Well, the road race season (for me) is over. First year where I’ve really tried to get more out of them, rather than just turn up to the odd one. There’s been highs and lows (and a complete lack of wins, ahem), sadly it sort of fizzled out, rather than me going out with a bang at Clieves Hill (which isn’t really much of a hill, to my disappointment). A break got away and, rather than work together, the rest of the bunch just spent the race doing silly little 10 second ‘attack off the front, look round, sit up’ things. Didn’t seem to matter if you went with them, they’d sprint, look round, sit up. No taking turns, no concerted effort to get a second split/bring the break back, just ‘off the front, give up, come back’.
Still at least they were doing somethng, I started to get pretty wound up with riders hiding at the back shouting out things like “we won’t get them back unless we work together” then not taking any turns.
By the end of it I was just chasing as many of the silly leaps up the road, using them as practice for coming out of corners during ‘cross season.
(Oh, I finished 17th, as if that matters).
Pretending there was a descent. Pic by Ellen
To get the new ‘cross bike bedded in I drove up to Whitehaven for a spot of “summer cross a few weeks later. The “summer” part presumably being a sarcastic addition to the title. Jeeeeeezus. It was THRASHING it down on the way up north and just got wetter as I got closer to the venue. For a while on arrival I just sat in the van, getting buffeted around by the gale force wind, watching wave after wave of summer storm utterly drench the ground.
Sweet. Cyclocross weather!
As it was (I thought) a low key, non-BC-ranking, far away from everyone else who races, sort of affair (and because I’m extraordinarily arrogant) I splashed my way round a few warm up laps imagining I had some sort of a chance of winning. That thought lasted right up until we lined up (or huddled together from the battering weather, more accurately) and I noticed one of those washing-powder-advert-white jerseys with the National Champion bands on it.
It may have been the junior champ, rather than Liam, but lets be honest, that makes eff all difference. He was a speck in the distance within seconds of the start and just sped up from there. Out of sight, out of mind, in a different league.
I squelched and splashed my way round in 2nd for a bit, before Niall Patterson whizzed past on one of the lumpy-tussocky sections on his mtb and quickly opened up a gap. I managed to find a rhythm, settled down and that’s how it stayed until the end.
No bike changes needed as it was so wet the mud couldn’t stick and a good course with plenty of off cambers/tight corners/faster bits/steep run ups etc meant I got to work out what needed to be moved/swapped/fettled for the NW League and treated it to it’s first podium finish. Happy enough with that.
Last bit of the Midweek Madness races I’ve raced a few of took place the day after, in totally different conditions at Beacon Park (home of my best cyclocross result to date). Another great course for the singlespeed meant I did pretty well, this time only being left for dead by 3 other riders to finish 4th with another grin on my face. You should do some of these races next year, they’re ace
Pic by Chris Meads (who did loads of pics for the whole series)
All of a sudden
It was cross season again!
I’d missed the first round, at Hoghton Tower last year and suffered as a result of it. Not getting any points meant I wasn’t gridded at the front on the start line for subsiquent races and with a off-the-start-sprint as rubbish as mine that’s a big issue. It took months to get back on par and I didn’t really get onto the front line until Beacon Park, the last round, where I made the most of it and finished 2nd. This year was different. After a good hour or so of cheering on/heckling the vets & women from the pits (if you can’t have a laugh at these races, you’re missing out, big time!), my 5th overall in the league meant I got a place up with the fast lads on the front row.
Deep breaths and a final gel squeezed down my neck. I wonder if I’ve got any better off the line…
…actually, it didn’t go too badly. Up the first climb as the whistle blew I pretty much held my own. Certainly in the top ten for the first lap, aware of the elbow-rubbing, bar-clashing melee behind but far enough ahead to avoid it.
The course was tough. Seemingly uphill all the way, dry enough to be flat out, twisty turny off cambery enough to be interesting all the way round, combined with the warm temperature it certainly took it’s toll on a few riders. I managed to work my way up to 4th, then the lad in 3rd knackered his wheel, moving me up to 3rd, then I somehow managed to pull my wheel out of the dropouts (tub stayed glued on though, so that’s good!) so had to dive into the pits for a bike change (quickly sorted by Paul – cheers!). That put me back to 4th.
I held the gap at the same distance until the ‘best’ bike was ready to go again and, back aboard the Merlin, set about trying to get back up to the lad ahead. I got within a couple of seconds of him but ran out of laps before being able to really attack. Ah well. 4th it is.
Air time! Pic by Ellen
Decent start to the season and the first ‘average heart rate well over 180bpm’ hour for a good few months. Nothing but enthusiasm for the next round here