We have all seen the hash tags over the last few months saying #crossiscoming but finally we can say that #crossishere time to put away the skinny tyres and take out the 33mm mud plugging ones.
Cross season kicked off this weekend with racing in the Kinning’s League in Belfast on Friday night and down South with the Fixx Supercross Cup in Dublin on Sunday
Normally I would not expect to find myself at a cross race at 8 on a Friday evening (well no one would as its dark so we were treated to the first floodlit race in the country) in Belfast as it’s a 3.5 hour journey for me but I was killing two birds with one stone by meeting one of Verge’s best clients the 0745 Rouleurs in Belfast. I arrived in Belfast in plenty of time so took the opportunity to visit Velo Café Magasin new shop, much bigger than the last shop and has a lovely selction of high end kit, fortunately the coffee is as good as ever.
I met Darren from the 0745 Rouleurs and headed to his house for a bite to eat before heading to the course. When we got there is was dusk but the B race was underway in plenty of visibility we started warming up off the course when disaster hit Darren as he punctured both tubs by hitting a hidden kerb in the grass. This left him in a bit of a pickle as he had no spare wheels, I offered him the wheels off my spare bike but we both had different size rotors (the joy of discs) so the only option left was for him to use my spare bike it was at least 2 sizes 2 small for him but desperate times call for desperate measures but much better to be on a bike that does not fit than being on the side lines. I just had to hope I didn’t wreck my first bike and I would have to rugby tackle him to the get the second bike back
The B race ran a bit late so we didn’t get a chance to pre ride the course before our race started, we lined up on the velodrome a number of riders we gridded and off we went, it was a bit hairy sprinting full gas on a semi lit outdoor bumpy velodrome but we all got around it in one piece. I came out of the veledrome in 25th place and was looking to move up. The bottom half of the course had a number of large trees that did a great job of having one side of them completely in the dark so it was very scary trying to race around these literally blind. To be honest I cornered like a guy who had never sat on a bike beforehand or at least a cross bike. I was getting passed left right and centre but the legs were ok so I kept plugging away, the course had plenty of twists and turns early on then an off camber section followed by a drop off and then a long boggy section into the wind, for the first couple of laps I tried to make sure I was on someone’s wheels for this section but as the race went on the gaps started to get bigger so the opportunities to hide got smaller. The race also featured two logs that the young/talented/fearless jumped and the rest of us jumped off and ran over, the course also had a feature that I have not seen before which was pallets layed flat on the ground two high that most people hopped up onto a large number also hopped off the bike to run over. I liked it as it was a technical challenge without being too technical.
There was a great crowd watching the race and a nice expo area that added to the atmosphere at the system, none of these were helping my race standing as I kept plugging around some laps better than others but generally as the laps went by I felt better cornering and was able to push a bit harder. Unfortunately with 2 laps to go Roger Aiken came flying past, it’s never nice to be lapped (although in some races you can be looking for it) but the season is young so hopefully I can keep the lapping’s to a minimum
Race 2 of the weekend was the Fixx Supercross in Grangecastle, I would like to say I had a relaxing day the day before the race but I ended up joining the 0745 Rouleurs for a club ride at 7:45am in Belfast (guess where they get their name from) I was told to bring the road bike but assumed I would be fine on the cross bike, how wrong I was as I got the legs torn off me over 2 hours. After that I was faced with the 3.5 hour drive home where I was handed 2 kids as my wife headed out for a night with her friends. Neither of the kids fancied napping on the couch so I was kept going till they went to bed. I then loaded the car with the Verge stand for the following day and hit the hay and passed out in record speed. (is that enough excuses?????)
The day was blustery but dry after a heap of rain the previous day and the course looked to be running relatively dry which was encouraging for all the roadies in attendance. My brother Kevin was giving me a hand on the Verge Stand where we had the latest models on display and also some of last year’s samples for sale at heavily discounted prices, if you see us at one of the future races feel free to give us a shout. Once the B race finished I managed to get a lap of the course done I was feeling ok till I did the run up when it felt like my legs would fall off, stiff was an understatement. Before our race kicked off I was presenting a leader’s jersey for one of the support races (Verge are delighted to be sponsoring the leaders jerseys for a second year) when I turned around all the riders for the A race were on the start line, darn it I though (not my exact words) as I lined up at the back, I managed to sneak up a bit but was in the back half of the field. We were held on the start line for a few minutes and in those minutes the weather did a huge change as the wind picked up even more and it started to flog rain. If your tyres were pumped up hard expecting a dry race you were in trouble.
Once the whistle blew we were off like the clappers, this race starts with a long tarmac section where we had a howling tailwind behind us, we were doing 50kph+ as we sprinted for the first corner. Fortunately no one tried to play the hero with late breaking and we all got around it ok and the fight for position commence in earnest, plenty of elbows were stuck out and suspect lines taken into corners. I managed to nab a few spots I think by accident more than design I had got my tyre pressure correct and was able to commit more than normally on the corners. The first lap had the usual delays when starting down the pack with guys falling off and cornering slowly when grouped up together. On the second lap it started to spread out a bit and I was holding my own a few guys passed me on the corners but I had decent legs in the power sections to catch a few. It was really cold at this stage with the rain it would be fine if we had expected it but this is Ireland and we can never expect anything with the weather.
The great thing about cross is that you could be racing for 1st of 50th but you’re really racing the guys around you, we had plenty of that going on so the laps flew by (they went a bit faster for those at the pointy end of the race) the course started to dry a bit as the rain abated but the turns on the footpaths still claimed a few victims each lap. In the end I finished in 27th which I was relatively happy with and I didn’t get lapped which we all know is like winning.
The next race on the calendar is the Munster CX league, http://www.munstercx.com/ this is a league of six races, Verge yet again are sponsoring the leaders jerseys and will be at the race to promote our range of custom cycling clothing. St Finbarrs have secured a great venue in Fota Island so please bring the family as everyone will have a great day out, enter online here http://www.munstercx.com/events/