No alarm clock going off at middle-of-the-night AM, no 20lb rucksack full of enough energy drink and food to keep me going or a million hours, no waiting for the sun to come up, knowing I’d still be riding when it went back down again, just chuck the ‘cross bike in the back of the car, grab some sugary snacks and drive up to to the start of the race.
I could get used to this!
The drive down to Rhyl to ride round and round a local park until I got dizzy was uneventful and having loads of time to sign on, pin race numbers onto jerseys and do some last minute bike fettling was positively luxurious. Mid way through the laid back perperation Jase turned up, having done the decent thing and ridden 80 odd miles to get there, commandeered my jacket to keep warm and began warning us (Angela and myself) of the risk of riding through dog muck on the race course. Not what you’d usually expect to be looking out for while racing, but I guess leaping off the bike and bounding over obsticals is part of cyclocross and just what those obsticals consist of doesn’t really matter!
A quick warm up, while Angela hid in the car, failed to warm me up at all, but did at least give me an idea of where the course went and where the slippery bits were nd before I knew it I was wrapped up in the middle of the pack, shivering while waiting for the start.
Bang! Or, GO! Or, something, I didn’t really hear how the race was started I just became aware that lots of people were riding past me as quickly as they could, so tried to chase after them, glancing up only to see the leaders already quite a way ahead of me. Bugger it, another lousy start!
In one way this rubbish beginning to the race was a good thing, it meant I could set about working my way back through the field…and there’s nothing more satisfying than catching someone, overtaking them then dropping them
The bike flew round the narrow sections, letting me haul tightly round corners that had people around me slithering wide, the off camber drop was dealt with time and time again flat out as I left more and more people behind, their feet waving in the air while I remained clipped in and pedalling, I hit the ‘run up’ dismounting at full pelt into a sprint, barely touching the brakes as to either side of me racers slipped and stumbled their way up the slope. I practically flew over the top like a missile.
The laps began to tick themselves off in a mixture of sprinting across the firm bits and spinning through the stodgy mud sections (of which there were many). Each time I crossed the start/finish line Angela would bellow out encouragement
“Go on Dave…”
would echo across the race course (and most of Rhyl).
‘Oh, that’s nice’, I thought to myself as I ground my way through a particularly sloppy section ‘making sure my number’s definitely recorded, she’s ace’.
“Number 41. Number 74…”
‘Erm, hold on’. I hit the long straight and shifted up a couple of gears. ‘why’s she giving out everyone’s number, how’s that supposed to help me?’
“Number 22. Get a move on Dave, or the leader’ll lap you! Number 18″
It turned out Angela had overheard the organisers mention that they were a marshall/timekeeper/number caller outer (technical term) short and had offered to help out, checking each racer as they passed through the start/finish to make sure their lap was recorded. This was very nice of her, but she steadfastly refused to help me win by adding a few extra laps on for me – nothing extravagant you understand, I’d have been happy winning by just 3 or 4 laps, but she stuck resolutely to doing it properly.
The race carried on, the course got more ‘cut up’, the bike became hevier and heavier as pounds of mud (I hoped…) stuck to it yet I still passed rider after rider until the chequered flag waved and I could set about reinserting my lungs.
…and that was it. No swopping of clothes for the long ride home, no forcing food down my neck so I didn’t blow up, just a quick change into some comfy, warm, casual clothes, throw the bike back into the car and head off. Mmmmmm, opulance
I had no idea where in the race I’d finished. You rarely do in ‘cross racing unless you’re in the top 3, after a couple of laps everyone’s mixed up and all you can do is chase the person in front and try to drop the person behind, which makes it fun for everyone…and also means the wait for the results to be published is quite exciting too. I’d figured on being somewhere in the middle, but it turned out I’d got 8th, which was a nice surprise. I’d still been lapped by the winner (my aim being to not get lapped), but that wasn’t until the last lap, so I took some solace from both that and the fact that I didn’t find a single ‘dog egg’ on the bike. Result!