Go Ride & Clubmark


Mountain Biking & Cyclo-cross

Alan Collins

Wessex CX League 2015/2016

A ‘Blog’ about the Wessex Cyclo Cross league by Alan Collins
I know there are a few PNE members who have expressed an interest in this year’s CX, so if you want to participate in any of the ‘cross races, just let me know and I will do my best to help you out. I’ve already entered every Round of the 15/16 season online, so I can’t back out now!



National Trophy Cyclo Cross Round 1 Southampton 11/10/15

It was the turn of the Wessex League to host Round 1 of this seasons British Cycling National Trophy Cyclo Cross Series. The nations big hitters in each category assembled on their respective start lines, with a little known rider from PNE nestled 2 rows from the back of the Vet40-49 grid. I was joined alongside by a few other Wessex leaguers, and we joked about the commissaries needing to pull out the lapped riders to give us a clear path the finish line. As if!
The start whistle sounded. I jumped up a few places because the guy three rows in front fluffed his start but I was able to dodge around him, and those he delayed. As we entered the single track in the woods, another rider had to stop creating a gap in the pack, of which I was on the right side. I hung onto the group, on the wheel of a good Wessex leaguer and, although I was near my limit, I was finding it relatively easy, holding my own on the technical twists and turns, and drafting on the flat. I could see my usual benchmark riders quite a way behind.  All was going well, until some lunatic attempted an overtake as we approached a U turn around a tree. “Right! Right! Right!” he shouted, as he drew level, then rammed his handlebars into mine. Next thing I knew I was catapulted over my bars and rolling on the floor; bike wrapped around a pole and tangled in tape. To add insult to injury, it was a pole that I’d personally stuck in the ground as I’d helped lay out the course the previous day.  I’ve no idea who it was, otherwise I’d have had a strong word or two with him about etiquette, and non-existent gaps! Anyway, the group had gone, and once I was up and on the bike again, I was stuck in no man’s land with the wind knocked out of me, and only just in front of my usual companions. Yet again I was afflicted by a side stitch mid race, and suffered for a lap until it subsided, with the time lost proving irrecoverable.
The most difficult part of the course for me was not the 15 ft high steep bank which caught out so many, or the hurdles, or the woodland tracks, but the ride around the circumference of a flat cricket pitch. I inexplicably lost quite a few places on this section,  On the last lap I started to catch the guy in front, but he’d seen me coming and measured his effort to ensure he finished 1 second ahead of me, despite my all out sprint up the finishing hill straight.
In the end I finished 48th, which by bizarre coincidence was also my race number, so next time I need race number 1. There were 60 finishers, and I accomplished my mission of not getting lapped. My pre-crash companions finished in the high thirties…. What might have been??

Once I’d got myself sorted out I then marshalled for the rest of the days races, and watched the national champion Ian Field win the seniors race, having distanced JLT Condor Pro Graham Briggs.
When the party was over, the clearing up began as I joined the other volunteers to wind in the 3 and a half miles of tape and collect all the poles used to mark out the course.
Photos of me by
Photo of Ian Field by me

Ian Field National Champion


Round 4 Eden Veranda Race Team CX, Winchester. 5/10/15

photo courtesy Graham Robins  

This round was held at another brand new venue for the League, being at the Army Initial Training Centre just North of Winchester. To get to sign-on from the car park you had to walk past the Gas Chamber and the Assault Course. A foreboding sign of things to come???
The tough and demanding CX course was based around two fields, with three sections of single track woodland and three strength sapping long uphill drags. The main feature was a 10 metre long sandpit. The hard rutted ground gave everybody’s body a relentless pounding, some said akin to Paris Roubaix, but I know from experience that the cobbles are smoother!
Gridded on the third row, I couldn’t get my foot clipped in on the mad uphill dash to the first corner so no gains were made, and then gaps galore formed on the subsequent uphill stint. I tried in vain to stick with my nearest adversary, but he opened a gap that I only started to close slightly in the last couple of laps. Only a couple of places were traded during the race. once things had settled down, but it was a hard fight to maintain the gaps to those behind. I lost one place as I’d been targeted by the rider as ‘a good one to beat’ , but regained after he shipped his chain on the bumpy descent.
It might sound daft but I had to try and make the uphill drags into my recovery phase, twiddling a low gear, to enable me to give more effort in the other sections. I managed to ride through the sandpit 4 times out of 7, with the other times being spoilt by traffic putting me off line, and resulting in at least one spectacular dismount over the bars.
By the time I’d finished, recovered and sorted myself out, the cake stall had run out, packed up and gone home! Most disappointing.
Finished 17/77 ;   V40 13/68


Round 3 Cotswold Veldrijden, Swindon, 27/9/15

The course was set in on a disused Pitch and Putt in Mordon Park, a new venue for the Wessex League. It was a 10 minute journey from my Brothers house, and so I had a ‘Rent-a-crowd’ to cheer me on. The majority was across flat grassland, but a banking along one side of the course was used to good effect, giving short sharp up or downhill sections. There were three fence posts laid across one climb to create some steps. It was ridable, but with great care as the spacing placed the rear wheel on the slippy wood at the very moment power needed to be transmitted. I overheard a coach telling his protégé “ You run it, otherwise you’ll lose 5 seconds a lap” and so I decided to take his advice to good effect. Gridded on the 3rd row, I got a great start and was 13th , but then slipped back a few places as riders settled into their pace. I then yo-yo’d off the back of a group of 5, catching up on the technical parts, and losing ground on the flat straights, until the elastic eventually snapped, and I was left on my own. I lost two places on the last lap, one guy caught and passed me and another sat on behind, and then sprinted past at the finish.
More homemade cakes were consumed.
Finished 21/66 overall ; 15/60 V40
Photos: Peter Collins


Round 2 Newbury RC, Mary O’Hare School 20/9/15

This year’s course differed from the last time I did it, with the previous downhill being this year’s uphill, and the addition of wooded single track, at the back of the school, made very difficult by the exposed tree roots.
With the exception of Rounds 1 and 8, all the races utilise Chip Timing this year, so all results, with individual Lap times, can be seen on the web.
Grace and Amber Richardson were first to compete on the U12 course in front of the school.
Freya then rode her dads mountain bike in the Youth race and got a podium place for her efforts.
Gridded on the second row based on last week’s performance, I found myself in some esteemed company, and on the wheel of the eventual winner. First lap adrenaline kept me up with the leaders, but eventually I had to drop back. Nobody could understand why, but the hill was just so hard to climb, and sorted the metaphorical Men from the Boys, (if that’s possible in a Vets race) Laps 3 and 4 were spent nursing a side stitch, until it eventually subsided. Maybe the Gel consumed on the start line wasn’t such a good idea.
Had some lovely homemade chocolate cake and Tea from the School Diner.
Amber Overall 53/73 U10 10/16
Grace    Overall 62/73 U10 13/16
Freya    Overall 53/60 U14 3/6
Alan      Overall 23/86 V40 19/81
Photo : Alan Collins 

