It was a great feeling to be taking part in history – Australia’s first ever National Cyclocross Championships. I flew down to Melbourne to compete in the U23 category, which was also only my third cross race.
Melbourne had experienced some wet weather during the days leading into the race, which made parts of the track quite soft and ‘boggy’.
The track was predominantly grass, with two sets of stairs we ran up, and two 40cm high barricades we jumped over. The track was also positioned on the side of a hill, which meant we descended for the first quarter of the lap, then climbed our way back up to the top.
I started on the 3rd
line and had a pretty terrible start. I missed my pedal, and lost valuable positions trying to get started again. Luckily, I was feeling pretty confident with the skinny tyres on the descent, and I managed to make up time, then rode to my strength, being climbing, and made up further positions. By the end of the 1st
lap I was back in the lead group. Several attacks went throughout the race, most of which were brought back.
Adrian Jackson and Allan Iocuone attacked towards the end of the race, and we knew this was going to be a hard move to shut down. They ended up staying away. Allan claimed the win over AJ, then myself coming in 3rd
overall, and taking the U/23 title in the process. I came close to getting AJ on the final lap, within seconds at one stage, but his experience and strength was too hard to match. At first, it didn’t really sink in that I was the Australian Champion for U/23’s, but after a few interviews and lots of photos, the excitement started to build.
It was a great experience having so many spectators lining the course with cow bells, mega phones and air horns. It had a very European feeling, much like a mountain bike World Cup.
The next day we went to the other side of Melbourne for the final round of the Australian Cyclocross Series. I liked this course better than the previous day. It had a large scaffolding bridge we climbed up holding our bikes, then rode down the other side, and also passed under it at the end of each lap. There was a huge mud section, with a long, deep puddle along one side of it which was definitely the best spectating spot. It also had a few steep pinch climbs, and a dirt fire road section.
I lined up again in the third row, and had a much better start than the previous day. I avoided a crash on the first corner and gradually worked my way into the front group. As we started our second lap, there was already a small gap between the front group of around 7 and the rest of the field. Paul Van Der Ploeg and Andy Blair broke away from the field at about the halfway mark, and it took me around 3 or 4 laps to bridge the gap. I attacked them as I caught them, but it didn’t stick. Paul launched a counter attack and I tried to follow as best as I could. During this move, Andy just slipped off the back, and left me chasing Paul by myself. I chased for two laps, but couldn’t get him back. I finished 2nd
and was really happy with my performance and result. Andy came in only 10 seconds behind me.
It was a great weekend down in Melbourne. I’m still new to Cyclocross, but it’s a discipline that really suits me due to the amount of road cycling I’ve done this season, plus the off road skills from mountain biking. I’m looking forward to the next cross race, most probably the NSW Champs in September, then the final Newcastle Cyclocross round the following week.