Monday, 2 January 2017

The Cyclocross Diaries: November

Perhaps the main thing to note about November is that it really hasn't been that muddy. So far, we've got away with some fairly tame conditions. It's been cold, but the mud and the need to swap bikes every lap has not yet arrived. Kind of a shame, although i'm sure it will arrive, and i'm sure i'll look back at this relatively dry period wishing for it to return.
Anyway, onto the races.

Round 7 - Suttleworth
This was a superb setting within the grounds of Shuttleworth Collage. The course looked fun, with a long climb to start with, followed by a series of sweeping corners and descents back into the start area. Unfortunately no barriers, so no requirement for me to put my new skillz to the test.
By the time the Senior race was on (2:15pm) the temperature had dropped, and the freeing rain had started. I've never wanted a race to start so much as I had sitting on the start line. After what felt like forever (not 30 seconds) we were off. A very long starting straight, into a nice S bend, with a hill to follow. A good start and I was around 8th onto the climb, passed a few by the top and got into a good group of 3 (4th/5th/6th/7th) We all stayed together for most of the race until the last few laps. 4th manage to get a gap and the group just managed to drop 8th. Last lap and it was 5th (Josh Jones) and myself, He kicked and I just couldn't quite stay with him, managed to hold of 7th and crossed the line 6th.

Round 8 - Henley 
Onto round 8 at Dinton Pastures near Reading. Good weather, dry course apart from one section that was a total mud bath (ie, get off and run) Loads of different sections on this course with plenty of off camber bits, sand pits, twisty sections. It was looking set to be the best course of the season so far.
As is coming a bit of a tradition Joe set off at an alarming pace, meaning the rest of the field was battling for 2nd place... I spent the first 2 laps chasing Gavin & Neil who were in 2nd & 3rd, they were working well together, but I was feeling great and managed to get across. feeling on a bit of a roll I didn't rest, but carried on. Neil and myself managed to drop Gavin and spent the rest of the race battling it out. I'd do a lap, Neil would do a lap, that kind of thing, we both kept on trying to drop each other, but neither succeed in doing so. I was quicker on some sections, but perhaps more importantly Neil was quicker in the final S bend section just before the finish... Last lap and I was on the front, rather be here than try and make the pass, coming into the S bends, and it was proper elbow to elbow stuff, but Neil made the pass, and in the process I also took out 2 lapped riders. Neil was now leading, but I was still just on his wheel. Final corner and sprint for the line, I just missed out by maybe half a wheel to come 3rd. Absolutely brilliant race, great fun and a proper battle. Great ride by Neil.

Round 9 - Kettering
Now I did this course last year. It was the final race of the season and I think there were around 12 senior riders, it was freezing and conditions were grim. I snapped my mech and then punctured on Lucinda's bike. Wasn't great.
This time round it was a fair bit dryer, probably a bit colder and on a similar course to the previous year, bar a 15ft high bank to ride up and over (or run). It's a really fun course actually, plenty of off camber sections, some twisty bits and a nice long steady mud/grass climb... However, didn't all go to plan really. Lucinda got a puncture on her warm up lap, so borrowed Joe's bike for half a lap, got the puncture fixed, and then got another puncture so had to go out on my bike. Thankfully it wasn't really muddy enough to require a wash...
A fairly good start saw me settle into a battle for 6th/7th/8th place with Graham Knight and Gavin Howell. I was feeling pretty strong, and fancied my chances in this group. 2nd lap in and I made the pass into 6th place with Graham and Gavin on my wheel, I think I was pulling away (slightly) when I felt my front wheel, it was flat. At least the pits were close, ow wait, they weren't... I tried to ride it for a while, that didn't really work, so I ran probably best part of 1.5k to the pits. No spare bike, so I tried a wheel, rim brake only! Offered another bike, time pedals, finally (after having a strop) a chap offered my his Crux, slightly too small, but i'll take it! (huge thanks!) Now I don't know how many riders passed me, maybe 15? but I was pretty annoyed. As I left the pits somebody shouted, ride angry,so with that in mind, I did. Despite not being used to this bike I have to say I rode pretty well, nothing to loose I guess, so didn't hold anything back. Was feeling good still when on the last lap I could see Josh Jones, now he sits 3rd on the league, to my 2nd. I had to pass him. 500 or so meters from the finish I did, and managed to come back to an overall 9th position. Given the circumstances, i'm pretty pleased with that!

Round 10 - Welwyn
What a beautiful day, the kind of day that as a cyclist, you tend to spend all day in the saddle, admiring the countryside, enjoying a long coffee stop. Or, racing around a field for an hour. Just as much fun i'm sure?
This was going to be hard, lots of hill repeats, a big field and pretty dry meant a grass crit. Usually I tend to do quite well as these, so we'll see. Straight away a 4/5 riders managed to get away and I couldn't quite match the pace, I was in a second group of around 5 riders, of which this seemed to stay together for a lap or two. Over the next few laps the group fragmented a bit, and I found myself chasing down two riders (7th & 8th) I was really starting to feel it though, not really sure what was up with me but I couldn't catch them, and riders behind seemed to be closing down. Thankfully this happened towards the end and I managed to cross the line 9th. Given the field, a good result I think. Should have done better, but then that's racing I guess.

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