British Cycling National Trophy Race – Handsling Racing Report

Thornton Hall Country Park, Lancashire. 14 October 2023.

Last but not least!

Well, the gridding gremlins struck again! I love these National Trophy races: the courses tend to be just that little bit more challenging. Also the venues are great, seeing so many top-class riders in one place is fantastic. I couldn’t make the first Trophy race of the season, and if you’ve read any of my other reports, you’ll know that I’ve had a rogue result causing me to start further down the grid in the past few League races. So, I was in the hat for random gridding this time; and came out in 63rd and last place on the grid!

All hail

We had a bit of everything on Saturday. It had rained during the week before, had turned a lot colder, and I was even hailed upon as I was “warming up”. The order of the races has been changed this season to help the younger riders get to the venues more easily. This means that my v50 race is now last-but-one race on the Saturday, with the v60s starting just a minute behind us. With the men’s Elite/u23 race off before ours, it was great to see the lines that they were riding. Of course, with 100s of riders having ridden multiple laps during the day, some sections were ankle-deep, muddy runs.

Scott tackles round 2 of the National Trophy Series
Scott tackles round 2 of the National Trophy Series

Looking back, over my shoulder

So, starting on the last row of the grid in the v50s meant that I could see the v60s lining up right behind me. A case of my past catching up with me? Or future – two more years and I’ll be in that race instead. Whistle went and I got a very good start. Clipped in and blasted up the gravely track. It was quite sketchy at pace, but I really pushed on and gained a lot of places.

Then we hit the first muddy run. I definitely need to work on my running! You get swept along at speed on the first lap, a bit like an amateur marathon runner (I’m told!), and my heart rate went through the roof. Got through that, jumped back on, and off we went again.

Not my first rodeo

I rode a few mountain bike races over the summer – I usually ride 20-30 road/circuit races but did none this year. This means I feel a bit fresher overall, plus I’ve managed to bring a few skills from mtb to cross. My cornering has improved a lot, and there were lots of opportunities on this circuit to get that right. It was a beautifully-flowing course, with lots of downhill and uphill turns.

Also, my ability to “float” over over the bike seems to help me on the bumpy sections. This course had some steep banks up and down, most of which were not rideable after the previous races. Anyway, I gained a good few places on the uphill slogs, and some on the downhill corners. I really do need to work on my running as I mentioned. There were two sections that needed running, but I was mostly walking and losing places. And so it continued as the race progressed.

National Trophy Series tend to feature more demanding circuits
National Trophy Series tend to feature more demanding circuits

No helpers!

My wife and our 6-year-old usually come along to the Trophy races. They are usually in great parts of the country, and this was no exception. Not only are the Lancashire/Yorkshire Dales very picturesque, but Thornton Hall Country Park has family entertainment, farm animals to meet/pet, lots of catering – and this weekend, they had a pumpkin patch. Everyone happy.

Except that the mud was so claggy, that I really could have done with someone in the pits for me. I changed bikes after two laps and that helped, but a clean bike each lap, or even half lap would have helped a lot. Still, all good, and perhaps the best help in the world is a little voice shouting “go on, Daddy” every lap.

Good clean fun

With a few DNSs and a few DNFs (mostly due to mud and grass, or wattle and daub as it used to be known, jamming up the drive chain), I finished in a pleasing 37th place. I’d gained 16 or 17 places by the looks of it. No mean feat given where I started and how poor my running was, and the quality of the field. I jet-washed both bikes using my electric jet wash. This gets them clean enough for in-car transportation, though the joys of a deep-clean need more water, time and concentration than I have after a race.

Onwards and upwards, the next National Trophy

Next race for me is the next round of the National Trophy Series in Derby on 28 October. A similar course in many ways, though based around a leisure centre, and favouring the more technical rider perhaps. Looking forward to that. I’m off to the Lake District for few days before then. My family were actually disappointed that there is no Trophy race in the Lakes this season, and insisted that we went to visit anyhow. The positive impact to the local economy of these events rolls on.

We’ll have more from Scott as he carries the Handsling Racing flag over the coming season. Read his previous report here. Scott ride a pair of Handsling’s CEXevo bikes and hopes to get them cleaned during his races! He is using SRAM xxxx and uses tubs for that ‘pro’ feel.

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