Eight rounds have gone under our tyres, and a lot of dry terrain. Previously as I've pottered around the courses prior to racing I've heard talk of 'proper cross weather' and 'I can't wait for the mud'
Well we're here in Kettering for round 8 and it's just yelled out 'YOU WANT SOME....I'LL GIVE YOU SOME' Mud wind and freezing rain in abundance.
And yes this is cross weather. The marshal's are just a line of waterproof jackets with eye holes, spectators have buggered off to anywhere else that's warm and not here. And riders are donning kit, then thinking 'sod that' and donning even more kit.
For me it's been the same all season, but today calls for a few extras. Heat spray followed by liberal amounts of leg oil. Knee warmers, arm warmers, casquette and for the first time some gloves and full fingered at that.
With over trousers and jackets over that lot we go off to walk the course. I've decided to warm up around the playing grounds and inspect the 2.2 mile circuit by foot. A technical course in this condition needs careful inspection and walking it you can spot everything. Like the deep mud one side of the track being easier to cut through than the other. The little bit of grippy singletrack to the side of the main track. The tiny stump that could tear a tyre. And so many other odds and ends that'll help.
As usual the LBRCC are representing in three races. Veterans 40, Veterans 50 and Seniors, though with slightly diminished numbers. Andrew and Colin, Miles Darren and Myself. And Neil and Ross.
As per previous posts you'll know we watch the Vet 40's go off, make sure they're underway and safe. And then ready ourselves.
Wrapped up in about all we have we warm up on the playgrounds. I look over to the huge MI Racing-Jewsons-Polypipe contingent. This is their manor and they're not to keen to get out and warm up. My guess is that the race will have to go steady just to get around, and the race speed will build over the duration, or decline now as it's really starting to pour down.
The course is technical, but has good runs as well. I'll often say a course has someone's name on it, and this one has mine on it. There is one major hurdle, well not a hurdle you jump over. This is an off camber descending bend, totally ripped up and close to the start. We saunter over to have a go on it. I come off right away and slide down on my arse, before bumping into Miles who has just done the same! That's a text book 'Pick it up and run' section.
|Proper cross weather|
Time to get going, the call up whistle blows and we are called up for gridding. Regardless of who's been called up first we all end up huddled together on the grid. It's freezing and the warm up gear has been shed, my knees are shaking and I need to beat Darren here today. What is there to like about cross?
Thirty seconds to go, the commissaire is looking at the watch on his raised arm, the whistle is inches away from his mouth. It draws closer, I take up the tension on my clipped in foot, grip the bars and exhale............it goes and so do we.
The mud flies, but the quality of the riding is exceptional and we manoeuvre the tight muddy corners without incident. Miles passes me using his body to force me into the corner marker, having to slow down and correct myself loses me a lot of distance over Miles.
I should say that etiquette goes right out of the window in cyclo cross. Bad language is not accepted and will get you thrown off course, but a fight for a line is a fight.
Miles is ahead, he gets down 'that hill' intact, I follow and settle into hunter mode. If you have a weakness on the course it stands out like an open wound to the riders chasing you down. Miles though is looking good, strong even. I start to close, but he opens again when he rides a hill I opt to run, chapeau. I close in again, Miles has settled into a pace with another rider. I catch them and attack right away, sometimes attacking a few riders causes more confusion, whereas a solo rider has but only to attack.
I get a good gap and consolidate it by climbing the green line on all the ascents. Just the sand to get through and that's lap one done. This course is for me, and I can out skill far faster riders. Just Darren to out ride now.
It's a shame really because as a team we would do much better, but club honours have become important. Perhaps next year?
When I get a chance to see where Darren is, I find him a bit too close. It's hard not to panic, I did that last week and paid a high price for not racing my own race. Whilst he is close, it's he's task to catch me before he can get ahead. Don't panic.
My laps are getting better despite the worsening conditions, I've really cracked the lines.
To stay ahead I make big efforts to put riders between us, but despite successfully putting three riders between us at one point he is still closing in on me.
Clean laps, good lines and efforts are needed to stay in front. I'm getting a good race, but I'm also really enjoying it which is a massive help.
I look back on the penultimate lap and Darren is really close. I take a tricky corner I've mastered by removing one foot for balance and pedaling with the other to keep traction, but this time my foot won't unclip and the twisting causes cramp. Now he is breathing down my back.
I dig in throwing a little more caution to the wind, the course from here is very very technical and we can't see each other. We won't until after we've completed this lap.
By the time we get to our unofficial check point Darren has dropped a bit and I think he waves to concede. The final lap goes well and I cross under the chequered flag with Darren following. Neither of us were lapped and the forty minute race turned into an hours racing.
Without a doubt my best race of the year.
After getting stripped down in the car park and putting on any dry stuff we have, we skulk over to watch Neil and Ross go off in seniors. We watch them safely underway with Neil leading, but the weather drives us off back to the cars and home. Sorry guys.