As I was unable to find a partner for the CX at Herne Hill on the 2nd of Jan, I’d spotted the next nearest event was on Sunday 3rd at the Cyclopark. I’d not really had it in mind to do anything other than turn up and watch a couple of people I knew.
I’d also clocked rather a lot of km’s on the road, more than I ever had done in a week, although I didn’t quite make the Festive 500. Strava says 421km, but I’d forgot to turn it on when I started my ride on Christmas day, so I think it’s about 430km. Included in the weeks worth of riding were riding with one of my best mates on Christmas day, meeting a good bunch of the Kingston Wheelers on the 3 Witches ride on Sunday 27th and having one of my best days on the road so far with Adam, Dilyan and Phil on a fast(er) ride out to Fairoaks cafe (good food and not at all expensive!). Adam and I did a hell of a lot of work on the front, and most of it into a headwind, but it was one of the fastest, longest rides I’ve managed to clock up, averaging 25.6km/hr. Plus great company, it’s great when you find someone you work well with on a bike, let alone a group of people you get on with!
I’d got myself drowned out on my own on the 2nd, and only really contemplated doing the race in the evening. As I’m sure both my landlord Jon, and Caroline Stewart can testify to! I wasn’t sure if I needed a licence to race (I don’t currently have one), although I could see you could enter on the day, I was umming and ahhing until the morning itself.
By the time Toria arrived at mine by bike the following morning, I had the car half loaded. Bike, kit, more kit, spare jumpers, towels, gels, waterproof trousers, still more kit. I promptly informed Toria I was going to attempt to race, if I could get a day licence when I got there. As she has bad hips, and finds it easier to get around by bike, her road bike got loaded too.
It was already raining before we set off, and by the time we had unloaded and started making our way over to the Badlands, the wind had picked up too. I found out I could indeed get a day licence, and between the excellent help from the people at sign on, and Toria, I was soon ready to go and explore the part of the course the kids weren’t racing on.
I left Toria
chatting up talking to the marshals in the pits, while I went off to have a look at the course.
Straight from the start to the far western end, it was into a headwind that was picking up by the minute. The ground was getting spongier, and I only just managed to ride the miniature hill at the far end without spinning out totally. I stopped and looked back toward the course, trying to get a feel of the direction of it, and how it might ride. Then I hared off downhill and straight up onto the first part of ‘the rollercoaster’ – really liking the way it was laid out. I rode it quite quickly with a tailwind, and dropped back down next to the pits, watching the youths for a few minutes, before riding it a couple more times. I knew I’d have trouble riding into the wind, but was looking forward to having another go. By the time I’d stopped by the pits on the third half circuit, the youth’s race had finished, and I was able to ride some of ‘the orchard’ which utilised trees as stakes, and had been a bit torn up.
The rain was never going to cease, and I hadn’t been on the bottom half of the course by the time they finally called us up toward the start. V40 men, women (all catergories), and finally V50 men.
I ran into Hazel Barnes pretty quick, and it’s damn good to know someone on the start line with you! She’s done a fair bit more racing than I, and had encouraged me on the mountain bikes earlier in 2015 on the SBCU course I did.
It was still heaving down with rain, and by the time I’d handed my rain jacket to Toria, I felt like I had already been soaked to the bone and was freezing. We seemed to wait forever for the V40’s to be gridded, and a few of us women had a right nervous giggle as they called us up. Suddenly I couldn’t wait to be going!
Whistle. Click, click, everybody is clipping in. I get a good start, but I’m not very quick, so I soon get dropped going straight into that headwind. I ride up the hill, spinning out behind a lot, get around the corner, and straight onto the 1st rollercoaster section, picking up and passing a few women. Down by the pits, unclip and run up the hill (I know I’ll be quicker doing this as I don’t really have the speed to get up there) and then onto the unknown section. Short, sharp, steep, muddy down hill. A guy tumbles straight over his bars as I begin the descent, and I think I yelled ‘are you ok?’ Then I remembered I had to brake, and only just stopped myself from going straight through the tape, just as I spotted Phil Booth with his camera. Talk about perfect timing!
