Welsh Cyclocross 2018 – Round 6 Newtown
Those of you paying attention will notice that Round 5 seems to be missing. Unfortunately Storm Callum resulted in widespread flooding around South Wales, with the Carmarthen area being pretty badly hit. Now, a little bit of weather doesn’t usually deter us hardy cyclocross types but there is a limit. Travelling was not advised during the storm and as it turns out, the fields that we usually ride on were under quite a bit of water and were inhabited by sea birds for the day.
Needless to say, the decision to cancel was made before anyone had started to travel, so I had a weekend at home.
And so to Round 6 in Newtown on what turned out to be a glorious sunny day without much mud in sight. This is quite a local event for me so there was a relaxed start to the day. That said, I didn’t sleep very well and was up at 5am anyway so pottered about the house before setting off earlier than usual for the hour long drive. I passed quite a few friends who were out on the Sunday morning club runs on their bikes and soon arrived in Newtown. The sun was shining, the races were about to get under way and I took my time signing on and chatting.
You know how these things go though, it’s always the days when there’s no rush and you have plenty of time that things go wrong. With this in the back of my mind I got ready early and headed over to the race area. As always there were loads of people to chat to and the kids races were underway. There wasn’t much chance to recce the course as much of it was being used but I did ride around the easy bottom section with Will and Richie. We then stood around chatting and watching the youth race.
The Youth Race
The youth race turned out to be quite a battle. Josh had a commanding lead from the off and was gradually opening out a gap on Griff and another lad. That all changed a couple of laps from the end though when Josh crashed bunny-hopping the hurdles and lost first place. It then turned into an epic battle for the last two laps with some tactical riding from all three. Josh won the sprint to the line so held on to first come the end.
This is one of the nice things about the cyclocross series. The under 16’s racing in the youth category are as well known throughout the community as those adults racing and winning in the senior races. Most people know the top few youth riders and they are superstars in their own right. Not surprising really as the level of commitment, skill and fitness they have puts most of us to shame. This was highlighted later in the day when I was driving home after the races. Two of the lads who had raced in the youth races were riding home towards Aberystwyth. It was now pouring with rain too but they were still getting another training ride in despite having raced in the morning.
With the Youth Races over there was just time for a quick practise lap, time to take off a few layers and then line up ready for the start. The course was a fairly simple one and similar to last year. Some long straights alongside the River Severn, a few grassy twists and turns, a set of hurdles and a couple of switchbacks up and down a steep bank and then up into the woods where sharp rocks and slippery roots awaited. There was also the infamous ‘Lactic Ladder’, and off camber grassy descent and a little slippery climb too.
All good fun, although I don’t like the roots! I’d kept a fair bit of pressure in my tyres as some of the rocks felt likely to cause problems, but this did mean that the roots were more slippery and I had slightly less traction on the tight grassy turns. It’s always a compromise between puncture prevention and traction though.
We were soon lined up in our seeded positions so there were plenty of familiar faces around me. Will, who has been flying this year was a row ahead of me. Richie was a couple of place to my left, Stafford, who I haven’t mentioned before but is usually just ahead of me was to my left and Adam and Ant were off to my right. As usual, it was going to be a tough race.
The whistle sounded and we were off. I had a good start and was raring to go. I aimed for a gap but somehow it got closed down so had to ease up and didn’t gain any places off the line. Once some space opened up I got up to speed though and held my position, only to get boxed in on the inside line at the first bottleneck and loose a few places to those going wide. Ant, Adam and Stafford has all passed me and I followed them into the first few turns. Ant nearly lost it on the roots through here and veered off to the side allowing me and a couple of others to pass him. We then all settled into single file through the twists and turns.
As usual, I overtook one or two people over the hurdles, but so did Adam and Stafford ahead of me. We then headed off into the trees. It was a bit of a procession through here on the first lap with no real opportunities to overtake, except on the Lactic Ladder.
As always, I don’t know the exact order in which things happened but I did put on something of a spurt on the second lap overtaking Adam and Stafford just before the bends at the far end. This gave me track position for the more technical sections. I managed to gap Adam with a concerted effort over the next lap or so, but Stafford was hot on my heels and threatening to overtake on some of the tighter grassy bends. I was forced to go wide on these and he was looking to pass on the inside but I held him off for a while. Eventually, after a bit of toing and froing between us he did get past me and then opened out a bit of a gap through the twists, turns and roots of the woods.
I was keeping an eye on those behind me as well. Adam wasn’t that far back but I was opening out the gap ever so slightly. Ant had dropped back a couple of places and I could just see him through the switchbacks before the start finish line. He was dropping back a yard or two each lap though so I felt safe there. I couldn’t hold onto Stafford’s wheel so settled into my own pace as the laps ticked by. I saw the sign for 3 laps to go. The long straight was sapping my energy as it was into the wind. The Lactic ladder climb was brutal and I seemed to get worse over the roots as each lap progressed. I crossed the line again and saw the sign for 2 laps to go. I eased up a little for this lap so that I’d have a bit left in the tank for a final surge on the last lap. I was taking it quite a bit easier, ready to ramp things up, but then, as I approached the final sections I was lapped by the leaders. I let them go, but didn’t clock two fundamental points at this stage.
- The fact that the leaders how now finished another lap meant that I too would see the chequered flag and not hear the bell to signify the final lap. There would be no final lap for me, so I’d been taking it easy for no good reason. I crossed the line ready to pick up the pace, but saw the chequered flag not the bell and wasn’t quite sure if I’d finished or not. I was ready to start my final surge but it wasn’t to be. Somehow I felt a little cheated – cheated out of a final lap of vomit inducing effort!
- One of the ‘leaders’ that lapped me wasn’t indeed a leader. Instead it was someone on the same lap as me who was a little more switched on than I was. He had realised that being lapped would mean this was the end of the race and had therefore put in a final surge so as to follow the leaders through as they lapped me. He got his final sprint in, timed his effort well and overtook me for the line without me even realising it. I didn’t know in fact until he told me after the race!
Another lesson learnt and hopefully one I’ll remember next time I’m getting lapped – In fairness, it was the first race of the season that I’d been lapped so it’s not something I’ve been aware of lately.
Another fun race with some good competition throughout. The results aren’t out yet and there were some issues with the timing chips so I’ll add them here once they are announced. I think it was business as usual for me in the middle of the pack somewhere.
Thanks to Paul (who is out of action with a smashed shoulder and broken collar bone) for the photos.