With Velociposse’s staunch support of beer, bikes and the DIY ethos, it was inevitable that we’d end up giving Incredibly Cross a go.
Capturing the alleycat vibe and hurling it into the woods with only a megaphone, a couple of clipboards and a few metres of tape strung jauntily between trees to keep people on track, Incredibly Cross has quickly gained a strong following. By their own admission utterly unsanctioned and only slightly disorganised, the first couple of rounds had looked like extraordinarily good fun and by far the most welcoming race series we’ve seen. I mean, with an entry requirement of “a couple of quid or a four pack of beer please”, what would you expect?!
None of the Veloci team has any decent cyclocross experience (well, apart from Jess who’s out of the country) but some of us have been itching to give it a go. With backgrounds in BMX, offroading and MTBing, we knew we wouldn’t absolutely suck at it and could have yet more fun on bikes – especially as the Incredibly Cross organisers encourage costumes, inappropriate bikes, beer and lots of noise. Having raced the previous round, Lina got me and Imo aboard (riding gears, singlespeed and BMX respectively) with Marigold doing the all-important job of cracking the whip and yelling at us to go faster.
The evening arrived – riders descended on Camberwell’s Cycle PS to sign on, collect numbers and chortle at each others’ costumes. After a swift pint we travelled en masse to Burgess Park and had a quick lap of the course. I thought I’d been well-prepared with my 3 front lights for the night but this quickly dissipated when I realised on the very first bend that the camber of the hill and the lovely squelchy mud was too much for my wobbly start and terrible choice of tyres (marathon plus from my touring bike as I’d been to lazy to find any knobblies – more fool me) and down I went, apologizing profusely to the poor people behind me. Nobody minded and I was quickly back up again, making sure on subsequent laps to take the corner better and better. Embarrassing, but I couldn’t have asked for a better learning opportunity or more friendly race environment! I went down a couple of times on corners and saw many people do the same – it was brilliant.
The race format put everyone on the same page: everyone racing at the same time, le Mans-style start (this time up a massive bloody hill – cheers guys) where the organisers also sneakily moved some of our bikes around, and 30 minutes of racing as fast as you can to decide a mens and womens winner.
At the end of Incredibly Cross I felt how I want to feel about life in general: I’ve absolutely no idea how I did but I had a brilliant time.
Big thank you to the organisers for doing something incredible, fun, and social – I can’t wait for the next one!
Highlight: getting lapped by a very polite Christmas Pudding
Not-so-highlight: concentrating so hard on cycling and missing out on beer – must learn to multitask better
Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I also signed up to do a 40k mostly-offroad the day after Incredibly Cross for Rapha’s annual women’s ride Braver Than The Elements. Being more than a little hungover I rolled up to Victoria Park to meet the others only to find cancellations meant that there were only 4 of us (plus Neil who kindly led the ride).
My psychosomatic headache worsened somewhat when I realised I was the only one riding a singlespeed cross bike. The six mile ride from my house had been fine alone, but… those fifty gear inches weren’t going to be much help keeping up with the others with their multitude of gearing options on the roads and canal paths up to Epping. I had another coffee and tried not to worry. At least I could get some decent spinning practice out of this, right?
After a nice social canal-side route, we hit our first big hill. RAD. I’m not ashamed to say that by the time it got to 11% incline I had got off and was slogging it, true cyclocross style, up the hill with the bike on my shoulder. This exciting burst of enthusiasm was short-lived, however, and I spent the rest of the say trailing fairly miserably behind the other 4, which dwindled to 3 as one lady hit her knee, then 2 as one left to head home.
It was so muddy that at one point I fell off and felt the disturbing sensation of being completely suction-stuck. After a quick bit of flailing (my senses heightened, despite not having eaten anything for hours, by the image of being encased in mud like Han Solo in carbonite for the remaining winter months) I was up and back on the bike. I love mud, but I’d rather not spend the whole ride in it.
I must have made about a million excuses in my head to myself as I battled hard to keep up (and, well, stay upright) as to why I was finding it so difficult. It really sucked. Thankfully the others didn’t mind waiting and my mind kept flashing back to Spoking Fun’s “WE ALL SUFFER. KEEP GOING.” patch.
We finished at Rapha Spitalfields with a coffee and me shedding mud everywhere. Classy.
A ridiculous review of a hilarious bike race.
Had you wandered into Burgess park late on Friday night you may have been forgiven for thinking you had stepped into a surreal, contemporary rendition of the nativity. In a dark corner, well known (and lesser known) characters, such as Virgin Mary, christmas tree, ginger biscuit, christmas pudding and someone who I can only assume was the holy spirit, repeatedly wound their way across a stage of hill climbs, a large puddle (possibly the sea of Galilee), rose bushes and mud slides. Clearly stage direction was lacking as all frantically pedalled back and forth in confusion, with no agreement as to exactly which of the many bright lights was indeed the guiding star. This may have been due to the fact that the tree wise men seem to have been cut from the production.
It attracted a significant turnout but the crowd, penned in the centre of the stage and kept at bay by the clipboard wielding shepherds, were clearly unimpressed. Many heckled the actors and some even foisted cans of special brew upon those who had become overwhelmed by the situation.
The son of God also made his debut appearance, strung to the side of Mary’s bike in some sort of desperate bid for salvation. Dave from Save the Children commented: ‘While this performance may break new boundaries in contemporary theatre, it raises serious questions over how we represent responsible childcare. The lack of care that Mary showed for her son Jesus was atrocious’. However, directors evidently chose a present day portrayal of Joseph as an absentee father leaving Mary to struggle through.
Speaking to one of the main protagonists after the show he had this to say: ‘I was doing really well until the finale when I was eclipsed by fucking ginger biscuit and christmas tree’. Like a high school talent show, an unusual competitive atmosphere descended upon the cast as they fought for a share of the gold, frankincense and myrrh which was finally delivered to Mary and her dishevelled son in the form of .… Sadly this was only given to her on account of her being so well dressed which I personally found shamefully objectifying.
Such an rendition of this Christmas favourite was an ambitious endeavour. While the actors had undoubtedly spent no time rehearsing what so ever, the effort they put into making this a success was astounding. We highly anticipate the announcement of their next adventure.