The Northwest Regional Championships was held today on a pan-flat circuit around Out-Rawcliffe, north of Preston.
A disappointing field of only 14 junior riders contested the first race of the day under grey skies and occasional drizzle. With major representation from Mountivation and MaxGear, with other teams only fielding 1 or 2 riders, it was always likely that they would boss the race and so it proved. On lap 1 3 riders escaped from the field, Matt Flyn and Thomas Armstrong of Mountivation, taking Hugh Carthy from MaxGear with them. The trio worked well together and quickly built up a commanding lead of 3 minutes.
There was little coordinated activity from the chasing pack, although Tom Bracegirlde (Team Elite) and the riders from Team Wallis-CHH and Velocity 3in1 were all active on the front. As the laps counted down, the remaining MaxGear riders in the main group put in a strong effort to try and give Carthy some support but by then it was far too late.
The 3 leaders were still over a minute ahead as they entered the last kilometre and into the view of the spectators at the finish line. With an advantage in numbers the odds were always likely to be stacked against Carthy and so proved as Flyn attacked early, expecting to be pulled back but allowing Armstrong, the strongest sprinter, to take the win. However, his attack was too strong for his breakaway companions and he crossed the line first to take the win. Henry Hunter (Wallis-CHH) escaped from the main bunch on the drag up to the line and was able to take 4th.
Matt Flyn spoke to British Cycling afterwards and said:
“The bunch was so small that when you get a group of 3 or 4 away there are only smaller teams left and noone is prepared to chase. An early break was always going to stay away. I felt good but knew I didn’t have it in the sprint. I knew Tom did though, so I went early and made Hugh do all the chasing to let Tom take the win”
A strong field of approximately 50 riders took the start for the Category 3 and 4 race, starting 10 minutes behind the diminutive group of juniors. With the wind dying down across the flat course the bunch held together without significant upset. With such a large group the pace was high and some of the more inexperienced riders were dropped but it also made it difficult to make a break.
With 3 laps gone the stronger riders began to flex their muscles and a small group clipped off the front, however it was quickly brought back, and the bunch was together as they took the bell. However, the pace quickly ratcheted as the favourites started to think about the win and the main bunch began to split up. A sizeable group contested a bunch sprint with Jeff Vernon (Birkenhead North End) taking the win from Bill Gray (Kuota) and Chris Quin (Macclesfield Wheelers).
With the Junior and 3/4 event run concurrently it was a clear road for the top riders of the Elites and Cat 1/2/3 riders. With many riding in the Tour of Ireland or in Norway, it was a slightly diminished field with many of the familiar Premier Calendar faces absent. Ian Wilkinson (Endura) was due to ride and turned up at the HQ, only to admit that he’d had his bike fall of the roof of his car. Without the might of Endura behind him there wasn’t a spare so he was out.
The pace was high from the off as by now there was almost no wind and the sun was starting to come out. Matt Cronshaw (Node4 Giordana) was active on the front from the start and it was clear that it was going to be a fast and furious race.
On lap 2 Vanilla Bikes put two riders up the road but they were quickly chased down. Vanilla were having a storming ride and as soon as the group came back together another rider would go. On lap 4 11 managed to escape and built a lead of over 30s. However, the chase was quickly organised and by lap 6 the bunch was all back together again, the main bunch having swept up 5 chasers, broken up, reformed and broken up again before making the catch.
As the bunch went through the finish and received the bell, Ben Greenwood (Vanilla Bikes) was off the front and Cronshaw buried himself to get across. Working together the pair managed to hold off the bunch and Cronshaw took the sprint for the win. Greenwood was followed in by Ben Dean of B-Global).
Speaking after his win, Cronshaw said:
“That was quite a tricky race. Vanilla Bikes were super strong and were putting 2 or 3 men into each move. Also alot of guys were looking at me to do alot of chasing. I think I showed my cards a little early, and on the last lap Vanilla were just attacking and attacking. Then Ben (Greenwood) went and the bunch died a little so I jumped across and we just rode round. I led out the sprint. If it had been uphill it might have been a different story but this course is made for me”