that stood her in good stead.
Harris wasn’t going to let Wyman go unchallenged, though, and began slowly but surely to reduce the gap, then caught her and moved into the lead. Harris too knows how to pick a line, but Wyman’s sheer strength enabled her to once again gain the upper hand, then turn that into a lead of a few seconds going into the last lap.
As the race drew towards its end, Harris dropped her chain but thanks to a rapid bike change remained in contention for second – until, that is, Wyman suffered a similar problem, permitting Harris to gain an advantage only just shy of 55″ at the finish. “Yorkshire Elf,” a women’s cycling fan who was there to see the action (and is well worth a follow), described what happened next: “Nikki got a mechanical on the last lap at far side of course, changed bikes! Helen chose not to change bikes at last pit…the rest is history! Awesome for Nikki, gutted for Helen.”
Delia Beddis, who races ‘cross for Vicious Velo and on road with the enormously popular Les Filles, took third more than five minutes later, but was still more than two-and-a-half minutes ahead of fourth finisher Dianne Lee (Cannondale Girls).
1 Nikki Harris (Boels-Dolmans) 49’49.2″
2 Helen Wyman (Kona-FSA Factory Team) 50’44.4″
3 Delia Beddis (Vicious Velo) 55’07”
4 Diane Lee (Cannondale Girls) 57’41”, 5 Annabel Simpson (Hope Factory Racing) 59’47.2″, 6 Claire Beaumont (Vicious Velo) 1h02’50”, 7 Flo Dannah 1h05’17”, 8 Ruby Miller (Hargroves-Ridley RT) 1h05’47”, 9 Rebecca Richardson (Hafren CC), 10 Sarah Barber (North Hampshire RC), 11 Sam Burman (WNT), 12 Ruth Taylor (Manchester Wheelers), 13 Lisa Webb (Team Milton Keynes), 20 Ellie Cadzow (Welwyn Wheelers), 2 Fran Whyte (Bicester Millennium CC), 14 Karen Lennox (Team Milton Keynes), 13 Suzanne Golder (Team Milton Keynes),
1 Evie Richards (100% ME; U23) 37’22.5″
2 Bethany Crumpton (Boot Out Breast Cancer; U23) 39’14.5″
3 Sophie Wright (Renvale RT; J) 39’31.2″
4 Ffion James (100% ME; U23 F) 39’53.6″, 5 Alice Barnes (100% ME; U23) 40’44.5″, 6 Amira Mellor (Oldfield/Paul Milnes Cycles; U23) 41’31.8″, 7 Sophie Thackray (Oldfield/Paul Milnes Cycles; J) 42’05.8″, 8 Emily Wadsworth (Beeline-Gener8; J) 42’56.2″, 9 Rebecca Preece (Red Rose Olympic CC; U23) 43’27.8″, 10 Natasha Reddy (RP Racing Team; J) 47’09.1″, 11 Hannah Saville (www.cxmagazine.com; U23) 47’13.6″, 12 Maddie Gammons (SRAM Youth Development; J) 48’25.7″, 13 Amy Garner (Welland Valley CC; J) 50’25.6″, 14 Tiffany Fletcher (EmpellaCyclo-Cross.com; U23) DNF Sophia Chastell (MnD-Fusion RT-Gearclub; J), Lauren Humphreys (Bonito Squadra Corse; U23)
Junior/U23 Photo Gallery