LEWIS Askey and Hannah Payton conquered the mud on their own turf to clinch the men’s and women’s victories in the Ridley Lazer West Midlands Cyclo-Cross league round eight.
Askey, 16, from Cannock, returned to racing after a period of illness and despite a slow start powered his way to the front before riding away from his rivals.
The depth of the current junior crop showed as they filled the top three senior places.
Riders returned to Baggeridge Country Park for the second time this year but the course created by host club Wolverhampton Wheelers provided a host of different challenges to previously.
Soft ground conditions made for slippery and muddy conditions which worsened throughout the day and there were long sections with deep mud meaning riders had to run.
Multiple round winner Toby Barnes (Lichfield City CC) got the fastest start as Askey slipped in the muddy conditions before getting tangled in the course marking tape.
However, Askey riding for Team Backstedt/Hotchillee soon found his legs closing in on the lone leader Barnes before the pair went head-to-head on the third lap sprinting alongside each other up the muddy banks.
Eventually it was Askey who broke clear of Barnes and opened a gap of 44 seconds by the finish.
Behind an intriguing battle behind for third transpired with another junior Marcus Holmes (Lichfield City CC) opening a substantial lead on first under-23 Ewan Mellor (Mid Shropshire Whls).
However, the hour-long race took its toll on Holmes and Mellor pulled back the advantage over the final two laps to finish just 13 seconds behind.
“It was my muddiest race so far as the rest have been hard ground underneath and slippery on top,” said Askey following his victory.
“It was a good result for me as it has been my first week back on the bike after falling ill following the European Championships where I finished 17th.
“I’m pleased to come away with the win and it was the first time I have faced Toby (Barnes) this season.
“I was about 20 seconds behind after the start, but I knew it was a long race and clawed my way back.
“I caught up and then put in a big effort to get a gap and then just kept going.”
The veteran’s over-40 age category had a new winner for the series in the absence of Darren Atkins (Ride Coventry) who had won all the previous rounds.
Taking top spot was Ed Moseley (Malvern Cycle Sport) who took victory by over a minute ahead of Philip Glaze (Stourbridge CC) in second and John Darrock (unattached) in third.
Such was the thickness of the mud that 12 seniors and veterans failed to finish due to mechanical issues from the 88 starters.
Team Kinesis UK rider Payton made it three victories from three league rides in the women’s event taking an impressive victory- finishing over five minutes clear of her nearest rival.
The Kingswinford-based rider who has been competing in the National Trophy, UCI World Cups and European Championships- where she finished 22nd, returned for her local cyclo-cross event.
With Payton well clear of her rivals an intriguing battle developed behind for second with veteran rider Karren Summers (unattached) initially leading the charge.
However, Ceris Styler (Halesowen A&CC) began to close the gap in the final two laps and a slip for Summers saw Styler ride away for second.
Summers road cautiously to hold on for third ahead of the closing Naomi Buckley-Melling (Stourbridge CC).
“It was really muddy and apart from the National Trophy at Shrewsbury last weekend they have been the first proper muddy races of the season, said Payton.
“It has been nice to have a change in weather and have proper cross conditions. I do enjoy the mud but it means you have to have a reliable and good pit crew- which I always have. I was having to change bikes every half-a-lap.
“It was nice to have a local race with no pressure like the National Trophy or World Cups and remember why I love racing.
“It was nice to be able to train yesterday and go into the race with tired legs.”
Payton will return to action in the fourth round of the National Trophy next weekend in Kent.
She won the series overall last season but hasn’t had things her own way this campaign.
“Hopefully there will be more muddy conditions next week and hopefully a better result than so far in the series,” added Payton.
“I fell things are starting to come together.”
After challenging the best in the country for podium places in the National Series in recent weeks, Stephen Knight (Team Jewson) returned to the West Midlands series to continue his domination of the veteran’s over-50 event.
Series leader Knight, from Halesowen, who had won all the opening seven rounds, took an early lead and looked to be romping home to another victory.
However, the muddy conditions would have its say and a mechanical for Knight saw him lose nearly a minute and allow Stephen Whitehouse (Stourbridge CC) take the lead.
Knight quickly recovered his lead and road away to win by two minutes.
Behind, Whitehouse held onto second ahead of over-60-year-old rider Peter Harris (Pearce Cycles RT).
In the youth race Simon Wyllie (Halesowen A&CC) made it six wins from seven rides taking victory by 49 seconds.
Behind Daniel Barnes (Lichfield City CC) was the lone chaser and kept increasing his gap over team-mate Emile Alexander.
Ben Askey (RST Racing Team) made it a victorious day for his family by taking his fifth victory from six rides in the under-14 category.
He was chased by Sullivan Berry (Redditch Road & Path CC) with Max Greensill in third.
Local rider Grace Lister (Wolverhampton Whls CC) again beat those much older than herself in the girl’s event with the under-14 rider taking the overall victory by nearly three minutes.
She beat first under-16 rider Isla Mason (Redditch Road & Path CC) into second while Isla Blain (Halesowen A&CC) finished third overall and second under-14.
Spencer Corder (Stratford CC) continued his domination of the under-12 category while Tia Carr (Lichfield City CC) was first girl.
In the under-10 age category Jefferson Tear-Verweij (unattached) finally road to top place on the podium while Rose Lewis (Halesowen A&CC) was first girl.
Louis Inman (Bolsover & District CC) continued his domination of the under-eight age category while Eva-Joan Leavis (Leicester Forest CC) was first girl.
Finally, Harry Boar (Wolverhampton Whls CC) took a close victory in the under-six age category while Millie Barton (Mid Shropshire Whls) won the girl’s event.