06/10/2017 - Sheffield Urban CX

Sheffield Urban CX

Alec Brunson participated in the Sheffield Urban CX Round 2 last week on his Cotic Escapade, he wrote a fantastic round up of the events, and bumped into Baybutt while he was there too....

Alec - As far as pre-race preparation goes, getting in at 2am from a friend’s birthday party doesn’t rank high among ‘things that will help performance’. Neither, in fact, does the size massive pizza that accompanied the journey home from aforementioned merriment, although because I’m not a complete animal, I opted to be designated driver (for myself, it still counts) and kept my head and body clear of any alcohol-based impurities. I may have had a pint at lunch with a burger but it barely seems relevant to mention. It’s safe to say then, that I wasn’t feeling particularly tip-top, although I can attribute a large portion of that to a less-than-satisfactory riding/sat in front of screen ratio. Nonetheless, racing doth beckon thy soul, and thy soul shall raceth etc. Any notion of feeling overweight was handily dealt with by the previous day’s nutritional choices and the quest for replenishment marked the first time I’ve ever bought an avocado sandwich; I was a soy latte away from writing an essay about it.

Parkhill flats then, the stage for round two of the Sheffield Urband Cyclocross Series is a part derelict – part regenerated block of flats overlooking the city. Now, a 1960s council estate might seem an odd choice of structure to be given listed status, but I reckon someone in the council had mates in construction and the complex is undergoing a massive restoration, the first phase of which opened in 2011. Apparently, the architectural style is known as ‘Brutalism’ which is defined as “the practice of designing infrastructure in such a way that ensures anyone racing around the layout 50 years from inception will suffer like an absolute bastard”.

Alec

This was going to be an altogether different beast to round one. Where Kelham island was tight and twisty with a single smooth climb that you could get up swiftly, Parkhill had three changes of elevation in the ‘up’ direction. This would certainly be a test of one’s engine. After watching the juniors and women race, us ‘sport’ blokes set out for a few practice laps to find out what we were in for.

The course had everything: a fast cobbled descent and subsequent climb, a steep grassy climb, a double stair set to chuck it down, 90 degree corners, hurdles, rollers and a dismount to steps before the final climb to start a new lap. I thought I’d ended my race before it’d even started as my rear tyre went soft after an exuberant plunge down the stairs – the heavy landing had caused the scuff in the sidewall (picked up doing adventurey-type stuff) to let go. Tubeless sealant doesn’t do well at getting up the sides while rolling, so it needed immediate attention. I was already tyred anyway. Guffaw.

Sealant swished, tyre inflated and with 37% confidence that it would hold for the race we lined up on the start line. There was a lot more pro-looking chaps here this time, but less overall so it would be everyone in one heat and the top eight would qualify for a final. The skinsuits and serious eyes lined up in front and I took place alongside fellow Coticman Baybutt, a monstrous single speed rider and another beard. I burped and tasted that fucking pizza again.

GO!

Eleven riders sprinted for the first 90 degree corner, inches apart, to be met with a wooden roller. I was a Cheeky Bastard™ and went round the roller, and regretted my decision immediately.

“Boooo!”

“Oh shit” I thought. “I’m a baddie”. I attempted to do the right thing by giving the places back, but this isn’t karting and people DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING ALEC so this turned out to be a rather unwise idea. Biketrack’s Steve Taylor politely enquired as to what I thought I was doing, and once that silly corner was out of the way, things were a little easier to deal with. Good one Brunson.

A fun day at the #sheffield #urbancx yesterday at #parkhill. #architecture and #bikes combining beautifully. #sheffieldissuper #outdoorcity #photooftheday #architecturelovers #brutalism #instagram

A post shared by Paul Testa (@paultestaarchitecture) on

Sealant swished, tyre inflated and with 37% confidence that it would hold for the race we lined up on the start line. There was a lot more pro-looking chaps here this time, but less overall so it would be everyone in one heat and the top eight would qualify for a final. The skinsuits and serious eyes lined up in front and I took place alongside fellow Coticman Baybutt, a monstrous single speed rider and another beard. I burped and tasted that fucking pizza again.

