Monday, 28 October 2013

Central CXL Round 5 Alpha RC/Luton CC MK Bowl

You're going to have one! a race where it all goes wrong even before the whistle goes. Even before Saturdays race at the MK Bowl I was in trouble. During Thursday nights mountain bike ride I'd hit a tree and my arm was killing me, no amount of pain killers could ease it. So my heads already starting to wobble.
I decide to go anyway, after all it's right on my doorstep. As I enter the venue I can see the course, quite literally. You could see the whole course from any standpoint. Still it didn't look too bad.
I pootle about the course before prepping the bike. It's a mix of ultra bumpy turf and greasy climbs. I pick my tyre pressure and set off for practice. Then my head wobbles some more. I had ordered some brand new Eggbeaters prior to the season starting, but had yet to collect them. Now I was being paid back as the bumps were ejecting my feet from the worn pedals mechanism. Bad arm, faulty pedals.
Opting for a bit more pressure was a mistake as I couldn't make the climbs, so out went 10 PSI and suddenly all the climbs were doable.
So to the start line. At least my 3rd place overall standing will guarantee a front row gridding, but no. My name isn't called out. Keith jumps to my rescue, but the man say's no, I'm not on the list? so much for online entry. So right to the back it is. Wobble wobble wobble.
To make matters worst the cancelled races elsewhere around the country has meant that our race has drawn in some contenders in search of points.
Wobble wobble bonk my heads come right off.
I'm done in before I start. The whistle goes and I go off hell bent for leather determined to prove a point, something that gets pick up on after the race.

getting on with it
I can't last.  The race is hell. Too slow and the bumps stop you in your tracks. Go fast and it smooths out, but going fast all race is easier said than done. The hills are okay, I can do those pretty well. The hurdles though fill me with dread as soon as they appear, each time I lift the bike the pain in my arm makes me want to vomit. Lap after lap of pure agony. This one I want to end. Which after what seems the longest race eventually does. I'm 9th, the worst result of the year so far. It's some little relief to find a fair few of my fellow racers looking a little broken.
This race has to be my worst one of the eleven I'm racing this year. All I can do is chalk it up and prepare for the next one. The first step being to collect the new pedals and bin the 'self ejecting' ones I have at the moment. And perhaps rest all week and gain back some of the 9lbs I've lost this weekend.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Central CXL Round 4 Zappi's Oxford

If  it's wet, sandy and you can hear  opera and hip-hop booming out of the PA you know you've turned up for another Zappi's cyclo cross race. This is my third outing to the Culham park venue, and I'm hoping to do better than other past visits. I was telling people I needed a bit of luck, but the honest truth is that I needed to prepare properly for this race. It's the hill, it gets me every time. last year the 25 tooth cassette was useless, so I went mad and fitted a 27 tooth one, went for a warm up and still couldn't ride it. So it's not luck I needed, it's more teeth and less belly. still I was in good company as the hill seemed to attract a fair few ramblers.
However as they say in football 'it's a game of two half's' and Zappi's is a race of two half's. One half flat good draining turf on a sandy soil base. And the other half up down off camber muddy sandy hillside. I know which half I prefer.
So to the racing. I've been gridded again on the front row which is always good, though as I look about me I can see that all these guys can beat me, no pressure. We get the usual 15 seconds to go, a quick check of the cleats and we're sent off. I've realised that it's not best to be the first man so I settle into fourth. That's fine until we hit the first small climb and I find it quite easy to move up. I'm now in second place behind Chris McCleod so far so good. Next is the big drop before 'the climb' I take a silly risk on the descent to be first on the climb, but as soon as I dismount for the run I'm overtaken in numbers. At the top the chase starts, I'm desperate not to lose any more places so I push a gear that takes me outside of my comfort zone, but I'm solo and I can't catch the bunch up the road. I riding pretty well, but everyone is very close, my mind can't make itself up, do I chase or avoid capture? I'm at the hill again, this time the only man to pass me is the eventual winner Simon Tottle who just glides by as if he is out for a Sunday pootle.
At this point I'm just doing my best, a few guys go past and I hope they're in the younger vets race. If I can see someone up ahead I just try to catch them, it's all got a bit messy by now. The hill is demoralizing me, and I'm cursing Keith and his Trisports team mates for having 'running' legs. And to top it off I can see that my long term foe is making ground on me.
Ding ding ding, sometimes that's a very welcoming sound. I've still got the hill to do, but I don't want to be lapped before I get a chance to get the bell myself. So an effort is put in on the hill, and I fall into the drops for the flat section that follows. I've got the lap so I give it all I've got and pass a rider under the nose of the DJ who encourages me on. The last lap always feels good and with the PA blaring out 'Here come the Belgians.....nice one' it soon passes, I even feel a bit guilty passing the lady rider just before the line.I've come in, in sixth place again. And my race mate for the day Andrew Martin racing in East Grinstead colours has come in in eighth place in the vets race. We're both happy, but a bit of variation in results wouldn't go amiss.
Going home

