Team Mule Bar and Condor Cycles come together to host round 11 of the London Cyclocross League. Ben Spurrier reports:
By Sunday 20 December much of the snow which had covered London’s Herne Hill Velodrome had disappeared, only to be replaced by sheet ice. A frozen venue obviously presents some headaches for organisers and racers alike. However, parents, riders and supporters responded to calls for volunteers and grabbed shovels and did everything possible to make the course usable.
The arctic conditions delayed the start of the main event by 15 minutes. When the gun fired, 111 senior men, veteran, women and junior riders thundered round the outside of the track centre, the charge led by Dan Duguid. Glued to Duguid’s wheel was Matt Holmes of Arctic Premier with Phil Glowinski of Velo Club Londres making up the lead three. Duguid was to relinquish his lead to Holmes and after suffering a series of mechanicals was later to retire from the race. Holmes led the race from the end of the first lap and never looked in any danger of losing his advantage.
Meanwhile, epic battles were being fought out further down the field with Dulwich Paragon’s Andy Waterman riding up through the field to make his first podium despite puncturing in the later part of the race. Kevin Knox rode to 10th overall to take the win in the Veteran category from Mick Bell. Jo MacRae of Arctic Premier secured the team’s second win of the day, taking the win in the women’s category while Rapha Condor’s Claire Beaumont, placing in 2nd scarcely had time to pre-ride the course following a busy morning of organiser-duties. Konrad Manning was the other Rapha Condor rider of note, finishing strongly in the Veterans race. Winning Junior Hugo Humphries put in a characteristically strong ride to finish in 6th place overall, beating many of his elders! Elsewhere the unprecedented conditions took their toll on bikes and riders alike as competitors battled to stay upright in places.
Peter Walker from The Guardian newspaper came down to have a go at ‘cross and was presented with an icy baptism of fire! Condor provided a bike for his first slippery steps into cross running him through the basics before letting have a go at the course. The beauty of cross is that absolute beginners can take part not just cross junkies. Stopping only to relieve himself of his audio equipment he said: “Wow, the bike handles really well doesn’t it? It’s all so fast, what fun!” before jumping back on and completing a further 6 laps.
Race organiser, Condor Cycles’ Ben Spurrier said: “Right up until the last minute, we were in two minds as to whether to allow racing to go ahead. We did everything we could to make the course as ride-able as possible and without the tireless help of a large group of volunteers we would never have got through the day. My heartfelt thanks goes to everyone who picked up a shovel and to the event sponsors Mule Bar and Condor Cycles whose generosity and hard work help to make the event one of the few in the league with national points up for grabs.”
When quizzed on how next year’s event could ever be as memorable, the organisers were playing their cards close to their chests saying only that they had “something rather special” planned, though how anything could be quite so epic remains to be seen!