OK, right, erm, here we go…
Few weeks back (seems like half a lifetime ago now) I raced the National Hill Climb Championships. It was a nice day, I felt fairly relaxed and hoped I’d do well. The hill itself wasn’t quite steep enough to suit me (I’d like something like Hardknott/Park Rash – 20% plus for a long time to really get my teeth into), but it was alright. I set off in way too small a gear and, where I should have been powering away, I found myself panic shifting to get some speed up. Lost a good second or so there. Decided to shift back up to an easier gear for the steepest hairpin straight afterwards and fluffed that change as well, mashing the rear mech across 3 cogs instead of one, leaving me spinning like a fool.
The course evened out after the hairpin so I sat down and got myself back together, found a ‘just above comfy’ pace and rode on through the halfway point, listening intently to what the commentator was saying about me (he wasn’t calling me a “big lad” like he had to some of the earlier competitors, so that cheered me up). I rounded the final corner still at the same pace and realised I’d not pushed hard enough to set a brilliant time – if the finish had been another 4 minutes up the road I reckon I would have done really well, as it was I rode over the finish line and declined the use f any “catchers” as I just wasn’t exhausted enough!
38th place and over 30 seconds back on the eventual winner. Not embarrassingly slow, but not exactly my finest hour!
Hill climb season over (Phew! I’ve been pretty rubbish this year!) and back to ‘cross. Part of the way through the season now, so everyone’s really getting stuck in to the races. Lovely stuff.
Otterspool came first. Last year I had no luck here at all. This year…I hit a tree at full pelt on a drop. Hard enough to separate me from my bike. After a rubbish start I’d fought my way back up to the sharp end of the race, got carried away and just completely overshot a corner. Both wheels locked up and drawn magnetically to the stoutest looking tree on the whole park. Owch.
I spent a couple of minutes checking I still had all my teeth/my jaw wasn’t in pieces before gingerly getting back o the bike and taking a lap to ‘get back into it’.
12th. Lowest finish of the season and a scuffed up face/ear/neck. Damn it.
Next up was Cartmel. I enjoyed the course there last year and, although the weather was worse this time round it was great again. The climb up through the woods (2/3rds rideable, the last bit a “run” (stumble)) was as tough as ever at race pace. I got my crash out of the way early on, during the first lap, but ended up 7th. Would have been 6th but I didn’t realise I’d caught the guy in 6th on the run in to the finish, so didn’t react when he sped up, thinking he was someone I was lapping. D’oh!
Back to Otterspool for the next round. giving the place One Last Chance to be nice to me – I like the course, I’m just feed up with stuff going wrong each time I get there! Full on storm conditions made it much more exciting and slippery, with the start being almost hilarious as everyone wheelspan their way down the start straight.
Right from the off my drivechain was skipping whenever I put any power down through the pedals. I’d replaced the chain during the week but not changed the cassette as it had been fine when riding to work, even when sprinting off from traffic lights/up hills in too big a gear. It had been fine until it got to Otterspool, then started slipping without warning. Bugger!
I dived into the pits, grabbed the 2nd bike and set about working my way back past people. Everything seemed to be going OK until an innocuous little crash halfway round the lap. A simple little ‘wipe out’ on a wide corner, just a gentle ‘slide to a halt’ sort of thing as the front wheel lost grip. The kind of thing where you barely even lose time as you’re back up instantly afterwards. Only, when I leapt back to my feet and grabbed the bars, I noticed the left brake lever was pointing in a very odd direction. Trying to shift into the big ring I discovered that I’d smashed the insides to pieces. BUGGER IT!
Not knowing what state the lever was in structurally I decided to swap back to the other bike with it’s skipping gears and spent the rest of the race soft pedaling to reduce the skipping from the drivechain, which was bloody difficult in the thick mud.
At least I know which race(s) to marshal at, rather than race, next year!
The amusingly named Stadt Moers park held last weekend’s race. Last year’s course was good and this year’s didn’t disappoint either (though the start seemed to go a bit awry, ahem…). wonderfully slippery mud made for a lot of sliding the bikes around and turned the course into a real slog. Good. I like slogs! A lack of ‘explosive power’ d=didn’t seem to matter too much as I dragged my way round and up to 6th. Missing 5th place by a measly 4 seconds without realising (I did wonder why everyone in the pits was really shouting at me as I rode past for the final time…)
And there we are! Up to date again.
A week off then its the Northern ‘cross Champs. It’s at Heaton Park, which I quite like. A decent course for me, with some nasty little ‘slightly uphill’ slogs (not that my aims for the race extend far beyong “don’t get lapped”, this time round!), so I’m looking forward to it