Wednesday 15 January 2014

My Moment of the Week - 1

National Cyclo Cross Championships
Since returning to the UK I have slowly been getting back into competitive cycling. I haven't been particularly prolific about it. I just wanted to do a few races that would be fun and without worrying too much about my result.

The cycling that matches these criteria is cyclo cross! It's always fun - even when the course turns into a mudbath! These were the conditions we were faced with over the weekend at the National Cyclo Cross Championships in Derby.

My race, the female vets, was the first one of the day. Already that was tough enough. At some moments it was like riding through treacle and you had to really push hard to turn the pedals and get the bike moving - and that was just on the flat sections! As well as that there were lots of adverse cambers to ride down and around. Well, they were too slippery for me to ride so I ended up running those sections. I also had to run up the steep banks and through the sandpit. I didn't feel confident that I could ride through the sand, and I didn't want to risk falling and getting a horrible mixture of sand and mud into my chain!

Given the conditions I would have done well to have had an extra bicycle in the pits. I was at a distinct disadvantage to my fellow competitors, most of whom had two bikes and a pit crew. I didn't have the best race. I finished in last position out of 29 women. But hey, I am glad I went and I had a good day. Even though our race was first thing in the morning there was alot of crowd support and lots of folks cheered me on.
As well as this race being memorable for being the first national championships I have ever done, there were other stand-out moments.

Firstly, I only went to these national championships because it was the first time ever that they were holding a separate women vets race. Normally all women race as one big group with the elite/international riders mixed in with vets.

For someone of my ability it would be pointless doing this race as I would be lapped within 15 minutes by the likes of Helen Wyman and that would be my race over. But this year British Cycling agreed to put on a separate "older woman's" race, mirroring what happens with the men. They also said that if they had at least 20 women enter the race this year then they would stage it again next year. I wanted to support the initiative so I entered the race.

In the end we had 30 women sign up for the race, which is great news. I may have come last, but I don't mind that too much as I know I didn't have a great race and I can certainly improve on my performance. And now I know that there will be a women vets race next year so I have something to aim for, and I can get involved in a race that was as exciting as that between the two frontrunners!
The other noteworthy aspect of this event for me was that I spent the rest of the time interviewing the winners of the different races for Cycling Weekly magazine.

I always find interviewing fun, and it's also a great to learn about the different riders. I had been a little anxious about doing the first few interviews because I was going to have to interview the winners of my race immediately after racing myself - barely after getting my breath back, covered in mud and in the cold.

In fact, I was more preoccupied with my strategy for doing a coherent interview while staying warm and looking presentable than I was about my racing!
Things worked out ok in the end and I managed to interview everyone. I particularly enjoyed meeting young Megan James, sister of World Track Cycling Champion Becky James.

I was also very honoured to interview Nick Craig. He won the male vets race on the Saturday and went on to race the elite race the following day, taking 3rd place in a stella field. Impressive bloke, and very pleasant too. So, all in all it wasn't a bad weekend for me. Photos by Aodan Higgins   

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