How we got here
It’s been a while. Too long, really.
The North West is a hotbed for cyclocross. We have enjoyed huge attendance numbers for years, along with the other UK Regions, but somehow these have just been that bit larger for that bit longer. The growth of participation numbers in our sport has been something to celebrate, as well as a bit of a headache for event organisers.
But despite being the intention of the North West Cyclocross Association to put on a national level event like this, it never seems to have come together. Until now.
I rode the last National Trophy event in the North West. It was in Astley Park, Chorley in October 2005. A good day out and at 30 mins from my house it was virtually in my back yard. I was so chilled about the relative proximity that I forgot my shoes. Sped back home at speeds I dare not care to mention on the M65, got shoes, then belted back to sign-on, begged a few people, rushed to start line, and set off from the back of the grid. But it was still ace.
The National Trophy has moved on a bit since then. So have I. I wasn’t even a Veteran in 2005.
Where and Why
WHEELBASE, a brand synonymous with cyclocross in the UK, have put on a league event at Westmorland County Showground for the last four seasons. It’s been a great venue and has regularly been praised for what it can offer.
In wet weather, it can be muddy and slippy, but never ridiculously deep or boggy. There are also numerous hard-packed tracks meaning relief in some way from the mud in those conditions.
The showground is also wonderfully sculpted from a gentle hillside, which provides the option of several gradients, ranging from power-climb on tracks, to out-and-out carrying sections.
Above all though, the ‘holy grail’ for National Trophy event organisers these days, it has brilliant motorway accessibility and oodles of decent parking. Overnight camper accommodation also easily possible. Basically, it was sat there begging to be a big race.
Being early in the season and with plenty of light, we anticipate a couple of days great racing and some very busy days before and after, making this a course to remember for cyclocross riders of all ages.
What and How
The National Trophy series is adapting each year to accommodate the changing face of cyclocross. The biggest thing to face recently has been one of huge growth in participation.
Bigger turnout at the local league level has meant more riders pushing each other to higher standards and, as we can see in abundance on the international stage, a real growth in talent at the top.
The league riders growth has now bled through to the national level races and the 2017-18 season saw an experiment with running the events over 2 days. This is now the default for ALL the National Trophy races, and the timetable is a busy one (read it here).
A full weekend of racing means a lot of organisation, and this one has been the result of lots of hard work. The logistics for these national level races are obviously a bit more complicated, but in many ways, once a course is set up and much of the infrastructure, then 2 days of racing is only marginally more hard and more costly to put on that one day.
Even so, there are HUGE numbers of marshals and helpers with sign-on, judging, car parking, pits… it’s a big operation and we hope that everybody involved in helping out gets something out of their weekend, just as much as the riders!