#bikeschool: Rapha Super Cross
As the nights draw in and winter nears in the northern hemisphere it’s time to put away #1 and tuck her in until spring. For some this means getting out the winter bike and when the weather permits, for others it means releasing their inner crazy and race Cross! This weekend saw the third and final round of the Rapha Super Cross Series held in the UK aimed at bringing a little Jeremy Powers-esque funk to the back beat of bike racing.
The inaugural Rapha Super Cross series described itself as bringing, “three days of super-charged cyclocross racing to venues around the UK. Experience the roar of the crowd, the clang of the cowbell and a large streak of silliness. Inspired by the speed and atmosphere of the US cross scene, spectators can enjoy racing of all abilities; from the best in the land to absolute beginners.“
And from what I saw at round 3 on Sunday in Alexandra Palace, London it certainly achieved it’s aim. Since finding (and getting hooked on) the ‘Behind The Barriers‘ series of web videos charting the success of the Rapha Cross team and specifically Jeremy Powers I’ve become more inclined to watch and maybe someday even compete in cyclo cross. Don’t get me wrong… I love watching the craze Europeans run themselves into the ground through mud, snow and worse… but I see cyclo cross as a discipline that can really appeal to the masses, especially to families. Kind of like Twenty20 in cricket… yeah you might need to go and look that up! Anyway, the racing started with an under 10’s race and then some slightly more feisty under 12’s. At first glance this seemed a bit of a slow paced way to start an action packed day but it turned out to be some of the most fun racing. These were children who were showed no pain and lots of suffering and they were having lots of fun doing it. There were a few tears when the inevitable spills happened but a kids do, the majority just dusted themselves down and got on with it! We screamed more encouragement for the little ones than we did at the adults later in the day and kids probably didn’t know why! They were just riding around the circuit until mummy or daddy told them to stop (and it was genuinely difficult for an under 12 never mind someone under 10!)
After the little nippers had finished it was then on the more serious racing. The Junior/Senior/Women/Vets race saw 4
competitions all being run at the same time with well over a hundred competitors. I was there in support of, and chief morale booster for Richard Michelson (@rich_mitch) who displayed the type of cross-based pain from lap 1 that I’d been hoping to see at the event. The grounds of Alexandra Palace are by no means flat and a large grassy climb had to be negotiated followed by a large stair-set before a technical decent. This really was a grueling 60 minute race. I saw Richard after the race and he was still able to talk and sit up right without falling into the soft lush grass near to the beer tent which was a good sign but I sensed that the course had taken many people by surprise, only made slightly less bad (shut up… I can write like this on here… it’s my ‘style’) by the sunny fresh weather and hard track surface meaning muddy face packs weren’t on the agenda. The race organisers choice to put all 4 competitions into the one race really paid off. It kept the day down to a manageable 4 hours which was essential due to the amount of kids and families there and it also meant there was a constant stream of riders to cheer at and shout encouragement, as well as shaking approximately 1000 cowbells in there face!s as they went round the course! This kept the interest high and the fun did o’er floweth.
Following the massed ranks of amateurs it was time for the nitty gritty of the Super Cross race and the pro’s to battle it out for the third and final time for the Super Cross Series. To be honest, this wasn’t the most enjoyable race to watch. They were awesome riders; strong, technical, organised, focused, and above all competitive, but other than the odd crash at considerably higher speeds than everyone else was crashing that day I couldn’t pick much out from that race. This probably goes to show that Rapha did a great job with the organisation. On the face of it the day looked like a professional orientated race with some smaller side races that you could enter if you wished… just to get people there and spread the brand. But in reality it was the opposite. this felt more like a mass-participation event where the pro race was merely the icing on the cake. An exhibition almost. An I liked that!
“I’m going to the bar for some shortcuts…”
The final race of the day saw the Novices and Youth (under 16) categories race together
on a slightly shortened course, mainly taking out the big climb up to the palace steps [ED: This was absolute poppy cock that I made up! Sophia has put me right… they did the whole course! Chapeau!]. May of the riders would have been able to complete the full lap as there were some very strong youth riders and most of the ‘novices’ had merely never ridden cross before… but were bloody strong riders. In the Youth category was a young female rider I know, Sophia Joy (@SophiaaJoy) who raced really well and took 3rd, although the rider in 2nd used some ‘dubious’ tactics! Make sure you remember that name guys… Sophia Joy… I predict she is going to go to some great places in cycling!
As I said above, the course had been shortened slightly for the final race and also another spanner thrown into the works was unveiled 1 lap in. The ‘Tequila Shortcut’! An ingenious idea that allowed the 18+ members of the race to take a cheeky shortcut negating the tricky off-camber hairpin at the expense of drinking a shot of tequila! At first it was surprisingly difficult for the race commentators and the tequila ‘girl’ to tempt the riders through the shortcut but eventually they got the hang of it and some were using the handy refreshment stop every lap resulting in some unsteady legs at the end of the race. It was a great way to end the day with a lot of crowd participation with booing and cheering as the riders chose their sober or drunken routes as well as a ridiculous amount of cowbell ringing.
All in all a great way to spend my birthday with my family. I hope they do another Rapha Super Cross series next year… I may even enter!