I was dead keen for this after missing round four due to illness, and I was hoping that my eagerness to race would counter my lack of any riding in recent weeks!
On arrival the course looked pretty sane, I glanced through the trees. Flat course, spiral of doom and the usual Zappi's disco start/finish affair. Thinking that looks okay off I strode to sign on. Past Claud the Butlers coffee and cake, past the bouncy castle (no don't you nearly broke your neck last time) and into registration. Oooh a goody bag and other bits and bobs. I love the cross scene I thought to myself.
Off we then scuttle Miles and me, goody bags in hand chomping on free energy chews, we head for the car park our open air pits, changing room and workshop all in one. There we meet Mitchell and Colin, and an Andrew all zoned out further down the row of cars. We also bump into the bad news guy 'have you seen the hill?.....the second ones a killer' erm no 'got it on video' oh great.
We don kit, pin on numbers and squeeze tyres. After much thought I go 25 psi, same as every week.
Off we go. We find Darren and Kevin and we set off on a team green recce. Round the course we go. The flat area I could see is fairly bumpy, but not that bad at all. Then we head out along broken tarmac, it looks like redundant MOD land, but it's fast here, as in big ring fast.We corner and ahead I see riders warming up on a steep slope, it's tough to get up as it's a bit damp and the Michelins just hang on, then bang bang another climb bigger and wider. We clear them in warm up, but it's clear it'll be bottleneck city when we are racing. Over the top and you hit an off camber slippery chalk zig zag. Technically the hardest section. After that it's all hoon. Down the steepest descent of the season so far and back onto the flatter open section part of the course, slightly down hill so super quick, fast enough to send mud skywards.
Before the four of us race we watch the V40's Andrew and Colin. Andrews chain snapped on the whistle, but he pulled out a great performance regardless.
We get ready to race, James arrives with a matching cough to mine. Gridding comes and I get called out, but due to the very wide run out the four of us end up together. Miles, Darren, Kevin and me.
We wait, then it's the sound of the whistle. The start is something like a Cat 4 criterium, the tarmac run out which will be closed off after we pass allows for some speeds not usually found in cross.
Kevin is ahead of me straight away, on the broken tarmac I find his wheel and I tail him to the climb. But he pulls out a gearing advantage and rides the climb whilst I have to shoulder my bike and run,
the gap he makes is big. He maintains the gap until we start the second lap, when the gearing issue is reversed, but I can only grab his wheel. We climb again and again he makes a gap. It's now a case of who will have the upper hand in the gearing wars. For now Kevin is winning and Darren is on my tail. The pressure is on. On the final leg of lap two I close in on Kevin, and to my side I see Darren get caught up in someone else's stack. Now is the time to put in an effort. Wait wait wait, then push past in the big ring aiming to put in a gap at the start of the hill that would counter Kevins usual advantage. That part of the plan works, now all I need to do is put in the same effort on lap three to ensure Kevin would have to go some to catch me. Later I would find out that some stray barrier tape aided my plans. By lap three Darren is making ground and I have no idea how he is feeling, my situation isn't comfortable yet. I go for the out of sight out of mind strategy and concentrate on good lines. I block out the feedback from the terrain and press it. By the penultimate lap I see Darren is down from where he was last lap. Feeling it's in the bag regard club honours I press on and give it a little flourish as I go under the flag
When I stop my cough gets so bad I think it's trying to leave my body in one go and I end up wretching like something out of a cycling Exorcist movie. Cross really pushes you.
Darren follows me in followed by Miles and Kevin,
I didn't feel too shiny, but we stay to watch the lad, Neil and James go in seniors. I can't say how they felt, but James looked strong. And Mitchell looked happy and seemed to get stronger each lap. Neils always a pleasure to watch, especially in the technical stuff where he's off road pedigree really shines, the way he tackles everything from the drops.....ace.
That was a good course, one that had just about everything you could ever find in a cross race. All the lads did well. Even a non riding Ross came al the way down to cheer us on...