Round 1 Oxonian CC CX, Cowley. 13/9/15

Held in the Grounds of the Oxford Spires Academy, it was my debut on this course, based on the three levels of terraced playing fields with steep banks in between.
Early season warm weather meant dry hard ground. The Pinnacle had been given a pre-season once over and adorned with some shiny new 36/48 chainwheels.
Having arrived early, I got lots of practice on the saw tooth Ascent/Descent of one of the bankings. It was 99% ridable with only one of the ascents of the banking forcing a dismount. I watched the preceding separate V50/W race to see how they did it, and even the two Masters World Champions had to get off.
I was gridded from last year’s performance on the 5th row, and got a good start, finding myself in amongst talented company from the 2nd row by the first U turn, but normal service was soon resumed as the Juniors sprinted off into the distance as the lap progressed. I continued by holding wheels and drafting around the fields where headwind was blowing. This meant I was held up through the single track, weaving around the trees with roots and branches exposed. Eventually riders spread out, so there was no energy saving tows, nor any fighting for space at the pinch points, leaving you able to choose your own line, until last few laps when overtaking riders a lap down. A measured effort over the last three laps enabled me to hold the gap to the guys behind. A couple of places were gained from mechanicals, including one guy having a right old tantrum because his Di2 wire had become detached.
I picked up a nice pedal spanner from the prize table, allegedly worth twice my entry fee.
Spag bol and tea served from the school café was consumed as I watched the seniors race.
Photos: Graham Robins (permission granted)

Finished 17th overall out of 81 finishers ;  12th V40-49 ; 5th V45

Round 14 Army Cycling Union CX – Tidworth – 1/2/15

At the same time as the Elite Men battled for the rainbow stripes in Tabor, Czech Republic, the Wessex league veterans battled for position in their last opportunity to score points in this season’s finale.
There had been a lot of hype surrounding the loveability of this debut course in the spectacular grounds of Tidworth House, a Help for Heroes Recovery Centre, and it lived up to expectations. Designed by the Army Cycling Unions Wessex league competitors, it had a mixture of technical woodland, and flat out playing fields, with two crossings of a dry river bed ditch, some steep banks, hurdles and steps to contend with. “Something for everyone” apparently! Amazingly, the ground was dry, to the point of being dusty in places, which resulted in a fast paced race.
For the first time this season I was actually called forward to the start grid, not that it did me any good, as I had a terrible start after the gun. Last time out the chain was so worn it skipped off the chainwheel. This time out the chain was too new, so it skipped off the chain wheel. (I can’t win!) I couldn’t lay any power down and dropped rapidly backwards through the peloton as it sprinted for the first corner. A crafty manoeuvre around the outside line of the second corner, a U turn, as the bunch queued up for the inside line, saw me pass my original place and more, so was back in the running. The race then became an exercise in trying to keep momentum and apply power slowly and gently so as to keep the chain on the chainwheel, not that it was always possible. In this state I yo-yoed 5 or so places which included a guy who eventually finished 13th, and he commiserated me after the finish for my mechanical problems.
World Champions were like the proverbial buses, as two overtook me at once. Recently crowned Vet 50-54 and Vet 60-64 Masters World Champions sailed past, one behind the other, having caught me for at least 2 minutes! We only race with the best in Wessex League!
Two and a half laps in, a snake bit my tyre after hitting a rock on the drop through the river bed ditch. Fortunately the pits weren’t too far away, but I still lost time whilst riding the flat until I could exchange the bike for the trusty old Dawes. She’s like the 2CV on a Top Gear Special outing!
The next 4 laps were spent trying to close back up to where I was on the first lap, and successfully caught and dropped most of those that had overtaken due to my mishaps,
On the approach to the steps, about 300 metres from the finish on the last lap, I caught up with a small group of what I thought were all lapped back markers. As I tried to squeeze through, I ended up on the deck and snapped a brake lever. I quickly got back up, passed them, and headed for the line. However, one of them wasn’t lapped, and came sprinting past me at the finish line, and stole a place back.
Chip timing was used for the second time this season, and gave us all lap times to digest and ponder over. The winner, Crispin Doyle, was lapping at around the 7:20 mark, and then went on to come 2nd in the 8 lap Seniors race held after ours, with the same, if not a faster average lap time!

Lap 1


Lap 2


Lap 3


Lap 4


Lap 5


Lap 6


A well-deserved Tea and a delicious bacon butty from the burger van was consumed.

Result:  24th out of 105, and 18th in Vet 40-49 category.


"Gently does it!" ; "The ‘2CV’ awaits use, in some affluent company." ;  Photos courtesy Jez Hart

Round 15 Prize Presentation Evening – Totton – 21/2/15

With the racing over for this season, the remaining event in the Wessex calendar is the prize presentation evening, to congratulate the winners, reminisce over the past season, and speculate on next year’s league events.
The final League table has been issued, and I find that I’ve finished in 31st position in the Vet 40 & Junior Category. Considering I only rode 7 out of the 14 events, with the 9 best results counting towards the league, I am quite chuffed to have achieved that high a place. Next year, I intend to ride most, if not all, the events, and am targeting a Top 20 finish.
Well done to the other PNE’ers who raced this season.
Freya Richardson came 81/110 in the Youth League, having ridden in 3 events. Very creditable, considering her busy winter track league schedule.
Amber and Grace Richardson came 77 and 82 respectively out of 188 in the U12 League, having ridden 2 events.
Conel Low-Grier, Steve Pratley and Rob Riley also rode this season, but unfortunately didn’t receive any points as it was before PNE affiliated. Gordon Richardson also raced in two Novice races.
All results and the league tables are available on


World Cup CX Round 3- Milton Keynes - 29/11/14

On Saturday November 29th 2014 for the first time in history a round of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup took place outside of mainland Europe. The tough course was based around the features of Campbell Park in central Milton Keynes, and featured a steep run up preceded by hurdles that forced a dismount, slippy off camber descents that caused crashes, steps (that some were able to ride up!) and the usual twists and turns, oh, and the obligatory boggy mud. It was spectator friendly with a high vantage point at the Pinnacle monument enabling a view of all of the course. Many Wessex Leaguers, myself included, travelled up to see how the world class professionals do our sport, seeing as there was a gap in our calendar. The warm up race was the National Trophy U23’s who cut up the course to make it more difficult for the Pros. This was followed by the Elite Womens race. I found a position at the top of the descent to Trawler Corner, so called because everyone ended up sliding into the netting, and it was right in front of me that Helen Wyman, British national champ, fell and brought down a lot of the field on the first lap of the race. This mishap ended her chances of a podium finish. A hard fought race saw the chip timing reversed in an unbelievably close photo finish. Belgian Sanne Cant beat American Katherine Compton by less than a tyre width!


1st lap carnage in the Womens race

Womens race sprint finish

Next was the Elite Men with British National Champion Ian Field, and regular Wessex League Senior winner Steve James competing against hot favourites and cyclocross gods, Belgium Champ Sven Nys, and Dutch Champ Lars Van Der Haar. Svens chances of a win disappeared shortly after the start with an unshipped chain that proved difficult to remount, and allowed a group containing the eventual winner to break away and gain an unassailable lead. He did however fight his way back up from 25th to 8th Position. Belgian Kevin Pauwels beat his compatriot team mate in the second sprint finish of the day, with Frenchman Francis Mourey close behind in third. Ian Field got his best ever world cup result of 12th, spurred on by the home crowd. Steve James finished 38th, showing the gulf between Wessex League and Elite. The course was used the following day for a national trophy event, in which many Wessex Leaguers competed trying to emulate the performance of the continental Pros. It was a great day out, and seemed a success, so we might see the World Cup CX return to these shores soon. Both races are available for replay on the UCI You Tube Channel: (You can spot me in my white PNE beanie hat if you look hard enough :-P)
Elite Mens Race UCI You tube channel
Eliite Womens Race


