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

  • Focus

    We’re heading into the ‘steamy races’ part of the season now. By which, of course, I mean that the campervan windows all steam up when I’m sat in there having a bite to eat/getting changed before the race and after getting sodden wet through checking the race course out. It’s no bad thing as it gives me a bit of privacy while getting into race kit without having to shut all the curtains (or just flashing my arse to the world out of the rear window without a care…), but the toasty warm, dry races (whatever those are…) are definitely over.

    OK Ulverston wasn’t particularly cold, but for the first time since it was relaunched as a venue the rain turned up to add even more interest to a redesigned and fun to ride course. The usual fast grass sections took on a far greasier, more leg sapping persona as the heavy drizzle set about creating something more ‘character building’!
    Now, usually, this would just signal one thing – dropped tyre pressures to aid grip, but not on this occasion. Buried within the spoil heaps that made up a big chunk of the corse were numberous rocks and pointy bits of gravel. Low tyre pressures would offer grip in the corners, but at the rick of punctures and knackered rims if you ‘bottomed out’ too heavily. Tyre pressure is always a big discussion point at these things, this time more than ever!

    I decided to play it safe and keep the tubs pumped up pretty hard. Certainly more so than most of the people I chatted to before the race. I knew I’d be wheel spinning a bit more and would have to ease off in the corners, but I came to the conclusion it would be better than risking a puncture (or worse, a damaged wheel) just a few days before the next National Trophy. As long as I kept focus,and didn’t get carried away trying to match people with higher levels of grip I’d be fine.

    As I predicted, off the startline I wheelspan more than anyone else and after about 30 seconds of racing I was back in about 10th. No worries, concentrate on just working your way through and don’t start taking risks, I told myself, for about 10 seconds before getting carried away and trying to race everyone has hard as I could. 🙂

    As I got to the front, Rob Jebb had ridden through the field and came past me riding (and running…) very smoothly. I started to get wound up that, for every one corner he took, I had to hacksaw my way roundabout 50 lurching, slipping turns as the wheels fought for traction. Maybe 30psi was a bit much, maybe I should have risked running them lower so I wasn’t having to flail about so much. Lots of maybes were rushing through my head as I battled (and it really did feel like a battle to get round at a similar speed to him) round, but what to do; shout out to the Horwich heroes in the pits ot drop the tyre pressures on the 2nd bike and try to put a chase on? Continue to throw caution to the wind and just keep trying to stay on terms with no grip?

    I noticed we’d got a bit of a gap back to the battle for 3rd (which, apparently, was a great, close race right through). Well, I say “we”, Rob was a good 20 seconds further round the course by this point, but it gave me the reassurance I needed to think about practicing my riding technique, rather than putting on a desperate chase to see if I could get back in contention. I left the tyres pumped up and embraced the extra slither. Really focused on finding smooth lines rather than thrashing around the course in search of speed. Concentrated on making dismount/remount decisions quickly and based on what was happening at any point, rather than what I’d done (or what others were doing) on previous laps.
    I knew the gap up to 1st would go out, but the chance to target good riding while actually racing doesn’t come around too often, so itseemed the right thing to do.

    Barrow Central Wheelers cx
    Pic by Dave Haygarth

    It turned out to be surprisingly good fun. Smooth lines based on the way the course had cut up through each turn, allowing the bike a bit of freedom to move around without fighting it or panicking (as I had done earlier, which would result on heading off in almost random directions to get round the bends!). I held my position on the race, crossing the finish line 2nd, with the only issue being a chain that half jammed itself between the jockey wheel and mech cage on the last lap (soft pedalling required to not muller anything!). Brilliant fun.

    So brilliant, on fact, I rode straight back tot eh start to ‘double up’ and race the senior event too. My aim this time being to get round without blowing up as I had at Heaton Park. I rode fairly conservatively and stuck with the “ride smooth” philosophy, making up places as the race went on and riders naturally slowed.
    The rain had stopped by this point and within a lap or two the levels of grip started to come back, which meant less of a disadvantage for me, but before I could really start to get into it the bell rang for the last lap. Ace, lasp lap without imploding physically or crashing stupidly (Ok, only crashing stupidly once, but we’ll gloss over that as it was just a dasft uphill toppled to one side!), lets get to the finish with everything in one piece, I thought to myself.
    I didn’t know where I’d finished, placing wise (12th, in the end), but I was happy to have got the extra riding (and running…) in. Practice makes perfect, and all that. Back to a steamed up campervan to get changed from 2-race-muddy kit (the rear window wasn’t as steamed up as I expected, so apologies to anyone I mooned!) and to start plotting how to keep the smooth riding thing going next week at Pembrey. 🙂

    Barrow Central Wheelers cx
    You can’t see the roots under the greasy mud in this pic, by they are there – that’s why I’m mouthing “smooth” to myself! Thanks to Dave Haygarth for the pic.

     

    11:35 am on November 18, 2019 | 2 Comments | # |

Comments

  • Dave Haygarth 5:04 pm on November 18, 2019 | #

    Good read again Dave. Great ride. I was on the other side of the endless tyre debate. I went “cheap” with the intention of risking only an inner tube – but it was a daft strategy as it meant half a lap on a flat rear and by my calcs a minute lost. Was lovely to catch and pass people all race though as a result – v. good for morale. Really enjoy the course there. Lots to think about (save for that stretch on the top bank where the start is, where all you think about is when it will end).

  • dgpowell 9:56 am on November 19, 2019 | #

    Yeah, the course this year was really good. I think the rain brought it to life with the half lap from the pits round the back of the clubhouse being much more interesting with a bit of slither.
    There’s nowt like riding people off your wheel for morale 🙂

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