Round two of the National Trophy series is already here. We visited the Westmorland Showground in the North West of the UK for the first-time two years ago but it is quickly becoming a firm favourite with the riders. The venue held the only round of the National Series last year under Covid 19 rules. The long travel (from Kent) never disappoints as we are greeted with a cracking cyclocross course, which is laid out by Dave Haygarth and his team of volunteers. You can tell a wealth of experience has gone into the course features and lay-out.
The course map was released yesterday, and I’ve had a look to compare it against previous year’s lay-outs. Here, I’ve put together a round-up of the features and efforts required for
the 2021 edition of the race so you’ll know what to expect this weekend!
The start straight is the same as last year, it is on a wide, open grassy area. This provides a slightly uphill start and plenty of room to move up. Given this wide straight is part of the lap, every lap, I have no doubt a fast, narrow line will form within the course providing a big advantage to those who get first pick of grid placement on each row just like last year.
VELD coaching tip – Get practicing those starts. Practice getting clipped in fast and efficiently before working on that maximal 30sec sprint.
Not long after the start is the first major change with the course, a few sweeping turns and then this year the course doubles back on itself and you make your way back down the hillside parallel to the start straight. This will provide a really fast section of course and a good place to try and gather your thoughts and breath after the hectic start.
Turning onto one of the many gravel paths that criss cross the field accelerate up to speed quickly and then use these areas to roll the gear and recover slightly. It looks like you dive off of this path to do the hurdles before rejoining it once again to go through the pits for the first time. If the map is correct the course remains on the gravel path and the pits will be on grass. If this is the case, this is the side of the pits you do not want to be changing on. The speed difference will be too large. Only use this side to change in an emergency!
On exiting the pits, you’ll head towards the ‘main features’. There are a couple of small up and downs across the same banking before what looks like avoiding the now infamous steps. Instead there is a set of banks to ride making for a fairly long hard section of course climbing towards the top of the hillside for the first time.
VELD coaching tip - You may want to think about practicing some double-spiked efforts for this section. 6secs max effort into 10secs recovery at Z3/4 before another maximal effort of around 6secs.
Being able to recover quickly is key after these features so I hope you have been training hard over the last 6 weeks. The next feature looks like it good be the most technical part of the course with a double drop descent down into a U- turn before having to climb the same set of banks up towards the top of the hillside once again.
VELD coaching tip – On the descents, put your weight back and look to your exit point while feathering the rear brake more than the front.
By the end of this section I imagine your heart rate will be sky high, from memory these bankings back to the top could provide some running sections especially if we get some rainfall and the mud which is synonyms with Milnthorpe now. Thankfully there looks to be a small descent after these to try and bring that heart rate back down and to recover.
Second time through the pits and probably the side you will want to pit on through choice. Although it will be downhill it looks like both the course and pits are both on grass so the speed difference shouldn't be as high. A fresh clean bike might be a good idea here anyway as next is the longest climb on the course. Starting on grass try and get up to speed as quickly as possible and attack the climb from the bottom. The more speed you carry into the second half of the climb will really help. The second half is on gravel meaning you can get out of the saddle and really attack the climb. Get all of your effort out here.
Luckily, after cresting the top of this climb you are then onto the longest descent of the
course. At first, the descent is on gravel with a fast, loose left hander to deal with, before
changing to grass to the bottom of the circuit. Be careful on these fast gravel sections: there are some big bits of loose gravel on these paths which caught me out a couple of years ago and I punctured on this section!
On reaching the bottom of the course, instead of a couple of punchy short climbs back-to-back to the start. Dave has provided another gradual climb back up the hillside before what looks like a new tricky couple of off camber banks back down on to a gravel path before looping round to do another lap.
This course really does provide a test of both skill and power. The course conditions will
depend heavily on the North West’s finest weather. In the dry, the course will be relatively
fast, and it will feel like the features are coming at you faster and faster with no recovery
between them. The repetitive nature of the short, punchy climbs will take their toll and you
will be coming into technical features with more and more fatigue in the body and mind.
With wetter conditions, we can expect a similar race to the previous two years, plenty of running on the short bankings and a heavy slog around the lower parts of the course.
See you all there,