Cyclists Emma Jeffers and Lewis Askey sealed their first elite national titles in the National Circuit Championships on Friday night in front of a bumper crowd in Darlington.

The two winners sealed their respective victories on a route which took them through the town as thousands lined the streets to cheer them on.

Riders battled it out over a race of 55 minutes plus five tight laps of a technical town centre circuit with the coveted national champion’s jersey up for grabs for the winners.

It was Emma Jeffers who rode to victory in the women’s race. The 19-year-old rider said after her win: “It feels amazing. Honestly, it means everything, especially in the crit as that’s what made me fall in love with cycling.

Emma Jeffers crossing the finishing line on High Row.Emma Jeffers crossing the finishing line on High Row. (Image: SWPIX.COM)

“It’s really nice. I loved the course and the fans made it even better. I’m lost for words, I can’t believe it.”

It was a close-fought race with riders all entering the final lap together, with many of the favourites well placed, despite early breaks from various competitors.

Within the first 10 minutes the formidable duo of Sophie Lewis (DAS-Hutchinson-Brother UK) and eventual winner Jeffers (Liv AlUla Jayco) established the first break of the race.

(Image: Michael Robinson)

 The pair were soon brought back, before Jenny Holl (Loughborough Lightning) then struck out on her own, but was reeled back too.  Quick to sense an opportunity, Lewis then made the first meaningful move of the race, building up an eight-second lead on the hesitant bunch behind. With Lewis eventually caught, a cagey race ensued, with no rider able to escape.

 With the 45-minute mark approaching, Monica Greenwood (Team Coop-Hitec Products) spearheaded a group of three riders to get away, including Esther Wong (Shibden Apex RT) and Lloyds Bank Tour of Britain Women breakthrough star Lucy Lee (DAS-Hutchinson-Brother UK).

With 50 minutes up the bunch was all back together as the riders approached the line, and with five laps to go Maddie Leech (Lifeplus Wahoo) and Amy Gornall (Pro-Noctis - 200º Coffee - Hargreaves Contracting Ltd) looked to seize the initiative. 

(Image: Sarah Caldecott)

With the finish line in sight, Eilidh Shaw (Alba Development Road Team) found herself with a gap, but 19-year-old Jeffers was winding up for a huge final burst behind her and passed Shaw with ease to cross the line with her arms in the air to take her first ever national title.

In the open race, it was Lewis Askey who secured the coveted jersey. Speaking after his victory, Askey said: “It’s incredible. I really wanted to do well this weekend and it’s perfect going into the weekend and shows the form is there.

"I’ve been feeling good the last few weeks and I really wanted to show what I could do today. To bring it home, it’s been a while, so feels great.

Lewis Askey celebrates his victory.Lewis Askey celebrates his victory. (Image: SWPIX.COM)

“It’s always incredible to win a race and to have a stripey jumper at the end of it makes it so special.”

A field of 70 then lined up to contest the open championship, in a race packed with the country’s best emerging talent, and the Groupama – FDJ trio of Sam Watson, Lewis Askey and Noah Hobbs all made their presence felt towards the front of the race.

Watson quickly established a gap on the bunch with circuit race specialist Rob Scott (TEKKERZ CC), and the pair were soon joined by Askey to establish a dominant position in the race.

(Image: Sarah Caldecott)

With the trio’s lead approaching 20 seconds, former champion Matt Bostock (Ribble Rebellion) sought to close the gap, but as the halfway point of the race neared the gap only extended further out to 36 seconds.

Eventually recognising the danger, the bunch stepped up the pace with big efforts from Max Rushby (Ribble Rebellion), Daniel Barnes (Spectra Racing) and Bostock, but their coordination was still lacking as the 50-minute mark approached.

After withstanding a first attack from Watson, Scott was powerless to defend a second burst from Askey, with the 2021 bronze medallist looking unstoppable as he powered ahead into a 13-second lead.

(Image: Sarah Caldecott)

With Watson reluctant to close the gap on his teammate, he and Scott were soon back in the sights of the chasing bunch as the race entered its final five laps.

Despite enjoying a commanding lead, Askey continued to put the hammer down and eased to victory, and in the bunch sprint for the remaining Matt Walls and Hobbs took second and third to seal a memorable night for Groupama-FDJ in Darlington.

The championships conclude on Sunday with the road races in Saltburn, with thousands expected to cheer on the riders as they scale the iconic Saltburn Bank climb.