You may have seen Dylan on the road in the summer, but it's 'cross time now and he can be found at the National Trophy rounds all over the country, fighting shoulder to shoulder with the best young riders in the country. Here's his report of the U16 race of Round 2 at the Westmorland Showground.

For someone who does cyclocross for enjoyment, fun and some mud, the National Trophy Round 2 was not my piece of cake. After taking a few sighting laps over the roller coaster course, I had decided firmly that my race objective was to survive and not break any bones. It was described, quite rightly, by a fellow rider as "'Cross on drugs!" and I couldn't have agreed more. I thought the best way to get round the race was to take it easy and enjoy myself, so that was exactly what I did - not points or results chasing, just riding to enjoy it (you will probably be able to tell from the pictures).

After that I chilled out a bit more, it is surprising how much better you can feel after just taking a little pressure off yourself. So I hopped on my rollers for a quick warm-up before heading to the start line. Nerves were still flying but I just tried to keep my head on.

We were all lined up and the '30 seconds to go' warning was said. Then '10 seconds to go'. '5...4...3...2...1...' and the whistle was blown. We were off - gravel flying everywhere, people all over the place all trying to get to the corner in first. As with most cross races, the start was more manic than the Street Preachers. An inevitable crash happened a couple of riders up the course from where I was, just allowing enough time for me to slow down enough to get round.

The leaders were off in a flash, flying over the mud as if it were tarmac, making it look easy while everyone else in the race was struggling to stay upright let alone win the race. I pushed on as fast as I dared, having a few heart-in-mouth moments on the steep downhill with a sharp left at the bottom and the off-camber section along the way.

Although I wasn't pushing as hard as I could, my heart rate was suggesting strongly otherwise (it was probably because of how tight I was holding onto the handlebars if anything) showing I was sitting firmly at threshold all the way. I managed to keep everything under control for the first 3 of the total 4 laps, occasionally throwing little smiles at people taking pictures as going into cyclocross with the new attitude made it a really fun race, if still utterly terrifying. On the final lap, however, things started to go downhill, I just couldn't get myself up some of the steep slopes I was on the previous laps. On the steep downhill off-camber, while being overtaken by another rider I was forced to take a different line, ending up with my front wheel getting lodged in the mud and me flying over the bars. I found it quite funny as I wasn't travelling at any reasonable speed for it to have actually hurt, but it took a little while afterwards to get into the flow of the course again. I managed to stay upright for the rest of the lap but had a very close call at the hurdles - I dismounted the bike to jump over the huge barriers and as I jumped my legs very nearly gave way beneath me as clearly the 'take it easy' race was harder than I thought. After this I just took my time to the finish line, there was no-one near me to risk losing any more places so I just enjoyed it and gave Jake and Will (my teammates watching the race) high fives over the line, a great end to a really enjoyable race.

It was a really great event that was put on and I'm just pleased to have been walking again afterwards!

October 30, 2019 — James Finch
Tags: Road/CX