Monday, January 6, 2014

Ted @ National Trophy Cyclo-Cross Round 6: Shrewsbury

Ted Sarmiento reports from the final National Trophy Cyclo-Cross of the season, but whilst his body is heading to Shrewsbury, it appears his mind is back in Yorkshire. This has consequences, both bad and good!

National Trophy Cyclo-Cross Round 6: Shrewsbury Sports Village Sunday 5th January 2014

Well here we go. I’m on the road to Shrewsbury, the last event of the 2013-14 National Trophy series, along with my Racing Team DS Steve Smales, who is at the wheel, his other half Heather along with break-though star rider Sarah Murray. But I have to admit to being somewhat distracted. Not by the early-doors motorway run, you’ll understand. That's par for the course these days. No, the distraction is the result of the Ripley Castle Cyclo-Cross event, staged by my club, Harrogate Nova, just a few days ago. There’s simply so much to talk about. And then the inevitable – Whoops, that was our motorway exit! Now we’re running late and short on fuel. Not part of the plan!

We turn off on to the A38 and something's not right - blue flashing lights ahead - looks like an accident maybe? It is. One car’s perpendicular to the road. Strange? No, not really, we find we’re driving on sheet ice. The DS hits the brakes and we go into an ABS powered slide/stop. We're OK, but as we crawl on we see two more vehicles prostrate at the side of the road. That’s three separate accidents inside a mile and it dawns on us that our detour probably prevented us from being one of them. So today's blog is all about making the best of things, as we just can't control how some stuff pans out.

Finally, with barely enough fuel to park, we get to the race venue. Heather immediately sets to, hauling gear to the pits, while us mollycoddled riders set tyre pressures and change into many, many layers of racing gear. Just time for a half lap, but which half? I go for the woods section. Ooh this is fun, a trip through the woods over roots covered in sloppy slurry.

So onto the grid, and by sheer dogged determinedness I'm way off the back end. As Woody Allen once said: '80% of success is showing up'. But here's where I find my flaw: the woods are fun, but the other part of the circuit is anything but. 'Technical' I think is the fashionable term, but in reality it’s littered with unrideable off-cambers, slop (by the bucket-load) with some stairs thrown in somewhere.

All this comes as a bit of a surprise during the mass start. Then it’s the tarmac finish straight, back into the off-camber slop-fest, on to the pits and a hardpack path, then my favourite: the 'veld' section. Here I find the Sven line lap after lap by going wide and cutting diagonally across the track. I have no idea if it’s any faster like this, but it keeps me amused all race long.

Onto the penultimate lap and something very strange happens. It's not happened before at National Trophies, but today it does. I start overtaking a few riders. Not those with Pauwels’ chains or Nys’ punctures, but riders with working bikes and race numbers, and I’m not lapping them either. No, this is genuine, bona fide race passing. The leaders don’t even fluster me, much, in their futile attempts to lap me, despite Matt 'the voice' Payne egging them on to do so.

Photo by Andy Preston
So I get the bell and it's lastste, laatste ronde, at least in National Trophy terms, for this season. Off I go: just time to pick up a clean bike for the final trip to really nail the Sven line, through the woods, onto the silly off camber runs. I drag my once-again sorry-looking bike up the stairs a final time and I'm done! All six rounds of the National Trophy Cyclo-Cross series: nil points and one DNF (first ever) to show for it.

But this is a not always a sensible sport. There’s always plenty of opportunity for something to go wrong, but after the icy road incident, today we're just happy to just be here and be riding and making the best of it. We're even happier when we break out the home-made soup to accompany the hog roast burgers as we make a serious attempt at post-race recovery ahead of the National Championships, next weekend.

Thanks as ever go to pit crew Heather and Sarah, the race marshals and officials, and all those involved in putting on the National Trophy series this year. I've loved riding the series with Racing Team, and we've enjoyed further support from Tidds, Bioracer cycle clothing and those nice guys at Pedalsport and YCCA. Cyclo-Cross, perhaps more than other branches of the sport, relies on huge globs of unselfish support from so many people, it's very heart-warming.

Race result 37 of 44

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