What to expect at a Cyclo-cross skills session

First was 'scooting' – with the left foot on the pedal as normal but pushing along with the other foot on the same left hand side of the bike. This manoeuvre came with promises that "you really won't fall over" from coach Darren Armstrong. This did turn out to be true but not without a few unclipping related close shaves!

Onto the grass next to link together dismounting, running, and getting back onto the bike. Keeping some speed whilst trying to remember in what order everything is meant to happen was a bit of a challenge but it did get easier with practice. We then got a feel for braking with some practice at stopping suddenly- finding the differences between front and rear braking and the importance of getting your body weight over the rear of the bike. A short slalom course tested our handling skills before some formation riding in the (fortunately empty) car park to get used to riding close to others. Being boxed in took some getting used to, especially when we swapped to riding in a row each using one hand. A long way to go towards Red Arrows precision, but it worked and it was clear that this skill is really valuable- for riding in groups on the road as well.

We then put everything into practice with a couple of laps of the grounds; sprinting uphill on long wet grass was tougher than it looked and tired the legs out just in time for a final bit of dismount and remount practice. We packed in a lot, stayed upright and had a good laugh along the way - a top Taw Velo training session!

Plymouth Cyclo-cross Father-Son Victory

Taw Velo Cycling Club had both a good turn out and good results at the Plymouth Cyclo-cross on Sunday, 23rd November. Six riders from the club made the journey down to compete on a very tough and demanding course that tested riders skills and endurance to the limit. The previous weeks rain meant that a water logged course brought on the mud (and lots of it!) making it even more slippery and gruelling. The riders had to endure off camber corners, trees and thick sticky mud which clogged gears and braking systems.

Louis Garnsworthy, in the under 8s race, bided his time and waited before attacking the first place rider at the end of the first lap. His determination to win allowed him to create a gap between himself and second place rider, Ben Goldsmith. Edward Armstrong managed to 5th place in the under 12s race. Tough competition from the local club, Pilgrim Flyers, meant that he had to work hard against their riders on home turf.

George Armstrong had a longer and more difficult battle in the youth race. Off camber hills and turns meant his bike handling skills and stamina were tested to the max. He managed to take second place in the 16s category, losing to Gabriel Cox of Certini. Novice winner, Graham Garnsworthy, had a tough course but managed to create a distinctive lead of over 30 seconds between the second place rider. Becky Cornwell, in only her second race of the season, secured 2nd place in the female novice section. Becky commented that just staying upright was her main priority over the difficult course!

[flickr_set id="72157649506648266" images_height="200" max_num_photos="12"]

The main one hour race saw over 80 riders competing for first place. Initially a strong consortium from Mid-Devon Cycling Club led the race with Andrew Parker and Oscar Wiessier creating a gap in the main field. Clogged gears and sticky mud making the whole process harder, along with sharp hill climbs and tricky descents. All looked good for the South Devon club until Dextor Hurlock decided enough was enough and raced for first place. Coming from 5th place he charged his way through the field and continued on to lead the race for the last few laps. With mud clogging every part of his bike, Darren Armstrong finished the tough race in a very respectable 44th place overall and 20th place in the veterans category.

The next round will be the South of England Championship at Stover School, Newton Abbot on Saturday, 6th and Sunday, 7th December. A large turn out of over 100 riders will race in the various categories, so thrills and spills are expected. Full event details are available on the British Cycling and South West Cyclo-cross websites.

Bike Polo Debuts at Rock Park

Thanks for all those Taw Velo members that made the trip to Rock park on Sunday afternoon for the first (uncompetitive!) Match of grass bike polo in Devon.

On a wet field there were 9 willing volunteers with no experience of the non contact, contact sport of bike polo. Willing to risk their prize machines in the pursuit of fun and something a little different. After a little trial of riding a bike while swinging a wooden mallet in the rough direction of a small ball there was a quick instruction on a few rules which are an attempt to keep you out of harm’s way! Wobbly wheels are very common in the game.

Teams were divided up equally with a mixture of those who had fallen off during the quick pre match trial and those who were keen to put their mallet through someone else’s wheel (George).

[flickr_set id="72157649406590252"]

Matches are usually 2 chukkas or 4 chukkas of 10 or 15 minutes. The start of each begins with a sprint. The sprint, a member of each team starts from the Goal line and on the whistle sprints as fast as he or she can to the ball on the centre spot to beat his or her opponent. This is one of the reasons why all players must play right handed.

As this was the first time for all players we had one long Chukka of about an hour and a half. Which was mainly an hour of crashing, smashing, whacking, sliding, falling off, cheating, kicking, golf, hockey and goals of course. The scoring was opened by (Chuck) and the floodgates opened and the greens became very quickly fluent at scoring. The realisation that getting the right gearing on your bike makes a huge difference. Agility not top end speed.

