Tuesday, 17 December 2013

western league round 10 (autumn/winter series)

i participated it what was only my fourth race of the autumn/winter cyclo-cross season last sunday at oldbury court in bristol.  conditions were damp and muddy after a decent spell of wet weather.  grey clouds, drizzle and wind provided the typical winter cx backdrop, albeit a reasonably mild one.

oldbury court is a city park circuit predominantly run over grass, mud and a couple a short sections of single track woodland.  there were no major hills to speak of other than a couple of very short inclines.  it was a fast course and quite different to the oldbury court circuit i rode last summer.  the organisers must have made some major changes to the course design unless i am mistaken.

the turnout was pretty healthy with 61 people taking the start line for the main race.  i did not feel super motivated prior to the start.  i hung about towards the back in at least the fifth or sixth line and decided i would ease myself into proceedings, 'play the long game' as doug hall put it during a moment of mid race banter.  fellow velo club walcot club mate pete giddings was also on the start line, although he was riding a different race to me in that he was surely looking to place at least top 10.

the first third of my race involved a fair bit of jockeying for position as selections were made and the foundation of the race order was formed.  during this period i made up possibly 10 places, maybe more.  i was enjoying the course and focused on picking what looked like the best lines, changing on each lap as i fine tuned my approaches to the many corners.  i was glad i had only 27/28 psi in my tyres (i still use clinchers. yes i know) as anything more would have made life more challenging when hitting the rutted muddy corners and maintaining traction on one particular short heavily mudded incline.

the next third of the race felt much like many other cx races i have done in that i was on my own.  there were riders ahead and behind but i could not see them properly apart from brief glimpses at the most visible sections.  it was enough for me to keep pressure on myself though.  pre race lethargy had left my body and i was now working at somewhere close to 90% effort with short extra bursts on certain parts of the course.  i did not want anyone overtaking me other than the top 5 or so who i knew would be on my tail at some point due to the nature of the course.

into the final third things got a little more dynamic.  the top 5 or so did lap me, starting with john whittington first then some distance later the other top contenders.  i passed a few more myself, even lapped a couple and then aimed for my final catch who i had managed to close the gap on significantly.  we kept moving in front of each other for a while, neither wanting to play the role of lead out man for too long. 

into the final lap, (is it me or did the organisers add an extra lap by mistake?  they said 45 minutes plus a lap but it was longer), i took my turn to sit in behind this guy.  i felt confident i could pass him.  he gradually notched up the speed as we closed in on the line, i matched him.  with 100 metres to go i sprinted for what was a very close call.  looking the results, i came 35th, i cannot tell if i beat him or not since the people either side of me on the results are not affiliated to any club.  this makes it harder to identify.  club mate pete finished 5th, a quality result.  my only memory of pete from the race was as he and two others motored past me in what looked like a hotly contested battle for a top 5 spot.

next up is another flat fast course at hengrove in bristol this sunday 22 dec.   the major difference between hengrove and oldbury court are the two dismounts at hengrove can disrupt the flow and speed for those not used to this aspect of the sport.  i will pencil in time on saturday morning for some remount practice,  i know i need it.

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