INTRODUCTION: John Atkins won his 13th National Cyclo-Cross Championship in England on Sunday (16 January).?
INTRODUCTION: John Atkins won his 13th National Cyclo-Cross Championship in England on Sunday (16 January). He led the 100-man field almost from start to finish to gain one of his finest victories since winning his first title as an amateur in 1961.
SYNOPSIS: The British Cyclo-Cross Championship took place again this year at Sutton Coldfield, in the West Midlands, with two major changes in the rules. It's now a joint professional-amateur race. For the past nine years, while the race has included both categories, there have been separate awards and medals for the first three in each class. With one title and just three medals, the amateurs are out-classed. The 16-mile race (25.7 kilometres) was over eight laps of a two mile (3.2 kms) course in which the competitors tackled several gruelling sections and hazardous descents.
Although 34-year-old Atkins seemed to take the title without any apparent difficulty, it was a close battle in which never more than 17 seconds. separated the top two.
Second place was taken by defending professional champion, number 1, Keith Mernickle. His team colleague number 2, Ian Jewell, won the bronze medal.
For the massive crowd t he excitement stayed to the end. Despite Atkins' taking an early lead, the result was always in doubt right until the final hundred yards.
Held up by a crash ahead of him Mernickle was only around 25th place at the end of the first mile (1.6kms) - a delay which ultimately cost him first place. His chances were further hindered by a puncture and wheel change later in the race.
There was also a struggle for the bronze medal position for a time, while the amateur riders fought for the rest of the placings.
Once over the stretch of hurdles near the brook, at the close of the race, Atkins was safe. All three medal-holders will be amongst the contenders at the world championships next Sunday (23 January) in Hanover.