Ripley Castle Cyclocross – Event Preview

We asked organiser Steve Smales to give us a taste for the Ripley Castle Cyclocross, which looks like giving all Northern-based ‘Cross riders a great way to start 2014! Over to you, Steve:

New Year’s Day sees the first running of the Ripley Castle Cyclocross, promoted by members of Harrogate Nova Cycling Club and supported by our kind sponsors.

The nine hundred year old Ripley Castle is situated on the A61 about two miles north of Harrogate which makes it easy to travel to on fast A roads from Leeds, Bradford, the North West and North East. The venue itself sits about 100 metres from a priority gritted route should we face winter conditions.

The eight strong race organising team, led by myself, has called on the expertise of key members of the YCCA to help us design a scenic and spectator friendly course that includes a wide range of technical challenges, interspersed by plenty of fast open stretches. Given that the event sits in the run-up to the National Championships, and that New Year’s Day is often a day for outdoor pursuits, it is anticipated that the event may draw large numbers of competitors, from a wide area, and this has been at the forefront of the course designer, Tim Evans’ remit. In particular, Tim has worked hard to avoid bottlenecks as far as possible to ensure that competitors come away with the result they deserve.

From the gridded start, competitors negotiate grassland in the deer park before dealing with some off camber sections where there will be undoubtedly difficult decisions to make regarding running or riding. Our barriers will be another place for decision making and won’t necessarily be the full forty centre metres high to deliberately tempt the confident and provide spectators with some extra entertainment.

From the grass, competitors enter the castle courtyard up some shallow steps that the talented (or unhinged) may well choose to ride in a last lap decisive move, if they’ve still got the engine after the proceeding heavy section. The next three hundred metres to the line requires negotiation of some corners with tricky changes of surface, including cobbles. These could see an exciting ‘inside leg out’ finale should a group enter the finish together: however, it may well be that the experienced will seek to dispatch any company before this point.

Following the line, riders drop onto a fast, off camber left hander that maybe has the potential to create Peel Park style hilarity should we have the blessing of wet weather pre race. From there on the course takes to the twists and turns of the woods which include an almost unique circumnavigation of a huge tree with protruding roots where even the best technical riders will be faced with a dilemma, run close to the trunk or smoothly ride three times as far about eight metres out. On leaving the woods, riders may well be presented with a surprise or two that won’t alter the sporting outcome, we promise…but they might just bring a smile to the face in and amongst the pain mid race.


A key area of our focus has been to deliver an event that is as good for spectators as it is to ride. A lovely feature of the event is that there course is about sixty percent viewable from a graveled terrace with a short walk of about forty metres allowing spectators to see, cheer or heckle their loved ones at close quarters a second time on each lap. We have been granted special dispensation to allow dogs on the course, which is a deer park, on the strict proviso that that they are kept on a lead at all times. Our hosts, Ripley Castle have placed the substantial finish line tea rooms at our disposal by removing all the furniture and laying on a bespoke cyclocross style menu, including beer, and warming grub on for spectators and post race refuelling at very reasonable prices.

A full programme of racing starts at 10.30am and it is hoped to have the course available for practice at first light. There will be an enter on the day, half hour novice race included and it is they who will get proceedings underway at 10.30. All main races will be gridded based on pre entrants rankings, hence it is in competitors best interests to pre enter. However enter on the day will also be available and everyone is welcome. The double sided pit arrangements are convenient with vehicle access for equipment drop off – no parking sorry. We also have mains water should it not freeze. Under cover changing facilities have been secured a short drive away at Killinghall Moor Country Park, a venue well known to YCCA Summer Series regulars and convenient for a post race shower before perhaps going into Harrogate for a bite to eat.

We very much look forward to running this event, and doing our best to give everyone a great day out – be it to blow away the post Christmas cobwebs; have a first go at cyclocross; or perhaps sharpen form ahead of the National Champs.

Please visit our website for links to course plans, more information and entry details. Alternatively, go straight to the event’s listing on the British Cycling website to enter on-line.

Race Schedule:

10.30: Youth
10.30: Novice Adult
11.30: Under-12/10/8 (enter on the day)
12.30: Veteran 40-49
12.31: Veteran 50+
12.32: Women
14.00: Senior & Junior Men

Key Info

  • 1st January 2014
  • Racing from 10:30AM to 3:00PM
  • Ripley Castle, Ripley, Harrogate
  • HG3 3AY
  • Gridded start
  • Transponder timing
  • Pit stop with mains water
  • Excellent prizes
  • Parking & toilets
  • Free entry to castle grounds for spectators
  • Castle tea rooms
  • Boars Head Coaching Inn
  • No dogs allowed on Estate

An association running summer and winter leagues in Yorkshire

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