The cross country season yet again ends at a time when the trails are in tip-top condition, our motivation is still high and bikes are still intact. The weekend just gone hosted the last round of the National MTB XC Series at a 'new' venue that has only been raced and ridden by mountain bikers in the know for the last 30 years.
We used to ride Cannock Chase in the days when I first had a car that could be depended on to make the hour journey there, and could be trusted to get us back in the dark. We would chuck our shonky bikes in the back of my Metro; a well-posh one with five doors and everything and splutter there with no plan, no spares, no food and no idea where we were going.
We would ride all day, following our noses, until we knew we were pushing our luck with daylight / parents and we'd ask the nearest indecipherable local for the quickest way back to the car, McDonalds and running the gauntlet back through Wolverhampton.
These days, if there isn't a way-marked trail centre there, 90% of mountain bikers wouldn't get out of their cars. I'm just glad I didn't invest heavily in shares in Ordnance Survey and neon highlighters when I had the chance.
I love trail centres as much as everyone else. I appreciate a well-designed berm and have ridden enough of them to have a mental top-ten that every male of an autistic bent will undoubtedly have stored away. However, trail centres in my opinion suffer from society's need to be entertained all day long and are only a short step away from having piped music on the way round. The awful truth about cycling is that sometimes it is just a miserable experience. If you haven't suffered across a misty moorland, got lost in a knee-deep bog or done numerous hours on interminable fire-roads, you don't deserve to enjoy a trail centre.
But Cannock's round of the Nationals was great. Nice campsite, lots and lots of firewood for our hundredth barbeque of the season (one of our friends says that the xcracer tent smells like a Jamaican smoke house) and loads of trails round the arena for the ADHD kids to rip up all weekend.
Highlight? Liam Killeen racing in his Malvern Cycles top. Arguably the best xc rider we've ever produced, could ride for anyone he wanted to, and who does he choose? His local club. Good effort Liam, riders belong in clubs.