Stickybottle

“It was hard to get traction but I kept the pressure on. It was me against the course”

Posted on: January 12th, 2014

Roger Aiken powers forward in Belfast today on his way to defending the elite men’s National Cyclocross title he won in Dundalk, Co Louth, 12 months ago (Photo: Toby Watson, homepage photo by Sean Rowe)

 

 

By Gerard Cromwell

In Belfast

While the elite men’s race in today’s National Cyclocross Championships was considered by many to be a two horse race prior to the start, the brute force and technical ability of defending champion Roger Aiken saw him become odds-on favourite as early as the opening lap.

Aiken made his presence felt immediately, winning the charge of the light brigade that is the sprint into the first corner. It was a charge that brought Connaught champion Padraig Marrey’s day to a sudden halt when he came down in a crash in the middle of the large field.

“If you’re on the front row of the grid, you have to get into the first corner up near the front,” said Banbridge CC’s Aiken afterwards.

“Cross races always start fast and there’s always a pinch point somewhere but I usually have a pretty good start.”

Although 18-time national champion Robin Seymour (Team WORC) battled valiantly in the early stages and almost went into the lead when Aiken had a bit of a rodeo moment the first time into the off-camber section known as ‘carnage corner’, the defending champion was simply too strong today and soon opened a gap on the rest of the race.

“The worst part of it was the off-camber corner,” he said.

“I made a wee mistake on the first lap and Robin was on my wheel in a flash. The long grassy hills were really hard too but once I got the gap on him, I tried to ride steady and on the straight sections I was able to use my power.

“After that it was me against the course but I had to keep it upright or I knew the gap would go pretty quickly. It was just a matter of keeping it smooth, keeping the pressure on.”

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As the rain got heavier after the opening lap, sections of the course became mud-plugged but Aiken’s technical ability meant he was one of the very few who didn’t crash on the slippery corners.

“I grew up doing a few mountain bike races so I have a bit of a background there which helps,” he said.

“It got very hard near the end to get traction and you can have all the power in the world but if you can’t corner quick enough it’s no good.”

Having finished 1min 45secs clear of Seymour in the end, Aiken was delighted to retain his national champion’s jersey for another year, although he’s unsure how long he can stay at the top.

“I’m feeling as good now on the bike as I did in the summer so that’s a credit to the cyclocross scene here,” he enthused.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself to try and retain the title today, with it being in Belfast. Maybe I’ve a few more years to try and win it again.

“I’ve a lot of motivation to, but there’s a good few young riders coming up. I think it’s harder to retain the title than win it. I don’t know how Robin has done it 18 times. It’s an incredible record.”

Work commitments with Northern Rail mean Aiken will not get to wear the champion’s jersey in the last race of this season. A return to the road will see the recently married Banbridge man take a similar approach to last year, where he targeted a few high profile races rather than competing all season.

“I’ve sort of all my holidays allocated for this year and with working every weekend I probably won’t be able to make the last ‘cross race,” he said.

“I’ll try to do a few mountain bike races this year; keep my hand in. And I’ll give it a good shot on the road again this year; ride the Tour of Ulster and hopefully the Rás.

“I can get really motivated for the Rás. It’s great to race in the big bunch with all the pros. It feels like you’re living the dream for the week.

“But I’m not fussed about doing the journeyman thing racing around the country any more. I’ve done that. When you’re working all week, it’s nice to get a weekend at home.

“I like going out and riding my bike. I’m always out on my bike. It’s the enjoyment of cycling that’s a big part of it for me. Whether you’re racing or not doesn’t really matter.”

 

Advertisement

The cyclists’ travel agent, Neenan Travel are still taking bookings for the World Cyclo Cross Championships in Hoogerheide, Netherlands, January 31st- Feb 3rd, for what sounds like a great weekend away. Places are limited at this stage.
Details on www.neenan.travel/cycling
Or call Alan Neenan on 0868233791

 

 

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