CycloCross National Champs - Bradford
Sat 07 Jan 2017
Bryan at the Nationals
I was the sole rider for North Road who travelled up to Bradford for the National Champs. Having entered early in the year (too easy by half on the internet these days) once you have collected the necessary ranking points at least, it dawned on me over the Christmas period just how far Bradford was from Hertford. So with a day off work a trip up the A1 was undertaken for a course inspection / ride on Friday afternoon in advance of race day. This was very useful to sight the course, consider lines and get used to the conditions, but also made it clear just how hard the course was going to be the following day. This was extenuated after further “preparation” from earlier races on Saturday, my race being the last of the day. After a night in a local Ibis I was at the course early enjoying the atmosphere of the early races and supporting some Eastern League riders in the Vet 50+ and local youngsters Joe Kiely and Olly Stockwell in the Under 14s and 16s respectively (both Welwyn Wheelers). Dave Kiely and Keith Stockwell kindly volunteered to man the pits for me and with spare bike handed over I made my way to the start and gridded up about seven rows back.
An uphill sprint commenced the race followed by some wide grassy corners, and some over-enthusiasm saw me slide off trying to get the power down too early on a corner. Though quickly up it took maybe ¾ of a lap to overtake some slower riders and back into a race with similar paced riders. The lap had three major challenge points: a steep descent with double corner at the bottom; an off camber muddy ascent; and an off camber turn on a muddy bank. These needed to be attacked differently from the day before, when all three were rideable. While the descent and turn remained so (with a bit of luck and gumption) the bank was best run and I decided to keep momentum and run early rather than risk sliding (a tactic which seemed to work overall). The course became increasingly muddy and I was running in places just to keep going; Dave and Keith proved their value in the pits providing two bike swaps in the race which was a real help once the mud started to cling onto the bike.
With a lap to go Nick Craig (the eventual winner) came past me at speed and left me wondering just how they do it! At that stage I was battling with a rider who I knew I was faster than on the last part of the lap but he was gaining time on me elsewhere. While thinking this through early in the lap, I suddenly realised I’d lost concentration and was letting him get away, so attacked back and got myself in front on a corner, deciding now was as good a time as any to push on I did so, and started to get away. Then a rider ahead came in sight who had dropped us earlier in the race; he seemed cooked, perhaps paying for his early pace, and I went past just trying to keep ahead of my rival… coming into the final ascent with the bike on my back I just tried to keep the legs moving before remounting on the road, and once up to speed able to look back and confirm I was safe before crossing the line. I finished a hard fought battle in 57th paying for that early mistake, but pleased with a battling performance after that on a very tough course, different from anything we see in the Eastern League and a real step up.