Feature: Cross talking with Dave Mellor

With the cyclo-cross season in full swing, I take my notebook of questions about the sport to some one who doesn’t only own a bike shop but also races and organises the biggest of the biggest CX races, Dave Mellor

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Feature: Cross talking with Dave Mellor

With the cyclo-cross season in full swing, I take my notebook of questions about the sport to some one who doesn’t only own a bike shop but also races and organises the biggest of the biggest CX races, Dave Mellor

Because I don’t compete in the sport, there are always questions in my head from time to time and when it comes to cyclo-cross, who better to go to than the owner of a massive cycle shop as well as organiser of British Championship and National Trophy events; Dave Mellor.

Dave is one of the hardest working people in cycling, not just in his local bike shops in Shrewsbury, but also in the sport of cycling supporting his local club, Mid Shropshire Wheelers and his regional CX league, the Ridley Lazer West Midlands League. Dave is also well known for his organising of races including a National Trophy event which will be the final one of the 2018/19 series this season. He has in the past, also organised the British Championships so Dave is someone with a lot of experience.

VeloUK caught up with Dave at his shop in Shrewsbury where there are hundreds of bikes for various disciplines and some very knowledgeable people to help customers choose the right one. The subject of the interview was cyclo-cross and Dave doesn’t only organise races, but also races ‘cross as well along with his son Ewan who is competing in the Trophy series.

I started the interview by asking if the West Midlands Cyclo-cross League sponsored by Ridley and Lazer, had started earlier than normal as it seemed if it had? I was wrong as Dave explained “it started later this year, the second Sunday in September and finishes at Christmas” he explained.

I then moved on to ask about the numbers in the regional league because as many in the sport will know, the number of competitors in the sport has exploded in recent years and in some ways getting out of control for some leagues. Dave says the numbers have remained steady in the West Midlands league despite a new league close by.

“For league registrations, last year we capped it at 800 and it was stopped at 800. This year we got to 795 which is really good because there is also a new league in the area; Dean Barnett’s Leicestershire CX League who are now not promoting West Midland league events this season as they have done.”

“That means the Leicester and East Midland riders probably have no incentive to join the West Midlands league and we expected there to be a drop in riders but at the first event for the West Midlands League at Redditch, there was almost 500 riders on the same day when Dean (Leicestershire) had an event and he had 300 riders.”

“So it’s a blessing to have these two leagues because many venues can’t cope with 800 riders. It’s busy enough with 400 to 500 riders”.

As for the cost of being part of a league, Dave explained “to register in a league, it’s ten pounds for Youth and Senior riders and five pounds for under 12s and that brings in money which is used for various things like an academy so we can support riders who want to get off to Belgium.”

“We also give grants as well from that money and buy in equipment and because of that registration fee, we don’t charge a local levy. On the road, track and mountain biking, the regions charge a local levy, but we don’t need to do that”.

Pic: David Perry – action from the West Midlands League

“There is a debate about car parking charges but in this league, we try and keep the entry fees consistently low across the season but if the venue charges a lot – I have one coming up that is charging over £1000 for the venue – and we can’t fund the event out of a low entry fee so the car parking charge is a way around of making sure we can fund the event. Two or three pounds a car is not too bad especially for a family of riders”.

Doing the results each week, I do notice riders racing in different leagues so I asked about riders rocking up to a West Midlands League event and riding without being a registered member? Dave explained “we do do entry on the day so any non-registered rider can ride but I must also say, that we are risk adverse so if there are too many riders for a specific race at an event, some riders may get turned away but that’s not happened as yet”.

Dave also a word for the sponsors of the West Midland’s league saying “Madison are a fantastic sponsor and not only support grass roots but also the highest level with their UCI team. So thanks to Dom and Kellie and the people at Madison for that support”.

The West Midlands League says Dave has a strong Women’s racing event… Pic: David Perry

Bikes for cyclo-cross
Another observation from images of league events is the variation of bikes used. In one memorable image from Graham Robins (Wessex League), the leaders of the race had different types of bikes – one with dropped bars, the other with straight MTB bars. So what’s the go with the West Midlands League?

“We have a very active Facebook page” says Dave “and that’s helpful. We had a lady leave a message asking if she could rock up after her triathlon event was cancelled and as we were the first league to do women only events and therefore had a strong women’s racing category, the answer was yes.”

