Well, it looks like the super dry cross races have finished for another season. This weekend’s race was preceded by a few days of rain, just enough to take the ground from ‘still kind of dry in places’ to the early winter staple of ‘stodgy thick slithery ick’. No longer can bikes be popped back in the garage post race, ready for a quick check over the day before the next one, oh no, we’re now officially back in the depths of “race for an hour, spend at least two removing the grass, mud, worms, eaves and god knows what else from every part of the bike afterwards”.
Don’t get me wrong, those flat out fast, sunny, warm(ish) races are ace. “Crits on dirt” they’ve been described as – crazy leans angles and skimming across the earth matched with a feeling of skillful invincibility as you carve every corner perfectly. Great fun…but not as good as the feeling of getting it right when that grip becomes much less predictable, when to keep your speed up means digging as deep as your tyres are digging into the slop beneath you. That’s where it’s at.
That’s certainly where it was at on Saturday. The Cartmel based course had a great mix of the ubiquitous grassy fields (well how else are you going to clog your mech up?!) and some woodland singletrack that wouldn’t have been out of place in a mtb race. It also had a fair bit of climbing in it…or at least it felt like it did, because everything was nicely muddy, nicely stodgy, still fairly firm underneath, but with a nice sloppy topping to slither about on and dig into on top. Think sticky toffee pudding and you’re not far off.
As is becoming traditional, my start was rubbish, within seconds I was swamped and a good 30 or 40 riders back from the front and so, once again, I spent a good lap or two working my way back through the field towards the top ten.
I used the climbs to my advantage, reeling people back in up them, then hanging with them and recovering on the descents before repeating the process until I’d built up enough grass and mud in the drivechain on the bike to need to dive into the pits for a change, flinging the mud encrusted ‘cross bike at Angela to clean while I carried on riding the On-One.
The placement of the pit area worked perfectly for this – straight after changing onto the mtb the course descended, with a few rooty, rocky corners that were much nicer with bigger tyres and a suspension fork. Then a climb back up to a second passing of the pits where I could negate any gaps that had opened by me slowing to go into the pits to swap bikes and quickly swap back to a freshly de-mudded ‘cross bike.
Bit of mud. Bit of climbing. Lovely. Pic from https://www.flickr.com/photos/129303887@N06/
By the bell lap I’d worked my way up to 7th, briefly getting up into 6th before the guy I’d overtaken cottoned on to who I was and got back past me round the final corner. Damn. Still, another decent result after another rubbish start. I should really try and get up near the front as the whistle goes off sometime.
Next week is a return to Otterspool. Hopefully I’ll have better luck than last time!