CX Nats 2018 Statistics…

Heading up to Bradford on Friday night after a full day at work, it looked like I’d timed it right until the M1 started flashing up as closed a few miles ahead. A quite literal eye roll, and I pulled into the unmarked services to check my options. A diversion via the M18/M62 was the quickest and duly landed me at my cousins. 

Roughly 5 hours sleep, 1 coffee and half a can of Red Bull and 2 hours driving finally got me to Hetton. I briefly got out the car, then decided staying inside it for another hour was a better idea! Talk about a bitter wind!


Miles driven: 650 ish
Coffee consumption: 5 – considering I’m trying to cut down, that’s a win!
Hot chocolate: 7 – total fail 😂
Riders pitted for: 5 (Gary Worton V50, Sam Murray U16, Ellis Murray U14, Keith Murray Vet40, Keith Murray Senior Men)
Riders/ Pit Crew helped out: 2 (Lydia Brookes – must remember to get that pedal in the right place😂😂 and Ewan/ Luke GM – honestly I don’t do this just for the cake!)
Times Keith was *told* his tyres were too hard: 4? I’m sure he said he wanted 18 on Saturday… and Ellis’ were over 40 😂😓😂
Cake consumed: 6! Thanks Ewan!

Bike changes: 8 or 9. Wasn’t muddy enough 🙄
Friends caught up with: Lost count, not enough.
Arsehole older men encountered in the pits barging through: 4. I might stick knives in my elbows next time.
Crashes witnessed: 2. One in the V40s. One kid faceplanting over his bars.
Finishes seen: none.
Starts seen: U23 Mens when Ewan was gridded front row.
Layers worn: 5.
Jackets changed: 5
Wheels swapped: 8. I’m so pro, I can’t undo through bolts (trapped nerve and Keith does them up too tight 😂)
Radiators sat against: 1
Houses stayed in: 3
Abuse/ heckling shouted at Keith: not enough.
Abuse handed out to Tommo: Also not enough. I mentioned distracting him so Keith could beat him, but it didn’t happen.
Bodge jobs: 1. For my phone charger in my car.
Texts received about seeing me on TV: 5. Damn. I was meant to be incognito!
Messages received: 431. Mostly from Medway Velo.
Winners congratulated: Just Helen Wyman! Tommo winning the Tommo/ Murray battle doesn’t count.
Bikes ridden: 0.
Hours slept: Unfathomable.
Best person in the pits: Ok, not a number. Lydia Brookes!
Favourite person to cheer for: Ellis Murray. Scott Chalmers.
Number of times my power steering failed: Twice.

The above is fairly accurate…
Cracking weekend all in all! 



Cyclocross: Back On The Bike 

Having not sat on the bike since September, I literally had no idea how I would feel going for a spin around Swinley with Caroline.

Sunday dawned bloody cold, although we seemed to have more frost in Oxfordshire than over there at Swinley. Deciding what to wear when you haven’t been out finessing the art of what lycra to wear at which temperature isn’t easy! 

Setting off at 10.30 with an easy spin up the road, off onto some gravel and onto a very short climb in amongst the bare trees, I think we were both soon warm enough!

Off up the boardwalks through the marshes, somewhere I used to hate getting my front wheel up onto, or dropping off the other end. Experience and good coaching has taught me how to ride these without giving it hardly any second thought, except to mention to Caroline how much I used to be bothered by them! The boardwalks are usually slippery, but as long as care is taken, I’ve never minded riding along them.

Today was not about working hard on every section. Today was about remembering how to enjoy being on our cx bikes on a fine, cold day.

We did ride around the training loop on the fire roads, with plenty of runners, cyclists and dog walkers out and about. The Strade Bianche section wasn’t too bad, but the next section had been done up. A shallow orange sandy mud, that actually was great fun to ride on! Unfortunately my legs started to empty near the end, so I chose to not do another half loop, but rather to head back for a much needed cup of tea.

