Wednesday, October 24, 2012

UK CX trip - Rapha SuperCross & Huddersfield

I had a bit of time off work, and was eager to get some extra cross racing in as we head into the meaty bit of the Irish season, thus began hatching a plan to do a double weekend of racing in the UK. Looking at the calendar, first round of the Rapha SuperCross, taking place in Skipton, North Yorkshire, was the obvious choice - conveniently there was also a round of the Yorkshire points the next day in nearby Huddersfield. Emails sent, ferries sorted, hotels booked at the last moment and myself and Dave O'Neill loaded (and I mean really loaded!) the hearse and headed for Halifax. We were amazed to find our Travelodge located in the old Dean Clough Mills site and were both in awe of how well all of Halifax looked. Every building in it's place, a consistent style and finish no matter if the building was 200 years or 200 days old; it looked like a proper town should. And it had a Sainsburys and 24 hour Tesco to cater for hungry cyclists' needs.

Saturday saw us in Broughton Hall, a farm/business park in the countryside where the Rapha race was taking place. Already sold out (110 Vets & Women, 90 Seniors) we were sure it was going to be a big day, and of the two days, this was the race I wanted a performance in. A practice lap revealed that the course held nothing to fear - set on a gentle grassy hillside, whilst it made the most of the terrain available, it was completely non-technical and was very much a power course. I estimate being on full throttle for about 98% of the lap. Nevertheless, a good start would be important with such numbers racing, and I definitely got one - the long grassy uphill playing to my strengths and with a little bit of luck with doors opening in front of me, I entered the first sweeping left hander in 4th wheel - the only hiccup being a deft evasive manoeuvre when 2nd and 3rd decided to scrap for the same 6 inches of ground, despite the course being about 50m wide at that point. All I could do was shake my head in disbelief as they nearly brought each other (and me) down. A leading duo quickly pulled away from the field, which left me and one other chasing - unfortunately he then pulled away on lap 2 which left me in 4th place, in no man's land between the podium and another pair chasing hard behind.

What followed was 6 laps of hard, full gas racing, but on lap 4 I really paid for my earlier efforts and was caught by the pair behind. I stuck with them for half a lap before they pulled away, leaving me in 6th. Ordinarily, I'd have been delighted with that result, but I came away just a little disappointed that I'd thrown out an anchor and slipped from 4th to 6th with 2 to go. Dave came home a short time later in 8th, having jumped a couple of guys in the last stretch. 2 out of 2 in the top 10 made for happy faces on the drive home.

The atmosphere at the race was amazing - big big crowd, tented village of coffee stands and venison burgers and everyone out to have a good time - it was easy to see that cycling is definitely more mainstream in the UK. It was also nice to catch up with a few people I kinda know, such as Crossjunkie and Dave Haygarth - everyone there was thoroughly welcoming and friendly. At one stage, Agata, who was running around the course as fast as I could ride it, unknowingly found herself standing next to Alan (crossjunkie) As I passed by, they both shouted at me, then turned to each other in a "Who are you?" "No, who are YOU?" moment, which apparently was quite funny.

Sunday saw us head to Huddersfield College, again in glorious sunshine, with high spirits but heavy legs. The Huddersfield course was the better of the two - fast straights, a million corners, embankments, two runs per lap and altogether, just a more fun, technical course. Unfortunately, it was a course which would reward those with snappy legs - neither myself or Dave were in possession of a pair of those. Again, the start was wide and fast, but I had a bit of a shocker for the first few laps and found myself well down the field. I was riding ok on the flats, but didn't have the kick to accelerate out of the corners - there was probably 30 such accelerations required per lap and I was losing time to the top guys on each one. I had a great battle with a PedalSport guy, we were never more than 10 seconds apart for the whole race and kept each other on our toes, but ultimately I was frustrated to be fighting for 16th position - especially considering the guys who beat me to 4th and 5th on Saturday, also took 4th and 5th on Sunday. I was well off the pace I expected myself to be at, but as the main focus of the weekend was a good hard training block, I can certainly say that we at least got that out of it. I know my 2nd day recovering isn't good, and this was only my 4th CX race of the season, and I probably need to alter my warmup on the 2nd day, but the weekend brought lots of positives and plenty of things to work on in the next few weeks.

After the race, myself and Dave rode back to the hotel, via a minor 6km detour into the Yorkshire countryside over some really lovely roads. It's definitely a place I'd love to visit again, perhaps for a longer stay. Although Yorkshire miles seem to go by ferociously slowly....

Some words of thanks:
Agata, for indulging me in these trips, making the trip up from London and offering endless support and encouragement.
Dave, for making the trip possible & being an excellent travelling companion
Greg, for the loan of some really excellent kit, which has me scouring ebay for my own tubulars.
Alan, Dave & Tim for their advice, friendship & course-side encouragement.

Next up is Round 3 of the Fixx Supercross Cup, in my local Tymon Park. I took 10th in the first round but followed than up with a DNF (mechanical) in Swords, so there's lots of work to be done.

Photos are from Agata's Picasa - here and here.