My final race of the season* was an assault course of singletrack, mud
and roots on a hillside in Essex - a mountain biker's course, really,
which is probably why a mountain biker won it. I clung on for a lap
or two, but a cyclocross bike is unforgiving in these conditions and
I quickly found myself relegated to second spot.
was a good appetiser for the MTB season ahead and an enjoyable challenge,
but I still love the particular opportunites for skinny-wheeled fun
that a few rolls of course tape and a school playing field provide,
and there have been plenty of those this year.
a round-up of the last few races, please keep scrolling. Meantime, a
Thanks to Russ Jones of Hackney GT, Ben Gaby at Kona Bicycles UK, Mike
at Push Cycles in Stoke Newington, Ben Chamberlaine and Nick Freilich
at Chamberlaine Cycles in Kentish Town and 9Bar for the nourishment.
Thanks to all the Hackney GT crew for a great season and thanks to Maureen
Jones for the cold-weather coaching.
thanks of all to Rachel and Connie for putting the air in my tyres,
metaphorically speaking x
Winner of Central Cyclocross League 2012/13
UK Ranking: 6th senior
Hackney GT can be spotted at one final event - the London & South
East League's Team Championships on Sunday 10th Feb
CX - Almost Done...
Wins in Wilmington White-out
last few weeks of racing have taken their toll and I'm feeling particularly
bruised and battered as I sit down to write. The snow and ice that characterised
the last 2 races certainly suited me, and I managed my first ever weekend
double, but the races were not without incident, and I hobbled away
from Wilmington feeling like I'd done some serious damage.
It's amazing what an ice pack and a warm bath can do, but I definitely
feel like my forthcoming family holiday will be a time to properly recharge
and recover. It seems wrong to be heading to Tenerife without a bike,
but I think it makes sense...
National Championships in Bradford were a wake-up call for the second
year in a row, and have made me more determined than ever to have a
proper go at 2 or 3 National Trophy races before I line up again against
the nation's best, on what felt like the nation's toughest course. Thick,
sticky, wheel-sucking mud meant bike changes every lap and I found that
I never really got into a flow.
early crash also threw me off my stride, and although I started on the
2nd row, I seemed to spend most of the race going backwards. I'd been
hoping for a top 20 placing, but 25th seemed like a respectable result
in the end and I wasn't too downhearted as we packed up the mud-mobile.
Field was on imperious form once again and seemed to have the race sewn
up from the start. Sadly, Kona's cx ace Helen Wyman, wasn't quite able
to make it 8 times in a row, but I'm hoping she was just saving her
legs for the Worlds next week. Good luck Helen!
thanks to Carl Pritchard, Ian Cunningham and the mysterious Captain
Cross for their invaluable help in the pits, and congratulations
to fellow HGT, Ben 'FullOn' Lewis, for an excellent ride to
I've covered a lot of ground over the last 6 months, most of it in the
ever-faithful 'Morrie', our 27 year old VW T25, the perfect home-from-home
on those Sunday morning journeys to such far flung venues as Fowlmead
and Luton. Oh... the glamour!
I've raced in several different leagues during the season and, although
I won the London & South East League last year, this year, through
a combination of bad-luck and bad timing, I have not fared so well in
the LL races.
quite early in the season I decided to concentrate on the Central League,
getting good results each time I raced and winning the final two races,
thereby securing the overall league victory.
The Central League events have a great atmosphere, the courses have
been superb and the level of competition strong. Big thanks to Graham
Macnamee, Keith Perry, Paul Thomson and everyone else involved in running
the league and organising the races. Thanks also to Siobhan Butler and
Robins for some fantastic photos of some memorable events, and to
Duncan O'Reilly for his sterling work on the microphone.
doubt, the most exciting development for my racing this season has been
my involvment with Kona, who provided me with one of their top of the
range Major Jake cyclocross bikes through their Grassroots programme.
Big thanks to Ben Gaby at Kona, and Nick Freilich and Ben Chamberlaine
at Chamberlaine Cycles. It's a fantastic bike and it is making all the
Kona blog posts for 2012/13: 1,
too, to Russ Jones, the Hackney Globetrotter whose team I joined
at the start of the season. Already, the spotty green jerseys of the
Hackney GT crew are dominating startlines across the South East and
I know that Russ has big plans for 2013.