Everyone who gave it a try picked it up far easier than we expected and really did a very good job of mastering cycling, hitting and avoiding other bikes (all at the same time). Well done to all of you. I think there may be a few garages with an extra bike and a mallet in them before long.

Taw Velo Triumph at St Austell Cyclo-cross

Pave Velo held the 6th round of the South West Cyclo-cross series at St Austell, Cornwall on Sunday, 26th October.

St Austell Cyclo-cross Under 8s PodiumThe day started off with the under 8s race in dry conditions and still no sign of mud. A field of around 15 riders competed with Max Standen and Louis Garnsworthy fighting it out for first place. Max held a good lead over Louis for the first part of the race, until back markers made the race more complex. Max and Louis both ended up getting caught and it was Louis who managed to find a gap in the field and make a break away, with Max now chasing. Louis managed to keep a just ahead of Max which ended up in a sprint until the finish line.

The under 10s and 12s race started off with a younger rider from the South West making a break for the lead straight away. Young rider Toby Peters managed to create a half-lap lead until mechanical issues struck. Second place rider, Sam Medlyn from One and All racing now had the advantage, however Toby took on the challenge and gave chase, managing to claw his way back into first place. Meanwhile Pilgrim flyers rider Leon Dawes and Edward Armstrong from Taw Velo fought it out for the final place on the podium. Edward managed to keep a good lead until the final lap and after letting his guard down managed forth place overall. Ellen Garnsworthy continued with her domination of the girls race and once again managed first place for the under 10 girls, thus ensuring her lead and mission to win the overall girls title.

St Austell Cyclo-cross George ArmstrongThe under 16s and Novice race finished with first places going to, Taw Velo riders George Armstrong and Graham Garnsworthy. George took an early lead and set a blistering pace at just over 3 minutes per lap, second place rider James Bowen Camel Valley CTC and Novice rider Graham could not match the youngster's speed and skill on the course, especially when he was managing to 'catch air' going over the table top obstacles.

The senior race had a strong field of 83 riders. The course now being much longer and involving the 'brewery steps' meant riders had more of a challenge, not only having to ride through St Austell Brewery and resist the temptation of beer, but also had to contest with a series of steps and high banks and finally a bit of mud. The overall winner was Dexter Hurlock of Mondraker UK, who is ranked 13th nationally, gave a master class in Cyclo-cross racing.

The league moves to Holyrood Academy, Chard for round 8 with full event details available on the British Cycling and South West Cyclo-cross websites.

Escot Cyclo-cross Success

Due to the dry weather, this weekends Cyclo-cross event at Escot dashed the hopes of many riders who had hoped to finally encounter some winter mud. The last of the warm sunny days meant that clubs and riders from around the region descended on the country park to take part in round 5 of the South West cyclo-cross league.

Escot Cyclo-cross Youth Riders126 riders took part in the main event, 13 novices and around 60 under 16s competed in the other races. Racing stated with a field of 30 under 8s taking on the challenging course, consisting of mud, gravel and grass. The first of the races saw young Max Standen and Louis Garnsworthy from Taw Velo chase down the leader, Finlay Mcdonald, working together the two riders gave chase and ensured that Finlay had to work hard to stay in the lead. Hannah Foster also took on Sophie Radford for the top placement for girls across a challenging course. Also in this race was young George Dadswell, aged 5 he was one of the youngest riders to compete and managed 23 out of 31 with Lizzie Foster also finishing close behind him.

The under 10s and 12s race once again was dominated by the strong rider, Freddie Birchall from Pilgrim Flyers, however both Edward Armstrong and Chuck Harmer fought off tough competition to come in second and third. Ellen Garnsworthy once again showed true form and managed to win the unders 10s girls race for the 4th time in a row.

Escot Cyclo-cross Nathan DadswellGeorge Armstrong managed 3rd place in the under 16s and was able to fight off competition from the Taw Velo riders Simon Harmer and Graham Garnsworthy who competed in the Novice race. The combined race ensured that the younger riders had a tough time being chased down by Adults, however a strong performance from Harry Birchall from Pilgrim Flyers gave a master class in cross country riding.

The main race was held over a much longer course, that included the elements of the previous races. The 1.9 mile course had a range of obstacles, including some very steep sections and hidden tree routes. This was no challenge for the Mid Devon club rider Oscar Wiessler, who finally managed his overall win for the session, the junior rider managed to power his way around the course and ward off attacks from the main field of 126 riders.

North Devon had a strong representation with representatives from Southfork Racing, North Devon Wheelers, Bideford Peloton and Taw Velo.

