Raleigh and Zepnat rider Nick Barnes reports from the Yorkshire Cyclocross League:
The Cliff Pratt evening cross series overall was a good series for me. Racing in September evenings was ok for light at the start of the month but towards the end it more or less became a nocturne cross. The course was good; it had a good few technical sections and some straights to really put the power down.
On the first night we got there (Costello Stadium, Anlaby Park Road in Hull) with an hour to go before the start of the race. This was enough time to get a couple of laps round the course and go back to the van to get ready for the race. This race was one of the better, as me and Gavin Hardwicke had a good battle for the lead over the first few laps. I let him take over at the front after a few laps; this was so I could take a rest and also figure out where I was faster than him. Unfortunately for Gavin he tumbled on the corner just before the pits, this is when I decided to make my move. He didn’t lose too much time as he just ran to the pits and swapped bikes. In the later few laps, once I had made my effort, I just began to watch Gavin and ensure he was not going to close me down at any stage. I held the gap around 40 seconds until the finish.
On the second night there weren’t as many riders which resulted in a less exiting race. I made a quick getaway and expected someone to follow me away at the front. However, nobody did. So over the first half of the race I was flat out to try and get as much of a gap as possible. Once I had achieved about a 50 second lead I backed off, as I was starting to blow. This gap then pretty much stayed the same to the line.
The third night had to be the most enjoyable race. Little to my knowledge a pro rider had arrived, a Team Raleigh road rider no less. I had no idea who it was before or during the race, so the prestige had no effect on my racing style. Over the first lap I led it out, but onto the second lap Gavin decided he would take it up. This caused the pace to increase a little. After 2 more laps Graham Briggs (the Raleigh rider) made an attack, so I followed. This attack was enough to distance Gavin. For the next 15 minutes of the race I hung onto Graham while analysing how he was riding and where I was quicker. I tried to make a move into one of the technical sections, however this failed many times. I could never seem to beat him to the first corner. This being slightly frustrating I had to make a move inside the technical section just after the finish. This resulted in him closing me down on the straight as I had failed to get enough of a gap around the corners. I suddenly realised this as he came belting past. I remember thinking that he’d reacted better to my attack than I had. From then on I was chasing all the way to the line.
After the race I discovered who this fast guy was and why I was unable to beat him down the straights (Graham was National Criterium Champion for Raleigh in 2012).
The final race of the series was very much like the second. I broke away from the start and kept a gap from there. However, it was spitting with rain which made the conditions difficult – you couldn’t see where the grip was or how slick the course due to the lack of light. My brother found this out the hard way. He ended up using both the bikes in the pits, including my other Raleigh trying to find more grip. However, I managed to stay upright throughout this race, which is more than others can say.
Overall, the series was good for me and something I’ll look to for early season form next year.
Click here for the results.