GO!

Eleven riders sprinted for the first 90 degree corner, inches apart, to be met with a wooden roller. I was a Cheeky Bastard™ and went round the roller, and regretted my decision immediately.

“Boooo!”

The gaggle of racers screamed down the cobbled descent which immediately headed skywards after a fast left (I’d say about a 5 in rally speak). Bravery was rewarded with momentum that helped stave-off gravity for a few extra metres before the steep grassy climb separated the field slightly, with some having to dismount to crest it. Elbow-to-elbow through the archway to the stairs, before an exercise in late-breaking for the 90 degree right-hander, which almost claimed my enthusiasm the first time round. The racing was close and Baybutt and I had reconvened our battle of the Escapades from Kelham Island – I can’t tell you how much fun it is being in an close-run duel where both competitors are cheering each other on!

A fun day at the #sheffield #urbancx yesterday at #parkhill. #architecture and #bikes combining beautifully. #sheffieldissuper #outdoorcity #photooftheday #architecturelovers #brutalism #instagram

A post shared by Paul Testa (@paultestaarchitecture) on

Inevitably, I was enjoying myself too much and the Gods of Bikes decided it was time to play their hand. A particularly bouncy journey down the stairs was enough to lob my chain off and my rivals disappeared down the road, I figured I was set for lonely race! Having said that, 30 minutes is a long time so I pulled up my big boy pants and gave chase, a bit of clear track giving me a chance to focus on getting corners smooth and keeping braking late. The gap to those in front remained fairly consistent, which give me a chance to get an idea of how much others were hurting, and for Baybutt and I to say hello every lap. Eventually, I managed to reel a few riders in and take some places back, culminating in a close race for the two main beards of the group. I snuck into 8th place, qualifying for the final and the chance to do it all over again. The feeling of joy and elation was so overwhelming that I felt a bit sick and my nose started to bleed. The Vets (that’s Veterans, not animal doctors) raced next, and I’d have watched them if I could see straight. From what I could tell they were jolly bloody fast.

cxer

The Sport finalists took the time to refuel. Some of opted for the ‘right’ stuff, some for ‘whatever I threw in a bag’ and the elite among us went for a beer and a pizza – the clear choice of champions. We were summoned to the start line, some of us looking fresh and ready, some gazing longingly at the bar. I thought I’d misheard that it would be a 20 minute final, which was so preposterous I scoffed and awaited to be told “it’s 10 minutes really lads teehee what a funny joke”.

That never came, of course. 20 minutes it would be and off we go! Baybutt made clear his intentions to get the holeshot, flying up the road like a scalded cat and I appeared to have found some juice from somewhere finding myself right in the thick of it. The usual suspects managed to creep ahead on the climbs and the natural order of things settled down over the first few laps. I was still trying really hard and at one point had a very real fear that I might shit myself, which would have been distracting.

mtber

The racing was close between us again, trading places at various points on the course. It really shows individual’s strengths on a varied layout like this and there’s always an opportunity to have a go at taking a place. Baybutt took the right hand stairs and benefitted from wearing running shoes, flying up and taking the place off me. In my haste to get back on and clipped in, I rode straight into a big block of timber. It brought me to a rather abrupt halt and I found myself on my own for the rest of the final – my best advice here is to LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING.

The end brought tired smiles and great banter, most of us not sure why we enjoyed so much given how we now felt after all that abuse. The Sheffield Urband CX series is quickly gaining traction as one of the most enjoyable events about, for its mix of track location and layouts, organisation, partners and just great atmosphere. More please!

Things I’ve learnt:

1. I should get more sleep.

2. I should eat better.

3. I should have researched parking costs in the centre of Sheffield.

4. I should have taken some photographs.

5. Chain device. Always have a chain device.


Read more of Alec's blog stories here…

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