Cyclocross 2019 – Rnd 7, Newport
Somehow we are at round 7 of the Cyclocross season. It was a few weeks ago that I was in rain-soaked fields near Llandysul for round 4. Since then, I missed a race as I was hiking Mt, Toubkal in Morocco, another round was cancelled due to flooding and so we now seem to be at round 7 already. It was a return to Tredegar Park in Newport for this round and therefore a long, almost 3 hour drive, for me.
Once there and signed on it was time to recce the course. It was essentially the same as last time but in the opposite direction. Steep climbs were now steep descents. The other complete contrast was that last time it was bone dry, This time it was as wet as could be. Talk about a mud-fest!
I recce’d the bike on both my CX bike and my MTB and decided that the cyclocross bike cut through the mud a little better and therefore had more grip and was a little more predictable. It was all relative though as the conditions meant that both led to something of a white-knuckle ride with the bike slipping, sliding and squirming all over the place.
The sun was shining as the earlier races progressed but things out on the course weren’t drying up. The puddles were deep and long and there was mud everywhere.
Cyclocross Race Time
We were soon lined up for the start though. Chris was right next to me one place ahead of me in the seedings, Gair was on the other side of me as we chatted before the start. The Seniors set off and then it was our turn. The whistle sounded and we were off. I got away from the line OK initially but then just got bogged down. My rear wheel was spinning, I was sinking in the mud going nowhere fast. Chris and Gair disappeared ahead of me and I did my best to get going.
I’m not very good at riding through thick mud at the best of times and don’t really like the way the bike changes direction underneath me. Doing so in close confines of other people is even worse so I just lost more places as we headed out onto the lap. To make matters worse, by the time I got to the end of the first straight my bike was already completely clogged with mud. I’m sure it was the same for everyone but I was already having issues with just keeping the thing going let alone trying to go fast.
I soon settled into a decent pace, but didn’t ever feel as though I was getting anywhere fast. Basically it was taking all of my power to overcome the mud and all of my skill to keep the bike pointing forwards. The cut grass of the climb just clogged things up even more. People were dropping like flies. Gair sheared off his rear derailleur and had to abandon the race. I stopped on each lap to clear some of the mud and muck from my bike and just tried to keep going. Plenty of other people were seen running back to the pits or giving up at the side of the course. Those lucky enough to have spare bikes and pit crews were swapping bikes on most laps so as to get a clean(ish) one.
By the third lap my bike was suffering as much as I was. The rear wheel clogged completely at one point so I was off again to clear it and then dived into the pits to swap to my mountain bike. Suddenly I had a new lease of life. My wheels were turning and I set off in pursuit. I was catching people again now and overtaking them. This bike was soon clogged as well and needed clearing each lap but I was at least lapping back markers and making up places as I went. I didn’t see Chris as he was way ahead of me by now, but I kept going and finally heard the bell. By now I was running quite a bit of the course as that was easier than riding it and no slower. Just one more lap to go to cross the finish line and score some points. Not many points as I was only in 18th place but they all add up and at least I’d finished.
My bikes were finished as well. What a mess!
With the cancellation of a couple of races in the series, it does mean that only 5 races will count. I think that was my 4th finish of the season, so only one more to get all 5 finishes and if I can do a couple more after that I’ll be able to discard my lowest which will probably be useful!
The drive home was something of a nightmare as well with floods, road closures, diversions and then a 30 minute wait in standstill traffic between Llangurig and Aberystwyth. I made it in the end but left the cleaning of bikes for another day.