It’s a hard decision to cut short a ride, but as I said to Caroline, I’d rather end on a happy note, than ride the section home feeling like shit.

It’s done me the world of good to get back out, and now I need to work out how to work training into the hours I work, so I can start again. I’ve had a much needed mental break from it all, and feel like I can start again now.

Kit worn 

Specialized Women’s SL Pro bibtights, Sportful 2nd Skin LS baselayer, Castelli winter jacket and the Castelli CX over trousers. Castelli Gregge 12 socks, Viva headband and a BMC cycling cap… in actual fact I was a little on the warm side, either that or I need colder weather! Usually I’d opt for Castelli Nanoflex legwarmers and Roubaix/ fleece lined bib shorts, but the legwarmers are a little on the big side (insert shock horror face)…

The temperature held steady around 0 to 1 degrees with a rather cheeky biting wind. Perfect CX weather!

CS Cycle Coaching has helped me no end. Giving me the time I need to find my feet again after a big change in jobs and lifestyle. Thank you Caroline!

Cross Is Coming… 

With CX season nearly here, and me missing several months of riding the cross bike, tonight was a chance to restart. Yeah, I’ve left it late, but now I’m out of Surrey and back in Oxfordshire/ West Berkshire, I’m more comfortable being back on the bike.

This evening we met at Palmer Park, where Chris Macleod was in charge of coaching, backed up by my coach Caroline Stewart (apologies, I’ve forgotten the third coaches name!)

A nice little course was laid out, with plenty of corners… or chicanes… in fact tonight was all about cornering.

I’ll freely admit I had absolutely no confidence going around to start with, and only when Chris went through cornering techniques, did I start to remember what Helen and Stefan Wyman had said earlier in the year. I had remembered to keep pedalling through the corners, but as Caroline had pointed out; I was going in too sharp and coming out too wide.

When Chris, with the help of Callum, showed us actually how much grip we had on the grass with the tyres, and about shifting the weight around, did a few things start to fall into place. 

I started to hold a few people off on corners, those faster than me, and gradually rode more fluidly throughout the course. It might be a minor milestone, but it’s a step back in the right direction. Having a group of people to practice with from all ages and abilities is a huge help!

Lastly we had a Devil Take The Hindmost type race, but with every lap, having to wait by trackstanding in the start box. Hugely good fun, and I was out through my failure to trackstand rather than being slow!

A couple of crashes out of the start box

Massive thanks to Chris and Caroline for this, it’s really made my week!

#keepsmiling #crossiscoming 

Helen Wyman CX clinic at Palmer Park 

A trek from cold Oxfordshire to freezing West Berkshire this morning, with flurries of snow on the motorway was a great prelude to a day that never got above 4 degrees with a bitter northern wind. Thankfully there was no snow or rain, but I struggled with staying warm without being on the bike for the morning session.

Whilst led by Helen, Stef has definitely got the louder voice! 

A talk on tyre pressure, for different types of tyres, and Stef, Amira Mellor, Helen and Caroline Stewart went around checking them. I’m still surprised that anyone had more than 30psi in theirs (although if you’ve ridden in on the road, I kind of get it!)

I took notes when Stef and Helen were taking the morning session, but I’m not going to give it all away!

They started with a follow my leader to help shake the edge of cold off, then onto crop circles and figure of eights. Just watching and listening to the four of them gave me ideas of what to practice, and most importantly why.

Then dismounting and remounting, how, when, why, where to get off the bike, and how to carry it. There may have been a slight disagreement between Helen and Stef over how Helen carries her bike! 

Then remounting at the top of the bank… which did see a couple of crashes!

Then onto a session with riding and running a steep, rather slick bank. Riding it, with enough speed and in the right gear was easy. Carrying the bike and running proved rather treacherous, to my amusement as I stood and watched.

The talk of why and what line to choose as Helen, Stef and Amira alternately rode and ran became more apparent as they showed what and why they did what they did.

