ThunderCross by Will Fox
Thunder Cross was my first off road racing experience and it was easily one of my favourite events to date. Despite the cold wind, intermittent drizzle of rain and my unnecessary off road Garmin route to the venue from Bromley… It was difficult to not be wrapped up in the GNAR of this muddy spectacle.
We were invited to arrive from 10:00am with a chance to familiarise ourselves with the course and the first race set to depart at 13:00. The riders were rolling in throughout the first couple of hours and the array of bike disciplines were exciting to see, from a full suspension MTB to a 16” wheel Brompton. Of all the crashes on the day the worst was before the event started with one minor concussion that took a rider out the race. I was busy scoffing wraps from the BBQ and forcing metal music through the PA whenever a back was turned. Attitudes were positive despite the cold and the excitement was building.
On the line up we had an “Anything Goes Race”, mixed Main race and then a “Gravel King hell climb”. As my tendency for excitement in large crowds developed, I decided to sign up for both races. This was never a great idea, but the stupidest idea’s are the gateway to happiness – Said no one ever.
The Anything Goes race brought some fun costumes and rides, with one gentleman riding along with his dog, brakeless fixed gear’s (one which was only ever expected the velodrome…EEEK!) and a guy who you could barely see riding around in his full ghillie sniper outfit. Each lap was gruelling, with harsh pedalled climbs and sandy loose descents – downhill sections that had you leaning so far back on your bike, that your saddle was in front your chin, I swear Tom Robinson nearly sat on his tyre, then a final steep chase uphill before crossing the line. It was fun and I was smiling even when I lost control on my second or third lap off a speedy drop off at the fourth to last corner. I had a lot of painful chasing to do, as Kris Snell darted off ahead of me, dressed in school uniform. Kris and I spent a lot of the race neck and neck, but by the end I managed to draw away and clasp a second place position.
It was at this point I knew, I had fucked up!
We had 15 minutes until the main race started but after two espressos and a couple of litres of water, I was convinced I could do it! The start line consisted of a mix of independent riders and people I had met before from Fixed gear crits, from the home team NLTCBMBC, The Fifth Floor, Das Rad Klub, LFGSS and a good group of teams turned up from the Cyclocross season too.
The course this time was set up differently with the first and last lap to be up a gravel climb through a tunnel and then out onto the original loop. The single discipline bike choice made a huge difference to the start line, as people pulled away it was an instant battle to the gravel and you could feel the pressure on for the first lap prime. I didn’t clip in for at least three rotations, so everything that happened from here onwards – was my cleat’s fault! Two laps had gone by and I was tired! The mud flung from the wheel I was chasing hit me in the face like the hand of disappointed lover, but I was determined to find the strength; I was still smiling and I was still having fun. It came to the big crater (as I named it), which then kicked you out onto a rapid decent over loose clay and pot holes. I picked a line I’d never chosen before, then didn’t quite read the terrain that well and lost my rear wheel to the side which swung me over onto my shoulder. I sacrificed the air in my lungs and crumpled into the dirt. With an elegant crab walk, I cleared the course! My shoulder was busted so I grabbed a beer and got to cheering the rest of the riders on. Max finished 15th with all the showmanship of busting a wheelie over the line – with great strength, comes great tom foolery.
A great day full of muddy fun, lots of pain, lots of crashes but only smiles. Roll on Thunder Crit and more good times. Cross season will see me next year!