It’s suddenly getting rather cold, the leaves are changing and the nights are drawing in. This to me means 2 things: 1. I’ve just aged a year and (more excitingly) 2. it’s cyclocross season!
After 2 years of dipping our toes into CX, Paul and I have taken the plunge and entered the Central league (http://centralcxl.org.uk/) which this year runs from September to December. A total of 13 races, your best 8 results count with a minimum of 4 rounds to be eligible. Each race is a bargain at only £15, people are friendly, races are chip-timed and logistics well-run by whichever local team is hosting. There’s usually some good cake/coffee/bacon sarnies for sale (sometimes even such delicacies as pasties and calzone) and unlike the expensive world of triathlon, there are plenty of excellent free photos of each race which are shared on the FB page. The whole atmosphere is very inclusive, and CX does wonders for your bike handling skills, whether you’re in it for the bants (cue plug for my fellow CX legends and bloggers at Velobants.cc https://velobants.wordpress.com/) or taking racing more seriously. I’d encourage anyone to come along and try it out, you can just rock up on the day on a mountain bike and no-one will bat an eyelid!
Last year I was happy just to show up and complete a race without injuring myself/others or getting in the way of the better riders. This year, I’ve accepted that barring punctures, a finish is expected and a decent placing is now the aim. There are usually around 30-35 women, so not a huge field, but I’m generally speaking firmly mid-table. So anything higher than 15/16th and I’m going to be pleased! I usually turn up knowing which other riders I’m aiming to chase around (Suzanne and Sam), and which I could only dream of keeping up with (Fran!). Still, it’s good to have goals 🙂 I’m on a new bike (48cm Ridley X Fire Carbon Disc) which is much lighter and more responsive than my old Dolan, which I think is helping. It’s actually my favourite bike currently. Because of how small the frame is, there is the slight issue of toe overlap with the front wheel – something which occasionally catches me out on slow-paced switch-backs! But something I’m just going to have to learn to cope with as a vertically-challenged rider.
For those who are new to cross, it’s essentially off-road crit-style racing on a road bike with chunky tires. Each race is 40 mins long for women, juniors and vets (an hour for senior men), and you complete whatever lap you’re on when the leading rider crosses the line. The unlucky few like me who are decent enough to be within a lap of the leader but only just therefore end up cycling for more like 45 mins… doesn’t sound like much but trust me, when you spend the entire time at threshold heart rate it feels like it’s never going to end!! Chunder-bucket anyone?
So a quick round-up of 2017 season so far… First 3 rounds I had a 100% record of falling off. All low-speed and injury-free, with only pride hurt thankfully! The theme that emerged appeared to be that rather like Matt Stephens off of the GCN show, I am not very adept at unclipping in a rush. Throw a hurdle into the mix, and what results is a rather amusing (I’m sure) slo-mo plonk of me and my bike. You have to be able to laugh about these things though… most CX riders will fall off at one point or other during the season, it’s just that some require more mud than others!! I had a cracking race at Hemel Hempstead in round 4. When we looked at the course on a map, we made the mistake of thinking it looked flat… DEFINITELY NOT FLAT!!! It turns out however, that long inclines seem to suit me – I pulled a 9th position out of the bag after a sprint finish. Chuffed to bits 🙂 I’ve since gone on to miss a few races due to other commitments (BTS Tour de Caffeine in October, 2 rounds whilst we’ve been away in Thailand, and the next race in December whilst I run a 5k with a couple of medic friends, dressed as Santas!), so I’ve only got 3 races left in the season. Best make them good’uns!
I’ve struggled a bit with start line nerves this season, for reasons which are not clear, but perhaps spilling over from work stress, general anxiety and resultant lack of sleep. I’m hoping the holiday has recharged my batteries and so this might be less of an issue for the rest of the season. I’ve also had the lurgy now for about a month, thanks to a particularly nasty bout of bronchitis which set my asthma and sinuses off. 2 courses of antibiotics later and it’s much better, but I’m still not 100%, popping Strepsils and Lemsip like they’re going out of fashion. Perhaps I could ask them for sponsorship! Hehe. Hopefully another week of near total rest will do the trick.
For now, we’re looking forward to the legendary “Crossmas” at Berkhampstead – cue Santa hats and “The Bridge” – I can only see one safe way up/down this, so best get my climbing legs ready!!