My First Sportive.
by Jon Carver age 60 3/4 class 2c
We got up Early. We had a long drive. It was in Surrey. Surrey is a long way away. In Surrey a man gave me a number and a sticky label and a bag of drink. I rode my bike for a very very very very long way. There were lots of men and ladies who were huffing and puffing and saying rude words. The rude words made me laugh, so I said some too and nobody told me off. We ate biskits and drank squash that made me go a bit faster and we ate bananas and I did a wee wee in the bushes. We went up some hills that were very very very very steep. So steep that one lady said the F word and the S word and she fell off her bike. Then a man rode into her and he fell off his bike and he said the F word and the S word. at the end a lady gave me a badge on a ribbon, but I cried cos I didnt get a balloon.
OK. I shall attempt the grown up version which will say a lot more but will amount to the same thing.
In the beginning was an idiot. The idiot sat reading a weekly journal called Cycling Weekly. It’s called Cycling weekly because it comes out every seven days and not as the idiot believed when taking out his subscription, because it is aimed at people who cycle weakly.
“Oh! they still have spaces left on The Dorking original Sportive” said the idiot to the poor woman he had duped into spending her life with him.
“How much?” asked she with a malevolent glint in her eye. He was too much of an idiot to read the thought bubble coming out of her head in which was written….” he could meet with a painful end. LMFAO”
So the idiot explained the pricing structure. The cheapest option would have taken him on the shortest route but would still have taken one ascent of the fabled Box Hill the OLYMPIC hill, he told her proudly, feeling certain that she’d go for that.
“Only 30 miles!” she taunted from across the room so wasn’t taunting from Taunton. ” your legs wont even have warmed up”
The idiot was by now beginning to realise that it may well have painted itself into a corner. He reasoned that although it was a distance that he would ordinarily laugh at in their own locality, in the North Downs of Surrey the same distance might reasonably be described as
” a bit of an arse!”
Her riposte was to suggest an element of cowardice on his part. Idiot or not he was no fool so in a last ditch attempt at sanity he went for the two pronged attack of “can we realistically afford the extra expense right now? and 120 miles is probably daft”
His ploy was fifty percent successful. She was persuaded that 120 miles was too far and proffered her debit card with which to seal his fate. No, I didn’t mean fete.
Thus at the appointed hour he presented his bike and himself at the starting house armed only with some drinks gels two legs and a panicking brain cell. In the interim he had of course very seriously stepped up the training (oops, forgot the S off the start of that word) furthermore he had gone to the expense of purchasing the ordnance survey map of the area and attempted vainly to plot the route thereupon for the 78 mile torture that he was to subject himself to. he looked at the contour lines and had convinced himself that although it would be hard, he could manage it. Yes, I know. He is an idiot.
First thing about a sportive to notice, is that its like a gigantic club run. There are the Mikes and Kevins in their 40s who have grown up round Shimano and know it all. There are the Harrys and Wills in their 20s who are as fit as racing snakes, go off like rockets, all with the latest gear and no guile. There are also the Wendys and the Jillys on their pink Giants (No you filthy minded swine). Ethel who prattle on about sports bras and coming out of said garment whilst rattling up Mow Cop just to loosen the legs up mid week. In amongst these are the keen, the evangelistic, and the plain moronic, this latter group embraced the idiot and off they set to a chorus of ” Good luck..love you.. see you at the end….and more than the odd wanker or two from the surrey scallywags”
About 4 minutes into the ride comes the first hill. The day was cold. Nay, there were cannonballs rolling off their brass monkeys aboard frigging frigates in the harbour it was so cold. It was one of those days when the chammy bulge at the front of ones shorts is protecting absolutely bugger all. The anatomical parts having ducked for cover unlike the rest of the body over which the brain was denying all responsibility for. The knees were creaking. The lungs were on fire. The idiot had selected the wrong gearing because although the signposting was brilliant in most respects, the signage which said “Absolute shitter of a hill after next right hairpin” had been omitted. A brief moment of jumping up and down on the spot and off the bike selection of a more sensible gear and it was off again. Up the hill that is, not the bike.
Take time to enjoy the countryside was the advice given on the last email. Its hard not to. The scenery of The Surrey North Downs way is quite simply England at its finest. Leafy lanes and rolling hills atop of each there is a spirit lifting view that is beyond compare. That’s actually the British Isles all over. It’s as though someone initially took an aerial snapshot after which the counties were divvied up, so unique is the character of each one. As we rolled along I remarked to a fellow idiot (had you guessed that it was me?…..Oh! really? When? right away? Oh well) that it was as though we were riding along a tarmac carpet and when you least expected it some bugger grabbed the end and gave it a flick causing some of the most lung busting gradients to challenge the unsuspecting rider round the next bend. So it was that after that initial horror I found myself now warmed up pleased with my hill climbing thus far and munching on a piece of Swiss roll at the first feed stop.
