Sunday 8 September 2019

Daily photo - 8: Getting back into cyclocross

You know autumn is here when Sundays are filled with cyclocross races up and down the country. I had hoped to do some of the summer cyclocross races in the evenings, but it was hard to get to the venues in time for the 7pm starts.

Now that they are on Sundays it is much easier to manage and this is what I call the proper cyclocross season. I've been quite looking forward to it - maybe because I am feeling slightly fitter after the training for a marathon and doing regular rides.

Photo: Sarah Dawe, TTL Photography
So during my weekend away in Gloucestershire I signed up to do a round of the Western Cyclocross league. The round took place at Gloucester Boating Lake, not far from Lydney and the Forest of Dean mountain bike trail centre where I was yesterday.

This league had a pleasant local feel, which reminded me of how cross used to be when I first started 16 years ago. You turn up on the day, pay your entry fee and then race. You can register to be in the league if you want, but it's not compulsory. At £15 it's comparatively inexpensive. The modern bit is the timing chip you wear around your ankle, that they give you on the day. You return it after the race in exchange for your licence (which you would have left with them before the race). It's all very convivial and down at a personal, human level.

The last time I raced in the Western Cyclocross league was last year just before Christmas when I did a round at the Mendips Raceway, near Cheddar Gorge. It was a non-technical course but the race became properly cross-like and testing (for me) when the weather turned quite wet, pretty cold, and miserable. So it was nice to race on a warm sunny day this time around.

As conditions were dry, it was a fast flowing course through the park, over short laps. There was nothing particularly tricky apart from a couple of short sharp lumps where you had to give it a bit of welly to get up to the top, and zigzagging through the trees. Like with most cross races there were the usual hurdles too which I wasted time on since I couldn't remount quickly.

During the race local people gave us lots of encouragement, while afterwards the racers chatted among themselves. There were only nine women racing in our race, which took place with the male over 50 vets. I finished 8th, though one woman DNF'd, so I guess that means I came last! That was no bother for me though, as I was in a little duel with another racer, so we had our own race within the race.

I spent most of the race chasing her down and she never quite managed to get rid of me until the end.  At one point she messed up a corner and I managed to get past her. That should have been my opportunity to make a real dig and gain time on her, but I sat on my laurels and she managed to come back and overtake me.

There was probably a lack of grrr or gung-ho instinct on my part because it didn't occur to me to put the hammer down and get ahead. Or maybe deep down I didn't feel quite as confident as I thought I was. When she came past me I preferred to put the pressure on her. It worked to a degree, but in the end I lost a bit of focus on the last lap and she opened up an unassailable lead. It was a good duel, though the fact that I had the energy to go mountain biking afterwards meant that I could have ridden that bit harder! Note to oneself for next time.

The racer's name was Charlie and she was from Cotswold Veldrijden cyclocross team. They've got quite a strong team of riders, so there's no shame in finishing just behind one of them.

Charlie told me about other races in the Western League that would be fun to do, including one around Christmas that goes through a cow shed. I look forward to that!

So cyclocross is on, and I look forward to doing more races and hopefully getting a bit of my attacking mojo.

Related posts
Cyclocross is boss at Crystal Palace

My cycling year so far - cyclocross

Beckenham Cyclocross race

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