The big boys come out to play

Sven Nys playing catch up


Ian Field tackles the hurdles and steep run up

The leading group making it look easy


Ian Field remounts at the summit

The Podium

All Photos (c) Alan Collins


South of England Regional CX Championships.– Stover School, near Newton Abbott, Devon.  7/12/14
Set around the grounds of Stover School near Newton Abbott, the 2.1 mile long course had a mixture of technical obstacles, steep climbs and descents, twisty wooded sections and long flat fast straights on both grass and tarmac. Even so it was one of the cleanest races I’ve been in as the ground was remarkably dry and firm, with very little mud to contend with. However, the strong wind blowing from the northwest was nature’s way of compensating. The start was gridded in accordance with the number of points earned in your local league hence I was closer to the back than I’d have liked. The start launched us around the football pitches which were exposed to the wind. Even tucking in behind the guy in front didn’t offer much shelter. I made up quite a few places on the first lap, especially as everyone queued for the non-squidgy passage through a boggy bit, whereas I opted to plough through the deep part, jumping 5 places. As the race settled down, I ended up battling with a fellow Wessex Leaguer, with the pair of us in no man’s land, having sizeable gaps in front and behind. The two of us yo-yo’d past each other many times for the remaining laps, at one stage doing bit and bit, with the deciding moment being on the penultimate lap when we caught a back marker, and at the same time were overtaken by the leading Junior rider, whilst negotiating our way through the narrow gate at the top of the steep climb. He got through first, and I was delayed into 4th, and I was unable to make up lost ground to him. My over exuberance in trying to close the gap caused a last lap excursion over the handlebars, which opened the gap further.
The rocky, flint stewn garden paths apparently caused many tyre cuts, and required higher tyre pressures to prevent bottoming out. Boards and the ascent of a flight of stone steps forced riders to dismount, otherwise the course was all rideable.  The tarmac section took riders around the roundabout in front of the grand pillared school building entrance, which isn’t the best thing to be admiring whist cornering at speed on shiny tarmac, riding muddy cross tyres. The post-race debrief with my adversary, saw me earn kudos for using downtube shifters, a his position had been gained by spending a fortune on equipment. Refreshments were provided by a fairground style burger, and also a Beer Tent. Shame I had to drive home. Result 20th out of 61 Vet 40-49 entrants   (6th out of the regular Wessex leaguers)

Round 12 Fareham Wheelers CX, Fairthorne Manor  14/12/14

As the cold and frosty morning thawed, the sun gently warmed the course up and the ice in the puddles melted, and the ground softened. The prequel races cut the ground into tracklines to give a slippy but precise route around the 1.5 mile course devised by the Fareham Wheelers cross enthusiast Phil Chinn. This race was unique in Wessex League history. It was used as an experiment with Chip timing, where each rider straps a transponder to their ankle and the computer takes the strain of recording each riders lap times and ultimately gives an instant accurate race results for all categories. Something long overdue in this technological day and age. From the positive feedback received, the league are proposing having this system at all of next season’s races. The Richardson’s made it a family day out, with the twins, Grace and Amber, competing in the Under 12s race, and Freya and Gordon riding in the Youth/Novice race. A fine effort by all, especially for the twins as their race got rained on. They all looked like they were having fun …. Honest. Last week’s dryness and cleanness became this week’s muddiness. Mud, grass and leaves dragged on the tyres and weighed the bike down as it formed an aerodynamic cowling around the front mech and bottom bracket. Several handfuls of gloop were removed each lap whilst running through a boggy uphill section.
Tyre pressures were critical, and having started with the same amount of air as the previous week I struggled to stay upright whist rounding the sharp slippy corners, having to slow to a stand still for some. There were several mechanical failures suffered by other riders. I saw 4 smashed rear mechs, a snapped seat post, and a rolled tub, which will no doubt prove expensive for the owners, but was to my advantage as those places were gained in the war of attrition. My bottom bracket complained bitterly as it graunched its way round the course, but held up to the finish. Time to look at replacing its disintegrated bearings I think! Refreshments were served up from the YMCA campsite bar, which I sat in enjoying the warm surroundings, whilst the podium presentations were made out on the course, unbeknownst to me, not that I’d won anything mind you!
U12’s – 39 finishers
Grace Richardson 31st Overall, 4th U10, 8th Female
Amber Richardson 28th Overall, 3rd U10, 7th Female
Youth/Novice – 43 finishers
Freya Richardson 37th Overall, 9th U14, 14th Female
Gordon Richardson 39th Overall, 4th Novice, 25th Male (Gordon asks that you don’t ask out of how many Novices J)
Vets/Junior – 91 finishers
Alan Collins 22nd Overall, 18th Vet 40-49


cx(c) Alan Collins

Round 13 Crabwood CC CX – Geoff Shergold Memorial, Southampton Sports Ground. 28/12/14

Santa Claus understood the equation N=N+1, and brought me a proper Cyclocross bike for Xmas. J Aluminium frame, carbon fork, 105 running gear. Not sure about the bright orange and black colour scheme, but I suppose it pays homage to the traditional Satsuma and a lump of carbon fuel, that Santa used to bring us in the olden days. Time to relegate the Dawes to sit in the pits as my spare. For non-believers, here’s a mnemonic for the bike name:


I’d been watching quite a few CX bikes on ebay in recent months, and had been out bid many times until I won this one at a bargain price, as I refused to pay over the odds for a bike that I will only throw round a field 12 or so times a year! It appeared well looked after as it had been used for commuting instead of CX. Stripped of its reflectors, bell, bottle cage and road tyres, and shod with some CX shoes, she was ready to roll! A frosty morning was eventually warmed by the bright winter sunshine. The 1.7 mile course set around the terraces and woodland of Southampton Sports ground was muddy in places, although it was quite dry mud, so it didn’t stick to the bike too much.
I lined up at the start, having done warm up laps getting used to the feel and operation of my Xmas present, with confidence in grip of the extra knobbly tyres. However, Round Thirteen lived up to being ‘Unlucky for some’ L By commenting on the number of mechanicals in the Fairthorne write-up, I’d jinxed myself! On the first climb after the mad dash from the start line, the chain slipped off the chainring. (The chain was more worn than I thought). I opted to run through the subsequent wooded section to find a place where I could use momentum and the front mech to quickly remount the chain, instead of losing places by stopping to put it on by hand. Bizarrely, this resulted in me gaining places as I could run faster than others could ride though the soft ground. Chain remounted, I then found the front mech was stuck on the 50 tooth big ring, but I managed to push the higher gears, and even gained places through doing so, as I caught and dropped a group of 4 riders over the next lap or so. Disaster struck again as I wiped out on a bumpy fast-ish corner due to a front wheel blowout. The group of 4 (who eventually finished 20th-23rd overall, and in amongst the V40 Prizes.) passed me as I picked myself up, and I had a difficult half lap riding and running to the pits, losing even more places. I swapped the front wheel out of the semi-retired Dawes, taking what seemed like an eternity with heart beating rapidly, lungs burning, adrenaline pumping, and more riders overtaking. Re-joining the course I soon found out that the new front tyre had much less grip than the original, hence speed had to be curtailed. Disappointingly, and for the first time this season, I was lapped shortly after passing the line with two to go, and my attempt to stay with the leader as he flew by, failed miserably. On my last lap it was difficult to know who I was racing against, as more leaders passed me, and I passed people I was lapping too, so in the confusion I don’t know if I regained any of the places lost to the pit stop. Even so, I was pleased with my performance because I’d overcome the effects of the stomach bug that my little Nephew had given the family as an Xmas present. Despite the mechanicals (which will teach me for starting on an untested 2nd hand bike), and considering I’d had two days in bed, a digestive system reset, and a week off the bike, I think physically I did quite well, having turned up so as not to waste the entry fee I’d already paid. Refreshments were provided by the sports ground café/bar, but I had to scoot off early to my sons 16th Birthday Party, where there was an abundance of Cake!