GT is backed by Push
Cycles of Stoke Newington.
More sponsorship news:
riding in 2013 will be fuelled by Wholebake
9bars as part of their exciting 'Team 9bar' sponsorship programme.
More news soon. In the meantime, visit their Facebook
page and, if you haven't already, give one a try. You'll love it!
My first win for a while at Round 9 of the Central League. Here's my
write-up from the Kona blog:
run up to Christmas is always a busy time, but this year has been especially
hectic. I’m an artist as well as a cyclo-crosser and, with exhibitions
to arrange and paintings to finish and frame, there hasn’t been
much time to get out on my bike over the last couple of weeks. The enforced
break seems to have suited me though, as Sunday saw my first win since
the end of September, when I travelled to Hillingdon for Round 9 of
the Central League.
large field enjoyed perfect conditions at this penultimate round of
the season, with the soft ground churning up nicely as the day wore
on. The folks from Twickenham CC had laid out a great course that made
the most of the undulating grassy infield of the West London cycle circuit,
with hairpins and off-camber bends that really rewarded a well-chosen
had a good start and led from lap 1, although I was very aware of a
strong chasing group that never seemed to be too far behind. In the
end though, I managed to keep them at bay, securing my first win in
the Central League this season. It’s a Christmas double-whammy
of races in London this weekend, so I’m hoping the good form continues!"
a Kona Major Jake under there somewhere
East and South East Regional Championships 2012, Bethlem Royal Hospital
last time I raced at Bethlem back in mid-September this year, the South
East was still enduring drought conditions, and the dry, dusty terrain
made for some fast and furious racing in the evening gloom, as we battled
it out in the South London Summer Cyclocross Series.
I won that race (thanks mainly to the mechanical misfortunes of two
of my competitors) and I was excited to be returning to the sprawling
grounds of the 600 year-old hospital to try my luck again.
I’m getting better at controlling my nerves when I arrive at ‘cross
races now, but seeing the quality of the opposition that were gathered
in the car park at Bethlem, I began to feel the usual nagging doubts
about my fitness, my health, my prep, and I set off on my warm up lap
feeling like this was going to be a bad day out.
I knew that there would be more mud than dust this time, but I wasn’t
quite prepared for the swampy mire that I encountered as I headed onto
the back of the circuit, where long sections of the course were pretty
much unrideable. I detoured back to the start paddock to save myself
from a pre-race jetwash and lined up on the front row, dreading the
In spite of these fears, my start was good and I settled in behind former
National Junior Champion, Alex Paton of Team Gwb ActiV, clearing the
technical section in the woods and digging in for the first assault
on Swamp Row.
It was horrendous. Thick, boggy mud, churned up by the previous race
and hiding deep, wheel-sucking trenches that threw the bike in all directions
except forwards. The idea of going through this lung-busting misery
5 or 6 more times was too much to contemplate, so I tried to focus on
the wheel ahead and getting the right line.
Although the subsequent wooded-section towards the end of the lap was
mostly uphill, it was actually a chance to recover slightly and each
time we emerged into the start-finish area, I felt like I was just about
ready for another lap. Others were feeling the same way though and,
by lap two, I’d been caught and passed by De Ver Cycles rider
Taylor Johnstone, who also then overhauled Paton to move into first.
It quickly became a mental battle for me at this point. My strength
was not good, and the two leaders had moved away, so it was vital to
keep my head up and to try and stay clear of the chasers. I was painfully
aware of Sylvain Garde, who seemed to be gaining fast, and I felt certain
that Darren Barclay could not be far behind. The ‘Major Jake’
was clogged with mud and grass and I knew I’d have to swap bikes
very soon, something I’ve never been able to do before.
Thankfully my Hackney GT team mate, Graham Freer, was in the pits and
waiting with my spare, and I made a smooth swap with about three laps
I love my ‘Jake the Snake’, but at this point I realised
what a different beast the new carbon version actually is. It was good
to have a clean, smooth-shifting bike, but I was very happy to get back
onto the freshly-washed 1st bike a lap later, ready for the final push.
