It was clear from the few warm up laps that this would be quite an energy sapping course, couple this with all the grass and mud slowing the bike down I knew it was going to be tough.
First lap in and I had managed to pass a few riders and was up into around 7th now. HR went from low 60s to about 180 in around 20 seconds, there is nothing quite like the first lap of a cross race. Bike seemed to be handling well, and the lowered pressure on the Clement MXPs was working well, certainly felt better than in practice... Onto the 2nd lap and I pushed into 4th where I pulled away from 5th to create quite a gap which kept on growing, bar any mechanical I knew I could hold 4th and it was now a matter of reeling in 2nd and 3rd (no chance was I getting 1st...) I could see 2nd & 3rd battling it out ahead, and over the course of the next 3 laps I managed to get across, it dam near killed me, but I did it. I sat on their wheels, thankful for the rest for around 1/3 of a lap, and then made to move to try and drop them, this worked (for a bit) and I was now upto 2nd, but after a quick look around it became clear that 3rd and 4th were not going anywhere, I made a few attacking moves, but unfortunately nothing managed to stick (apart from the mud) We all exchanged places over the next few laps with nobody looking like the clear favorite. With 2 laps to go I was 4th rider, but starting to feel a bit, well, knackered. Damien was shouting from the side to keep it smooth and stay with them, I was trying... I stayed with them until the bell lap where they opened up a 5 second gap, I tried to get across, they were slowly pulling away. I knew that even if I managed to get across, after my earlier 3 lap solo attack, i'd have nothing in the sprint. I therefore crossed the line 4th, some 8 seconds behind 3rd and 2nd who battled it out in the sprint. To be honest, I was really pleased, in what was another tough field (both people and circuit) I actually really enjoyed the circuit, there was enough twisty sections and fast and flowing bits to make it enjoyable. The bike preformed well, a 1x9 setup was perfect, meaning that the chainline, except the rear mech of course, was mud free (kind of anyway), that said the frame did get a bit clogged up with grass and mud and that no doubt slowed me down, but then I guess that was the same with every other rider.
It was great to be in a proper battle for a position, compared to just a solo cross TT which my last race was, tactics played a big part, and perhaps something I need to learn about a bit more.
Thanks to the Central League for hosting another great event and get the results up so quickly! Thanks to Keith Perry for the photos.