On Saturday the 3rd October, the team assembled in Heaton Park for Round Three of the North West Cyclo Cross Association League.
This venue is on the edge of Manchester and offers a very large expanse of Victorian greenbelt ideal for this type of racing. The venue will also be used later in the season for the North of England Championship but no doubt more rain will have fallen by then!
The day began quite foggy, cold and damp with signs of Autumn certainly on show. The riders went through their usual warm-up ritual and then assembled on the start line at 10:45am for a 30 minute race.
On paper, the field looked reasonably strong with the attendance of Olympic Apprentices Craig Rogers and Soloman-Kerfoot Robson, alongside Matty Taylor from PH-MAS Cycling (winner of several Yorkshire points races this season) and Charlie Craig, a talented 1st year A and son of Nick Craig, the prolific national title holder and Scott Ambassador.
From the Inspire VCUK Race Team we had Lewis Hartley (winner of Rounds 1 & 2) alongside Cory Edmondson, Nathan Hawthorn and Daniel Gibson.
By all accounts, the race set off very fast and up a slight rise before heading to an off-camber / tree section ending with a set of steps. As the riders approached the steps, Lewis was able to move up to the front of the pack and then began the application of pressure to those behind. Just before the steps there was a small catastrophe for Cory when his chain snapped. This required a short run to the pits in order to swap bikes before he could re-join the proceedings some way behind the leaders.
Meanwhile, a strong leading group of five riders was setting the pace as they appeared in sight over a small summit in the distant mist. This summit was just after some hurdles which Lewis was able to bunny-hop and gain time on his rivals. The group re-formed on the descent but this kind of pressure is always helpful.
Mid-way through the race an incident occurred where Craig Rogers lost some grip on a damp grassy corner. Craig slid into Matty Taylor and both had problems getting going as their bikes became tangled. Sol, Lewis and Charlie carried on regardless and this was the point when the race was lit up. Lewis attacked just after the hurdles and managed to gain a considerable gap on his rivals over a very short space of time and then continued at full gas for a good lap to cement his lead in the race.
Not far behind the action was Nathan Hawthorn and Dan Gibson, both riding exceptionally well for the VCUK, riding as a pair for 5th and 6th position. After the earlier collision Craig Rogers was now riding in 7th position.
So as the race came to close, Lewis riding solo was again allowed to raise his hands for his 3rd consecutive victory, from Sol Kerfoot-Robson in 2nd place and Charlie van der Craig in 3rd. Matty Taylor took 4th followed by Inspire VCUK riders Nathan and Daniel in 5th and 6th. Cory rolled home in 13th place after suffering an early mechanical failure and later flying over his handle bars when his rear wheel jammed going through the pits…not Cory’s day to be fair!