There is riding on the turbo trainer for fitness and then there is riding off road to hone cyclo-cross technique. In the winter the turbo usually is the first port of call as the nights darken at 4pm, leaving a small window at the weekend for off road duties. Usually this would surfice but with only four weeks to the National Champs in Birmingham we decided to step up our game and get out during the weekday for some honest cyclo-cross practise. Trouble is you need to find a place where you won't run over into dog walkers, won't get locked in, is also safe but not too far to get to. Somewhere with additional furniture like fallen trees, steps or sharp inclines is a bonus as it helps make a ride around a playing field much more interesting. After coming across a You Tube video of cyclo-cross in the 70's we decided the legendary Crystal Palace park would be a good training venue.
[ Video no longer available. ]
The Crystal Palace
The Great Exhibition of 1851 was the expression of a society at the zenith of its prosperity and power. Paxton's Crystal Palace was a huge iron goliath with over a million feet of glass, containing such industrial exhibits as the jacquar loom, courts depicting the history of art and architecture from ancient Egypt through the Renaissance as well as exhibits from imperial territories like India and Austrialia. Major concerts were held in the Palace's huge arched Centre Transept, which also contained the world's largest organ. The central transept also housed a circus and was the scene of daring feats by world famous acts such as the tightrope walker Blondin. The Crystal Palace itself was almost outshone by the park in which it stood, which contained a magnificent series of fountains (the water pumped through a set of towers designed by Brunel) and the park's original trees.
Today, it is a rather different matter. What Mayhew described as the glass hive burned down in the thirties; all that remains are a set of empty terraces, with headless statues gracing the steps and Sphinxes guarding the entrance way to nothingness.
Truth be told its a good but eerie place to train. After a lap you get used to used to the shapes but I was pleased I could glide away on two wheels.