*”Excuse me mate” asked a chap whom I was certain had not been formally introduced to me by my valet “have we done Box Hill yet?” I replied that indeed we had not and had the best part of 40 or so miles before we encountered that pleasure.
“Are there any other big hills then? ” he was probably called Dennis or Malcolm.
Hoots of derision came from a group of middle aged men in Cleckheaton Clarion skin suits.
“Tha’s got the legendary Lethal Leith and the OMFG make it stop White Down before Box Tha’ knows. Box is for girls” The remaining Cleckheaton clarion acolytes brayed at the humour of their leader (who must’ve been a Mick or a Dave) though more than one of them looked a shade of green that clashed ever so slightly with the three vats of Gatorpiss (sorry? Oh Gatorade apparently). Just my little jape. Actually I really liked it. refreshing and restorative…..no, seriously I am not trying to avoid a libel action.
“So which one of those is The legendary Leith?” I asked (knowing full well)
“That one” Said MickDave pointing.
” That’s not legendary” quoth I
” hows that then?”
” Well it cant be a LEGEND cos I can see the B**tard”
Gales of comradely laughter met my little joke cast for the benefit of the crestfallen Malcolm. Away went the Cleckheaton bike shop support group accompanied by one of the Wendys in Lampre kit whom I would have followed all day if I could have kept up with her.
And so to that freak of nature Lethal Leith hill. Yes it is an A grade cow. It is steep. A good 19% here and there. But although it is the kind of hill that makes you plead for a lung transplant it is the sheer length of it that gets to you. it’s one of those ” Yes there’s the top COME ON!” out of the seat mash the pedals kind of hills. We all know what they are and yes sometimes even when we’ve ridden them once they still catch us out don’t they?
“The banking is my friend” is the trackies mantra. Well the 20% banking on the inside of the left hand hairpin at what you thought was the summit is nobody’s friend and more than one of us misjudged it and shamefacedly had to walk round it and remount. It is at this point that one remonstrated with oneself. “Why oh why?” I asked myself “did I not put the compact chain set on?” 39/28 is not the ideal lowest gear to ride these walls on. Yep you read right…WALLS. Because Leith keeps on getting lethaler….yes I know and I don’t care. Not one, but a total of 6 false summits are littered along its slopes. So many in fact that I refused to be cajoled by them, especially when at about half way up, the organisers had installed a cheeky placard reading “Smile the worst is yet to come” Thus when a veteran told me we’d hit the summit (I knew he was a veteran because he was wearing British army 1942 issue battledress) he reached across and patted my heaving shoulders and congratulated me. I felt great. He turned his bike round
” What are you doing?” I asked.
“Im going back down to find my girlfriend” he cheerfully replied..” Keep going Just two more to go and Box is a piece of piss after the next one” my elation at cresting Leith was short lived then.
The minus side of a 53/39 chain set is when the gradient is in a straight up direction. The beauty of it is of course running out of gears on the way back down. The roads were moist that day and the recent rain had washed a rut of crud down the middle of the road and deposited soggy autumnal leaves hither and thither too. However the joy of being a big lad with big gearing and the heart of a lion and the combined brain power of 1 and a half goldfish means that those who passed me on the way up as I was praying to the God in whom I have no faith were hitting their brakes and calling out the C word prefixed by “Mad” as I hurtled past on my restorative “I’ve spun out of my 53/12 and Im lurvvin it!” descent.
Euphoria is a fickle friend though, for whilst the drop down from Leith’s summit (highest point in the South I’m told) is manna to a speed merchant like me, it has the sting of hubris in its tail, for the next big challenge….THE big Challenge, greets one at the bottom. There is a little teaser then a full stop. Probably the only silly crossings on the entire route are the two over the A31. There is no option but to come to a grinding halt and wait for a chance to cross. It’s a long stretch with good visibility on the plus side. On the negative side is a little piece of road furniture. A street sign upon which is stencilled..WHITE DOWN LANE…at this point dear reader insert a blood curdling zombie sound track from Resident Evil or the anxious violin chord from the shower scene at The Bates Motel.
By this point I had teamed up with Mark. A 19 year old lad, really pleasant who had just got back into riding following a broken ankle and a lady called Marie who was wearing the kit of (sic) Cleckheaton Clarion
“Is this one Box?” she asked
“‘Fraid not” I replied as we each selected our lowest gear, which in my case would have got me a tolerable time in the over 60s 4k on the track!
