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
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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.