Result 34th Overall, 24th Vet 40-49 out of 83 finishers

(c) Jez Hart

Round 14 Army Cycling Union CX – Tidworth – 1/2/15

It’s a 4 week wait for the last cross in the Wessex calendar, by which time I should have sorted out the Pinnacle into race ready shape. The event information reads : The course is over open park land with one or 2 banking’s that can either be rode or ran over depending on conditions.  There will be a section of steps to carry the bike that will give spectators a good opportunity to cheer on riders.  The start area is on an elevated area that gives a view of the whole course.  This should give spectators another great view point.  The start is on a 300m stretch of good tarmac road.  The whole loop will be approx 2.3 miles and about 7-9 mins per lap.  The course will conform to UCI / BC rules regarding width and there will be no singletrack.  Army Cycling are sure riders will love the course!!



Wessex Cyclocross league 2014/2015

Unfortunately I had to miss the first 7 rounds of the league due to family commitments, however, other club members had started the season before I was able to! Having been left outside in the garden since last season, exposed to the elements, the old Dawes was very poorly sick, and in need of a good overhaul of the moving components. Plan B was to ride the mountain bike until such time I got round to investing the time to repair, or indeed replace, the Dawes. All official Race reports with results and photos can be seen on

Round 4, Cotswold Veldrijden CX Newbury Showground 28/9/14

Despite her mishap at the Fareham CX last season Freya Richardson returned to the CX scene and rode the Youth/Novice race coming 58th overall, but 16th U14 Female. Well Done Freya!

Round 5 Fareham Wheelers CX, Fairthorne Manor  5/10/14

Freya and Gordon Richardson rode in the Youth/Novice race and came 44th and 46th respectively overall, with Freya improving on last week’s result, being 13th U14 Female, and Gordon 6th Novice.
Conel Low-Grier and Stephen Pratley rode the Vets race and came 54th and 94th respectively. Rob Riley also rode but DNF’d with 3 laps to go.

Round 6 NHRC CX War Memorial Park Basingstoke  12/10/14

The course was changed from the previous year, but still incorporated the BMX track and the zig zags on a grass banking. Conel Low-Grier and Stephen Pratley rode this race and came 47th and 56th respectively.

Round 8  VC Venta, Sparsholt College nr Winchester  2/11/14

Last year’s event was held in a hooley, and when I woke up to the sound of rain hammering down on the conservatory roof, I thought history was repeating itself and I was in for a dousing, which those who ventured out on the PNE club run received. However, on arrival in Sparsholt the clouds had parted to allow a little blue sky to peep though, and the course had not been badly affected by the rain. 
Due to the number of entrants the league had taken a different format with the V40-49 and Juniors setting off a couple of minutes ahead of the V50+ and women. With not having done any of the previous league races, I started well behind the grid, and was held up further by a faller at the first obstacle as the peloton charged from the start line towards a U turn through a narrow gate.
The course was purported to be favourable to mountain bikes with its technical twists, turns, short steep uphill ramps across the college campus grounds. The gearing certainly helped, but the U turn in the gravel pit meant you had to dismount whatever bike you were riding, although some did try to ride it, with comical effect.
One obstacle was a left hand turn up a steep banking, where skills learnt the previous day at the Calshot track session came into good use, as it had to be taken at speed whilst leaning over and following a tight line, or else get off and run up it, otherwise it would end in disaster
Refreshments were provided at the campus café.
29th out of 108 finishers

Photos courtesy of Jez Hart (Sotonia CC)

Round 9 Oxonian CC Oxford Brookes Uni Sports centre  9/11/14

I started with an even larger disadvantage than the previous round, as the commissaries saw fit to grid the start well down into the minor placings of the league, and with the first lap being a charge along the narrow channel between football fields and hedgerows, it was difficult to make up places. The course was basically the same as last year with half being through the “Tiger infested woods of doom”, through which the mountain bike proved its worth enabling me to make up ground lost elsewhere. Many riders emerged wearing the evidence of vicious tiger attacks on their arms, having been clawed by the brambles. The second half of the course zig zagged around the multiple playing fields, exposed to what seemed to be a relentless headwind all the way round. The mountain bike didn’t seem such a good idea in this section, and much time was spent drafting behind other riders, in an effort to try to maintain my placing.
Yet again, the Oxonians provided a prize for every rider who stayed to be at the prize presentation, as well as a free cup of tea from the campus café. Due to the presentation being delayed, I managed to nab a decent multitool from the pick-a-prize-when-your-names-called table, seeing as most of the higher placed riders had already left.
46th out of 121 Finishers

Photos courtesy of Jez Hart

Round 10 Sotonia CC Eastleigh 16/11/14

All my mental preparation went to pot as the course was run clockwise this year, opposite from last year! Even so, the course had the same mixture of hard uphill drags, twisty wooded sections, ‘fast’ decents, and a sand bunker.
I slipped back 10 places in the last 2 laps, literally, due to having to fight to stay upright and maintain forwar
d motion as the course cut up badly and the tyres of the mountain bike seemed to float on the surface instead of digging through the mud into firmer ground as the narrower tyres of the CX bikes were doing. Simon & Garfunkel’s song “slip sliding away” sounded in my mind as I sought traction. I got lapped as I approached the finish line so the last lap effort didn’t materialise, At the finish I felt that I could have done better, although it wasn’t through lack of trying, just defeated by the conditions and the bike choice. Time to sort out the Dawes!
Refreshments were provided by the Sotonia mobile catering unit from a tent beside the course J
43rd out of 111 Finishers

Photos courtesy of Jez Hart


Round 11 ‘Behind The Bikeshed’ Thruxton CX 23/11/14

The course was similar to last year’s, with a dizzying amount of U turns as it snaked up, down and along the steep grass banking beside the motor racing track, marked by miles of yellow and black striped tape, which made your eyes go funny. I’d woke up to another awful day with the rain rattling the conservatory roof, so was anticipating a wet, slippy, and muddy course like last week. Fortunately I’d resurrected my old Dawes earlier in the week, so wouldn’t have to suffer the disadvantages of an MTB in those conditions. Hand-me-down Wheels, block and chain from my hack bike, brake blocks robbed off an old MTB in the shed, and re-greasing of the cables, breathed new life into her with no expenditure. 
I misjudged the timing before the start and only managed to complete half a lap as warm up, so I rode most of the first lap blind, but found some good firm lines around the corners. Short sharp efforts were the order of the day, as you accelerated from a dead stop, usually up hill, then have to gingerly slow down to another dead stop to do a U turn, and repeat ad infinitum. Although treacherous in places as the course deteriorated as the race progressed, the whole course was ridable, with the exception of a double hurdle which no one dared bunnyhop.
One particular corner was a downhill U turn and proved the downfall of many a rider, including me! I found myself catapulted off the bike and running down the hill, jumping the tapes, then having to clamber back up the slippy slope to retrieve my bike. This was all much to the amusement of the spectators who remarked they wished they had a camera!
It was very confusing with so many riders spread around the course all going in different directions, but the perceived threat of being caught spurred me on so I didn’t get lapped, and a last lap chase down of the guy in front didn’t quite come off, although I came very close, finishing just 5 seconds adrift.
Tea, coffee, bacon butties and cakes provided by caterers from a tent beside the finish line, with the smells wafting over the course.
31st out of 101 finishers  - 6’47” behind the winner.  24th in Vet 40-49 category.

