Caramba! What the hell was that all about? Has someone opened a fresh box of mountain bikers? The Soggies have always been popular, but we had this sneaking suspicion that lots of mountain bike racers had found their way into the murky depths of the cyclo-cross world, and would never again pedal a fat-tyred bike in anger. How wrong we were.
A few things changed for the 2015 edition of the Soggies, and we realize that there need to be further changes to be made for us to keep up with demands of the riders.
Dates. Anyone who glanced at the cyclo-cross calender would realise that an event is basically scheduled for every Sunday from September to January. Half of these will be cancelled at the last minute, but it has created a headache for event organisers. So we booked the Soggies to start in January to avoid a clash...and then they decided to carry on their season into the New Year, and probably push right through to summer with your best results from 45 rounds to count. Oh well. The other reason for starting later than before is that now we have an event per month leading up to the start of the National XC series at the end of March. Before, we'd all be fit as fook at the end of the Soggies (typical winter racers) but would have a month or so off before the Nationals started to basically eat pasties and lose fitness. Now we should send our S.W. riders off ready to do some damage at Sherwood, mainly to themselves and surrounding trees.
Techy course. I'm sure the many technical features did not suit all riders, and would have been a shock to many of the Soggy faithful, but there are good reasons why they were included. Firstly, the skill level of cross-country racers is way, way better than it was when Salty, in his genius, first ran the Soggies. Certain sections would have been on the verge of Red Bull Rampage for many riders, but for lots of riders they were literally just a walk in the park. Secondly, we've got Round Two of the National MTB XC series coming to Newnham in April and we want to give them the stand-out course of the series. Therefore we need to use the Soggies to build stuff, send the crash test dummies over it to see what works and bed it in a bit. Unknowingly, you're all helping build the Nationals course.
The Start. It's not a new idea, we haven't re-invented the wheel, but just resurrected something that was always a god idea and can't believe we stopped doing it. The reason for doing it now is for development of the young riders; the juveniles need to race head-to-head with the youth, the youth with the juniors and the juniors with the elite. As it was, our leading juvenile boy was lying third overall in the race, which no doubt puts the fear of god into the so-called experts, who had better pull their fingers out. For those who wondered what the hell pallet castle was all about, it's just something we do with the youth club, we had a lot of pallets donated by Gregory's and we're damn well going to use them so get some practice in.
Under 13's race. In the under 13s, 10s and 8s, I think we had a total of 40 kids on bikes. I remember when we did the South West series and were lucky if we got half a dozen, or enough for the front row of the grid. Nowadays it is like a bicycle-mounted Lord of the Flies and we need to improve what we're doing to accommodate all the pesky kids. So we're going to make the kids' course wider to allow for more overtaking, while keeping it just the right level of techiness to keep the strong 'uns interested. We are also going to have certificates, or momentos for all the kids as well as the podium prizes so that they have something for show and tell on monday.
Category changes. Dropping the masters category was implemented by British Cycling for 2015, for many reasons, most of them totally justified. We followed suit to simplify things for those South West masters who were going to race the National Series this year, and also because for the past few years it has been the smallest senior category. In the Soggies, the junior boys have always raced in the Sport category, and this has never been an issue due to there only being a couple of them. Things have changed, now we have a few juniors and they are filling the top spots in the sport category. So from Round 2 we'll have a separate junior and sport categories to spare the blushes of the top sport riders and give the juniors the credit they deserve.
What we've never done in the Soggy series is have an end-of-series bash. Mainly because it's pouring with rain, we have hours of trudging round the park to do getting the course back in, and who wants to party in a portakabin anyway? This year we're going to try to take over the Lord Louis, which won't be easy on a Sunday afternoon with the carvery crowd queuing out the door, but we'll try anyway. So have a wash in the river and come along for a pint, a carvery served on a dustbin lid and a fight with the local dole scum.