Cyclocross update, week ending 7 January

Stephen BrookCyclo Cross, News

Peter Golding brings you this week’s cyclocross report

Happy New Year one and all, and what a start to the year it has been for Cyclocross. As you’re all aware, the rain has affected the whole of the UK and Europe during the past few weeks, the road cycling aficionados amongst you, will know what lengths you’ve all gone to, to avoid flooded roads across the county, whether that’s been planning different routes or avoiding the great outdoors all together and staying in on your turbo’s !
However those of us who adore ‘Cross’ or Gravel really enjoy this time of year, except when events are cancelled that is !
However there has been some outstanding racing on the Goggle Box from Belgium, on Saturday we were treated to a very muddy race from Gullegem called the Hexia X where the British Champions Jerseys were on the podium in the Ladies and Men’s race, then on Sunday it was the World Cup from Zonhoven (the sandpit), where 30,000 spectators watch in the natural bowl setting and once again Zoe Backstedt wore the British Champion’s jersey on the podium.

But back to events nearer home, the Eastern League race, which had already been called off from the traditional Snetterton venue, was rescheduled for Old Buckenham, where we had raced through deep mud earlier in the season. Sadly the event was called off because of waterlogged ground, which the organisers thought would cause a major problem with parking. “What to do instead ?”

Will Tate decided to take advantage of the magnificent West Stow course for a training session, he did 5 laps to complete race distance and reported that the track was in better condition than 3 weeks previous, testimony to the sandy surface and fast drying ground.

Meanwhile I had already entered the last round of the National Trophy at Tong near Bradford, one would have thought that the ground up there would have been even worse, but no. The course was a varied one, gravel tracks steep loamy descents and climbs, water logged ground past the pits on both sides, but rideable if you had the right tyres and pressure and some tricky 180’s which were quicker to run. I was gridded 9th and hoped to finish in a better position than that. Hopes were soon dashed however, when I realised that I had selected the wrong tyre pressure (too low), thinking I needed that for the mud, where as I ought to have selected the pressure to suit the gravel, where my competitors rode away from me, the loamy descents and climbs in the woods were easier to run for me, so no bother with pressure or tread. Sadly I didn’t have a ‘Pit Crew’ so didn’t change my bike, which meant that eventually the chain and chainring became so clogged up with sticky mud, that the chain lifted off at the end of the 4th lap costing me 30 seconds or so trying to clear the mud and get it back on, then twice more on the last lap loosing another minute, so from being comfortable in 11th place I was passed by two V60 riders to finish 13th, but I was encouraged by my performance none the less.

Some of the Leicestershire League races are within comfortable reach for us, so a few from the club took advantage of the now spare date in the calendar on Sunday, to travel over to Misterton at the western end of the A14 to take part in the race hosted by Welland Valley CC, it’s a superb venue set in the grounds of a Manor House, with a lake as a backdrop and a mixture of fast gravel, slower grass and single track in the woods.
Sam Brook travelled over on the day to take part in the Youths race with Dad Stephen, who is still nursing a very sore hand. Sam had a superb race despite having had a flat tyre and having to change bikes, he still managed to get back to 3rd place by the finish having been in 2nd, for a brilliant podium finish and even better, he was treat to one of the last Pulled Pork rolls of the day.
Megan Free also made the trip across and took part in a race that had 55 ladies on the start line, WOW that’s a big ladies field. Megan also had a strong ride finishing 13th overall and 9th Senior lady.
The biggest field of the day at Misterton was the combined V50/V60 race, where 134 riders were called up on to the grid, as is usual in the Leicestershire league, if you’re not a league member you’re gridded at the back. So that’s Row 16, which means you’re at least 16 seconds behind the leaders, before you get to the start line proper, but it’s great practise for overtaking, or patience, or both, as once you leave the start arena the tracks are fairly narrow with only one choice of line, so you have to take every opportunity to overtake, he/she who hesitates is lost !
In such a deep field it’s almost inevitable that you will be lapped, as the leaders get away so quickly and then lap 2 to 3 minutes a lap quicker than those at the back, who have to negotiate the bottle necks and slower riders, so much so that only the first 21 riders finished on the same lap as the leader.
Matt Denny riding in Maglia Rosso colours, managed to get past over half the field to 53rd overall and 39th V50. Karl Hale also managed to complete 6 laps to finish 75th overall and 54th V50 and Nick Rush, whose starting is becoming legendary was 28th V60 and 97th overall.
The bonus about going over to race in the neighbouring leagues, is that many of their riders will reciprocate by racing in ours, so bring on next season and our own race.

The next Eastern League race is the Stow Scramble at Haughley Park on the 21st January, however next weekend it’s the National Championships at Falkirk in Scotland.