Monday, January 13, 2014

Ted heads to Derby for the National Cyclo-Cross Championships

National Championships, Derby, 2014

Ted Sarmiento heads to Derby for the National Cyclo-Cross Championships. It’s his biggest challenge of the season and his biggest goal too and, whilst he’s not looking for a win, there are plenty of firsts on his mind as he reflects on a busy few months.

....Well here we are, the finale of the UK 'cross season and somehow - I’m still not sure how - I'm on the start line for the Vet 40-49 race at the National Championships……pinches self to check I’m not dreaming.

But, before we come to all that championships stuff, a quick retrospective. What a season it's been! So many new experiences! On a purely personal level, new this season were a number of “firsts”, beginning with riding and helping run a dedicated cyclo-cross team (thanks to's Chief Cowbell Ringer Andrew Yee and Director Sportif Steve Smales). There was also a first full season of National Trophy racing, a first broken chain (and first DNF), a first season riding in a skin suit (scientifically wind tunnel tested at the outdoor South Shields Gypises Green facility) and a first season with two bikes, leading to.... first puncture mid-race and first bike swap.

And, taking in the wider perspective, there have been yet more firsts: starting coaching Leeds Uni and Met students; a first CX gold medal for team rider Sarah 'Muddy' Murray; a first Senior win for team rider Edwyn Oliver-Evans in his first season as an Under-23;  my first time helping organise a 'cross race with first class organising team (Ripley Castle CX); my first of many head-to-heads with self-appointed “arch-rival” Phil Ingham (Pedalsport, a story set to be continued); and the first of many, many, many mid-race bike changes! For the latter, I am totally indebted to PIT crews Heather, Callum, Scott, Sarah, Alison, Sally, Dave, Dylan (hope I haven't missed anyone there). Oh yeah, on that subject, a first time in the role of PIT-helper myself. So I now have a decent understanding of just how tricky it can be.

But today is not a first. This is my second time out at the National's and at this venue. I'd set myself a pre-season goal that was simple and for me highly motivating. Last time out I came 86th, so my season-long aspiration was simply to do better than that. I knew this would be tricky from the outset as, firstly, my chances of getting a place on the start line were not good as the number of entrants was to be restricted and, secondly, even if I could get a spot, the central Derby location was bound to attract more top riders that last year's more northerly Bradford venue. But, I did get a place and so……

Well, yes, back to the National Championships. I'm on the start line looking at a huge sea of riders…..from behind! Despite not quite being last to be called up, I am on the back row. This never bothers me: it's where I am and I've got a decent start in me.
But I’m not prepared for riders going sideways before we’ve even exited the tarmac! No worries, I nip through the melee to the top corner, aka 'the lake'. Some riders chose to run, but I go for the wide splash and do so every lap. Today's flavour of mud is officially 'clingy'. And it lives up to its billing! Frequent bike changes were planned and they are duly executed with precision. I’m so indebted to my PITs I can't even begin to say. My race result owes as much to their efforts as to anything I do.
Ploughing: cyclo-cross style

As with last year’s National Trophy at the same Derby venue there are plenty of decisions about running vs riding. One decision I do make, as much for my own amusement as anything, is to ride the sands. I'm trying to evoke visions of Koksidje here but, in reality, think about the sandpit you had in your primary school. More like that. Nonetheless I ride the sands and I don't think Niels Albert could have done it better. I then go even further in my Albert-like racing by checking the pedal position of my shouldered bike as I begin the bog run each lap. A bit silly maybe, but it all helps keep me concentrated on the task in hand.  And so, my race is run. I’m done. Finished!
I know, it's quicker to run. But as this is the National's a litte showboating can't hurt?

You know, the main thing that catches me by surprise on the day is the constant shouts from well-wishers trackside. Given the location, I am taken aback at the sheer number of people egging me on. I'm not sure who you all are as I daren’t look across, but you know it helps. The cyclo-cross community really do get behind their riders. “Heartwarming” is the word I used last time. I'll stick by that. See you all next season. Thank you.

Thanks also to our team supporters, Tidds and great to see such a show and shouts from Bioracer cycle clothing. Those jackets looked very warm guys! Face with stuck-out tongue and winking eye!

Race result 59 of 85 (cf season long goal: laugh/cry?)

The season is almost over now for most of us but never fear ‘cross fans: Get in touch with us as we have a special discount code offer for UK subscriptions to the print or digital version of Cyclocross Magazine, the only magazine desiccated to our sport. Drop us a message and we’ll send you the code.

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