Monday, December 16, 2013

Ted @ Round 5 Bradford National Trophy Cyclo-Cross

Ted Sarmiento gets all cinematic as he reflects on a weekend at Bradford and the fifth round of the National Trophy Cyclo-Cross series. He began by doing a turn as part of the event’s set-up crew and you could argue from that point onwards, the rest was pretty much self-inflicted!

Picture my favourite scene from the 1994 movie ‘Cross Fiction’. You know the one with John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, directed by Quentin De Vlaeminck, that goes a bit like this:

Vincent: But you know what the funniest thing about ‘Cross is?

Jules: What?

Vincent: It's the little differences. I mean they got the same stuff over there that they got here, but it's just...just there it's a little different.

Jules: Examples?

Edward: Bradford’s Peel Park?

OK, so here’s where the plot differs slightly. But you get what I mean don’t you? No? Well, Peel Park is one of the best Cyclo-Cross courses there is (OK so I live in Yorkshire Cyclo-Cross country, guilty). It’s full of hazards and difficulties that are sometimes present in other courses, but rarely in such abundance, and rarely so easy to watch for the spectators - ‘the little differences’.

I heard a few riders talking about it being muddy. Well come back another year and then it’ll maybe be muddy! This time it was just a bit mushy in places: OK, sometimes ankle deep mushy, but that’s why we love it!

Sarah Murray ploughing through the mush [photo courtesy of Emma Osenton]
At Peel Park it’s the combination of all these little differences, and some sodding great big ones, that differentiate one rider from another. And by differentiate, I’m talking time gaps.  Anyway, to cut to the point, one way or another, I’m getting round to admitting to the fact that my unbeaten run (of not getting lapped by the leader) came to a sticky end in what was, nonetheless, probably my best National Trophy ride of the season.

My race began at 8:00 am on Saturday (oh yes), thanks to my volunteering to help set out the course. Work finished around 1:00pm at which point I quietly removed my bike from the back of the car before heading off for a few laps of this terrific circuit to get the feel of it. How did it look? Well, more or less the same as last year’s National’s, only this time with a coating of green stuff all over the park. Grass? Yes, and lots of it.

The exact layout of the Peel Park course is a bit of a mystery to me. There’s a flyover built right into the park and no matter how many times I lapped, just like last time out, I was still confused as to how it all linked together. But, like a tangled multi-stranded De Vlaeminck movie plot, it all falls into place in the end. Of course, as a rider, it doesn’t matter, just so long as you know where to ride, where to run and where to jump off. Oh yeah, and where to ascend an absurdly steep bank.

Funny thing though, this grass stuff provides plenty or traction and the course was 98% ride-able in practice. Another funny thing about grass is that by the time 90 odd Vets and others got to work ‘practicing’ on Sunday morning, they’d turned it into sticky mush. No more traction, yeee haaa!

So onto the start grid and for once I feel locked, loaded and ready to go. On the whistle I’m off like a jackrabbit and onto team-mate Steve’s wheel by the end of the tarmac. That’s a good spot to be for me to be: I know it won’t last, but why not make it hard for ‘em behind me? After a lap or two Simon Pateman (Saddleworth Clarion) comes past on the tarmac uphill and I latch onto his wheel and hold it for a bit. 

Unfortunately for both of us the rider we catch overcooks a nothing corner and brings us both down and I land hard on his razor sharp disc brake (are you watching UCI?). But I‘m lucky: Simon’s back wheel is the loser this time, and I get up and get going. Fortunately he has a spare bike and is soon back racing, nudging past me again in the closing stages.

'I've had enough of this, I'm off to the Sven line' (photo by Trevor Schofield)

I get the bell at the same time as our race leader, but having given serious beans to this race I only know this is a “thing”. By that, I mean I can no longer compute as to whether it is a “good thing” or “bad thing”. No Matter, as I haven’t been signalled to stop racing, I go on to my ‘laaste ronde’.

Any beans left? Just a few! Enough for me to cling onto Charles Warren’s wheel for a windy top section as he does damage to his over 50’s rivals. Final ascent up the bank and I find I’m still running, well at least jogging. Not like last year where I was one pace behind a plod. No last minute overtakes then and suddenly I’m over the line safe and sound. Finished. Done for. Kaput. CrevĂ©. Hecho polvo. Brilliant!

Bradford really is Cyclo-Cross racing at its best. And as a volunteer on Saturday I could see just how many dedicated ‘others’ were involved in making this day of racing happen. They all know who they are - mainly from Pedalsport and YCCA - however a stand-out mention must go to race organiser Fred ‘CX’ Rothwell, who headed up this particular show. Many thanks to you all.

By the same token, our small Racing Team owes another debt of gratitude to a less numerous but equally dedicated army of volunteers who operated jet washes and bike changes like a precision instrument in a very un-precise, sloppy, messy environment. Astounding. And then there’s the course-side supporters too. Thanks for all the shouts.

Would you work here?

Meanwhile, as images of Bradford still play across my mind like a recently viewed movie – to cling onto my cinema theme for a little longer - your thoughts, like mine, are probably turning towards the festive period. If you have a ‘cross fan in your house (and you probably wouldn’t be here if you didn’t) we have a special Christmas discount code offer for UK subscriptions to the print or digital version Cyclocross Magazine. Drop us a message and we’ll send you the code.

Race result 48 of 54

Today’s race blog was brought to you by the letters C and X and the numbers 48 and 54. Plus Cyclocross Magazine, Tidds and Pedalsport. Happy Christmas and a very happy Ripley Castle New Years’ Day.

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