I HAD my first taste of cyclocross when I was living in London last year. My team mate persuaded me to enter a local 'cross race held at the famous Herne Hill Velodrome so, one evening after work, I lined up in the grassy track centre on my budget mountain bike ready to have a good time. The race was the last of the London Summer Series (sponsored by Cyclocrossrider this summer - Ed) and the weather was dusty and warm.
I'd absolutely no preconceptions about the race: I was just there to have fun and enjoy myself on the bumpy looking course. Somehow, I don’t quite know how, I finished third and I instantly became hooked!
Fortuitously, it was soon the cyclocross season proper, so I signed up for the London ‘Cross League and my boss found his old cyclocross frame in the roof space of the shop and I was ready to go!
Learning how to corner and climb on all the different types of mud through trial and muddy error
Autumn became winter and racing most weekends I soon got to experience proper ‘Belgian' race conditions. Being new to the sport I was doing no particular training other than commuting to work each day (either by bike or running) and occasionally riding the local pump track. Most of the technical skills I learnt just by following the more experienced riders during races and learning how to corner and climb on all the different types of mud through trial and muddy error.
Why 'cross appeals to me
For me, cyclocross is the perfect mix of off-road and road cycling. The bikes are beautiful. The mud is epic. The atmosphere at races is always warm whatever the weather (possibly helped by the beer and frites!). I've still not quite yet decided if I am a cyclocross rider or a roadie or even whether the two are mutually exclusive. 'Cross gives you a great winter base for the spring road races after all...
Last season was my first winter of cyclocrossing, I raced as many of the London 'Cross League events that I could, but my highlight was racing at the Rapha Super Cross at Alexandra Palace. This event brought together everything that makes 'cross so great: elite racing; novelty races in fancy dress; spectators; beer; and a festival atmosphere. Perhaps the best part was watching the novice racers take on the 'Wall of Foam' and the ‘Tequila Shortcut’. Despite the odd spill (see photo evidence above), I managed to finish on the podium at ‘Ally Pally’ - in third place.
The season ahead
After such a fun and successful season last winter (taking second place overall in the London League along with the third place in the open race at Rapha Super Cross) I am taking my racing to the next level this year. I will focus on the British National Trophy series as well as combining the Rapha events into my schedule.
I now live in Devon so on my ‘spare’ weekends I’ll also compete in as many of the South West (of England) League races that I can get to. These are regional races, easier to travel to and which will provide a good opportunity to measure myself against the local athletes as well as practice and evaluate my skills in preparation for the next national events.
Finally, I shall wrap the season up with the National Championship in January.
Wish me luck!
Alice will write again for Cyclocrossrider once her new season gets underway. The Rapha Super Cross UK Series returns in October whilst Munich, Sydney, Japan and America also host RSX events. Rapha Super Cross was co-founded by Cyclocrossrider editor Konrad Manning.
Photos: Chris Tree/Instagram @iaintsuperman_ and ©rapha/cyclocrossrider.com