I’d read up on White down in the wonderful little pocket guide 100 Greatest cycling climbs. thus, when it plateaued out after about half a steep mile later, I was able to caution my companions as some people changed up and zipped past us over the railway bridge. Ahead, a man with a battery of cameras sat snapping away at the strange creatures migrating their way across Surrey on Bicycles. He cupped his hands to his mouth and called up.
“The next batch are on their way Mike”
“Cheers” came Mike’s reply some 100 feet above us and parralel to us as well.
We were not in the slightest bit encouraged at the prospect of going from flat to 15% straight off a left hand hairpin I can tell you. That little run is about 500 yards to a right hander at which sat Mike digitally recording our torture and offering words of encouragement. It was the most agonising 500 yards of the entire ride, mainly because I knew what was coming. I rounded the corner…JUST, before unclipping and giving in. My lungs felt fine. So too did my legs actually, but they simply did not have the horse power to turn that far too big gear over another inch.
So Mark, Marie and I attached crampons and attempted to scale White Down on foot. its about 600 metres to the top. A top that was littered with several terminally ill bicycles and riders who were at best only marginally better off. There was blood on the road. More than one as I said came off. You quite simply cannot hold a track stand on a gradient of between 22%-25%. Joy of joys though. Hubris again. Remember Dave from Cleckheaton Clarion? There he sat, a forlorn figure at the side of thee road a red leaking chunk of road rash on his calf and his front wheel in hand.
“Two effin tub’s blown out now” he called out to Marie “You carry on love don’t wait for me I’ll see if I can cadge one”
When we were out of ear shot Marie revealed two things the first of which was that she wasn’t going to wait for the obnoxious bully (well thats not quite what she said) the second was that it seems she used to work for the now defunct Trans World Airlines for she called back and offered him some T.W.A. tea..How nice of her.
And so back to Dorking for the assault on Box Hill. Now don’t get me wrong. It ain’t easy. By Christ it ain’t easy. However, after Leith and White down it is relatively a pussy cat. I didn’t need to get out of the seat all the way up. That bit with the squiggly art work that you’ll remember from the Olympics? That’s half way and the steepest bit comes after. The sheer joy of reaching the top is incredible. Not only have you conquered the last hill, but you’ve the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve also ticked off three of those hundred greatest climbs in one day. And another that really ought to be in there, who’s name escapes me right now. Your reward? The reason why Box Hill is owned by The National Trust. The entire county of Surrey spread beneath a frame of trees and bathed in autumn sun. It would have been breathtaking but I had none left.
Sadly Mark and I lost Marie half way up Box she punctured and insisted we carried on, another of her club had joined us at this stage I point out before you think me unchivalrous. So Mark and I rolled off Box and through the last feed stop oddly 6 miles from home for us but twenty if one had ridden the short fun route. There was one last cheeky short hill before the roll in to Dorking and a little sprint to the line which I won and despite his age, I should have too. Racing someone recovering from a broken ankle is not cricket. No its bike racing and I loved it.
Lessons? from my point of view. Long fingered gloves next year and overshoes. Also light coloured lenses. You need your glasses, I had an infected eye from something that hit me at speed, but most of the route is through an arcade of trees and dark glasses aren’t clever. From the organisers point of view. I know its difficult but Marshalls at the second crossing of the A32 (or whatever it was) would be a help. You’re tired, Dog tired at thise point. You’ve still got a long way to go and a bit of assistance crossing that Leatherhead road would be good. Bit of advance warning about the uphill gradients would be good too, to help plan gear selection. There were plenty of cautionary notices on the descents. Lastly, they completely screwed up the nutrition packs (which were promised at the start) and the so called Goody bag was a choice of two magazines. I did feel fit to whinge and in fairness received a lovely apology and a bag of very useful stuff in the post 3 days later.
Will I do it next year? You bet. I reckon I could knock at least an hour and a half of that time with the compact on. As it was I was pleased at 7 hours for one hell of a ride and my first Sportive of 78 hilly miles.
The B.M.X. leg end that used to be Andy Ruffel communicated with his fan today via the interweb to advise us of a super dooper new film put together by the great Mongoose company. ” look” he urges “me and Tim March made it” so I thought ok we shall have a gander at this. It was instantly apparent however that Andy meant “made it to the final cut” Which is odd really as I am pretty certain that neither of them actually rode for Goose in the Olden Days.
Now in the early days of BMX out there in the land of good wholesome smog that is Cali fornia. Frames first and then wheels on the beach cruiser Schwinns that were popular….Raleigh Grifters over here.. We’re subject to fatigue. Put another way they frequently broke…..badly. This little film provides a little nostalgic glimpse back in time to one Father’s solution and the industry it spawned.
