Cross season is back!
Having missed racing in the winter of 2013 as I dragged myself back into some semblance of fitness I’ve been keen this time round to make the most of it. Cyclocross racing is totally different to anything I ‘normally’ do – the 1hr (max!) races are flat out, unlike the endurance stuff I like to entertain myself with over the summer. There’s a whole set of specific skills needed to do well, most of which I completely lack…but that’s part of the attraction, different bike, different style of course (usually a bit simpler than mtb courese) and different technique. They say a change is as good as a rest, which makes ‘cross the hardest damn rest you could ever have!
After resurrecting the old Ragley Rodwell with what turned out to be a bizarre mixture of expensive left over parts from the garage and some “whatever was on offer on the internet” bits and bobs to fill in the gaps, I took myself out for a couple of rides to get reacquainted with thrashing about off road on what feels like a road bike with slightly wider tyres (unsurprisingly).
I was rubbish.
It was ace.
And with those two rather shocking looking (to the outside world, I was convinced I was doing well all the time I wasn’t lying at the side of the trail, picking myself up after yet another tumble) rides being the sum total of my preparation I leapt into the North West Cyclocross League’s first race of the season, conveniently located a short ride from my front door.
Watching the categories before mine fight their way round their races hinted at what was to come – mouth wide open faces pulling in as much air as possible as bikes were flung round the twisty course as quickly as possible. It looked flat out. The view from the outside of the course tape, however, was nothing in comparison to being in the thick of it…
I lined up near the back of the pack, not wanting to cause a rolling roadblock if I messed up the start and, within seconds of the start, found myself fighting for breath, wrestling the bike left and right as I started to pass those in front of me who’d not got away well, whenever the course and my skill allowed it.
From there on, the hour passed in a blur of exploding out of corners, chasing everyone in front and (embarrassingly) picking myself up from wherever I’d managed to crash. The intensity and elbow to elbow style of the racing was totally unfamiliar for all of about 2 laps, then, as the soreness from wiping out in corners begin to sing in my legs, as the ache at the bottom of my lungs began to take over, everything began to click into place again.
I’d missed this.
Pic by the ever present & ever cheerful SportSunday – cheers guys
The sharp end of the field were long gone (and then, halfway through, back as the top couple of lads lapped me -d’oh!), but it didn’t matter. I was racing up the learning curve and utterly loving chasing down everyone in front. The race finished with me just in the top 20. Not good enough, which was perfect. I left already plotting the next race. How I would be faster. More skillful. Less crash-y (well, possibly).
As the weather deteriorates the races will change. These early fast races will turn into mud based slogs through the winter darkness, requiring even more skill and effort. I’m up for it. Oh yes.