Where do I start……OK….i’ll start with the inflatable Unicorn !
The planning for Crossmass and Velobants.cc was off the scale this week…military…..plus the excitement was monumental to say the least….I mean this was it…..CROSSMASS….the Big Dog…..The one we’ve all been waiting for……this little bad boy had it all…..a proper Cross race…..the Belgians can eat their little chocolate / lace / tulip covered hearts out.
The VB planning essentially centred around packing a car / trailer with 7 bikes….4 people….lots of CX stuff, a book to present, some VB Team Kit and 24 Brew Dogs….which meant Kevvo / Tommo required a “designated driver” for the journey home. Thanks to Keeno for stepping up.
I thought I’d try and pack everything apart from 2 bikes on the roof the night before, so in total it was 2 x dollies, the cart, 4 bikes, 3 x chairs, 3m sq Gazibo and obviously a huge inflatable Unicorn….however after a cold night (cue Boyles Law) I decided to pump it up first thing Sunday before I hitched up the trailer…..however I forgot how powerful my “tubeless tyre” compressor is and popped it !! (It scared the shit out of me and the neighbours !!)….I have to admit I haven’t told my daughter yet !
So we arrived early at Ashlyns, and after the pre-race weekly build-up, we were super excited, early pictures to whet the whistle included THE BRIDGE, mud, a huge pile of snow, mud, lots of gravel, mud, our own Dolly’s corner with hand crafted wooden benches, mud and did I mention deep thick sticky muddy mud ?
Mud tyres were fitted (although I’d been using them since Race 1) and VB were really looking forward to getting stuck in to a race that would suit our skills.
Keeno has concreted himself into semi-CX-retirement (even though he’s spending thousands on his CX bike) however he has firmly stepped up to Chief Honourable Information / Media Person (CHIMP) with immediate effect. He’d taken his role very seriously this week even invested in some very LOW DEF hardware:
On arrival it was slickidy slick to get in, under the bridge, move round to park…even managed a cheeky High5 with Miss Lovelo (loved the co-ordination of Lovelo garments !)
It was relatively easy to park, in fact there were 4 car parks to choose from if you were particularly shit at parking, plus long bays for the old trailer. We decanted and headed off to find our “Pre-reserved Velobants corner”…..VERY VERY EXCITED !! (Thanks Martin Kovalic)
I had a few Dad duties, helped out by Ed Catford, getting my lad signed on as a late entry, getting them dressed, numbered, all ready to go. This is now a pretty slick process, one which, I hope one day they could do on their own, buy hey, I’ll live in hope. No biggies today as this was one of the courses they were both looking forward to. So fast forward 45 mins, they were all raced out, resulted up to the ears and heading back towards the VB corner.
Kevvo and I managed a few Super Selfies on our way over with TMWTBL and Nikki and her highly decorated BBH. (In Ant and Dec mode Kevvo is always on the left and Tommo always on the right)
**cough** new Velobants.cc HOODIES.
Another selfie with Garry N (TMWTGL)
By the time we had made our way back over to Dolly’s Corner it was looking good…..very good….all erected….ha ha ha ha ha …..ha ha ha…..chuckling emoji
The positioning was super strong….although I’m not entirely sure what came first….the course, or Dolly’s Corner ?! It seemed like the course actually went around us….good work.
It looked a cross between one of those posh Glamping sites, the Chinese Olympic village, a car boot sale….oh and the pits. In fact we did have one guy leg-it over at one point during the day, drop his bike and turn and did the off as he thought it was the pits…..we obviously obliged by relocating his second weapon to the ACTUAL pits.
Talking of weapons….this week saw the introduction of my 4th race bike of the season….poorly Ridley was still away in warranty heaven and loaner had been returned for a glamorous Ridley photo shoot so I was forced (or that’s how I sold the Business Case to the Finance Committee) to purchase another frame…..up stepped a Fuji Cross 1.1…through axles front and back, internal routing, all the mod cons I hear the kids (mainly Molli) talking about….anyhow, it built up sweet, plus the colours are straight outta TBs wardrobe….Love it !