Some images from Graham Robins More from Graham Robbins & some more......


South of England Regional CX Championships. 7/12/14 – Newton Abbott

I’ve entered this race, being held at Stover School. These championships are open to those residing in the Central, South and South West BC regions, and with only 51 entrants so far, I stand a chance of a top 50 finish! J


Round 12 Fareham Wheelers CX, Fairthorne Manor  14/12/14

This is the most local event to Portsmouth so if you’re cross curious, or fancy a bit of fun in the mud, then come along to see what it’s all about, cheer us on, or even give it a go!


WESSEX CX League - Season 2013/14

Wessex Cyclo Cross League.

An account of the 2013/2014 season by Alan Collins.

The league consists of 13 races at different venues around the region and hosted by affiliated clubs. Points are awarded with 60 for a win down to 1 for 60th or lower. These points are totted up during the season to form the League table with the cumulative total of your best 8 results giving your final standing. Vets, Women, and Juniors ride in a combined race for 40 minutes, and the Seniors for 1 hour. There are Novice, Youth (U16 & U14) and U12's races too.
Graham Robins is the Official Photographer and reporter, attending every event no matter what the weather is doing (which plays havoc with his camera gear), or which winter flu bug he has contracted. He has taken some excellent shots, capturing the essence of the events, all of which can be viewed in the galleries on his website.  . Graham also administers the Wessex League Facebook group. 


Round 1  Newbury RC, Mary Hare School, Newbury. 08-09-13  

In my youth I spent many a bitterly cold, wet Sunday trudging through mud, (most times whilst nursing a hangover), all for the love of the sport and trying to maintain winter fitness. It may seem bizarre to some that I was attracted back to the discipline over 20 years later. I dug my old, rusted, Dawes Galaxy touring bike out from the back of the shed and gave it the cheapest make over possible. £25 for a pair of knobbly tyres seeing as the old ones had perished; £3 for a pair of the new fangled SPD pedals as a bargain off ebay; £4 for a cheap new chain; a free dollop of elbow grease, et voila! We were ready to race in the new season of the Wessex Cyclo-Cross League.
I turned up at the start line of the first event, and was astonished by the amount of very expensive carbon fibre machinery on show!  In the ‘olden days’, Cyclo-Cross was done to use up old equipment, because you knew it would get broken. Reminding myself of the old adage “It’s not the bike, It’s the rider that matters!”, I had a point to prove.
96 riders started the Vets/Junior/Women race. I hadn’t realized it had become so popular with my age group. It used to be a handful of Vets competing with the Seniors, but now Vets outnumber Seniors at least 2:1!.
The venue had not been used before, but a technical 1.6 mile long course had been devised around the school grounds. It started on the football/cricket fields and up quite a steep, switch-backed, grassed hill, before a fast descent ending with a gravel pit, followed by a sharp turn. A quick stint along tarmac road then onto gravel and grass paths via a few steps, which were rideable, but the vast majority of riders chose to dismount for. Up some short steep banking and along an adverse camber gravel path downhill section. Twists and turns around some large trees, avoiding being smacked by low hanging branches. Twice through the schools long jump sandpit, then into the “merry go round”, spiralling inward to a U turn, then spiralling out again, before the finishing straight.
The ground was baked hard and rutted due to the hot, dry summer we were enjoying, so my wrists took a pounding and the brake hoods wore a hole in my skin. (Note to self: remember track mitts for next time.) I also suffered in the heat from having a tee shirt under my jersey, and the hot dry air burning my throat! What happened to Cyclo-Cross being a winter activity?? Having said that, the subsequent Seniors race actually got rained on!
Refreshments were provided by the 50’s diner style school café, serving delicious hot meatball filled wraps, amongst a wealth of other snacks and drinks.

 Result – 60th out of 90 finishers


Round 2  Oxonian CC, Cowley. 15-09-13

Unable to ride due to family commitments


Round 3 Cotswold Veldrijen, Cotswold Airport, Cirencester.  22-09-13

Unable to ride due to family commitments


Report Round 4, Poole Wheelers, held at Holton Heath, Wareham on 29th Sept 2013

The course used a section of tarmac, some wood land & a lot of grass land which was traversed using several hairpin bends which stretched the circuit to 1.2 miles in length. Although not a technical course it still provided a good workout for the legs & the PNECC team finished in relatively closely placed albeit split over several minutes; Alan 29th, Conal 32nd & I was 34th. There were 40 finishers in the combined V/J/W race.

Full results / reports are available on the Wessex League website & an additional round is being organised by Fareham Wheelers on 5th January 2014 at Fairthorne Manor in Botley. Phill Chinn is co-ordinating the event & is looking for assistance with course building.

Ray Woods

Result - Alan 29th ; Conal 32nd  ; Ray 34th out of 43 finishers


Round 5 Sotania CC, Eastleigh.  06-10-13

Having just competed in the PNECC Club Hill Climb up Southwick hill, I arrived nicely warmed up, hoping that I hadn't expended too much energy. Conal Grier and I formed the PNE contingent, and were comically accused by some of the pseudo pros of being on a ‘Club Run’ as we chatted during a warm up lap! Some people take it far too seriously!
Based on a disused golf course, the 1 mile long circuit involved a longish grass climb, followed by some flat grassland, and then a gradual descent through woodland. The feature obstacle was a ride through a sand bunker edged by a foot drop. The whole course was ridable provided the correct line was taken through the bunker, but with many people either opting to get off and run through the sand, hence causing a bottleneck, or falling off trying to ride through it, the need to dismount wasn’t necessarily in your control.
It was a warm and dry day, and the hard ground meant the pace was high, although some of the corners were a bit dusty and required careful negotiation.
Unfortunately, I misjudged one corner and ended up falling into a bunker, as its edge was disguised by long grass. I lost about 15 places as I struggled to put my unshipped chain back onto the rings. Subsequent laps were spent regaining them one by one.
Mild mannered Conal nearly got in a fight after an altercation with another rider who cut him up entering a corner. Apparently “some people need to learn racing etiquette” !
Tea, coffee, sandwiches and the obligatory homemade cakes were sold by the hosts from a marquee beside the sign on tent. 

 Result -  Alan 47th  ; Conal 63rd out of 85 finishers


Report Round 6 held at The Newbury Showground, Cotswold Veldrijden, 12th Oct 2013

The course used a fast section of tarmac, grass land, a very technical section of wood land which also included sections of the 4x4 test track which made for a 1.6 mile circuit which was acclaimed by all. Overnight & morning rain made the course a little more challenging than perhaps the organisers had intended as a couple of the steepest slopes required a test of dismounts and running skills as even low-geared Land Rovers would’ve struggled to climb them. Following an uncontrolled dismount on lap 2 which resulted in the rear derailleur sticking in a higher gear than I needed I spent too much time carrying my bike & ended up in 76th of 79 finishers in the combined V/J/W race & 18th place of 20 finishers in the V50 category. Alan finished in 50th place. The best selection of cakes of the season so far which attracted donations of £360 for Macmillan Cancer Support and Make A Wish Foundation.

 Ray Woods


Result Alan 50th /89 ; Ray 76th

20th October Round 7 which was held in Prospect Park, Tilehurst, Reading.

