X4.028 – STEPS.PLANKS.AND.MUD
Last time at Hog Hill it was blue skies, fast trails and a puncture – this time it was cold, grey and very muddy, and I finally broke my spell of bad luck with punctures…
Redbridge always brings up surprises – in such a small space it’s amazing that it’s possible to create so many different courses and it makes it really difficult to plan just how to prepare yourself and your bikes. The supporting club did a great job with a brutal course and some new features that avoided (amusingly) the nicely drained singletrack parts of the venue. This was a thoughtful touch that avoided us destroying the nice mountain bike style berms in favour of a new set of steps and some really deep slow clay.
Almost straight away the running began. This was a bit of a shock to the system after a couple of Christmas parties, but I try and practice running so I dug deep and forced my legs to remember how to get moving. 50 metre run-ups are common in ‘cross, but the reality of the Hog Hill course, and the fact that the previous races had chewed it up, meant that it was faster to run for the first 400/500 metres of each lap.
There were a few fast faces in the bunch and these guys seemed to disappear at an alarming rate, but I found myself racing with a couple of the guys I have tabs on for the last few races of the season. James Waddington tried to make an early break, but he succumbed to some kind of mechanical and that left me fighting with a Crawley Wheeler and Kristian Borbely. Each time we changed direction through the thick mud we’d cross from one side of the track to the other trying to find some grip – fighting for every corner at about 5mph!
A couple of laps in my bike was starting to clog. The disc brakes and di2 made an incredible difference and really most of the fast guys were changing bikes every lap if they had the help whereas I was able to keep plugging away and I found that the majority of the bike cleared itself on the long downhill. Even so with two and a half laps to go I was dropping off the pace and so I took my chance to swap bikes too.
I also had advice ringing in my ears to shoulder the bike as a pose to running it through the mud, which helps avoid it clogging. Every little thing you can do seemed to help and so I made the extra effort to carry the bike. Back on the bike I was finding some grip by riding the long way around most of the corners. Whilst you could keep the bike moving quickly it was well worth finding the clean lines.
I made my way back to the Crawley rider and then Kristian too who was trying to persuade some of the mud away from his bike. I knew that I had to take advantage of this and upped the pace. I also had my sights on a couple of juniors who’d been just up the road the whole time – With one to go I put everything I had into racing Josh Outram and Matt Clements. I knew as the race went on that most guys should start to struggle so I kept the pressure on and eventually came home just in front of them in 11th place.
The major result was that all my tyres stayed inflated! Anyone who knows the problems I’ve had recently will appreciated how much it means to be able to finish a race without a long run…well except for all the running anyways!
John Dennis (Control CC)
Jack Finch (PMRacing)
Jamie Newall (Pedal Heaven)
11.Glen Whittington (SDW)
Photos by Dave Haywood.
Glen rides a pair of Boardman Elite ‘Cross bikes in the London CycloCross Association League. He rides a Colnago Master and races a Scott Addict at local road races, all of which are available via The Velo House. He races a KTM Aera Pro 27.5 hardtail in the UK National Points Series and the Eastern XC Series. He receives personal sponsorship from Helly Hansen, KTM and THE.ÆIGHT.BICYCLE.CØMPANY. He’s also supported by Lazer helmets and Boardman Elite.