Lastly onto race starts, what posistion you start in and why, where your pedals are, on the hoods or drops. Gridded starts and Belgian style starts.

I knew our ‘predominately’ women’s session was going to be brilliant, although my dismal remounting actually made me embarrassed to be there.

We had a broad range of women turn up, Suzi Wise who usually races with me at the back of the field, Jo-Anne Perry, two of the 5th Floor girls, and even super Vet Alison Kinloch. Around 30 in total I guess, one awesome turnout!

Slightly chattier than the men had been, we were soon out doing figure of eights, first of all alone – in which both Stef and Amira came to give me some advice. I’d got the hang of always peddaling, but had to learn to put the spurt of effort in as I came out of each bend. Then we were up in pairs, and knowing Alison was faster than me, but also able to give advice, I asked her to pair up with me. It quickly showed me letting gaps in and her through, and I wasn’t quite able to hold the speed of her wheel for long, but it taught me a valuable lesson. 

Remounting was next. I was embarrassed before I’d even started, and eventually Caroline took me off to where Helen was giving Jo some one on one advice. I followed behind, kind of getting the idea. Then it was my turn. Helen had me jumping up beside the bike, but the fear of smashing myself onto the seat post or the wheel had me fearing to jump on the bike. I know how ridiculous it sounds. I berated myself and got rather frustrated.

As the women started practicing remounting at the top of a bank, I used the time to get off and on, off and on, again and again until we went to tackle the bank around the other side. I said of my frustrations to Stef as we rode to the other side of the stadium.

Tackling the bank, when I finally got around to doing it was easy. A bigger gear than I would normally, and speed. the drop didn’t concern me as it was short and had been well ridden in. A quick practice with shouldering the bike and running the bank – yes I am picking mine up weirdly because of a niggly shoulder injury, had me stuck behind one of the other ladies and slipping and sliding all over the bank. I had a right good laugh and later went back to practice it with Suzi.

We finished off with dismounting, jumping hurdles and getting back on before our turn at mass starts, both gridded and Belgian style – wheels everywhere and riders jammed in in every space. It was great, I loved the kick of the starts, with Stef warning us not to go into the red too quickly on race days.

What a fantastic day, with help and tips not just from one, but four coaches all with a fantastic range of knowledge and different ways to approach ideas. Learning how much you need just one hand to turn with, a different approach to remounting, and just how much you can learn from the experts.

I kid you not, it was bloody freezing, and it’s taken me nearly 3 house to get warm!

I swear Helen. I’ll learn to get remounting properly before the season starts!


London CX Team Champs

This year I managed to get my own team together from the guys I work with at Sigma Sport. Thanks to the boss for lending us the Sigma Sport van too!

James Nolan bravely said he’d give it a go on my Colnago, whilst Andy Richardson and Will Bridgman completed the team. 

We were late entering, and as such had to ride in the ‘non sporting’ team champs, with 15 minutes less of racing and after the main event.

A warm up lap with Will and James, showed the course to be not dissimilar to last year with most of the main features remaining the same. A single plank in the wood gave Will a slightly worrying moment as he bunny hopped it and caught his back wheel. However the course was only going to cut up, and I was interested to see what lines would appear after the main Team Champs.

I thought I was more prepared, and certainly was a lot more at home on the course than I felt last year, however a combination of not eating enough, and being started so late/ getting cold meant that I wasn’t at my best. 

The race was still fantastic though, with some hilarious mistakes and falls around me, not forgetting the clever guys with the Benny Hill theme tune playing over the handheld megaphone as we hit the first off camber sections. 

A slow climb into the trees and getting held up at Death Drop Slide, meant I dropped further back, but kept concentrating on putting the most effort in I could. Not easy when the start of the race was 35 minutes later than it should  have been. The slick hill was back, and I climbed it without much issue until the third lap. 

The course was great, with slick mud making fishtailing so easy, falls left, right and centre and I certainly felt more at home in every section, just very flat and without much energy. I also managed to wrench my shoulder again.

