I try to like Beacon Park. I really do. I’ve had some great fun races there – from thrashing my legs off in the Midweek Madness MTB races that have taken place during the summer on my singlespeed to supermodder CX races that got me my 1st ever podium finish in the NWCCA league a few years back – but there’s always something about it that puts me off.
Last year’s race there very nearly saw me give up bike racing for good. In fact it very nearly saw me giving up leaving the house for good, so utterly horrible was the weather. It was less a race and more a collection of people giving themselves hypothermia while simultaneously writing off their bikes and murdering their pit crews in a sleety, snowy Armageddon. Not fun. No fault of the organisers, of course, in fact it was miraculous that they managed to hold a race there at all, let alone one where you could still ride a bike, despite everything being shin deep mud. With a move to November, rather than January, I had hopes that no-one would freeze to death this time round.

As per usual my sat nav managed to find a new way of getting me to the race site – I have never arrived there having followed the same route twice. I have no idea why each and every time seems to require me travelling along new and hitherto untested roads (if I’m being honest, despite the park being about 15 miles from my house, I had no idea where it actually is!), but by the time I get to the (full) car park each time I’m slightly panicked that I’m going to the wrong place! Maybe it’s a cursed land or something, in a parallel dimension…

When I finally found a spot to wedge the van, in the 3rd car park I tried (the downside of CX being so popular, I suppose) a glance at the clothing being worn by other racers suggested that the previous year’s snowmaggeddon might not be in attendance. In fact bare legs were on show. Maybe this year would be alright!
Parked up and kit dragged through what feels like about 50 acres of woodland (think “Blair Witch” with more lycra) I set off on the #2 bike for a look at the completely redesigned course. After getting lost with Ben a couple of times in the sea of course tape and dead ends as the kids races, with their own courses, cut across the adult race route I managed to figure out where we would be going. It looked like it could be good fun. Long, power straights, short, sharp climbs and a few slippery corners. A bit of everything. Nice.
To get myself settled I decided to do a couple more laps. Which turned out to be a mistake.

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Suboptimal warm up lap ??

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An innocuous gear shift caused the mech to abandon ship, leaving me with a long walk back to the pits from the far side of the course and just one bike for the race. Back to believing in the Curse Of Beacon Park!

Or so I thought.

Within minutes of getting back to the pits, I’d been offered the use of SO MANY other bikes, from riders in the V40 and v50 categories that, in complete contradiction to the well known phrase, this beggar had his pick of the crop!
I was a bit taken aback by the generosity on offer (why everyone seemed so willing to lend me a bike when I was quite obviously so clumsy I don’t know!), but utterly chuffed to be part of a scene where everyone’s so quick to help other riders out. Cross is boss.

The race itself went both badly and quite well all at the same time. For some unknown reason I set off in the small chainring, leaving me spinning wildly within seconds of the starting whistle, being overtaken by pretty much everyone. D’oh. A few ‘brave’ manoeuvres on the first lap saw me start to work my way up through the field (apologies to Joe Peatfield, who I cut up horribly…) and over the following few laps I clawed my way from about 25th up to 5th.

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@twinklydave giving it some

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A high speed (but surprisingly comfortable!) crash/slide out on a descent saw me drop back a place or two, and some very scrappy riding while I was all worked up by it meant I didn’t start making up places again for another lap. Another crash towards the end of the race, as I caught up to Martin, meant I eventually crossed the line in 3rd place. Another “what could have been” sort of result because of the poor start and crashes, all of which were entirely my own fault, but a better finishing place than might have been. I’ll stay positive and be chuffed with a podium. 🙂

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Thanks, as always, to Ellen for the pictures. A coffee must be due as payment by now!

Thankfully it was a ‘one bike’ race, so I didn’t have to pull into the pits and do a “eeny – meeny – miny – mo” style bike choice from all the ones on offer (again; thanks to everyone, you are all awesome) and I have enough spare parts ‘in stock’ to repair the damage, so I’m declaring the Curse of Beacon Park over 🙂