The Elite men's event was the final race of the afternoon and you could sense the excitement in the air as spectators started to dash over the course to get to the best spots as the riders lined up and Hugh Porter went through the riders names.
It was probably the best line up so far in the trophy series this year, hence the long line of spectators on top of the hill where they could see the riders a number of times as the course came back and forth past the pits. And being on a hill, they could then look down on the finish straight and see the riders race past the podium as well. All it needed was a set of steps over the fences!
Delayed by 15 minutes, so the presentation to the Women and Juniors could be completed, at 2.30pm the race commenced and it was a group of riders six or seven wide which sprinted up the hill and towards the entrance to the off road section. Local rider Ben Roach got a good start and on top of the hill led the race from Jody Crawforth and Ian Wilkinson, with Nicolas Bazin already well up in fourth place.
Onto the side of the hill, with its off camber twists and muddy bends, Roach continued to lead from Crawforth and Mariusz Gil with yellow jersey Ian Field in 5th place. Crawforth soon took the lead though and Gil was on his wheel as the selection at the front started to form with the main players being Crawforth, Gil, Bazin, Field, Dave Collins, David Willemsens, Paul Oldham and Stuart Bowers.
With so many riders in contention, it was a battle royal up front but soon one rider started to make his move: French rider Nicolas Bazin, second to David Willemsens in Devon and a regular choice for the French National Team in this year's World Cup races, worked his way to the front of the race closely followed by Ian Field and the rest of the leading contenders. Bazin though had the skill and firepower to draw clear and was soon lapping the course alone, a good 15 seconds or so ahead of the rest of the leaders with Crawforth and Field looking strong.
Whilst Bazin had the race to himself out front, the chase group behind was together for a long time before it started to break up and Crawforth went clear with Gil a few seconds behind him. Slowly, the gaps between all the chasers started to grow and whilst there was never much between the riders between third and sixth, series leader Field was surprisingly dropping back and right out of contention, eventually finishing seventh.
The victory went to French rider Nicolas Bazin, 21 seconds ahead of Jody Crawforth who had done enough to take the leader's jersey off the back of Ian Field.
Afterwards, I spoke to a few of the riders.
Nicolas Bazin (1st) “I am in good form from one week ago and it was a very good day for me. The course was very good, very difficult with the mud and it was very slippery. We have the same type of courses in France although they are flatter. The English races are very good for me but I don't think I can come again this year because now I have a lot of races with the World Cup, French Cup and French Championships and other races near my house.”
Jody Crawforth (2nd, now series leader): “I was surprised today and didn't expect to feel as good as I did as I haven't been feeling that good this week. I went off on the first lap and when it's slippery, it's better to be careful. I started to feel good so I started to attack a few times and had a little crash.”
“Ian and the French guy then got away so I lost a little time. Then, trying to get back on to them, I had another little slide off. I caught Ian and then there were a few of us going round together and then towards the end of the second third of the race, I was trying really hard to get away and managed to do that on the long draggy bit up to the pits.”
“In the group, it was difficult to organise a chase because you're all battling for position and that is why I tried to get away on my own so I could the course at my own pace. It's good to have the jersey now and although it would have been nice to win today, I'll settle for having the yellow jersey.”