Sunday 28 October 2007

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud - Classic Cross !

So today was the first "real" cyclo cross race. By that I mean, the first race where it's damp and there's loads of mud. The riders battle through the elements caked in the stuff - just like in the classic pictures of cyclo cross riders in Belgium.

It was my first outing on the bike since my bout of flu, so wasn't expecting to do anything special. I was just happy to get in a good work-out.

I hadn't expected conditions to be so challenging, and with the amount of mud there was, I am surprised I didn't get into more trouble - like falling over in the really gloupy sections, getting my bike clogged up, or even snapping my chain - something that happened to quite a few people - including Stan.

The course at the purpose-built Penshurst Off Road Circuit, often criticised by cross riders in the past for being too geared towards mountain-biking, had been specially adapted for the London League round. This year (and last year) it was set up as fast and only mildly technical to make for an exciting race.
Last year the race was held in sunny conditions with the route being 100% rideable. However, this year, in the rain, the course became a sliding around match !
Ironically, the turn-out was still pretty high.

Maybe it's a sign that riders do find the whole mud thing quite a draw. Why would you do a cyclo cross race in warm sunny conditions, when you could opt for the tough option ?! The race then becomes even more about strength of mind and stain power, than about cycling ability speed, and not minding skidding off course into the good old brown stuff. These added dimension makes for a much more exciting contest. I get a real sense of achievement when I complete such races. I've pushed myself that bit further, and I'm glad I made it through.

By the time today's hour long race was over my bike and I were a muddy mess, I was ready to keel over, and I had developed an acquired taste for mud ! It had been great to have so many people cheering and shouting me on as I hauled my frame round the course, and I was happy with my efforts (even if I let a schoolgirl pip me to the line right in the last metre).

I don't know if I would want to do races as muddy as this every week. It can very quickly wear down the, bike mechs, brakes and wheel rims. It's also hard work for the washing machine !

But it is good to do a real muddy, sodden affair of a cyclo cross race every now and again - just to really test yourself, to get a taste of the real classic cross stuff - just like it is for our neighbours in northern France, and Belgium.
Thanks to Addiscombe CC (the promoting club) for arranging that for us today !

photos by Sylvain Garde and

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