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Rider Report: Double Cross Weekend
Junior Cyclo-Cross rider Jack Clarkson reports on a busy weekend, during which he made a flying visit to Belgium to compete at Saturday's Koksijde World Cup event, alongside fellow members of the Junior Development Programme. Then it was back to the UK for the fourth round of the National Trophy series at Southampton on Sunday. Over to you, Jack!
Jack in action at a recent Yorkshire Points event
The weekend really began on Thursday evening, when the British Cycling team vehicle picked us up before heading south for our overnight stay in Folkestone. The plan was for six of our best Junior ‘cross riders to head over to Koksijde in Belgium to race in the UCI World Cup, but sadly Joe Fox, who had been selected, fell ill at the last minute and didn't make the pick-up.
The remaining five riders on the team were Joe Moses, Hugo Robinson, Alister Slater, Alex Welburn and myself and we were all in high spirits that night as we looked forward to the weekend.
Friday saw the riders and support staff making the crossing through the tunnel to Calais, where the road trip and excitement began. As the team was approaching Koksijde on the European weather began to make a mark, with snow falling steadily on the motorway, reducing the heavy traffic to a steady slog.
After we arrived, we quickly unpacked and after a spot of lunch, it was off to sample the notoriously difficult and demanding course, famous throughout the sport of Cyclo-Cross for its sand. This year there was also a good selection of muddy stretches and corners and it soon dawned on us that running was going to be the key to getting a result.
On the day of the race, we were up at seven and on our way down to the course soon after 8am. With the race at just after ten, there was just time for lap or two warm up lap, before a quick dash back to the team van to get changed and onto the rollers, ready for the biggest race of some of our lives.....to date!
When we arrived at the start, gridding had begun, with UCI officials passing between the riders, checking tubular tyres for width. We were eventually called forward - the best of the Brits were gridded on the third row back - and almost before we knew it the traffic lights had changed and we were off.
I must admit I was listening for a gun when the lights changed - so I've made a mental note to myself to check out how the start is controlled at all future races! Perhaps as a result, I had a rubbish start but slowly began to make my way through the field as we came into the first run up. Everyone was fighting to move up, with wheels flying everywhere and riders stumbling as the chaos and the sand took their toll.
The second sand pit was where I made a big effort to move up, running as soon as the momentum disappeared. From then on I made smoothness my priority and, with the odd bike change, I kept a steady and consistent pace. As ever with ‘Cross, I suddenly noticed that the 40 minute race had pretty much disappeared.
Post-race was the usual whirl of confusion and before I knew it I was course-side watching top Belgian Neils Albert riding to a great win in the senior men's World Cup race.
There was no time for hanging around and enjoying the post-race atmosphere, though, as it was straight back to UK that night in order to race the National Trophy in Southampton.
On Sunday morning the legs felt tired as I warmed up, but I managed to get going and took an early lead, before going wide on a corner and tangling with tape. I got going again, though, and made my way up the field till I was on the wheel of the leader, Alistair Slater. I pushed hard and eventually he made a mistake, allowing me through and on to my first National Trophy win - a great end to a weekend which I'm only just beginning to get my head round!
For the record, Jack was the leading British rider at the Koksijde race, finishing in 35th place. Alistair Slater was 41st, Joe Moses 44th, Alex Welburn 50th and Hugo Robinson 52nd.
Yorkshire riders visit Belgium for racing weekend