Foxley Cross – Welsh Cyclo-cross League Round 2
Round 2 of the Welsh Cyclo-cross League and this week it was a 2 hour drive to Foxley Cross near Hereford. As is usual for me I arrived with plenty of time to spare, signed on, attached my number to my cycling top and headed off for a few practice laps of the course. Having only ever ridden cyclo-cross once before last week in Round 1 I still wasn’t sure what to expect.
We’d had some rain overnight as well so there would probably be some mud. The course this was a little bit more difficult than last weeks. It was very bumpy in places with some tight turns, the usual barriers to jump over and two steep stream crossings. The first of which was unrideable so it was off the bike for a little bit of running down and up the muddy, slippery banks. The second crossing was OK and I rode it on all three practice laps but by the third it was twice as deep as it had been and I ended up with loads of muck in my rear derailleur so I decided that maybe a second carry was the better idea for the race. The kids and youth races seemed to be going well. The younger ones were on a different course to us but the Youth races were on the same course so no doubt by the time they had all ridden around a few laps the course would be muddier, more slippery and the stream would be deeper than before.
The sun was shining on the start line as we gathered for our race and as usual the atmosphere seemed nice. The bacon buns, cakes and teas put on by the Hereford Marches Rotary Club seemed to be going down a storm and it was a family friendly affair. As we lined up one guy appeared to be drawing a fair bit of attention due to the fact that he was covered from head to toe on his right hand side in mud. He’d just attempted the second stream crossing, it was indeed deeper than before and he had come off and was now caked in mud. More weight to my idea of running that section rather than attempting to ride it.
This week, the V40’s were starting slightly before the V50’s and women with 1 minute between them rather than in one big group. The start order was also seeded based on our times from the previous week. I finished somewhere in the middle of the pack last week in 37th place so was soon called up to take my place. Of course, some of the people who had finished in front of me last week weren’t there this week, and some fast guys that weren’t there last week weren’t seeded so would be behind me on the start line. This therefore put me closer to the front than I had anticipated. As I’m very new to this, unfit and and too fat at the moment I’m not there to race, I’m just there for the ride and a different experience. This means I’m quite happy to start towards the back and let those that are taking it more seriously battle it out at the front. No such luxury for me today.
Mind you, once the whistle went for the start I soon found myself going backwards anyway. I just haven’t got used to the frantic, fast paced starts yet and if I want to improve then this is certainly one aspect of the race to work on. If you watch the video below you’ll see that I just go backwards at the start!
There are a number of reasons for this I think. First of which is that I just don’t go hard enough. This is probably due to the fact that I’m always a little nervous about the technical sections and think that I’m going to be slower than most people on them so I’d rather drop back and get out of their way. In hindsight and if I was racing, maybe I shouldn’t worry about that and should just go for it, get a decent position into the first technical section and then if I hold people up in the technical bits that their problem – it is supposed to be a race I guess so you have to gain advantages where you can. If I want to do that then I will have to warm up before hand though. At the moment I use the first lap as a warm up and then gradually get into the swing of things as the race progresses. I do tend to start passing people towards the end of the race, so maybe starting off warmed up and ready to go would be better. I’m not sure that I’m quite ready for a turbo trainer next to the car yet – that would seem to be taking it a little too seriously!
Once out onto the course proper I was still being passed by lots of people. For some reason today I was finding it tough going. I seemed to be taking the corners too wide, losing momentum and just wasn’t able to get into the flow. I made it around the first lap without incident though and was still being passed on the second lap. It felt as though I must have been at the back by now! I did start getting into it a little towards the end and even started enjoying it too. I was quite surprised that I actually seemed OK over the barriers and through the streams where we were getting off and carrying our bikes. I always seemed to catch people in these areas and felt quite smooth dismounting and mounting. It’s not something I’ve done much of as my grand total number of dismounts and remounts is 32 – 2 per lap last week, and 4 per lap this week! It did seem to be the main time that I caught and overtook people though so maybe I’ve found one part of cyclo-cross that I’m OK at. Trust me to be OK at the part of a cycling race where you aren’t actually cycling!
Here’s a video containing just a few of these barriers and stream crossings during the Foxley Cross Cyclo-cross race on Sunday.
Just as I was starting to feel a little better and was getting into the swing of things I crossed the start finish line to the sound of the bell. Just one lap to go already? One more lap of slippery corners, barriers, stream crossings and bumpy grass. One more lap in which to pass a few more people as by now I finally seemed to be moving forwards rather than going backwards. Of course, by now it was difficult to tell if I was passing people in the V40’s race or if I was lapping those in the V50’s race. Either way, passing people feels better than being passed, and maybe, just maybe I wasn’t going to be last after all. A few minutes later and the chequered flag was in sight, the race was over. Cyclo-cross race number 2 was done and dusted and once again it had been fun. It didn’t feel that way to start with but once I got going I enjoyed it.
Here’s most of a whole lap for you to watch. With just a few bits cut out to shorten it a little.
I didn’t hang around for long today. I handed in my number, got my race license back, got changed and headed home to go surfing with Morgan. Unfortunately it was just too rough and the tide too high so I had chance to clean the mud and muck from Foxley Estate off my bike instead.
Next week it’s off to the dunes and sand of Pembrey for Round 3, but I’ve decided to do the 6 hour Tide to Tide endurance race on the Saturday as well so no doubt my legs won’t feel like playing come the race on Sunday. Anna and Morgan should be coming to that as well. Hopefully Morgan will like what he sees and might decide that he wants to join me for future Sunday morning throughout around South Wales to ride bikes around muddy fields with me.