By Ste Stuart
Century Summer CX
With Cyclocross being a Autumn/winter sport it’s usually done in cooler conditions sometimes when you start the season you can get a couple of races in the Indian summer sun of September but usually it’s somewhere between cool, cold or freezing. Last season was a little different last season all it did was rain there was only 1 race where I didn’t have to jet wash my shoes, and there were people on sledges on the course for the last race, this race however was going to be a little different it was 30+ degrees!
The race was organised by my club so it was up at 6am and got to the park at 7am to help set up, the park is a great location for a cross race, easy to get to right in the middle of town, challenging enough to make the race interesting and spectators can see the whole of the race, it is also a great location for photos as you can get the city centre and river Mersey in the background. Even at 7am it was hot and setting up the course we had a few unusual obstacles in the way, the grass had been on fire in places (not something you usually have in a cross race) and we had to avoid where the drunks hung out “piss head corner” a local called it though there was none there that I saw during the race. The course was set up in no time under the leadership of race organiser and cross coach Mike with the help of all the people who were willing to get up early and give up their Sunday so we could race.
Our race was off at 12:30, the last race after the kids and the go ride racing, I noticed one lad was doing the race on his road bike got to take my hat off to him even though it was dry it was still bumpy and the road tyres couldn’t have offered much grip in the corners.
The start was really wide and rose up but out of sight it carried on uphill round a corner, I’d got myself a front row start so I’d thought to myself “don’t go mad on the start and blow up” so of course I went mad at the start and went through the first corner in 5th place and once I’d got up that hill immediately regretted it. After the race had settled down a bit I’d somehow managed to get myself inbetween 2 groups with Ian (king of Litherland) Kendall in the group in front and Graham Prentice in a group behind me.
The heat was really making it tough at the midpoint of the race it was reflecting up from the yellow grass right in my face and I’d managed to drop my drink at one point, luckily Marc Heuston noticed and passed me it back on the next lap. My efforts to catch the group in front were coming to nothing and I could see that Graham had dropped everyone from his group and was coming after me alone and gaining time every lap.
About half way through the race my had had started to hurt then after another lap or so it was really bad so I had a little look and the seam on my glove combined with the bumps on the floor had rubbed a big hole in the skin on my finger now this was still carrying on but combined with the sweat was causing some savage pain so I had to hold my hand on the bars in all kinds of strange positions for the second half of the race, It’s strange how you can find so many new ways to cause yourself pain whilst racing bikes, lesson learnt and I won’t be using them gloves for cross again.
As we went through the finish line and got the bell for the last lap Graham had caught me, I knew he was going well, he’d just closed a big gap and was going to be a hard man to beat so I pushed on for half a lap but couldn’t shake him off my tail so I decided to employ a new tactic and make him go on the front so that I could attack him, but not being daft he was having none of that either. Just as we turned the last corner onto the finishing straight (which had a set of planks just after the corner) I managed to get him on the front and when he slipped a pedal on the remount I got on the drops and sprinted only just beating him to the line and claiming 16th place.
I’ve got to say thanks to Mike and everyone who got up early and gave up a sunny Sunday so we could race our bikes, without those people the sport would be nowhere. Now on to a few more road and XC races then the Cross season begins with the usual test of how much uphill sprinting based pain I can endure at the very scenic location of Hoghton Tower.