Anyway, enough of this maudlin talk (although if you’ve tuned in to revel in my latest disappointment, see below or click the link above if it appears…). My friend Rich Mitch, a man for whom the expression ‘sunny disposition’ could have been invented, has been out cyclo-crossing again. Here’s his latest report:
Arriving at Reed Court Farm it felt like a large portion of the day had been spent on the winding highways and byways of Sussex and Kent getting to the course. The general theme of conversation amongst the familiar faces I have been chatting to at ‘cross races seemed to begin with the line “You got here alright then?” followed by a chortle from the old hands who had made the journey to this far flung round of the Mosquito Bikes London/South East Cyclo-Cross League more than once before.
This was [hopefully] going to be my longest journey to a race this season and, with the aid of various maps plus a navigator in the shape of my future wife Elli, we wound our way through fields punctuated by oast houses, all set against a backdrop of bright blue sky which England does so well in the autumn.
I had fuelled up for this race… I knew after Hog Hill – when my head took a long time to come around from its first ‘cross onslaught – that I had seriously under eaten pre-race. With a fast metabolism such as mine this was never going to end well. So I got up early to a breakfast of pasta and lots of other good stuff to make sure I had the tank brimmed for the race.
With a couple of well-timed energy gels [Torq Rhubarb and Custard – the first gel I’ve really enjoyed] I knew the only excuse for not performing this time was going to be my legs; that plus a couple technical sections which were pretty tricky on the warm up laps.
As I rolled to the start line I realised I had made my first schoolboy error of the day. I arrived at least 15 minutes before the start, but there were already a lot of riders waiting for the off. My chance of a good start position up the spout, I parked up next to another rider and chatted away until the seeded riders were called. A quick glance over my shoulder made me feel a little better: I was nowhere near the back, not by a long stretch, which lifted my spirits as the adrenaline started to build.
“RIDERS, I WILL START YOU IN THE NEXT 15 SECONDS…” Clip in, suck in some air, psych myself up… “GO!!!”
Right from the off it seemed I had left what some describe in ‘cross as my ‘Elbow Sharpener’ at home… riders were swarming everywhere and it was a struggle to hold my line and maintain a good position. But, as we came out of the start area onto the main course, I was able to move back up through the field on a small climb. It seems my 73kgs doesn’t do me too bad on these sections. The backlog of riders at the first technical section was a real bugger as a queue had formed and, stupidly, like a typical Brit I joined the back… [“You stupid boy, Pike”]. As riders came around me I suddenly switched on… This is a race you bloody idiot and I pushed my way forward and away.
The course at Reed Court Farm is based around numerous fields, separated by sections of single track and technical sections in ditches with tight corners. I was able to stick with a group and, as a lot of people have said about ‘cross, I found myself racing certain riders all the way round the course for the full hour of the event.
It was a blast; I found my descending had really improved as I was able to unclip my foot and barely touch the brakes as I moved past slower riders or other guys that I was racing.
The sun beat down and half way through i was feeling the effects. Luckily it was announced we were able to feed during this race and as I ripped through the start/finish area Elli was there with a well-timed bottle held at the perfect distance for me to swipe and take a quick swig from before discarding.
It worked wonders, clearing the dryness from my mouth. Having Elli there shouting for me was a real boost and kept me pushing on and chasing riders if they had got away through the winding, narrow single track that was my slowest section [needs some work!].
As the hour came to an end, and the final lap dawned, I was in the groove, legs screaming, lungs bursting, but really enjoyed the mix of terrains on the course. The more open sections were great for building up speed and usually this was where I was able to pass guys. Also, the lack of any major climbs was a real winner!
As i sprinted for the line I felt like I had put in a better performance than my first race – it had been more consistently strong across the hour… however… it turns out I was 78th out of 113 riders. Disappointing I guess, but lessons learned for next time. I can’t wait!