Monday, 14 October 2013

Central CXL Round 3 Hemel Hempstead

What is it about abysmal weather that brings out the crossers by the coach load? Oh please keep raining, oh yes here we go. Actually it's a bit bloody cold, and after being blown about on the playing fields I scuttle off back to the car for full gloves. lets have a quick practice lap, oh okay climbing gear for the flat, this'll be a laugh. Practice over the commissaire doesn't hang about. we know we have to look after each other and he sends us off quick sticks.
On the front row with Chris McCleod

I take advantage of my first row gridding to make up early ground, but the usual suspects are soon off in the distance, that said I've made equal space between myself and my chasers.
I have issues on lap one, the week prior hasn't gone well and I feel sluggish so decide there and then to sit up, take it smoothly and go for the long race. That means I'm soon overtaken by the vets race front runners including a strong team mate in Andrew Martin.
Andrew Martin

The second lap see's me in a on and off race with a North Roads rider, it's even Stevens until I fall passing a walker on the left while the North Roads man passes without incident on the right. The resulting gap is too big for me to ever make up. I think I'm eighth at this point and I don't want to drop back further. so I keep it as smooth as possible for lap three. That pays off as I catch a rider from VC10 towards the end of lap three and just before the bell.
Andrew making the catch

Not just mud, ditches and fallen trees.

I lead the VC10 man for the first half of the final lap, but he then passes me and starts to get away. I feel a bit resigned to eighth until I notice the VC10 man flounder on the final section of singletrack. I have to dismount behind him, but unlike my fellow racer who is trying to re mount and ride, I decide to run the final section of deep claggy singletrack I emerge into the fields leap onto the bike and press it. One right hander, another right hander and I can afford a glance over my shoulder just to check I'm ahead before the flag.
That was proper tough, but the support from Iain and Ashley deserved my best efforts.
So not 6th this week, just a lowly 7th in the vets 50's. And Andrew claimed a great 8th in the vets.
I'd liked to have stayed to give LBRCC's Julian my support, and God those boys needed it. I think the deteriorating course was now adding two minutes to each lap!
Good eyes and bodyline into the singletrack

I should mention Neil from the LBRCC who put in a sterling performance in the mens novice race, and who next week will be racing in the seniors at the Oxford round. Very Belgian is the Oxford course, deep sand, deep mud and steep hills. Bring it on....again.
Needs no comment!
Massive thanks to LBRCC's Iain and Ashley for the support for all those riding, and the greatest pics, cheers.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Central CXL Round 2 The National Bowl

Saturday 5th October, yep Saturday and not the usual Sunday slot. We're at the National Bowl in Milton Keynes and it's a corker of a day. A recce of the course shows it to be in fast dry condition. I've raced this course for years both in cyclocross and in mountainbike racing and this is the driest I've ever seen it. Which I can tell you is a pretty good thing, for this course is off camber central. The Bowl is an amphitheatre and the course follows it's curving and sloping lines, when wet either your front of back wheel will want to travel sideways. But today all is good.
I'm in the V50 race and I'm looking for a better placing than my 6th of last week. I'm given a helping hand with a front row gridding. The Juniors have gone and we're next. I had hoped that we'd be off after the vets so I could chase my old club mate Andrew, but it's the other way round today so I'm going to have him breathing down my neck.
The whistle goes and we're off, or rather everyone else is while I fumble with my cleat. My head start is blown and I have to chase like mad. I move through, and track down Chris from Palmer Park and settle into the racing. Try as I might I can't bridge the gap, but there's space between me and the rest, with the exception of Trisports Tony who is closing in. I shake of the panic and concentrate on getting through the considerable amount of technical trail as smoothly as possible. When I pop back out onto the grass I see I've made some more space between myself and the chasing Trisports rider.
The racing goes well lap after lap. The only issue I have is getting stuck behind some walkers on the only stiff climb, the dismount costs me time.
Next it's time for the top vets to come past, I know most of them so we can talk and the passes go without a hitch and little time is lost.
Dusty trail, a rare treat in cross

