Monday, December 9, 2013

Steve: North of England Champs

 Had it not been for a friend of the team coming out to take some team pictures yesterday, I’d have most likely stayed in bed. As I drove across the moors towards York, there was barely enough light to see, despite it being 10.30am. I felt low, my thoughts were consumed by concocting reasons not to start.

Upon arrival, I met Paul Lehan, a great friend, strong as hell and all round nice guy. He immediately picked up on my frame of mind “come on mate, you’ve got to race – we’ll have a real ding-dong” For all the right reasons, he’d intuitively backed me into a corner. I couldn’t possibly slip away then.

So with a heavy heart I pulled my kit on, whacked my baseline pressures in headed for the technical part of the course to have a look at the drop off and off camber section. Ted who ran the section with 100% commitment in practice. His mind was made up. It was a run, doubt nagged my mind.

I dawdled back down to the start for gridding. A third row start with an eighty strong field. Bang we were off….with grumpy at least having the presence of mind to ram it into a bigger gear after a couple of revs.

Eighty blokes sprinting like hell turning dead left into a three metre wide course, rubbing shoulders, whilst my front wheel tread thrummed on the back wheel of the guy in front suddenly brought a smile to my face. Some one flicked the switch....Game on. 

Time to race…….

I don’t know if it’s a case of the big field, the course or being a champs but the first four laps were some of the most cut and thrust racing I’ve done. In a group, screw up, go out the back, regain group, get carried forward by better riders coming through, and repeat. Strangely, I saw lots of attacking with really concerted efforts being made to split groups up. I’d imagine that in the third of the race, my position will have yo-yoed by as much as ten places. Running the off camber was one thing in warming up, committing when already at near maximal intensity was quite another, I genuinely thought I might die I had to go so hard to regain my position first lap.

I settled in and started to find my consistent lines. Riding the horrible, uphill, off camber suddenly happened and went pretty well, sometimes I could hold the high line, sometimes not but I was getting up it and crucially entering the subsequent run much more composed. Nicely placed in a group of five, probably the weakest technically, probably there or thereabouts physically.  

With two laps to go, the task was now to make the best of where I was in the race…to ‘win’ my group. As we passed the pits the course went 100m straight along a grassy perimeter track, into a ninety left, ran straight for another 100m before dropping onto the 400m exposed tarmac finishing section with a cross/headwind. It was clear that everyone was riding the grassy track to the left….the right looked alright, perhaps a little slower. I had to get to the pits on the bell lap still in the group. We took the bell, I unashamedly wheelsucked to conserve energy.

Towards the off camber tricky section I came through to the front, If my technical skills were going to let me down riding across the slope, I was sure as hell going to make sure I wasn’t going to be the only one to loose by quietly slipping out of contact from the back. If I was going to slide, I wanted to be in a position to cause chaos behind. A rare moment of clarity.

Try as I might, I slid down the slope, safe in the knowledge that my difficulties would be thankfully causing chaos behind. Out of the technical mire and heading down to the pits fast, Jough shouted “come on fella, last two minutes”. Past the pits, I was sat where I wanted to be….. at the back.

Through the pits, along the first 100m track and then through the ninety left. I could almost sense the lack of urgency from my peers holding back for the tarmac finish. For the tall guy with no sprint….shit or bust and don’t look back.

I hit the untried right hand line hard out the seat and punched through the front of the group. After a near miss with a guy who’d just finished and had ridden across the course recovering, I was out onto the tarmac and away. A quick glance back and head down, hugging the right hand gutter making them work for it into the wind. I had two in hot pursuit and two had been spat out. As we rounded the bend into the finishing straight glare of the commissaries I faded. 
The outcome was 50% successful. I didn’t quite hang on. I’d ditched two, and got narrowly outsprinted by two. Not perfect but OK. All good experience. Fantastic fun.

I finished 22nd from 87 starters, about 3mins down. I’d had a massive race long ding-dong and felt great.

Perhaps I’m sad, but I know I love cross, I’ll settle for that!



No comments:

Post a Comment