I have to apologise firstly for the missed blog at Horwich the other week, I started a new job and been struggling for time to do it. But in a nutshell, it was properly tough, I had to stop 3 times to de-clag the bike of mud and gunk and god knows what (I’ll reiterate that having two bikes makes the biggest difference!), but I did beat a certain Jason Kenny, who when I went past him on the opposite side of the course, was in a world of pain!! Fair play to him though, you wouldn’t see a footy player rock up for a game of heads and volls in the park on a Sunday afternoon!
Probably the furthest I’ve ever been to go to a race, but at least with this kind of race I can’t be dropped, and dare I say it, it’s a lot more fun than a road race, certainly how it’s organised and inclusive of all ages in one location on one day!
So this particular race a couple of us decided to go to over a couple of beers. I agreed on the basis that Graham Prentice offered to drive in the first instance, and that we would be in his VW van, so if it was to rain which usually it does in the lakes, it would be that much easier to get changed etc. Not that I’m bothered though, I went to Chipping, and it didn’t stop raining all the time we were there, but when there’s an opportunity to go to a race knowing you’ll be warmer and dryer, I’m going to take it, but the beers did help with the decision. As it turns out, it was sunny all day on this particular race day!!
Because GP was racing we had to leave earlier than normal, much earlier so we agreed he’d be outside mine at 8:50 to be on the road for 9am. He turns up at 8:40!! I get my stuff ready and we set off just before 9 for the long trip to the lakes. Normally I only go the lakes for a weekend break, usually MTB’ing but this was a short trip for an hour of pain to drive all the way back again, crazy some people would say, but honestly, that’s how much I’ve taken to this CX lark. In a ¾ road race for example, you could drive the same distance, have a really bad day and get dropped in the first lap, lose any motivation you had knowing you aren’t going to get back onto the bunch, and practically quit after 20 minutes of a 2 hour race. Then drive home contemplating selling all your bikes and equipment to do with road bikes, except the lycra though obviously!! But CX you race round a circuit, not really any idea what position you’re in, but there’s always someone in front or behind, so you just keep going to finish the race, very inclusive sport and great for young kids!
We stop off at a service station for a natural break and I decide to plan ahead and buy a butty and some extra water for the trip home seen as I won’t really get a full lunch and I’ll be back much later than normal. I think the only reason I’m this well organised is being in the same vehicle as GP who used to be paid to be super organised and have intricate attention to detail, so it must be rubbing off on me! Oh and for the record, Xmas officially began at this service station because I bought a Xmas themed butty, and duly got overcharged for the privilege!
When we arrived we went to sign on and check out the course as GP was racing at 12:30 which was only about an hour or so away. It never fails to amaze me CX races, you turn up to, on this occasion, a football and rugby pitch next to each other, and think, how have they made a race here, but they have by taking any patch of land into consideration, regardless of what is made up of! We’re right next to the sea, but thankfully its nice and sunny and actually warm, if you compare to previous rounds, and not including the heatwave at Heaton park!
photo by Alan Gibworth – https://www.flickr.com/people/158985356@N05/
We head back to the van so GP can get ready, turbo trainer and all. If I had a van I’d have be doing this, I’ve realised the importance of a good warm up but never put it into practice, definitely something I’ll consider next year, without the van though, that would be a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a top 50 at best rider!!
As this blog is about my experience I’ll skip GP’s race (sorry GP), but it worked out well because there was time for me to get to the start line and look after his extra layers of clothing just before racing, and he done the same for me for my race. Note to self, I need to buy some of these full length zip off pants I see loads wearing, what a great idea cos it’s defo getting colder and my skinny fat free legs are battling to stay warm which isn’t good before a torturous race!
My race starts and it’s a long slog, fast like, but long slog up over a moor of mainly dry grass and bits of stone. There’s not that many in this race, probably because they aren’t as crazy to come all this way, but I’ve got an overall league position to think about, so if the chance to go is there, I’ll take it! I’m feeling ok to begin with, but I know from GP’s race and his post-race details that there’s a bit of running involved! Great, just what I want, more running. But I’m told this is a stronger point of mine and it should suit me, we’ll see! A few ups and downs, some steps, an off camber, some barriers, a long fast path around the outside, about 5 steep running sections, and a great descent to the finishing straight and that’s a lap! Brutal is what I’d call it! I’m overtaking on the running sections but it is really hammering my legs with the constant dismounting, running uphill, remounting and trying to get your feet clipped in to pedals clogged with mud that won’t come out and descending some quite tricky sections. As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, you seem to race against the same cluster of lads in every race, some I remember and some they remember me. I normally get pitted against a pair of PSW lads, and on this occasion it ended up PSW, me then PSW in the standings, to which I was advised that it was the first time he’d beaten me. But credit where ‘ due, I just couldn’t keep the effort going on the flatter sections having burnt through the matches and resulting embers in the running sections. I’d catch him up on the run, but lose ground after eventually clipping back in! The whole race was just a battle against myself, getting my body to the finish line, but the last lap was the most important one so far, needing to beat at least one PSW lad, but also some proper cheeky lad overtook me in walking shoes. That I will not accept, so I went so far into the red it was purple in order to get back in front and gap him sufficiently at the finish line. I went that far into the red, I almost binned it where the final descent meets the concrete path that leads to the finish line. Great bit of front wheel drifting at the end of a race, maybe I’ll try a wheelie across the finish line one day!! I doubt it though, I’ve neither the skill or bottle to do something that cheeky and self-centred!!
I nearly throw up again with effort after I’ve stopped, but GP is on hand, like myself earlier for his race, to hand me my jacket in order to stay warm. Did I mention it went Baltic for our race? No I didn’t. Well, it went absolutely freezing, so for most of the race my feet were numb from the toes down, and I mean the whole of the toes, not just the wiggly bits you see!
We head back to the car, slowly, and GP’s van comes into its own. Nice warm place to get changed into, no worrying about dropping your shorts in the middle of a field because that’s the only way to get changed. And also, GP has got a portable jet wash!! Don’t worry Picton Cycles, it was the low pressure ones, which got my bike 90% clean of mud, which when you get back home and it’s dark and you can’t be bothered doing anything, it’s a very positive feeling you get knowing your bike is clean-ish and just needs taking back to the shop for maintenance in a couple days before the next race! Yeah, you can keep your two bike for cross, at least I’ve got a shop of mechanics looking after my bike after each race, now that’s winning!! So we head back home and I’m grateful that someone else is driving, I can’t move my legs. But I can eat my Xmas butty I got robbed of money for earlier, and that is also welcome!
Another great race and I’m just loving this CX.
On a sour note, we find out that another race has been cancelled in the calendar. It really *bleeps* me off seeing races cancelled. It’s the most inclusive, business creating, sport introducing activity I’ve ever done. It creates a real buzz and it’s sad that the only reasons these races are cancelled is because of highly misinformed information about areas races are to be held in, like my very own clubs race in Liverpool which has been knocked back because of the area being deemed too dangerous (even though bikes were stolen at a race from the posh county of Cheshire a few weeks ago), and in the original instance because the council want to get in on the action and make some money from us providing a day of all age entertainment and inclusive activities. Where are British Cycling in all this? £70 a year I pay them to race and be a member in order to support cycling in this country, but all I see is races cancelled, and very little done to replenish those races. It’s all very disappointing I must say.
Next week, or this week cos I’m behind, we’re at Haigh hall for the Wigan race, cant wait!!