I'm pretty well on my own now and start to wonder where Andrew is. Judging my pace is hard without anyone to compare to, so as it's all coming to an end I just dig in until it really hurts. Then to my dismay I see Andrew and a bunch of other vets approaching, they go past pretty swiftly. It's less than a lap to go so I try and limit the gap, but I'm feeling it and Andrew looks strong. No matter what I do now it won't effect the result so I race to the line without worrying about blowing. I cross the line in 6th place again. I catch up with Andrew, Chris from Palmer Park and the Trisport guys and girls, the course has set a real buzz amongst us and we while away the time in the hot October sun! talking about upcoming races.
Before we set off we watch Julian go in the senior race. The poor lads right up against it, but when I leave he is midfield and ahead of the Winymilla rider, don't know why that pleases me but it does.
With the racing done on the Saturday I can go out on the mountainbike Sunday morning for a nice steady three hour XC ride, a steady ride after a race always feels good and this one feels good.
I get home and devour my lunch and immediately think about riding again. A few calls later and soon I'm out with local fast lad Tim Edwins and Simon of the LBRCC on the road bikes. Steady? yeah steady, my arse. My legs are tired, I haven't showered, I've raced the crosser, ridden the mountain bike and now I'm flat out in the hole punched in the air by Simon. I'm a bit up and down, I have a few good turns, but mostly sit in. Tim kindly points out (with a huge grin) that an 'Interval session' is just what I need, before leading us up Ivinghoe Beacon at full tlit. I have a great ride even though I'm knackered, and I still want to play even near the end. The right company always makes a ride.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Central CXL Round 1 Hillingdon

Here we go again, it's another season, it's the same old place, but there's a new format to the racing this year. The Central League had grown, such is the popularity of cycling, that something had to be done. With some races attracting  near to 200 riders last year, that something was done at the last AGM. The changes that affected me were the shortened race, now 40 minutes. And the separate start for vets, vets 50 plus and women. Being a V50+ this was very welcome as I'd now be racing on a level playing field, which is an ironic phrase considering! I should say I was a bit peeved about the shorter race, more about that later.
First it was hellos and handshakes to all the  old faces not seen since the end of the 2012 season. And a chance to compare expanding bellies. With the pleasantries done it was off for a warm up. The recce confirmed it was pretty similar to the last race here, with the exception of an extra hurdle on a hill. The going was dry, and the air was warm with a stiff little breeze. Pretty welcoming for the first one of the year. barring a puncture this would be at the very least okay.
So to the start. In our race there are Juniors, the vets, the vet 50's and the women's race.. The juniors have been sent off, the vets are sent off a little later and we are waiting. I get gridded front row..yeah. The Juniors and vets are out of sight, we get a few seconds then the whistle goes, we're off.
It's 40 minutes, I rag that on the turbos. In the space of a second I decide to go for it. I get right to the front and I'm the first into the off road.
into the lead

 Already I realise the error of my ways, I'm leading the whole race into a headwind and on a course where you can over take at any point, I don't want to be on the front so I weave about, but my wheel is being well and truly sucked dry. Eventually three riders pass, I've effectively launched them. I can't grab a wheel and I need time to put my lungs back, so I hold on. I'm now locked in a battle with a Palmer Park rider, it's proper racing and we both know it. At the time I thought we were fighting for 4th place. The two of us close and open, and all the time I'm aware of a Finchley RT rider baring down on us. The pace is taking us past the vets that started before us and we're neck and neck, but ride very differently. The Finchley RT rider catches me, but over cooks the over take and crashes and doesn't really bother again, though I know he will at other races.
Milton Keynes, Belgian and Palmer Park

Next is my second and biggest mistake. I mistake the bell lap for the final lap. Convinced I'm racing for the chequered flag I catch my man and pass him just before the line, but instead of the flag i hear the bell. The Palmer Park rider is now on my wheel on part of the course where I don't want him to be. I'm lost and know it. I tow him along until he quite rightly pulls out and goes for it. I clean my last lap and cross the line in 6th.
So the 40 minutes? much better, proper fast and furious racing. And anyway we were out for 53 minutes.
For 2013 I have new guys to race, and I've never been so excited about my season. With a few tactical tweeks I hope to do better, or at the very least remain consistent.