I had kind of mixed emotions after the final round of the UK Cyclocross National trophy last weekend. I was pleased with a solid ride and managing to stay upright for the entire race which seemed to be the biggest challenge, but I was disappointed to miss the podium again by a small margin. I am getting a little too well acquainted with the number 4, it’s not a bad number, it’s just that it isn’t a number that usually features on the podium. So I am just going to have to be patient and put my hopes on next season. It’s kind of funny that I what started as ‘I’ll give this a try over the winter months..’ has basically turned into a full scale hunger for more and more cyclocross racing – I just didn’t imagine to enjoy it as much as I have.
What a mission just getting to the race. With our lead Swindon ‘organise everything’ man out with a bad back, another team mate opting for a triathlon, suddenly there were just two of us left to put a good showing up for the Swindinites. So Crispin and I decided to catch the train to Oakham including bikes, spare wheels, food and luggage and then bike to our accommodation and then bike to the race. It was a workout on it’s own just getting all our equipment to the hotel. Thumbs up to Crispin for sorting such good accommodation to make up for the energy wasted getting there. When I first got into racing I would think nothing of doing this sort of thing on regular basis being a poor student and not able to afford to hire a car or stay any where other than a youth hostel etc.. but I know from these experiences how much it can damage your legs for race day and I do my best to avoid this sort of thing if possible.
The course ROCKED. I really rated it for variety. It was set over a series of very small inclines (kind of like the ones you get at a dirt jump park) and swooped around, over them and off them and it was a lot of fun. There were some baby drops which is always entertaining on a bike without suspension and one very technical climb that you needed a lot of momentum for otherwise you just ended up rolling in reverse! And to top it off it had a really pretty scenic section grovelling through shingle following alongside the lake. It was also very very muddy and boggy with a lot of the corners becoming unrideable by the time the elite men started in the afternoon.
I actually got quite nervous before the race which I don’t tend to suffer from anymore (thank goodness), so it was annoying that it was back. I used to have problems getting a good nights sleep days out from major events and would arrive on the start line tired from ‘worrying’ about the race. A few nerves at a race are a good, but a lot are a waste of energy and it has taken me a while time to keep them at bay. I think that more racing definitely helps as well as more consistency as you can usually gauge how you are going to go. Over the last 5 months we (Mentors + Amy Taylor + me) have made some major changes to my training and there is always the concern ‘what if my body doesn’t respond the way we have planned for it too?’. That was definitely rattling around in my head a smidgen on Sunday, but I am stoked to see that I am still heading forwards and not backwards…
There were about 14 women on Sunday but I think a few must have pulled out with mechanicals . I really overestimated my leg strength off the start line by sitting in a way too bigger gear and got left behind in the first 20 metres while I sorted it out – won’t do that again. To make up for it I took a risking line on the outside to try and squeeze in behind the extremely talented junior Mountain biker Annie Last (5th at the world MTB champs in Australia). Annie lead into the single track but took a tumble on the first muddy corner and I jumped into the lead . I was like ‘Cool.. I am winning…’ but unfortunately it didn’t last long and within a few minutes I had Lilly Matthews in front, before she wiped out, I got in the lead again but was overtaken by her and Annie a minute later. I sat in 3rd for a while but was passed by another speedy junior Ruby Miller and rode on for 4th place. It was tough going in the mud and just so slow in places. Sometimes it was faster just climbing out the saddle. I used down hill sections just to give the legs a break! Annie Last rode on to win with a big margin of 2.5 minutes, followed by Lily and Ruby. These junior riders are just so fast. I wasn’t even riding/racing bikes at 17 and I am just startled by their talent when they are have so many years left in the tank. You start thinking ‘if they are this fast now…what are they are going to be like in another couple of years?’. They also look so fresh after the races. When I crossed the finish line I looked wrecked and battered.
Big thanks have to go out to Crispin for his support in the race and yelling out split times, and also to Rob and Anna from Manchester University who took pity on us riding back to the train station looking sorry for ourselves and gave us a lift into Oakham - THANKS HEAPS. Finally HUGE thanks to Andy and the SWINDON ROAD CLUB for all your support this winter. I will definitely be back for more..
The Cyclocross Trophy was last big hit out until I fly home to New Zealand in 3 weeks time to see my family and do some road racing. I am pretty sure I am going to suffer for the first few days with any temperature in the double figures after such a freezing winter here. I have found it hard going with training/riding this winter in the UK. Where I am from in NZ it rarely gets down to the negatives and I have definitely had to learn how to ‘toughen up’ here in England. What I am excited about is arriving back to the UK in March and potentially riding without leg warmers, booties and sealskin socks.