National Trophy? Really? Why?
Because why not. The women’s race is sadly nowhere near full. It’s a chance to line up with people who I’d never get to race with. A chance to ride better courses, and experience the huge range of conditions and competition out there. even though nearly ever race I’ve done can be hashtagged #whereisthemud?
To be honest, I didn’t even know I could enter it, but as I was heading up to it, why not?
I will fully admit, after doing two warm up laps, crashing into the tape through the side of the ‘bombhole’ or pit or what ever it was actually called, I went back to my car and very nearly gave up.
Once again, super coach Caroline Stewart was on hand to respond to my despondent texts. She’s very very good at understanding the complete out of my depth panic I had. Because lets face it, I was totally out of my depth! However, I went and signed on and found the lovely Alison Kinloch. She also bolstered my courage and convinced me to go ahead.
A fast, dry, mostly grass course with quite a few twists and turns, a pit/bombhole, some rollercoaster ‘lumps,’ a brief sand pit, some very low planks and an in and out through a barn with vendors arrayed around the inside.
I arrived at the start pretty anxious, and was soon joined by Jo Newstead (XRT-Elmy) who chatted away and made me feel more at ease.
Some of the women and girls lining up had been with me at Cyclopark for the skills day with Huw Williams and Caroline Stewart the day before, and all were super friendly and nice despite getting their race heads on.
Unsurprisingly it was full on from the off, and I hung in grimly at the rear until we got to the planks, where (as Huw had explained the day before) my shoody remounting had me miles out the back of the field in seconds. It was hard, and showed how unfit I was so quickly. But once I’m out there, I can tune it all out, and focus on keeping the strongest pace I can without burning our too quickly. Massive thanks to Nick Craig for reminding me that it was so easy to go into the red so quickly!
Image courtesy of John Orbea
Also being on my own gave me a chance to ride the pit in my own time and power through the rollercoaster sections before the sandpit. Unfortunately it means there is no one to shelter behind, and on the finish I was unable to get out of the saddle and sprint – and just finished in a grim silence.
Lots and lots of thanks to everyone up there; Nick and Sarah Craig, Keith Murray (champion number pinner and chief ‘unit’ grass crit racer), Alison Kinloch, Jo Newstead, Isla Rowntree, Annie Simpson, Charlotte Hayward Mahe.
This leads onto the South East and Eastern Regional champs. A stunningly chilly day with a course that hadn’t seen rain for at least a couple of weeks. Another fast, dry, slightly hillier race. Another race which I was fairly out of my depth. Lining up with the likes of Helen Pattinson, Jo Smith (I know how to beat her in longest lap now), Louise Mahe… the list goes on. Thankfully I had a lot of people I’d class as friends here, all of them I’ve met through cx.
I was gridded midfield, but from the start my legs felt leaden, and very tired. I couldn’t even sprint with rest like I usually can. I struggled most of the race, apart from the big off camber downhill and the twisty tech section. I couldn’t even run up the hill like I’d half done last weekend at the skills day.
This time, I had a blow in the ribs from a Vet just before the finish, and having been struggling to breathe anyway – tipped me over the edge again. Hanging over the bars, gasping for breath with tears streaming isn’t the best look in the world.
But. I loved it. I loved every off camber trch section. The feeling of being nearly on my knees and trying my utmost. This is why I do cx.
However the best bunch of women on the start line! 48 of us made for a decent sized field – great to see Helen Pattinson fresh from her 2nd place in the World Masters at Mol racing, along with Jo Newstead who was sporting some seriously impressive bruises. Good racing by all – except that Vet!
Hazel managed to dismount her bike, stand on the wheel and buckle the disc. Impressive even by my standards.
Thank you to everyone, especially Huw Williams and John Mullineaux for such a cracking event!
The friendship, the help, the giggles, the good natured heckling, the attitude of ‘why not?’ The off camber, hammering heart, reckless throwing the bike down hill. The quick chats with all sorts of people with one thing in common. The variety. The travelling. The slow riders and the fast riders. The mud lovers and the cold haters. The inclusiveness. You can be anyone or anything in cx. This is ‘cross