Thursday, November 21, 2013

Smalesy - National Trophy Durham

Cyclocross and golf. They're not sports that don't immediately seem to have much in common, aprt from perhaps happening outdoors. Thinking about it, they both involve wearing clothes you'd be ridiculed for wearing off the course as well.

But perhaps after Sunday's race they have more in common. That is because they are both sports where good performances seem to come from nowhere; conversely, inexplicably pants performances come from nowhere. Put Tiger Woods on Augusta, the sun shines, yet he could as easily finish 5th as win. 

Sunday's race wasn't awful, far from it, but after the Inter, non technical course, open corners, cool dry conditions, not much running, I could have been forgiven for hoping for a top twenty finish at, non technical course, open corners, cool dry conditions, not much running. 

It didn't happen. 

To be honest, I'm not sure if it was nerves, a bit of laziness or simply things didn't go my way. My start, four rows back was fine, not great, I certainly had a right clunker in front of me who cost me a few places when he missed his pedal but the course was one where I could recover. But I found myself at the end of the first lap in a very fast race where I had little opportunity to move up and it was still very much together as a race, the whole field lined out. 

Two laps in, I found myself in a four strong group that was slow to gel into a collective effort, this was disappointing as we were dangling at around six seconds from another group in front that contained my friend Paul. At the end of the lap I made an big effort and rode across on the fast section at the bottom of the course to the steps. Frustratingly at this level, everyone's pretty decent riders, good solid top ten at regional level and the slightest weakness shows. The course was configured such that my hop-step at remount weakness really caused problems at the top of the steps, hence as so as soon as a got across, I had to chase again to maintain contact, which caused me to yo-yo in the six seconds gap between one group and another. 

With about two laps to go, I felt good, had established lines and I knew that I was on for a reasonable finish, as much as anything due to the company I was in, indeed the picture above shows me with Mike Young, who I'm really pleased to be mixing it with, but I also knew I needed to start using my head. My best chance of making the best of things would come from conserving energy now as I was conscious that the gap was coming down between the five man group ahead and the four strong group I was in. I sat up and started to sit in on the fast sections. I felt really comfortable.

At the bell, we were really motoring and I could see the group ahead beginning to race amongst itself and look back at us. Unashamedly I sat in, just switching across each time a new rider hit the front.....we bridged but unfortunately half a lap too late, making contact literally with one hundred metres to go with a ninety left onto mud covered tarmac. 

Ultimately it was another good race for me with a decent 24th place at 3mins, but as my level rises I come away from each race a little more aware of my shortcomings both tactically and technically, particularly around my on/off the bike skills. I'm absolutely sure that I've got the fitness as I'm never the one rolling around on the grass or slumped over the bars at the finish and I have absolutely no difficulty in riding at top ten rider pace on the open parts of the course. 

But when all said and done, this is amateur sport - 

Did I have an intensive race? Yes.
Did I get a little more experience from it? Yes
Did I have a good time? Yes.
Am I looking forward to the next one? Yes.
Am I thrilled at breaking into the top 100 national rankings? Yes
Was it day out in good company? Yes 

There's not much more to ponder on really.....

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