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

  • Technical trampling

    I’d genuinely begun to wonder how much I’d spent on diesel, dragging two big tubs of water to and from every cyclocross race this year. Each week I’d lug them into the van, drive them to the race, ignore them as the bikes didn’t need washing, lug them back to the van and drive them home again. I wondered if the cost had reached a point where I’d spent a coffee’s worth, chauffeuring them around, as I strolled past the catering van perched on the outskirts of Stadt Moers park.

    Thankfully, this time, it was totally worth the effort. I’m really enjoying racing cx whatever the conditions at the moment and, although the lack of cleaning post dry race is lovely, I wanted a proper mudbath to do some sliding around in. Irvine’s National trophy had been “grip for miles” and “lean the bike over in the turns” fun, now I wanted some “control the slither” and “find the grip in the slop” fun and that’s what I got 🙂
    The Pit Crew Extraordinaire got to do something other than just spectate this time (which is nice – it’s good to keep them busy 😉 ) as the bikes needed a wash just about every lap and I got to race in some proper slop. I even got a minute or so per lap run, through the trees, to test my Bambi like running skills on. Ace.

    The start went OK, I lost a couple of places in the first couple of seconds off the line, but got back up onto Andy Brindle’s wheel before we hit the really tricky stuff, which I was happy about. Andy’s really smooth at the technical on-off-run-on-slither-off-run-back- on style riding, with his speed remaining super constant throughout and with no energy wasted in overly flamboyant flailing around during the dismounts/remounts, so I made a mental note to watch and learn as we naturally opened a small gap on everyone else. I’ve been doing quite a bit of work on my techy skills as part of this year’s more focussed training and it definitely helped me keep on par with him (though I’ve still got some way to go before being as smooth).

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    Pic by Ellen

    On lap 2 I opened a small gap as I found some grippy lines through the singletrack (which somehow remained swoopy and fun, despite the mud!) which kept me on the bike a bit more and popped out of the “faster to run it” treelined section, next to the pits with a few seconds space behind me.
    There’s very little that can send a shiver down your spine quite as well as having your pit crew tell you, as you swap bikes, “you’ve got a couple of seconds on Rob Hope”, with several running sections around the lap. Each time the mud forced me to dismount I expected him to skip merrily past, so each time he didn’t I did all I could on the rideable sections to keep the gap, while maintaining as much sped on foot as I could muster.

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    Looking for the grip by basically riding the very edge of the course (ie crashing through the bushes!). Pic by Ellen

    One bike change per lap saw me use up 90% of the water I’d dragged to the race and meant I was never putting too much strain on the components (sadly a few people had to do the “walk of misery” with knackered rear mechs due to the clogging mud).

    I kept pushing and tried to not start looking behind me until the second half of the last lap. When I did I found more clear space behind than I was expecting and took a few deep breaths and relaxed a bit, crossing the line with a mud plastered grin. A win. On a course that tested pretty much all of the skills and fitness cyclocross demands. Can’t be anything but utterly chuffed with that…even if I did manage to miss the podium presentation (again…)!

    One week off from racing now, then up to Ulverston, which has been a great race for the last couple of years. Here’s hoping it is again 🙂

     

    11:53 am on November 4, 2019 | 1 Comment | # |

Comments

  • Dave Haygarth 5:10 pm on November 4, 2019 | #

    Nice read again Dave. I was impressed yesterday. Not that I didn’t expect you to be up there – it’s just that I expected Rob to be the main to beat because the running was extensive (and come on – 4 x British Fell Champ is no shame to be dropped by) and also it wasn’t too technical in terms of losing or gaining speed on particular lines etc. (they were all much of a muchness). In that sense it suited Rob more – he’d readily admit to not being as good when you get ruts developing etc.

    I wonder how it might have turned out if he didn’t have his pit epic.

    Either way – it reflects well on you. If he was that strong, he’d have caught you back on such a sloggy course.

    Where I think this WAS proper technical was that it rewarded the rider who knew WHEN to get off and when to remount. Those decisions were worth quite a lot yesterday and those decisions are just as much ‘cross as learning cornering skills or riding ruts or hopping barriers.
    But PLEASE don’t ever learn to carry your bike like Andy.

    By the way. A great tip: If you lug water all the way there and all the way home on some occasions, do consider pouring away the water before going home.
    That’s half a coffee you owe me.
    You’re welcome.

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