Ripley Castle Cyclocross
1 January 2014
The second running of the Ripley Castle Cyclocross saw over 450 competitors descend on Ripley, a small, picturesque village and attendant stately home, set in rolling countryside on the southern fringes of the Yorkshire Dales.
Opening proceedings, the Youth under-16 race was dominated by Ben Turner (Paul Milnes), who gapped the eventual runner up, Euan Cameron (East Bradford CC), on the second lap and had moved 45 seconds clear by the finish. The Under-14 winner, as so often this season in Yorkshire, was Pedalsport CC’s Jenson Young.
North-Eastern visitor Fiona Turnbull (Tyneside Vagabonds) was another clear winner in the under-16 girls’ category and the only female rider to finish on the same lap as Ben Turner, whilst Cycle Sport Pendle’s Lucy Naylor was the first under-14 girl.
One of Ripley Castle Cyclocross’s least celebrated achievements is its capacity to attract new people to watch and participate in the sport: just like last year, the adult novice race, run off at the same time as the Youths, proved to be a big hit, with Vicky Begg leading home 19 women and Steve Thompson finishing at the head of a remarkable 65 novice men. That’s well over 80 people who class themselves as beginners at the sport, choosing to turn out early on New Year’s day and subject themselves to half an hour or so of mud-plugging!
Another Ripley Castle Cyclocross plus is the fact that there is room for a completely independent Under-12 course, complete with its own hurdles and a healthy dose of that special lakeside Ripley mud that has the answers to most tyre choices. Ninety riders, spread over three age categories produced some of the best and indeed best-supported racing of the day.
In the Under-8 race, Noah Ellison and Esme Walkinshaw both won by over half a minute, which takes some doing in an 8 minute race! Scott Fisher of Furness Future Flyers made the long trip down from the Northwest worthwhile with a win in the boys’ Under-10 race, with Freya Brearly continuing her outstanding season in Yorkshire with yet another clear win in the girls’ event. The Under-12 competitors had almost 15 minutes of racing at the end of which Bjoern Koerdt and Kaleigh Wells, both regular podium toppers on the regional scene this winter, emerged as convincing winners.
The biggest race of the day went off at 12.30 and featured the Veteran 40 plus men, Veteran 50 plus men and the combined women’s categories, over 160 riders in total, going off in three closely spaced waves. Among them was American cycling legend Keith Bontranger.
The Veteran 40 men had the advantage of a clear course ahead of them and Jedi Cycle Sport’s Ian Taylor, arguably the best rider in the category in the country, was in a class of his own from the start, opening up a gap of 26 seconds over a small chasing group at the end of the first lap and then gradually stretching that to the finish where he was a minute and 11 seconds clear of Daniel Alexander of Zepnat.
Chris Young (Pedalsport) was even more in control in the Veteran-50 race: making light work of working his way through the Vet-40 field that had set off a minute earlier, he was 25 seconds clear at the end of the opening lap and extended that to over two minutes at the finish. Steve Barnes had his best ride for several weeks slotting into second place ahead of Matt Wilson of Pedalsport, who rode another impressive race in his first season in the sport.
Thirty women set off a further minute behind the Vet-50 men and they too faced both heavy traffic and a course that was cutting up and becoming distinctly “interesting”. Amira Mellor (Paul Milnes Cycles), a stand-out rider on the national scene this season, despite still being a Junior (under-18), soon had the race under control, helped by Verity Appleyard’s (Brotherton Cycles)bike eating its rear mech’ soon after the start. Mellor made cool and composed progress through the massed ranks of male riders who started ahead of her and was never in any danger of being beaten, finishing two and a half minutes clear of Henrietta Colbourne (Bonito Squadra Corse), with Vet-40 rider Marie Jackson (Paul Milnes Cycles) claiming the last podium spot after a race long battle with Joanna Rycroft (cxmagazine.com Racing Team). Also worth a mention was the race organisers’ continued commitment to equal prizes for all racing categories across the men and women, boys and girls.
The final race saw almost 70 Senior and Junior men taking to the, by now, very muddy course at 2pm. At the end of the short out-lap, an elite group of some nine riders had formed at the head of the race, including Jack Clarkson (Hope), Nick Barnes (Zepnat), Adam Martin (Metaltek Kuota) and Alfie Moses (Paul Milnes Cycles), and they thundered through the castle courtyard in close formation.
But, back out onto the full race lap, it was Clarkson who then made the key move of the race, pulling clear of Martin and forging a 15 second lead by the time the riders entered the cobbled finish straight the next time. And that was the pattern for the next hour, with Clarkson edging steadily away from Martin for most of the rest of the race, to win by almost a minute.
Behind them, Clarkson’s Hope team-mate Michael Thompson overcame a conservative start and worked his way into third place, whilst Moses continued his excellent season by finishing first Junior and fifth overall.
The final presentations were made in twilight conditions, with rain on the wind and happy crowds enjoying the courtyard tearooms to the full. The local BBC sports reporter roved amongst the riders gathering content for the late afternoon bulletin, whilst a veritable constellation of flash bulbs rippled in the background, preparing the way for an evening feeding frenzy of tagging and sharing on social media.