Wednesday, October 21, 2015

London Cyclocross League Rnd 6- Foulmead Country park- Edwyn

Round 6 of the London Cyclocross League was a muddy affair- the first mud bath of the season. Welcome the: bike changes, grit in your eyes and the roar of petrol powered jet washers. So long to the grass crits, and hello to proper cyclocross: mud, sweat and gears. Time to get down and dirty.
Foulmead Country Park, near Deal in Kent, was the location for round 6 of the London Cyclocross League. It was a location and a league that I had never raced at before; thus, I went into the race with little pressure, with no one to judge me if I fell flat on my face (literally or metaphorically). Only recognising a few faces from the previous week’s National Trophy, I could ride at my own pace and let the race unfold from that.
After a few practice laps, I got the hang of the varied nature of the course- my brain eventually remembering how to handle a bike in such muddy conditions. As a course, it contained a helping of pretty much everything: an arrow straight stretch of tarmac, a series of barely rideable steep mud banks, some tight-twisting, slippery woodland singletrack, a set of hurdles going directly into a sharp bend and up another mud bank, as well as many other technically and physically demanding features. Overall, it was a fun and well planned course, allowing each and every rider type to find strength in some area. I was looking forward to battling around it.

The Somme
Joining me for the day was my newly trained pit crew/support team, my girlfriend, Ellie, ready in the pits for bike cleaning/changing duties, which was much needed in such wet conditions. Not every person’s idea of a dream Sunday, stood in a muddy field, but so incredibly useful, and so I am incredibly thankful. No pit crew equals one bike. One bike plus mud equals a very heavy bike, lots of resistance and the possibility of a torn rear mech hanger. Overall, a not very fun race.
Unfortunately,  coming into the race I knew that I wouldn’t be on my best form; a lingering illness during the week had a left me a little run down, but I didn’t let it hamper my focus. I managed to get a great start, keeping up with the leaders for just over half of the first lap- hanging in there and hoping for the best. With the elastic starting to stretch, I pushed on. The leading riders were slowly splintering the already select field on their tail, me included.

The driest line

For the next couple of laps, I lagged slightly. A mixture of going off a little too hard and slightly stale legs led to me slipping back a few places. For a short while, I found myself deep into the red, trying to cling onto the passing riders; all that I wanted to do was stop.
Eventually though, I found a rhythm and clawed myself out of the red, now battling for a top 10 position. Together in a group was me and a rider from Pearson Cycles, attacking each other where each of our strengths gave us an edge. For a couple of laps, neither of us could shake the other; each of our strengths seeming to balance out the other’s. One attack did finally succeed, as I ramped up the pace going into the woodland section, where my superior bike handling skills and supreme grip, from my Vittoria XL tyres, allowed me to go clear. There was now clear daylight between us.
Unfortunately, it was not just plain sailing from there. After dropping the Pearson’s Cycles rider, I soon found other riders snapping at my heals, around dozen seconds behind. I held on the pressure, and, thankfully, my time cushion was maintained all the way to the line.

Battling through the slop

In the end, I finished in 9th place, bagging myself a top 10 in the Senior category. It was a result that I was pretty pleased with. Although it was hard to compare the position against past performances, my average heart rate and general exhaustion, post race, was enough to say that I had done my best. It was a job well done, and, as a bonus, it was great fun too!

I would like to say a quick thank you to Ellie, for being impeccable in the pits for me. Also, a thank you to Raleigh bikes, Vittoria tyres and American Classic Wheels for providing equipment that coped so well in the harsh conditions. I can safely say that I give them my full trust for the rest of the season.

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