The league moves to St Austell for round 5 with full event details can be found on the British Cycling and South West Cyclo-cross websites.

West Buckland Cyclo-cross

There was a one-two for Mid Devon Cycling Club at round 4 of the South West Cyclo-cross series promoted by Taw Velo at West Buckland School.

Andy Parker won the main race ahead of team-mate Oscar Wiessler with Steve Davies, of Hargroves Cycles, third.

Dry weather meant the 1.6-mile course's tight corners, trees, gravel, grass banks, hills and jump boards threw up little resistance to the fast pace of the field of 79 senior riders. Organiser Darren Armstrong said:

"Without any seriously steep sections, we put in some hairpin corners on the long straights to try slowing them down. Natural tree obstacles did the best job of testing their technical skills"

Locals finishing in the top 20 were Southfork duo Steve Sage (10th) and Matt Locke (17th), with Mark Lees, of North Devon Wheelers-Southfork, 20th.

Lees's club-mate Martin Crocker hung on to 31st, ahead of Nathan Dadwell (48th) and Simon Harmer (52nd), of Taw Velo, and Braunton-based Ben Gody (59th).

[flickr_set id="72157649220774820" images_height="150" max_num_photos="8"]

Harry Birchill, riding for Certini, was first out of 22 youths and novices, finishing ahead of George Armstrong, from Taw Velo, and Oli Minto, of Plymouth CX.

Young Wheelers Sid Baldaro and Nathan Adams finished second and third respectively as they were unable to prevent Birchill's younger brother Freddie, of Pilgrim Flyers, winning the 15-strong under-12s race.

"Cyclo-cross has always been respected for the bike-handling skills required, with a reputation for distinguishing the summer road-racing talent. The sport is growing throughout the age groups. It is attracting more youngsters because any falls are likely to be only self-inflicted as there are no drafting advantages to riding in tight bunches"

Max Standen won the under-eight race, which attracted 14 riders, finishing ahead of Taw Velo trio Louis Garnsworthy, Joshua Kyle and Hannah Foster.

Youth Success at Wellington Cyclo-cross

The winter Cyclo-cross season is underway, but without a drop of rain, no chilling wind and certainly no mud, riders at round 2 of the South West Cyclo-cross league could be forgiven for not realising. Undeterred by these mild climes, the Taw Velo youth team achieved further outstanding Cyclo-cross results; this time at Court Fields School, Wellington.

Another good turnout for the U8s saw thirteen riders line up for the first race of the day. Following a fast and frantic start, a group of six young riders moved to the front and started to pull away. Within half a lap though, this group had split as Taw Velo's Louis Garnsworthy and fellow competitor from Team Tor 2000 broke away. Louis stayed close in second place until the final incline on the final lap where, out of the saddle, he powered to the front. With energy level falling, and wishing he'd had that extra Weetabix for breakfast, Louis was caught in the closing stages and crossed the line in second place.

Two Taw Velo riders - Edward Armstrong and Ellen Garnsworthy - took their places at the start line for the combined U10 and U12 race. After another fast start, Ed was one of a group of five riders that quickly established itself at the front. Ellen, fuelled with confidence from her win at Bodmin, moved up from the rear of the field to be part of the chase group within two corners of the start.

The rapid pace, combined with some tight and technical sections, caused the lead group to string out during the second and third laps. Initially sharing third place, Ed's consistent speed, along with a hint of an attack saw him edge away and make third place his own.

Wellington Cyclo-cross Youth RidersStamina appeared to be the key ingredient for Ellen as she moved ahead of tiring legs in the mid and final stages of the race. Stamina rewarded Ellen with 1st place U10 girls and 2nd place girls overall.

In the final 200 meters of the race, Ed had the chance to lap Ellen but, showing great team spirit, they raced side-by-side and the Taw Velo duo sprinted over the line together.

With youth coach Darren Armstrong acting as line judge, Ellen and Louis's Dad, Graham, was Taw Velo's adult representation. In only his second cycle race (the first was almost 25 years ago!), Graham was one of six riders that rode in the novice category; a new addition to the South West Cyclo-cross league this year. The 30 minute race was closely competed but as the final-lap bell rang, Graham had just enough left in his legs to stay ahead of the second place rider.

Cyclo-cross is often cited as the fastest growing cycling discipline and, with the enthusiasm of both the organisers and riders witnessed this season, it's easy to see why. Let's hope this growth and enthusiasm continues as we move to next round, promoted  by Taw Velo, on Sunday, 5th October at West Buckland School.

Full details of the league can be found on the South West Cyclo-cross website.

Youth Riders Shine at Bodmin Cyclo-cross

With weather not typically associated with Cyclo-cross, round 1 of the 2014/15 South West Cyclo-cross league took place at the Dragon Leisure Centre, Bodmin.

