First of all,
so this report should be nowhere near as sour as the last one on so sorry if it disappoints.
London CX Team Champs are always pretty rad. It’s a nice way to finish off the CX season, with it being a team event mixed with an individual event, it is quite a pleasant atmosphere to go race in. It’s not mega serious, but it is the last chance to do one over on your closest rival until next season comes around, bragging rights for 8 months, okay it’s well serious.
With the course being designed by Dougie Fox and usually held at Gt Walstead School, Lindfield, it makes for a killer combo. This year the 8-minute circuit (9 by the end of the hour) was full of techy features, including lots of twists, ruts, off camber switchbacks and even the odd drop! All was complemented well with nice loamy mud, the kind that you could just about scrape around on with one bike.
I had not raced since my first race of the season at nationals, I was almost quite put off by the whole thing since then. Thankfully the 5th Floor boys lent me some of their team spirit and motivation to get me out. I haven’t been riding for The 5th floor for long, but I really do feel right at home with those guys, splendid bunch.
I met Reece and Alex in Brixton for pick up on a pretty lovely sunny day, big thank you to Reece for whipping me down to the course, was great to chill with him and Alex in the car, tunes and gassed up chat a flow as usual.
When we arrived to the course, we were astonished to see the size of the queue for sign on. Entries were already sold out online before the race, so we knew it would be a big field, but blimey! We were standing in that queue for a long while, well Rudy and Alex did, I kept sneaking off to purchase the on site soup, it was pretty good. Fair play to all the London X league crew, giving up their Sundays to put up with us is quite a task that can not be thanked for enough.
Anyway I finally got my number and kit on, I had about 2 minutes to get to the start. There was definitely no warm up or sighting lap for me, my fault, everyone else got one in it seems, I even had Reece going, ‘Err, mate… hurry up”.
As it was a team event, the gridding wasn’t its usual call up of highest ranked riders at the front. It was quite a clever, but very bonkers 4 separate penning system. Teams were made up of 4 riders, 1 rider from each team would start in each pen. After some random deciding between us, I was placed in pen 3. Bra… sitting behind 100 odd riders in a 200-rider field is quite daunting. Basically the start was on a long gravel road strip, filled with cheeky rocks and potholes. I spotted this grass bank that ran down the entire length of the straight, it was decided, I was riding that. The start whistle went, from then on it was a rather intense sprint, people everywhere, mud flying. I headed for the bank, and actually managed to jump up about 80 places. Coming off of the bank was the gnarly bit, it was basically a bunny hop to flat into a bunch of pot holes, pretty pleased with myself I made it out alive. I came out of the first corner with my body in total shock, my legs ands lung were furious that this – the first lap of the race, was their warm up. As I entered the off camber switchbacks for the first time, I noticed the leaders were already exiting them some 20 seconds ahead, ‘uh-oh’. Basically, I felt fucked, my lungs still hadn’t woken up and I couldn’t go any faster. Riding this rad techy course for the first time was pretty cool though, that took my mind off the pain. Anyway, I sat tight and warmed up whilst I watched the leaders escape further and further away. What was quite great, is the various 5th floor members and supports dotted around the course giving you a shout and something to laugh at. My favourites were the ‘do a wheelie’ shouts from Seabass Cycles very own Charlie and Dan. They very kindly came down from their shop ‘Seabass Cycles’ and supported us with their knowledge, (Charlie has forgotten more that I know, apparently.) a bike stand and box of tools. It was great having them there, they’re top blokes, always jokes, always nice to see them.
The race went on, us 5th Floor riders shouted encouragement at each other as different parts of the course ran side by side. It’s quite lovely when you think about it, we’re all trying so hard we can barely see straight, but we still have reserves to attempt to slur some sort encouragement at each other. One thing I will say, passing riders with some manners goes a long way, especially to those just starting out in the sport. I had the pleasure of racers coming up and saying so to myself after the race. So if you’re over taking someone, be nice and make him or her want to come back for more.
It turns out we all did quite well together, the girls ended up 2nd, and the boys took home the title in the men’s category. I even won the Senior men’s race. Not bad eh?
Now we put off cleaning the bikes until the seasons starts again in September, there’s a few summer races knocking around in London too if you’re keen. I’ve done a few, and they are brilliant fun.
Thank you to all who helped out on the day, thank you to the 5th Floor crew for being great!
Photos by Jon Baines