James did supremely well on his first time off road in three years, Andy looked totally pro and Will absolutely smashed it round. 

Proud that we managed to get a team together, and proud of the guys for helping make it a fantastic day out!

Thank you guys… baptism of fire for certain! Same time next year?!


Lovecrossed CX

Today I headed to one of my favourite courses, at Chavenage House in Tetbury. Yes, this is where Poldark is filmed! A class backdrop to a fantastic course, I’d been keeping an eye on the tweets of Lovecrossed to see how different the course was this year. Bits were still the same, although the opposite way, the wooded section was thankfully downhill, although part of the haha was now a lot harder to ride in the opposite direction. They had also filled in the old ditch at the bottom of the wood, previously a horse jump the bottom wasn’t quite solid, as I found out later.

I arrived far too early as usual, with some very faint frost in the ground as I had a mosey around. I’d heard talk to a rather large hill, although I could only see the course stretching out in the distance. 

A warm greeting by both Tangwyn (Lovecrossed is rightly his baby and is growing ever more popular) and Hank (James Lowsley Williams, who’s family own Chavenage)  is another reason I travelled from Surrey to this well thought out event. Lovecrossed was one of the reasons I started getting interested in cx, although I didn’t attend the first year. 

This year a steady rain set in early on, I quickly worked out that it was likely to cut up fairly fast as I did my first recce lap. Riding down through the woods, it was a lot slicker than last year and with the ditch at the bottom being filled in meant it rode a lot quicker too. A quick diversion out of the woods, a drop into the haha and out around the pits. The next part of the course was the bit I was most interested in. A drop through a gateway/ ditch, over some ruts and onto a long off camber. Then the hill. Down was easy on the recce laps, as the course was grassy and grippy. Off camber, to zig zigs and a very sharp drop. Cue laughing like a lunatic and frightening the girl behind me. A long slog carrying the bike uphill before returning back to the main field.

Magnetic grass was back on this course to start with and by the time I did a second lap, it felt tough.

All nerves had gone before the race, I’d stayed under the shelter of the pop up as the rain came down – just what we needed to make this a proper cx race. With the promise of watching the elite mens cx world championship in the ballroom afterwards, I couldn’t wait to get the race done.

We started two minutes behind the Veteran men, but I’d already seen Keith streaming off like a green, yellow and black rocket at the front – slick muddy conditions for him at last! 

The start was uphill with a record 20 women starting, and I settled myself into the rear of the field, trying to get around the fitter novices who’s technical skills slowed them down. Out through the woods and the haha, around the pits and out onto the long stretch of off camber. 

I was right. The grass cut up extremely quickly, but unlike the claggy mud of last year that claimed three rear mechs from Scot ‘One T’ Easter (sadly absent this year), it was slick and slidy. Game on! The downhill had cut up rapidly, and I was quicker and getting away from the ladies around me by running it. The uphill sucked out what energy I had left, and it was a knackered me that dismally remounted without much style. 

Pic courtesy of Verity Banks

Pic courtesy of Verity Banks

Pics courtesy of Verity Banks

It was the hardest most diabolically fun race I’ve ever done. A fast flowing course that had some cracking technical features. Great friends, my parents and a wicked pit crew kept me going. It was that hard that twice I saw stars; the second time after I attempted to ride the ditch for the third/fourth time, bounced over the handlebars and landed on my feet. 
I had my own battle at the back of the field. Annoyed when Keith passed me twice, then three times! But this race was a marker of my progress, technically pretty ok, fitness getting better but not where I want to be yet. 

This time I changed bikes, although I’d forgotten how different the Kinesis is to ride, narrower bars, heavier but equally at home in the mud. Once again Continental CycloXKings giving me fantastic grip the whole way around – when other people are sliding around, I’m still going without a second thought.

I really love this race. Once again a warm and welcoming place, with just the right mix of a very hard course, some cracking sponsors in Saddleback, SCOTT  and Fenwicks to name just a few. Not only is the setting a bit special, but it has more of a National Trophy feel to it with the general bonhomie and good natured heckling. 

