FINAL RACE: Beacon Park

Sorry I’ve not kept up to date with these race blogs, I’ve had a lot on over Xmas on a personal front but didn’t realise how well received some of them were.  So with this one being a post-race review of the final race of the NWCCA league, I couldn’t really ignore it, especially with it being the final chapter of my first ever CX season.  And just as with every other race blog I’ve done, this one shouldn’t disappoint.  However, don’t expect this to be an advertisement to trying out cross!  All the previous races were tough don’t get me wrong, the physical, mental pain endured throughout the hour of racing, the battle against the elements and ever deteriorating circuit and the torment between head and heart as to, not just should I continue, but am I physically able to continue!  No, this race was almost like a final test, one that could change your mind set towards CX, that over the Xmas and New Year period you’d been discussing tactics for next season!

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(Photos from a phone as hypothermia had set in for the photographers by the last race)

It’s been cold and wet over Xmas and New Year, even Xmas day itself where I cycled round to my mum and dads and got absolutely soaked.  The things you do in order to have a few drinks!!

Race day is no different, it’s wet out, colder than it’s been and it’s started snowing.  Fortunately I’ve just spent the week running up to this race in Iceland where it was regularly -5, and covered in snow, so you’d think I was acclimatised.  Not really!  It’s somewhat different walking round in winter clothing, and stripping down to a couple layers of lycra for a race in the snow and driving rain!  So much so, as we’re walking to the sign on, my feet are getting numb, and my race Capitan Ste is planting seeds of doubt over racing at all!

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This seed starts to shoot and lay down roots as we get to the boys in the Mic tent when they ask both of us if we’re racing.  Eventually as we walk towards sign, Ste even drops a bomb by saying I don’t have to race if I don’t want to as I’ve raced all but one race so far.  But as we get into the sign on tent, Ste finally decides he’s not racing  and I decide I’m gonna fly the Picton Cycles flag, I guess one of us idiots has to, and I’m the lower ranking officer in this discussion, so I’m psychologically beaten and put pen to paper and sign on.  Immediately after, our CX coach Mike Fug calls me an idiot and the thought of racing starts dawning on me as we walk back to the car and I see the faces of some of the people currently racing!  There’s a girl wearing short sleeves!!!!

 

The good news in all this (if you can call any of this decision good news), is that because Ste isn’t racing, I’ve got a spare bike if I want it, and a pit crew!!  Nah, I couldn’t do that, I’ve nursed this bike through the entire season without a single puncture or mechanical, and to suddenly decide I want two bikes seems a bit unfair!  Alright, the bike has mainly nursed me through the season!!  But what I will take advantage of, is Ste’s long sleeve jersey, his second pair of socks, and his warm up, zip off pants!!  OMG they are so good but apparently they are sold out cos everyone’s onto them!

 

Bike ready.  Rider ready-ish.  Shoes still covered in Stadt Moors mud.  And we head to the race.

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(The weather forecast for the day of the race)

A very important note needs making here which I can’t ignore.  So we’re in a car park for a country park in Skem, It’s raining, it’s freezing cold, there’s melting Ice in the car park, and there’s a medieval re-enactment taking place in the car park??????  WHAT THE FUDGE IS GOING ON!!  I’ve seen some odd things in my life but this is out there on its own!  Ste tells me it happens every year on this race day.  Just odd, and I’d like to know what the purpose of it is!

 

Anyway back to the current year and we watch the last riders finishing the race prior to mine and I’m still being advised that I’m daft for signing on for the race.  Even our very own Graham Prentice is rubbing it in by telling me just how warm he is in his massive coat, his fingers and toes are, if anything a little too clammy for his liking, and his hot coffee is further improving his body temperature as it sits comfortably in the almost perfectly designed breast pocket of his coat!!  Cheers Graham, that sunny Barbados beach image I’ve been concentrating on has just been blown to pieces!

 

I’m on the start line still in my, well Ste’s pants!  My winter coat still on and I’m waiting for Ste to come down and collect these additional items of clothing before I start racing, if he doesn’t I’m just going to race as is!!  He does come unfortunately and I have to lose these items before the madness commences.  There’s only about 30 people racing, so a highest place finish beckons, although Giles isn’t racing meaning I might have to do more than normal as he won’t be around to lap me twice and allow me an early shower, thanks Giles!

