A Trip to the Palace

London Phoenix bike race

I‘ve been having a lot of fun with the cyclocross so far this season. The bikes have been behaving, the legs have been in reasonable shape and the weather has remained the right side of awful, with just enough mud to keep me on my toes.

Apart from the first race, I’ve been on the podium every week, so the fun also seems to be translating into results. Will it last? It felt unlikely as I lined up on the tarmac at Alexandra Palace on Sunday, but then, it usually does…

A relatively new addition to the UK cx calendar, the Rapha Supercross series is now in its third year. Spanning two weekends in October – with races in Yorkshire, Manchester and London – Supercross brings some of the glamour and excitement of continental ‘cross to British shores, with races for young and old, beginner and seasoned pro.

In fact, there were 126 riders under the age of 16 at Ally Pally on Sunday – a very promising sign for the future of this fantastic sport, especially considering how fast some of them were going.

Seventy riders lined up for the start of my race and we charged away from the start on the whistle, rattling into the first off-camber corner and heading for the legendary ‘Spiral of doom’. I found myself at the front in a small group which quickly broke away from the main bunch and the battle began…

The pace slowed as we exited the hurdles on lap 2 and I took the lead, hoping that a turn of speed through the single track would get me clear. No such luck. Jack Finch of PMR and Stu Bowers of Hargroves stuck with me and we spent a lap locked together before Bowers began to drop away. Finch and I worked together, extending our lead and taking turns into the brutal headwind across the back of the course, where the climb, the mud and the wind made forward progress a major struggle.

As we began the final lap our pace quickened and we entered the first off camber left-hander a bit faster than before, whilst also passing a back-marker on the apex. I felt my wheels slide and dabbed my foot to stay upright. A groan from the crowd suggested that someone else had not quite managed to do the same and a glance behind confirmed it. I was on my own.

Doing my best to stay calm, I belted round the spiral, sprinted over the hurdles and tried not to think too much about what was going on behind. I know how fast Finch can ride and it was only half a lap later, as I turned the corner that marked the start of the downhill to the finish, that I took a look back. Clear!

A steady turn through the downhill tech section and out onto the finish, glad that I’d invited some friends and family along to soak up the atmosphere. My third Supercross race and my first win. A very happy day!

Big thanks to Rapha and London Phoenix for the race. Thanks to Rob Milton for the photo.

London Phoenix bike race