The race was going to be the opposite way round to last week. I was on the start line with the PC Ben Parker have chat and all things seem really good.
The organisers on the line made a point of telling everyone to be careful on the bends and look after each, then we were off. It was only about 15 meters or so from the start line and a rider in front cut across in front on me it looked like he was have a problem clipping in, he managed to cut across straight in front of Ben and bring him straight down along with another rider i believe, the race was brought back to a halt at the end of that lap. I could see Ben trying to fix his handle bars to get back in a and race how every it was then noticed that his frame and cracked and so was unable to carry on.
The race re-started, with lots of people cutting over in front of each other, i found the best place for taking the corners was wide and i didn’t have to slow down as much and i was able to start pedalling again sooner and i was finding this race a really good race and i was able to stick with everyone quite comfortably as well, i did have a couple of near miss with people nearly coming in to the side of me but did manage to stay clear.
After 36 mins we came into the 2nd to last bend i was wide as i was normally and about half way along everyone came over to the outside of the track and couple of riders managed to touch wheels and quite a large crash started i grabbed by brakes and skidding quite a way i did manged a small endo and just missed the rider in front by about 1″. The front of the group have made it through and had carried on. I did get started again but i was now a little way back. As i got onto the start finish line i put my head down and went for, by the time i was getting back to the 2nd to last corner again i had caught the group back, by now half the circuit was being blocked off as a rider was still down. I had managed to get my breath back and was comfortable again in the group when we came back to the 2nd to last corner and the race was then black flagged as a Ambulance was on it way.
39 mins out of 45 mins completed and still in the ground the best ride i have done to date all be it not actually finished but then again no one finished. A big improvement for myself.
I only have a couple of photo’s of me on my own for change as i was in the group for the rest of it.
During my couple of warm up laps i did noticed that it seem a little slippy but didn’t really think anything of it at the time.
I did make quite a good start and thought it was all going well until going thought the bends just after the finish line i slightly over cooked one of the corners and my wheels gently slid away from under neath me and there i was laid the middle of track, for my first real crash i was presently surprised at how little it hurt hitting the floor, i was able to jump straight back up and carry on. For the next couple of laps i was definitely taking the corners a lot easier after coming off. It wasn’t long before i was getting some sort of speed going, by now i has John Simmons behind, who after the race did mention how surprised he was that i didn’t come over again sooner. I got one of corners completely wrong and came to a complete stop went to get going again and manged to nearly take John at in the process. Sorry John.
After this i really started going again on to over cook it again and go down a bit harder than the first as i was getting back up i noticed how my front wheel was pointing one way and the handle bars another as i was straighten them up John came flying past. I manged to get both wheel and handle bars almost pointing the same way and jumped back on but wasn’t able to quite catch up with John again before the flag.
I did learn quite alot on riding cyclocross during this race maybe i should try a daylight one and see what happens
So another 2 rounds of cyclocross have happened and I’m starting to see a bit of a trend! It hurts every time I ride and I don’t mean in the saddle area! I knew it was going to be physically demanding on the legs but the lungs are getting the real workout.
Round 4 at Cheltenham wasn’t my best, unbeknown to me I was competing with a viral infection and as I just mentioned, lung capacity goes a long way in this sport. My legs were heavy and I just went backwards from the start which ironically was my best ever. I was probably in the top dozen riders going into the first turn but faded from there… Eventually finishing in 27th out of a field of only 43 riders in my category, disappointed and wondering why the engine hadn’t worked and I felt completely wiped out. The following day was a write off and so began a 2 week layoff due to illness. Not ideal prep for the league, so Round 5 came and went as I was too ill to compete.
