Giles Drake maintained his winning ways in the North West Cyclo-Cross Association league by notching up another victory, this time on a course he has grown to love. Despite the wet weather making for a heavy course Giles was able to overcome a pubcture which temporarily saw him relegated to the pits and fight his way back. His account of the race and his season so far continues below.
Photograph by Martin Holden Photography
We’ve reached the fifth round of the North West Cyclo Cross League, as near as makes no difference, a third through. Without fail, I always make a slow start to the season. Usually because of some daft event like Kielder 100 or in this year’s case, Leadville 100. That being said, the start of this year has gone much better than I really expected back when lining up at that first event in Leverhulme Park, Bolton. At that time, I was tired, I hurt, I generally didn’t want to know & honestly regretted the time I’d spent building up two Specialized Carbon Crux cross bikes!
A few weeks on and I’m back in love with cross, this past week was one of two visits to Otterspool, Liverpool. My local venue that for the longest time I didn’t get on with, I couldn’t ride the banks, I’d come to a virtual stop on the cobbled climb & a couple times, even crashed into some trees. Nowadays its one of my favourite venues and I can’t wait to return to it in two weeks time for the Geoff Bewley Memorial. Turning up, I expected the worst, with heavy rain on and off all week but the ground had held up surprisingly well & it was really only the latest fad in cyclo cross, “The Spiral of Doom” that was a touch on the sketchy side. There were a few guys on the grid that I knew could give me a run for my money, James Dalton, Matt Lawton, Dan Wells, Scott Wilson & Rich Wilkinson so I was keen to get a good start & ride my own race from the front. Despite the initial false where the whole field ended up going the wrong way, I got a comfortable start and was soon away with just Matt & James. By the second time up the cobbled climb, I knew I was riding within myself and took to the front to push the pace. I almost instantly escaped and started to eek out a lead. James managed to keep me within sight but it gradually grew out to a comfortable distance. Comfortable at least until I felt my rear tub getting soft. It quickly went from soft to flat, I had at least a quarter lap on the rim, my lead disintegrated! As I exited the pits picking up my spare bike, James was back on my wheel! Starting again with a couple laps to go was far from perfect but I still had enough in the tank to distance James again and cross the line for my third victory in five races.
I’ve previously always treated cyclo cross as training during the winter but this year I want to make an attempt to do some of the more local high level races, all being well, building towards the National Championships mid way through January so hopefully have some updates in the coming weeks.
In the National Hill Climb Championships four time winner Lynn Hamel was only able to manage second place on The Stang in North Yorkshire. In what were squalid conditions on a long course for a hill climb of 2.33 miles, rising 833 feet from Arkengarthdale on to the border with County Durham. Once past the steepest section of 18% the road crosses the cattle grid and rises up on to exposed moorland.
Lynn’s course record was smashed by the winner, though clearly the strong tailwind meant some very fast times were posted throughout the day.
Also competing in the event was Alastair Kay, a veteran of these events. Unfortunately Steve Lawley was unable to compete due to illness picked up earlier in the week.