But it set my mind a wandering as to how fings ain’t wot they used to be. When your kid wandered into the local ‘paper shop in the early 1980s and spent his/her pocket money on the British publication BMX Bi weekly, (a clumsy title for an even clumsier attempt at rad dood journalism). Or the Oh so esoteric American import BMX action bike, it was but a short step from Halfords whence came his Raleigh Burner, to a specialist shop where something lighter properly engineered and race worthy could empty Daddy’s wallet.
Now as can be appreciated, this was most parents first foray into competitive cycle sport so the inclination was to look for complete bikes. Top of the wish list were (as far as complete bikes went) Hutch, Redline, SE, GT, Back and the wonderful Mongoose Super goose. The Super goose and mini goose pictures festooned boys bedrooms all over this country. It’s 4130 true temper Chrome Molybdenum frame and forks dazzlingly chromed. It’s 3 piece crank as opposed to the standard one piece Ashtabula. The Tioga competition 3 tyres. It was a thoroughbred straight out of the carton? Everybody wanted one of these machines.
So here’s a little slice of BMX history. Complete with cameo appearances from Andy and Tim respectively stunt doubles for Bat Fastard and Seasick Steve. Everything changes though. Today’s riders won’t have an idea as to who Tim March, Andy Ruffel or Mongoose bikes are…
Enjoy the film and hey well done Jody Cundy. Full set; Bronze, Silver and Gold.
Merde! You’ll be fed up hearing from me, but I can’t leave this one inside. My brain will implode if I do.
Today I was “in Town” as some of us over here will say just to annoy those whose own “Town” is nowhere near London, who’s West End (to those of us who regard it as a place of work) is “Town”. So there I was in Town about an hour early for my casting appointment for Colman’s moutarde. Hey… I’m a classically trained actor, my agent only sends me up for the plum jobs! What to do? What to do? “Ah the lightbulb explodes”. Always better than teardrop explodes…stoopid name for a band… I’ll wander down to Oxford Circus to the Nike shop.
Now for those of you not yet familiar with this quaint country of ours, there are no trapeze artists or conjurers here. At one time there was a roundabout at this intersection of Oxford and Regent streets. The facades of the faux Corinthian buildings lending this corner of our Capital’s most prestigious shopping experience an air of classical splendour. No there are no trapeze artists but after dark sheltering in the doorways are many a 15% proof cider drinker whom we call “piss artists” as for the conjurers…oh yes they’re there. Tempting our hard earned cash out of our pockets and into their cash registers.
And it is the glittering confines of one such purveyor of next years land fill that I was heading. The Niké store London. This very boutique is the American giant’s most prestigious store in Grate (sic) Britain. My mission this afternoon was to purchase a simple “T” shirt a black “T” shirt, with the inter galacticaly famous typhoon swoosh ..yes Niké..ny KEE was a name appended to a Hurricane that hit the Eastern seaboard of America the year that the running shoe maker was born. See, my utterly worthless pub quiz brain had information. Information of a degree that a well trained member of staff at this particular store might have been expected to know in this London’s Olympic year.
However, I did not wish them to have such anorak like knowledge. I merely wanted to know the whereabouts of my shirt. The black one with the Niké swoosh and the simulated signature in green of my hero…Mark. The Manx missile Cavendish. As one enters this wine bar of a shop, there are a row of black and white head shots each about four feet by six of Nikés most famous endorsees. Who the rest are I don’t know. My heart belonged to Cav. My countenance wreathed in idol worshipping stupor (I’m 60 in April for Dogs sake) I was approached by one the three strong greeting team. A pretty lass and very bubbly
“How can I help Sir?” Sir? Me, Sir?? I really ought to have seen it coming, but “T” shirt lust had me in its thrall.
“I’m looking for a Mark Cavendish signature t shirt”
“Mark Cavendish. Fastest human being on Earth? Your company have him on their books and sell a shirt with his signature on the sleeve and I’d like one”
“Really sorry Sir I don’t know who you mean”
Im still implacably cheerful at this point.
“ok, we’re you working here just before Christmas?”
“Too right innit? I swear I never had a day off for like three weeks”
Im still grinning pleasantly.
“Well in this very spot Mark, who won the tour de France Points jersey last year and then the World Championship Road Race before winning an MBE and BBC sports personality of the year. Was talking to about 500 of us. No? No recall”
Now I’m starting to loose my sense of humour at this point, but I refuse to be churlish, the drugs are working well today. I lead her over to shrine Cav: and present him with a ringmaster’s flourish….we’re in Oxford circus after all.