Sylvain had closed right up to me by this point, but the ‘new’
bike gave me the edge and I managed to get a gap at the end of the penultimate
lap and finally seemed able to breathe a sigh of relief.
This is a dangerous moment in a ‘cross race. Without realising
that you’re doing it, you ease off the gas a little bit and start
thinking about the podium. Before you know what’s happening Darren
Barclay is all over your back wheel and you’re fighting to stay
in control. All your lines go to pot, your co-ordination deserts you
and panic set in.
I gritted my teeth and pushed on for the last half a lap trying not
to look over my shoulder every three seconds.
When we emerged onto the grass of the start/finish I felt certain that
Darren would go by in a flash, but he must have been hurting too, because
I made it to the double chicane with him still on my wheel. I hurtled
into the corner through a gap between two lapped riders and sprinted
past the pits for the final bend.
Still ahead. Hop the roots on the apex, hard right across the gravel,
sprinting as best I can with lungs and legs burning. A glance back and
I’m on my own with the flag in sight.
Up until now, I think my best races have usually been ones that I’ve
won, but I think that this is one of the best results I’ve had
so far, and a race where I really gave it everything.
Thanks to Graham and to Hackney GT! Thanks to Rach and Connie for all
the cheering. Also, thanks again to Kona for the bike. It’s making
all the difference...
Lots to catch up on in cyclocross-land, as the season continues to bring
excitement, challenges and big surprises.
get the best bit out of the way first.
the end of 2011, when my first proper season of 'cross was in full flow,
I contacted the marketing team at Kona, wondering whether a rider winning
races on one of their Cycle to Work-level bikes might be an interesting
writing that first email seems like it might have been time well spent,
as I have just collected a brand new Kona Major Jake from the good people
in Kentish Town, given to me as part of Kona's Grassroots
has come early in the Webber household, although I now kind of wish
it was September again, rather than half way through the 'cross season.
I think Rachel feels differently...
report back when I've had more time to put the Major through his paces
but, for now, I can report that today was the first time that I've actually
enjoyed cycling up Camden Road.
I salute you.
already. Here we go again...
cyclocross season is a long one and, at the end of last year's London
League campaign, I wasn't sure that I'd be able to summon up the energy
for another 6 months of racing, despite (or more accurately because
of) a summer that was mostly spent off the bike.
easy to let your motivation slide and, with a new baby girl in tow,
the idea of putting enough hours into my riding to get back on form
wasn't that appealing.
Connie Webber 'enjoying' a recent private view
how things change.
fortnight with our friends Nikki
and Gairy* in the Ardeche last month (and a very understanding and
wonderful wife!) gave me the chance for some great riding and, with
a few days in the Alps to really test the legs and lungs, I came back
from France with a familiar feeling. Those nervous, pre-race jitters
had returned. I couldn't wait to get back on the 'cross bike.
don't know how long this run of good form will continue, but it's been
a dream start to the season with 3 wins from 3 races. For a brief, golden
moment at the start of this week I was the top cyclo cross rider in
the UK - on paper anyway! I suppose it can really only go downhill from
it's still going up for now and this great week of art sales and exhibition
offers has been topped off by an invitation to ride with pro cycling
during the forthcoming Rapha
Super Cross Series in October.
is one of those cloud 9 type of weeks which I've had a few
of this year.
here's to a great season of cyclocross adventures. Happy riding everyone...
and Gairy (and their daughter Amelie) are setting up Simple
Lodge, an eco B+B which, when finished will be an ideal base
for riding and walking in the amazing scenery of the Ardeche. Gairy
is also a budding 'Bikepacker' - you can check out his exploits
& SE Cyclocross League Champion 2011/2012
was my first full season of London League racing, but I wish I’d
started years ago. I remember watching cyclo cross on Grandstand when
I was a kid and thinking that it looked like fun. I’d head out
on my Raleigh Arena looking for mud and hills, neither of which were
too hard to find in rural Suffolk. I’d even set up the sprinkler
in our back garden in the summer, so that my 50 metre lap of the flower
beds was a bit more fun.
it was 25 years before I finally got myself a half-decent bike and started
doing it properly, but it still feels a lot like it did when I was twelve.
year I started my season late and spent each race trying to fight my
way through from the back of the field, learning the limits of my bike
and myself as I went. This year I was lucky enough to be gridded from
the first race, which made a huge difference to my racing experience
and to my results.
never been a great starter though, and the difference between the gradual
starts of last year and the full on sprints of 2011/2012 has been stark.
