Today I headed to one of my favourite courses, at Chavenage House in Tetbury. Yes, this is where Poldark is filmed! A class backdrop to a fantastic course, I’d been keeping an eye on the tweets of Lovecrossed to see how different the course was this year. Bits were still the same, although the opposite way, the wooded section was thankfully downhill, although part of the haha was now a lot harder to ride in the opposite direction. They had also filled in the old ditch at the bottom of the wood, previously a horse jump the bottom wasn’t quite solid, as I found out later.
I arrived far too early as usual, with some very faint frost in the ground as I had a mosey around. I’d heard talk to a rather large hill, although I could only see the course stretching out in the distance.
A warm greeting by both Tangwyn (Lovecrossed is rightly his baby and is growing ever more popular) and Hank (James Lowsley Williams, who’s family own Chavenage) is another reason I travelled from Surrey to this well thought out event. Lovecrossed was one of the reasons I started getting interested in cx, although I didn’t attend the first year.
This year a steady rain set in early on, I quickly worked out that it was likely to cut up fairly fast as I did my first recce lap. Riding down through the woods, it was a lot slicker than last year and with the ditch at the bottom being filled in meant it rode a lot quicker too. A quick diversion out of the woods, a drop into the haha and out around the pits. The next part of the course was the bit I was most interested in. A drop through a gateway/ ditch, over some ruts and onto a long off camber. Then the hill. Down was easy on the recce laps, as the course was grassy and grippy. Off camber, to zig zigs and a very sharp drop. Cue laughing like a lunatic and frightening the girl behind me. A long slog carrying the bike uphill before returning back to the main field.
Magnetic grass was back on this course to start with and by the time I did a second lap, it felt tough.
All nerves had gone before the race, I’d stayed under the shelter of the pop up as the rain came down – just what we needed to make this a proper cx race. With the promise of watching the elite mens cx world championship in the ballroom afterwards, I couldn’t wait to get the race done.
We started two minutes behind the Veteran men, but I’d already seen Keith streaming off like a green, yellow and black rocket at the front – slick muddy conditions for him at last!
The start was uphill with a record 20 women starting, and I settled myself into the rear of the field, trying to get around the fitter novices who’s technical skills slowed them down. Out through the woods and the haha, around the pits and out onto the long stretch of off camber.
I was right. The grass cut up extremely quickly, but unlike the claggy mud of last year that claimed three rear mechs from Scot ‘One T’ Easter (sadly absent this year), it was slick and slidy. Game on! The downhill had cut up rapidly, and I was quicker and getting away from the ladies around me by running it. The uphill sucked out what energy I had left, and it was a knackered me that dismally remounted without much style.
It was the hardest most diabolically fun race I’ve ever done. A fast flowing course that had some cracking technical features. Great friends, my parents and a wicked pit crew kept me going. It was that hard that twice I saw stars; the second time after I attempted to ride the ditch for the third/fourth time, bounced over the handlebars and landed on my feet.
I had my own battle at the back of the field. Annoyed when Keith passed me twice, then three times! But this race was a marker of my progress, technically pretty ok, fitness getting better but not where I want to be yet.
This time I changed bikes, although I’d forgotten how different the Kinesis is to ride, narrower bars, heavier but equally at home in the mud. Once again Continental CycloXKings giving me fantastic grip the whole way around – when other people are sliding around, I’m still going without a second thought.
I really love this race. Once again a warm and welcoming place, with just the right mix of a very hard course, some cracking sponsors in Saddleback, SCOTT and Fenwicks to name just a few. Not only is the setting a bit special, but it has more of a National Trophy feel to it with the general bonhomie and good natured heckling.
Massive thanks to SCOTT Racing’s Keith, Sam and Ellis Murray. Keith forewarned me about the hill and the two lads pitted for me, doing a fantastic job and keeping me laughing. Also Verity, who once again came with me and helped out, and my parents who managed to make it down there.
I look forward to coming back next year, peppering Tangwyn with questions throughout the year and riding better next time!
Congrats to Vets winner Keith, Sam who was second in his category, Fran Whyte who ran away with the ladies and Griff Lewis who won his race.
Season not finished quite yet, however, London CX Team Champs next weekend.