That said, cross is not new to Todmorden's Centre Vale Park but it had long been absent on the cross calendar till mountainbiker and editor of Single Track magazine, Chipps Chippendale set about restoring that iconic cobbled climb to it's former legendary status as part of the tough Yorkshire Points League. Add in some vertiginous terrain, big knowledgeable holiday crowds and a dose of Belgian-cross fairy dust in the form of free Duvel beer for finishers and voila - there's Tod Cross in a nutshell.
Dave cleaned the cobbled climb each lap. Strong. Pic: Christine Balshaw
Previous editions have been reasonably muddy, or iced solid depending on the winter, but torrential rain for days beforehand meant only one thing - a real mudder. A Planet X trio of last year's Vets winner Dan Cook, last year's 3rd place finisher Dave Haygarth and myself lined up for a (predictably) 120+ strong Vets field. Dan and Dave set about tearing off the line and getting themselves onto the podium again while I made a bit of a schoolboy error and picked the boggiest part of the starting line to make my spectacular starting effort, involving much wheelspinning and little forward momentum.
Dan grits his teeth on the big climb. Pic: Chistine Balshaw
Luckily Tod is a course where you can recover from a bad start to a large degree, it consisting of a couple of huge efforts, including the infamous cobbled climb, and some wide tracks for overtaking and descending whilst you recover.
When the mud is as thick as it was, the racing becomes dominated by momentum - gliding from one bog to the next, and finding subtle lines of least resistance or the perfect place to run rather than ride. I positively enjoy the on-off nature of a real mudder and opted to run many short, and even longer sections where others struggled for grip and momentum. As a result, I moved up from somewhere in the 60s to 22nd by the finish, whilst Dave stormed through to 3rd again with Dan pushing hard behind for 5th.
Probably best to keep your mouth shut when the mud is flying.... Pic: Christine Balshaw
And on a course that contains more vertical height gain per lap than some courses have per race, the disc advantage of the Dirty Discos was abundantly clear. Tod has some fast and swoopy descents and it gave me great satisfaction, and provided some amusement for me, to hear others braking long before I even considered reaching for the levers, diving through under braking to take another place. One fellow rider even shouted 'easy when you've got bloody discs' as I shot past him into a particularly slippy bend. The Discos didn't present a clogging issue at all either despite the thick mud - Dave riding his starting bike all race without changing, and me only changing once to keep my pit crew amused.....
The glow of the complimentary Duvel has long since faded, and my kit has just about come clean. But there's a little Tod Cross sized hole in my life now, waiting till Jan 2013 to be filled.
Check out this great little video from Benji Haworth too. Lovely
Todcross from Benjamin Haworth on Vimeo.