Joe Atkins reports from a hectic Christmas period:
“I had a pretty busy schedule over Christmas and it didn’t disappoint! The first of the four races was my local one, the Kenilworth Common Boxing Day cyclocross.
“It was the 60th running of the race and as my Granddad had originally invented it and my uncle was this year’s organiser I wanted a good result! I shot away from the start which was a very long steep climb. I carried on to lead for the next lap and a half before having a slight slip and dropping to 4th. The 2nd time up the climb the attacks were coming thick and fast.
“I settled in to a group of three in 4th to 6th place. I was feeling strong in the race and new a podium spot was definitely possible but made to many mistakes. I lost contact with the group with three laps to go but in a spurt on the last lap and made it back up to 5th place only to be held up by a car on the climb and drop back down to 7th. Definitely not the result I was hoping for but never the less a top 10 and hopefully I’ll win it next year!
“After the race I left straight for Belgium with fellow GB rider Danny Fox. We got the ferry over to Lounhout to ride in the B Post trophy event which is a UCI Category 1 race. We arrived late with not long to go until the race and I managed to get one quick warm up and a look at the course then it was time to go!
“I was one of only two non-professional riders but with a long start straight after being gridded at the back I managed to pick a few riders off and settle into a rhythm. It was a shock to the system the speed the Pro guys go at but an amazing experience!
“The next day was the 3rd race in a row in a town called Bredene. We were riding with the Elite riders and one of them happened to be Ben Berden the Raleigh-Clement pro who had come over from the US for Christmas. I had a good chat with him at the start about the differences between the US and UK cyclocross scene.
“We were in the Elite zone and the fans surrounding us whilst we warmed up were crazy, looking at every single detail of the bikes. There was so much interest as they had never seen these Raleighs before it was very good publicity for the RX Race bikes! There was over 10,000 people watching the race and the atmosphere was just amazing!
“The speed the professionals start at is unbelievable and they don’t let up. It was hard trying to move up through the field and the race was eventually won by Omega Pharma Quickstep’s Zdenek Stybar.
“On to the last race of the trip on the fourth day and by this point I was completely knackered but I was facing by far the hardest race of the trip. It was the Superprestige Diegem, a very famous and well known Belgian cross race and amazingly there was 21,000 spectators!
“The course was a mixture of everything with deep mud, ruts, sand pit, road and steps and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a good job the bike can stand up to some beating! With all the best Under 23s in the world there including the World Champion, European Champion and the Junior Road World Champion on the start line it was going to be a hard task just to beat anyone!
“I managed to pick my way through a few Belgians during in the race and finish in 44th which I was really happy with. After the race there were lots of people looking at the bikes, picking them up and feeling the weight and looking at every little detail they all seemed very impressed.
“As you can imagine after four races in four days my legs were shot but hopefully a few days rest and then on to the final round of the National Trophy in Shrewsbury and the National Championship in Derby. It was an amazing experience racing at the highest level in the world and it was nice to get the bikes shown to so many people!”