Welsh Cyclocross 2018 – Round 9 Talybont-on-Usk
After a week off due to a cancellation it was back to it at the weekend for more cyclocross racing. This time we were at Gilestone Farm in Talybont-on-Usk which was a new venue. I didn’t know what to expect from the course, but no doubt there would be plenty to test us.
It was a two hour drive for me through a fairly un-exciting Mid Wales. It was just a fairly non-descript day really. Overcast, the occasional bit of rain and misty and murky over the hills. It was dry once I arrived, but there was plenty of mud around on the walk to race HQ to sign on.
I’d developed a sore back the day before and so far nothing had helped with it. I had hoped it would ease up a little and that painkillers would at least mask the pain but nothing seemed to be helping. Maybe a nice cyclo-cross race would do the trick. Once changed and ready I was able to recce the whole course a couple of times in between the junior races.
Having done quite well on my mountain bike in the past couple of races I had decided to ride that today. It seemed like a good choice for me again. Maybe not ideal on the steep downhill off camber bends as the wider tyres don’t have as much bite as narrow CX tyres which can dig into the mud. It was probably the better choice for the humps and bumps at the top of the course and was actually pretty good for the long grassy straights too. These had a certain amount of descending in them and the mountain bike helps smooth out the bumps. Greater speed can be achieved and it helps carry that speed into the next section as well. It does for me anyway, but that’s probably because I back out of it too easily on a cyclocross bike. There were a few fast sweeping turns at the far end of the course and these could be attacked with quite a bit of speed too. All in all it was a nice varied course with a little bit of elevation gain each lap, some technical sections, some tight turns and some nice fast sections too.
You should know the procedure by now. We line up in our seeded positions ready for the start. It’s about now when we all wonder why we are here. For those of us who have yet to already proclaim their excuses for the upcoming poor performance its our final chance to have a few last minute moans – for me it was my sore back today. There’s usually a little bit of banter before we all wish each other well and wait for the whistle. I was lined up next to Stafford this week but still one place behind him the seedings. We were on the third row of a fairly narrow start line.
The whistle blew and we were off.
I had a fairly conservative jump off the line, bided my time a little, looked for a gap and then started to sprint hard up the hill. It was all quite clean and I filed into place at the top of the hill ready for the first tricky hump. Someone came off a couple of places in front of me though and fell across the whole course causing a bit of a jam. A few of us squeezed past as he tried to regain his feet and then we were off, hustling for position through the twists and turns of the top of the course. There were a few elbows and knocked bars through here as we all jostled for position but all in good spirits and it was clean but aggressive racing all round.
I dismounted for the large hump as there were people everywhere as I wasn’t able to get a good run up but I was soon back on my bike, through the next little section of singletrack and then out onto the grassy fields. I made up a couple of places going wide around the bend at the far end and then went full gas along the straight. This was a little bumpy on the racing line and even bumpier off it but I used the mountain bike to my advantage, took the bumpier high line and passed a couple of people.
More twists and turns, another fast descent, over the hurdles and then it was into the far end of the course. As I went into this I could see that I wasn’t that far behind the pointy end of the race. I reckoned I was in about 7th place and going well. There was no option but to keep pushing hard. I couldn’t ease up from here, it was time to see what I could do.
As the laps clicked by I lost track of my position. I gained a place here, lost a place there and then got caught by a couple of the fast V50’s We were also quickly into lapping back markers from the V50’s, the Women and also our own race so it became a little difficult to know who you are racing and who you are lapping. The mountain bike did help with passing some of the back-markers though as it once again allowed for slightly more creative line-choices when needed. Ian and Richard passed me at some point and opened out a bit of a gap. I wasn’t sure where I was in the race but by my reckoning probably about 10th by now. Will was a few places behind me, and I hadn’t seen Stafford since leaving the line. I was pretty sure he was behind me too. I then started catching Ian and Richard again in the middle of the race and eventually put in a spurt to fly past them. There was now two laps to go and I was determined to hold them off.
I did ease up slightly on the penultimate lap so that I would have a little bit left in the tank to defend my position should I need to. That wasn’t an issue though as Ian and Richard were fighting amongst themselves and I was opening out a bit of gap on them. I picked up the effort for the final lap. I felt safe from behind. I could see Chris ahead of me but wouldn’t be able to close the gap. I kept pushing hard but also made sure I was well within my capabilities on the twists and turns. One mistake could have led to me losing a couple of places and I didn’t think any amount of risk would have gained me another so it was now all about making it home in one piece.
I crossed the line pleased with my performance and fairly certain that it would be my third top 10 finish in a row.
I chatted to a few people, had the usual race de-brief with those that I had battled and then packed up ready for the drive home. Burger King was closed as there was a burst water-main in Builth so I couldn’t even get a coffee from Tuffins. I’d have to make do with a pasty from Greggs, diet coke and Liquorice Allsorts for the journey home.
I arrived home to the smell of beef stew bubbling away in the slow cooker. The results were published promptly that evening. I have to say that the results have been out quite quickly for the last couple of races and it is good to see. I’m sure there’s a lot of frantic effort going on behind the scenes to get them out but it is definitely appreciated by me (and I’m sure everyone else) when they are out as soon as possible after the race. Better still, I had finished in 4th place! That’s my best ever finish by a long way. Admittedly there were two people who were ahead of me but DNF’d, but even so, I was happy with that.
Not only was I 4th, but I was only 8 seconds behind Chris in 3rd place. If I’d managed to save 9 seconds somewhere out on the course I would have been on the podium – imagine that. Mind you, I’m sure Chris would have made me work for it even if I had been 9 seconds faster! I’m not 100% sure how the prizes work in the series. I’ve never been anywhere near close to the prizes so have never looked into it. I’m pretty sure last year that Richie won a cash prize at a race or two for top 10 finishes and the rules do say:
In accordance with British Cycling Technical Regulations one prize will be awarded for every five entries in each of the other main categories
If this rule still stands then with 35 entries in the V40’s there should be prizes down to 7th place. Maybe I’ve won a prize!! That really would be a turn up for the books. If I do get prize money then I think I can justifiable call myself myself a cyclocross racer – although I did do it on a mountain bike so maybe not!