So we’d arrived, built the corner….it was all kitted out ready for maximus race cheering, High5s and “Horning”…(TBH I didn’t actually realise the horn was that loud, but the noise was ricocheting of the school front and it sounded proper loud…not sure of any of the riders heard it.) Pogo turned up for the sesh, keen to crack open some tinnies pre-race….like his style. He was keen to race, and get the warm up lap in.
We also had a visit from FitzP and KateNotaFitzP, both chugging a bottle of Bud……BOOM…..pre-race….it was proper Belgian CX spirit….loving it. They said hi, both looking pro !
We also had the winner of the signed Lizz A / Diegnan book turn up to collect her, rather damp by now, prize. Thanks Ruth Stapleton:
Fran also popped over to say hi, sporting X-mas fancy dress and a fresh Mexican tan…although anything compared to our pasty white legs is a tan !
At this point Fitzy also turned up, fresh from Super Dad duties, he arrived as pristine as ever in his finely pressed VC10 kit, matching shoe / frame combo to the exact pantone……bike with a fresh coat of Carnouba wax……however what followed wasn’t hilarious….I’ll come back to it.
We started to watch the U16s race, and we saw our usual faves Mase & Molli….briefly…..Molli wasn’t feeling well and DNFd, Mase unfortunately met the rear mech gravel gremlins on Lap 2 and snapped his Dads rear hanger…..GULP !! It was and would continue to be a War of Attrition !
Now Kevvo and I had formed a cunning plan Saturday night…..one which we knew would blow all the others riders away, and give us the competitive advantage we had been looking for all season. Our idea was to stick in a super early warm-up lap……THEN…….we’d clean the bikes down so when we arrive at gridding we would be all super clean and everything performing perfectly….extending bike life to a further lap….GENIUS !! So we did exactly that, now obviously we rode to the S/F line and entered via the Green Flag….we saw some naughty boys that didn’t but we wont name and shame Ed Catford.
Now considering we were really the first wave to be racing the course it was already very cut up, leading up to the pits was the first of those initial moments where you actually try to dodge the mud, in your mind you’re thinking….oh no….I don’t want to get mud on the bike and try to find a mud free line….this lasted all of 20 yards until you reached the pit entrance where the corner was nice and slippy….so far so good….nobody had entered the horizontal zone….although TBH we couldn’t see FitzP from where we were….we passed the pits and from there it was a drag parallel to the road down to the first obstacle of course…..the gravel. Now at this point we were super pro, slick dismount, onto the gravel, lifting the bike 4.2 inches from the surface, all the way over, onto the mud. Hmmm, that wasn’t too bad….yep…..I’ll def do that in the race !
From here to the corner the mud was proper sticky….there was quite a lot of sand in the mud which made it nice and sticky…..but rideable. This is when we got the first glimpse of the huge snow mound…..it was like like the biggest snowman you can think of had gone on some kind of Kamikaze suicide bombing run toward the tennis court and the fuse had gone off too early…..the sides were huge…..and there was a fantastic chute through the middle for everyone (apart from Mike Simpson – HERO) to run. The photo below actually makes it look like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate factory…..we just need Augustus Gloop in the chocolate river…..
Anyhow, before we got to tackle the snow pit it was a a few twisties….again super slippy even in warm up so concentration volume has to be dialled right up…this then led you round to a little grassy mound, then throwing you down to the back side of some short steep ups and downs. Again, it wasn’t too slippy at this point, but i knew if it was anything like last year it would get progressively ice like. At the end of this section you double back on yourself, and start to go down and up 4 short steep climbs….
When we arrived there was a group of about 6 of us, and to be honest it would have been a lot quicker and easier if we had all just stripped down there and then and simply measured the length of our willies….it turned into a testosterone toblerone fuelled man blast to see who could ride every one in the biggest gear at 1360 watts without slipping or dismounting…..grunting and US Marine style “whooping” over we made it through the shark infested custard…..little did we know it was a lot quicker…..and easier to dismount and leggit ! Bell ends….the lot of us !