No time to recover and no second chance if you make a mistake; the opening
lap of a ‘cross race can be a thing of painful chaos. Beastway
has been a good training ground for cyclo-cross, that’s for sure,
but the struggle to stay upright on a ‘cross bike, especially
when there’s three inches of snow on the ground, adds a new layer
of panic to the drama of the off-road experience.
it’s not just the start that you need to get right; with the 14
race calendar that we are treated to in the London & SE League,
consistency is key. That’s not to mention the occasional Trophy
race, or the Nationals (let’s *really* not mention the Nationals),
or a quick foray into the Eastern or Central League. An ability to stay
healthy and out of trouble are extremely valuable assets.
don’t need the best bike in the world, but it does need to be
set up right for you and the conditions, and you do need to look after
months ago, the idea of spending £100 on a solitary tyre seemed
like madness. It still does. But there is a method (probably Belgian)
to that madness, because the wrong tyre or the wrong pressure really
can be the difference between the podium and a DNF.
still learning about this, and I don’t really have the means to
be fully prepared for every eventuality, but I take a spare bike to
the races when I can, I have 2 sets of wheels and I take a lot more
care of my bike than I ever did before.
the mud finally arrives, the bad tyre choice and a fragile set up finally
makes itself known, and you spend the race wondering why you didn’t
quite get around to gluing those new tubs, as your arch rival glides
around slick corners that see you sliding into the long grass.
some ways it’s a levelling sport. Your average legs will be compensated
for by your awesome skills or vice versa. Team tactics and drafting
don’t come into play, although having a bunch of like-minded club
mates will help you out no end. You can practise just about any place
where there’s grass/mud/obstacles, and having some local training
buddies will make it even more fun. Even if you’re not scuffing
the podium with your studs every week, you’ll almost certainly
be rubbing tyres and banging elbows with folks who ride at the same
kind of speed as you do. You’ll have good races and bad, and so
will they, but you’ll line up every week knowing who you want
when your hour is up (although it doesn’t seem likely during the
race, the hour *will* end eventually) you can compare notes with your
friends and rivals, kicking yourself about those extra psi or marvelling
at the properties of Hog Hill mud, or the perils of Penshurts (sic)
It’s been a long season but, retrospectively at least, I’ve
loved every minute. Put a cheap and cheerful bike together. Take it
out in the woods. Prepare to be smitten.
can't wait for the end of the summer.
National Championships, Chantry Park, Ipswich: 7th/8th January 2012
time last week, I was quite looking forward to adding this report to
my web site, but my performance on Sunday was not much to write home
about. Luckily I don't have to; I grew up just down the road from Sunday's
fantastic venue, so several old school pals, as well as my parents and
girlfriend, were there to witness the wheels coming off.
I'd been feeling fairly unwell all week, fighting off some sort of bug
that struck over the New Year's weekend. I stayed off the bike and hoped
for the best, trying to eat right and rest up as much as possible, only
going out to test the set-up and stretch the legs on Saturday afternoon.
morning came around and I was feeling better, still coughing and a bit
achy, but much better than earlier in the week. We got to the venue,
watched the under 23 race and then I got stuck into my pre-race routine.
warm-up laps went well - the course seeming well suited to my strenghts
- and I loved the carbon wheels that I'd borrowed, which made everything
seem about 10% quicker.
when I lined up for the start (next to Roger Hammond on row three!)
I was feeling pretty good; nervous but ready to race.
start was a disaster.
not sure what I was trying to do, but when the gun went I remember pawing
at the ground with my left leg like an angry bull, trying desperately
to get myself moving. When I finally did set off and got a chance to
assess my situation, I found myself fairly well back, with both of the
straps on my left shoe undone and flapping about in the January breeze.
