Don’t get ‘cross? Get even.

Cyclocross, Shrewsbury

January 15th: The year has ended.

The last cyclocross race of the season and all too soon it’s time to hang up the racing wheels and have a few months of more bike fun and less training.  A glass half full person like me never gets too worried about things like that. No matter how much I just love cyclocross I know it’s good because it’s a limited season. All your round just wouldn’t be right.  Imaging racing your bike and not being muddy and cold.  Yack. Continue reading “Don’t get ‘cross? Get even.”

An amazing few years – thank you, Wheelbase

Wheelbase Cycling Team

I joined Team Wheelbase in 2005 and will be racing for another team very soon (more on that will follow shortly). It’s the strangest feeling to move on from wearing the black and green kit – there have been some amazing highlights in the last few years and I just wanted to reflect a little.

Basically, when I moved up to the north west again after living in Gloucestershire for ten years, I wanted a break from cycling clubs. I had worked pretty hard at times as a race organiser for a race secretary – as well as a bit of a domestique in road races (translation: I didn’t really get enough results so rode on the front a bit too much instead.) I moved here and said that I wasn’t going to join any club or team – but started to get into the top 5 in some local cyclocross races and suddenly felt like being part of things a bit more.

I joined the then “Wheelbase / Ron Hill” team in autumn 2005 and had to pinch myself riding alongside 3 peaks hero Rob Jebb as well as two team mates who have turned into real chums – Lewis Craven and Stuart Reid. I was the bottom of the pile but being part of a big name really motivated me. Some personal highlights that followed in the following years in my Wheelbase kit:

  • Recorded in a video diary on BBC Countryfile about the 3 peaks cyclocross
  • Won the North West Cyclocross League
  • Rode a few years of British Cycling National Trophy races – my highest position being 17th and the ultimate highlight witnessing Rob win the National Trophy at Bradford
  • Belting along Lakeland lanes, legs delving into the bottom of the sore drawer for the first 45 miles of the Fred Whitton Challenge with Lewis – stringing out 50 other rides, helping Rob to take the event record
  • Organising various races (mainly won by Stuart Reid!) including one in some fairly extreme snow.
  • Was on the podium as part of the winning team – and a gold medal from British Cycling for the National Cyclocross Championships in Birmingham
  • 9th place in the 3 peaks – my lifelong top ten ambition achieved
  • Various podium places in Lancashire’s rounds of the British Cycling Town Centre Criteriums, including a win in the support race in the Blackburn Grand Prix
Those are things that really stand out as highs but where I will miss things most is the craic – the banter – smalltalk, the overnighters in Premier Inn with three lads whining about how tomorrow’s race will be stuffed if they eat the wrong toast at breakfast… those are the things that made this a rounded, enjoyable experience.
Finally, Thank You to Toby, Billy, Matt and the other people who jetwashed my bikes whilst I waltzed round in the mud like a prima donna.

Ronde Van Oost Lancashire

Very much looking forward to the second running of the Ronde Van Oost Lancashire on the 2nd April this year. Friend Alan’s organised it again using the same route as the first Ronde in 2010. Named and themed after the Ronde Van Vlaanderen (or Tour of Flanders for you Anglophiles), it’ll visit some of the backest of back lanes and 2lb loafiest of cobbles streets.

Adding to the value, my brother (and recent Here Come the Belgians signing) Phil ‘de Vlaeminck’ Haygarth will be joining us, as well as Matthew ‘Bosberg’ Pixton, and many other classics riders of note.

Full route, description etc here on Crossjunkie’s blog

New fun bike: Commencal Supernormal VIP

Let the fun begin… Just built this up over a few days after Matthew got the frame for an utter bargain on eBay. Raiding my parts box, shopping around prudently on eBay and nice discounts on finishing kit from Wheelbase meant that it cost me a grant total of £314. I’m going to have some fun, aspecially with Lily’s new Islabike also here this week…

Cyclocross National Trophy round 5, Rutland Water

Leaving the house for a day seemed even harder this time round given that Lily had spent almost all day in bed on Saturday and Elsie was up about six times on Saturday night… cyclocross is tough on family life this year for us and I haven’t been able to really get into the training as a result. However, Katie was quite on top of things at home when I left (even if I wasn’t) and once in the car I got my head into racing mode.

The course itself was just the best cyclocross course I’ve ridden in many ways. It was a good mix and required so much concentration from start to finish. The grass was slippy and muddy, but there was only one real short running section.

I also got on top of things right from the moment the gun went – holding my place (for a change) after the start and picking my way past a few riders on the technical sections – of which there were plenty. (So many people seem to use their brakes on these muddy courses on corners – losing time and making themselves skid!). The field was a lot better this time round too and it was nice to see Nick Craig, Oli Beckinsale and Ian Bibby back in the top cyclocrosses.

I finished pretty much where I normally finish in terms of positions – 24th – but in a larger field I know I did a bit more of a ride this time. It’s really odd though – preparation was dreadful in the two weeks before with almost no training and disturbed sleeps… I just don’t know how to predict these things any more! Lewis also did a blinding ride for 7th after similarly rubbish preparation (stomach bug!).

Lily’s first bike race

Lily's first bike raceMy annual payback day came on Saturday – the day when I organise a bike race of my own, and as usual it was one intense combination of utter stress and deep satisfaction. It’s not just me doing things – obviously – and this year just like all the others made me feel such a glow at all the really ace people who mucked in and made things happen. It was also a special year because Lily rode her first event. I say ‘rode’ – the harsh conditions of snow and hills made the Under 12s race – like all the others – a real genuine slog. I knew I’d be called on to push and help out all the way round the course, but for so many of the children there was more running than riding. That said, the sense of urgency in Lily’s running – like that of the other children – was so utterly heart warming. This was a race – not a walk in the park – and there was no moment in those 15 or so minutes that Lily had her mind on nything other than getting round as fast as she could. She shouted to me in the middle of the race something that sounds of no consequence to many people: “Dad – I’m really happy”. I knew exactly what she meant. She was competing – giving her best, and getting something directly back from it. Sometimes if we don’t compete we forget that simple feeling. Having had this snow stick around made the day quite arduous for me and the team around me. The course needed to be drasticlly re-routed as the tarmac paths were packed solid inch-deep ice. This meant that the riders had no relief from the mud that sat under the crust of snow. A tough course in tough conditions… hats off to all competitors, young and old. 73 photos here My report on the North West Cyclocross Assoc website here. British cycling’s report here with loads more photos.