Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gone but not forgotten

I was just looking back through my old Flickr photos and rediscovered this picture of Lars Boom at Koksijde in 2007. It was the day I first discovered cyclocross. Until the gun fired for the elite mens' race, I'd always considered cross a freak show, but within 15minutes of the race starting I was sold and desperately making plans to buy a cross bike as soon as I got home (which I did).
Man, I wish Lars Boom was still riding. He'd be showing that punk Niels Albert how it's done, that's for sure. The guy just has class, look at the poise, the shine on his legs and the perfect colour co-ordination.  I'm not being creepy, but he just looks right in this photo, right?
It sounds like the partisan Belgian fans (and their bully-boy tactics) drove Boom to the road. Realistically, a kid with as much talent as him, especially as a non-Belgian, was always going to end up on the road, but I can't help thinking he took the plunge too soon. It's a shame he won't be racing on the cyclocross circuit this season, bar a couple of appearances. This autumn and winter are going to be a duller place without him.

A few photos from the National Trophy in Ipswich

We showed up early in Ipswich last Sunday as I wanted to take some photos and Claire Beaumont wanted me to show her all the best lines before the women's race. The weather was great and the ground, though damp was drying out quickly in the wind.
The course was a lot less technical than the previous two trophies, from my point of view at least, as you carried a lot more speed through the corners. This suited me fine as, coming from MTB'ing I enjoy the more flowy stuff a lot more. We did a couple of laps then Claire raced.
Despite a pretty spectacular start where she led for the first half a lap, she ended up in sixth, behind Gabby Day's mum. If Claire can stay on the right track (literally, not riding into the tape) she should be coming top five every race, not bad for her first season.
Photos are here:

My race went pretty good. It started bad, but ended good.
Coming to the end of the first straight, I saw a sneaky gap up the inside of a corner and tried to jump into it. Unfortunately, the guy I was trying to pass came to halt and put his foot through my front wheel, bringing me to a standstill too. That put me dead last.
I moved up quite a few places on that first lap and found myslef in a good group.
Next lap, Will Bjergfelt came steaming through our — until then fairly cohesive — group on his way back from a puncture. This split the group, with me stuck in no man's land. I was confident that most of the riders that went with Will wouldn't be able to maintain his pace, and sure enough, half a lap later I started catching riders as they got dropped. This was really good motivation and gave me the carrot I needed to chase for the rest of the race.
With one to go, I caught onto the back of a good group of four. Just as I was catching my breath to recover from the effort of bridging, the attacks started.
I made it across a couple of times, but a couple of sketchy moments on the corners made me resign myself to second last place of the group.
Still, that was good enough for 29th place, my best ever finish at a National Trophy and good enough for a couple of ranking points. The icing on the cake was not getting lapped — another first at this level.
At the start of the season, my two ambitions were to stop getting lapped and to start coming top 30. With this achieved I'm now looking ahead and thinking I want a couple of top 25's, and come January I want to come top 20 at the national champs. Anything's possible right?
This weekned it's Haloween Cross at Herne Hill on Saturday night, where I'm going to look like an absoloute idiot in a particularly unpleasant outfit, followed by the inter-area champs on Sunday.  If you see me drinikng alcohol on Saturday night after the race, feel free to give me a talking to. I'm really going to need a good night's sleep before Sunday's seriousness.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cyclocross interviews in English

Unless you speak Flemish and can read Sporza, finding anything out about top-flight euro CX racing as an English speaker is pretty difficult. It's getting better with the likes of CXmagazine covering a lot of euro races, and riders like Jonathan Page and Ian Field blogging from Belgium, but actually getting any empathy with the "toppers" is pretty difficult.
Which is why I was please to find these two vids. I'm not a big Niels Albert fan but Stybar is an absolute dude — the guy just smashes it the whole time, which is what you want really isn't it. Yeah, Niels does that too, but I dunno, I'm British, we prefer losers and Stybar is not a big winner. Albert makes it look too easy.

