Sunday, 24 January 2016

Central CXL Round 14 Kettering Cross

Today should have been the final race of the season, a day of racing followed by celebrations in the Black Lion afterwards for all those that had raced at some point this season. I even had the cigars ready.
However.....the cancelled round 12 had been re scheduled to February 6th, so it was now sort of business as usual, so the booze goes back into the cupboard.
We'd all seen the snowy lap video, but you couldn't help but notice it was warming up. Snow covered courses that then thaw can be the worst type, look at Milton Keynes last week. Whatever we were to face, it wasn't going to be as bad as the previous week. This was actually some small comfort!
A small band of us arrived at Kettering, actually the smallest. Ross the only senior. Mike, Barry, Miles and myself all 50 plus vets, and not a single 40 plus vet.
Upon arrival we walked the course, it had a familiar feel, sort of Woburn'esque. I really liked what I saw and couldn't wait to get going.
After walking the course we went out for a practice, what a course. Even 'the hill' that people said you wouldn't get up was cleared, would it still be clearable after the Novices then younger vets had raced it? So that, I thought was the worst of it, sadly it wasn't.  Call it the home straight or whatever, there was this long section with only the most gentle of inclines, if that, it seemed to defy traction.  I was sweating cobs riding it and thought that if Darren was here I'd be in trouble.
Pre race practice on the hill

We went back to the vehicle to clear our bikes and continue our warmup on the tarmac.
It was bloody freezing in the open, and the skies had definitely darkened. I needed to get underway.
The whistle called us up to the start area, we were a very small field which seemed to be the theme of the day. However grid position banter was high, typical of late season races when we've all turned in our quota of counting races. On top of that the Rainbow jersey had been sent to the back for being a naughty boy, no special treatment in cross. Rules is rules.
I traipse through the quagmire to take my start position and luckily my rear wheel is on a concrete path so all good for a fast getaway. Miles behind me can't quite squeeze onto the precious firm surface. Such a shame.
We get sent off pretty quick and I get a great start, already past some better riders when we're out, heading downhill before turning into the base of the main climb. I overcook it, far too much speed and I slide right instead of heading left and slap into the thorniest of trees. For a second I think I'll be stuck here all race pinned down by the thorns, Bugger it, I just rip myself out I'm too zoned out to feel the pain they leave in my legs, arms, back and neck. As I panic to get going again Miles passes me, I shoulder the bike and run the hill in pursuit of him. I watch him remount and I do the same, only I'm still in a descending gear, the effort of hauling that gear up the hill nearly makes my lungs burst.
Miles is now in front. My lungs are burning and I'm straining to loosen my helmets chin strap just to let in more oxygen. My priority is to not lose sight of him. As well as not to fall off or break anything. It's race umber nine for me, and I just need to finish to qualify in the overall rankings. I settle in to follow, but every now and then Miles pulls away. It really hurts to keep up, but I can see that the 'in racing' is helping us to cover ground quickly, as we're closing in on riders up ahead.
Miles is making some good line choices, which I follow and it helps. I also go full tilt on the descents feeling pretty certain it won't hurt too much if I get it wrong.
It's not until we reach the hurdles that mark the start of the dreaded anti traction section that we part company. Miles follows in the wheels of one of the top lady racers, I opt for the other side of the track and I just watch them both pull away. I cross to their side, but almost come to a standstill doing so in deep mud that separates us. At that point it looks like it's all over. Miles is the farthest ahead he's been all race.
At the end of this dreaded section the track funnels into a narrow path, and becomes extremely tough to ride. I'd already decided in practice that I'd run this to save my bike and legs. Miles has opted to ride it, which he does, but it's clear it was hard work for him. So I close in again, the running has paid off.
We're on another lap and I'm now right on he's wheel. Miles is riding well, but I'm feeling slightly better and mark him turn for turn.
One thing going through my head

There's not much in it as we come near to completing another lap. We jump the hurdles, Miles to the left me to the right. Miles choses the line that has served him well all race, I opt for the last remaining green stuff on the other side. Finally I find the grip on the section that has eluded me all race long. I move past Miles taking the lead for the first time since the start.
We'd both heard the bell so expected to have one more lap once we'd completed this one. However on this section just before it funnels we are lapped by the solo race leader with not much more than a hundred meters to go.
I look down the course to see him go under the flag. This meant the race was over, we'd not get that extra lap.
Metres to go and it doesn't get any closer

I hit the funnel running with Miles opting to ride, and right on my heels.  I jump on as the course opens up and to my delight both feet clip in straight fuss. I just have to power up and cross the line, if Miles passed me then so be it, I just give it my best and take the flag inches ahead.
Barry follows in some time later, with Mike completing the foursome.

Poor Ross was up next in seniors, there were only fifteen racers in this event. All of them good and on a tough course. I think it was hard for him out there, but finishing this punishing course would bag him a lot of points, wiping out those bad races.
We cheered him on from various places. I told him that he wasn't feeling weak, it was the course that was feeling tough. It was a brave almost solo effort, that saw him bag a place even in the dying metres.

Another good show by all LBRCC riders. And it was announced that we'd be hosting a round next year? I only mentioned it, looks like the committee have another job on their hands.

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