‘Cross from the other side

Fluent in Cross’ Alan Dorrington writes about the recent Cycle Sport Pendle/Hopetech event that he and race organiser and FiC colleague Mark Turner were responsible for..


“Organising a ‘cross race is hard work. Organising and then riding in the ‘cross race you’ve put on is harder work still….

I never knew how much work went into organising a race until I helped Mark run our first event 4 years ago, aided and abetted by a large team from Cycle Sport Pendle. As a regular competitor, I had like most others, turned up, ridden my race and gone home again blissfully unaware of the organised chaos behind the scenes. Well, I assume other events have similar organised chaos behind the scenes unless it’s just the way we do things…

Course planning is always a considerable challenge – you have to work with the physical layout of your venue, its contours and paths (or lack of) and then consider how to cater for several hundred cars, riders and spectators at the same time. At Waddow Hall near Clitheroe, the venue for the last 3 years of the NW League CSP Cyclocross, we are blessed with a private estate, ample space and great facilities for spectators and riders alike. It is not however, an overly flat area, and in the spirit of mixing things up and by way of antidote to other flat parkland courses, we are able to make full use of the hill in the north of the estate. The course is a bit over a mile long and it’s surprising how much tape and how many stakes are needed to lay the course out, even using existing features like trees and posts where possible. A dedicated team laying out the course on the day before makes life much easier, and being a private venue, we can guarantee the course is still there the following morning for race day. It’s a day which starts early for all helpers and marshalls and usually involves plenty of running around, parking cars, taking entries, sorting start lists, prizes, checking the course, changing the course for different races, getting said races off on time and generally making sure all goes to plan.

Having devised variants of a tough Waddow course for the last 3 years, with Mark and with help from Dave Haygarth, I had an urge to ride it and see how it rode in race conditions. Running around for 6 hours solid before racing on one of the toughest courses in the NW League is probably not ideal preparation, but I opted to moonlight as a Veteran in the (younger) Senior race at the end of the day, once all the niggles of organisation had bedded in. And it certainly was tough, riding the long climb near the start of the lap multiple times, and ‘enjoying’ the slightly sketchy descent back down to the pits mid lap. Various Garmin traces recorded around 1500ft or more of climbing during the 1 hour race – quite chunky for a sport that is normally based around a flat course.

As a club, Cycle Sport Pendle really gets behind the race each year with big numbers of helpers putting in long hours, and the NW League now provides more than welcome volunteer marshalls as part of a goodwill contract between League racers and the League where folk agree to volunteer at one event throughout the season. Either way, it’s all run by volunteers for the benefit of all, and as being involved behind the scenes can be a lot of fun, I urge you to find your local cross race and volunteer, even just once a season, to help out. In the end, all of us and the sport benefits from this.”

All Pics: Jo Allen


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Stately coaching Super Cross style

As venues go, it’s not too shabby really. Broughton Hall, near Skipton, Yorkshire dates back to 1597 and the 300 acre estate has been in the same family for all the intervening time. Extensive and well contoured grassland, good access and a beautiful location make for a very special cyclocross experience.

It’s become a firm favourite on the Northern leg of the ever popular 3 part Rapha Super Cross series, and along with the usual fab Super Cross atmosphere, cowbells, beer, foam machine and general shenanigans, we were very pleased to be doing some free skills coaching organised by Rapha, on Day 1 of the double header weekend of 18/19 October this year. A small but keen group worked on their dismounts, remounts, cornering and carrying technique, several in preparation for racing later in the day. With varying degrees of experience from minimal to extensive, it was good to work on bedding in and fine tuning those essential ‘cross skills.

Coaches Mark and Alan also had a quick turnaround to get onto the start line of the combined Senior, Junior, Vets and Women’s race on an excellent course that threw fast corners, slow corners, off cambers, hurdles and some quite sticky mud at competitors.

First pic: Mark Turner

All other pics: Jo Allen


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Free skills coaching from FiC at Rapha Super Cross, Broughton Hall

Fluent in Cross will be providing two free 1hr coaching sessions at the Rapha Super Cross round, Broughton Hall on Saturday 18th October.

Aimed at beginners hoping to race ‘cross for the very first time at the 2014 Rapha Super Cross series, or in the near future, these sessions will cover how to get off and back on the bike safely and smoothly as well as carrying and cornering techniques.

Max 20 per session so book now!

Session times:

11am or 12pm

Please book on the links below:

Session 1: 11am – 18th October

Session 2: 12pm – 18th October

Venue for both sessions:

Broughton Hall
Skipton, Yorkshire BD23 3AE

GP Brabant – filmed ‘tape-side’

We are used to being treated to regular TV coverage of the big Euro ‘cross races, something that has only arrived in the past couple of years but is now easy to find (for example here on the Cyclocrossable YouTube channel).

However, professional coverage has a tendency to sanitise the action a little with high and wide camera angles and long shots in order to cover the full breadth of racing and action. As a contrast, we like this homemade film of the recent GP Brabant featuring many of the top Euro riders as it gives a real feel for the speed, adrenaline and technicalities of racing. A bit like watching a good British ‘cross race. Only faster.

Enjoy this different perspective.