The best camera...

is the one that's with you, so says Chase Jarvis. I was just looking at the website for his iPhone app/book (the guy's a social networking entrepreneur par excellence) and it got me looking back through my old camera phone shots. I've not got an iPhone (screw you Apple!), but I reckon this is the best I've captured with my Nokia E51's 2mp fixed focus camera.
battersea power station, from the train into victoria
Battersea Power Station, from the train into Victoria

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cross is getting popular

Cross is getting so ridiculously popular. On Sunday we had 130 senior riders competing in the London League at Reed Court Farm in Kent - the cavalry charge across an open field at the start must have looked utterly mental.
I started ok but not great and had to work pretty hard to get across to the second group. Fortunately there was quite a bit of singletrack where one rider was as fast or faster than a group, and within half a lap I was part of a group chasing the two leaders, a flying Jamie Newall, and Dan Duguid who was just ahead of us. Darren Barclay was riding in our group but eventually had enough of us and pissed off after a couple of laps to go round with Dan. That left three of us riding for fourth, me, junior Taylor Johnstone and Gary Lingard from London Phoenix.
Taylor was smashing it and so was Gary, so I wasn't feeling too hopeful, but with so many riders, we were lapping riders all the time, and with three to go, I hit the front as we approached some traffic and managed to ride away from the other two to come fourth, 1.53 behind Newall.
So many riders did present a few challenges in overtaking and I reckon it can't be long before the London League has to split the senior race into two, maybe a 40minute Vets race and a 1hr senior race, I don't know. A shorter Go-Race for non-license holders and beginners might be an idea too.
Anyway, fourth, I was pleased with that, but I'm only just beginning to feel normal again. It was pretty hard work.
This weekend is the National Trophy in Ipswich. I raced there last year and enjoyed it, but I'm hoping it's going to rain between now and then - I've had enough of off-road crits and I want to ride some mud.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Good days, bad days

For the first time ever, I raced two cross races in two days last weekend. Day one was the Eastern Cross League in Wellwyn. I was hoping for some cheap points to help push me up the grid at the National Trophies, but this plan came unstuck when a bus load of Belgians turned up, en-route to the National Trophy in Derby the following day.
I started well (for me) without going too deep into the red, then did a really good second lap to move up to a quality group of four. We rode well together, if tactically, until two laps to go (of a 13 lap race) when the only Belgian in the group attacked.
I attacked on the next lap leaving my cohorts behind, which saw me cross the line in fourth place, and first Brit.
Euphoria quickly turned to discomfort when I got a hearty dose of cyclocross gut - crippling stomach cramps that only seem to come on after the one hour all-out effort that is a cross race.
Saturday night Ben Spurrier, Claire Beaumont and I travelled up to Derby for the National Trophy. It's fair to say we're a bit out of our depth at this level, but you won't improve staying at home in your comfort zone, right?
As I've still got no ranking points I was started on the back row of 60 riders, which meant it was going to be an uphill struggle. I managed to move up a bit on the first lap and was riding with guys like Darren Barclay (for a very short period) and Dave Haygarth (until he rolled a tub) which I was quite happy about. Anyway, it was all going well, and I was even beginning to think I'd escape getting lapped (a first in a Trophy), when it all came unstuck with two to go. I stacked hard on a descent, knocking my chain off, forcing me to run the next climb, losing a load of places in the process. Gutting.
I got lapped not long after, so just cruised round my last lap, trying not to get in people's way. Check out the full race report on British Cycling. The course in Derby didn't really suit me - too much braking, stop, start, sprint, brake etc etc - whereas I know what to expect at the next round in Ipswich, so I'm hoping for a better ride.

Monday, October 05, 2009

London League #3 Gunpowder Park

I like the way my already huge head looks GINORMOUS in this photo by

I finally made it to a London League race, this being the third of the series. It was a new venue next to the river Lea to the north of London. London Phoenix were promoting and they did a great job with the course allowing room for overtaking on every section while making it technical enough to be really challenging.
I started ok but having not really raced since the end of August, I struggled when the initial adrenalin rush wore off - looking abck at my lap times I did two good laps, two terrible laps, then five consistently fast laps. The highest position I was in was fourth but those two bad laps sent me back to 10th, but I eventually clawed my way up to eigth.
As I've come to expect, I had a mechanical with my front brake cable pulling through on the first lap which made the technical sections, err, interesting.
One of the reasons I wasn't feeling too good yesterday was the fact that I've spent the last week in Ireland, MTB'ing with snapper Victor Lucas for an upcoming feature in MBR. The weather was unusually amazing for the first couple of days (check the Twitpic -->) but returned to type later on. Keep an eye out for the December issue of MBR to find out more.
Check out LondonCycleSport's video of the first lap of the race, I'm number 10.

London/SE Cross 3, Matt Seaton's first racing lap from LondonCycleSport on Vimeo.