After a two week rest myself and Team Green were back on the cyclo cross circuit. A record nine members were out to test man and (machine in some cases) against the dreaded Culham Park course, a course which serves as an MX circuit for the rest of the year. Thankfully damp conditions the day before compacted the sand making the going fast. Well it should have been fast except the wind was up and keeping the tape monitors very busy. The wind was to play a major factor in the days racing.
First up were an LBRCC quartet going in the novices. Neil, Darren, Stephen and Ross. We watched them set off and couldn't help but notice how dominant the MTB's were, the fat tyres peerless in the sand and their suspension canceling the rough tussocky bone jarring straight. Once they were underway we vets went off to warm up. The course was familiar to me and one I enjoy. The wind however was a killer. During warm up I decided a race of attrition was on the cards. Also during the warm up Miles found the limit of his bike! We returned to see Neil and Darren come in top ten, and Steve and Ross trail in behind. Sadly Ross's race was marred by a good few 'SPD moments'.
Our turn. As usual the Vet 50+ riders go to the front, I was gridded front row again, and a look over my shoulder confirmed Miles to be right in behind me. To be honest I didn't really want to be front row, a wheel in these conditions would be a God send. Still there I was. The wind was making such a din I couldn't hear the commissaire giving the countdown so I just waited for the whistle. BOOM! we're off. So much for grabbing a wheel, I've got the 'holeshot' and out front leading the race. I lead out off the clipped grass and into the sands, I still have the front when we pop up into the crowd, it's a good feeling, but then the big boys start to filter past. Now I'm just a number fighting the conditions and trying to make up places. The laps go well, no mistakes but I don't have the strength of some on the long stretches into the wind. Halfway in Jules in Vet 40-49 passes looking like he is on a Sunday stroll astride his mountainbike......bye bye Jules. The Andrew comes past, another Vet 40-49 rider, he even give me a cheery hello. Jules and Andrew have gone now. It's just me and my fellow Vet 50 riders to battle. I have to work out where I stand. I glance across the course and see Miles closing in, I also clock some Trisports guys and a lone Finchley rider. These are the guys in my race. By the halfway mark I'm feeling good but unable to find another gear, by the time I've done another lap I can see that the Trisport guys, the Finchley man and Miles are exactly where they were previously. Still I can't lift it. We lap again, and again everyone is as was. Everyone is clearly as tired as me. I've had the bell so now it's just a case of keeping my race in order. Just one more leg sapping slog up the lumpy field into the head wind and onto the smooth as silk clipped grass to the finish. Three riders come off my wheel and pull away, I've just towed three guys to a better finish than me and I've got nothing in the tank to do anything about it, they're getting away. Then as I come out of lumpy field some one shouts my name....'don't let em get away.....c'mon' I don't know who it was calling out, but I got out of the saddle, put my head down and sprinted for the line clawing one place back again and taking the flag. After crossing the line I coasted out of sight to recover and joined a pool of racers slumped over machines waiting for normality to resume. It was tough racing, the class of field is far greater this season and almost double in size. It was also clear that the wind had made it's mark on the race. Getting out in front as early as possible was key, limits were reached with early efforts and the winds cemented riders into those reached positions. Possibly this will go down as the seasons tough one.
We're not over yet. Next Chris is off in seniors, Chris is a first year rider and as thus isn't getting favourable griddings. He has the unenviable task of learning the ropes and having to make his way up the field. Still he sets off well, clearly the technical issues he suffered at the National Bowl are sorted. We walk over to the main climb to give our support, his strength is evident as he passes riders going up. We then cross over to see how he goes on the flat, he is going well, but he is up against it in a very very strong field including Whyte Bike and Raleigh jerseys. I can't speak for Chris, but from the other side of the tape he looks like has a good race. A few more races and a half decent grid position will turn the tide, I think.