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LCCA Team Champs

The traditional end to the CX Season in the South-East hosted by Crawley Wheelers at the South of England Showground at Ardingly in Sussex. The course is based around the huge undercover sand-school area of the Abergavenny building and long tarmac sections where drafting provides a big advantage. This year will fielded two teams of four riders, some of whom report back from the action.

María Almánzar

It could’ve been spicier, but it was a fun day out for me. First time I get to race CX with so many Wheelers! It was nice to turn down a corner and spot one of us battling it through, or to ride through a tricky section (the sandbox for me!) and unexpectedly receive encouraging words from a Wheeler that was coming behind.

I lost my group (we had staggered starts), because when entering one of the gravel labyrinths, the rider in front of me destroyed the course after smashing into the tape. The marshals made me stay there for around 10 seconds until they were able to put it back. I was already on the last group and after that, I couldn’t catch up.

There were definitely some riders more eager (for lack of a better word) than others, but thankfully in my case, most of them were polite when overtaking.

Had a mound of Belgian frites afterwards to officially give closure to the CX winter season.

Martyn Hopping

I had entered the race not knowing what to expect. I’d researched the Ardingley Team Champs on YouTube to try and give me the heads up, but it was far better than I had imagined.

This course reminded me of the race at Gatwick earlier in the year, with its winding and technical sections alongside a few long straights where I could put the power down and chase. These are the events I seem to excel in.

I was fortunate that my kids had raced (together with KW member Dan Di Principe’s kids for their Cycling Clubs team) that morning in the U12’s, so I could pick up some tips, see where riders were getting it wrong & get some feedback from my sons on what to look out for.

I met with all the Wheelers participants in the early afternoon. It was great to have 2 teams entered and see some old faces as well as meet some new members.

I was grouped in Team A with Matt F, Vincent C & Brian W, and we had Team B participants of María A, Alex J, Gill T & Gary B.

I think the previous race had started late, so by the time they finished, I only had time to do one quick practice lap before my race started.

We were asked to allocate our race order, and within our team we couldn’t decide who was going in which wave, so decided to instead randomly take lots to choose our starting wave. Through this I was allocated to the third wave.

We’d all lined up in our waves, and the 1st wave went off like a shotgun, then the 2nd, and then the adrenaline kicked in and I sprinted off in the 3rd wave. My aim was to try to get a good place before we’d have to enter the barn and it would start to get technical. I felt I was doing well up until the end of the first lap. I’d come into the last corner trying to take the tight in, wide out line, but I came in too fast and came off my bike in front of the crowds getting a big cheer from the spectators. I picked the bike up and started to run, when I tripped up on a clump of sand and fell over for a second time almost straight away. Getting an even bigger cheer from the crowds!

I jumped back on my bike with the mission from then on to try and over take more people, then we’re trying to overtake me.

It was great to see other Wheelers on the course, you could shout words of encouragement whenever you saw them.

Everyone at these races are so friendly, including the venues, the crowds, other teams & your own teammates. You’re all there to have a good time and enjoy the event together.

That race concluded my 1st ever season of cyclocross racing, and I have loved every minute. It’s been great to represent Kingston Wheelers throughout.

I’ve learnt a new set of skills (still refining them as each race progressed) and am looking forward to my 2nd season when it all starts again in September.

If anyone is thinking of dabbling into the world of Cyclocross I’d definitely say go for it. I seriously can’t think of a friendlier way to race. You’re cheered on whether you’re 1st, midfield or last.

Remember #crossisboss

Vincent Carratala

This was my 3rd CX race, the first one was Muddy Hell at Herne Hill which was a solo event, then I did the Madison on New Year’s Day with Martyn Hopping again at Herne Hill, so this time it was a go at the team event at Ardingly.

I was nervous about how the event was going to work, as well as three different types of surfaces to tackle. There were two Wheeler teams, I was in team A, which was myself, Martyn, Brian and Matt. Team A decided to pick lots to determine our starting order. I picked 4 which meant I would be in the last group of riders to start. The team event has a staggered start with the four groups starting at 45 seconds apart, the three fastest group times count towards the teams overall average time. We did our warm up lap, then got into our starting position.

The whistle blew, the first group set off at a blistering pace, then the next group, then group 3, then before I knew it, it was group 4’s turn. I got off to a good start, was in the main bunch, the first tarmac surface was great, as we entered the barn for the first time to do a short sand section my gear wouldn’t change, I was stuck in the wrong gear which meant I fell behind from the main group. Leaving the short sand section we entered the gravel section, this had a great number of very sharp twist, turns, I was struggling with the gears, which finally did change but I was now off the main bunch from group 4.

Having navigated the gravel, we then hit a tarmac section which was no problem before returning to the barn for the main sand section. The sand was quite difficult, deep in some places, with a good number of turns, but I had figured the correct line so managed to power through the sand without any issues, then it was the end of the first lap. By lap 3, the super fast group 1 leaders were catching us, how they managed to go so fast through the various sections was beyond me, I stuck to my line, moved out of the way when called, but it was great fun, I even managed to overtake a few people myself.

50 mins later, I was heading over the line when I realised the leaders were just about to finish, as I had crossed the line before the leaders it meant I had to finish the lap. I then realised I was the last person to cross the line in front of the leaders, so I had to do the last lap without anyone else behind me, it was great as everyone was cheering me on to the finish, when I entered the barn for the last section every rider had finished, so I got cheered all the way to the finished, I couldn’t resist playing to the crowd, luckily I didn’t come off, crossed the line and the race was done. It was so fun.

Unfortunately Matt had an accident and was unable to finish, everyone else managed to get to over the finish line, all be it with a few scratches and bruises.

I would recommend trying CX, it is so much fun, just be prepared that it is likely you may crash a few times, get very muddy, suffer a mechanical but the actual racing is brill. As the season finishes I am most certainly going to be doing a few more races when the next season starts, a good excuse to justify a new bike to keep up with the faster riders.