Won a race once. AND DON'T YOU EVER FORGET IT

  • Two rounds of the National Trophy down, three seasons raced in, conditions-wise

    Round One of this season’s National Trophy Series was Derby. A well tested, almost classic venue. Apparently. I’d never raced there. In fact I’m struggling to think of any time I’ve been to Derby for any reason.
    Anyway.
    A stupid early start to get there gave chance to watch a glorious sunrise as summer made a brief appearance. Barely a cloud in the sky and a complete lack of mud under the wheels. Dust, in fact, was being kicked up as the frantic-first-lap-of-the-first-race-of-the-season hurtled into the never ending ribbon of corners for the sake of corners.

    I know because I saw it. Way off in front of me. BC’s seemingly random allocation of gridding position saw me completely at the back. As in there was no-one behind me and I couldn’t even see the front couple of rows of riders. Crap. “Good job cx races aren’t all about the vital fast start eh!” joked a spectator.

    Amazingly, I got a good start and found myself swooping though the field almost instantly. The front of the race was already kicking up that dust way ahead (it’s not like they need a head start!) but I was on a mission and by the start of lap two my rough estimate was that I’d made up about 30 places while everyone was still fairly closely packed together. Brilliant.

    Sadly a crash saw a lot of that work wiped out and the rest of the race was spent getting those places back for a second time. A tougher ask as the laps passed as groups formed (getting up to and past one person isn’t too big an ask, but groups of 5 or 6, all busy battling each other become mobile roadblocks in effect – too long a line of riders to power past on the (infrequent…) straights without a response from at least one of them, and too busy taking all the possible lines on the corners to rail round.
    Enough of the negativity though, I regained all the places I’d lost and more besides, finishing 30th. All that mattered by that point was making sure I’d get a better gridding position for round two (and getting a cold drink, as the combo of dust, sun and 25 degree temperatures was a proper throat dryer!)

    Round 2. Home. Nearly. Westmorland Show Ground. Venue for rounds of the NW league before now (and a good venue at that). Close enough to pop over to on the Friday to help out with setting up the course. OK I only tapped in a couple of stakes and ziptied a sliver of catch netting, small fry to the scary long hours lots of the NWCCA lads and lasses have sacrificed to get it going, but at least I had something to concentrate on while racing: Don’t crash and wreck the bit’s I’d put together!
    For this round I was gridded 20th – this would have been brilliant, but I completely lost track of time before the start and missed getting a proper warm up done. A few sprints up and down the road next to the venue meant I wasn’t likely to actually ‘hurt’ myself, but I didn’t get the same sort of launch off the line as occurred at Derby. (You can see how far back I was in this vid: https://twitter.com/VeloUK/status/1180557533934694400 )
    Back to about 35th by the first corner and a telling off when I got home about concentrating on getting myself sorted and leaving the bikes to the Horwich guys who really are happy to take care of the behind-the-scenes stuff for me!
    Another unneeded head start handed to the top guys and a lap spent waiting for the legs and lungs to catch up with my race head.
    I soon got up to speed and, on what can only be described as the perfect mix of technical sections and flat out bits, I got to grips with fighting back towards the pointy end of the race.

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    Roost! Pic by Ellen

    The more I raced, the more I loved it. The course, the way I felt, all spot on. Even the conditions – enough mud for ruts to form on the off camber sections and make some sections faster on foot, but still offering enough grip to really hammer it – were ace. Every obstacle seemed to have someone cheering me on attached to it, which just spurred me on more.
    11th by the end. Still riding strong and feeling great, wishing for more laps so we could all carry on (oh how’d I’d learn…). I’ll get up to the fast lads and get a decent result, everything’s there.

    Sunday ignored the pleasant autumnal conditions of day one, utterly. Rain rain rain and more rain overnight turned the course from techy fun to ferocious. Normally I;d be settling back feeling smug at having already done “my” race, but a deep down desire to just race bikes all the time meant I’d entered the elite race as well, so back to the Showground I went.
    I did the sum total of 1.5 practice laps (plus a couple of goes at the “drop of doom” which, while rideable, was damn uncomfortable, so I decided to run (slide on my arse) down it during the race.) and set about begging the Port Sunlight guys for help in the pits with their jetwash.
    OK, that’s a lie, they’d already offered as they’re properly nice people. I don’t know how they managed it, but they seemed to be looking after half the race – and we all got clean bikes when we needed them. Chapeau!

    I didn’t mind being gridded quite far back for this one (understandable, seeing as I’ve raced once in that age category this season), I was in it for the fun of it. And by “fun” I mean it was a great chance to get some skills practice and flat out riding done. In the mud. A bit of trench warfare. But (and it’s a big but) don’t bin it and get hurt. Conservative racing, whatever that is (I may have just made it up).

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    So slow Adam appears to have fallen asleep… Thanks to Graham for the pic

    Not a great race, given how surprisingly fresh I felt at the start – I had expected some fatigue, but everything was just…working! – but I started in 49th and finished 39th. A few chain issues cost some time and I know full well I could have pushed harder here and there, but it was still, strictly speaking, a net win. Plus it left me in no doubt about just how brilliant everyone involved with the NW league is. I mean, Sarah came over after the race to apologise about not being in the pits on my last lap, thinking I’d already been pulled from the course – despite the fact that she’d dived in to help completely off her own back (and it would have made 0 difference!). A demand for payment would have been more appropriate than an apology! And, if you think I’m ever exaggerating the amount of cheering people do for me from the sides of the course, this time round it actually became the topic of (out of breath, gasping) conversation a couple of times with other riders, while racing! Just brilliant people.

    Ayr next (for the Trophy’s, we’re off to Beacon Park for the NW leaague again ext weekend). Last year it was stunning, here’s hoping for even more this time. 🙂

     

    11:00 pm on October 6, 2019 | Comments Off on Two rounds of the National Trophy down, three seasons raced in, conditions-wise | # |