John Dodgin reports on Morvelo City Cross:
“in this format it didn’t settle, it was full on ‘in the red’ pain for the duration but after my good start I held my place and finished my qualifier in 2nd place behind a very fast Neal Crampton.”
Late January or February I got the call up from my former Biketreks Racing Team boss and good friend Nic Bertrand – there was a new and unique cyclocross event coming up in March, could I represent Biketreks? After a pretty full cyclocross campaign for the team over the winter I had put the cross bike away and was preparing for the upcoming road season, this was a case of ‘one last race’ but it didn’t take long for me to decide. Of course I would race Citycross!
I’ll admit Citycross hadn’t been on my radar but after a bit of catching up through their website I was inspired – urban cross, disused mills, tarmac, grass, mud, sand, jumps, run ups. It sounded like taking everything I enjoy about traditional cross and turning the dial up to 10. And then there was the racing format…..
Instead of the usual 1hr and most categories lumped together – juniors, seniors, vets, women, each category would get their own race and more significantly the racing would take on the moto format from BMX and
Motocross, in other words riders would have to qualify for the finals by finishing in the top half of their respective moto each consisting of 20 minutes. This really captured my imagination – how would I cope with more than one race start? How would I dose my efforts? Would I even qualify for finals given such factors as mechanicals or punctures?
Somewhere in the build up to the event the land owners/mill owner dropped a clanger and pulled the plug on the event taking place there, gutted! With 2 weeks to go I assumed that was it, I awaited an apologetic email explaining the event was cancelled but no! Emma and her amazing team of sponsors and helpers AND not least Calderdale Council somehow managed to re-group, turn things around and establish a new home for Citycross still within Halifax, the new venue was to be Shroggs Tip…..
Fast forward 2 weeks and I’m rolling into the venue and taking stock of the set up – an excellent venue with good size crowds enjoying the all important facilities such as pizza, coffees and a mobile pub. The great and good of
the British MTB/Cross scene had come together with some brilliant forward thinking sponsors to put together an amazingly tough but enjoyable circuit with features such as a sandpit, drop of jumps, berms, flyovers, not to mention the infamous Vulpine corner – a central point for world champion level hecklers, actively encouraged by the urban foxes (see the video it’ll all make sense) to pelt riders with cabbages and giant marsh mallows, there was also a beer shortcut for those that were prepared to down a beer and steal an advantage from the more worthy racers.
The racing was great – it was so refreshing to watch all the categories in separate motos enabling spectators to get a better understanding of who is at the top of their game, usually in traditional cross these ‘races within races’ are hidden within the main race and particularly the women and the juniors do not get a true opportunity to shine – this was a refreshing change and can only be a good thing for the riders and sponsors involved, inspiring stuff!
Eventually my turn came, a 20 minute moto – I’m used to throwing down a fast start and getting up the front quickly but I’m also used to this settling down quite quickly and getting into some sort of rhythm for an hour – in this format it didn’t settle, it was full on ‘in the red’ pain for the duration but after my good start I held my place and finished my qualifier in 2nd place behind a very fast Neal Crampton.
The racing continued throughout the afternoon with the finals of each race category providing fast exciting racing, spectators being treated to thrills and spills intermingled with comedy moments at various points on the course.
Last race of the day was the seniors race with such luminaries as Hope Racing’s Paul Oldham – former National Champion lining up on the front row, my 2nd place in the qualifier meant I too was on the front row stood right next to him. It was time to race again, but did I have another fast start in me?….
…No! Not really, I wasn’t bad but I wasn’t great either, I was surprised how much ‘flatter’ I felt in my legs the second time round. I settled in as quickly as I could but with the racing so short and sharp any moment of crisis exposed you and I was drifting dangerously around the top 10 position. Oldham was on another level (going on to win the final in convincing style) meanwhile I got locked into ANOTHER battle with Alex McNicol who I have been trading places with all cross season (we always laugh about it afterwards), in the end he got the better of me and I finished the race in 11th position.
So is there life for this format of racing beyond this one race? Hell yeah! The format is brilliant, it allows all categories to gain greater coverage, it’s more spectator friendly and it takes riders into the heart of the city and into areas that benefit from a bit of regeneration (even if it’s just for the duration of the event). With some influential and forward thinking sponsors already involved combined with accommodating city councils and land owners this could lead to a series of some sorts in the near future and there’s already some talks going on. I for one am completely sold and will be supporting the development as much as I can.
Massive thanks to the visionaries Emma Osenton and Ali Mills, Morvelo, Kinesis and everyone else involved in the tireless planning and running of the Morvelo Citycross in Halifax, here’s to the next one!