A Race Tech reminder

Friend of Fluent in Cross Dave Haygarth has had a very short season this year, but reflects for us on how, even only after three races, he’s been rejuvenated by the importance of riding a race with head skills as well as fitness

Read more

Race report: Mark Turner at NWCCA Heaton Park

The second year now for this venue and once again Mick Style & the Manchester Wheelers had put on a great course. As Alan has already mentioned the course was long, hard under wheel with a good variety of energy sucking sections.

After going hard from the whistle at Horwich and hitting a bad spot around 25 mins my plan was to go a little easier at the start and see if that eliminated the flat spot in performance that I had been experiencing. With a large field and a long grassy drag to start, the easier start seemed like a plan set to fail!

The course in places really suited my riding style and I found that through the technical sections I was closing down riders or passing them, and that the short sharp climbs suited me so that again I did well on those. Where I did suffer was the long drags where I simply didn’t have the fitness levels to push hard on these sections. Frustrating to pass people only for them to sail past on these sections – more endurance required I think.
What was special for this race was Alan’s return to racing – see Alan’s blog post. However, I would like to add another perspective if I may to Alan’s story.

A selfish view

Seeing your mate in pain following a crash is not easy, and along with many others the concerns grew following his visit to emergency care and the subsequent encasing of his neck for months. As Alan has already written, his long term cycling was in doubt, and if the injuries didn’t heal well that could mean the risk of impact would be too great. That rules out such a physically demanding sport as cyclo-cross. Sitting on the outside looking in, it was heartbreaking to see the emotional turmoil Alan was going through. Being physically very active to incapacitated is a huge mental adjustment and difficult to understand unless you have been through it. Compound that with people wanting to offer encouragement and sympathy stating “it could have been much worse, you are really lucky” yes & yes but when you are physically & mentally battered it wasn’t offering much comfort.

We had plenty of coffee’s and discussed turbo sessions and planned rides for when Alan was allowed back on his bike. But following the first check up and the reality dawned that being back on the bike wasn’t going to happen as quickly as we wanted, emotions were pretty low to say the least. Our planned rides faded into the mist of frustration and disappointment. So from a selfish point of view Alan’s crash had robbed me of my Sunday morning riding buddy, cross skills partner and obsessive route planner. I was looking forward to getting back out on the bike with him especially knowing his fitness levels would be a little low, so I could dish out some pain (payback).

Our rides on the road together were great escapes from the usual life stuff and we could talk utter bollocks or put the world to rights, talk bikes and kit without our other halves shaking their heads and tutting and plan rides, races and training. All that has been missing from my life and it’s a big deal to me. So to see Alan back racing on Sunday was a small step on the road to full recovery and hopefully in time the return of our rides out on the road.

As he crossed the line and slumped over the bars I knew how much that race meant and I knew the emotion Alan would be feeling, it’s a huge step nearer to where he wants to be. The downside is the window of butt kicking opportunity has closed and that is a real shame as I was looking forward to that so much.

Race report: NWCCA Round 3 – Heaton Park

It was an emotional return to racing at Heaton Park for Fluent in Cross contributor, Alan ‘Crossjunkie’ Dorrington, following a serious injury earlier in the year.

Alan writes:

“‘Cross is hard at the best of times and the Heaton Park course delivered by Mick Style and his team was one of the more brutal ones. A mostly hard and bumpy surface, with long jarring drags, multiple short sharp climbs and lots of off camber turns made for much expenditure of effort and little rest time. Not perhaps the ideal course on which to make a return to racing after suffering a broken neck and fractured back vertebrae in an accident at the end of March…

But I had set out my stall, mentally at least, and done my best to get fixed and fit(ish) over the past 6 months on a diet of limited turbo, some riding round football fields and recently a little running. As I am still on a self-imposed (well, more wife-imposed) ban from road riding and serious off road, getting any kind of longer steady efforts in had been impossible but the urge to race was for me, even more impossible to deny.


Pic above: Neil Welsh

Rusty wasn’t the word, riding round the Heaton Park course. ‘Cross requires flow and consistency (as well as fitness) and it simply wasn’t there for me. The start was particularly stressful so I made sure I got away pretty quickly without getting bogged down in the main mass of the 130 or so Vets/Women riders. That meant starting quite fast, not something I was really capable of sustaining, but a necessity on the day. Gradually riders came past me, mostly familiar faces and the game of ‘keep the wheel’  started.  I was losing time through more technical sections and gaining on the more measured physical efforts in a straight line, but there are only so many times you can fight back out from a slow corner before the rider in front simply gets away for good. A few of the pretty fast, sweeping and very bumpy turns also gave me some cause for concern given my desire not to fall off at speed again and caused me to run wide, losing time. But it was an engaging and absorbing course, and finally by the end, I had worked out how to corner better again and whilst my physical reserves were blown, I felt like a ‘cross racer again.

The relief, supressed fear, worry and overall emotion at the struggle that had been the previous 6 months, all came out after the finish and is probably best left there (at least for those around me who must have wondered what was going on) but it’s done now, I’ve raced and survived and moved on. For the most part. Just need to get fit now…”

Title pic: Whiteflyer Photography