Report: Rob Thackray
Last weekend, three of the Country’s most promising cyclo cross riders from the Paul Milnes Cycles Team went out to Belgium with two key objectives in mind: firstly ride the best courses in the world, against the best riders in the world, to see how they measure up; and secondly, understand what they need to do to make it as pro ‘cross riders.
The plan was to ride the World Cup on Saturday and the Superprestige on Sunday. Saturday’s race was staged on the most famous cyclo cross course in the world, the sand dunes of Koksijde, while Sunday was a brand new course, designed by multiple world cross champion Erwin Vervecken, on the stunning Spa-Francorchamps Grand Prix circuit.
The atmosphere on Saturday was electric, with the riders getting to witness tens of thousands of spectators lining the sand based course. The team had two riders racing, Ben Turner and Sophie Thackray. Both riders had a great day with Sophie winning the youth girls and Ben coming 8th against the boys. Overall, British riders took a one-two in the girls, Sophie and Emily Wadsworth, and had three boys in the top 10 with Dan Tullett in 4th, Harry Yates 6th and Ben 8th. This really demonstrates that as a country we have some great talent in this age group.
For the team’s third rider, National Trophy leader Amira Mellor, Saturday was all about learning. Amira did a full race warm up, riding with the likes of Sven Nys, learning the dark art of sand riding, followed by a session on the rollers ahead of the following day’s racing. After the race, the team got the opportunity to watch the World’s best riders take lines which almost seemed impossible. The team already has a training session planned in the dunes of Blackpool Beach for more practice!
Sunday’s race was set in the amazing location of the Spa-Francorchamps Grand Prix circuit. Having Amira Mellor riding in the Elite women’s race, we were allowed to park with the Pro Teams. This was a real eye opener to our team, warming up under our 10×10 Paul Milnes Cycles gazebo, whilst parked right next to Fidea Telenet who brought no less than 15 motor homes to the event, each with the riders’ own pictures and names all over them. Even junior riders have their own Motorhome given!
The course was extremely tough, very hilly, and very muddy, with steep run ups and severe descents. This seemed to suit our riders. Ben Turner had a fantastic ride to finish in 7th place, and only a few seconds away from 4th. It’s highly likely future world champions will come from this youth race with some of the best riders from Belgium, Holland, France and USA competing. With no other youth girls riding, it was an easy category win for Sophie. However, after mixing it well up in the boys field for much of the race, she got the experience of being mobbed at the finish by Belgium press and fans wanting interviews and autographs. We’ve never seen that at a Yorkshire Points event!
Now to our big race, the Elite Women on Sunday, which featured the best riders in the world. Amira Mellor who has just turned 17 rode the race of her life, sitting in the top 10 for the first half of the race before finishing in an amazing 13th, just 32 seconds away from a top 10 finish. Learning and improving every week, we will see Amira’s face on her own motor home in no time! The race was won by Nikki Harris, closely followed by Helen Wyman, again showing what talent British riders now have.
The team riders would like to thank their sponsor, Paul Milnes Cycles, and an anonymous Yorkshire donor for helping to support their trip. Also, the riders would like to thank Helen and Steff Wyman for their generous advice and support while at the races.