so many of my colleagues in the cycling world have become enamoured of cyclocross, perhaps a season or so after i began to take an interest, but in most cases, seriously enough to involve themselves in the competitive aspects of the sport. it is remarkably easy for me to affect an air of superiority at this point, as if getting my hands (knees, arms, face, and feet) dirty were somehow beneath me. however, given my location of residence and seeming inability to travel anywhere meaningful, it's easy peasy to eschew the formalities of organised competition.
bluntly put, there is none.
in point of fact, there is currently not another cyclist on the island in possession of a 'cross bike, leading to the only satisfactory solution of competing with myself. yet, though i am given to the occasional bout of whimsy, i cannot deny that any passers-by who may have inadvertantly caught sight of this unique situation have been ravaged by a barely concealed sense of mirth. their cause to smile out loud is not brought about by a less than appropriate mode of dress, for in this i am particularly well kitted out for the part. in fact, were you to catch me strolling through the pits at any particular 'cross meet, you'd likely have an uncontrollable desire to hand me a bicycle.
it is, i'm embarrassed to state, when in possession of a cyclocross bicycle that the house of cards falls completely apart. in order that one might realistically offer a competitive edge against the competition, it is necessary to be able to mount and dismount both quickly and efficiently. anything less is likely to render even a phenomenal pedalling technique somewhat redundant, as those more fleet of foot throw sand in my face with appalling and unfailing regularity. at this point i can do little else but admit to the ineptitude in this area that has been the cause of such hilarity at my own expense. heck, even i ended up laughing.
as a confirmed roadie, the act of clipping or unclipping from the pedals is generally only required at the start and finish of the ride, unless wandering farm animals interrupt the less than race pace. rare is the need to exit the bicycle in a hurry or even to plonk bum on saddle at speed in an effort to catch a fast disappearing peloton. cyclocross, as if you didn't know, is a whole 'nuther bucket of valve caps.
i have previously impressed upon you my laughable attempts to emulate sven nys, yet despite an irregular practice regime (you will note that i did not use the word training) i have become no better than i was when taking up the challenge around two years ago. the equipment is unimpeachable, so i do not have the luxury of blaming that. in short, despite watching 'cross on the telly, coupled with attendance at last year's rapha supercross on the shores of lake windermere, i still have no clue as to just what it is i am trying to achieve.
well, that's not strictly true; i know what i need to do, just not how to go about learning.
however, as implied in every superman movie to date, help is at hand in the widescreen format of jeremy powers' cross camp video. i have on occasion read books on the subject of becoming national cyclocross champion in mere weeks, read many an issue of cyclocross magazine, and perused videos on youtube that might just aid my rather poor attempts at getting on and off the bike with alacrity. none have quite managed to place all in perspective that would allow for appropriate improvement. it could be, of course, that i am just a very slow learner.
jeremy powers rides for the rapha focus cyclocross team in the usa, just occasionally heading over to european shores in homage to the sports countries of origin. along with videographer sam smith, he has successfully and very entertainingly broadcast a regular behind the barriers series of videos covering the ins and outs of his 'cross season for the past few years. through these, he has been remarkably successful in introducing many a cyclist to the attractions of off-road riding with drop bars. this instructional video now seems like the natural progression from behind the barriers.
if i have little intention of racing cyclocross, why then do i need to arm myself with such techniques in the first place (i hear you ask)? the short and succinct answer is because i do, and because i will be unable to hold my head up in public until such time as achievement is mine. i believe this 45 minute presentation by mr powers will solve my predicament, for not only does he demonstrate in glorious slow-motion how to successfully dismount the bicycle prior to running across a set of barriers, but provides an exceedingly simple and practicable set of exercises allowing the leap of faith to get back on, something to be eventually and successfully enacted with industrious practice.
by next saturday, bridgend woods will resound to the sharp intakes of breath as innocent bystanders stand aghast at my powers (did you see what i did there?) over the humble cyclocross bicycle.
once achieved, i will also have the necessary technique enabling yours truly to lift the bike effortlessly onto the right shoulder, again shown in magical slow-motion while jeremy describes just what is going on in front of your eyes. the video details succinctly and clearly the advantages of tubular tyres over clinchers, the advantages of taking one line through a corner as opposed to the alternatives and even how to change bikes in the pits, beautifully illustrated by means of an overhead camera shot.
it must be admitted that the introductory session describing what kit ought to be in that oversized shoulder bag and just what ought to be worn depending on weather and temperature conditions offers the ideal opportunity for powers to display copious amounts of rapha and giro apparel. however, as the principal rider in the rapha focus team, it would be naive to expect otherwise. it's an advert jim, but exactly as we know it.
though i have opted not to involve myself in the competitive aspects of the sport, it seems only realistic that the principal market for this excellent tutorial will be cyclocross racers. in which case, the chapters on race-day nutrition, how to dismantle and pack your bicycle, sussing out the race course and how to effect a competitive start , will likely prove invaluable. the camera work is superb throughout, with truly exceptional use of slow-motion allowing every last ounce of jeremy's technique to be appraised without the need to continually rewind to see if what you thought was going on was indeed the case.
if this video taught me nothing else, its that 'cross riders are not necessarily born with the abilities and skills demonstrated on the professional circuit. even basic techniques that i marvel at in belgian and dutch are the result of hours and hours of practice. up till now, i was beginning to think these were capabilities everyone else owned but me. for that, it's worth the price of admission alone.
nothing is overstated, no chapter is longer than it needs to be. if anything could be said to be missing, it's a chapter containing the bloopers that must surely have been a feature of the filming process (maybe those could be added to the website at a later date?). jeremy powers is highly articulate and erudite in matters concerning the sport of which he is justly national champion, making him, in my humble opinion, perhaps the ideal 'cross rider to bring us the benefit of his experience. even if, like me, the competitive world of cyclocross is not to your taste, i'd highly recommend that you pop over to jeremy powers cross camp and download a copy for a mere $14.99 (£10). you will not regret it. if you'd prefer to purchase via itunes or amazon, you'll have to wait until mid-month, or if the physical media of a dvd is more your thing, that ought to be available by october at a cost of $24.99 (£16.50).
short of jeremy turning up in bridgend woods to laugh along with my less than clandestine onlookers, i can't think of a better way to improve my 'cross abilities. if it'll work for me, it's going to do wonders for everyone else.
monday 3rd september 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................