Although the British National Championships have been over for a month, the sights and sounds of the event are worth revisiting, although you can find a brief recap in our European roundup as well. The video above was released by Tez Sheals on Vimeo, which offers a look at the winners as well as the course design as racers took to the mud. Matt Payne, famed British Cyclocross Announcer, captured the sights and sounds of the weekend in his report below.
by Matt Payne: follow him @mattfixerpayne or contact him through his website www.matt-payne.co.uk
The nervous coughs and awkward conversations are drawn to an abrupt halt as the stern authoritarian figure in the long blue coat strides across in front of the assembled ranks. Like an officer before battle, he addresses the combatants as they steadily remove the outer layers keeping them warm and hand them to their admirers to keep safe, ready for a return when they will be spent from their exertions.
Silence descends as all the support staff withdraw from the ranks, leaving the greyhound like bodies paused still in a moment of contemplative silence, hoping that the whole of the year, the long hours training, the bruising skills sessions, the self discipline and mind numbing icy days on the turbo has brought them to what they hope is the peak of that season’s condition.
For a select few today will end with medals, but for the majority it will be a drive home with nothing more than mud, memories and a machine busting amount of washing to show for all the hard work. The anticipation is palpable until the single gunshot breaks the cold morning air, like a pack of hounds scenting prey those at the front explode into action, further back the echoes are returning from the surrounding hills before the waiting competitors get the chance to try and stay with the fast disappearing multicolor mass exodus.
It is a scene happening almost simultaneously around the northern hemisphere, the best cross riders in a country are drawn to one venue for a weekends racing to decide the destination of the bronze, silver and gold National Champions medals as well as the coveted National Champions jersey. This time the color of the jersey is white with red, white and blue hoops around the midriff, the frites are chips, the beer is bitter but at the British Cycling National Championships the mud, planks, off camber and fast flowing racing is as fierce as we have come to expect at elite level all across the various age and gender categories around the globe.
With a long history of promoting National Cyclocross Championships & National Cyclocross Series races, 2015 sees a return to the South Wales market town of Abergavenny. Nestled in amongst the saddle-back hills not far from the training grounds of the British Special Forces this busy hotbed of cycling has in recent years played host to the Tour of Britain and the National Road and Time Trial Championships as well as a multitude of sportives and recreational rides, most of which ascend the flanks and passes that rise from the riversides where most people live out onto the wild moorland tops but this weekend it is the local sports centre on the lower slopes of one of these hills that the course designers have as their canvas to sketch out a course fit to create champions.
A fast gradually rising road start soon leads the riders into the snug contortions in the woodland before the first passage through the pits to exit and climb back into the woods once again. The dappled shade of the trees is left behind as the riders emerge onto the grassed banks above the event arena for a series of switchbacks and off camber turns that eventually return the riders to the pits once again. Funnelled from the pit area and spat onto the blacktop finish straight, riders have a slight tailwind respite before diving off, on and off the steep side banking, through the muddiest section of the double taped course before the double full height hurdles or “planks” as they are known in the UK are traversed then it is out onto the claggy windy circumnavigation of the lower fields which bring riders back into the pits just after the start straight.
A testing course designed to not only test the top Elite Men and Women but also to provide safe racing for the increasing sizes of fields with a similarly increasing spread of technical abilities and fitness, the grass and sub soil will be under as much pressure as the organizers with 650 riders, 81 medals, 31 titles, 12 jerseys, 9 races, 2 days and 1 major storm to cope with.
The storm hit first on Friday with the set-up being punctuated with the sounds of ripping marquee covers and twisting tent frames as the wind gusted with increasing ferocity. Onwards the club members and officials battled until long after dark, as much as possible was done and much left to do in the early hours of the morning but no one really knew just what damage would be wrought by the weather while the crew grabbed a few hours sleep. Incessant rain showers and gale force winds ripped through Abergavenny overnight before the skies cleared, the temperatures dropped below freezing and the wind abated somewhat.