At late notice on New Year’s Eve, I agreed to partner the super talented Maddie Gammons in a Madison cyclocross race at Herne Hill. Neither of us had ever done a cyclocross Madison before and both thought that the concept sounded brilliant. If you don’t know, the race is on a normal cross course with all the normal features however you are in teams of two, taking turns to ride a lap. Once you have finished your lap you come into the hand over-area and have to tag your partner like you would in a track Madison, and repeating this process for at least an hour.
The course was around the old Olympic velodrome that is Herne Hill. I had never raced at Herne Hill before and I’d always heard it was very much a love or hate course. I assumed I would fall into the hate category. However, Herne Hill is probably now my favourite course! It was technical in places but had a very good mix. Due to the rain during the youth madison, the course was very slippery on the grass. However, you couldn’t have your tyres too soft as you would risk puncturing on the short stoney banks. A unique feature of the course was a very tight Christmas tree maze. It was tough as it was rideable but so tight that you had to practically come to a standstill to make it round. Arguably it was quicker just to run. It also featured a small cut through that involved you jumping a Christmas tree on the floor as a hurdle which was also quite unique!
After a quick briefing, we either went to the line or in my case as the second rider went to the handover area. Everyone was all in one big race, so we were battling with the men which turned out to actually be really good fun. Maddie moved up well on the first lap after starting at the back of the grid. Very quickly it was hand over time. With me not being a trackie and Maddie having not been on the track for a few years our changeovers were not textbook track Madison style ones, but I didn’t take anyone out which Is always a positive. I knew I had to go full out as I would have a nice rest afterward, so I did, I repeated this logical strategy every lap.
For the first time ever, I was actually racing sensibly in a cross race and not doing anything stupid like running when I should be riding or being scared of something that was perfectly rideable. It was a good feeling for me to actually be going flat out and getting somewhere. I think it mentally helped as I knew I couldn’t let Maddie down, so I knew I had to give it my all. Although you were only effectively doing one lap intervals it was tough as during your rest your heart rate would drop, and you would cool down and then had to get going hard very quickly once it was your turn again. The fact it was so cold made it even tougher as you came into the waiting area really hot but knew you would soon cool down if you didn’t put jackets on. At each handover, we’d moved up a couple of places within the whole race which was a nice feeling. Towards the end, the lead women’s pair suffered a mechanical so we managed to sneak into the lead. I came into tag Maddie for the final lap and she was off. A few minutes later Maddie crossed the line to get our first wins of 2018.
A massive thank you has to go to Angus Gloag and the rest of his team of VCL helpers for organising such a fun event on such a nice course. And of course, a massive thanks has to go to Maddie for such a fun days racing and being such a cool partner. We hope to be back next year!
Thank you also to Calvin Cheung for all the photographs for this blog post and giving us permission to use them.