2019 UK Cyclo-cross National Championships (Day 1)

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.

Action from the mid field of the Veterans 50 plus race

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.

Zoe Backstedt on her way to a National Championship victory

Of course the dry conditions made the races all super fast.

Bryony Fishpool in the Youth Under 16 Girls Race

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.

Tim Davies who took second overall in the 50 plus Veterans category

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.

My club mate Ed Fraser racing in the Vet 40-49

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.

London ‘Cross League Veteran 40’s winner for 2018/19 Steve Gibson put up a great challenge for the national title

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.

Nick Craig on his way to winning the 45-49 category in the Veterans 40 plus Championship

In my own club, it was great to see some of our keen youth riders take the step up and race at National level.

Getting ready to race your first national championships

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.

Patrick Lear bunny hopping the steps

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.

‘Cross racing is hard part 8456 🙂

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.

What’s that saying? It never gets easier ….. you just go faster!

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.

The front runners were all amazingly quick. Don’t let the Veterans label make you think it’s a gentile pace
The steep “hill” was a great place to watch and cheer on everyone including Ed!

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.

Riders streaming off the main hill

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!