“oh yeh!!! ” she leads me to the escalator. What an obliging child “I know who you mean now *snorty laugh* you must fink I’m fick”
I am now on my way up the escalator
“first floor. All the foopball stuffs there.. Sorry”
I inhaled a calming breath chanting Om mane padme Hum. To the first floor then.
First thing I clapped eyes on was Lance Armstrong’s rugged Texan kisser on posters surrounding a goodly sized display of Livestrong gear…excelent! Good start.
“can I help Sir?” there they go with the bloody Sir thing again.
“I hope so. Mark Cavendish signature T shirt….?”
“Well as you’re in this area I hoped you might know where they were?”
It’s in the eyes you know. Actors always know when the other poor bugger’s dried. So I decide, (with my yin and yang in balance) to help
“he’s a cyclist like Lance??”
“oh right sorry, yeh. All the bike stuff’s in with the running kit. 2nd floor.”
My sense of humour was dimming dear reader, but I’m British, we never say die! I head for the ecscala’a.
“Can I help Sir?” I’ve worked it out, it’s the bow tie.
“Mark Cavendish T shirt black green signature. Guy downstairs says it should be on this floor”
“No! Ha! Sorry, the black and green one yeh?”
” yes” the grins back gang
“Hang on Sir I’ll go and grab one, what size?”
“XL please” the grin is really back, people are putting on their Oakleys.
A mere 5 minutes has passed when the young man approaches. A look of triumph emerging through the acne.
“There you go” with a flick of the wrist he displays a black polo shirt with… (in Green)
The embroidered logo of GLASGOW CELTIC. F.C.
Through my rictus grinning teeth I ask
“Is the manager about?”
I prepare an eloquent and uplifting little speech about how in this Olympic year, he really must ensure that his staff are better trained. The sports fans of the world will pour into this shop in the summer and they might reasonably expect your staff to be sufficiently interested enough to know who the people on your current poster campaign are. Especially as the one I’ve been asking about is hopefully going to be Britain’s first Gold medalist…yes that’s a fair speech Jonny bwoy.
“Hello how can I help Sir?”
I promise you, I did not Sir, most decidedly not give the fellow a bloody Coxcomb! But I tell you I exerted self control above and way beyond anything that my Bi polar drugs were designed for.
What’s that? How did the audition go after all that? ‘You ‘avin’ a giraffe???
Right then. My last blog was written by some silly old sod with a bad case of stomach trouble masquerading as me. I just re read what he said though and whilst he would have been paid two pints and a packet of assaulted peanuts, I’ve decided to drink one of the pints for myself. Well he was a grumpy sod wasn’t he? However, because I concur with all that he said……its less of a forfeit and more of a “Not bad youth, let’s have a beer”.
So dear reader….yes its still just the two of us….Manchester for round one of the British BMX series. I am not a reporter so you will not get a sporting review here. However keep reading and I shall reveal how to get just that at the end. Also, Pics and Video will follow later, when I can get to the pooter [this is an ipad jobby].
Family and friends of mine will read what I am about to say and chortle merrily [maybe an 8:0 Marv?] but the facility at the National cycling centre is not this country’s first indoor all seater BMX stadium. Not by a long way. Oh no! Manchester has eased its way into the cycling heart of this Great Nation of ours, but Norton Canes [Where?] Norton Canes dear fiend [the missing R is deliberate…..just in case there are rumbings of discontent…..or even dat content] in South Staffs just off the A5 was home to the salvation of Midlanders who needed somewhere to let all of those pre Troy Lee Redlines and Hutches etc: out of their cages on cold days, when going out off the front door and face planting on a frozen red gravel table top, hurt like a bastard.
The dormant bustling metropolis of Norton Canes proudly boasted an indoor riding school, with safe off road parking for the several hundred cretins who left their homes only because they couldnt be arsed to cook a Sunday roast. This then, long before Superman got involved (a company calling themselves Clark and Kent design and build tracks nowadays….they build superb tracks only way that the cloaked saviour of the free world (aka America) escaped detection was because Roger Wilbrahams talked them out of calling the start Hills Lois Lanes) was home to indoor BMX in this sceptered isle.