Today’s event was organised by Reading CC which was held on an ideal CX day weather wise; a day of torrential rain and thunderstorms with hail thrown in for good measure. The challenging course included 30% muddy inclines & 20% declines which were equally slippery! Soon after the start of the Vets / Juniors /Womans (V/J/W) race the heavens opened & the course cut up with riders searching for the best line on each lap of the 1.7 mile circuit. I took the steady option & kept off the racing line in order to let the leaders to their thing without the addition of a mobile chicane. I finished a lowly 64th of 71 finishers. Alan finished 39th. A nice selection of cakes & biscuit at a reasonable price.

Ray Woods

Result Alan 39th / 79 ; Ray 66th 


Round 8 -  North Hants RC,  War Memorial Park,  Basingstoke. 27/10/13

The course was based in the Basingstoke War Memorial Park grounds, and incorporated woodland, grass and even a BMX track. Several grass bankings were used to good effect, testing each riders ability to remain upright whilst ascending, descending, and traversing adverse cambers on slippy grass and fallen leaves. There were lots of U turns which posed problems, as the front wheel just wanted to slide on the earth instead of steer. This justified the lowering of tyre pressures to gain the extra traction around these treacherous corners.
The race was conducted under the threat of impending storm which was very much in the news, but the rain held off for all the races. The 1.7 mile long course was mainly flat but exposed to the strong SW wind blowing across the open parkland.
As usual the start was gridded based on the top 30 standings in the league, but I still got a good start from within the “everyone else” group. The charge for the first corner and subsequent U turn was all important, but still a mild mannered affair.
Having negotiated the first series of twists and turns, there came the opportunity to gain (and of course lose) positions as the course passed across the playing field into the headwind.
Next up was a woodland section where a good line had to be chosen to avoid the ruts and exposed roots.
The parks BMX track provided an interesting feature with a large burm allowing full speed into a series of humps and corners.
“Soggy Bottom” lived up to its name as the course passed through this boggy section of woodland where cornering was hampered by tree roots and progress slowed by the soft ground.
The subsequent section was much faster, but cornering on the slippy surface meant a small mistake would result in colliding with a tree! 
Back on the playing field riders were then presented with the ascent of a very steep banking. With sufficient space to gather speed to launch up the incline it proved no problem for most, and a place to gain positions on those who didn’t make it to the top and had to dismount.
An off camber diagonal descent of the banking tested riders ability to remain upright, and a diagonal ascent tested ability to maintain traction.
The lap was completed with a two closely spaced vertical boards  to get over, which forced riders dismount and jump over, whilst giving the officials chance to read the numbers of the competitors.
One lap completed and I found myself battling with Claire Smith of Cotswold Veldrijden, who is leading the Women’s league. I was able to stay with her for the next lap and a half, but eventually had to give best, as power faded as the race progressed.
4 laps completed and the bell sounded. Time to dig deep and defend/gain positions, although it was more defending than gaining. I crossed the finish line in what was initially given as 30th place out of the 96 starters, having achieved the ambition of not getting lapped by the winner for the first time this season. There were mistakes in the official results, and they were reissued with me in 88th place, to which I appealed and was eventually granted 32nd place.

Refreshments were provided by a professional retail outfit, which was basically Costa from the back of a van, extorting money for fancily named flavoured hot water. They’d run out of Tea and Cakes before I got there, so I was most disappointed!

Result 32nd / 96


National Trophy Round 2 Southampton Sports Centre. 3/11/13

In a moment of insanity I thought I’d give the National Trophy a go, seeing as it was on the door step, being hosted by the Wessex League.
Vet 40-49 Grid call out was based on National Trophy Round 1 standings, then on national BC ranking. Having not done Round 1, I felt it was like picking teams for school playground football, with everyone just hoping not to be picked last. Fortunately there were others behind me, but not many. The Vet 50+ race started 1 minute behind us, and soon their leaders came through the bunch, confusing who you were racing against.
The 1.8 mile circuit was based on the terraced football and cricket pitches of Southampton Sports Centre, with some woodland thrown in for good measure. Tricky U turn corners, a steep slope and vertical boards provided challenging obstacles. The weather was dry and relatively warm for the time of year, and the surface was muddy, but not too bad too clog up your machine, even so, the jet washers in the pits area were hard at work, and the spray crossed the course making a certain descent treacherous.
I achieved the aim of not getting lapped, as, by the NT rules, this would have brought an early end to my race. My finishing position was 42nd, which I was most amazed at in a National event, racing against the likes of ex National Champion Chris Young, from whom I used to get resoundingly beaten by when racing against him in the North West CX League back in the late 80’s / Early 90’s.
The following link shows a short video of the bunch crossing the hurdles. (I’m in shot at 49 seconds)
Ray And I had volunteered as marshals to help the Wessex League host this event.  There was a lot of work in dismantling the course after everyone else had gone home and darkness descended. Not many people realize how much effort is involved to organize such an event.
Refreshments were provided by a Burger van (with a tab for volunteer marshals), but a distinct lack of cake.

 Result 42nd /49


Round 9 10/11/13 – Oxonian CC, Brookes Uni Sports centre

 The 2.1 mile course was based around the sports centre’s grounds, so wound its way around the numerous football fields, but also included a very difficult woodland section. Although mainly flat, the soft ground made it feel like a constant uphill slog!
There was a maximum field of 121 starters in the Vets/Jun/Women race, with those not reaching the cut off, forced to ride in the following Senior race. Riders from as far as Ipswich, and Coventry found a gap in their race calendar, and so joined in with us. I only just squeezed in as number 118, which was quite apt seeing as I am sporting a Movember Moustache, although I’m afraid the photo opportunity was missed!
The commissaries wisely decided to divert the course on the first lap to avoid the wooded section until the race had spread out, and avoid what would have been carnage.
There was one decidedly tricky section of a double ditch to contend with, for which most of the field dismounted. Having recced it beforehand, I proved it was possible to ride through, to gasps of “that’s just showing off” from the gathered spectators. Obviously not many riders had succeeded, and even in the Seniors race it was only the leading few that rode the obstacle.
The following woodland section degenerated into a strength and speed sapping quagmire with the consistency of pastry dough. The mud combined with the fallen leaves and grass to fill the bike frame clearances, which acted like a brake, hence regular stops were needed to pull handfuls of sticky leafy gloop off the bike so that the wheels would go round!. With hindsight it may have been quicker to pick up the bike and run through this bit.
Out of the woods there were long straight grassed sections around the football fields interspersed with some tricky U turns and small lumps and bumps around the field perimeter. The next hurdle was the double hurdles, which deteriorated during the Vets race, and so the commissaries removed them from the Seniors race for safety reasons. More like making it easy for them!  
I got a reasonable start behind the grid and made up positions in the first two laps making it to about 30th position, but then started to go backwards as the course induced fatigue took its toll. I’d stayed with my benchmark of Claire Smith for the first half, but again had to give best, and dropped many places to the chasing hoards. Despite my concerted efforts, I was lapped within 400 metres of the finish line as the leader finished, which although thankful for not having to do another lap, meant I was denied the chance to try and move up a few positions in a last lap chase of those in front.
I finished in 59th position, which I was a bit disappointed with, but with the removal of Non Leaguers from the results, I salvaged some useful league points out of the long trip.
Living up to the Oxonian event reputation, there was a prize for everyone, provided they stayed for the presentations, hence I came out with a handful of goodies, seeing as most participants had already gone home
Refreshments were provided via a BBQ but such a large field exhausted supply before I got there, however I was placated by a decent portion of cake, and a free coffee given to each racer.


