Naylor clinches a first title win as close-fought campaign ends on a low note
THERE is again a new name on the Notts & Derby Cyclo-cross League trophy, with league stalwart Andrew Naylor taking the honours after another remarkably close-fought season.
Naylor, who founded a new company, Fossa Bikes, along with a racing team to go with it last year, edged out Nottingham Clarion rider Andrew Stuart by two points in the final reckoning, with Clay Cross rider Gareth Whithall another two points back.
There was a slightly unsatisfactory end to the season when the final round, scheduled for the Darley Moor circuit, near Ashbourne, had to be called off owing to the snow but that should not detract at all from Naylor's fine riding throughout the season.
He won only one round of 12 outright, at Sinfin Moor, but the races are often attended by nationally-ranked riders getting in practice and there were two other occasions when he took maximum league points behind GB international David Fletcher.
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Naylor also secured what he thinks is probably a unique double. His wife, Sarah, won the women's title in 2010 and they may be the first married couple to have each won titles in the long-running league.
His only regret is that the new Fossa Bikes team was ultimately pipped to the league's team prize by Nottingham Clarion.
"It's the first time I have won the league, so it's pretty special," said Naylor, who is from Hucknall.
"I've had a second, two thirds and lots of top 10 placings, so you do wonder if the win will ever come. Fortunately for me, it has!
"The league has a great history and I've been riding it through all the categories for 21 years, so to finally win it is brilliant.
"Just like last year, it's been really close for the whole season. There are only a few points covering the top four.
"Actually, my Fossa team-mate Lee Shunburne's fourth place is really impressive, given that he broke his arm just before the season started, so to come back like he has and end up fourth is a remarkable effort.
"The racing has been really exciting and it would have only taken one slip, mechanical issue or puncture and the whole thing could have been completely different."
Naylor, however, enjoyed a season when everything came together.
"I've been fortunate this year," added Naylor.
"I managed to avoid getting ill or having any major problems in any of the Notts & Derby races, apart for the odd crash, which is to be expected.
"The highlight of the races was my win at Sinfin, which was one of those rare days when everything works and goes to plan.
"I was also very pleased with races at Allestree Park and Bingham, as I finished second to David Fletcher, who's a World Championship medallist in mountain biking, so while second can be a bit frustrating, I wasn't too unhappy.
"We've put together a great group in the Fossa Racing team. We are good friends and enjoy training and racing together, so it's great to end my first year with them with a win.
"Sadly, we just missed out in the team and mixed team competitions – hopefully next year for those!"
After a season-long battle, Derby Mercury teenager Tom Weeds finished the season with the youth category title, a single point ahead of his friend and rival Will Gascoyne, of Matlock CC.
The pair were untouchable in league races and both look to have a bright future at national level, where Gascoyne narrowly missed out on the National Trophy series youth title.
Diane Lee was also untouchable in the women's races in the league.
The Zepnat RT rider from Matlock won the first 10 rounds of the season and did not need to take part in the last two to secure the title.
Under-12s racing is always popular in the league and it was Joshua Scales, from Derby Mercury, who took six wins from 12 rounds to pip Nottingham Clarion girl Poppy Wildman, who won five times, to the title by one point.
Wildman, clearly one for the future, was left to rue finishing fourth in what turned out to be the 12th and final round – the only time she finished out of the top two in the season.
The league introduced an under-nine category this season to cope with the large numbers of children who find cyclo-cross both a friendly and manageable introduction to competitive cycling.
And it was Matlock CC youngster Sam Gould who took maximum points in each round to land the title.
The league's presentation night will be at Derby Rugby Club, Haslams Lane, on Friday, February 22 (7pm).
Tickets are available from committee members at £12 (£8 under-12s). Full details on the league website, www.ndcxl.org.uk