Macclesfield is, according to people who know about this sort of thing, my kind of cyclocross race course. Plenty of places to put down the power. A few draggy climbs that will seek out and show up any weakness. Plenty of flat out fast corners and loads of wide sections to give you multiple line choices (and overtaking space). It sounded great.
Of course, that sounds like a lot of people’s style of race course and – given it’s mid-Christmas break timing – lots of fast people turn up for it. I took my place up at the front of the field for gridding (yes, I’m into the top 20 now, so get gridded) only to find myself stood next to a shiny white skinsuit with National Champion colours on it. And very shiny shoes. My still-mud-encrusted-from-last-weekend old Mavics suddenly looked rather out of place. I should probably clean them at some point.
A decent start was hampered by the guy in front of me slipping a pedal and nearly going flying. Well, I say it was hampered, but shiny white skinsuit got just as caught up as I did and managed to get going again quickly enough. And win the race. So I’ll stop trying to use it as an excuse. Anyway, I got through the first lap in the top 20 and, as per usual, set about working my way back up to people in front, pausing to catch my breath and then push on.
Monstercrossing for a lap while the ragley gets a wash in the pits. Pic from Steve Monks’ flickr page
The ground, that had been frozen earier in the day and had promised flat out fast racing, had thawed a bit by the mid afternoon start, leaving many of the corners quite slithery, with a few riders sliding out and crashing down mid race. For once this didn’t happen to me, I didn’t find myself back at the start, having to re-overtake anyone, so I rode myself up into the top 10 by the mid way point of the race.
I traded places with Kristian Spreckley, who I’ve had a few close races with this season, for a few laps before opening up enough of a gap to hold onto 7th place by the finish despite a few minor mistakes (top tip: don’t leave your spare bike in it’s biggest gear if the exit of the pits is uphill, you’ll just grind to a complete halt and look like an idiot!).
Looks lovely, doesn’t it. Shame it defrosted by the time I got to race on it!
And with that, my first proper season of cyclocross was, pretty much, over. 9 North West league races mean I will actually qualify for an overall position, and the 10 races I’ve done so far this winter have taught me a lot. Mostly that I know very little about cyclocross racing. There’s a lot to learn, not just about how to get fit for shorter, more intense races but also about the racecraft required to do well. The ‘art’, if you like, of ‘cross racing.
Basically I’ve learned that I’ve made it as far as the bottom rung of the ladder. The easy part’s over, if I want to get better and start creeping up the results lists, the hard work starts here!