It can’t have escaped your notice that cyclo-crossers have been getting a bit above themselves recently. ‘Cross bikes are everywhere; on the commute, the club run, out on the trails and even appearing in the odd road race. Don’t they know they should keep their knobbly tyres firmly within a muddy field? Now it seems CX Events are even giving them their own summer race, the Battle in the Bowl, the South Downs Super CX.
With the cyclo-cross season proper finished over two months ago, many of us ‘cross riders have been getting our dirty thrills riding events such as the Wiggle CX Sportive series. Theses events and others like them are a great chance to ride new areas over longer distances than in a normal ‘cross race – after all, it’s summer, the weather’s going to be great! However despite what we are told and what insurance allows, these are not races. But cyclists will be cyclists, get more than two riders together and it’s a race, whether to the top of the hill or the next town sign.
If you take a look over the pond you will see a number of gravel races that take place in the good ol’ US of A. Over there, long gravel farm roads can be found in many states, allowing longer races suited to ‘cross bikes to take place. While the UK doesn’t have long stretches of gravel like these, organisers have been looking hard for something that comes close to the flavour of these events.
CX Events own CX Century covers the length of the South Downs Way, that’s 100 miles almost tarmac free and the Dirty Reiver covers 200 kilometres on Forestry Commission tracks. These events are great challenges and every ‘cross rider should give them a go, but they aren’t races and we all love to race!
This is where the Battle in the Bowl comes in. CX Events have found a venue that allows a four mile loop with a mixture of gravel and grass. The site is a bowl-shaped arena that was used as a US army training area during the Second World War, hence the name, and allows for plenty of scope for multiple ascents and a flat centre that will have a mile of taped, technical course. Over 90% of the course will be viewable by spectators, so bring the family along to get an idea of what you’ve been doing during the wet winter months!
Battle in the Bowl will offer racing for all categories of rider, from the two-hour Elite Super CX race, which is aimed at all you hard-core racers, but you have to be on a ‘proper’ bike! No boingy fat tyred Mtbs, sorry. So if you’ve got a ‘cross or gravel bike lounging around at home, but have never actually raced it (and I know a lot of you haven’t) this could be your chance. It’s summer, so there won’t be any mud…
But don’t despair, if you are unlucky enough not to own a cyclo-cross bike, provisions have been made. Preceding the Elite Super CX race is Open Warfare; a 5 lap (20 mile) Open Category race for bikes of all kinds, including MTBs, folders, unicycles, whatever you care to ride. There are specific single-speed and fat bike categories, as well as bravery awards for those choosing the most outlandish steeds! Also running during the day will be junior races and cylo-cross skills sessions, with the organisers promising more to be added.
Entries for the Battle in the Bowl are already open and include a team entry option, get six of your club mates together and you qualify for a 10% discount; get ten and you can enter another rider for free. The organisers are keen to encourage a bit of team spirit and as well as allocating team pit areas for you that you can decorate with flags, cow bell ringers and cheering fans, will also be awarding a Team Spirit Award. So all the more reason to be nice to your club mates!
Don’t forget to take a look at the Wiggle CX Sportive series on the CX Events website, they run some great events, this weekend is the Surrey Gravelcross, which I rode last year and takes in some beautiful riding around the Surrey Hills.
All this sounds exactly what I need for a summer’s day in Sussex, now if I could just get them to include an Oompah band and some veteran categories, I’ll be a very happy ‘crosser!
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