It’s been a strong start to the season for Garden Shed UK – Ribble – Verge Sport. The team have now been fully kitted out with new Ribble CX SL carbon cross bikes, fetchingly decked out in a fresh new green Verge Sport livery. They have enjoyed an excellent start to the 2020/2021 cyclocross season.
Northern Region CX Championship – 29th November
It was a relatively quiet weekend for the team ahead of what looks set to be an action-packed Christmas schedule. Oli and Seb were both in action at the Northern Region CX Championship, in the Northeast. Both were looking to maintain their early season form with the next round of the National Trophy Series less than two weeks away. Current NTS leader Seb once again proved that winning becomes a habit, producing another flawless display to add yet another impressive victory to his rapidly growing Palmares.
In the junior race, Oli was looking to keep up an impressive run of results that have seen him finish on the podium in all but one of the UCI ranked events on UK soil. Even that was the result of equipment (shoe) failure. Oli produced the sort of ride that we are becoming accustomed to and claimed a superb runners-up spot on the podium.
National Trophy Round Four – 20th & 21st November
Fresh from their World Cup exploits, the team headed to the North East for round four of the National Trophy CX series. What a highly profitable weekend of racing it proved to be amidst wet and blustery conditions. The team claimed two victories out of a possible three and amassed a valuable haul of points for the overall series standings.
On Saturday, Seb Grindley looked to defend his Yellow Verge Sport leader’s jersey in the Youth Boys race. Seb broke free of the chasing pack to solo to victory on a course that suited his riding style perfectly.
On Sunday it was the turn of juniors Nathan Smith and Oli Akers who combined to secure a fantastic 1-2 finish for the team. Also sporting his Yellow leader’s jersey, Nathan once again showcased his burgeoning talent in powering to a dominant victory. In the face of a stiff headwind, Nathan’s unwillingness to provide a slipstream for the riders behind led to him making an early break. In what proved to be the race-winning move, Nathan broke clear to solo to the win.
His margin of victory was 1:08 over Oli who found himself embroiled in a dogfight for the runner-up spot on the podium. In a close-fought finale, Oli edged out Team GB teammate Max Greensill to secure a dominant1-2 finish for the team. The win extended Nathan’s lead in the overall standings to 21 points from Oli with just two rounds to go.
Libby Bell was looking to bounce back from a bout of illness that saw her miss the first round of the World Cup. Despite the lack of racing, she put in a gutsy ride to cross the line fifth. The result would see her gain some valuable points which now sees her now sitting third overall. Only a mere 4 points separate Libby from second place, so it’s all to play for in terms of the runner-up position heading into the final rounds.
UCI Cyclocross World Cup Round One – 14th November
What an incredible start to the team’s UCI World Cup campaign in Tábor, Czech Republic. Nathan Smith laid down a storming performance to clinch a superb runner’s up spot on the podium. In a closely contested sprint finish, Nathan narrowly lost out to David Haverings of the Netherlands by a solitary second. Oliver Akers race was brought to a premature end, unfortunately, a broken shoe putting paid to any chances he had of adding even more lustre to Garden Shed’s weekend performance. Sadly, Libby Bell did not make the trip due to illness, but we hope to see her, Nathan, and Oli at the next round in Koksijde, Belgium.
UEC European Championships – 6th November
Thanks to their impressive performances this season, Garden Shed UK’s 3 juniors earned selection to Team GB for the European Championships. The venue for the 2021 championships had until three years previously been the site of a rubbish tip. Now converted for the explicit purpose of cross and MTB racing, it played host to the 2021 championships. The circuits main feature is the fearsome climb of the Col du Vam. Part asphalt, part cobble, and with an average gradient of 10% it provided the riders with a stern test for lap after lap.
First up for Garden Shed UK and team GB on Saturday was Libby Bell, who faced the prospect of racing against the cream of Europe’s cross racers. Despite this being only her first appearance for Team GB, Libby showed maturity beyond her years to secure a top 10 finish. In fact, it was a resolution of hostilities when Libby found herself battling teammate Ella Maclean-Howell into the finish. Eventually losing out to Ella by just 4 seconds to cross the line 10th.
On Sunday the baton was passed to Garden Shed UK’s Nathan and Oli to see if they could mirror Libby’s incredible achievement. They duly delivered. Despite being pitted against 63 of Europe’s finest cross racers, both rode quite magnificently to reward the selector’s faith in their abilities. Oli was first to cross the line for Team GB in 6th. Nathan and Team GB teammate Max Greensill were next to cross the line, a further 24 seconds behind Oli and missing out on a top 10 by just 9 seconds. Next up for Garden Shed UK is the first round of the Junior World Cup in Tabor, Czech Republic.
Koppenbergcross – 1st November
A brilliant performance from Oli Akers saw him battling Belgiums best as he sprinted up the 22% cobbled climb to take a fine third place at the Koppenbergcross. As the name suggests, the race takes place on the slopes of the iconic Koppenberg. A climb that features in one of cycling highest-profile one-day classic races, the ‘Tour of Flanders’. The event regularly attracts the cream of cyclocross racers from across the world.