Dave spotted via pic from his FB page on a disc brake equipped bike, his son Ewan’s old Focus Mares for the 3 Peaks. He says the advantage of disc brakes for the descents was just too great! 

“Also, a guy asked if he could use his gravel bike where his tyres were wider than 35mm and we said yes. In Trophy events, there is a restriction on tyre width but the leagues are not as strict as it’s all about participation at grass roots level and like I said to the guy, you will be mixing with nationally ranked riders. We also had a chap from the triathlon club come into the shop who has a mountain bike and he came in and we just sold him some narrower tyres for his wheels. He loved doing cross”.

So what bike does the owner of a major bike shop in the West Midlands region ride? “The market is changing” admits Dave “but I am still on a canti’s cross bike. My cross bike has been around since Luke was racing (his son, now a service course manager for EF Education World Tour team), so it’s few years old”.

From his FB page … Dave racing his Giant TCX complete with cantis…. 

“It’s the lightest CX bike that Giant do, the Giant TCX Advanced with Dura Ace equipment and canti brakes. I have tubeless (33mm) tyres on the bike and I love them. They are the way to go. I personally have never had a failure (puncture) but at the weekend I lent a young lad Ewan’s bike and he had two ‘punctures’”.

“He was brand new to ‘cross and I think it was my fault because I only put in 30psi in the tyres and he probably hasn’t quite got the finesse required and was hitting things.”

With a tube inside a tyre, riders can get pinch punctures in the tube when the tyre bottoms out against the rim on a rock, tree root etc. With tubeless though, it’s called ‘burping’ when the side wall disconnects with the rim and pressure leaks and reseals but at a lower pressure.

With CX bikes looking so similar to a gravel bike, which is best I asked Dave? “I have a gravel bike I use for my touring in the summer which has more relaxed angles than my cross bike. I can ride cross with the gravel bike and was contemplating doing the 3 Peaks but it’s just too heavy so I used the dedicated cross bike.”
“My TCX is raced probably only 10 times a season and its looked after so well it probably still has the original brake blocks in it. If you look after the ‘cross bike, it’s quite a cheap sport to do. I think around 90 per cent of bikes in the league are cyclo-cross bikes although there are definitely more gravel bikes being used.”

The flip side admitted Dave, is that more people are also using their CX bike for other things so both types of bikes are very versatile.”

National Trophy Shrewsbury
The last round of the 2018/19 National Trophy is the one in Shrewsbury organised by Dave, the week before the British championship which next year are at the Kent Cyclopark. The final round of the national Trophy is a key one because it has a lot of riders from the series and also championship contenders who haven’t been doing the Trophy series.

Dave’s son Ewan tackling the course at Shrewsbury in a National Trophy

Asked about organising this final round of the Series, Dave admits “it’s a prestigious event but it comes with its challenges too because of the mud. My ideal would be for the event to be on during the first week of October where it could be dry and we didn’t have all that mud.”

“Everyone loves the course but afterwards with the mud, for us, it’s a big clean-up operation and the one kilometre cycle track can’t be used again until it’s clean and as the council is cash strapped, it’s down to us to get it clean.”

“It’s going to be big though. I’m not sure how many foreigners will come over. A lot of them want start money and we don’t have the budget for that but the series is more popular than ever”.

Yep, looks muddy for Nick Craig at Shrewsbury!

With so many new events in this year’s series, (Irvine, Crawley, and York) was it difficult to keep the event at Shrewsbury? “No” Dave replies adding that it’s not just about having a venue that can cope with the event but also the volunteers. “Anybody who organises events will recognise the value of volunteers and it is becoming more difficult year on year to get them”.

“Also, with the risk element getting tougher like the red tape from the risk assessments, you have to have more volunteers. At our club’s regional event, we needed 40 volunteers and that is a lot for a day. For a two day event you need even more. At the national championships, we had a 100 jackets donated from Altura and they were all allocated to volunteers so that’s it’s a lot of people.

It’s another example that events are much more than just about the riders who take centre stage but also the many many volunteers put in place by the event organisation and we wish Dave and his team well in their organisation of what will be a key round of the Trophy series when series winners will be crowned and champions to be may well show their form the week before the national championships.

Thank you to Dave for his time. You can support his local bike shop by popping into 9 New St, Shrewsbury SY3 8JN and give yourself plenty of time as there are a lot of bikes to browse through!



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