Back for the usual packed programme of racing, cowbell, foodie and beer fuelled action, 2015’s edition of the now iconic Rapha Supercross, now organised immaculately by Emma Osenton, headed to Shibden Park, Halifax for it’s Northern leg.
Using the large slope, no make that hill, below the Hall of the same name, the meandering course mimicked many features of the legendary Koppenbergcross – swinging off camber turns carving downhill, a bit of tarmac, the mother of all climbs (for a lapped ‘cross course) and all repeated multiple times until sick, dizzy or both.
Even recceing the course had it’s challenges. Whilst it was worth spending some time looking at line choice round a number of the corners, weighing up wide vs tight and running vs riding, after 3 laps I was feeling quite tired. No matter, a drink, some food and a decent period of rest before warm up and the combined Seniors and Vets race was lining up. Slightly startled and embarassed to be gridded front row (accroding to a criteria of whose name seemed familiar), I acceded to the heckling and muttering from behind from a number of grizzled Yorkshire League veterans, and moved back a bit, off the front row. I shouldn’t have done, as shortly after the whistle went a rider in front pulled both feet out of the pedals and surfing on his top tube, provided an unhelpful mobile chicane for me to get round, losing quite a bit of ground.
Onto the tarmac after a short uphill climb from the start, the speed went up considerably. And a big crash unfolded in front – more delay in getting away cleanly. By now I was much further down the field than I wanted to be, but with such a selective course there was no need to panic as overtaking opportunities on the climbs and wide flowing sections would be plentiful.
My legs had other ideas though, perhaps through a lack of in-depth warm up, perhaps through fatigue from recceing. Either way they felt spectacularly heavy. I opted to dig in the for the long haul in the hope that they came round a bit.
After a lap, things were looking up and I had been picking off riders around the course, including on the climb. Dropping down into (another) off camber left just after the finish line, I bobbled on a greasy section and dabbed, grinding to a halt. I haven’t done it for years now, and never whilst actually riding, only when crashing. But a rolled tub is a rolled tub and you’re going nowhere fast, especially with lots of downhill to come straightaway after, and that peppered with more off cambers. So that was it, game over. I had elected to leave my spare bike safely in the car – at the time when I wanted to dump it in the pit, which was on the furthest remotest part of the course, it had felt uncomfortably empty with no friendly faces, and in a park open to the public I just didn’t want to take the risk. Perhaps gluing it up fresh the day before at 5am wasn’t such a good idea…
By way of silver lining, my wife and youngest had popped over in a surprise visit so to ease the disappointment I was able to hang out with them, drink coffee and watch Nick Craig destroy the rest of field in a controlled display of powerful riding. The invitational Elite race afterwards was also well worth staying for, with a big battle at the front between the old guard of UK ‘cross, Hope’s Paul Oldham and his younger teammate Jack Clarkson, on flying form. The contrast in styles was mirrored by the contrast in lines and technique through the more technical corners as they each sought to gain an advantage. It’s always good to watch riders at the top of their game and pick up inspiration and tips on how to ride smoother.
Pic below: Jo Allen
All other pics: Alan Dorrington