Cyclocross 2019 – Rnd 3, Foxley Estate
Well, that was a tough race. I’m not even sure if I enjoyed it or not!! Round 3 this year was at the Foxley Estate which is always quite a technical and difficult course but usually leads to come good racing. It had rained quite a bit overnight and throughout the morning so things were looking pretty muddy out there and everything was particularly slippery on a practise lap that I did. It was looking as though it would be a challenging race for me. I spent the time beforehand riding around a little and chatting to everyone that I knew. It was good that Team Scimitar were out in force with myself, Chris and Gethin all in our kit ready to race.
I was able to do a quick warm up around part of the course before we all lined up for the start. Thankfully things had dried up a little and the sun was even thinking about putting in an appearance so maybe the course would be a little easier than it had been. Gethin and I were lined up on the grid together and Chris was next in line too. It was going to be a hard fought race between us. Although to be honest, I know that they are both faster than me and a technical course such as this doesn’t really suit me so I would probably not see much of them other than them disappearing into the distance. My excuse is that I do lots of other things as well as cycling (especially now that I’m competing in kayak races as well) so I’ve always been a ‘multi-sport athlete’ rather than a cyclist. Come to think of it, I’m not sure what cycling discipline or cycling courses do suit me – I’m not really very good at any of them! It’s a bit late in my career to come to that realisation, but it’s all good fun so who cares if I’m good at it or not!
As usual, the seniors set off first followed by the V40’s 1 minute after them. I had a good start off the line, gained a few spots but then as we got up to full speed for the sprint along the tarmac I ran out of gears on my mountain bike and so started to drop back. I went into the first off-road section just behind Chris and Gethin who had gained on me and there were lots of other wheels around too. Things were pretty hectic for a while. I regained a few places through the grassy turns and then overtook Gethin through the first of the dismounts for a muddy ditch. Gethin was right on my back wheel though as we made our way up a grassy slope and then down through the muddy cabbage field and out onto a slippery track. We closed in on Chris and I overtook him by diving down the inside on a muddy bend. I stayed ahead of them through the rest of the lap. It took us over the hurdles, through another muddy ditch for which a dismount was required and then out along a bumpy, grassy section. The following track was a little slippery and led to a very muddy section before yet another ditch. This one was just about rideable and led to a concrete path and finally a few bends to the start-finish line. The next lap starts with a little climb, a few bumpy grassy areas with a little steep drop and then back out onto the lap. I had a good battle with Gethin here and then throughout lap 2 Gethin, Chris and I were all battling for position. It was good close racing and we all kept it clean. I was still out ahead of them both and we had been picking off other people here and there too. So far, the race was going well, I was competing well and coping with the technical sections too.
The second half of the race didn’t go quite so well though. I lost position to both Gethin and Chris and then as the rain started to fall I fell backwards by quite a way. I just couldn’t keep my bike on line as everything become more and more slippery. Every corner was a struggle and even on the straights it was difficult to stay on course. I ended up riding really cautiously just to stay upright and therefore slowed right down. Chris and Gethin disappeared into the distance and I lost a few other places too. I wasn’t the only one struggling as bikes and people slithered all over the place. The limits of the course were tested and I saw plenty of crashes. Even the leaders who lapped me towards the end were having difficulties as their bikes seemed to want to go places they didn’t want them to. Those that battled on and kept the speed up risked carnage at any moment. I played it more cautiously and just rode around in survival mode.
I was still catching and lapping tail-enders though, and passed Alan Haird on one of the laps. At least I was still going well enough to do that! I should probably give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he was lapping slowly just so that I would lap him and he’d get a mention in this write up. I had been chatting to him before the race and he’d said that maybe one day he’d be further up the field and battling with me so that he’d see his name here. Well, there you go Alan, fame at last! 🙂
Eventually I heard the sound of the bell. Music to my ears as one more lap was about all I could manage. The mud clogging everything now meant that my gears were slipping and my lack of control in the slippery conditions mean that I was fighting a losing battle. I just had to finish in one piece now for the day not to be a failure. I’d started to dismount through the 3rd of the ditches by now and once I was out of it this time I knew that I was OK. Just a few corners to go and I crossed the line. Job done, even if it wasn’t quite a fast as I had hoped. I think it’ll take me most of the week to remove all of the mud from everything ready for the next race!