i took part in only my fifth ever cyclo-cross race yesterday evening at oldbury court estate, a park just three or so miles from the centre of bristol. it was beautifully sunny and thus drew a fairly large field for the youth, seniors, juniors, vets (that is me 40-49) and women. everyone starts at the same time in go-cross except for the under 12's who start their on race half an hour before. the main field must have amounted to at least forty people, very good for the summer series or is this growth in numbers indicative of a renaissance in the popularity of cyclo-cross in the uk?
cyclo-cross is quite a casual affair when it comes to organisation compared with road, or so i have been told. the main organiser who conducts sign on arrived late so instead of a 7pm start the race actually started at 7.15pm. do not get me wrong i am not complaining, the organisers do a fantastic job as do the marshalls. for me a late start is all part of the charm of cyclo-cross. in any case the sun was shining so nobody minded.
they say starting position is crucial in cyclo-cross as we see with the top pro's who, depending on their uci ranking, will take up their position on the start line accordingly, with most successful at the front. the same goes with the western league. riders who have previously won or who have finished close to the top will be called to the front. as for the rest of us it is a case first come first serve to get as close to the front as possible. in all the races i have competed in so far i have purposefully placed myself towards the back. the reason for this is confidence, as i race more i hope to see an increase in my confidence. at the moment i am trying to gauge my ability against the competition and so up until now have preferred the strategy of passing others as the race progresses rather than trying to hold a position that is unrealistic. in the next race or two i will start to experiment with placing myself a little further towards the front of the starting line.
as the race started i immediately tried to settle myself into an effort that i could sustain although the first lap is always going to be more frantic than the rest of the race as people jostle for position. i was way down in the bottom third of the field at the start but as the race progressed apart from a few of the front runners who lapped me in the last lap i was only passed by a couple of people. i did manage to claw back multiple places through the race proving to myself that i have a decent level of endurance at what was essentially a near max effort.
the course itself was possibly one of the least technical, with the least amount of gradients, on par with hengrove leisure park. there was a lot of grass, no mud, and some wooded single track sections to give some extra twists and turns. being that it was a sunny evening there were plenty of people in the park and as i raced round i kept passing a couple of parties cooking sausages on their portable barbecues and drinking cold beers, it smelt so good. i am sure i was not alone in thinking what a good idea it would be to pull up and partake in the food and drink. alas there were neither any sausage nor beer hand ups!
as the race progressed into the last two thirds the field became completely split. this is my favourite time when races within the race start to form. i did not have much threat behind me and in front was a guy riding for the las vegas institute of sport. for the remainder of the race we battled it out, for a short time i took the lead from him, then maybe after one lap he took the lead back. he was quicker in the wooded sections and i was stronger on the slight uphill grassy drags. i made a tactical decision to sit on his wheel rather than have him pressing me. this status quo lasted for three or four laps until the final lap where in my mind i would come past him on the long drag up to the finish line. it did not work out like this though. i did not know for sure it was the last lap when it came. as we exited the final wooded section he took off and left me with too much work to do. just deserts i guess for sitting on instead of attacking earlier. it was all part of the race fun though and as soon as i crossed the line a couple of seconds after him we shook hands and i congratulated him.
i do not know my final placing yet but as soon as the results are posted i will update on here. my next race will most probably be at hengrove leisure park for round 6 of the western league cyclo-cross league on 19 june.
special thanks to andy stewart for the images.
(19/06/13 - I placed 20th from 38 - Severn Road Club)