Welsh League: ‘And there it was – gone’.

Jeff at Builth 2-2151

And there it was….. Gone

A fine Welsh expression, summing up another fine Welsh season. Back in 2004 I took up cyclo-cross with the daftest of debuts; the 3 peaks. I’d raced as a mountain biker and cross country runner and enjoyed both. So mixing the two seemed the obvious answer to dealing with injuries from the latter and lack of time for the former. Despite the race bordering on the outside of what the cross bike was designed to do, I’ve never looked back.

At that time, the Welsh league attracted fields of perhaps 40 cyclists. All keen, committed and experienced. Racing was fast, furious and rewarding. Little has changed since, apart from the size of the field. In line with the increasing popularity of the sport, the numbers have trebled. It simply makes course design a little trickier and the racing even faster. Make a bad move and 4 riders thud past you. Crash and you’re off the pace completely.

This season has witnessed an explosion of new and returning riders across the age ranges. The U8 field often topped 30 and the Seniors/Vets/Ladies well north of 100. Its been great to see. The refreshing thing about cross is that its success lies in the simplicity of the racing and the passion of the community. Races are run on a shoestring and everyone mucks in. When a community is that tight, you can feel it in your water.

There are a few races left of course, all East of Offa’s Dyke. I’ll make the trip with some of my team-mates and enjoy racing anonymously . But for the majority of riders in Wales, all that muddy fun and friendly rivalry is over for another year. I’ll miss the mud and slopes of Llandaff. I’ll yearn for the lumps and bumps of Builth. I won’t lose any sleep over Pembrey  – a beautiful course that exposes my criterium riding frailties with ease – but you can be damn sure its inspired me to improve. I won’t be alone when I say ‘roll on next September’.

With thanks to Liz Slater and all involved in Welsh Cyclo-cross. Top image:  a vintage year – Jeff Lewis of Cardiff Tri descending at Builth Wells (and watched by excited daughter). 

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