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Milton Keynes UCI Cyclocross World Cup 2014

Planet X’s two cyclocross obsessives Dave Haygarth and Alan Dorrington took a break from getting themselves muddy this weekend to watch the best cyclocross riders in the world doing the same, not in Flanders but in the unlikely venue of Milton Keynes.

Cycling fans in the UK were spoilt rotten in 2014 when the biggest race on the planet came to Yorkshire and London last summer. And for cyclocross fans, the excitement continued this weekend when the biggest ‘cross race since the 1992 World Championships in Leeds came to Milton Keynes in the shape of Round 3 of the UCI World Cup Cyclocross series.

With much of the travelling circus feel of the Tour but a hugely accessible set up, cyclocross at this level is simply perfect for spectators where the riders can be seen close up multiple times, warming up on the course, preparing outside their motorhomes, and racing on a short lap that could be accessed in many different places during the action. It gives you a unique and very close insight into the action that even track racing cannot match; close enough to get mud splattered by your idols as they blast round…

Left: Alan and Dave in view of the Pinnacle. The steep run-up can be seen rising up the left of the hill / Right: The carnage unfolds on the first corner of the opening lap. This effectively ended Helen Wyman's podium chances

As a new round of the World Cup, the pressure was on the Milton Keynes organisers to deliver a successful event, and they absolutely nailed it. The course utilised a central raised spine around Campbell Park, giving constant short sharp climbs, several evil off-cambers, and easy viewing and access everywhere. And mud. Not so much deep and boggy mud, but a uniformly slick surface that required superb skills simply to stay upright round the corners, let alone maintain your speed. Feedback from riders confirmed how not only how technical it was, but with the emphasis on brute power, how hard physically it was too - a true World Cup course. And the spectators turned out in big numbers too, around 8000 in the crowd, enjoying a more British take on the traditional Euro race staples of beer and frites.

Left: Nikki Harris shoulders through one of the many un-rideable sections / Right: A crash on the opening off-camber descent meant British National Champion, Helen Wyman, was chasing for much of the race

British hopes were highwomen for the men’s and Men’s race, with our Europe based riders making the trip back home, as well as the cream of domestic young talent being given a chance to race at this level. Spurred on by the partisan crowd, Nikki Harris took 3rd in the Women’s race with Helen Wyman 8th whilst Ian Field had a stand out race amongst a field dominated by Belgian and Dutch riders to get 12th. Younger British riders had a great day too with Yorkshire’s Jack Clarkson and Amira Mellor in 32nd and 26th in their races.

It was for Dave and myself, as ‘cross enthusiasts, a memorable day of being in amongst the best riders in the world, wandering around the team village looking at their equipment and set-ups, and then watching how they dealt with the technical and physical demands of the course. And if you ever wondered how you get grip when it's slick and muddy, a look at Sven Nys back wheel and its mere 16psi of pressure gives you a clue as to what you need to be doing.

Words by Alan Dorrinton & Pictures by Dave Haygarth (apart from the picture they're both in obviously)

1 December 2014

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