So once through the grass dunes, it was the Snow Chute looming…..repeat same drill….first time riding an obstacle I generally get it wrong….plus in my mind I’m thinking how hard can it be to ride……….”Oh fuck thats actually really hard”…..followed shortly by a dismount, shouldering of bike and running. Once popped out the end…or rather “Plopped” out the end you are straight into ankle deep wet mud…super cold too. This lasted about 30 metres to a corner, when you could drop the bike and remount.
From here it was a few gravel twisties thrown in to take out what would be left of the rear mech hangers….then a long shallow mud drag all the way round to the hurdles (expertly placed prior to Dolly’s Corner). Over the hurdles, then a fast blast through the corner (which actually took some thinking about to get the best line) then round to the bridge.
From this side the climb over the bridge was much easier than the opposite side, plus you had a nice long lead into it to pick up some speed. Up to the top, you then had to immediately start thinking about the descent, as when you reached the bottom…..guess what…..it shoved you out into a 90 degree bend covered in slippy mud…LOVED IT !! Up until now there wasn’t really a part of the course you could mentally relax.
From here it was a mix of sharp switchbacks leading to the sand pit. Now in normal course conditions this wouldn’t be anything to worry about but every inch the width of the course was slippy, hitting one of the corners a little too quick, on the edge of adhesion, meant you would be horizontal Crashy Guy in a split second. So we made it round to the sand pit where we came across Mr World Champ indicating that he saw something in the sand pit….then as if by magic the guy in front of us came to a grinding halt and flew OTB. Luckily it was a soft landing…if you look closely you can just make it out (good brakes from Kevvo):
After the sand, which was like adding Hundreds & Thousands to the cake mix on your already muddy frame, there were a few more mole hill twisties which lead down to a right tricky little sharp corner, Kevvo and I had talked about this one, and in-line with plan, we went wide, and fast and basically went form the first corner to the top left corner managing to stay upright and reach the top still being able to pedal. Result.
From here it was a little off-camber drag back along to the start finish line, if you were clever you could hit the tarmac for a stint to gain some speed / traction. We decided to ride the bridge once more from the harder side, easier to climb in lowest of low gear….
Now to finish the genius bike resilience plan off we hit the pits. We managed to blag a spot on Spraggsy’s petrol powered Super Soaker…..but we must apologise to Simon Moss as, I didn’t realise at the time, but he was waiting patiently to use the washer…..we just jumped the queue like a bunch of French skiers in a Spanish ski resort. Sorry bud, IPA coming your way.
As we were leaving the pits, proud as punch with out sparkly clean bikes, we bumped in to Fitzy. Now normally Fitzy brings his rather posh “U.P Open” bike with him to race on….which as I’m sure he’ll tell you if requested….has a number of different wheelsets of differing diameters for different riding types / genre gravel, mud, un-paved, tarmac a Wurzle Gummage of a bike……etc etc….However today, it looked like Fitzy had brought a new Fat Bike with 5″ tyres…..but hold on….it was still the matching eye catching Tango colour we were used to.
Little did we know but he’d kept on his 650B wheelset with MTB tyres thinking they would suffice in the mud……Ahh bless….Oh dear. The man literally looked like he’d lost a family member….bottom lip quivering, he could barely manage a humorous retort to our ever increasing piss taking….his classic line to Kevvo, when I was virtually out of ear shot, was “Kevvo, they’re not ALL like this are they??”
We left Fitzy and his Fat Bike in the queue for the Super Soaker and a tear in his eye and headed off back to the gazebo to complete the monstrous pre-race caffeine consumption.
Swift de-robbing showed the crowds now building around the gazebo the first look at the Velobants Xmas attire. Now this was impressive for 2 reasons…..1) Both the helmet and jersey cost less than £25 2) We looked BUFF…all be it a little kid unfriendly….
So we headed off towards the S/F line ready for gridding. On arrival we were greeted by Santa Claus….I’m not sure what’s best….the outfit or JC’s expression behind ;o)
So, gridded up, all 106 x V40s were all ready to go, I’m not entirely sure if this was the biggest attendance of the season, but it certainly looked big! The juniots were off, and we were waiting for the whistle.