I don’t think I stopped grinning after that. Up, kick push past the tree, onto the 2nd rollercoaster section. A lot muddier, some V50’s starting to pass me now, luckily I’d seen the kids ride the end section. Wide onto the tarmac to turn, down the sharp vertical bank and back along the ditch. Run the two sections that swung up onto the bank, back on inbetween, then the near vertical climb up onto the path. Kids cheering. Marshalls cheering, into the orchard,
over the finish, slip, slide, control. Forget about anyone else. Then I catch Hazel out the corner of my eye. ‘Come on girl, catch me up’ I gasp with a giggle. Wind through the trees. Why is everyone cornering so wide? I’m doing better turning tight in them. Push, push. Harder. Faster. Forget how to get off at the hurdles the first time. Bcak on, and back across the start into the headwind. Cursing. Wondering why no one has built a wind shelter. Turn the pedals, get to the pesky hill. Ride the first bit, unclip and get off correctly (not the BC way Caroline!!)
and run(ish) up, slip back on very inelegantly, and back to my favourite part. Braver this time, I ride it as hard and fast as I dare, passing someone else. Downhill, off correctly again, very slow on at the top. Ride, relax and ride hard downhill. Sheer willpower past the tree. Section 2. I like this part too! Ride hard, kick push on the off camber. Ride the sharp end the same again, the course flows better for me if I ride it this way. Then struggle back uphill. Feet are soaking. Still grinning. Run, ride, run, ride, get on carry bike properly. Idle thought about why the bell hasn’t gone as I pass the start. Slip sliding, concentrate. Push. Pedal. Off correctly. I’m concentrating more, but am more relaxed. Follow some guys wheel across into the headwind. Dave Spragg overtakes me after I run up the pesky hill ‘Alright Elz?’ ‘Yeah great!’ I jump on and follow him onto the rollercoaster. It’s a hell of a lot muddier now, and I get a good line following him and overtaking the woman in front of me on the right as I go downhill. This is where it very nearly all goes wrong. I skid out behind and nearly take her out as I find myself off on the left hand side in the rought, with my bibtights caught on the front of the sadlle. I don’t fall off or stop. I keep pedalling somehow, and suddenly am free again and ride back onto the course, following her a bit more sedately for a few seconds. Then off again. I’m too quick on these bits to stay behind her, although she passes me coming back up the ditch. I hand my sunglasses to Phil just before I go over the finish line for the third time, I feel shattered. I almost give up, but then the urge to compete against myself kicks in. I’m halfway through the orchard when the bell goes. I mutter away to myself. Turning and getting out of corners quicker than the men that’ve come up behind me.
Then disaster. A tree masquerading as a marker post on a corner has the aduacity to smash me in the shoulder and stop me dead. I huff and puff and get on with it. Getting a bit of shelter towards Pesky Hill. Then I’m off again. Down the best bit of course ever. I can feel my feet squelching with every turn of the pedals, but I’m in control. Stupidly unfit, but not much of the course left. I remembered on the last 2 laps to carry my bike correctly, and the kids even cheer as I get up the Vertical Bank properly. Then I’m across the line, it’s finished.
I loved every second of it. And now I want to go again. Maybe in 2 weeks.
I can’t thank Toria (pit buddy and awesome friend) enough. Or Dave Spragg – thanks for helping me out with tyre pressure as I wasn’t sure what I should be riding on! The Kingston Wheelers are a great bunch. Lovely to see a few more friendly faces there too. Thanks Phil Booth (Medway Velo) and Toria for the photos!
CSC Coaching has helped me immensely. I feel a lot more comfortable tackling anything that is more technical, it’s just fitness letting me down.
Jon (landlord extrodinaire) has also been responsible for talking me into doing this, ‘Go on, you’ll enjoy it.’ Yep. Damn right!
Massive thanks to the London CX League, Bigfoot CC and all at Cyclopark. Horrendous weather, non stop rain and rather windy (have a look at the tape in my pictures above) – an excellent effort to get everything running smoothly. Friendly and helpful to a newbie like me. So glad to have somewhere to get dried(ish) and changed, before heading back up to see Alex Paton ride and win very stylishly.
Note to self. I need a van.