The transformation is impressive – like gravity all it needed was a little push…
The London Team Champs is the traditional end-of-season showdown where clubs and teams compete against one another for bragging rights. Two years ago we had seven riders mostly racing on borrowed bikes and mountain bikes – our senior team was mostly vets. Last year we had four teams of riders, most of who were racing for the first time. This year we turned up with five teams of real contenders fully kitted out with ‘cross bikes and equipment. It looked (and felt) ace.
Everyone [from Southborough Wheelers] has worked really hard this year to make it this point. The vast majority of riders have competed in two, three or more races this season. That’s a real investment in time and money. But, as most have found, “the love of mud” soon pays you back.
Cyclocross is a family sport and the London League that we compete in is pretty local but, even so, it can be difficult to persuade unwilling pit helpers and kids to come and watch Dad ride around a cold wet muddy field. But often the family gets bitten by the bug too and one of the best things this year has been seeing the kids giving ‘cross a go in the U10, U12 and Youth categories.
It’s the first year we’ve ever had an Under12’s team! This is something I’d really like to build on next season – we’ve got so many boys and girls who’d enjoy ‘cross. Often the bikes they have can be adapted to work for ‘cross and it’s a great way to develop bike handling at a very young age. Nicole Cooke, Roger Hammond and Marianne Vos are among the illustrious list of riders who started their careers with youth ‘cross racing.
Bike handling was probably the story of the adult races as the course wound its way through the woodland behind Great Walstead School. Tricky roots, slick climbs, off-camber corners and loamy switchbacks called for respect and skill. I was racing near the front, but my head was somewhere else – then a friend of mine (marshalling) shouted a couple of things at me. Techniques that I’ve used for years came flooding back and I was racing again. Then bizaarly just by the pits my chain broke for no apparent reason!
Onto the second bike and I instantly suffered with a poor tyre choice, but at least I had a spare. Some other riders were struggling with punctures and one with a broken mech, but generally I think most of us were enjoying it and racing well. With 200 riders on course at the same time there were moments when you had to be quite careful with each other, but Crawley Wheelers had done an epic job with the course – making sure that it was clear of debris and crucially, wide enough to allow safe overtaking. That’s difficult to do on wooded courses and Crawley had really put a great course on.
As the race went on we were all having our own private battles for position. I managed to gap a couple of riders that I was racing with and then in the confusion the lap board went from 2laps [to go] to the chequered flag – I’m still not sure what happened there, but I was glad to have finished ahead of the guys that I was racing with. Tim Johnston finished not far behind and then all of the other SDW riders trickled across the line and the stories started flowing – of private battles lost and won, of amusing tumbles and of lessons learned.
Like Sunday’s race a typical cyclocross race involves a few jokes on the start line, some hard racing for 45 minutes/1 hour and then smiles, stories and handshakes on the finish line. No bull’, no cliques and no arguments – just real people racing bikes.
- Ian Taylor (C and N) 7 laps in 57:43
- Andy Taylor (C and N) +00:44
- Tom Easley (Crawley) +1:10
25. Glen Whittington +1 lap
56. Tim Johnston +1 lap
66. Matt Kuwertz +1 lap
106. Neil Couchman +2 laps
109. Matt Walsh +2 laps
113. Glenn Campbell +2 laps
122. Kieran Fitzpatrick +2 laps
153. Bruce Sandell +2 laps
156. Charles Dennison +2 laps
158. Julia Hawksworth +2 laps
171. Paul Greer +3 laps
178. Greg Tate +3 laps
182. Pip Jenkins +3 laps
188. Lexi Couchman +3 laps
191. Ali Cassidy +4 laps
197. Seb St.John +6 laps
…out of 200 riders.
Under 12’s Result;
41. Maurice Tate
52. Theo Sandell
59. Theo Martin
60. Hannah Kuwertz
- The 5th Floor
- C and N (1st Vet)
13. SDW Senior
41. SDW Vet 2
49. SDW Vet 1
51. SDW Ladies
…out of 53 teams.
Photos by John Mullineaux, Rebecca Kuwertz and bikesy.co.uk
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 @eightbikeco #aeightracer
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org. @thevelohouse #thevelohouse
 Dougie Fox organises the Team champs with help from numerous members of Crawley Wheelers and has always done a great job making a course to suit all comers, whilst making it safe and most importantly making it fun.