Cyclo-cross: Cycle stars brave icy Centre Vale

Nearly 200 racers turned out on a glorious midwinter day to race in Todmorden's Centre Vale Park.

They ranged in age from five to over-50 and came to compete in the final round of the Yorkshire Cyclocross Points Series.

Despite temperatures that didn't rise above freezing all day and icy ground conditions, racers came from all over the North West to compete in an event that has become legendary for its tricky combination of steep climbs and winding race course.

The much-feared cobbled section that runs up through the woods had to be left out this year due to the amount of ice on both the climb and descent but the rejigged course still had plenty of opportunity for riders to test their skills on their narrow wheeled cyclocross bikes.

Cyclocross has been a traditional winter cycling sport since the early 20th century and was used by road racers to keep fit in the winter, although its popularity has seen some specialists emerge who live to race the short season that runs from late September until early February each year.

The sport has been enjoying a renaissance of late with 600 racers expected at this weekend's national championships in Sutton Park, West Midlands.

Many of those hopeful current and future champions were at the race in Todmorden as a last test of their fitness against a top level field. Although the temperatures were too cold for the annual swim, they seemed just fine for cyclocross.

The big drama was in the senior race as some of the nation's top racers whizzed round the park with apparent nonchalance, despite the frozen ground. Last year's winner, Ian Bibby returned for a hard fought battle with top junior racer Dan McLay.

Bibby eventually broke away, but Dan's obviously someone to watch in future. Taking third place was former National Champion (and 2009 Three Peaks Cyclocross winner) Nick Craig - who is said to be a big fan of Grandma Pollard's when he's in town.

Todmorden Community Brass Band was on hand to provide background music for the unfolding drama.

There was a regular yearly race in Centre Vale Park, but after working its way up to a National Series level event which ended in the early '90s when the organisers moved away. Local mountain biker Chipps Chippendale, editor of Todmorden-produced Singletrack mountain bike magazine, stepped in and restarted the event in 2009.

With the help of Calderdale Council and the Leisure Centre who helped with the park and the changing facilities, the event was a big hit in its first year and moved straight from a local event to its Yorkshire Points Series place in just one year.

Chipps hopes to put on another event – including the cobbles –in slightly warmer weather in the summer, before returning again next New Year.