Round 6 at Hengrove was a better result and even though I’m still not 100% I can see a little bit of improvement creeping in. Maybe the 2 week lay off has done me good? The course at Hengrove was flat with only a small section of technical riding in the woods for about 200m. I normally don’t like these courses as the stronger riders tend to power away from me on the flat parts of the course and I catch them in the technical areas due to my mtb skills. That said I did alright and seemed to hold my own on the flatter sections of the course this time even using the tarmac section leading into the woods as an ideal place to take some places. Arguably I had my worst start this season, getting swamped into the first corner and coming out of the melee somewhere in the 40’s! The first lap then consisted of being caught up in bottlenecks at every corner. This resolved itself after the first lap and a bit of space was starting to appear allowing for easier overtakes (more of this later)! The next couple of laps went without incident and I continued to pick places up as we lapped round.
On about lap 4 an individual tried a rather optimistic overtake on the inside of a 180 degree corner, pushing his way up the inside, failing to stop and then falling over right in front of me. All momentum lost we both lost places which we’d fought so hard to gain. The choice to overtake there was ludicrous and also the shout of ‘rider right’ when there was only space for 1 rider was also ridiculous, but some believe that by just shouting, riders should automatically move out of the way (more of this later).
So once I was back on and riding again I steadily picked up a couple of more places over the next lap, then I was aware of a rider behind who was sitting on and he had another rider behind him as well. So for the next lap or so I dragged these 2 around, I could see them on the switchbacks and they were evidently lining me up for an overtake on the last lap. We entered the last lap and I was waiting for the overtake, maybe I could sit on them for a lap (1 of the riders poked his wheel up the inside of a couple of corners which I shut down immediately and then took a defensive line into the next corner or so). As it happens as we entered onto the 300m tarmac section before the final technical tree section I was still ahead and I could see a rider just in front of me. This was my chance to get into the trees before my 2 followers and get the slower rider in between us. I timed it to perfection hearing the shouts of ‘rider left’ and ‘rider right’ behind me followed by ‘not here mate its only big enough for 1’… I thought you’ve got this, but I’d put myself in the red trying to get into the woods first so had to try and recover knowing that once out of this section they were both going to be gunning for me. As we entered into the last 400m, the rider who had been sitting on us both shouted ‘rider left’ and tried to come up my inside (there was no space as I was riding on the racing line next to the tape). He shouted again and next thing I knew he was elbowing me and leaning on me in order to get me out of the way! This I wasn’t happy with and followed him over the 3 wooden boards before remounting and turning up the inside of him and overtaking him (off the racing line in the thick grass and without shouting ‘rider left’ ) getting into the last corner first and sprinting 50m and beating him to the line.
It felt like a victory (it wasn’t) but at the time I’d won my little battle to finish 24th out of 53. The interesting thing was that the rider who’d muscled his way past me didn’t hang around to shake hands, but the other rider who was sitting on for a lap said he saw the incident and was in agreement with me that I hadn’t done anything wrong.
On reflection the race was a good one and I really enjoyed the tactical element, however I still believe that when you’re racing for position (regardless of whereabouts in the race) you shouldn’t just have to give up the racing line just so another rider can move past (different if you’re being lapped by the race leaders). I believe that if they want to pass me then pass me fairly on the outside (or inside as long as you stay upright). In no other sport would you see another competitor move out of the way to allow another rider, runner, car or motorbike past so why would you expect that in cyclocross!
So I’m learning with every race and if I look at the results from Round 4 and see the individuals who I am now competing against and beating I would of been inside the top 20 in that race. That said conditions vary as do the courses and so do the riders and thats why cyclocross is fun!!!!
I did manage to start the race up at the front but a bit to far up at the front and turning into the head wind on the back straight on the inside, my power went up as i slide back through the pack, i did managed to hang and work back up the through the pack on the finish line straight. For a couple of laps i did mange to get on the protected side of the group on the back straight but i did also get on the wrong side a lot as well which did take it out of me. Well it was around half way through the race i was dropped. The back straight almost became my friend as i stuck my head down and just rode catching others that had been dropped as well, i was lapped right on the 45 min and for the second race in a row i took the bell and managed to finish, This race is only placed up to 10th and with it being a cat 3 & 4 i think i will really struggle with a this point in time.
