many thanks to will poole for the image
i participated in my seventh ever cyclo-cross race at warmley forest park last night. of those seven races three of them have been at this venue. in fact i popped my cx cherry at warmley in last year’s western league summer series event which like last night was a warm dry affair. all a far cry from the winter series race i dnf’ed at due to major mechanical failure.
i was happy to be joined in last night’s race by fellow velo club walcot member phil thompson. it is always good to have a fellow club mate in the same race. this was only phil’s second ever cx race so the pair of us still have much to learn when it comes to this form of competition.
we arrived in good enough time to be able to sight and practise the course a few times prior to the race start at 7pm. although i have ridden this venue before there are usually slight changes to course design or forgotten sections so it was good to get a few laps in. i decided on a usual tire pressure of around 35psi in the rear and 30 psi on the front. i also took the decision prior to the start not to shift out of the big ring (i have 46/36 chain rings on the crank set) since the uphill sections were manageable with this set up. one less thing to consider mid race.
all set and ready to go i lined up on roughly the third line and as the starter waved us off there was a frantic dash up the tarmac road to enter the narrow right turn onto a section of single track. not sure if i lost or gained any places at this point but the riders were all stung out in a long tight line, a typical dynamic in the early part of most cx races.
as i continued through lap one a handful of quicker riders passed me. fellow club mate phil also passed me early on until i overtook him a short time later. it was not long until i realised i had built up a fairly substantial gap between me and everyone else behind. conversely the nearest rider ahead of me was way ahead. i then entered into what is often a familiar scenario in the races i participate in whereby i race solo for a number of laps. i really enjoy this because although i am still working very hard to maintain my position and ideally am trying to catch up with the rider in front pressure is reduced because i do not have anybody breathing down my neck.
as each lap passed i became more familiar with the course and what i thought to be the best lines to take. this aspect of my racing became more automated meaning i could concentrate on trying to maintain a decent tempo with legs that were becoming tighter with lactic build up. eventually i started to lap some of the juniors first then a few veterans who had dropped off the back. i would ride up behind them with a shout of 'on your left' or 'on your right' so they knew which side i would be overtaking them on.
confident that nobody other than some of the leaders would catch me i pushed on hard. unfortunately i am unable to see my split times having forgotten to press start on my garmin at the beginning of the race. i am pretty sure though that my splits would have been even throughout. that is what it felt like and i am experienced enough generally to be able to understand and feel how much effort or power i am putting down be it cycling or running without necessarily having to look at my computer.
into the last quarter of the race i caught up with a rider from zero g who like me must have been tootling along on his own. i do not think he was expecting me but as i sped up behind him he clocked me and accelerated ever so slightly. it was enough for me to sit in behind him for a lap until i decided to make a move and overtake him. for another lap or so he clung to my rear wheel like super glue so i decided to effectively flick the elbow and he passed me by. actually he flew off ahead and i was not able to stay with him. he had more in reserve than I.
soon after i was lapped first by leader scot easter and then by second placed Charles coleman. it was near the end of the race now and as the bell went for the final lap i pushed on knowing it would all be over soon and i could relax again. i crossed the line alone as the checked flag waved me through. another race was over and it felt good both to have finished and to have banked another race and all the experience that goes along with it.
*i am still awaiting the final results to see where i placed although i will not be surprised to see myself listed somewhere in the middle. phil also finished his race a short time after me. gear problems meant he could not take the inclines as well as he would have liked. i am sure though that both phil and i will be ready to roll for another big effort on 17 july when we will be able to do battle again in round 10, the final round of this years western league summer series. apparently round 9 is not happening due to council restrictions so no cx next wednesday 10 july.
(* 05/07/2013 I finished 20th and phil 24th from 38 starters)