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Jack Ravenscroft blog: Junior World Cyclocross Championships

15 February 2014

Seventeen-year-old Jack Ravenscroft will be representing Great Britain on 1st February at the 2014 World Cyclocross Championships in Hoogerheide in The Netherlands. He will be a GB team-mate in Holland of fellow YCS contributor Sean Dunlea.

Jack is blogging his updates here as the World Championships approach and then during the event itself. If you have any comments or questions for him, just add them at the bottom of this page.

01 February 2014 – My race

Picking up where we left off last, I am sat at the start line waiting for the lights to change from red to green and for the charge to begin…

Being gridded somewhat back from the front, my stimulus for starting came from the riders in front. Starts at a world level are crucial and often manic. For a race as important as this one, this was doubly so. Sprinting from the start line, I tried to slot myself into gaps which opened in the group without placing myself in too much danger by being close to other riders. Based on last year’s race here, I anticipated a crash and I wasn’t wrong. Ahead of me, riders were spinning and clattering to the ground, and the smell of burning brake blocks was noticeable. Having left myself room to manoeuvre, I was able to steer myself around the pile-up; but I had to take a foot out to brace myself against riders toppling around me.

As soon as I had steered myself around the crash, I sprinted away to try and minimise the gap which riders ahead of the crash were opening. There were plenty of people around me who had also been caught up in the crash, which meant I had a decent group to work with. I felt that this course suited my abilities as a racer with many dead hairpins which required a lot of torque to power out of. Because of this, I found I was moving through and overtaking riders quite well. One stand-out moment from this early part of the race was using my arm to swing around a barrier on one of these hairpins and consequently blocking a Danish rider from undertaking me on the inside (I suppose physical presence is one of my strengths).

I was in fact overtaking riders well into the race, and by the penultimate lap I had moved up to 15th position from 23rd at the end of the first lap and from the forties on the grid. I was rather excited about holding 15th place at the World Championships safely, and I think this was to prove wholly detrimental to me. Approaching the flyover which the organisers had erected on the last lap, I checked over my shoulder to see how far behind 16th was – this led to me running into the side of the bridge and having to dismount and run up it. No matter, I still had a reasonable gap over 16th. However, after descending the downward side of the bridge for the second time shortly thereafter, I hit a rut at the bottom wrongly, which sent me into the barriers at the side of the course. After trying to get up and pedal away, I realised that my knee was in too much pain to continue. I think I had buried it between two of the vertical railings which hold the barrier up. It was a while until I was seen to by course marshals as there had been some nasty crashes on this part of the course already, and by the time they came to me, my pain had somewhat lessened. Once I realised I could stand up and walk I knew that I could finish the race and so I continued – my right brake lever jutting out at an awkward angle. By this point I was 40th but by the time I rolled across the finish line with my head down I had managed to clinch 39th.

As I received my finish line bag, including warm layers and a recovery drink, I realised that I couldn’t be too disappointed about my race. I was on the form to ride into a top fifteen position at the World Championships and, at my age, performance certainly trumps results. If I can repeat such a performance at future events then I put myself in good stead to get some good results. I have also learnt not to let being in a good position get to my head.

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Our congratulations to Jack for such a courageous ride for Great Britain, and our sincere thanks for his blog which has taken us from his preparations for the World Championships right through to the finish line of the race itself. Jack has included a lot of good advice for young riders within his writing – he has been a credit to himself, to his sponsor Thomsons Cycles, and to his country.

 

01 February 2014 – Race Day…

With our race being at 11:00 a.m. we didn’t have to get up too early. We always have a meal three hours before our race so this meant breakfast was finished at 8:00 a.m.. Personally, I like to avoid too much milk before a race so this means breakfast was boiled eggs and bread with an energy bar. I was feeling pretty calm at this point, just enjoying the experience, but we all kept ourselves to ourselves generally; it’s important not to disturb anyone in their mental preparations.

Once breakfast was finished we departed for the course and set ourselves up in the team area which the race organisers had provided for us. It was brilliant to have somewhere warm and dry to get changed in. Next up on the schedule was a lap of the course to make sure I was happy with tyre pressures, etc.. The rain had really affected the course and had made it very slippery in places. I much prefer the sensations of wet mud than the drier, claggy mud that was present yesterday. After our lap we got changed, put leg rub on, and did our final check of the rollers. I find that keeping myself busy is the best way to keep the nerves at bay – although I was pretty positive at this point anyway – I was still excited about the forthcoming race.

SC20140206-103639Once we were happy with all our preparations all went to the gazebo to do our twenty minute progressive warm ups, remembering to take gels and inhalers. After that it was straight down to the start line with some time to spare for spinning up and down the tarmac start straight. Team manager Phil Dixon was on hand to take jerseys and legwarmers from us once we were called up and gridded so that we only needed to remove them at the last moment.

Following that there was nothing to it but to watch the traffic light start system as everyone waited with baited breath…

 

31 January 2014 – 1 day until race

2014-01-29 20.21.36Today is “activator day”, which means putting a bit of effort in to make sure the muscles are primed for tomorrow’s race. The course is pretty much the same as it was yesterday but it’s forecast to rain heavily tonight. I spent the rest of the day sorting out my kit to take to tomorrow’s race and then with my feet up relaxing. From these trips I’ve learned that a cyclist needs to be good at doing nothing to be successful – which I don’t really mind.

