Twinkly Dave – Mud splattered bicycle and pizza enthusiast Growing old disgracefully

October 13, 2020


Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 9:43 am

“You’ll need to put your foot down a bit”, announced the cheery helper at the entrance to Sunday’s race as I pulled up in the less-than-usual for a cyclocross race loaded van. “It’s a bit firmer once you get further into the car park, but people have struggled to get across the mud on the first bit”

Now, my van shares a few characteristics with a hippotamus – it’s pretty rotund looking, for one, but the important one here is that it loves settling it’s belly down in any mud it can find. Usually leaving me stuck until someone with a towrope or enough bravery to provide a push resuces me. So, in an attempt to not just create a 3 litre engined “no entry” sign, I did exactly as advised and gave it the beans.

OH MY GOD THAT WAS FUN! Visions of Colin McRae flashed through my mind as I swung from opposite lock to opposite lock, the van fishtailing wildly around as it surfed across the slop. An indicated 35mph on the speedo suggested enormous speed across the grass, while the reality outside didn’t quite match, as a nearby cow in the next field lazily wandered along keeping up while still munching on the cud and throwing me a slightly bemused look.
I came to what felt like a natural finish line, facing back down the gentle slope (planned – hoping that gravity would help get me going again when time to leave came round) and looking lke I’d parked up rather than drifted to a 4 wheeled slliding halt. Grin already plastered across my face as widly as the mud was smeared across the wheelarches (and bloody everywhere else too) of the van. You can’t beat a good bit of mud.

At the last minute before setting off I’d flung the 2nd bike into the van. “Might as well”, I’d thought to myself, “it gives me a choice of tyres, muds on this one, intermediates on the race bike…even though I imagine it’ll be drying up by now”.
That turned out to be the best decision of the day as a wander around the race course as the seniors were finishing their race showed that no drying of the ground had taken place at all. Rear mechs had been replaced with brown balls of grassy, clogging slop. Anything less than full mud tyres just looked like massive slicks. The dusty grins from the first round had been replaced with grimey grimaces as bikes complained and grumbled their way round and every few seconds dismounts were required, with mud-heavy shoes being stomped up what were stand-up-sprints last time. I watched Paul Oldham jump off mid lap, leap into a deep puddle and frantically splash about to try and get his drivechain working again, before splashing back to the racing line and resuming the 5mph slog that the race had become.
“Yeah, I’ll not bother doing any practice laps” I decided. “I’ll just spin up and down on the road for a bit to get my legs going” – the brakes needed bedding in a bit anyway, so learning where the corners were took a back seat to just pootling up and down. As a warm up it wasn’t really very good, in fact you couldn’t really call it a warm up, but it used up that awkward time just before a race where nerves would kick in if you gave them a chance (even though these non ranking, laid back, just for the love of it races really don’t require any nervousness).

From the front row of the grid (place number 2 no less, a ranking that made me giggle, if nothing else!) the start went OK. I don’t think anyone had done much in the way of on-course practice so the first few turns were pretty gentle really. Looking back maybe I should have tried to push on a bit more but the idea of sprinting off, head first into the first boggy bit and crashing out like an idiot reigned me in – maybe everyone else HAD done some practice laps and knew something I didn’t.
A few turns late I learned of something everyone else apparently DID know that I didn’t. That being how to run. From “comparitively in control” to “all over the place” within a few footsteps. Not too many people came past me, but I’m 99% sure that’s because it was too amusing to stay back and watch as I flailed about shambolically, with little in the way of forward progress. It’s not that I don’t do any running as part of my training, it’s just “normal cyclocross” specific stuff – run when you can’t ride, rather than run for longer to keep the one bike you’ve got working. And, for some reason, my shoes just weren’t intersted in staying where I put them on the ground, instantly drifting back down any slope they were flung up. PErhaps the rounded off, short studs in them weren’t helping…


My vaguely steady heartrate lurched into “full on red zone” as I tried to get the seemingly-not-mine legs moving as quickly and as accurately as those ahead of me. Ian, Rob, Phil, Chris, him, that other bloke, whatshisface, I stopped trying to work out who had gone past as I finally got to a rideable section.
No issue there. Gaps were closed without too much fuss while simultaneuously allowing my heart and lungs to retake a more natural position in my chest. I’ll never be the smoothest in slippery corners but I certainly wasn’t losing any time on them, tyres drifted around beneath me, but for the most part their directon was controllable with a bit of restraint. Places were regained and I started to feel a little better about how I was getting on.

Within a lap it became clear that it was a race of two distinct halves – the rideable where I had no problems and the you-have-to-run-now mud where my aim became to not get left too far behind by Chris and Phil or caught by the massing field behind. When on the bike I kept my head in check and tried to think “conservative” about how I was riding – no pits (oh how I miss them!) so just soft pedal a bit and don’t put too much pressure on the muddy drivechain. Get out of the saddle to move about a bit but don’t try to smash it in case everything implodes.
I’d not dropped the tyre pressures before the race after spotting a few half buried bricks / rubble in the mud (I use the Helen Wyman formula and was about 7 or 8 psi above where i should have been for the conditions) so the twisty sections weren’t taken flat out either (as I say, I’m not the best anyway) but everything seemed to be going alright until I failed to choose which line to take on the one section of the course with a drop on it.
In the last race, the fast choice was to take a narrow line round the top of the drop, so I aimed for that only to discover that the lack of grip this time round meant I wasn’t going to stay on the line. Instead of swapping for the “low” line I mithered and ended up dropping off the edge of the cliff (Ok, slight exaggeration), jamming the front wheel into the mud and flinging myself over the bars.


I may have sworn – apologies to any impressionable children than overheard and to any parents that had to try and explain that swearing isn’t big or clever but sometimes it’s OK when you’re smashing your chin into the ground, your knee into your stem, your ankle into your front wheel and somehow also smashing your back into something massively uncomfortable all at the same time.

It took me a lap or so to get my head back into riding again after that – luckily the crash didn’t seem to have any effect on my running (I mean, how could it!) and with a couple of laps left I’d started to cheer up again and embrace the slither as the tyres wandered round underneath me. I got a bit of a gap on Phil, enough to stay ahead through the running section where he was blatantly and noticable faster and more surefooted than me, eventally crossing the line in 4th. Again.

Pic by Richard Howes – this is actually from a different race, but yeah, as you can see, running isn’t my favourite part of ‘cross!

Last time 4th had felt like a bit of a ‘miss’, where I new I had more to give, this time round it felt like a bit of an escape. Mainly though, it felt like a LOT of fun. Plenty of great racing, lot of lessons to learn and – thanks to the organisers putting on a whole series – chances to put all that new knowledge to the test. Can’t wait for round 3 🙂

Thankfully the ground conditions in the car park had firmed up a bit and the van managed to extracate itself without too much sideways action. You could easily plough some furrows and plant potatoes in what’s been left at the local car wash, however…

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