Mud-plugging at the Palace
29 October 2013
Cyclocross is one of the most accessible, fastest growing disciplines of cycle racing. Hannah Ormesher describes the excitement and atmosphere of the youth races at the Rapha Supercross at Alexandra Palace in North London.
The final round of the Supercross came to Alexandra Palace in North London on Sunday 27th October and the Rapha folk reliably brought with them a bit of mud, plenty of fun and loads of cowbells. Frites and hotdogs were the order of the day and the atmosphere in ‘camp Rapha’ was pumped with excitement for the day’s racing ahead.
Cyclocross really is a highly accessible cyclesport for all ages. It was great to see several generations making a day out of the racing; the kids, mum, dad and even granny and grandpa could all take part in the racing if they wished. For those who prefer the comfort of the sidelines however the Supercross really performed from a spectator point of view as surely one of the most fun days you can have off the bike! Kids were given cowbells, there were Belgian brews for the adults and families were camped out on the picnic tables. I don’t think I saw a sad face all day!
Pre-racing the atmosphere was pretty relaxed but there was a hint of nervous excitement in the air as the kids got ready for their races. A few were on rollers or turbo trainers but a lot of the kids used the surrounding slopes and field to warm up for the racing, keeping muscles moving and not getting cold was the aim of the game. First off for the day was the Under 10’s category and it was inspiring to see so many young faces, boys and girls, on the start line. These debutants to their cycle career showed promise as they hurtled around the course confidently and even the less confident amongst them showed real gusto and gave it their best shot.
The Under 12’s were off next as the two kids categories were split into their own races. The racing is exciting and the kids get to battle it out with competitors closer in ability. The extra years’ experience (and growth!!) in the U12’s race really shows as the young riders handling skills improve and their technical ability increases, especially with things like gear changing and remounting the bike. Seeing the progression through the age groups is very rewarding.
The cowbells really had their presence felt during these races and cheers of encouragement came from all corners of the course. The slopes of Ally Pally were a hive of activity as parents were nipping over to different sections of the course to cheer their children on, some even followed on bikes around the tape marked edges to provide support, it was awesome to see all getting involved in the racing!
You can almost smell the frites and waffles in Rapha’s own promotional video.
The youth race followed the women/junior/vets race and it is here where the stars of the future reveal their promise. The calibre of riders in this category was exciting with Hargroves Cycles dominating the race. The guys and girls in this category showed real focus, determination and skill as they masterfully carved their way around the course. The rise of popularity in girls and women’s cycling in general has been fantastic to see and, as a rider in the women’s events, I look forward to these girls moving up into the junior category to provide even richer racing.
Arguably the most exciting part of the day was the novice/fun race which included the infamous ‘wall of foam’! The folks at Rapha provided a foam cannon which pumped out fun as riders rode through and came out the other side bikes and faces covered in bubbles. Kids cheered on parents and friends from the sidelines, getting stuck in throwing it up in the air and even the weather was in good form with strong winds blowing up the foam and sending it across the fields to everyone’s enjoyment!
Another excellent series from Rapha and I am already looking forward to next year! Being part of Cyclocross is like having a backstage pass, the atmosphere is friendly, relaxed and pros and novices alike can mingle and chat bikes, life and racing. The sense of community is strong, it is like being part of one big muddy family. For anyone thinking of getting their kids involved in cycle racing, or even parents keen to get back on their bikes again, Cyclocross is surely one of the most social, enjoyable and inexpensive ways to enjoy bike riding as a family! Get in touch with your local club who you may even find host a race themselves and they will be able to advise you on your closest league.