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It’s just horrendous.  I’ve lost what fitness I had being a bit lazy and relaxed since the last race so I’m literally just out there to complete my final race.  My usual ding dong with a PSW rider is fully underway already but I know I’m not in any shape to compete.  Normally I look forward to a bit of running, it seems to be a strong part for me, but the first section causes a slight twist of my ankle and although nothing serious came of it, it was a reminder that if I try and push myself too hard in this race, my now totally numb feet/stumps which can’t feel any contours of the ground are going to break under me and I won’t finish.  There’s a nice descent and a tricky section through some tree roots but I don’t have any issues with these sections on each and every lap.  The final running section is long and unforgiving and I find myself walking up part of it on the first lap.  My knees are starting to feel numb, my fingers gave up having feeling at the beginning of this lap and my ability to turn the pedals when I do get back on the bike is fading rapidly.  It really is the coldest I’ve been on a bike, and this is certainly proving to be a test.

Not much drama throughout the race, I haven’t fallen off since the first race and I’m not going to now.  After the race is cut short by a lap due to the worsening conditions, I start getting that feeling of crossing the finish line.  I push on a bit harder on the final lap, and get to the pits were it wouldn’t be a cross race without the PSW lot telling me there’s still 4 laps to go to wind me up!

Finished, and immediately I’m offered the zip off pants to put back on and my coat.  I need a minute or two to stop myself from being sick, before trying to work out the basic task of putting on these pants, trickier than you’d think when your brain is frozen!

 

We get back to the car and even my shoes are blue at the ends proving it was cold!  It takes the entire journey home before my fingers and toes start getting some feeling back and I just want to have a hot shower which I’ve been wanting for about 3 hours!  But not before putting my mud covered clothes in a bucket of hot water, hanging my muddy bike up in the shed (It’s still there covered in mud!) and pick up any bits of mud that’s dropped off in my kitchen!  Only then can I start feeling good about racing today, and looking forward to next season.

 

So that’s CX!  3 years ago I’d have been one of those saying it was bonkers, and you’re daft to take part.  But I’m a complete convert.  Ok I was given a team bike, but honestly, knowing what I know now, my next bike would be a decent CX bike instead of a fancy new ‘summer’ bike.

So because I don’t need a bike, the only thing I need to worry about is my goals for this year.  They have completely changed following this season, and my primary focus for this 2018 is CX.  I have a plan being formulated, and I’m looking forward to an assault on this league come September.  Alright I’m not suggesting winning the thing, but certainly giving Ste a little more competition would be healthy, and I’ve a few riders I’d like to keep behind me in races as opposed to being just in front of me next season, so I’ve got some serious training to get done, but It’s a good focus to have.  The aim is to be looking and feeling in the best condition I’ve ever been in before the middle of August, so I can relax in Barbados for a couple weeks and let the conditioning set in!

 

I’d just like to thank Picton Cycles for their amazing offer of a place on their team.  The team bike and maintenance is not something everyone gets the chance to experience.  So the pride and determination to repay the offer is unwavering throughout the season and I’m grateful to all the lads, especially Ste who’s been the team car driver week in week out and given me brilliant advice and tips on taking on certain aspects of CX.

 

And to the league and all the clubs for putting on all the races, and for all their hard work sitting and standing around getting people signed on, marshalling around each course and counting off laps for each and every rider, thank you so much, you’ve made the experience so much more enjoyable.

 

Thanks also to everyone who’s retweeted and shared these blogs, and more importantly, my own little setup ‘GV Sports Massage’.  I’ve had some great feedback from people who’ve come to me for any niggles or injuries they want helping with and it’s good to know I’m helping people to achieve their goals.

On an even more exciting note, keep your eyes out for Team Wiggins racing in the UK this year.  I’ve been asked to help out with some swanny work for them at a few races which I’m super excited about!

 

2018 is going to be a great year!!

 

See you out there on the Northwest roads!

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