BUSC XC. Time to stand up and deliver. Show your colours and do your university proud.
BLACK AND GOLD! Ride Hard or Ride Home!
For the first time BUSC XC was run as a separate event on a different weekend and at a different location to the BUSC Downhill champs. The new format will have suited most of the XC monkeys taking part with the short 4.8Km circuit at Birchall Golf course offering long sustained climbs and tight and twisty singletrack.
All thoughts were on this year’s race being a complete wash out, a week of high winds and rain leading up to it made it seem certain. Though a change in the forecast proved correct and Sunday was treated with some much needed sunshine. Unfortunately though the damage was done and the track water logged; the climbs, singletrack, descents, everything. But there was still hope, it became quickly apparent when doing the sighting laps Birchall has good fun mud! Non of that peanut butter sticky crap anywhere, good times!
Riding in the championship category for the mighty University of Sheffield was Lucy Harris, Robin Groves, Ross Phelps and myself. The race start was at 13:00 with sign on starting at 9. Arriving in good time we all managed to sign on and fit in a few practice laps before the start of the sport race. As with all BUSC events the atmosphere was relaxed, though as the hour approached the Turbo trainers or in Robin’s case his set of rollers were brought out and everyone’s warm up routine started. Realising that it usually takes the best part of 3 hours to get my legs feeling steady I decided to start my warm up very early.
(Click pictures to make them bigger!)
As we lined up and got ready for the start we were called forward to our grid position. The guy in the straw hat sombrero was sent to the back. We got the call saying we would start anytime in the next 15 seconds, 2 seconds later the gun went off and the fight for the first corner was on.
The first climb blew the field apart with the top guys taking advantage of the clear track. Elbows were out round the first couple of tight corners which lead onto the long waterlogged heartbreak hill climb, here I found maintaining a high cadence was key picking a gear and sticking with it till the end. Once the climb levelled off the wet off-camber rooty singletrack was our next treat this lead onto what I thought was the most annoying section of swamp. Still on a slight climb, it was always possible to ride through it reasonably quickly but only if your line was right and you could maintain your momentum. If however, you slipped, hit a root wrong or were caught behind another rider you would start pin-balling between the trees. The water leap required a well-timed dismount and remount just to look pro for the bunch of loud spectators who offered much needed encouragement to all the passing riders. From here it always felt as if the course was downhill all the way with the best techy singletrack sections made all the more fun in the slippy conditions. The last steep drop attracted the most supporters who were all hoping to catch a good fall, I’m pleased to say I was able to offer them one of my best on my third lap.
After what felt like a reasonably steady first lap making sure I didn’t go into the red to early my second lap felt awful. Slow through the swamp and with silly mistakes which got worse and worse causing me to wrap my bar end around a tree and take a tumble. The riders that I was closing down on disappeared off out of sight and a few had caught me up and passed me, not happy. When I started my second lap I looked behind to see Ross making some gains, he was obviously riding well. In races like these which break apart so quickly, I always find it difficult to ride with that little bit extra pace. I kept picking riders up ahead to close down as quickly as I could, though at this point we had begun to start lapping some riders so judging the pace of the race was tricky. By the end of the race the conditions were starting to improve in parts but in others like the climb and the swamp they were still energy sapping. Each lap I feel I easily lost 2 minutes a lap over the top guys who would have been flying through these sections which over a 5 lap race is a considerable margin.
Lucy gave Sheffield University something to really shout about with a closely fought out 4th place putting in consistent laps on the demanding course. I finished 12th with Ross and Robin finishing 20th and 27th respectively. Which out of a starting field of just under 100 riders can be seen as is a solid performance from all.
*** 6th overall team. 7 busc points in the bag, nice!***
This will be my last ever BUSC event and it was a pleasure to represent the mighty BLACK and GOLD
Many Thanks to Pete Crawford (www.pedalpursuits.com) for the race report!