I have noticed that i must be entering the wrong races as after most of the races i have entered everyone alway mention “how it was much faster than normal today”. I must find these slower races.
Lets see what weather next week brings on Rd3
Everything ended up a bit of a rush getting over to Supermarine for this race after finishing later than expected from work, i did make it on time which was a good start.
I had a couple of warm up laps which both did feel quite weird with the low tire pressure and the bike feeling quite wallowie around the corners. I thought for the 1st race i would follow Mr Simmons round , on the start line i managed to mess my front light up and some how managed to get if flashing which made it just a Little more fun in the dark woods, after the 1st couple of laps 2 others riders got in between myself and John and he made quite a distance between us. I then managed to get around these 2 and catch John back who i stayed with for the rest of the races until last few bends where it was a bit lighter and could make out what i was riding into, then manged to overtake John and finish just ahead of him, so a big thank you to John for his help on my 1st race.
Just need to have my brakes looked at and work out how to use my front light and i will be good to go for Rd 6.
Thanks again John
After my first month of CX racing this year here is an update, it’s a bit confusing, and a rather mixed bag, but I think it is good news.
First off I have ridden three of the first four rounds of the Western League, and I find myself sitting joint 8th in the V50/Women league. All three races this year have netted more points than my best ever in previous years, and I now have more points than I gained in any of the two previous years I raced in the league. I cannot work out the points system, and a stewards enquire is sure to follow but for the moment I would like to deny any rumours of a sex change op and express surprise. I cannot help but feel that this is more luck than skill.
Those races in summary, Bradford on Avon a fast but slippery course and I never felt I mastered the technical areas, had a few slips and a fall plus did not enjoy it. Gloucester, fast, dry and fun, lots of variation in course and a good result 11th I think. Cheltenham, hot and dry with lots of grip but oh so lumpy, the course never settled, I went very deep into red setting new max HR. Tight racing with two people over three laps and ended 12th after sprint finish. Lots of good memories at Cheltenham, from 3 laps of wheel to wheel racing, to passing four people on 1st time through boards. Is it just that I do ok in the dry???
Supermarine, the not so good. Four rounds ridden two were enjoyable and I got a rhythm, two were bad. The pace difference on these events is so big, from 5min to 7min 30 laps. It is so easy near the end to be involved in your own race, lapping a back marker and getting in the way of some flying seniors. Race 1 got tangled and hit from rear, Race 2, went much better but lost front wheel on last lap and tangled in tape (it was funny). Race 3 start of cold, chest went tight, was too cowardly in corners, ended slow. Race 4 much better in corners, more consistent in pace. I still have the cold but went ok.
Riding cross three times a week is taking a bit of a toll, practice Tuesday, race Thursday and Sunday. The knees and back are achy, but I have been taught a few new techniques and it feels like it is starting to work, certainly it feels better to me. The next two weekends I cannot make Sunday races, so my Western League positions will tumble but I have two more Supermarine races to go and I still need to find over 40 seconds a lap to try and keep up with Gethin and Alex.
A moment to pass on things I have learnt in past year approaching TT and CX races. These are not best lines through corners/tyre pressures (Pete Hutchinson mystic musings) or secrets of aero (Jim Curry magic wind tunnel eye). More the other marginal gain things that have helped me, I hope they are of use.
1 Eat 3 to 4 hours before event
A bit empirical but it helps me. If I eat under 2 hours before I feel sick, if I have not eaten then I run out of energy. The optimal for me is the 3 to 4 hours before start time light meal. Not the full steak and chips stuff though.
2 Warm up
Getting older I find I need a bit more time to loose off, so at least 15 min gentle cycling. On CX this can be achieved by pre-riding the course to learn some lines without going flat out. Then some burst at race pace to get the HR up, say 1 min at intended speed, drop for a bit then 2 min, building up in intensity. Aim to get HR up into the race pace in steps. Good time to check bike is OK and practice some starts. Plan on warm up ending 10 min before start.
