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Harriet Harnden battles through the mud to win British cyclo-cross title

Harriet Harden of United Kingdom negotiates the sand at Oostende World Championships in 2021
Harriet Harden of United Kingdom negotiates the sand at Oostende World Championships in 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Harriet Harnden (Trek Factory Racing CX) used her mountain bike skills to retain her national bands in the elite women’s British Cyclo-cross National Championships in Crawley. 

The mud and slow conditions suited Harnden's power who also won the title when it was last held in 2020. Fellow mountain bike specialist Annie Last (SCOTT Racing) finished second while Anna Kay (Starcasino CX Team) finished third. 

Kay had started quickly and lead on the opening lap before Harnden powered past her rival to take control.

Last used her power and skill in the second half of the race to move up to second while Kay struggled more with the muddy conditions. Harnden previously showed form in the mud taking fourth at the under-23 world championships in similar conditions at Valkenburg in February 2018.

“I knew Anna was going to go off fast because she’s a fast starter and I just had to do my best to go with that,” explained a happy Harnden.

“I just rode my own race, stuck at my own pace and just stuck at it. I knew with the conditions it did suit me and I knew that was going to be good. I knew I could go with Anna on a bad day so that just gave me a lot of confidence and I had faith that I had done all of the right work. 

“It feels amazing to wear the jersey again. Each year I put more and more work into trying to earn the national jersey so each year I’m more grateful to wear those, there is a lot of pride.” 

How it unfolded

The South of England Showground near Crawley hosted this year’s national championships after a year without titles awarded. The rain of the previous day made for a muddy course which was becoming tougher as the day wore on. A key feature on the course was a quarry section with steep and technical descents along with a steep climb for riders to run up. 

Junior European cyclo-cross champion Zoe Backstedt (Tormans-ACROG) had been a pre-race favourite for the elite title before coming down with the COVID-19 coronavirus which resulted in her missing the event. 

The gravel start had seen crashes in previous races and defending champion Harriet Harnden had some problems clipping in. Anna Kay looked to stamp her authority on the race early on and opened a slender gap on Commonwealth mountain bike gold medallist Annie Last. Behind the slippery mud started to catch riders out and Millie Couzens (Crelan-IKO) was one of the early fallers. 

Recovering from her early mistake, Harnden pulled back up to the leaders and went past Last running up a steep banking in the quarry section. Kay was using her fast-pedaling speed and technical ability to pull out a first lap gap. However, Harnden was using her power in the deep mud and sat just a handful of seconds behind after the opening lap of 13 minutes. 

By the start of the second lap mountain bike specialist Harnden had pulled back to the leader with her slow pedalling and power proving effective through the mud. Harnden went straight by Kay taking the lead before the midway point and powering clear of her rivals. 

Fellow mountain bike specialist Last was also thriving in the muddy conditions and reached Kay before passing her in the battle for the podium places. 

Kay was relentless in her pursuit of Last in the battle for second but lost time tangling with the course tape while trying to maintain her speed up a muddy climb. 

Taking the last lap bell Harnden lead by 15 seconds ahead of Last while Kay was able to see her rival a further 10 seconds back in the battle for second place. 

Harnden had time to celebrate retaining her British national jersey while Last placed second and Kay third.

Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Harriet Harnden (GBr) Trek Factory Racing CX 0:54:50
2Annie Last (GBr) 0:15:00
3Anna Kay (GBr) Starcasino CX Team 0:28:00
4Christina Wiejak (GBr) 3:45:00
5Xan Crees (GBr) Team Spectra WIGGLE p/b Vitus 4:17:00
6Ceris Styler (GBr) 4:38:00
7Alderney Baker (GBr) 5:10:00
8Anna Flynn (GBr) 5:45:00
9Ruby James (GBr) 6:39:00
10Abbie Manley (GBr) 7:09:00
11Amy Perryman (GBr) 7:49:00
12Lotta Mansfield (GBr) 8:07:00
13Kate Eedy (GBr) 9:08:00
14Bethany Barnett (GBr) 9:48:00
15Connie Hayes (GBr) 10:17:00
16Ffion James (GBr) 11:06:00
17Bethany Crumpton (GBr) Team Spectra WIGGLE p/b Vitus 11:52:00
18Ishbel Strathdee (GBr) Velorevolution WP Cycles 12:35:00
19Helen Ralston (GBr) 12:39:00
20Catriona Ross (GBr) 12:55:00
21Lindy Larkin (GBr)
22Lisa Mansell (GBr)
23Libby Greatorex (GBr)
24Lydia Brookes (GBr)
25Natasha Reddy (GBr)
26Grace Whitehouse (GBr)
27Cassandra MacKintosh (GBr)
28Charlotte-Louise McGreevy (GBr)
29Cecilia Hime (GBr)
30Carly Ibbitson (GBr)
31Amelie Wayte (GBr)
32Mollie Bilner (GBr)
33Lucy Hart (GBr)
34Gemma Wilks (GBr)
35Emma Jane Hornsby (GBr)
36Katie Scotter (GBr)
37Sarah Toms (GBr)
38Sarah Hickman (GBr)
39Heidi Robus-Toner (GBr)
DNFGeorgina Wise (GBr)
DNFMillie Couzens (GBr)
DNFRebecca Preece (GBr)
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