The first round of the National Cyclocross Series was held at Cranwell Park, on a course that was flatter and firmer than last years national champs course at the same venue. The race also doubled as the Victorian state champs, adding extra spice to the masters division.
Masters 5+ men and masters women raced early, and Canberra’s Patrick Denis wearing the colours of the Telenet Fidea team was the star of the show, taking a big gap, and channelling the power and skill of his Belgian look-a-likes for the win in the over 50’s race, while Rebecca Pickett, Bianca Williamson and Kristen Theile took home the spoils in the masters women.
The course opened for practice, and over 150 riders poured onto the track for their first look at this years NCXS. With hard braking downhill into tight hairpin turns, lots of off camber corners, 2 sets of stairs and a long steep climb, the course required both technical skill and excellent fitness.
The masters 30+ and 40+ men was a great battle with 3 of the 30+ riders forming a group early, while in the 40+, Mark Mos set out in pursuit of the leaders. A crash amongst the front 3 riders took out the 2 leaders, while BrewCX rider Paul Aubrey was on a different line and took his advantage. Mos went to the lead of the race with 2 to go and was not to be beaten. Local rider Nicholas ‘Spiro’ Edwards chased hard and caught Aubrey on the last lap taking the win in under 30’s.
The elite women were seeded in the order they finished the 2013 national series, but with the absence of defending champion Rowena Fry, Sarah Holmes was the number one seed, and National Champion Lisa Jacobs was equal favourite with Commonwealth games mountain bike selection Tory Thomas.
Sarah Holmes – Cornering Hard
Jacobs asserted her advantage from the start, coming from the second row to take a 5 second lead on the first lap. She was dominant, taking a strong win from April MacDonough, Melissa Anset and Thomas, who each rode on their own for the whole race.
The Men’s elite race was a deep field of over 70 riders, containing local favourites Adrian Jackson, Lewis Rattray, Chris Hamilton, Liam Jefferies, Paul Redenbach and Allan Iacuone along with interstate rivals Chris Jongewaard, Brew Cup leader Gary Milburn and Nick Both.
Milburn got his usual holeshot, but it was the favourite trio of Jackson, Jongewaard, and Iacuone who quickly distanced themselves from the rest of the field. Jackson was unable to hold on and was stuck in no man’s land while Jongewaard was keen to work with Alby to put more time into AJ. Once the pair were clear of the threat, they traded blows, and were able to match each other’s effort until Alby’s decisive attack during the last 200m.
Chris Hamilton worked his way back into the race to take third ahead of Jackson and Redenbach.
Alby and Chris were like this for most of the race
On Sunday, the awesome team from Dirty Deeds Cyclocross ran a national series race for the third time, on a track very similar to last year’s national series course in Darebin Parklands. It was great to see such a strong field turn out for all the grades, and loads of kids finding out about the joys of cyclocross. This is a real strength of the Dirty Deeds series, and one that every cyclocross promoter in Australia should be taking their lead from.
With a tighter course than Saturday we expected to see closer racing in the Elite Women. Saturday’s winner, Lisa Jacobs expected that the more technical nature of the course would suit her higher skilled rivals. As soon as the gun went, the battle was on and it was a surprise to see Mel Anset get the holeshot. April McDonough made her way forward very quickly and joined the Aussie Champ Jacobs. By the end of the first lap, Jacobs and McDonough had a gap over Anset, with last years winner here, Sarah Holmes seemingly off the pace. With great skills through the barriers and tight corners, McDonough was putting Jacobs under pressure. The open and climbing sections were to the advantage of the National Champion and we saw Jacobs open a small advantage, which she was able to hold on the more technical sections due to her much improved cornering. With small gaps between most riders it turned into a great battle all the way to the line. Jacobs’ strength proved her advantage and she took victory ahead of McDonough and Anset, with Holmes 4th and Penny Hosken 5th. A notable mention goes to Josie Simpson who rode out of her skin in 6th, just seconds behind 5th.
Lisa Jacobs – Takes another victory
Proud – Courtenay, the skinsuit and Josie
The Elite men’s race was expected to produce similar fireworks to Saturday’s, but the flatter course allowed for a closer battle as less explosive riders were able to hang on. Chris Jongewaard led the field out, getting the jump over holeshot specialist, Garry Milburn, with Allan “Alby” Iacuone, Adrian “AJ” Jackson and Paul Redenbach joining the pair at the front, with Lewis Rattray leading the chase with seemingly the entire Focus team. The leading 5 stayed together for the first half of the race, with AJ and Jongewaard trading attacks, and Iacuone leading the chase each time. Jongewaard pushed slightly too hard, crashing in the mud by the bottom of the course, and Jackson was able to capitalise, dropping his companions, with only Alby able to chase. By this time, a great crowd was forming on the off camber uphill corner, and some great heckles were being thrown out, really contributing to the excellent atmosphere of the race. From here, Jackson was able to use his skills as an elite mountain biker to stretch Iacuone and eventually break him to take his first national series victory since Sydney in 2012. Iacuone was second, Jongewaard caught Paul Redenbach late in the race to take 3rd. Garry Millburn rode solo for the second half of the race to take 5th.
It was a great weekend of racing, and thanks go to the organisers, and especially the volunteers that give up their race to make the events happen.
The national series continues in Perth in 3 weeks, with BrewCX being central to the organisation of that round. It promises to be a great event, and we will have previews of the course up early next week.