Starting on a grassy incline, the racers will join the circuit on the first lap for a fast 400m tarmac climb through the start finish area. The tarmac continues on for another 100 meters and then turns gently left and gently right, onto a grassy straight.
Easy peasy? Yes….. But positioning is vital on the straight, so gas up, before you enter a sharp 90 degree turn, through a bombhole, with an immediate bank to the left, and up onto a leafy avenue.
At this point (850metres) the riders will then be lined out, and after a short sprint, the course then swoops right up a bank. This can be either run or ridden, and exits onto a rough section of grassy track, with hidden lumps, and roots. The avenue is lined with hawthorn bushes, so stay on the centre line.
Riders then exit on a tricky off camber bank and into the BMC (big muddy chute). This leads to a very technical exit, via a slippy but shallow bombhole through the trees. This is a key point in the course, and riders should negotiate this obstacle with great care. Slow down here, and mind your shoulders.
The next section will be familiar to many as the fast, open, and twisty descent which previously featured in the FIXX and NDCX races. This is a high speed section, and it’s important to keep your concentration, as the corners are muddy, and deceptively slippy. Also enjoy it….. it’s fun.
Next up, the riders will swoop through a wide bend, and up a steep bank, which does a predictably political u-turn, and descends to cross a set of concrete steps (pinch flat risk here).
The course then continues through a series of 3 light bulb shaped turns, before taking riders to the foot of the tarmac climbing section, hamburger hill.
After riding this hill, many riders vow never to eat fast food again.
Pit entrance point A is located at the base of the hill, so there is no room for technical excuses for your girlfriend why you didn’t ride up it. For the single and the single minded, we have included a grassy strip alongside the tarmac, which you may use at your leisure.
Once at the summit, you may smile for the cameras as you immediately turn and descent on a tricky off camber bend to the base of the hill, only to turn back on yourself, dismount, smile again, and heroically run up the bank.
At this point you will be surrounded by spectators, cheers, and adulation (in your mind) and after a perfect remount at the top you will then descend a slalom course, staying off the brakes, and passing pit entrance point B.
The course then enters the spooky woods known locally as the Jacko. For the nationals we have cleared this section to a full 3 metres wide, and it is slicker than ever. Shamone. A series of 3 turns through the woods leads you to a muddy exit point, with a quick lap around a small meadow. You then head back into the Jacko, and face the steepest run up you have ever seen. Studs, studs, studs are the order of the day. Remember only a stud can get up this.
After a probably sloppy remount, you re-join the course for a quick sprint up the tarmac and across the finish line to victory!!!
This course is all about hills. It’s fast. Its technical, and it’s hard. It will test your nerve, and unusually for a cross course, your stamina too. If it’s frosty it will be fast and grippy. If it’s wet it will be boggy and slippy.
It’s always hard, but its great fun. Welcome to Swords Cyclocross.