Alexandra Palace in North London has hosted the Rapha Super Cross for several years now and the race has become a feature in many a South-East cyclocross rider’s calendar, so having not ridden here before I thought I should really come and see what all the fuss is about. Lining up on the start line Philip Deacon taps me on the shoulder and says, “are you going to try and not crash on the last lap again this week?”…
I don’t know what was going on in my head, but I’d got to Ally Pally and was content to just stand there watching riders ride round the course, until I got a reality check chatting to Sophia Joy, who quite rightly told me to get my arse out there and practice! The course was brilliantly unforgiving and lacked just about any place to rest. It started off with a fast off camber downhill into a tight set of spirals, hurdles and then a long fast out-and-back. It then went steeply up to just below the palace itself before dropping down through some increasingly technical corners and a final tarmac sprint home.
Regarding my last lap fall last week, I suddenly had a moment of clarity on my practice lap this week and realised that on the penultimate lap last week I’d been forced to change my rear wheel following a puncture, which in turn meant that I had a different tyre on. The tyre I’d been forcing through those fast esses had suddenly disappeared and I now realised why I’d hit the deck!
Moment of clarity over, I was gridded on the second row and managed to find a nice place on the tarmac rather than the gravel which worked quite nicely and set me up away from trouble for the first corner. We all safely slotted into positions for the spiral which quickly turned into an elbow fest, as it did for most of the following laps with me coming out just behind Dan Braid. Up the hill for the first time Chris Panayiotou and a few other riders went past me, but it was such a physical course I knew I’d need to save a little for later.
On the following lap little groups of riders developed all around the track. I’d already decided to give Dan Braid and Paul Sheers a little space before reeling them back in; but I didn’t expect to see Dan so quickly – he’d been taken out by a spectator on course! After a change of bikes he joined me and we motored round for two laps sharing the work.
This got me to within sight of Chris Panayiotou, Philip Deacon and Paul Sheers. With constant shouts from Dougie Fox, Mark Smith and Stuart Nisbitt I was making time on them, but with two laps to go I just wasn’t getting close enough – they seemed to have something extra on the hard top section whilst I was faster in the main arena area.
I’d now gapped the riders behind me and was confident in my position, but something was telling me to keep the pressure on so I raced over the top section as hard as I could for the last time and rounded the long off camber turn at the top with my leg out like on every lap before. That’s when karma struck it’s fatal blow to Phil. As I headed to the wooded downhill I got sight of Phil remounting his bike after a last lap fall!
I knew I had the extra momentum into the downhill and we raced down side by side, with me crucially holding the right hand line into the final right hand corner. With the only tarmac toward the right hand side, I began my sprint early whilst still in the corner. As we both bounced of the curb and back onto the main track I dropped another few gears and just prayed that my chain wouldn’t slip – Sprinting like a manxman, you can feel every muscle in your body and keeping one eye to my left I didn’t let up until safely over the line, which John Mullineaux worriedly hoping we’d both stop in time. A hand shake from Philip Deacon left us all square again, albeit with a reminder not to speak of the devil.
1 Matthew Webber
2 Jack Finch
3 Stu Bowers
4 Benjamin Lewis
5 Kamden Reedy
6 Daniel Stevens
7 Chris Pedder
8 Mark Perry
9 Chris Herring
10 Chris McGovern
15 Glen Whittington
16 Philip Deacon (plus 0.377)
Photos by Oskar Scarsbrook.
Results published by ukcyclesport.com.
Additional photos and video by John at UKCyclesport.
Header Image by Pip Jenkins.
Glen races a pair of Boardman Elite CX Pro‘s which are available via Tribeca Sport. He races in the London CycloCross League and is supported by Bike Science and Helly Hansen. For 2014 he’ll be racing mountain bikes also for KTM. All views and opinions are personal and should be taken with a pinch of salt – This blog is not for cissies or cry-babies.
Glen runs THE.TRIBECA.SPORT.WØRKSHOP which is based at 28 London Road, Southborough, TN4 0QB – 01892 533 339 – firstname.lastname@example.org . The shop specialises in precision servicing, race prepping, 3D Bike Science bike fitting and high quality bikes and equipment. Drop in, give us a call, visit our Facebook page or browse our website for more details. He also runs the shop race team and club as well as racing ‘cross, road and cross-country nationally.