 

30 January 2014 – 2 days until race

2014-02-02 09.27.59This morning we woke up to a great buffet breakfast and got ready for an hour and a half’s spin on the road. We made use of Holland’s superb cycle paths and enjoyed a virtually traffic free ride; and for once I was glad not to have any hills. Back home for lunch and then out again for a course recce.

I made sure didn’t put out too much effort – I need to save that for tomorrow’s activator – so just did two easy laps. The course is half wet and therefore quite sticky with some very claggy mud. I’m quite looking forward to some rain this weekend to make the course a bit more washed out.

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29 January 2014 – Travelling to Holland

I have a little picture compilation of our travel day because there wasn’t much to write about. I hope you like it!

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It was a long journey to Hoogerheide yesterday – sunrise until sunset we were travelling (although at this time of year that’s not too long) but eventually we arrived at the other side just in time for a spin on the rollers.

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It was an early start today – we left the house at 7:00 a.m. ready for a lot of travelling.

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Bikes were packed into vans pretty tightly. Everyone has at least two bikes – some have three.

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…and so began the long drive to the tunnel.

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In the tunnel finally.

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Holland is a flat country…

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Finally in the hotel ready for a spin on the rollers.

 

28 January 2014 – Final preparations

In the run up to the World Championships many people will be beginning to reach a frenzied peak of training; smashing out interval after interval on the turbo trainer and the road bike and rightly so – cyclocross is an explosive sport, and in the weeks preceding a big race such as this people’s training will match this very closely.

However this year I have taken the decision to focus my training more on mountain biking and therefore after a winter of long rides and endurance efforts I am only just beginning to put some intense efforts into my training. More crucially perhaps, I took a week completely off the bike after the National Championships to make sure that I wasn’t overtraining, and to put myself in the right frame of mind to begin training hard for the mountain bike season. I think any young riders beginning to focus on their training should carefully consider if they are getting enough rest, as in my experience too many people put themselves at a disadvantage from not getting enough rest. The time at which this rest occurs is obviously depending on which discipline they choose to focus on. If I was focussing on cyclocross I would, of course, hold off a rest week until after such a big race.

The penultimate week before the World Championships has been marked by some more intense efforts in preparation for the mountain bike season – i.e turbo, turbo, turbo, as well as my weekly indoor climbing session with a friend. I did manage to get out on the road on the Saturday while staying with family friends, but anybody in that area on Saturday will understand that it wasn’t much fun to be outside!

Now that we are in the week leading up to the race my training has eased slightly. I’ve swapped the turbo trainer for the rollers, and I’m keeping my legs spinning at a high cadence. I’m also starting to get all my kit organised and packed into bags. I’ve written myself a list to make sure that I have everything! I think it’s essential for a young rider to practice organising themselves with their kit as I’ve found it’s difficult to adapt in the stage of my career I’m now at.

We travel down on Wednesday, so now everything is sorted and ready to go. Excitement is running at its peak! I can’t wait to be in the environment of racing abroad, being around the team, and putting all of my focus on cycling for a few days. I’ll update you all with how the travel arrangements work, and what we got up to on a long day from A to B.

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The school I go to is an hour away, so by the time I get home it is dark. This means I spend a lot of time on the turbo. This photo was taken before a pyramid session on Wednesday.

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Climbing is great for core and upper body strength, while bypassing the tedium of gym work.

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I gave my bikes the once over with plenty of time in advance of departure date of Wednesday this week, in order for any potential mechanical troubles to be sorted out.

 

23 January 2014 – Reaction to being selected

My name is Jack Ravenscroft and I am 17 years old which makes me a second year junior. I primarily race mountain bike XC but I take my cyclocross quite seriously. I’m from Birmingham and I ride for Team Thomsons Cycles.

On Monday last week I received the fantastic news that I had been selected to ride at the world cyclocross championships on the 1st February. Of course, I’m thrilled at the opportunity. If ever my enthusiasm for cycling needed bolstering then the prospect of competing against the best riders of my age in the world has certainly done this for me. There aren’t many feelings better than being in the middle of a frenzied pack at the start of the race or surfing onto back wheels as other riders begin to flag. I’m at the point in my career where there is no pressure to get results. The focus is solely on putting in the best performance I can. With this in mind, racing becomes something purely to enjoy. When I cross the line – no matter what the result is – as long as I am exhausted and I know I have put in my best performance I am happy; and the glow one gets from finishing an international event is like no other.

Someone pointed out to me that this will be the tenth race I have competed in while representing Great Britain both in mountain bike and cyclocross. This came as a surprise to me, as I don’t feel like a veteran of this kind of competition at all. There’s always something new to learn at these events: everything from race tactics to having your passport ready for the checks at the channel tunnel crossing. Moreover, I’m still just as excited to put on the GB skinsuit now as I was when I first tore open the cellophane wrapping on one last year. Perhaps that’s the most important thing: racing – especially at these events – will always remain enjoyable to me.

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Jack Ravenscroft blog: Junior World Cyclocross Championships

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