The National Trophy cyclocross series is the UK’s largest and toughest race series. It consists of six rounds running from September to December all throughout the country. There’s races in Irvine, North-West England and the South, but last weekend I competed in round one in Derby.
We travelled down to the race on Saturday evening in order to stay the night and grab something to eat. Unfortunately, new rule changes prevent U23 and Elite riders from practicing the course on Saturday, so we didn’t need to arrive until later in the day. However, this meant we had to search for a restaurant in derby town centre on a Saturday night – not recommended…
This season I’ve moved up a category, from the relative comfort of junior racing to the longer, faster and more serious under 23 races. This also means I’m competing in the same race as the the elite riders, which makes for a super fast, hectic race. I think it will really help me improve though, as the 20 extra minutes of racing is great for building up endurance which should help a lot later on this season. Being in the elite race meant I was not only racing with the top British riders such as Thomas Mein, Iain Field and Cameron Mason, but also with a load of Belgian’s.
Since round two of the CX World Cup was happening in America on the day of the race there was a lack of races happening on the continent, so around 10 top Belgian racers travelled over to race with us. I think this raised the bar slightly compared to normal trophy races, upping the pace of the racing that little bit extra. However, after an hour of racing a British rider – Thomas Mein – won the race.
Just before my race started the rain came down heavily, transforming the course from being fairly dry and dusty to fast and slick. At the start I was gridded really poorly, staring 78th on the last row of the grid. However, I got a pretty good start and made up a lot of positions on the starting straight. Unfortunately, I seriously messed up on the first fast corner and was forced out of the tape as a result of being on the outside of the course. This forced me to dismount in order to get back onto the course. However, I worked my way back through the field pretty quickly as there was a huge bottleneck at the first off-camber section.
All race I felt like there were some sections where I was riding really well – such as the slippery off-camber switchbacks and the fast single track, and others which I struggle on more. As a slightly smaller rider I often struggle on the really fast, explosive straights; of which there were quite a few at Derby.
I knew I would be struggling to avoid the 80% rule in the later stages of the race thanks to my slow start to the day. This rule states that riders whose time is less than 80% of the leaders time may be lapped. Ultimately I was pulled after 55 minutes of racing, which I wasn’t too disappointed with for my first U23 race. In the end I finished 33rd U23.
Although my first big race of the season wasn’t without difficulties, I’m pretty pleased with how I rode and can take a lot of positives away. I felt like I rode technically well all race and the legs felt strong too. Going into my next races I hope to add in a bit more strength work, as well as continue to practice my running and technical skills.
My next race its round 2 of the National Trophy series at Milnthorpe on 5/6 October.