Russian dolls. The world of niche cycling.
If I was to use sporting clichés, I would say that it was a weekend of two halves. One dedicated to tailored elegance, egalitarian principles and social endeavour, whilst the other was dedicated to 50 minutes of racing around a muddy(ish) field, eyeballs out, bleeding from your eardrums and dry heaving over the finish line.
Regular readers of the blog will need no introduction to the Harris Hack. Organised by Cardiff Cycle Chic and feted on these pages, it was the first time since pre blitz Britain that so much Tweed has been seen on the streets of Cardiff. My approach was diligent. Obtain Tweed jacket (didn’t fit), find elegant scarf (totally wrong colours) and complete with deerstalker pipe (it’s existence was presumed). This over reliance on family members meant that my Tweedyness was ultimately hinted at rather than overt. I plumped for shirt, jumper, scarf and Merino wool hat. In the unexpectedly warm October sun, I was cooking, but sophistication (or in my case Modishness) out trumped practicality.
Arriving at Penylan library, it was clear that this was no ordinary Saturday. It was sunny for a start (:)) and the small plaza outside the library doors was starting to fill with elegant ladies, dashing gentlemen and antique bikes. At 4pm the vintage throng headed out into the Roath streets which were reclaimed in style. Travelling effectively as one – albeit large and well dressed – vehicle, motorists were content to allow negotiation of turns en-masse and in safety. Locals smiled and applauded as a group of 50+ cyclists spread retro cheer and liberated central Cardiff from the boredom of traffic and shopping. The Harris Hack lingered on the steps of the museum (below), wound its way to the café at the arboretum before completing a leisurely loop of Butepark and returning via the salubrious surroundings of the Crofts pub. A celebration of refinement and cycling, the ride was hugely successful on both counts. Many thanks to Alistair for making this happen, and a big hello to Toby, Barry, Clare, John, Alistair, Richard and all the other people I met for the first time. I am shopping around all ready for the Harris Hack v2. I want proper Tweed next time and stuff that fits.
The second half of the weekend was spent with an entirely different cycling crowd. With the exam stuff
behind me, it was nice to be back in cyclo cross action at Penlan fields in Brecon. Another excellent field with 60+racers saw fast and furious racing on a fast and flat(ish) course. After the recent dry spell the ground was in excellent condition, providing a truly excellent race surface. The gridded start was fast. Super fast in fact and after getting away reasonably well, I found a new gear I didn’t know I had; reverse. After 10 laps of ridiculously hard cycling, I finished 5th Vet and 23rd overall. By contrast, my team mates had put me to the sword with standout performances from youngster Adam King (3rd) and my Three Peaks training partner Donald Gray (13th and 3rd Vet).
Arguably the best thing about cross however, is not the racing. Whilst it’s fast, furious and demanding, the sense of community is strong, evident and binding. Kids mill about happily. Rivals who battle cheek to jowl after the gun, chat easily and long both before and after the race. Few forms of racing are as friendly as this. It is also inspiring to be involved (as both competitor and helper) in a sport that is absolutely NOT about the generation of cash. When I organised a Welsh League fixture two seasons ago, Cardiff JIF made an almighty £7 from the proceedings. The event was simply about providing for the community, not bleeding it dry. By contrast, try entering a cyclo-sportive and you won’t be looking at much change from £30 (for a course you can ride whenever you like) and if you want to enter a triathlon, you’d better flog some possessions on e-bay or mortgage the children. I’ve said it previously in the pages of Boneshaker magazine, but it’s worth repeating here; No-one is going to get fat off cross racing in the UK. The sport exists solely to allow athletes to race hard and frequently in a safe environment (i.e. no cars). Long may this continue.
The world of cycling is like a doll; communities within communities and a sport within a sport. I knew with a little work the Harris Hack could be connected with Welsh League cyclo-cross. Now the challenge is to get everyone to race in tweed. That would be a lot more fun than riding slowly around the city centre in lycra (Believe me, I speak from experience). You know……That’s given me a great idea for an event……….
For details of the next Harris Hack keep an eye on the Cardiff Cycle Chic pages and the next cross league meeting is at Carmarthen park, 6.30pm on Saturday the 22nd of October.