Welsh Cyclocross Series Round 10 – Parc Bryn Bach
After a pause for a week, the Welsh cyclocross series continued with Round 10 at Parc Bryn Bach near Tredegar. The drive there was the usual relaxing affair where I was treated to a sunrise over the Cambrian Mountains and a drive through some unfamiliar roads with amazing views over the Brecon Beacons.
Parc Bryn Bach is a country park set in 340 acres of idyllic grass and woodland with a stunning 36 acre lake at its heart. It looked lovely today in the sunny spells even if there was a chill in the air.
It was busy too with the usual cyclocross hubbub taking centre stage and plenty of other visitors strolling around the lake and looking on at the lycra clad fools playing in the mud!
After registering, getting changed and setting up I headed off to recce the course. The first part consisted of a couple of fast turns and then 200m of thick gloopy mud with a couple of hurdles thrown in for good measure. I was able to watch the Juniors, Novice Women and Youths racing on the course and this section looked like hard going. Running it was at worst as fast as riding it and sometimes much quicker. It also looked less energy sapping to run and meant that there would be less mud clogging up the bike. Before even attempting it I decided to run this whole section. I managed a lap of the rest of the course in between races. Elsewhere there was a real mix. Some twisty bits through the trees, the odd short rise, some flat double track, some gravelly sections and then a slippery muddy section through the trees. There was another short section that looked best to run as it rose up onto a slightly wider track. There were a couple of humps and hollows that were slick with thick mud and then a long single track section through the woods. This had lots of switchbacks in it both uphill and downhill but most were nicely cambered in our favour. As usual, there were a few parts that I struggled with during the recce. It was quite rocky in places too and I felt my rear wheel hit the rim a couple of times so I headed back to the van to put a little more air into the rear tyre.
Back at race HQ, the youth race was just finishing so I chatted to Chris and watched them contend with the mud. We had time another quick recce lap once they had finished. Once again I missed the muddy section completely (I’d be running it anyway) and struggled in the same places as the first time around. Jacket off, race face on – it was time to line up.
The Cyclocross Race
Once again I was seeded on the second row. I’m still benefitting somewhat from having done all of the races so far and therefore having more than the full complement of 7 race results to count to my overall score. With 9 races completed I have even dropped my lowest two scores. There were also a few of the front runners missing today so I was up towards the pointy end again. Chris was next to me and another guy that I chat to but don’t know his name was on my left. We chatted while the others lined up behind us, had the usual brief briefing and we were off.
I had a terrible start. The guy immediately in front of me couldn’t get going and held me up as others streamed past on my left and right with no room for me to go around him. As we approached the thick mud I dismounted and tried to run but others around me were still trying to ride. Some were unsuccessful at this and came to a complete stop. Again there was nowhere to go for me and I was boxed in and unable to run as others sorted themselves out. I lost loads of places. Chris was gone and out of sight and I saw others that I’m usually racing against pass me and head off as I was held up. Things soon sorted themselves out somewhat through the second half of the muddy section and once on our bikes it was time to play catch up.
At least the hold up at the beginning for me meant that I was now passing people which always feels good. As the first lap progressed I discovered that the bends that I had trouble on during the recce were actually much easier at full speed. All except the very last one that is which I just never managed to get right and in the end decided to run it for the last two laps. I was going well though. I gradually regained places throughout the race and overtook a few of my closest rivals too. I was following Will for a while at one point and he did pull away from me early in the race but I think I overtook him at one point midway through. I overtook Ant too who then stayed right on my tail for quite a while. This kept me pushing hard. There were no clever tactics this week, I just kept pushing hard the whole way hoping he was suffering too. My heart rate shows this. From a start of around 90bpm on the start line it was up at 165bpm within 90 seconds and then stayed there for the duration of the race. Averaging 165bpm and hitting 170bpm at times. A pretty consistent effort throughout.
I managed to pull out a gap on Ant on the last lap and overtook a few back-markers to have a good finish. Another good race and a good effort too. I did better than I was expecting. As usual, I was getting the hang of it by the end of the race!
The drive home was easy enough and Anna had been busy in the kitchen cooking up a chicken laksa and baking some scones. It had been a long day so I left the bike and van cleaning – Just adding to the list of jobs for Monday.