February 07, 2015
In spite of our name we at The Tri Store are a truly multidisciplinary bunch. At this time of year the calendars of Sam, Ben, and myself, and a good number of friends and customers of the store, are filled by weekend cyclocross races throughout the south east.
Kicking off around September, the London and South East Cyclocross League ensures that on at least one weekend per month throughout the winter we will all be getting cold, wet, and muddy - and loving it. Primarily taking part in the Sussex rounds 2014/15 has seen us in action at Stanmer Park, Penshurst, Woodingdean, Wivelsfield, and Barns Green, with a final flourish at the team championships in Lindfield on Sunday.
Pre-race - clean and happy. L-to-R: Ricky, Sam, Kris, Steve, Ben.
Whilst we've all taken part in a variety of races - marathons, road races, triathlons, time trials, long-distance MTB night rides, Ironman (well, just Simon) - there's something about cyclocross that makes it extra accommodating to the uninitiated. Where else can women, men, girls, boys, old, young and middle aged all race on the same day and the same course? Families turn up with mum, dad, and children all taking part - most notably the Cordner kids (and dad!) of Eastbourne Rovers who dominated the younger categories this season. With races for everyone from under 10s to veteran 50+, set up in a format that allows for a 'race within a race' for all, not just the front runners (you can't get dropped and everyone races the full race, assuming no mechanicals), you're guaranteed to find a challenge, a battle, and a sense of achievement at the end of the race regardless of ability. While none of us are battling for top 10 placings (though maybe, with a bit of training...?!) we've all acquired our own nemeses who we aim to beat each race, and that feels just as good as a podium.
Cyclocross combines the action of a road race, the fun and mud of mountain biking, the simplicity and atmosphere of a Park Run, and the ability to challenge yourself and monitor improvement of time trials. And you're allowed to drink beer. We love it. See the LondonXLeague website to get involved.
Post-race: muddy and exhausted. (Yes, Ben crossed the finish line on his stomach).
This season sees 3 of us riding Focus 'cross bikes - Ben's on the 2015 Mares AX 2.0 while Ricky rides the 2014 version, and I (Kris) ride and love the Mares CX 2.0 (hydraulic discs and tubeless tyres, so good). Sam and Steve break with the Focus theme to ride the very nice Specialized CruX, Steve dominating the lot of us with Dura Ace Di2 and hydraulics (though he sadly had to pull out with a puncture - tubeless next on the agenda!). But the beauty of these bikes is that come Monday, when the mud's been cleaned off, they are the same bikes that carry us to work or into town, up over the Downs or away on a tour. There's far more to a 'cross bike than just racing.
Photo by Gavin Peacock - Check his Flickr page for more great local bike race photos
This season saw the award for 'Most Futile Round' go to Tri Store-sponsored Bayeux CC (now Mid-Sussex Road Club) and friend of the store Mark Tearle's Wivelsden Farm round back in November. The weather conspired to make it a Somme-like slogfest, and with Ben, Sam and myself having helped with course setup and marshaling throughout the day prior to our own race it was all about staving off cramp (unsuccessfully for me!) and hypothermia.
But that race summed up cyclocross for me - when we crossed the finish line none of us cared where we'd finished, nor how much mud we'd ingested or how many hours it would take to get our bikes into a fit state to bring back indoors (answer, 3) - we were just glad the pain had stopped, we had cake to eat (thanks Lois!) and to be able to share excited, endorphin-hyped war stories whilst shivering our way into warm clothes in the back of the van. Maybe we should add 'the endurance of a Tough Mudder event' to the characteristics of 'cross above.
Photo by Gavin Peacock
We're happy to have got 1st place for the second season in a row in the Sussex League and to see Sam move up from 6th to 4th overall. With 2014/15 seeing 5 rounds on last year's 4 and ever-growing interest in 'cross, not to mention a laudable willingness of the community to step up and take on the responsibility of putting races on for us (thanks again to Bayeux/Mid Sussex RC and Velo Bagarreur for this season's highlights), it seems the Sussex league and the London/SE league as a whole has plenty of potential to grow for 2015/16 onwards.
Certainly judging by the sales and interest in CX bikes at the store there are plenty of potential new racers out there. Pop in and chat to Ben, Sam or myself for more info on getting involved.