On a tight and twisting course, a packed under-8s field opened the day's proceedings. Taw Velo's Louis Garnsworthy made a good start and moved up to second place on the first lap. Staying with the lead rider, Louis remained in close contention until the backmarkers were caught. Weaving around the backmarkers cost Louis time but he continued on strongly and finished comfortably in second place.

On an extended course, the next race of the day was the combined under-10s and under-12s. Taw Velo was again represented with Ellen Garnworthy, Louis's sister, lining up in the under-10s. With a range of abilities and ages, the field quickly spread out. But, within half a lap, Ellen was in first place in her category. Although lapped by some of the under-12s, Ellen didn't slow and opened up a lead on second place and finished a well deserved first.

Bodmin Cyclo-cross Darren ArmstrongTaw Velo's representation continued as George Armstrong lined up in the youth race. In a very strong field - that included the current national youth mountain bike champion - George was far from intimidated and made a solid start sharing forth place. Remaining neck and neck for almost two laps, George showed great patience and saved his attack until out of view in the wooded section. Reappearing  a minute later, George had pulled away from the fifth place rider and continued putting distance between them for the remainder of the race.

Not to be outshone by his charges, youth coach Darren Armstrong lined up in the senior race. In a field of almost 80 riders, Darren's efforts were rewarded with 32nd place overall and 16th place in the veterans category.

Full details of the league can be found on the South West Cyclo-cross website.

Stags Head Road Race

Huw Richards solos to victory in the first of the Stags Head road races organised by Taw Velo cycle club.

This weekend saw the first of the Stags Head road races organised by Taw Velo cycle club. The race was held on an open road circuit that goes from South Molton though to the village of Filleigh then back round to South Molton.

There was a good turn out of 70 riders from all over the county and as far a field as Bristol and Bath. They raced round the 6-mile circuit seven times with the finish up the hill past the Stags Head Pub. The peloton of riders stayed together until lap 3 when the race started to break up, with smaller groups starting to form and work together.

Then on lap 4, the lone rider Huw Richards, who rides for Tavistock Wheelers North Shore Gallery, broke away to build on a lead in the final laps to finish 1 min 45 sec ahead of the chasing group that had a bunch finish for the minor placing.

Second place went to Phillip Collings of the same team, 3rd place went to Kris Jasper riding for Falco Racing. The event went very well getting good feed back from the riders and the event commissaries and NEG safety bike riders.

Young Riders Brave the Elements

Riders from around North Devon took advantage of the break in the weather on Saturday afternoon when Taw Velo held the second round of its Winter Games series at Petroc.

Around 20 riders turned up for the event which took in 3 different events, a Drag race, Keirin and a Cyclo-cross course.

The recent rain, gusting wind and very wet ground, just made the whole event much more challenging and allowed rides to test their bike handling skills.

This time round the cyclo-cross course was much longer and included a long hill climb, riding over grass mounds and 2 jump boards.

[flickr_set id="72157653968939175" images_height="150" max_num_photos="15"]

Riders as young as 7 braved the wind and thoroughly enjoyed competing with different age categories.

Louis Garnsworthy aged 7 from Crediton was determined not to be beaten and showed real determination by asking to compete the whole course and all the obstacles, his commitment was rewarded when he finished ahead of riders much older than him.

Darren Armstrong, Taw Velo youth coach, said: "All the young riders put so much effort into these races, they overcome a very strong head wind, soggy ground and a hill, however they all finished within a smile on their face.

"This is the second games and the riders are showing real skills now and fully participating in an emerging competitive sport, it's fantastic to watch and be involved in.

"There are a number of younger riders that are showing real promise, they are fully committed and give their all to racing, we also have a number of young girls that are holding their own against the boys."

The event was supported by Sport England with prizes supplied by Bike It Barnstaple.



Under 8s
  • Louis Garnsworthy (20 pts.)
Under 10s
  • Chuck Harmer (26 pts.)
  • Charlie Tomkins (26 pts.)
  • Isabel Howgate (12 pts.)
  • Fin Mead (12 pts.)
  • Charlie Hewlett (6 pts.)
  • Ellen Garnsworthy (5 pts.)
  • Kea Harmer (4 pts.)
Under 12s
  • Ben Rowell (26 pts.)
  • Philip Mogford (22 pts.)
  • Edward Armstrong (18 pts.)
  • Ethan Roberts (5 pts.)
  • Tom Batchelor (4pts.)
  • Fisher Chapple (3 pts.)
Under 14s
  • George Armstrong (30 pts.)
  • Jacob Allchorn (24 pts.)
  • Josh Hawkes (18 pts.)