2019 Masters National CX Championship

12 January 2019, Cyclopark, Gravesend, Kent – by Scott Heyhoe

What was I doing? What was I thinking of when I noticed that the National CX Champs were at a course near me! After a decent 2017 CX season, I was having an even better 2018 CX season – finishing roughly ten places higher in every race than I had in 2017. Since I finished 14th in the 2017 Regional Championships, I reckoned I’d get a top ten in December 2018, and that would qualify me for the 2019 Nationals in January. As it was, my progress was dramatically halted by chronic sinusitis keeping me off the bike for 5 weeks and missing the Regionals. Still, the Nationals didn’t quite reach the capacity of 100 riders, and I sneaked in.

I did as much as I could to regain fitness, and attended a specific Nationals coaching day. As expected, missing so many races resulted in my being gridded way down the field, on perhaps the 11th or 12th row and there were 96 started in total, with only about 6 of those behind me! Still, I have been practising my sprint start specifically. The start is absolutely critical in CX, so I have developed a high-intensity interval where I sprint flat out from a standing start, hold it for one minute, and then hold threshold power for another minute. Rest for three mins and repeat. With a huge field and a technical course, it was important for the organisers to use the road course at Cyclopark to string the field out before hitting the first off road section. For those of you that know Cyclopark, we started at the bottom of the long finishing slope and sprinted up the 400m or so. It felt more like a road race, and we hit 29mph as we neared the top. I gained about 20-25 places. Pleased enough.

The course was very dry and very rideable. However, some nutter fell off on the first off-camber section and forced lots of us to dismount and run. Not pleased! Settled down into a reasonable pace, remembering everything I’d learned on the coaching day two weeks beforehand. Unusually for me I crashed three times. Not by my poor skills I hasten to add! Three times I was pushing hard to make up places and three times I rode into the person in front. This was a bit frustrating. Some of this was because we had practised the most technical sessions on the coaching day, and I was confident of riding up and over the man-made bridge for example. You had to ride hard and commit, but it was rideable. I rode hard, and committed, only for the rider in front to fall off halfway up. Over I went too. Did the same twice more on tricky uphill sections. These spills cost me a few places. I rolled over the line in 75th. Pleased to even compete after my long lay-off, pleased to show the club colours on the national stage, and with a massive desire to race again next season. I’m pretty sure that with a good CX season, good gridding and an improvement in my skills, I should be looking at top twenty next year. This will be helped as I’ll move up to the 55-59 age group too and be one of the youngest in the category! Can’t wait.

The winter CX season starts in mid-September, with the Regional championships mid-December. The 2019 National Championships – for all ages, men and women, boys and girls – will be in Shrewsbury in mid-January 2019.