Like Manchester it had a superbly engineered start hill. A pioneering construction of B&Q timber and plywood.. None of your 12 metre high galvanised steel over engineered thingies with a parc ferme beneath….queued up by the toilets back then….God it was a man’s life in The Royal Ballet. Norton Canes too had some tricky jumps to negotiate. hit the doubles with a gnat’s too much torque and next moto you’d be given a duster to remove cobwebs from the rafters before discovering your perfect holeshot had been gobbled up by the fat kid in Halfords race pants on the Skyway Burner! Manchester shows signs of wear on several jummps in the central straight, but theyre nothing compared to the hub deep sawdust and pony cack on the finish straight at the Midlands indoor BMX CENTRE…..What?. A finish straight that led one over awesome 2 foot high plywood triples victoriously past Elsie’s tea urn and Wagon Wheel, crisp and pork scratchings concession and into the warming comfort of the same plastic seats (decades ahead of time we were) that are (for all of their big bucks) the envy of erm??? no one at Manchester…you see..give me time and I find the thread again.
The National indor BMX arena is quite simply breathtakingly beautiful.. Not without its flaws, but as near to the culmination of dreams that those of us who were BMX Mums and Dads in the ’80s ccould have hoped for.
As you will know from previous blogs. I very much see my remit as one of opening the eyes, hearts and minds of the mainstream cycling fan to the unquestionably biggest and most exciting branch of the sport. Not having been actively involved in a sport that I helped to manage and promote for a long time has never dimmed my enthusiasm for BMX and I always have kept up with it. The opportunity to come up close and personal with it once more having been provided by my son Jamie (passably proud of him you know) is something I am seriously glad about.
One enters the centre from a concourse between The velodrome and BMX arena. A wonderful airy space, with a restaurant (yes Elsie) and bar, where the modern day equivalents of Alan Woods Dad’s van ply their trade. Up a short flight of stairs past a tasteful little cafe and bar area and through the doors into fantasy land. It is quite simply fabulous. Yes the seats are plastic and will never do much for gluteal circulation. The trade off though, is that one learns tolerrance that is so lacking today as one repeats the polite mantra ‘Hey dont worry about it” as the fat bloke from three seats down excuses himself and his evident prostate infection for the umpteenth time.
But honestly your plastic seat and cramped gangway here cost five Earth quid! Walk but 200 yards and every other Saturday you could elect to support the lifestyle of a bunch of continental prima Donnas with around £70 a pop, for the same facilities…..and even the most ardent “BLUE MOON” singing City addict would struggle to say that the entertainment value Accross Alan Turing way wasnt infinitely superior [I speak of football or “soccer” to those reading from across the pond].
To one’s left are those two gargantuan start hills. I’d need to double check, but my guess would be 12 meters and 20 respectively. I used to stand atop start hills in the wind swept days of yore (and mine) and look down at the roller coaster that my boys were about to launch themselves down, with my gall in my mouth, but I have to confess to feeling physically sick at the top of the small (Ha!) hill with the same feeling accompanied by a nose bleed on the bigger one! Add to that; but in those blue remembered start hills there was usually a brief straight before possibly a 4 feet high set of triples or whoops…yes children thats what Daddy used to call rollers. Now though five year olds to 45 year olds prepare their adrenalin twitching bodies for an assault on roughly five hundred yards of cement dust coated earth where the first obstacle is two rollers 8feet high with a twenty foot transition, between them. The ante is then ramped up with jumps that get steadily more complex and bigger between the three high 180degree berms (banking if youre familiar with the velodrome) and every bit as steep.
Bicycle Moto Cross has certainly come of age. A big big happy grin would not leave my face all day;part of which was down to watching kids who I loved so much as youngsters yelling for their own kids. Oh and Lisa Cross, Darling with referrence to the woman you wrote about on Fizzogbook earlier (some lady dared to mutter …”Is all that noise really necessary?”) Yes Mrs Never mind your child will improve if you lighten up, it is very necessary. Standing in the middle of this awesome (yes genuine use of the word not the overworked superlative) every time the gates hit the deck my ears were hit by a wall of sound from several hundred in the stand on one side and the better off pro teams along the finish straight. WOW! and thrice times Wow! and the collective OOH when someone bailed out over the bars would put most football crowds to shame.
So a fabulous day out. Utterly gripping racing. ride your Specialized Tarmac over to Eastlands. Borrow your Dad’s Cortina. trust your sanity to Richard Bransons choo choo trains, but do your soul a favour…go BMXing. If your name is Cavendish please forget to lock your Pinarello Dogma up…they’ll give you another one.
So in Roadie parlance “all Chapeaux (hats in the air) then?” mostly yes. “So whats Carver”s whinge then?” hey….I’m after a pulitzer here…this comes in the best traditions of balanced penmanship. A few Weeds in a used McDonalds bag Im afraid. Some go to the UCI (“nothing new there then”) some to B.C. and some to The Manchester crew (Sorry Roger). Having said that though, the niggles (for they are no more than this I assure you) that I have are also down to a majority of old timers letting the vocal minority have their way at International and National level.
