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Cyclocross at the Palace
The Rapha Super Cross series will take place next month with the crowning third and final round set in the grounds of London’s Alexandra Palace. Last week we took a trip to the site to see how the course will take shape.
Alexandra Palace was originally built as a north London equivalent to Crystal Palace, the huge glass greenhouse built in south London for the Great Exhibition of 1851. The bricks and mortar of Ally Pally as it is more colloquially known, represents a more recognisable expression of Victorian architecture than what was its grand, but temporary, glass cousin. Constructed by the Lucas Brothers, who also built the Royal Albert Hall, the original palace was completed in 1873 but was destroyed by fire only two weeks after opening. The ‘People’s Palace’ was quickly rebuilt and opened once again in 1875, complete with open-air swimming pool and its own library. In 1936, the BBC made its first broadcasts from the antenna on the eastern side of the palace and the venue remained as the broadcaster’s main transmitting centre for the next 20 years.
Set above the grounds of Alexandra Park, perhaps the most striking thing about the palace is the location. Perched high above the lofty northern enclaves of Highgate and Muswell Hill, the view south across London is breathtaking.
Konrad Manning, race organiser, tells us more about the course:
"Alexandra Palace has not hosted a big cyclocross meeting for quite some time. Back in 1975 a national series meeting was dubbed 'Slaughter at the Palace' as the circuit produced, what a journalist described as, 'slipping, sliding, tumbling and swearing as cold fingers fumbled with gear levers.'"
"Alexandra Palace Park promises to be a thrilling venue with a deceptively testing circuit to match. Starting and finishing on the flatter part of the park, which used to boast a horse racing track, riders will then tackle a staggered ascent of the formidable slope, beginning with a steep tarmac climb perfect for spectator viewing (there’s hills in that there London tha’ knows…). With twists and turns, ascents and descents, the course makes its way to a flight of steps below the Palace building before winding its way down again to the main arena.”
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