Tuesday 17 December 2013

Peel Park, Bradford - the UK's best 'cross course?

The National Trophy course at Peel Park, Bradford is for me, the complete cyclocross course. It has everything – hard climbs, running climbs, treacherous descents, tricky off camber, barriers and slick corners. Lots of slick corners. It is regarded as the hardest of the current crop of National standard courses and as successful ‘cross book author Simon Burney puts it – ‘it shows up the technical limitations of many.’  As he explains, good technique there leads to  'free' time gains, no extra training required.

I also always look forward to riding Bradford because with its December or January slot in the calendar, mud always plays a big part. Lots of mud. Even when conditions are relatively dry, as they were this past weekend, the mud makes itself felt in the most innocuous of places, where very short sections that are ridden sub-optimally can result in big time losses over the course of a race. When properly muddy is it is the ultimate mudder where you better hope you can get a spare bike, or better still have a competent pit crew.

And then there is the run up before the finish straight. Steep, very slippy and uneven under foot, this too can be a race decider or somewhere a lot of time can be gained with good technique. Try it without toes studs and you’ll be flat on your face. Teammate Dave Haygarth took this great video of action on the run up:

Bradford is also a great social event -  as the main Northern National Trophy round it attracts a lot of people as spectators rather than riders and catching up with everyone is always part of the day. I met up with friends Richard and Jo Allen to prepare for my morning race. As well as being an elite level startline-helper and all-round ‘cross soigneur, Jo is also a prolific photographer of all things ‘cross. She has been snapper-in-chief to the growing contingent of Here Come the Belgians riders for some time now and as over the years documented mine and many others cyclocross related exploits with great insight.

In a shameless fit of narcissism I asked her to do a bit of a feature for me. Her pics below, tell the story of my day and the full set with some great shots of Rich too is here: