Saturday 14 September 2019

Daily photo - 14: Cyclocross at Milton Keynes

The first part of my double-header weekend of cyclocross was at Milton Keynes Bowl. I cycled up to Euston train station and made the half-hour train journey up to Milton Keynes. Getting to the Bowl was just a 5-minute cycle ride through South Loughton Valley Park and past the Teardrop Lakes.

Pain faces on one of the numerous climbs each lap  (Photo: Keith Perry/Central Cyclocross League)
This was the first round of the Central Cyclocross League, so a lot of people had come out to play and the fields were big. There were 50 riders in the women's race. That's the sort of number you get in the National Championships! We even had our own separate race, which doesn't often happen in local league races.

There was a wide variety of levels too - from experienced National Trophy contenders down to newbies. Some had only raced on road, so were getting used to the whole off-road thing. The course was not massively technical though, and was wide enough to allow for overtaking. It was just a bit bumpy on the grass!

Given that I have never raced in this league before (I usually do the London League) I hadn't expected to be gridded, but they found a place for me. And surprisingly, it wasn't right at the back! On the sound of the whistle we all charged up the hill and tried to get ahead of as many opponents as possible.

The course was over a wide area of parkland set on the side of a hill. There were so many switchbacks that it made me dizzy. Also some of the tight turns on the descent were tricky and the ground was slightly loose so you had to try not to let your back wheel slide away. At one point I got over-confident after I passed a few women and thought I could throw the bike around the bend, but I completely misjudged the corner and almost came down. Thankfully I rescued it, but I did lose a few places.

There was a bunch of around five or six of us who all played cat and mouse between ourselves. Some were stronger on the bends, some where stronger on the flat straight sections, others dismounted and remounted at the hurdles very efficiently. One woman was able to bunny-hop them. My strength was probably on the hill as I was able to stay in the saddle and spin a granny gear and then have something left to negotiate other challenges.

Cyclocross is so taxing, as you are constantly at almost 90% effort (or at least I am) throughout the 40-minute race. It also makes it difficult to have the faculties to do much else apart from pedal and breathe very loudly. As time went on and I became more tired it was difficult to focus and see which way the course went. All I could see was a mass of course tape glistening in the sunshine, and at one point I completely missed a turn and went off course, breaking through some loose tape. More time wasted. But it was all good fun, and was a good sparring match with the other women.

I met Jules and Nancy, a mother and daughter who were racing, and we were all around the same level. They were from London too, but because they're in the North-West that puts them in the Central Region. So I am not sure when I will see them again, unless I suddenly decide to turn up at Regents Park for some 6am laps - something that club cyclists North of the River seem to do a lot. Hmm.
Great to catch up with Fran from Velobants
I crossed the line between Nancy and Jules, and just in front of the young lady on the pink bike who had been bunny hopping the hurdles. It was good to get a competitive race, and not get lapped by the leaders, which included Velovixen Fran from Velobants. The only thing was that because we weren't lapped we ended up doing more than 40 minutes. I recorded almost 48 minutes of racing on my Garmin. No wonder I wanted to drop when I crossed the finish line!

It was a good day out, with music, refreshments, commentary, and crowd support - all the stuff that makes for a fun event, especially after a good work-out.

Related posts
Getting back into cyclocross

My cycling year so far - cyclocross

Notts and Derby League cyclocross race at Bakewell

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