‘Cross diary 8: I try spectating

December 31, 2011 at 11:54 am | Posted in cycling | 6 Comments
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So, I was ill for the fancy dress charity cyclocross race. Bah! But Primo was up for it, and so was @Psyclyst and his family, so we got our jumpers on, packed our gloves and snacks and cowbells, and went up to Heptonstall.

Heptonstall’s an ancient hamlet on the tops near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire – all winding one-in-four cobbled streets and blackened stone houses, with a 360 degree view of the surrounding moors. It’s all very Wuthering Heights. We splashed across the car park past several Smurfs and a member of KISS, and went into the Social and Bowling Club to sign on. Inside, the place was heaving with serious-looking Yorkshiremen in Elvis wigs and devil’s horns. Ladies in polonecks and slacks dealt out chocolate brownies and race numbers with businesslike charm. I pinned Primo’s number to his policeman’s outfit and he signed his name neatly in the tiny space.

The kids raced first. Fairies, several Santas, a Kick-Ass and a couple of boys with Bieber wigs on top of their helmets battled gamely with a twisty, muddy course, bumping up and down grassy hillocks. We realised in the first lap that Primo didn’t know he was allowed to get off and run. Oops. Once we’d put him right, he was off, and came in about halfway down the field, grinning, barely out of breath.

We went to the windswept little playground for a bit, then it was time for the grownups to line up. Theirs was an extended version of the kids’ course. ‘How’s it looking out there?’ I yelled at a guy from Pedalsport as he rattled past on his recce lap. ‘Bumpy!’ came the reply. We found ourselves a vantage point on a tight corner, got the cowbells out again, and started bellowing ourselves hoarse. ‘DEG EN, SCOATTISH SMURF!’ ‘GWAAN, TANDEM ELVISES!’ Jimmy Savile ground past, cigar gripped between his teeth, bling tangling in his handlebars, to a Mexican wave of yodelling.

I started yelling compliments on everyone’s pro remounts (it’s not easy when you’re dressed as Lady Gaga). An elf rode by in fishnets and bare arms, holding up her low-cut top with one hand and grinning sheepishly.

Halfway through I realised I’d forgotten to bring any handups. Idiot! Luckily, the tandem tankmen were lobbing out mini Snickers bars as they churned round.

LAATSTE RONDE! We cowbelled ourselves silly and screeched encouragement at the kiddyback tandemist, who had stopped every lap to change child stoker and was now visibly flagging. We’re not sure who won, but we know @Psyclyst did an extra lap, just because he could. He was rightly pleased with himself as he’d managed to overtake someone; as he went past, the overtakee said ‘Well done!’ Only in cyclocross…

Back in the Social and Bowling Club, they were dishing out mushy peas and raffle tickets, and laughing about how the race had only lasted 20 minutes. We sat down with coffees and tried to get our fingers to thaw out enough to take our gloves off, but had to leave in a rush when Segundo started fishing balls out of the pool table and flinging them across the room.

It’s an annual event; we’re already cooking up costumes and heckles and themed handups (mince pies? Chocolate liqueurs?) for the next one. Like the Terminator, we’ll be back. Or – hang on! Maybe *as* the Terminator…

Read the British Cycling writeup of the event here.

Some great images from Mandy Parker here.


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  1. i have a barely ridden cross bike.. the race for the MS society looks awesome

    • It’s a good course for beginners – not too technical! And the atmosphere is great. Did you see the pics of the Smurf in a kilt, btw? (Follow link to Mandy Parker’s flickr!)

  2. Got to try and do this next year. Love Heptonstall. Love ‘cross. No brainer.

    • Thanks for reading! It’s a brilliant event. We will definitely be back next year. I might even have learned to remount by then…

  3. […] Heptonstall Fancy Dress: Never actually raced this one as always ill. Wash hands obsessively and refuse to breathe in for a week beforehand. Think up mind-blowingly ACE costume. […]

  4. […] another women-only session, on 22 December. I won’t be going, because it’s Heptonstall Charity Fancy Dress Cyclocross day, but I can’t recommend it enough. Sign up. Go on. You know you want […]

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