The National Circuit Series rolls into Ilkley on Friday 1 July for the 8th edition of the Ilkley Cycle Races. The races were a new addition to the National Circuit Series last year and were an immediate hit. So we’re pleased to see them back. Here’s our preview.
Featured photo: SWPix
What is it?
Just six miles away from the scene of Round 1 of the National Circuit Series in Otley, Ilkley will host Round 2 this Friday evening. The Ilkley Cycle Races has been running since 2014 and has quickly established itself as a popular event, with a good atmosphere and enthusiastic crowds.
As well as two elite races (the Ilkley Cinema Women’s Grand Prix and the Lister Horsfall Men’s Grand Prix), the event also features an under-16s race and a Cat 2/3/4 and Masters’ race. The elite races form the second round of the 2022 National Circuit Series.
The elite men’s race has previously been won by Alex Dalton (2014), Pete Williams (2015), Scott Thwaites (2016), Tobyn Horton (2017) and Tom Moses (2018 and 2019). Victors of the women’s elite race, meanwhile, have been Melissa Lowther (2014), Henrietta Colbourne (2015), Rebecca Womersley (2016), Annie Simpson (2017 and 2018) and Emily Meakin (2019).
Last year’s winners were Wiv SunGod’s Reece Wood and Megan Barker (CAMS-Basso).
The route is a short punchy clockwise circuit in the centre of Ilkley. It’s a tougher circuit than the one in Otley, hard enough to split the race to pieces. So expect plenty of aggressive racing throughout and a different kind of winner.
At just 1.5 kilometres long, expect the riders to complete each lap as quickly as two minutes; Tom Pidcock and Max Poole are the only riders to have broken the two-minute barrier on the circuit, according to Strava.
The circuit starts outside Bettys Café Tea Rooms on The Grove. It quickly takes a 90° righthand turn and from here, the main climbing begins, with a 200 m ramp up Riddings Road, which has a maximum gradient of around 14%. Positioning into this right-hander will be crucial, as it is from this climb that we can expect many an attack to be launched. A long stretch of false flat then follows along Albany Walk and onto Parish Gyll Drive.
The race then begins heading back into town with a technical downhill section, fast and challenging enough that any rider hitting this section first on the final lap will fancy their chances of winning the race outright. The road kinks right then left onto Wilton Road before turning right onto Grove Road for a fairly long, straight downhill stretch. The riders then bear right again – at high speed – onto the finishing straight along The Grove.
The women’s race lasts 45 minutes, with the men racing for 60 minutes.
Riders to watch
You can view the provisional startlists here. The fields are unsurprisingly similar to the ones that raced Otley earlier in the week.
CAMS-Basso bullied this race last year from the off, ripping the race to shreds early on, winning the race through Meg Barker and placing three riders in the top four. If they field the squad they have on the provisional startlist they could be capable of pulling off the same feat again. That’s a big if though given that they had several withdrawals before Otley. We understand Meg Barker and Becky Storrie are likely to be non-starters otherwise they would both be on our list of contenders. Assuming that’s correct, then Beth Morrow (second last year), Sammie Stuart (6th in the nationals road race) and Jess Finney (fourth last year) are likely to be their strongest cards.
The Le Col-Wahoo pairing of Flora Perkins and El King were up there again in Otley and are capable of going well again in Ilkley.
Circuit race specialists Pro-Noctis – Rotor – Redchilli Bikes by Heidi Kjeldsen again have numbers. Lucy Ellmore is particularly punchy so she is our pick from that team.
It will be interesting to see how junior sensation Emma Jeffers (JRC-INTERFLON Race Team) fairs. She has excelled in circuit races this year and we’re curious to see how she does on a much punchier course.
Likewise ‘renaissance woman’ and Otley GP winner Charlotte Broughton (AWOL O’Shea); she is a self-professed non-climber so it will be interesting to see whether this course will suit her or not.
19-year-old Alba Development Road Team’s Kate Richardson is due a breakthrough result after a fine season so far. Jessie Carridge (Brother UK-Orientation Marketing) is another rider to watch. She was third in Lincoln and this punchier course could suit her.
Other riders to keep an eye on include former national road race champion Jessica Roberts (Team Coop – Hitec Products), Millie Couzens (Plantur-Pura) and Lucy Gadd (Storey Racing). Team Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus’ Amira Mellor is in good shape – 7th in Otley – and Team Boompods’ Monica Greenwood is another who has been notable in recent races.
Prediction? Really hard to pick a winner but let’s plump for Lucy Ellmore to punch her way to victory.
The headline news is that newly crowned national circuit race champion Matt Bostock (WiV SunGod) is back in action having skipped Otley to help him recover from his crash at the national road race on Sunday. He was 8th in Ilkley last year and has the ability to go even better this time around.
With Otley GP winner Jake Scott and two-time UCI road race winner Rob Scott also in the team, WiV SunGod has the power to repeat last year’s escapades when they collectively decimated the race early on.
Sam Watson (Groupama-FDJ Continental) has come very close to wins in the last week; second in the national circuit race, second in the national road race, and then leading home the bunch for third in Otley. A win in Ilkley would be just reward for his efforts.
Others we expect to see in the mix include Leon Mazzone (Saint Piran), Ollie Rees (TRINITY Road Racing), Bob Donaldson and Harry Birchill (both Team Inspired). Each have been regulars in the top placings in domestic races this year.
Of the elite teams, Richardsons-Trek DAS field a strong team. Our former journal contributor James Jenkins enjoys a punchy course. Isaac Mundy (Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus) very nearly won the national circuit race in 2019 before unclipping in the final sprint. He has been focused on off-road racing this year but don’t rule him out. George Wood (Cycling Sheffield) and Joe Wilson (Dolan Ellesse) might also find this course to their liking.
Prediction? Jake Scott to make it two from two.
National Circuit Series standings after round 1 here.
17.45 MAS Design under-16s race
18.25 Ilkley CC Classic Race (Cat 2/3/4 men & masters race)
19.20 Ilkley Cinema Women’s Grand Prix
20.20 Lister Horsfall Men’s Grand Prix
At the time of writing, the forecast indicates it will be a warm evening but light showers in the afternoon before the race could make the technical course slippery in places.
How to follow
Once again, Velo29 is providing a live stream of the race. The stream will go live from 17.45.
There will be race updates from the British Cycling Twitter account.