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The Rapha Super Cross Series is a unique cyclocross three round, team event held over two weekends at the end of October. It is known for good crowds, Belgian beer, frites, and an accompanying fun race with Tequila and foam machine. The main competition is for the overall elite/pro team ranking at the end of the series. The ranking system seems fairly complicated (we‘ve only just worked it out and had no clue what was going on while we were actually racing):
There are also several rankings and prizes within the main team event:
We assembled a team of mountain bikers for a run at the prize money, and on paper looked strong, even being tipped as “The Dark Horse” by various pundits.
Lee Williams (Wiggle)
|Dan Fleeman (adopted from the road) (Dig Deep Coaching)
|Ben Sumner (U23) (Beeline Bikes)
|Hamish Batchelor (Fluid Fin)
|Seb Batchelor (Fluid Fin)
Round 1: Broughton Hall, North Yorkshire (20th October)
The series started rather slower than we had hoped with news that our no.1 rider Lee (winner of round 1 in 2011) had been ill, forcing him to miss the National Trophy the week before and lay off the bike for 2 weeks. Admirably he started the race but was forced to withdraw after two laps. He did however bring a big group of supports and supplied the unofficial team mascot.
No one had a pet deer so we had to make do with Lee’s dog as mascot.
We gridded U23 Ben on the front row as a result of his ridiculously fast starting throughout the MTB season (seriously how can you get the hole-shot form 5th row?), and with news that he had been selected to represent Great Britain in the European cyclocross championships two weeks away, the pressure now fell on him for the big result. He delivered a strong ride to 7th.
The course resembled something more often seen at an XC running race, particularly the boggy ground and slippery corners, and Seb hoped to hark back to his NYSD roots and sneak a high position. After a sluggish start he rode through to 11th.
Hamish pretty much did the opposite after a good start and slipped back to eventually crack on the last few laps for 23rd. Highlight of the day: stacking an off-camber and taking down the always lippy Dave Collins from Hope.
Meanwhile Dan was also wrestling with a track and conditions that favored the big power riders, and eventually retired with Lee.
We had some work to do.
Round 2: Misterton Hall, Leicestershire (27th October)
The course was tight. There were only a handful (and in reality 2-3) places to overtake, and with relatively dry conditions and a road start/finish straight it was bound to be a fast one.
Ben was once again our top finisher. Taking a flyer form the gun he made the front group and was on a mission to take on the podium. Mixing it off the front on occasion he was to pop with two to go, but suffered it in for 4th.
In the group behind, Hamish battled with the Hope guys in what turned into a tactical race, eventually dive-bombing the group with one lap to go and maintaining the 3 second gap to the finish. 5th place.
Seb dipped around groups on average legs. At the end he had a classic sprint out with Will Bjergfelt (Cycle Premier), but unfortunately conceded to the bigger rider and claimed 11th.
Having been denied access to the Tequila shortcut by the organiser the night before, Dan had to make do with the regular route to finish 26th. For the data geeks out there you can view his power file here.
Twist of the day: “For the first time in 14 years of racing”, Lee missed the start… While the rest of the team assumed he’d still felt ill during practice, he was in fact warming up as race got underway. Quickly stripping to race gear and sprinting onto the course 2 minutes behind the rest of the pack – probably 2/3 of a lap down on the very short loop – he incredibly he made it to 21st. But as a final slap to the face, he was officially recorded a lap down presumably because the timing chip wasn’t picked up first time around.
We were also awarded the special team prize “for a dramatic improvement in performance from round 1” and were promptly escorted to the drugs tent for full testing.
Round 3: Alexandra Palace, London (28th October)
The Ally Pally round had the greatest buzz to it, with apparently 4000 spectators on site, including our own fan club – thanks to the vocal Rory, Tom and Mike for the mid-race bollocking. As mountain bikers the course itself was also more to our favor with a double halfway ascent every lap of the hill below the palace.
Team warm up attracted some press attention.
This time it was Seb, led out by Ben, who made the split to the front group pushing on the uphill sections. As a team we swapped positions a fair bit during the race, and at one point were all together in one group. After a crash on the concrete Seb dropped out of the chase group, but fought back in the latter stages to have 7th.
Hamish had a consistent day in the end finishing 6th having traded blows with Steve James (Hargroves – U23 National Champion) who had snuck the hole-shot by showboatingly (new word alert) hopping the barrier at the top of the climb, and Rob Jebb (Hope – former world sky running champion).
Ben had a tough start to the race tangling in the marking tape by the barriers on the first lap and dropping back into the pack. Although he was able to storm back through just about everyone to finish 3rd (1st U23). Twist of the day: he did, however, crash on the last corner and ran the bike across the line.
Running the bike in.
Dan continued his gradual return to form after a pre-series holiday to finish 16th, clearly enjoying a bit more course climbing. He also successfully talked the organiser (Ian Cleverly) into giving him some of the left over podium beers at the end of the day which was a victory in itself. Take a look at his power file for round 3 here.
We successfully escorted Lee to the start line on time, and clearly still suffering from the long illness layoff and efforts the day previous, he came home in a solid 15th. See Lee’s first hand report on the series here.
Counting positions: 3rd, 6th, 7th.
In all it was a great event, and something a bit different from the usual mountain bike races we attend over the summer. We will be back next year and will make sure of a faster start to our campaign so that we can really challenge the cross specialists.