Bundling everything in the car and heading off to Shrewsbury, it looked like pre riding the National Trophy course at Shrewsbury on the 10th December could require some wet weather gear. Needless to say it didn’t disappoint.
Arriving before 2pm, I had a walk around before they opened the course, it was damp underneath, and having kept an eye on the weather, I was sure it would cut up after a few people had been around it – especially if the forecast rain arrived.
After getting the bike out, I was one of the first on. With my relative inexperience, I took it slowly, finding ruts hidden under the slightly long grass, and very bumpy in the woods. Letting people past me as I rode slowly around, considering how to approach each section. Remembering how and when to shift my weight, and how to ride a cx bike! Several times I didn’t approach banks fast enough or with enough speed, but repeating them soon helped my early mistakes. I did sit and watch for a long time at the big bank just before the finish, watching kids and adults find their way around the corner and onto the off camber. It still held the upper line that was trampled into it at the Nationals back in January, although it was slightly overgrown but cutting in quickly the more people rode it. I rode it once, twice, dabbing each time to keep the momentum going. Chuckling when I got it wrong, as did the kids around me. Several times I had conversations about how to approach it with different teenagers and adults. Some rode the high line, some took it wide and went low. I eventually realised I’d be quicker running it. Especially with my remounting needing some (a lot) of work.
Then the rain came. I’d ridden the course a few times. Struggling with one of the off cambers from the tarmac. I still loved it! The course was much more suited to me than the big hill at Cyclopark. However I decided now was a good time to get the worst mud off my bike and pack it away. As I did this the Murray family arrived, so I headed down to see how the more experienced Keith and Sam rode the bank. Even Ellis rode it better than I did! Fair play!
I knew by the time I got to the hotel that I had a cold setting in. Throughout a meal in the evening I felt progressively worse.
Sunday dawned. It’d be raining most of the night. Had I felt well, I would’ve been quite excited about riding a proper muddy course. I felt so flat that by the time the Murrays arrived, I knew I wouldn’t be riding.
The waterproofs went on and I headed to the pits, where after two laps of the Vets race – Keith was on half laps changes as the course was wet, sticky mud. especially in the woods.
Next up Sam. Riding his bike down to the pits was a lot easier than his dads! But equally the pits were getting muddier and more crowded as bike change after bike change happened. Paths were trodden between one side of the pits and the other. Everybody equally intent on their rider and shouting encouragement.
I briefly helped Bruce Dalton out, until a crash saw him DNF, and was quickly on bike change duty for both Scott Chalmers and Scot Easter, both far enough apart that I could help out one then the other before heading to the other side of the pits to do the same even half lap.
All too soon, the frantic muddy afternoon was done and I was heading home with a full blown cold.
Calais and East Kent.
I was planning on heading to the East Kent league race on Sunday 18th December, so when Keith mentioned Calais cx on the Saturday, I thought I might as well combine the two as I was staying with family in Deal on the Saturday night.
Taking the ferry to Calais was easy, and cheap. The cx course being held at the Stade du Souvenir a mere 9 minute drive from Calais port. Day was dawning, as I left Dover in thick fog and emerged into a stunning morning at sea.
Arriving at the Stade du Souvenir, I was delighted by the course laid out. And pre rode half of it in jeans and trainers. As you do. This put me in mind of enquiring about races close to Calais just for the experience!
Lots of banks to ride down and run up. Long sweeping grassy turns. It was going to be fast racing. No rain, dry and well laid out. Everyone was so welcoming, the French helping out with bike changes and so much friendliness even though I speak little French!
Warm and dry, it was great fun helping out both Sam and Keith, and cheering Kris on. Even if mechanicals were order of the day. Snapping a chain downhill is a new one though! Problems aside, it was a great day out!
All to soon I was heading back across the sea to a warm welcome in Deal.
East Kent CX at Ford Manor Farm was a far cry from the day before. Muddy, one blinking huge hill and sections so loamy and soft they were unrideable. One practice lap had me on my knees, and I was hugely glad Phil Booth also turned up – even though getting a bike built on the day is not the best idea!
I managed to get a second lap in before we lined up. Well at least I started warmed up! Three times up this hill in one lap. Thankfully the one off the start was rideable! Mucky and loamy, I had no problem with grip with Conti CycloXKings on, even approaching the long straight downhill at speed. However on the second lap I pulled a muscle in my backside, rendering the last hill walkable in mincing little steps. No thanks to the 40cm planks at the bottom too!
The tight off camber downhills got progressively slicker and I point blank refused to fall off or skid out through the tape!
However this is why I love cx….