Round 10 Behind The Bikeshed CC. Thruxton Motor Racing Circuit, Nr Andover 24/11/13

Unfortunately the course wasn’t fast, flat and tarmaced as the name might suggest. Instead, a very technical, dizzyingly twisty 1.7 mile course had been marked out on the grassland slopes of the race circuits parking area. There were countless U turns made difficult by slippy grass, adverse camber and switch of gradient. All this meant full concentration was needed, with no opportunities for rest on the short fast descents, as they were invariably followed by a steep ascent. The whole course was ridable, provided a good line was chosen to maximize traction, and maintain speed on the uphills. The exception to this was the double hurdles which were too risky to bunnyhop, and hence forced everyone to dismount.
I was put at an immediate disadvantage, forced to start at the back of the 86 strong pack, having missed my name being called for the grid due to an ill-timed call of nature.
A two minute silence held prior to the start, in remembrance of Geoff Shergold, the Wessex Cyclo-Cross association Chairman, and ex GB CX Squad Mechanic, who had passed away earlier in the week.
My first lap involved scything through the masses, avoiding hold ups caused by fallen riders by riding through tiny gaps between those forced to dismount. At the end of lap one I’d settled into the Top 35. A low speed fall, allowed a group of 4 to catch up with me and we battled amongst ourselves for the subsequent laps. Avoiding lapped back markers then became an issue, however our pace was sufficient to avoid being lapped by the leader. In the big last lap effort I was first in our group to arrive at the hurdles, and won the sprint for 32nd place. I subsequently found out that my secret weapon is the demoralization caused by being overtaken by a bike with down tube shifters.
As the blurb promised, there were refreshments on offer in the catering tent. Well priced burgers and bacon rolls, tea and coffee, and of course the obligatory cakes, but I had to leave room for the PNECC prize presentation dinner later that afternoon! J 


Southern England Championships,  8/12/13, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Harwell, Nr Didcot.

With legs still sore from Dave Gwilliam’s Mountbatten centre training session the previous day, I arrived at the venue to race on a  “Brutal course, as it should be for a championships”, as the pre-race blurb had billed it, and it lived up to expectations.
The 1.6 mile course was based on a chalk hill side on the perimeter fence of the Atomic Energy Research site at Harwell. Central, South, South East, and South West leagues combined for the South of England champs, but no league points were on offer because of the different format of the races.
There was a big field of 100+ starters for 4 races combined into one; Juniors first off, then Women, then Vet 40-49’s, then Vet 50+
I had a disastrous warm up lap, being thrown head first over the bars after hitting a rut, which was caused by, or resulted in, a punctured front tyre within 5 minutes of the start!. It was a mad sprint to the pits to get my ‘spare’ MTB Mountain Bike, then line up for the grid.
Again the weather was relatively warm and dry, although a strong headwind made for tough going.
The course began with a flat cinder track, leading to a paved section with long grass growing through its cracked and rutted surface. Riders were forced to dismount and run up the 25 railway sleeper steps up the steep chalk hill, followed by an off camber descent and sharp turn onto a long lung and leg burning steep chalky climb. Fortunately the ground was dry and traction wasn’t a problem. I was glad of the MTB gears, as the 42x26 on my CX bike would have been tough to push up there.
Some small descents, climbs, twists, turns and off camber straights brought riders to the top of the “Didcot Descent of Doom” with a sharp left turn at its base. £5 was offered by the moustached Aussie (Note: don’t mention the cricket.) on the PA to anyone who could go down it without touching their brakes. Despite the encouragement, there were no takers, even with marshals and a big stack of hay bales to soften the inevitable blow. There were a wide variety of descending styles and tactics displayed, met with gasps from the spectators depending on how close riders came to crashing into the bales.
The next obstacle was the sand trap, an innocuous looking pile of sand on the track, but this caused one rider to fall heavily, and a diversion was put in place whilst the casualty was attended to.
Due to the fat tyres and higher riding position on the MTB, I struggled in the headwind and tarmac sections and lost most ground on there, being dropped by group I beat last time out, and getting lapped on the line with one to go.

The Atomic Energy Research site Social club house provided excellent changing facilities with showers and a Licensed bar! Coffee, tea, and delicious homemade cakes were being sold by the host club in the car park, alongside a burger van.

 Result - 36th / 53


Round 11  VC Venta CC,  Sparsholt Agricultural College, Nr Winchester.  15-12-13

I suppose being so far into December, and having had such a mild and dry season so far, I can’t really complain that the weather was foul. A storm had passed overnight, and the wind and rain were still persisting.
As a late addition to the League calendar, this event didn’t attract the usual massive field. The long 1.9 mile circuit incorporated grass and woodland of varying elevation, tarmaced road and two gravel pits. There were plenty of sharp U turns and slippy banking for which great care had to be exercised.
Although not feeling too good, Ray came along to offer moral support and take photos, which can be seen on this page.
I got an excellent start on the tarmaced starting straight before diverting onto the course, where I found myself in the top 20. and held it for a lap. Then I had a fall in which the chain got jammed in between frame and chainset, and I lost 7 places whilst struggling to fix the problem. It just refused to pull free! Despite my efforts, I couldn’t regain places because each time I gained time, I’d lose it in a fall. It really was a battle to stay upright on the slippy surface, possibly due to too much tyre pressure. The last lap was an all or nothing attempt to catch a group of four riders in front who were about 40 seconds ahead. Although I halved the gap, it proved impossible close, even with a change in tactics to run over the most boggy part of the course.
Refreshments were provided by the College Campus Cafe, with some well needed Eccles Cakes consumed, but alas! No Tea!?!
Result – 27th  / 58,  For which I earned a prize of a bottle of wine!


Round 12  Crabwood CC. Southampton Sports Centre.  29-12-13

The course was a modified version of the National Trophy course held earlier in the season. It was 1.2 miles long, without some of the zigzags and obstacles such as planks and steep banking, but no less challenging.
Once the warm sunshine had thawed the frost, the course was very muddy and slippy. A quagmire on a climb meant I had to get off and run each lap, as the bike sank into the mud, although there were some who managed to ride through it. The spaces between the bottom bracket and back wheel filled with thick mud and leaves which acted like a brake, so frequent ‘stops’ were necessary to release handfuls of mud/leaf mixture, risking getting fingers trapped in the moving spokes. The same gloop filled the SPD pedal cleats, making it near impossible to clip in, and also turned my ordinary rims into deep V section aero ones. In the less boggy parts of the course, the challenge was staying upright on the off camber descents, ascents and U turns, with the bike squirming underneath me, and not wanting to go in the direction I was pointing it in. Very low tyre pressures helped, although I was over geared, generating too much wheel spin instead of traction. With hindsight, I should have swapped to my MTB stationed in the pits, as I didn't change gear from 42x26 for the whole race.
There was much smaller field than usual, probably due to the seasons festivities, but those who were there were intent on burning off the Christmas drinking and eating excesses.
I got a brilliant start and stayed in the Top 15, for the 1st lap. However, I stitched in the 2nd lap, and dropped to 20th. The field was quite spread out, so there were some large time gaps to contend with. I was challenged from behind, but countered and managed to extend the gap. I was lapped by the leader with 1.5 laps to go, and was amazed at the ease and speed he went by.
No Refreshments were provided :-( however there was a bar/bistro elsewhere in the park.