It's all about the preparation.
began the arduous process of working my way up through the field and
managed 24th by the end of the first lap. After tangling with a couple
of riders during a foolish overtaking maneouvre (apologies if it was
you I cut across) I once again found myself several more places down
with a lot of work to do.
ploughed on, getting up to 22nd place with about 3 laps to go.
my day, I'm pretty sure I could have squeaked into the top 20, which,
considering the field (including the Field)
I would have been delighted with.
on this day I soon realised that trouble was brewing, as my
legs began to fail. Two riders who I had been keeping at arms length
started quickly making up ground and my momentum was lost. My vision
began to blur and flash, my head went down and the idea of riding, or
even walking another lap became a pipe dream. I crossed the line with
the bell ringing and only 2 miles left to ride, but I couldn't go on.
I dropped my bike, sat on the floor and waited to feel normal again.
was a very disappointing end to an exciting day, but a bad ride wasn't
entirely unexpected, given the way I'd been feeling during the previous
week. The most annoying aspect of this ignominious end, is that it has
put me out of contention for a top 20 overall in the BC rankings for
the season, something I was keen to achieve.
still feeling bad 5 days later as I write, but I had a blast with Hackney
GT's Russ Jones in Epping Forest yesterday and I'm looking forward to
LL R13 next weekend at Wilmington.
been a long season, but it's almost done. Here's to next year...
Cycling Report and Results
Mullineaux, an omnipresent fixture at bike races across the South East,
came to visit my studio late in 2011 to talk about art and bikes. See
the interview here.
and SE Cyclo-cross League 2011/2012: My season so far
1: Muddy and reasonably technical - windy too. Bad start meant a fight
back through the field. Sprint finish against Sylvain G - just beat
him to 3rd.
2: DNS. Wish I had.
3: First race on tubs. Raced day before in Eastern League but legs were
pretty strong. Went away early and stayed clear, although Steve Adams
(Sigma) was gaining after a mechanical. 1st
4: Very hot race at HH. Mechanical led to bike swap; realised how heavy
my old franken-bike is! 4th
5: Flat and technical course played to my strengths. Battled with Record,
Garde and Sybrandy, but shook them off and finished well clear. 1st
6: Good race at Fowlmead. Dry and dusty, but also flat and technical.
Leading for most of race, but then stuffed up final run-up on last lap.
Should have done better! 4th
7: Away with two Corley riders from the first lap, which meant we got
a good gap. Couldn't match their roadie ways and they outsprinted me
on the last quarter lap. 3rd
8: Perfect race. No major climbs, pretty technical in places with some
really nice singletrack. Good start and a strong first couple of laps;
away on my own for 90% of the race. Good gap on Sylvain by the end.
9: Marshalling for London Phoenix at Gunpowder Park. Nice to be watching
others suffering for a change!
10: Super-tough race at Penshurst. Massive climb, lots of mud, very
technical and a fall on the first lap. Sylvain on strong form and I
couldn't stay with him. 2nd
11: My luckiest race yet. No strength and picked the wrong wheels. Crashed
on 1st lap and lost 5 or 6 places. Fought back to lead group but it
cost too much and I began losing them soon after. Sylvain punctured
and 2 other leaders also dropped out. Taylor Johnstone takes off and
I can't follow. Should have been 5th or 6th! 2nd
12: Another good one for me. Flat and mainly dry with some singletrack,
although VERY bumpy. Energy sapping... Good start, hanging on to Jody
Crawforth and Simon Richardson.Mainly on my own though after lap 2,
trying to keep Taylor and Harry Franklin at bay. 3rd
13: Wilmington is a MTB'ers dream course. Loads of single track and
technical features. The first race where I've been pleasantly surprised
by the number on a lap board. Hanging onto Darren Barclay's wheel for
50 minutes. Dropped on the last lap. 2nd + definite overall league win!
14: The final round went my way. Wet snow meant a slippery course, but
one that I felt at home on. Got ahead of Darren Barclay and managed
to get a decent lead by race end. 1st