Over an hour’s worth of racing, each rider is forced to conquer this brutal incline over and over again. The result represents a real feather in the cap for Oli, in what is only his first year of racing. Seb Grindley came oh so close to clinching a podium place in the Nieuwelingen (youth) category race. An untimely shoe failure sadly put paid to his podium chances, causing him to drop back to 4th. It was however another superb outing for the current national trophy series leader.
National Trophy Round Three – 23rd & 24th October
The team’s superb start to the new season continued at the third round of the National Trophy Series in Scotland. Seb rode the U16’s race on Saturday, with Libby, Nathan, and Oli riding in the juniors the following day. Looking respondent in his yellow series leaders jersey, Seb rode a great race to finish 2nd and consolidate his lead in the overall standings.
Sunday’s racing resulted in further success, with the highlight undoubtedly being Nathan’s dominant victory in the junior men’s race. It was his third UCI victory in as many weekends, ensuring that he took the overall series lead and claimed the series leader’s Yellow jersey. Oli finished fifth, new now sits 2nd overall and just 15 points behind Nathan. Over in the Junior Women’s race, it was another 2nd place for Libby. She now sits in 2nd place overall after the opening three rounds.
Verge UCI Clonmel
Continuing the packed schedule, thanks to the backing from Garden Shed UK, the team headed over to Ireland to race the Verge UCI Cross Clonmel. Nathan and Oli rode to a 1-2 finish to claim the top two steps of the podium and secure more valuable UCI points. There was further success in the elite women’s race where Libby continued her winning ways. She rode magnificently to finish third overall and pick up the top honours in the junior category.
Continuing the packed schedule, thanks to the backing from Garden Shed UK, they head to Scotland for round 3 of the National Trophy Series. This will be their 5th country in 5 race weekends. Then all eyes will be on the Koppenberg, as we hope to repeat previous successes and Oli looks to defend his ‘King of the Koppenberg’ title as we head over to Belgium at the end of the month for some more international racing.
National Trophy Round 2 – 9th & 10th October
With some hard racing in the legs, the riders returned to Milnthorpe for Round 2 of the National Trophy Series. Adorned with his new Yellow Jersey, Seb kicked things off with another win in the Youth race. Even managing to overcome a puncture and a broken shoe to still ride to a clear victory. Libby had a tough race in the Junior Women’s but battled hard to finish in 4th place.
Oli and Nathan then proceeded to light up the Junior Men’s race, stretching the field from the start and forming a leading group. Nathan was able to ride away to take his first UCI win of the season whilst great team tactics saw Oli involved in a battle for 2nd place. Just missing out on the second spot in a group sprint, Oli would have to settle for 3rd place. Once again rounding off a brilliant performance from the team.
Ethias Cross Neulebeke & Superprestige Gieten
The following weekend it was a short hop across to the continent where the team raced their first European doubleheader. For the Ethias Cross Meulebeke in Belgium and Superprestige Gieten in The Netherlands. Libby produced a stand-out performance, riding her first Elite Women’s TV race in Meulebeke. She went on to finish 18th overall and 2nd in the Junior category on a fast, technical Parcours. Oli took the hole-shot in the Junior race but unfortunately crashed out whilst riding strongly within the top-10.
Nathan worked his way through the field to finish just off the podium in 4th. Meaning more precious UCI points in the bag! Seb also made his European CX debut, finishing 5th in both races in Meulebeke and Gieten. Riding his way through the field on both occasions.
Gieten saw the rain come down and ‘proper’ cyclocross conditions were on the cards. Bike changes were required and our Ribble CX SL’s got their real first coating of mud! Still running flawlessly and shedding the mud efficiently, the bikes were certainly put through their paces. Libby finished 5th in the Junior category, whilst Oli and Nathan also battled through the tough conditions in their second race of the weekend to take 8th and 13th spots.
National Trophy Round One – 18th & 19th September
The season kicked off with the first round of the National Trophy Series in Derby. Seb took the win and claimed the yellow leader’s jersey in the Youth Boys. Not bad on his debut for the team! Libby Bell then took 2nd in the Junior Women’s category, her first race in her new age group.
Similarly, the Junior Boys, Oli and Nathan, were both in the thick of the action in a fast-paced race. An impressive display from the pair saw them come home to finish 3rd and 6th respectively. Jenson Young also put in a strong performance to secure a Top 10 finish in the Elite/U23 race. A great performance considering he is yet to fully make the switch to cyclocross for the winter. He will do so in the coming weeks and will also combine a UCI road program with his CX racing.
We caught up with Charles Page of Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling to find out how he went from riding with stabilisers to competing against the world best riders at the Tour of Britain. Read his story here.
Check out our Drops – Le Col Pro Team roundup for all the latest race results from the Pro Continental race team.
Keep up to date with all of the race results from Ribble Weldtite Pro racing here.