So, September 15th, Milton Keynes Bowl, 28 degrees heat, beautiful sunshine, 100s of people and I’m on the start line for the first cyclo-cross race of the winter season! Famous last words, but every CX race that I’ve done in the past two years has been like this.
Anyway, after getting slowly roasted whilst we are gridded into some kind of ability ranking – over-65 world champ on the front line, me in the middle of the 87-strong pack and the have-a-go heroes filling in behind – off we go. I give it my usual fast start and gain maybe 20 places. I then realise that everyone else is taking it easy as there is a small climb coming up! I lose a few places and then gain them back again. And so it goes for the rest of the race. I was gridded 43rd and finished 36th, which I was pleased enough with. It was clear that me being overweight by 6kg/a stone was slowing me somewhat.
A week later and back in Milton Keynes but Campbell Park this time – the venue for the 2014 World Championships I’m told. The organisers had done a terrific job of promoting the event and there were probably 25-30% more riders in each category – from under-8s to over-50s. In fact 107 over 50s! Trade stands, food stands, you name it. Brilliant job. Given last week’s decent gain, I was disappointed to be gridded 52nd. Even more disappointed that I had tempted fate and it was raining! And cold and windy. This is what CX is meant to be like! I made the same mistake as usual and overtook loads of people on the opening sprint and then fell back as the race settled down. This time however, I got faster and faster and overhauled 4-5 people on the final two laps. Finished 38th which is a good gain.
The following weekend, I switched Leagues from the Central to the Wessex League as the race was in Reading, so much closer. No grid position this week as it was my first race in this League. Much smaller field – 48. I joined the back of the pack and blasted off at fast-medium pace – I’m learning! I’d also done some intervals to practise one minute at full gas and then keep going at threshold. And I’d lost 3kg/7lbs in weight since the first race.
Hit the first, very steep bank out of breath but not seeing stars. Rode up it easily enough, to be met with a cheery “nice one, Scott” from Dean who had come along to ride in the Senior (18-40) race. I just managed a wink and a crooked smile and I was off into the woods. Cracking course with fast descents and some lovely singletrack. Came in 24th which I was pleased with.
Progress every week in terms of fitness, tactics and finishing position. My target race is the Central and Eastern Regional Championships on 2nd December.
No matter what your discipline – road racing, time trialling, triathlon, track, sportives, commuting, social riding, club runs, paper boy (hey, I was one once!) – you will love cyclo cross. So much fun on a bike. Very spectator friendly with decent food, good loos (important!) and lovely courses.