XV.024 – LOOKING.FOR.SOME.FIRE

I just don’t know why it’s not working at the moment – I’m missing that special thing where everything suddenly lines up and riding becomes easy. Nevertheless, even though Cyclopark, Hog Hill and Frylands have been three of the worst results I’ve ever had, they’ve also been three of the best courses and three of the most rewarding…

If I’m being honest I do know the reason why my results have been a bit lacking this winter. It’s easy to blame injury and that didn’t help, but ultimately it’s a combination of hard work, training and some fire in your belly that have been missing from my winter so far. I realised this at the end of a three week period that has been one of the lackluster months I’ve had on the bike.

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Cyclopark was the venue for round 10 of the London league and Huw Williams’ excellent course was one of the best I can remember. The groundwork that his team put in ensured that the quagmire conditions of the previous year were avoided and some new features like the huge run-up to the top of the BMX track made the course one to remember. I struggled from the fourth row, but soon found my legs and started to pass riders as the laps counted down.

The storm clouds gathered over head and I started finding some quick lines, especially one at the top of the circuit which avoided a long section of very slow soggy grass – everyone else seemed to be sticking to the slow line, but my line became my chance to attack. The last few laps I fought my way past a strong group including many guys that I was surprised to have caught. Riding up the tarmac to claim 15th place after starting around about 35th was frustrating but very rewarding at the same time[1].

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One week on it was time for the South-east and Eastern Regional Champs at Hog Hill/Redbridge. We raced here in similarly muddy conditions in the 2014/15 season and so we knew what to expect especially in the sloggy lower section of the course – this time round the organiser sent us down here twice on each lap!

A third of the way through I was having some good battles and my bike wasn’t clogging as badly as many were, but I knew I could make some places up by swapping over to the spare. Unexpectedly, but as often happens in ‘cross, a fellow rider[2] from the Vets race took care of my bike, washing it and having it ready for me by the time I came round again. Two laps on the spare and I jumped back onto the Kinesis for the final two laps to keep hold of 28th place in the Regionals. Not too bad considering the large field which included both London and Eastern league along with many riders attracted by the points on offer. Hard, but rewarding work.

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This weekend it was back to the London League for round 11, hosted by Sutton CC at Frylands Scout Camp. If the first week of these three showcased how pristine a ‘cross course could be, Frylands was the polar opposite – thick with leaves, roots, exposed bricks and slow off-camber corners Frylands was always going to take its toll on rider and machine alike.

My morning sighting lap confirmed this in the shape of a puncture – back to the van to get this was sorted and then I got warmed up. My grid position was very slightly better this week, but it wasn’t helped by some notable cheating by a VCL junior who decided he’d grid himself in front of many riders who were much stronger in the conditions. I got a good start, struggled a bit with a tyre that was too wide and started to clog quickly, but then switched onto my second bike which worked much better – good tyres really make a difference.

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Then chaos struck – a broken bike saw me running home for about two thirds of a lap. Lucky to finish I suppose, as many didn’t but 17th position is still not the top ten, or even top five, which I was aiming for. Looking at the results sheet I can take some pleasure in the knowledge that I know that if I put the work in I can get back to where I want to be. One more race this season and then I’ll re-focus on training for the summer.

Photos by Digi Dave Haywood, John MX and Andrew Laity.

Check for updates on bikes, gear, kit and news here

Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races Mountain bikes in the UK National XC Points and Eastern XC Series, Road bikes in the Surrey, South-East and Eastern Leagues, TT in the South East Region and ‘Cross in the LCCA League. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, The Velo House, and THE.ÆIGHT.BICYCLE.CØMPANY. #aeightracer @eightbikeco

Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and even well behaved non-cyclists. We’re based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – glen@thevelohouse.com.  

[1] Climbing 20 places in one hour helped spur me on for the rest of the season but I also took inspiration (as to what is possible) from Alex Paton who started behind me and went on to win the race.

[2] Massive thanks to Paul James from Crawley Wheelers who looked after my bike, washing it and helping me stay in the race. I owe you a beer for that one.

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