So Roger Wilbrahams et al you guys are beyond fabulous and that’s not grovelling, but here are my concerns and I know, those of a number of that silent majority.
1, What ever happened to the 15 metre lanes on the start hill? I know that deliberately impeding another rider is an offence still, but it was much easier to police when we had them.
2. Before you get to the start hill for even first gate practise. Which Idiot! yes I mean it and I will say it to your face/s decided to dispense with scrutineering? Doubtless many a good reason can be trumped up to answer this question, most of which will boil down to lack of volunteers..CRAP!. The contemporary utterance is “Riders are responsible for their own equipment”. Well, they always were people, always were. However, whilst your kid is front wheel up against the gate with a bicycle who’s star washer is not about to snap. With Forks that are still well bonded in their crown, a straight in the stays rear wheel, tightened pedals and cranks etc etc. What about the kid in gate 3 who’s Dad doesnt have a damn clue? He can potentially ruin your child’s day, dent you wallet and much worse his and your child’s health. So please bring back the brief but necessary checks that we did before. I am a damn good bike mechanic but I have been grateful to a scrutineer pointing out a loose head set or something more than once. I’ll even volunteer to organise and run it..how’s that?
3 Clipless pedals..in my view bloody dangerous in BMX. Potentially very good but the sport needs to look at this issue very carefully. BMX racing is dangerous as we witnessed yesterday. Exciting to watch as thrills and spills are! I witnessed dozens of twisted knees and ankles as bikes got snapped very quickly from the cleats that were seconds before sitting poorly locked into SPDs. Clipless pedals that are a necessary and vital aid in most fields of cycling are beneficial to very few in this sport, but Brooklyn from Brierley Hill ain’t Grant Hill whom he aspires to be. Would I have put toe clips and a set of Weinneman rat traps on my Son’s Robinson? Of course not. Waffle soled vans on bear traps did the job and there was much more need to pedal!
4, Actually this leads on from 3. The purpose of a clipless pedal as any roadie, trackie or MTBer will tell you, is to make ankling ….i.e. using the full 360 Degrees of each pedal rev to be put to use driving the cranks and ultimately the rear wheel. So? Well I didn’t see an awful lot of pedalling let alone ankling going on! when the riders have these magnificently awesome tracks. why does the fraternity put up with challenge of form over substance? It is a BMX RACE race being the key word here. I witnessed too many processions yesterday as riders with more jumping and pumping ability (pumping for those who arent aware, is the technique of keeping the bicycle wheels moving with a well pawled freewheel, by rocking and “pumping” through the hips. It’s what you do at the end of a ten miler as you look down at your bike, blaming the poor thing for your inability to ride a sub 28). So the race favours riders with those abilities, and dads or sponsors who can afford the “steroids” of a 120 pawl Freewheel. There needs to be a bit more pedaling space between these monster jumps in order to even those 40 seconds or so into a fairer race between all skill levels…Thats not being whimpy, its about balance. In all sports (not just our multi faceted one of cycling) there are different skills on display, that even everything up. If BMX is to keep and grow the funding that is currently WITH HUGE THANKS coming into the sport, then it must appeal to new people, who will be spectators first. We cannot rely on the Olympic games every 4 years to pique interest.. Sport is theatre (The words of German dramatist Bertholt Brecht in the 1930s recognised this) as well as competition for those involved.
5, So five leads on from 4. INFORMATION! Up go the moto sheets, so that the gradually diminishing scrum of competitors and parents (as ever) can see which moto and gate they have for the next round. But the rest of us? and even those who (when their child or fellow team member) isnt competing would quite like to know whats occuring. BMX meets are fast and frenetic occasions. It is hats off to RICHARD EAMES and colleague who’s name I forgot to ask, who did an amazing job of somehow managing to add to the excitement with their knowledgeable and passionate commentary. BUT! BUT! its only as good as the P.A. not their fault of course and his own voice skills. THAT is not a moan at Richard..simply fact. So again I go back to the past! we had as many riders in the 80s to process but the crowd always knew; A, which race we were about to watch and who was in it and B, which gate position prior to the gate falling. Please do this again OR where possible utilise the big screen. There are only so many times I want to be welcomed by millions of LCDs to Manchester or asked to spend my hard earned cash on a Pure frame from Edwardes. Lets get some info up there boys and girls Pulease. It can be done. If it’s on a screen to be printed, it’s a hop and skip electronically to the big screen.
