Wednesday 15 May 2019

My Cycling Year So Far - Cyclocross

Gee, I can't believe it's May already. Time marches on so fast, I barely know where I am!

Massive apologies for the silence on these airwaves. I was too busy riding my bike! Talking of which, here's a bit about what I've been up to.

In January I took part in the National Cyclocross Championships, vets race. I wouldn't normally do a race at such a high level, but I just couldn't pass on the opportunity given that it was taking place locally at the Cyclopark near Gravesend, Kent.

Now that I am well and truly a vet, I don't have to worry myself racing with the elite racers though, knowing that at least if I get lapped I won't be pulled out of the race. Having said that, I did have a moment in the race where I really wanted the commissaire to tell me my race was over - instead he told me I had another lap to go - much to my despair and my screeching legs!

The course was harder than I have ever raced on. It was a real assault course of a lap, with a flyover, steep drop-offs in rapid succession, steep off-cambers, steps, thick sand, a steep descent onto the tarmac and a fast bit of tarmac up to the finish line. That was the best bit!

The flyover at the Cyclopark for the National Cyclocross Championships
For once I had the time to get myself properly organised and go to the venue the day before race to do the course recon and pick what my racing lines would be. It went well, even if I did feel pretty pooped after three laps.

But when race morning came, all the nerves set in and I was falling all over the place during the warm-up lap. By the time I was on the start line, I was covered in mud from the times I had fallen over during the warm-up lap! On one of my crashes on an off-camber I tangled with a young girl who was also warming up. I felt bad about that, as she looked as if she was going to cry.

When I got back on my bike I noticed that my handlebars were bent, and also my derailleur was locked into one gear. I feared I would have to race the course on a single-speed bike! Luckily, I was able to get help from a mechanic in the pits, who was working for the Jewson team. That was so nice.

I also went through a freaky moment of feeling like I couldn't ride and wondered how I was going to get around the course without trashing myself, or my bike even more. As I had arrived at Cyclopark in good time I was able to practice the tricky off-camber section several times.

A guy from the Velobants team who had seen me struggling came over and gave me tips on how to ride that section. Silly me, I had also forgotten to let air out of my tyres. Because I had cycled on the road to the train station at Bromley South, and then again from Meopham to the venue I had high pressures in my tyres and forgot to deflate them when I was warming up.

Suzi Wise and myself, so relieved that we got round the race okay
 Once I reduced the tyre pressures by half, everything came together and I felt so much happier riding the tricky sections.

I probably rode my best cyclocross race in a while, and really felt emboldened to ride like I had nothing to lose - even if I still took a couple of tumbles.

It was great to have Fran from Velovixen, and who also rides for Velobants, cheering me on. In fact there were a lot of people around the course cheering us on - more than we ever normally get. I even ended up in a dual with a Twickenham racer.

Then the next day I watched how it was done when the elite women raced, and I managed to see number one cyclocross racer Helen Wyman fly up the hills that I could only walk up during my race. She came third in this race, though seemed in good spirits, chatting to all her fans. It was a great weekend of cyclocross, and I actually feel like training properly for the nationals for next year.

The elites showing us how it's done on that hill - Helen Wyman (right)

That has been one of my memorable experiences on the bike this year. I have had others, such as my ride at the Tour of Flanders and a riding into France and the Paris suburbs. We have also just had the Tour de Yorkshire and I managed to ride stage 3, from Bridlington to Scarborough, which was lovely and tough in equal measures! More on that in later posts.

Related Posts
Cross is boss at Crystal Palace

A weekend in Yorkshire at Cycle Expo, doing cyclocross and running

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