Newington Community Cross – Sun 15th Oct 2017s
Having completed one whole race already this season I thought it high time for a rest and decided to attend this week’s East Kent Cyclocross League as a spectator. (Any thoughts of racing had started to disappear upon waking and having to conduct a hungover search for a bottle of Gaviscon). Anyway, I preferred the mud, didn’t I? Today would be fast and flat and suited those who’d had a good night’s sleep.
It was a good day to spectate. The sun was out and the temperature got warmer on the drive down the A2 towards the coast. I began to wish I wasn’t still wearing my bib shorts under my jeans. Damn my Gaviscon quest and lastminute cop out. It was the kind of sunny day that families seized for a final Sunday trip out before winter made it too cold. None would be driving along with a padded gusset though.
I was travelling towards Broadstairs on the A229 and would see the coast in no time. Anyone who has raced in this league will be familiar with this drive and the search for the various high school and primary school grounds that host the early courses. It is a great league; friendly but competitive, very inclusive and accessible. In early season the courses are flat and fast but become muddier as the races go by. Apart from the particularly high hurdles dragged out for each round, these courses have less technical features than the London League and are great for fit, first timers. (Even if you have a remount like Steve Harman you really won’t lose much time between the tape). The confident crit’ rider who likes the corners will usually prevail.
On arrival at the school, I headed straight into the carpark. One of the good things about using a sizable school as a venue is that there is usually a decent amount of parking. I was directed up onto the kerb, in front of the preschool building, by Dylan who had just raced. It had been a tough day for him and he had decided to use all his matches in the first few laps in the name of flamboyance and panache. He was the only Youth flying the Pink and Orange flag this weekend and stuck around to support the other racers.
It was by now close to the end of sign on for the V40 men. The exact time, in fact, when Dave Bishop usually zoomed past from car to desk to start line. But not this time. As Dylan and I turned towards the school fields we saw Dave parked up and changing into his skinsuit as other riders flew towards the line. Through the open doors of the car boomed the opening bars of a Donna Summer track. The passing riders on their way to the start didn’t seem particularly inspired by this motivational mixtape. But Dave looked happy enough.
Lining up next to Wigmore’s disco diva was Steve Harman. Both were gridded riders for the day having raced already in the league this year. They enjoyed the status of made-men for at least the first lap and took advantage of their position at the start to try and create gaps. At this point even Steve’s hairy legs couldn’t spoil the race for the spectator. Alas those crit riders did prevail and both riders crossed the line in respectable places halfway down the field. It was fun to watch and I managed to get at least one picture of Disco Dave leading the Love Train into one of the many corners on the course.
People stuck around between races. No-one really wanted to return for Sunday dinner; the weather was far too nice and the racing engaging enough to stay for. Cross in America might be developing its races and leagues into mini festivals where riders have to eat a doughnut every lap (or something equally ridiculous) but East Kent had the right idea this weekend. Sitting on the grass with a cup of tea and sausage roll from the tea van beats that kind of Trans-Atlantic silliness.
I had to wait for the final race for the next WCC rider. Luke was in the senior race and had a real chance of a good placing. He has been preparing carefully for this CX lark; hour after hour of technique tweaking, a carefully considered bike set up, a pre-season Tour of the Cornfields and new-found love of running (?) have made him a contender. The course would also suit him as well.
Unfortunately, the realisation during the women’s race that my bald head had burnt in the autumn sun meant that I didn’t stay to see him finish 8th.
It was a great result after a long Sunday for him (Luke coached groups of the younger riders around their practice laps earlier in the day). Catch him racing cross now if you can; we all know how he feels about the cold and his season may be about to reach its peak!
Leaving the carpark (still in bibshorts) I thought about my Sam’s comments the week before at the Herne Hill London League race. He had told me he knew he had no chance of winning but wanted to race just to ‘be part of the circus’ that is a cross event. The EKCX league is making many friends and people are already fond of it after only a few years in existence. It may not have had the ‘big top’ potential that Herne Hill is able to offer, but I can still see a bit of ‘circus’ in EKCX. It’s easy and fun to be a spectator here.
Next time, however, I will be racing. The Gaviscon is already packed and I hope to be able to keep up with Dave’s Love Train for at least a lap.
20th Dylan Harman
38th David Bishop
40th Steve Harman
8th Luke Anderson