So thats it for now. At the one end of the fabulous spectrum of racing. I send my sincere thoughts to Spencer Cremin who sustained a broken wrist and collar bone….ever the cyclists injuries in the 40 plus cruiser (24″ wheel division). I also at quite the other end of the age range. URGE. NAY BEG. B.C. to nurture the sublime talent of five year old (yes I mean sublime) Fearless Felix Twitchett from Finelines Bombshell. Please, no matter where this awesome little kid goes, do not (without a fight) allow him to escape the world of cycling. I don’t care if its BMX, Road, Track, MTB, Triathlon, you name it…one day with the right wing for him to shelter under, I as an old man (no need for that, its rude) want to have a tear in my eye as he dons a rainbow jersey beneath the slowly rising union flag.
1 Jelle Van Gorkom (NED)
2 Liam Phillips (GB)
3 Sifiso Nhlapo (RSA)
1 Merle Van Bentham (NED)
2 Laura Smulders (NED)
3 Maartje Hereijgers (NED)
4 Charlotte Green (GB)
Full race reports will be available at The British Cycling Website
and Jonathan Hearn’s amazingly stylish and excelent 20/24 Magazine
Subscribe and keep it going..
Credit, not witless criticism…(please understand that) to Roger Wilbrahams. The Commissaires and volunteers. I had an amazing day. Elsie however still owes me a bacon roll that I paid for but didn’t get at Norton Canes in January 1984.
Till the next block of rubbish…Riders ready..Watch the gate!
Ooh, why shut up when you’re on a roll? First BMX National with both a grandstand and (albeit rubbish) floodlighting? Tamworth ….about 20 miles from Norton Canes…date….find Marvin O’Brien…his Mum Eithne will have the date…I hope.
It would be very easy today for me to get angry with the well respected journo in yesterday’s Times who ( in a précis to Olympic BMX) was less than complimentary and frankly patronising. So, as it’s very easy, I think I’ll do it. Now as close as sod it is to swearing the word pundit boils down to “he who should know best”. So in as much he rubbished a sport he knows absolutely zero about by calling it absurd and how the bicycles cannot be taken seriously… (average build on a club level machine roughly £1200 and more or less double that of a more than decent track bike) could be a good time for him to keep his trap shut.
Levels of fitness and precision cycle handling and tactics that many other top sportsmen would wince at. Why do you think Jess Varnish will lead out Vicky Pendleton this year? Simple. I love those two girls, but something written in the oracle says Vicky has to be the one to ride the final lap. Sadly, Vicky can’t live with Shanaze Read’s attack pace. If she could, we’d have a ladies team sprint record that wouldn’t be touched for a generation.. “so why doesn’t Vicky Pendleton lead out for Shanaze?”. Erm yes ok.
He further declared that although the sport was crazy and the bikes a joke, that it will all change at The Olympics where we shall see what the sport is all about. Erm..no actually Mr Barnes The Olympic games presents our sport in a weak light in my view. Hey don’t get me wrong I’d like to see the Medals come our way. Yet I agree with him. BMX ought not to be an Olympic sport. In my mind it becomes devalued by The Olympics. The Olympic competition is in no way a true representation of what Bicycle Moto Cross is about. Ok, you will see the elite of our sport in action, but consider this. The roughly two dozen riders that will sign on at Stratford are at the top of an elite group that is some several THOUSAND strong. The elite Road race entry is probably about 400 riders short of the total number of elite riders that that branch of the sport can muster worldwide. And you know from the last blog that road and velodrome are where my personal riding pleasures lie.
“so stop yer moaning John” well, no I’m in a whinge mood. 2 days processing the same number of riders that the organisers of a midweek club night at say Perry Barr or Bulwell, would be ashamed if they could not process comfortably in an hour….including recovery time, when 1200 on Sunday will go through the most exciting well organised machine very probably in any sport you can name!
So Mr Barnes. Do you want to challenge your poncy patronising words and make your way to Manchester this weekend? Roughly 1200 riders competing in all ages from 6 to 46. Many of our sport’s elite will be on show riding approximately £250,00 worth of laughable bikes. You’ll receive a copy of my little moan Mr Barnes. I’ll be middle of track on Sunday, iPad in hand couple of cameras about my neck. I’ll man up and defend my sport.. Will you have the balls to check us out and tell your readers that you owe us an apology? I somehow doubt it. You scrawl tripe for a Murdoch comic.. when did they last accurately report anything?
Thursday moan done. Can’t wait for the weekend. He won’t come. Far too many of us, plus our sport can speak for itself. So what’s this all been about then Jon? Leave me alone I’ve had gut ache all day.
Make this the year thou goest to church. Find YE the one true meaning of life. Check YE out the dates of the sermons. I know I’ll be there…
2012 National BMX Series & British Championships