XXFOUR – CROSSBLOCKONE
The start to my ‘cross season got underway later than I’d hoped this year, but as we climbed up through the dappled sunlight in the beech-woods on the northern side of the Koppenberg, it couldn’t have got going in a more perfect place…
A day later in the grey cold, I was lining up for round 13 of the LRC Belgian Cyclocross Series in a muddy field near Wattripont on the Wallonie-Flanders border. As the rope went up on the start I headed down to the first corner among 28 six-foot-tall plus Belgians to duke it out for the holeshot. Finding myself 29th and dead last after being held up by the inevitable pile-up, I started working my way through the field. My progress was slightly impeded by my poor choice of tyre pressure, but I was catching a couple of riders per lap on the classic European ‘cross course – there was nowhere to hide, plenty of accelerations every lap and my old-school canti ÆIGHT MANUFACTORY rig was in its element. One final do-or-die move in one of the only techy sections, on the last lap, secured me 18th place in my first race of the season and my only euro race of the year – this was quickly followed up by frites and mayo.
We stuck around for the Pro race at Koksijde the following day – MVdP also got held up in the first corner, only he seemed to fare better overall than I had – he pretty much had the race won by the end of the first lap! Watching the way the pro’s do it up close is a real inspiration and I took this back with me to help build the course at Round 10 of the London and SE Cyclocross Series, near Bodiam in Sussex.
More at home in the deep mud and the apple orchards that made up the final race of the Sussex League, I managed to make my way up from the back of the grid to the middle of the pack in the first couple of laps. As the race went on and the mud got deeper I carried on making up places to get myself into the top ten. I really benefited from having two bikes which were always on point thanks to Mak Larkin and his Dad in the pits – this really kept me in the game, securing me 9th place in my first ‘cross race for over a year on home soil! A perfect result after the injuries I sustained earlier on in the autumn.
And so, to the final race of the year (but not the ‘cross season) – once again, round 11 of the London and SE Cyclocross Series was a race that I helped design and build. After enduring one of the wettest Winters for years, the final week before the race at Somerhill in Kent was treated to even more heavy rain and flooding. We spent time re-jigging our course to simply make it ridable, we found some new lines which avoided the worst of the clag, which resulted in some brilliant racing in the Vets, Women and Junior races. By the time we started the Senior race we’d had even more rain and the mud was now thick – perfect!
Predictably after the first lap I’d lost contact with the front runners but I really was racing better than I had done for a long time. I dropped a few too many places but made most of them back up and the disc-brake ÆIGHT MANUFACTORY bike was working like a dream with its huge clearance. I had a few good battles to finish 7th in the race. A great result to reward Mak and Theo in the pits with, and one I’m proud to have ended the year on. I only raced nine times in 2019 but I helped lots of other riders with their races and I’m looking forward to building on both areas for 2020. We’ve got an exciting announcement to make next about a new rider – one who I’m going to need to train myself to keep up with!
Photos by Glen Whittington, Pip Jenkins, Honor Elliott, Huw Williams and Dave Haywood.
#aeightracer – Glen’s an ex-racer who still finds time to ride mountain bikes, road bikes, TT and ‘cross bikes for Southborough & District Wheelers. He started building custom steel frames in 2013, has worked in bike shops since 2002 and started racing in 1998. He helps out with London and SE Cross League and receives personal support from Helly Hansen, Geoff Roberts Frames, Four4th Lights. His most recent claim to fame is 13th in the British National XC Mountain bike rankings and 15th overall in the National Series whilst setting up the.æight.bicycle.cøllective – #aeightracer
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