Kenilworth Common, Warwickshire
Nothing screams "Christmas" quite like seeing the pro CX scene gearing and getting into full swing for the classic holiday races across Belgium and the Netherlands. This year, we had a touch of the pro magic a little closer to home, as nearly 100 riders from across the region lined up alongside World Tour Pro (and local star) Lewis Askey of team Groupama FDJ for the annual Boxing Day Cross organised by Coventry Road Club.
Under crisp, blue skies, the atmosphere was one of festive cheer, excitement and a touch of adrenaline. From occasional competitors to those with a shot of fighting it out at the pointy end of the race, everyone was keen to get going and really test themselves on the tough but rewarding Kenilworth Common course. Ahead lay just under an hour of thrills, spills and furious peddling.
As always, the support was tremendous. Friends, family and more than a few curious passers-by lined the hill at the start. However, the real highlight was the infamous gravel pit half way round. The whoops and cheers could be heard all round and told tail of those demonstrating exceptional bike handling as well as those overreaching themselves on the fast, technical and exhilarating drop into the natural bowl.
Elsewhere, as the course climbed, descended, and weaved through technical single-track the cow bells were ringing and the shouts of encouragement no less enthusiastic.
Conditions under the tyres were almost perfect. Slightly damp but still firm the course could be attacked at pace. During the opening laps, as the field gradually sorted itself out, new lines were constantly being found and in some cases seemingly conjured out of nowhere. As the race settled, the course continued to gradually evolve, meaning every lap offered something new and there was no place for complacency.
Our RLSCC team had a great race; putting in a robust showing and doing the club colours proud. Best placed was Gerry Scott (35th overall) with Steve Large right behind him (36th overall). Jason McNulty also had an impressive ride, taking his first CX start of the season and riding up to 44th overall from the back row of the grid. Also riding for RLSCC were George Hollingsworth, Paul Daniels, Stuart Mackay and Alex Craig.
Overall, Lewis Askey took the chequered flag first, in a ride that was inspiring to watch and demonstrated just how good the pros really are when it comes to going fast on a bike!
Post-race, talk was of just how much fun everyone had. This was perhaps best summed up by club member Claudia Craig, who came along to support the team with her family, "I'm sure I wasn't the only one who really enjoyed the racing and wished I'd signed up to ride. It was very impressive to see everyone in such good shape even after a big Christmas dinner." Too true!
We're already looking forward to next year's event. As Claudia said, "I would recommend this race for anyone wanting to see what CX is really like."
Boxing Day Cross 2022 - gallery
Photos by Stuart Hepburn and Michelle Craig