3 Have a plan
An objective of what you want to achieve. It can be as simple as a desired time, or working out how you will ride segments, a pacing target. Go off too quick and you run out of energy. But in CX races start too slow and you may be held up at bottle necks in track. For TT I found having a Power Meter and average speed display along with a thought on course and wind direction helps. e.g. an idea of the average power and speed I expect to hit for course, at Latton target power level and speed to Countrywide, pace and average power 1st time past gravel pit, then average speed at each roundabout. For CX time duration of race and HR, though to be honest HR is often just confirmation I am in correct zone and time is a gauge, along with lap board, to tell me when last lap is. If nothing else the plan makes you focus on what you want to achieve.
4 Training Plan
Sadly I have to report they work. I avoided having a structured training plan for a while, worrying it would take the fun out, make a hobby a chore etc. coming back from injury I have to say a training plan is effective. I did not follow it religiously, i.e I would move days around a bit, but followed the flow. One surprising benefit was I got easy riding days back. I would go out deciding it was a hard session and hit it, then on rest days catch up with friends who want to socially cycle or just go for a ride looking around. In the past I would try and blunder along at a given effort every time, neither stretching myself enough nor resting enough.
Plan in some rest time. If like me you are not a professional athlete or in the first flush of youth, work, family etc pull on your time and sometimes the fatigue load can hit you. Stavaistix is a Chrome plug in that provides hints on fresh you are or not. Training/riding works the legs, but it is when you rest they get stronger. Struggling to sleep at night with restless legs and a raised resting HR in morning, warning signs you are pushing too hard. Also have some electrolyte in the post event water bottle, it helps me reduce cramp as does some gentle cycling and stretches post event.
It was as I passed 3 riders on the straight heading for the ramp I decided this was a good day. Third race in 8 days. Race 1 I was all over the place, indecision on tyre choice and lacking commitment. Race 2 things that go bump in the night, I was run into and lightly injured on a night race. I needed a good day out to build some much needed confidence. The plan start at the back, keep clear of trouble and get some practice in. The weather was dryer than predicted in that it was not raining ,but the ground was wet, leaving a mix of all sorts of surfaces.
The course was long, with a few banking’s to climb, grass, mud, gravel and broken tarmac to contend with, along with a traverse along a dusty cambered section that crumbled more with each passing bike. No dismounts, this was another course I could ride the entire length without having to get off, providing I could miss the trees and branches. Practice was spent learning the course and playing with tyre pressure. Rolling up early was an advantage as I got a few practice laps in.
The course suited me, tight sections to chase people through then open sections to sprint to pass. In the gravel I could feel the bike slide, but if you hit it fast enough you shot through, the banking’s rewarded precision with no need to brake, just let the slope slow you so you could turn.
The field was a good mix of abilities , skilled riders rushed pass, but there were a few similar ability riders so with each pass I could see another shirt to aim for, with a couple taking a whole lap to catch before lining up the overtake attempt.
On the last lap I was still hanging in there, getting sore but ok, so I decided to go for it and tried to sprint out of each corner, it hurt and I did end up fairly well at 100% of Max Hr (Average for race being 95%) and made 3 passes on the last lap ending crossing the line gasping for air but so pleased.
The official results say I placed 5th, but there was a timing error so I fessed up and on the reprint I was 16th of 36, 12th in category. Firmly midfield that felt like a good result for me and an enjoyable race at last this year.
Post race analysis. More of that please.
This is not going to be a race report as sorts, as what I have encountered was definitely not a race! More a quest for survival and I say that only because my HR has only just returned to normal.
Imagine yourself on the Sat club ride and a few kms from the shop the pace starts to quicken, people start to eye up the competition and wonder if they have it in their legs up the last little pull before full gas to the finish, then into the courtyard of the shop for tea and medals! Well imagine that feeling you have of your lungs bursting and your heart beating out of your chest for a full 45mins or so!!! Throw in wet greasy turns where falling off is a reality at some point, off camber turns, sand pits, ditches, trees, mud in your eyes and 30+ people trying to squeeze into a gap that only 2 or 3 bikes can get through at the first corner and you can imagine Cyclocross!
