This weekend The.Æight.Bicycle.Cøllective kicked off the 2012/13 ‘Cross season at Foulmead, near Deal in Kent at Round One of the London Cyclocross League. Here’s how Glen, Pete and Peter got on;
It seems like we’ve been testing the bikes forever now, but it’s only really been a couple of weeks. A massive thank-you must go out to Crissy, Pete, Richard and Paul for all their time spent getting the bikes sorted. We’ve all been massively impressed by the CX Pro’s, and we really feel like we’ve got them into a great set-up for the start of the season. I’ve put in some long hours in the Tribeca Sport workshop trying out different combinations for the team riders to test and hopefully this time will pay for itself now that we’re racing.
I’ve never been to Foulmead before, but it’s been a part of mountain bike, cyclocross and road racing history in the South-East for a long time. Many riders were discussing past races whilst watching the youth races and in morning warm-up and you can tell that many racers have fond memories of the dusty quarry that lies just down the road from Deal that’s now been transformed into a bicycle playground!
I met up with Pete Lawrence and his girlfriend Jo for sign-on after nursing my very sick Land Rover to the event and then we went off to find Peter Douglas, who’ll be riding the guest bike. Peter is 57 years old and normally rides for Finsbury Park CC, which he’s been a member of now for the best part of 30 years. I met him last year after a break of 22 years from cross racing at Herne Hill.
The four of us rode off for a sighting lap to check that the bikes were working properly and to get a feel for the course. You can get everything else right beforehand, but tyre pressures (which can cost or earn you valuable places) can only really be adjusted just before the race. Foulmead was really dry with a pleasant little plume of dust coming off the rear wheel of the rider in front. It’s important to get your head in the right place too so that you can visualise the course and where you may be able to gain a small advantage – “The aggregation of marginal gains”.
So after downing the last bit of energy drink we all found ourselves on the start line. Even though I ended up 20th overall last year I wasn’t gridded in the top 50 which meant that the start was going to be chaotic. Slightly further back was Pete who was cursing himself for being equally badly placed in the pack. It really does have a bad effect on your whole race as it took me close on four laps to work my way through the field to the riders that I’m usually racing with. This means that by the time you get to them you’re knackered and they’re relatively fresh, but hey, “there’s no point whingeing”, I thought to myself, “you’ve just gotta go kick ass”. So that’s what I concentrated on doing.
Meanwhile Peter Douglas was getting settled in on the Boardman, quite a different beast to the 1988 vintage ALAN which he’s used to. “The Boardman is everything a modern race bike should be, light, taut, balanced and the brakes are something else”, said Peter. “As the whistle blew we all started sprinting down the start straight into an ever growing dust cloud. On the first corner those brakes caught me out, but I was quickly back on and chasing riders up the first climb. Later on in the race in one of the gravel pits I tasted the dirt again – The bike is just so different from my ALAN. I loved every minute of it though!”
Pete Lawrence was finding the going equally dry and dusty, “it was so warm and you just couldn’t breathe. I managed to get one gel down which helped, but it was like riding in a cloud for an hour!” Pete improved his result from last year’s race and managed to finish in 66th place – well up in the Vets field and a great first result on our new team.
In my race the going had got tough straight away as I desperately clawed back places from my poor grid position. Looking at the results I reckon on having passed around 30 riders by about half distance, but enough of that, I was now where I wanted to be. I enjoyed some super close racing with Chris McGovern who was racing for second place in the Juniors and then I spent a few laps trying to recover a bit. I lapped Peter and Jo and gave them both a shout of encouragement.
Peter finished on the hour as Ian Field (National Cross Champ and all round good guy) waved the finish flag. “It was a shame to stop, I loved the bike so much. I’d have liked more time to get used to the SRAM Force shifters and the brakes. It handles like a dream on the tricky stuff and I really had a great race on it. I also met some new friends that I’ll look forward to seeing at future races. Thanks to Glen and THE.ÆIGHT.BICYCLE.CØMPANY for lending me the bike and for the great support.” Peter finished in 83rd position and it was awesome to have him on the team. He’ll be racing with us again at some point.
My last lap was just as crazy as the first – I caught sight of Pete and this encouraged me, but I could also sense a couple of quick riders behind me so the pressure was on. I made a silly mistake with about a third of the lap to go whilst remounting the bike after a run section. Let’s just say I wasn’t feeling too romantic at the finish line! But I could see Ciaran O’Grady just up ahead so I worked hard in the technical section. I sprinted as hard as I could to the line and would have had him if there’d been an extra five metres. That mistake earlier on cost me, but I was pretty happy with 17th from such a bad start. I’ll just have to try and improve next time out.
The bike really did race like a dream and I know Pete, Peter and Jo all enjoyed their races too, so all in all we had a wicked first race with the new team. It’s nice to be able to support each other and to share and I really have big hopes for the team in the future. Roll on next week!
All the bikes will be serviced by THE.ÆIGHT.BICYCLE.CØMPANY at Tribeca Sport with kit and bike fits from Bike Science. Bikes and team rides are still available so if you’re interested you should contact Glen via firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. They have several packages to suit you (including cross bikes to buy or test ride) as well as servicing and bike fitting in their shop in Southborough, Tunbridge Wells.