TOBY Barnes (RST/Cycle Division Racing Team) and Alderney Baker (Team Empella Cyclo-Cross.com) got their cross seasons off to perfect starts by taking the men’s and women’s victories in the opening round of the West Midlands Cyclo Cross League at Shrewsbury.
Barnes, from Lichfield, won the opening four rounds of the series last year and made no mistakes on this occasion leading from the front and winning by 25 seconds.
Pictures by David Perry
Baker had a tougher challenge after having to fight back from a first lap crash to the front before surging to a narrow win.
Under-23 rider Barnes set a blistering pace away from the start line of the senior race and had built up 19 seconds of his lead after the opening lap.
He was chased throughout by mountain bike specialist Ben Wadey (Clee Cycles) who despite seeing Barnes’ gap yo-yo had to settle for second.
On his home course third place was taken by Jonathan Brain (Mid Shropshire Whls) after a close battle with Robert Burns.
The women’s race was an intriguing battle from the start after pre-race favourites and team-mates Alderney Baker and Melissa Baker collided.
Melissa was able to remount back to the pits while Alderney had to run after breaking her bike and lost 49 seconds to the leaders before having to chase through the field.
Both riders clawed their way back to lone leader Karen Summers with the trio coming into the final lap together.
Coming into the final technical section Alderney attacked and despite her team-mate responding she held on to the line.
Melissa took second while leading veteran Summers, from Wellington, took third overall on her local course.
“It was my first race back and first as an under-23 rider,” said Alderney Baker.
“Me and Mel crashed on the first corner after both getting good starts. After the crash we both ended up changing bikes twice and I ended up running to the pits so I was quite far down.
“I had to pace my way back up to the front group. Melissa managed to get back on her bike after the crash and ride to the pits so was in the middle of the field while I was dead last.
“Melissa reached the leaders just before I did which was on the start of the last lap. We just got out of the wooded section when I attacked and got passed them coming into the last technical section and held on.”
The veteran’s category aged 40+ was a tight one on the fast and flowing circuit with Nicholas Whitley and Steven Henshall locked in a battle throughout.
Eventually it came down to a sprint with Whitley just edging victory from his rival while Philip Glaze (Fishface Cycles RT) took third.
After winning the opening six rounds of the series last year Stephen Knight (Team Jewson-MI Racing) showed he has good form once again to win the veteran over-50s by 55 seconds.
Darren Atkins (Zannata Ride Coventry XGear) was the lone chaser in second while fastest over-60 Chris Wreghitt (Second Wind) led the chase behind in third.
The fast course at Shrewsbury led to another fascinating encounter in the under-16 boys’ race when Ben Askey (RST/Cycle Division RT) and Max Greensill (KTM UK Factory MTB Team) went head-to-head.
The pair were matched throughout the race, but it was Askey who had the quickest finish.
Sullivan Berry (Redditch Road & Path CC) was joined by Harry Cockroft (Malvern Cycle Sport) in a battle for third before powering away on the final lap.
In the under-14 boys’ category Seb Grindley (NCC) took a clear victory ahead of Spencer Corder (Rotor Race Team) in second while Alex Hart (Mid Shropshire Whls) took third after a close battle with Lewis Tinsley (Rotor Race Team).
A double home win for Mid Shropshire Wheelers came in the girls’ categories as Daphne Jones (Mid Shropshire Whls) took the under-16 win ahead of team-mate and under-14 winner Rebecca Woodvine.
Ella Tandy (Solihull CC) was second under-14 while Hannah Cockroft (Malvern Cycle Sport) finished third.
Meanwhile, Hannah Mcclorey (North Cheshire Clarion) was second under-16 and Posie Forrester (Wyre Forest CRC) took third.