Stirling students Alex Ball and Lotta Mansfield were among those to step foot on the podium as just over 30 riders from Scottish universities participated in the Scottish Student cyclocross championships at Linlithgow.
Despite the latter half of January proving to be drier than the first, East Lothian woke up on Sunday morning to a biting wind, alongside a challenging cocktail of rain and sodden leaves, as the women’s cyclocross event began.
Alex Ball had finished fourth in November’s Scottish cyclocross championships, adding to his impressive third place finish in the previous year’s edition.
Though a relatively flat course, this in no way made completing fifty minutes in the driving wind a piece of cake. Beginning with a wide gradual incline followed by a sharp descent, cyclists weaved their way through the twists, turns and troughs up to a brief wooded area, a menacing threat of truncation to the riders’ days.
In spite of this, the main cause for concern came later on, as two large hurdles preceded a sharp uphill bend, with many riders at this point choosing to surrender to the eroded ground below and tackle the winding lanes of Linlithgow cross on foot. Experienced 21-year-old Alex Ball mastered this section, not disembarking from his stead once and profiting from the time saved, finishing clear ahead of the Birmingham Commonwealth Game’s Charlie Aldridge, who was, rather appropriately, on a mountain bike.
At the back end of last year, Lotta had finished 15th in the national cyclocross championships, working her way into a podium spot in the U23 segment of the trophy series and fourth in the elite category. Finishing in second place behind Edinburgh’s Anna McGorum, she showed her experience in making the often-frustrating loop seem like a banal task.
Of the race itself, Lotta emphasised the course’s technicality, suiting her riding style. More than content with her performance, she added that she was “very happy to get 2nd against some strong girls.” Sunday’s race signified a jovial finish to a successful CX season for the Montezuma rider.
Catriona Barbour was another member of USCC to cross the finish in the women’s category, while cross newbie Alex Hodge went through the trials and tribulations of offroad racing, helping to add to the University of Stirling CC’s end-of-year tally and move the club up the final rankings.
Now providing a yearly fixture to our TV screens enjoyed by millions in the form of the century-old Paris-Roubaix, CX has its roots in far more audacious past-times. It is believed that off-season road racers would challenge each other in an unorthodox race to the next village, traversing farmers’ fields and hopping fences in order to achieve this goal.
One would doubt that those agricultural chancers would have predicted the role cyclocross now plays as part of the Scottish Student Cycling calendar, alongside other events. The downhill championships take place at Glenshee Ski resort in June.
Featured Image Credit: Louise Smith
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