Whistle went and we were off, first lap was a slight detour, and instead of lots of sweaty 40 somethings flying down to the first corner and hitting the up ramp we were sensibly sent round the latter half of the course first to at least attempt to split the field up into manageable chunks. I didn’t have a terribly brass band related start but OK, managed to find some clear mud free turf on the S/F line and take a few places back. The man slinkies were starting to form and I don’t think it was too far in until I heard FitzP hit the deck….don’t worry mate I don’t think anyone noticed.
The first batch of twisty switchbacks were great, total chaos as it was a pure mix of “Do I run” or “Do I ride”….or as I like to call it “Cross Bar Running”…..this is where I stall, clip out and decide to keep some momentum and use the 34” inside leg to my advantage and run with both legs either side of the frame…..sort of works….but basically means it saves a little time with zero dismount. Kevvo and I were relatively close at this point as I kept getting glimpses of an elf out the corner of my eye.
Looking round you could tell from the off this was going to be a different race. It was clear the usual suspects of the top 20 had certainly switched things up….firstly there were zero EV boys other than Simon in front of me, no Thrasher, although I could make out Mike Mulroy. James Norris looked like he had a cracking start and tyre choices were spot on.
Within about 3 mins it was obvious if you could stay upright and your bike would stay in one piece there was a chance of a decent finish. So we continued to head round, both Kevvo and I managed to hit the short grass dune with enough speed to take us to the top, then we headed back to the S/F line.
The first time round and up the bridge wasn’t as bad as I thought, I hit it in the wrong gear but managed to grind my way up and down the other side. From the riders I could see, they all made it up, some with a little help from the hand rail on the right….great idea that.
Drop down the other side and begin the slog round to the pits, this part was certainly getting slippier, and the entrance to the pits was now proppy boggy. I was really loving it at this point, I just kept thinking to myself, this is proper Cross racing….probably the first I could use examples from when talking to non-extreme-cycling mates or as I like to call then “Time Triallers” during those post-ride pub discussions of cycling anecdotes. it would def be one that would stick in my mind. It was a KEEPER !
Anyhow, back to the race….flew past the pits….and onto the gravel. Now, I normally don’t bow to peer pressure, but I was all for dismounting and running at this point….but no other fecker was….BOOM…..they were all just hoping down from the mud onto the gravel….in my mind it was like they were walking over hot coals….but bugger it….I followed suit….making sure I didn’t turn a pedal in case to suck the little mech snapping critters in.
Lap 1, through the gravel mech still intact….phew…..I popped out the other side, into the proper sticky mud heading towards the tennis courts. Now I’m not sure if it was similar for everyone but I actually felt like I got some grip in this mud, more so than anywhere else on the course…..but onward and upward. Next up the grass dunes. Now, as per previous test run, I had a clear run at these, and decided to put the ‘Run vs Ride’ to the test using the rider behind me who had opted to run straight from the switchback. Now, by the time we both got to the end we were roughly the same distance apart, so its was a MEEEHHH from me. Lap 2 was much of a different box of frogs entirely as there were 3 other riders close to me and it was definitely quicker to run.
Next up was the Snow Chute, at full race pace dismounting and shouldering the bike was so much more tiring than I expected….the snow was a little like running in sand but white and cold….or rather brown and cold…proper draining. Then came the slog through the ankle deep mud for a further 30m and then back on the bikes.
From here on back to the hurdles just started to hurt a little now, I managed to get a pretty quick dismount and re-mount on the hurdles….luckily nobody with a camera was anywhere to be seen….never mind. Then the swift dash up the bridge and down the other side to start a new lap.
Some fantastic images from KP as ever:
Full hats off to Santa for this fancy dress:
Great start from MC and Greg.
Synchronised start from Velobants and Hackney.
James Norris race face.
I’m with Mike….you just can’t keep a straight face racing the Burt off of Elf or all Elves for that matter!
John managing to ride where others run, good work.
So pleased the Santa jersey came with optional belly stuffing.
Elf tastic…..with Jez
Attention to detail from the FitzP with tinsel and miniature santa hat.
Love this picture.
Ed mixing up on foot
The Charriot getting his skates on….(see what I did there!)
Bucko being hunted down by Santa No1
Elf on a Shelf with Andy Martin
LOVE this image !!
Kieran looking a tad muddy !!
Spraggsyyyy dropping the field after clearing the hurdles !
