January 12th and 13th saw the 2019 UK National Cyclo-cross championships held at Cyclopark in Kent.
While the superstars of UK cyclo-cross rode on Sunday, I deliberately chose to attend on the Saturday to watch the Youth and Veterans races. Not least of all as they’re the categories that my son and I have been racing in this season,so we knew quite a few people (including club mates racing) but also because it felt a little more real world than the Elite categories.
Attending on Saturday also meant that the crowds were a little smaller, which in turn meant getting in and parking you car was a touch easier too.
The Cyclopark course was a great one, with plenty of interesting sections, short sharp climbs, off-camber, sand, hurdles, steps, an overbridge and the “big climb”. It was also – dry – which is not so normal at this time of the year. I’ve seen some muddy conditions at Cyclopark and last weekend was probably the fastest I’ve seen in winter. I would have loved that if I’d have been racing.
Of course the dry conditions made the races all super fast.
All of the races were fantastic to watch, from the Youth races and for me in particular it was tremendous to watch the veterans racing. I was impressed at the range of riders who’d gone for it and entered the nationals, in fact I found it quite inspiring as a novice cyclo-cross racer.
‘Cross racers come in all shapes and sizes and all abilities & it’s something I really love it about. Cyclo-cross welcomes everyone with open arms and to prove it in every race, everyone got cheered on.
Having spent the season attempting to begin to race ‘cross, I knew a few people and again saw that most of the top riders having been racing for many, many years.
Another aspect I seem to be seeing is that many of the racers towards the front have mountain bike backgrounds, which isn’t enormously surprising. The two key foundations of racing cyclo-cross well in my simplistic view are race fitness and technical skills on the bike.
Mountain biking certainly helps significantly with the technical skills aspect. Of course there are ‘cross specific skills like dismounts, remounts and hurdles etc, but they’re relatively minor aspects in the scheme of things.
In my own club, it was great to see some of our keen youth riders take the step up and race at National level.
In my view the actual result wasn’t important for our youth riders, it was actually just doing the race that’s the big step forwards. Once you’ve raced the Nationals there shouldn’t be any race in the UK that should be beyond your confidence levels
All of our youth riders rode with great spirit, which was a credit to them all. Of course some had tougher races than others but even elite riders can have bad days at a cyclo-cross meeting.
Both my son and I found the day inspiring. My son is already talking about entering National Trophy races next season, which will be his 3rd year racing and his first in under 16s.
Having nearly completed my inaugural season, I’ll definitely be coming back for more next season and will likely get a proper race licence so I can try National Trophy and perhaps even qualify for the Nationals. Perhaps, maybe qualify!
Having been and watched, there’s no reason for me not to have a go. I knew a few riders racing and at least a few were in their first season of racing and like me, were in no danger of troubling the front runners.
One of the other great things about the first day’s racing is that even the slower riders got to complete their races. On Sunday in the Elite Men’s race, only 10% of the starters finished as Tom Pidcock’s amazing pace saw all other fall outside of the 80% rule.
Cyclo-cross is a fantastically spectator friendly sport and the Nationals were too. No charge to watch (£4 to park) on the site and lots of great viewpoints to watch from.
I favoured the top of the hill as you can see from lots of these photos as you could see a surprisingly large part of the course and the riders pretty rode right around you giving you 3 to 4 viewing points across the top of the hill
If you’ve not considered watching, let alone, racing cyclo-cross do go and check out some races. You can search out your nearest on the British Cycling website or contact your local cycling club. Most of the cyclo-cross leagues around the country also have Facebook or Twitter accounts you can follow too. It’s most welcoming sport I’ve ever discovered.
If you’d like to learn more about my experiences of beginning to race cyclo-cross at the age of 50, read more about it here: https://girodilento.com/beginning-to-race-cyclo-cross-at-50/
Thanks for reading!