The Jan 2nd ‘cross race at Todmorden, billed as a tough circuit, certainly didn’t disappoint.
The ground in Centre Vale Park was absolutely saturated and by the time the Vets/women went off , parts of the course resembled Glastonbury on a bad year. Recce’ing the course was a bad idea for anyone without a pressure washer or spare bike so I elected to warm up by harassing pedestrians on the park’s paths.
Following the usual massed-start madness the route climbs quickly and before you know it, you’re on the fabled cobbled climb which is the key feature of this circuit. On a crowded first lap it was impossible to ride it, so I joined several lines of riders carrying bikes as we stumbled up the steep slippy cobbles as quick as possible. Then there was a fast downhill where disc brakes came into their own at the bottom, and a series of muddy features including a steep drop-off where a big crowd had gathered to watch riders face-plant into the foot-deep swamp at the bottom. Much more mud and a couple of planks and that was a lap done.
Key moment for me was having the brass band strike up the Monty Python theme tune as I rode past on the third lap or so. But proudest moment of all was successfully negotiating a narrow gateway and 90-degree bend onto the cobbles and riding the climb all the way to the top. I was helped by the Boardman’s ultra-low 34×32 bottom gear and by the top, was virtually riding on the rear wheel alone thanks to the gradient.
Managed the climb a second time on the bell lap, by which time the riders ahead had pretty much given up trying to ride the final few sections of the course, so we all ran through the gloop and over the planks and managed to mount up to cross the line.
In the end I got 36th out of 103 finishers which wasn’t too bad and can largely be attributed to the Boardman’s disc brakes and low gearing, without which I’d have been doing a great deal more slithering and scrambling.
Great atmosphere and a highly recommended circuit for anyone who likes mud and challenges. Thanks to the organisers of the Yorkshire Points Series, of which this was the final event, who do a lot of standing around in the cold making it all happen – and even gave each rider a bottle of Duvel as a recovery drink.