Wednesday 10 September 2008

course design

So team training at Leverhulme last night turned into an exercise in course design. Some hard efforts and a couple of flying laps as intervals ensured that there was enough to tax the legs and build form for Sunday's first race, but it was a more cerebral outing in many ways.

Course design, for the uninitiated (ie me) is a fascinating area of cross to be involved in. What looks good visually is not necessarily good to ride and vica versa. What feels good at warm up pace doesn't always work at race pace. The overall flow of a course can only be experienced at speed and over multiple laps. What the course starts out as will never resemble what it looks like after 100 riders have ridden practice laps and the first few laps of the race. The guys had already been busy building a challenging course that avoided out and out mud plugging through bog but was not so tricksy as to frustrate. Last night was an exercise in tuning. And avoiding dog crap.

It was tempting to try and influence the course to one's own strengths or to reduce one's own weak areas. My own bete noir, tight turns, would have been ruthlessly pruned or at least opened up, but actually a good course needs a balance of tight, open, and flowing bends where maintaining speed is to be achieved a variety of ways. Nor can it contain endless running, though some would be appreciated!

Balancing topographical constraints, environmental hazards (mainly saturated grassy bog at present) as well as health and safety is not as easy as it looks. Next time you moan about a course, spare a thought for the organiser/designer. What might you have done different and would that have upset somebody else instead? If your club is putting on a race, get involved . If not, why not start your own race! Just don't design the course to suit you and you only..........

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