Cycling, Cyclocross

National Trophy Round 1: Shrewsbury

Photo by Larry Hickmott/VeloUK
Photo by Larry Hickmott/VeloUK

Elite Women | National Trophy Round 1 | 12th October 2014

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Spot the Badger!

A thick fog covered the Shrewsbury Sports village: as we wandered across the fields exploring the course, lines of veterans emerged from the mist, fresh from the first event of the day.
Following a gravel track past the football pitches we came upon the pit area where the last vets were packing up and the youths were getting ready. We were just in time to see the under 14’s start.

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Under 14 Girls start

The course

The youths are fearless and I watched them carefully to try to get some idea of the course and the best ways to tackle some of the obstacles.

The course was built around a criterium track so there were some long sections of smooth tarmac – these sections would require no technical ability and I planned to get into the highest gear possible and make up for my losses elsewhere on the course.

Coming off the opening tarmac straight there was a steep muddy incline that ended in a tight left hand turn. Watching the youths showed me that it was very easy to slide out on this section so I always rode it straight on, turning after the crest. There were then some tight switchbacks opposite the finish line, requiring steadiness and control. A quick swoop down would call for a smooth dismount into a set of stairs. After remounting, the course slid, off-camber, round to the left, rising before a quick descent into a right hand corner. A sharp muddy ascent (rideable if enough momentum had been kept from the turn) before a flat grassy section. This then turned sharp left onto a chewed-up off camber section (right opposite the the finish line providing ideal entertainment for the onlookers!) that most people elected to run. Another turn on a descent led onto the final meters of tarmac over the finish line.

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Simplified course map

With a few more off-camber turns the course then straightened out with some long sections across the grassy field. The covering mist kept the surface damp and slidely so although good speed could be made on the straights, modulation was still needed in the turns.

The course now entered wooded section, which featured quite a few switchbacks over rooty, slippy mud. The first few turns were quite tight, and either bumpy and or made unpredictable with roots. After four turns or so the course became faster, although remaining bumpy and rooty, and it was here that you could make up for lost time or catch your nearest competitor.

Finally, back onto the field for a couple more straights before a last sprint along the tarmac and we’re back to where we began.

Event Timetable
Event Category Start Time
Race 1 Veteran Men 40-49 10.15
Veteran Men 50+ 10.16
Race 2 Youth Under 14 Boys 11.15
Youth Under 14 Girls 11.16
Race 3 Youth Under 16 Boys 12.05
Youth Under 16 Girls 12.06
Race 4 Junior Men 13.3
Elite + Junior Women 13.31
Veteran Women 13.32
Race 5 Elite + U23 Men 14.45

From 12.45 all the afternoon competitors were allowed on the course to sight the best lines. I got a couple of laps in, checking when I would ride the obstacles or when it might be better to dismount. Several of the serious riders had arrived the day before which meant they could really get to know the course. It’s not normally until halfway through each race that I start to understand the course – affecting my ability to go ‘all out’. Certainly today’s race would have been better had I had more off-road experience allowing me to get a feel for the conditions much faster. Anyway, a couple of laps round to see which bits I was most frightened of and then everyone lined up at the start to be gridded and get underway.

The race

Junior men were off first, and then a minute later the elite and junior girls (my group), followed a minute later by the veteran women. I was gridded quite far back in the field but I was directly behind the junior national champion Amira Mellor so I decided to try to stay on her wheel as much as possible.

Photo by British Cycling
The women’s race starts
Photo by British Cycling

The start was fast, as always, but I’ve not done a cross race starting on Tarmac before and should have had my bike in a bigger gear as despite being behind a couple of rows of riders we still got rolling quickly and were soon sprinting for position into the first corner.

The field spread out quite quickly, with the front half taken by all the rising stars and those of us at the back consisting of girls taking their first steps at the national level.

As I said previously, the wooded section was my real challenge and it was here that I lost most time. As a result I focussed on making the most of any straight sections to go as fast as my lungs would let me. My lack of experience didn’t really allow me to carry much of this speed through the turns though so it was a sprint/stop kind of thing (I really need to practise more mountain biking!).

Photo by Richard Bennett
Photo by Richard Bennett

On the positives; I never felt held back by fitness and I was pleased with my ambidextrous dismounts.

A skill that I have struggled with previously has been turning off-camber to the right as I favour un-clipping with the left foot. Knowing this I have spent the last couple of weeks really focusing on getting used to the right hand side of my bike; dismounting, turning and dragging my right foot. I felt it really paid off in today’s race.

I also felt good carrying my bike (although my shoulder and hips are now very bruised!) I felt smooth and was able to make up ground on my competitors.

Photo by Richard Bennett Check out his cool photo story of the event
Photo by Richard Bennett
Check out his cool photo story of the event

The biggest mistake I made in the race was not realising how short the race was! A pretty basic error but with the Junior boys starting to lap the tail-end of the veteran and elite women it became somewhat confusing. The last proper cyclocross race I did was a full hour long and I didn’t quite appreciate how short a 40 minute race would feel; as a result I am certain I could have ridden harder – I was conserving myself…. Another silly mistake was not looking at the lap board and not realising I was on the final lap until the last few turn before the finishing straight.

When the results were released a few days after the event I was initially disappointed to see how far down the field I had finished. I am pretty used to being in at least the top five if not top three! But that has been in regional races. This was a big step up: a national event and even just looking at the start list there were at least 16 riders who I would be very surprised to finish in front of.

In the final lap of the race (because I somehow didn’t understand it was last one!) I let a couple of riders past which lost me a few more places that I might otherwise have preserved had I been going all out. If I had been paying attention to the lap board then I may have finished closer to 17/18th which would have put me in a place I could be proud of.

Next time

Going into the next round at Southampton I will be sure to watch the lap board, conserve less energy and become entirely fearless!

I hope to have more photos shortly but for now there are a few galleries here and here. Richard Bennett also has a photo story here.

Senior + Junior Elite Women – Results
Position Name Club name
1 Annabel Simpson Hope Factory Racing
2 Ffion James Abergavenny Road Club
3 Amira Mellor Paul Milnes Cycles/Bradford Ol…
4 Merce Pacios Pujadó Beeline Bicycles RT
5 Isla Rowntree Islabikes
6 Adela Carter Hope Factory Racing
7 Diane Lee Team Mulebar Girl – Sigma Spor…
8 Ruby Miller Hargroves Cycles – Ridley RT
9 Sarah Murray http://www.cxmagazine.com
10 Abigail Van Twisk Cycle Lab
11 Sarah Lomas Nutcracker Racing
12 Verity Appleyard Brotherton Cycles
13 Martha Gill PH-MAS Cycling
14 Claire Beaumont ViCiOUS VELO
15 Alexis Barnes WyndyMilla
16 Emily Barnes Team Mulebar Girl – Sigma Spor…
17 Joanna Rycroft http://www.cxmagazine.com
18 Sophia Chastell Welwyn Wheelers CC
19 Maisie Duckworth Wolverhampton Whls
20 Jade Mobbs Leicestershire Road Club
21 Sherilyn Powell Chelmer CC
22 Ria Mobbs Leicestershire Road Club
23 Lauren Humphreys Bonito Squadra Corse
24 Alice Miller Look Mum No Hands!
25 Phoebe Martin Lichfield City CC
26 Rebecca Richards Newark Castle CC

Badger

Finally, here is Badger enjoying our train journey from Exeter to Northampton. I had been a little worried about how he would cope with a four hour train journey but it turned out he wasn’t bothered at all!

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Looking noble at Exeter St David’s
On the way home - Badger has had a tiring weekend!
On the way home – Badger has had a tiring weekend!

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