Twists and turns set to test the best at Chantry Park

CHANTRY Park plays host to the cream of UK riders when the British National Cyclo-cross Championships return to Ipswich for the first time in a decade this weekend.

Around 500 of the sport’s top cyclists will be racing for the prestigious red, white and blue jersey as well as gaining vital time on the saddle with several riders preparing for this year’s Olympic Games in London.

Among the big names taking part in the 47-year old event, which will be a pre-cursor to the European Championships in Ipswich in November, will be eight-time winner and former world champion, Roger Hammond, top mountain biker and Olympic hopeful Liam Killeen and defending champion Paul Oldham.

The event has also drawn a good entry from local riders keen to take part in the biggest race on the calendar.

“Ipswich has proved to be a popular venue and more people have entered this year’s race than entered last year’s in Derby, which is quite a nice thing when you consider Derby is in the centre of the country,” said event organiser Steve Grimwood of Ipswich Bicycle Club.

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“We have top mountain bike rider Liam Killeen, who is a regular visitor to Ipswich, as well as pro female mountain biker Annie Last. She will be competing as part of the build-up to London 2012.

“Then there is Roger Hammond, who appeared in the recent Tour of Britain and could well make the Great Britain road team for this year’s Olympics.

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“It is a one-off event over two days with 500 of the top cyclists competing for the much coveted jersey and it is nice to have it back in Ipswich and is a fantastic opportunity for people to get involved in cycling.”

Hugo Robinson, 17, who lives near Debenham, was six when he took up the sport as a result of major cycling events been held in Ipswich. He is the current national junior champion and rides for Ipswich’s Elmy Cycles/XRT team and is a member of Ipswich Bicycle Club.

“Hugo has got a good chance of retaining the title he won in Derby, last year and he has been in good form all season,” said Grimwood.

“But it will not be easy for him and he will face a couple of strong challengers.”

It will not just be the competition that tests Robinson, or indeed the rest of the riders competing in their different categories, conditions play a big part in determining the winners.

Cyclo-cross is a tough winter off-road discipline where racers compete on twisty, grassy, muddy, undulating courses which give the spectators a great view of the action. Riders use specially-designed bikes which can cost up to �5,000 - and top riders will have at least two bikes each.

The course at Chantry Park is 3km long and riders have up to an hour to complete as many laps as possible.

“Riders start on a grid determined by their national ranking and who was last year’s winner,” said Grimwood.

“The course is a very testing one with a number of challenging cambers and there is likely to be a lot of slipping and sliding.

“The weather will play a big part and while it might cause a few problems logistically and for spectators, it won’t affect the race.

“If it is dry and fast it will suit the road riders, whereas slippery conditions provide for a more technical course and more skill will be required to get around the track. I am sure some of the riders would not mind snow either.”

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