If the above doesn’t scare you but has got you thinking “I quite fancy a bit of that…” then read on and get yourself involved.
My journey started after the same scenario above, whilst having a cuppa after the Sat ride I overheard people talking about CX with excitement. I like most will have seen races on TV where amazing athletes race round quagmires and jump over things with ease! I listened more intently to the nearby conversation and before you know it I was the owner of a CX bike, pedals and shoes (you have the rest – maybe you have all the other bits as well?) and checking out where my local race was!
So I entered the Western League Rd 1 and parked in a muddy field, handed over my money and walked into another muddy field. I’m not sure what I expected but it certainly wasn’t glamorous, however riders were ripping round the corner, with grimaced faces and powering out of sight into the woods. This looked like fun and I thought I can do this its just like riding my MTB but a bit faster and flatter. Oh how naive I was, firstly I was late to the start as I had too many clothes on and secondly I went to the wrong side of the woods! After lining up and talking nervously to the guy next to me the whistle sounded and we were off. 90+ competitors charging down the field towards a 90 deg right hand bend, followed by another 150m then through a gate over a wood chip pile and into the woods. Nothing could go wrong, right? Wrong! I survived the first corner and made the wood chip pile where just before entering the wood 2 bikes came together in front of me and crashed. I lost 10 – 15 places by being stuck behind the entangled mess and then when I did get going, put myself in the red trying to make places up! Silly mistake, this left me on my own for 3 laps without any protection from the wind and rain and I paid dearly for it with many competitors coming past me in the last 2 laps. On hearing the bell for what I thought was the last lap I saved a bit coming round the corner thinking i had another lap to do, to find the chequered flag out and 3 more guys going past me before I realised this was the end of the race! I finished 38th overall but learnt some valuable lessons, but most of all came away already looking forward to the next race!
I couldn’t make Rd 2 but was all prepped and ready for Rd 3. Turning up to the car park this looked more like it. Music playing over a loudspeaker, white tape marking out the course everywhere and loads of people ringing cowbells and cheering on competitors as they raced round. Wandering onto the inside of the course I headed straight to the wooded area to get a look at the technical sections. Watching a few people ride around I decided I should do the same and check it out. I’m pleased I did as this week there was some tricky off camber riding and some steep up and down sections to contend with. The rest appeared to be pretty straight forward until I came across a large sandpit 20+m long with spectators either side like vultures waiting for their next victim too fall foul of the sand! I just thought I’ll deal with that when I get to it and ride at it as hard as I can, speed will be your friend! This time I made the start line with plenty of time and was in a similar position about 5 rows back from the seeded riders. Ready and go! Thrashing down the side of a field heading straight for the technical area and before I knew it I was in a backlog of riders trying to get through the first tricky section! So I jumped off my bike and shouting sorry as I went, I muscled and ran my way through and up and down a couple of small hills before jumping back on the bike! Suddenly I was in some free space and I settled into a rhythm, looking around I could see other competitors and I settled in to try and pick them off as the race progressed. Remembering my first race of going too fast to early I decided to leave a little in the tank for the later laps. The sand pit was not as bad as it first seemed and hitting it a speed and staying loose on the bike meant no falls. A decreasing spiral section of the course (my favourite bit) was great where you just leant the bike over and cranked as hard as you dare hoping tires didn’t let go whilst racing round before returning out of the spiral equally as fast. So I carried on picking off riders and was actually never passed which in the end resulted in me finishing 24th and much happier than Rd 1 and guess what? I’m already looking forward to next weekend racing in Rd 4.
Ok so I’m never going to win a round or the league, but that isn’t the point. If like me you like a challenge, enjoy a bit of hard graft and want to remain focused over the winter months then come join me and a few others from the club and give it a go!!!
You never know you might just like it!!!!