Tongue out of the weekend has to go to Pogo !!
Stephen Henson looking all pro with the matching lid / specs / shoes ! Love it.
It was like a huge foam party but much funner….Caption is oh so…..”WTF”
Cyclo-Ross vs Rapha…….no contest…..the Colour match of kit / bike / LBRCC wins every time !
So fast forward to the finish of the race, Kevvo and Tommo did well above average this week, conditions suiting us a little more. Once over the line and race chat done…..we headed back to camp to gear up, get warm, grab a horn and MAX the Bants !!
Now this is where the fun really started, it literally got better as the day went on. Lots of visitors popping in…..we had Rich, Kelly and Mase Connor pop in for some bants….totes pros didn’t accept any beer !
High5s all round…..Cyclo-Ross…..switched out to a Singlespeed on the next lap….good shout!
Great battle going on with these 2 chaps
Santa 1 – Great High5s…..great jersey…..great helmet….and AWESOME beard!!!
Duncan G, his High5 was virtually level with my head ! Good man
Top focus on Zoe’s face with no distraction from the tinsel what so ever !!
Tony and Gary battling it out at the first corner…..
TJ straight from the Berko Bank Job
These 2 brave soldiers with no eyeware….OUCH !
Sam literally shitting herself after realising she was being chased by a demonic mini-santa
Lucie with her funky new bar tape….I NEED that in my life !!
The Team Trident Train….a force to be reckoned with
Fran with the biggest hat of the day (she had to remove it when riding under the bridge)
Gwen looking remarkably clean…….Maxine in hot pursuit.
Great race for Jules, fresh from a new sponsorship deal….she was welcomed to Dolly’s Corner with a rendition of Happy Birthday…….it was her birthday…….the day before…..
Kate found previous races easy so she thought she would make it a little harder by restricting the Co2 intake…..its like a festive VO2 max test……Best Beard of the day mind !
Great pic capturing the bants…..(and Keeno searching Ebay for more bike bits….he may never use)…..That Golders gets in everywhere !!
Mid race it was finally time for Fitzy to call it a day, mildly tired from what could have been a really hard race for him, and also probably a little hoarse form all the screaming he decided to head home….a little dejected….but by far the cleanest rider and bike on the entire field !! He’d given it his all !!
The corner was great fun, however all the riders made it so much better so we thank you all. It would be good to have a dedicated fan zone at every race….hint hint….
It was a shame we couldn’t quite make the BBH Selfie happen, but I think there is / was a little too much going on. But thanks to all those for chipping in and supporting.
Post-race we had a few more visitors, Golders and Kirsty brought, the remnants of a stonking Banana Loaf…..twas V good. Thanks ever so. Gwen popped by to say hi and grab her dry gear. She literally looked like a Trek Boone (you may have to Google the colour scheme) on one side she was pristine….on the other it was a solid mud pack, something she collected as a souvenir literally on the last corner before the finish.
Now after all the kaffufle of the racing, horns and Megaphones, it was time to pack up. I went round to grab the car, but thought it would be a particularly good idea if I left the ignition on with lights / heaters / radio etc still on…..42 minutes in, all packled up and ready to go…..guess what it wouldn’t start !! Chopper !!!! Cue cry for help on Tannoy. At one point Molli actually swore she heard Kevvo crying on the mic pleading for help…..
Anyhow, up stepped a couple of troopers, a gent in a white Renault van, also providing jump leads….but unfortunately we couldn’t jump start, then Super Golders in her Chelsea Tractor….again, we couldn’t get it to work….to her and kirsty’s amusement who thought it highly hilarious to Facebook live the entire event. Never mind…call in to the AA. A fantastic AA man turned up in 40 mins with what can only be described as a Flux Capacitor….once plugged in we were good to go. We obliged with a mince pie and a Brew Dog to the recovery dude, he loved it.
Some dates for the diaries:
Jan 19th – CCXL Awards night in MK (I think David Lloyd again). A few celebratory drinks after (Venue TBC but will involve some kind of disco dance off or maybe just a Velobants led Conga)
Jan 21st – Leicester League race at Misterton (about 1- 15 riders signed up)