This winter is all about racing close to home for me, but when I was picked to race for The London League at last weekend’s Inter-Area Team Champs it was too good an opportunity to turn down…
My Pit helper (Pip) and I braved the dark early morning start to drive up to Hardwick Hall, near Nottingham, on race day morning. After getting used to the standard late start of the league races this was a shock to the system, but road trips are always good so we downed as much coffee as possible and cracked on!
Making it up in time for the Youth races was great and we instantly forgot about the plan and got on helping wash bikes in the pits. After a quick change of clothes, second breakfast and a bike check it was time to do a practice lap. But having watched the youth riders I was skeptical about just how muddy it was getting – a quick chat with Stuart (Stuart McGhee – London Team Manager) confirmed that it would do more harm than good, so I retreated to the turbo trainer!
Phil Lenney, Alex Pettett, Dan Drake and myself comprised the London B Team which meant that we were to start right at the back. After a predictably big pile up in the first corner I thought to myself, “it feels like I’m the last rider”, so I glanced over my shoulder to confirm that I had successfully dropped to last place.
The conditions, for me, were perfect though – loads of deep water mud, a grassy wet muddy off-camber section, some really sandy gravelly mud and some nice rutted mud…mostly mud! This helped me move through the pack and after a couple of laps I’d made my way past some of the London Juniors and a couple of the London A riders. I was feeling great.
Pip, Stuart and Craig (and probably loads more) were working hard in the pits to keep us stocked up with clean bikes, jet washing all 12 of our bikes dirty bikes while we were on the other 12 “clean” bikes! It sounds dramatic, but none of us would have been able to make it round without their help – conditions were so bad that most bikes had to be swapped every half a lap.
At some point that has to take its toll on the bikes and one of mine was having issues with the rear gears. Roughly a quarter of the riders in the previous races had broken rear mechs and there was a similarly high attrition rate in our race. With one lap to go I could feel mine going – I tried my best to ride in the centre of the block, but in the end it went! Luckily for me the race leader was just coming round for the finish so I was able to run home just behind him to secure a finishing result for our team.
The whole day had cost a lot in terms of fuel, time and broken bikes, but somehow I left the race feeling really stoaked – everyone had worked so hard to make the day a success. Massive thanks to all my team mates for the shouts and encouragement and to all the guys in the pits for getting so thoroughly soaked keeping out bikes working.
Photos by Pip Jenkins and Gen Whittington.
Glen rides a pair of Boardman Elite ‘Cross bikes in the London CycloCross Association League. He rides a Colnago Master and races a Scott Addict at local road races, all of which are available via The Velo House. He races a KTM Aera Pro 27.5 hardtail in the UK National Points Series and the Eastern XC Series. He receives personal sponsorship from Helly Hansen, KTM and THE.ÆIGHT.BICYCLE.CØMPANY. He’s also supported by Lazer helmets and Boardman Elite. The KTM team is supported by Continental Tyres, Torq Fitness and Four4th Lights.