A couple of weeks ago, we wrote that Gosse's season goal of winning the National Trophy here in the UK was over. We may have slightly jumped the gun in our doom & gloom, as we were kindly informed halfway through last week that it was still mathematically possible. This gave us a good measure of gusto as we packed the van and headed down the M4 towards Pembrey County Park for round 5 of 6.
We chose to arrive on the Friday rather than the usual Saturday, to give us time for a ride on the Saturday morning & then the rest of the day to relax, prep, eat, and watch some football after the international break. Staying just west of Llanelli, some 15 minute drive from the course, the weather was fairly grey & the rain came all through Saturday morning. Undeterred, we headed out with Gosse for a short spin to show him just how nastily steep some of the Welsh roads can be. Gosse documented the ride, and the video can be found over on his page
When we arrived on the Sunday morning, the juniors had just set off. The course wasn't dissimilar to Irvine, with huge sweeping banks & lightning fast flat straights. The laps looked seriously quick, and we knew the Belgian/Dutch riders who had made the journey across to the race would favour such conditions. Another similarity shared with Irvine was that the coastal proximity of the course meant that it absorbed/drained water incredibly effectively, meaning a quiet day on the jet-washes. After a couple of issues with washers throughout the season, this was most welcome.
Whilst we weren't able to watch the full women's race (this is the last one before the men's, so invariably is when we are getting everything ready to go) - a special shout has to go to Ffion James, who put in an absolutely fantastic ride on home soil to take the win.
As the riders set off, we could do nothing but watch for the hour, as not a single front-runner of the race changed bike. It was just as well we could see almost all of the course, then, as we peered on constantly making time checks. After the first lap, Gosse threw down his hand and turned the screw on the front. He was clearly going incredibly deep, as the race became a thin single-file line of riders trying to hold on. Eventually, gaps started to emerge, and Gosse pulled away with Yannick Peeters (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) and Gianni Siebens (IKO - Crelan). Arne Vrachten (Acrog - Pauwels Sauzen), Julien Siemons (Telenet Fidea) and Ian Field (Neon Velo) were just a few seconds back, and it became clear quickly that the race winner would be one of these six riders. Siebens had a mechanical, and Field was distanced, leaving the 4 continental riders up front. Initially in 2 pairs, Gosse turned himself inside out to keep the gap big enough, but the smarter (and more energy effecient) riding of Vrachten meant he was able to turn the screw & open up a lead.
The pace was so consistently high that the time gaps between all riders seemed to just slowly eek upwards, rather than any single large attacks taking place. He didn't look back, and the U23 rider took his first win on UK soil, with Gosse crossing the line some 12 seconds later. The podium was rounded out by Siemons, followed by Peeters and then Field in fifth. Whilst not the race-winning move, Gosse's early play proved to be crucial in keeping his overall title ambitions (very) alive.
So, the situation heading into the final round in York is as follows (we believe - big thanks to the guys behind the @cyclocrosss Instagram page for the quick maths after the race)...
- Ian Field leads with 177 points, ahead of Gosse with 164
- Assuming both riders place well in York, then the points that will be dropped (only the 5 strongest rounds of 6 are counted) will be 22 for Ian and 12 for Gosse
- This leaves the points at 155 to 152
- As the points down to 7th place are separated by 3 or more (50 for 1st, then 44, 40, 36, 33, 30), then whoever places higher than the other rider in the top 6 will take the title
- In the case of a draw, it goes down to wins (of which both riders have 1) and then 2nd places (which gives Gosse the upper hand). So... it's all or nothing...