Massive thanks to SCOTT Racing’s Keith, Sam and Ellis Murray. Keith forewarned me about the hill and the two lads pitted for me, doing a fantastic job and keeping me laughing. Also Verity, who once again came with me and helped out, and my parents who managed to make it down there.

I look forward to coming back next year, peppering Tangwyn with questions throughout the year and riding better next time!

Congrats to Vets winner Keith, Sam who was second in his category,  Fran Whyte who ran away with the ladies and Griff Lewis who won his race.

Season not finished quite yet, however, London CX Team Champs next weekend.


Battle At The Back -Cyclocross At It’s Finest 

Since I announced my Ambassadorship for CSCycle Coaching, I’ve been training on the Bkool Smart Pro most evenings to specific sessions, having lost my confidence with traffic on the road. Having ridden on Saturday for 2.5 hours off road, I’ve started to feel a difference already. Spinning in a higher cadence is slowly becoming slightly easier, exactly what I needed for today.

I arrived at Dalton Barracks for the Wessex League round today whilst it was still frozen. It had been minus 6°C driving in, but with forecasts showing a high of plus 5/6. I was there early enough that the top half of the course (not used by the U10 and U12) was still frozen solid. Hardpacked short grass with the usual twists and turns of Wessex League, combined with part of the 4×4 off road test track made for an awesome frozen course of the recce laps. Bumpy, stony and with two excellent strips of sand, it looked and rode like my type of course. 

Then it started to melt. In the blazing sun with rider after rider passing over it, the icy grass gave way to a slick muddy surface that was still frozen hard underneath. The last recce lap with Caroline gave me an idea of what lay ahead as it started sticking to tyres and bikes alike.

The Wessex League women always so friendly, that it’s great to line up with them. Especially those I call friends. A slow start saw me with a couple of riders between me and Caroline, Fran Whyte being miles up at the front somewhere, and Suzi Wise not far ahead.

“Any advice coach?”

The first test track hill caused a problem, Caroline slipping over and causing a massive bunch behind her. But then we were on our way. Women going down left, right and centre as we fought our fishtailing bikes through the slick surface. I gained on Caroline, and eventually got past Suzi. I’d literally forgotten what it was like to ride on mud like that.

Slight clothing malfunction! Gripper has gone! Credit to Verity for taking the pic

Fighting a sliding bike and figuring out how to use it to my advantage after a couple of laps, I ran parts that I was too slow on, finally getting in front of Caroline when she took a fall on the wild steppes of the airfield. A broken stake nearly had me but I managed to ride around it, each lap getting progressively slippier, bits that were rideable became uncertain. Unfortunately I felt my back wheel clog up and Caroline got back past me as I stopped to poke the mud out, running the worsening next few off camber meters. Hitting the tarmac again, I pushed on as much as I could, winding through the whirligigs as best I could until my chain briefly jammed. Apologies for the swearing! I got back on, fishtailing around the next corner, until I was back on the tarmac. One of the Comms called me to move over as they picked up the chequered flag for the men’s Vet winner.
Why I never changed bikes is beyond me though. I was so busy fighting to catch the next person in front of me, and having not needed a second bike for ages, that I actually forgot!

I actually felt a lot more capable riding today. I’m looking at the race differently, using what I can to my advantage. Still some novicey mistakes, but I even feel that I’m quicker remounting. A course like today is capable of teaching a lot. Knowing where the best line is and actually riding it can be two totally different things. Learn to adjust on the fly, run bits if you’ll be quicker than riding it. 

Today was great. Racing with friends, with my best mate Verity pitting for me, and my dear dad coming over to watch even though he was feeling unwell.

Sadly, I learnt shortly afterwards that Charlie Van der Craig had passed away at the weekend, my thoughts go out to his lovely family. Crushing news after speaking to him briefly at the Nationals a couple of weeks ago.