Result 20th /44


Round 13 Fareham Wheelers, Fairthorne Manor, Nr Botley,  05-01-14

Another late addition to the calendar, but bringing the season to a close, the course was based on the grass and woodland of the YMCA campsite at Fairthorne Manor, and held during a week where the country was being battered by storms and flooding.
The PNECC contingent included two new comers to the sport. Freya competed in the U12’s race, and her Dad, Gordon, raced in the Novices, which was combined with the Youths. Unfortunately Freya got a big dig in the ribs from her handlebars when she’d fallen off, but still fought on valiantly to finish strong, and get a goody bag. The pain was soon forgotten once it was realised that she was 4th U12G, and I think the “never doing it again” turned into a “maybe”.  In the Novice race, Gordon suffered, but said he was grateful for the encouragement given around the course from Ray and myself, and concluded that he’d enjoyed every minute of it.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and therefore a video must be worth infinitely more,  so instead of describing the course and conditions, I refer to the link below to a youtube video showing a complete lap of the Seniors race. For added realism whilst watching it, keep spraying water and mud in your face, dunking your feet into buckets of cold porridge, and pouring hot oil into your lungs.
Proper Old School Cyclo-Cross!
I got another brilliant start from behind the grid, and approached the woodland section in 13th position. This single track section caused a few pile ups in front and behind me. I managed to quickly dodge past, however the delays to the rest of the field created some large time gaps. The fallers I’d overtaken eventually regained their positions, and some of the stronger delayed riders clawed their way past me too in the subsequent laps, although one suffered a mechanical just as he was overtaking, which proved fortunate for me, but no doubt expensive for him. The rain and the number of wheels cutting up the surface made what had been ridable in the warm up lap into an ankle deep quagmire, so it proved much faster to get off and trudge through on foot. Fortunately, the mud was more liquified than last week, so it didn’t clog up the mechanics of the bike.
First lap adrenaline turned into second lap breathlessness, but I then recovered composure to complete some steady laps, maintaining time gaps over most of my rivals, and beating many whom have entered next week’s National Championships! (I’ll have to consider that for next year though as I missed the entry deadline). By finishing in 16th, I’d saved the best result till last, albeit with some of the league’s top riders at a National Trophy, there was still the quality and quantity of field to make it a tough achievement.
The campsite cafe-bar provided hot and cold food and drinks, although Ray nicked the last cake! Fareham Wheelers plan to run two events here next season, and we were assured there would be plenty more cake next time, now they know what to expect.

 Results: Alan 16th /60 , Gordon 5th /10 , Freya 4th /6


 Round 14 Prize Presentation Evening, AFC Totton Ground, 08-03-14

A lot less strenuous than a proper cross, the Wessex League reconviend for one last shin dig.
Geoff Shergold was once more remembered, having been such an influencial figure.
Graham Robins had a slideshow running allowing memories of the racing to be rekindled.
Refreshments took the form of a bar and buffet
Each rider received a certificate with their league position on it, and the winners received their trophies and medals, and more importantly, prize money.
So that brings this season to a close, but I think I’ve demonstrated what can be achieved in the sport, by spending as little as possible. I really enjoyed the season, and improved throughout its duration. I’ll be doing it all again next year, so if you’d like to join me, please do, and I’ll be glad to offer any advise you might need. You can convert a bike to suit Cyclo-Cross, as I did, provided it has clearance for wider tyres, or you can use an MTB. Although the events are competitive, by nature, the emphasis is on personal achievement and having fun. Whatever your level, if you want to win, go for it, but if you just want to ride the course and not care how many times you are lapped, then go for that. Either way, you’ll enjoy yourself, and get/keep fit.


Photos: Fareham CX by Ray Woods

Photos VC Venta CX Sparsholt – Ray Woods

Thruxton cx – photo Graham Robins (image paid for and permission to use on website has been granted)

Fareham Wheelers cx – photos from FWCC facebook page




OffCamber XC Round 6 17th March 2013

Well don Conal Low-Grier working hard for 14th in the XC 6 Offcamber Final

full results here


OffCamber XC Round 5 Blandford 17th February 2013

conal grier

Conal Grier


Steve Pratley


Organised MTB rides at QECP 

Winter is on its way.....get that all weather bike out and start spinning those legs!

Very Happy PNECC has slowly been moving forward with becoming a GoRide club and now working towards ClubMark accreditation. The club is a local club that has an open and equitable constitution, welcoming all levels of rider, and cycling discipline.

Cool 13th-16th August will see PNECC promoting 'Open Days' in conjunction with 'Get into Sport 2012' & British Cycling 'Go Ride Games' riding on the adventure of the Olympics in London. Myself and a few willing volunteers, will organise and deliver sessions aimed at 11-14 year-olds, who will undoubtedly turn up for the sessions riding their MTBs and BMXs. Those who like what they experience may join the PNECC - £1 and a free t-shirt for under 16 membership (with free British Cycling Race Membership too!). The story will end there though unless there is activities to retain these new young members' interest. Most of these new members will not own road bikes but MTBs.

Very Happy There is potential to continue with further BC Gears coaching sessions anyhow, but I also think there is attraction in having organised (led) rides on MTBs at Queen Elizabeth Country Park - a couple of hours on a Saturday morning, chasing around the trails which have been much improved at QECP very recently. (Other local clubs already operate the one day a month MTB ride). There has to be Duty of Care cover (Safeguarding & Protecting Children, along with Parental Consent Forms etc. which myself, CWO or Deputy CWO can organise). If one of us attends one Saturday a month it would lead the way for experienced MTB riders e.g. Mark McF to lead the rides AND have welfare cover - until more volunteers are qualified.

Very Happy It's early days yet, but I know there will be a requirement, and better to have something available, thought through, rather than lose the interest of younger members.

If you would be interested in taking part in MTB rides once a month, or volunteering to assist, please be so kind as to contact Dave Gwilliam - you're not commiting yourself, just giving me an idea of interest - many thanks alien


We haven't really developed a Mountain bike specific section within the PNECC, although many of the club members do own and ride MTBs

The purpose of this page will act as noticeboard, disseminating the various notices sent to the club, and as a means of broadcasting any future MTB club rides in addition to the PNECC Forum

If you are a club member and keen Mountain bike rider, and would like to have notices, organise rides, have details added to this page, contact Dave Gwilliam and I'll get them posted.


To all at Portsmouth North End CC

The Queen Elizabeth Country Park Collective would like to invite you to the launch of the new red (yet to be named) mountain bike trail at Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Petersfield in Hampshire on Saturday 19th May 2012. By that time the Collective would have added nearly 2km of extra trail to the existing orange trail, as well as tidying up and improving bits of the old trail. By then the Collective will have been working on the trail for one year, with thousands of hours of planning and digging done by volunteers with the assistance of one of the Park’s Rangers. The budget for all the work is £0 and at the moment we are still within the budget!

This is not the end of the work. There are still many years of digging ahead but we would like to invite you to celebrate with us the remarkable achievement made by a remarkable group of volunteers that are focused on building mountain bike trails that everyone can use. At 12 noon on 19th May at the park visitor centre there will be a presentation made by members of the collective where the trail will become officially “open”.

That weekend Hargroves Cycles have organised a cycle festival at QE park, which will include a kids race, MBUK 4h enduro race, live music and a demo day on 20th May. We have scheduled our launch so as not to clash with the activities Hargroves are putting on. There will also be camping facilities available should you wish to stay overnight.

Queen Elizabeth Country Park is situated on the A3, 45 minutes south of the M25 and only an hour from south london.
If you would like any more information on the launch then please contact or check out the QECP mountain bike trail build facebook page.
Many thanks,

Head Trail builder
The QECP Collective













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