I get 'cross

My journal of cyclocross
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Classics and  cycling sprint ace - Tom Boonen

Gary Barlow off of Take That (blonde on the left)
... famous people

Marcel Kittel (cyclist, Giant-Shimano)

 Dolph Lundgren (Rocky, View to a Kill)

will not miss
Cleaning my bike in the dark, every weekend for 17 weekends

Getting my bike out of the shed the following weekend to find, there are still smeary marks and bits of dirt I missed.

Digging twigs, stones and clumps of sand from the seal of the washing machine

Training on a turbo in pitch black

Car Tetris

Jet washing my shoes, daily rotating the newspaper stuffing and pray they will be dry by the next weekend

Getting up a 7am on Saturday/Sunday and missing a re-run of Frasier by driving to a cyclocross race

Going on the M1

will miss
ViCiOUS pint-sized cheerleaders and 'Paul' the mud dumpling

Shredding off road on skinny tyres, feeling out of control and trying to go faster

Winning cyclocross races

Followed by awkward podium presentations

Signing people's autographs

Having a slightly bruised shoulder on Monday mornings

Running on muddy paths around Tooting Common as the sun comes up

Hanging out with ViCiOUS velo at races, making jokes, having ideas showers, smashing into bushes, yelling at them from the sidelines 

Trying to race in the cyclocross motherland 

The peculiar smell of damp mud

Finding a secret line on a section of course to go faster than everyone else

When people in the crowd call your name and cheer with as much energy as they can muster

Riding on the turbo and getting to that point where your muscles feel so tired they they fizz then feel white hot, sort of cold but that makes you try to go faster

My bikes are now in the loft, seven months and counting.

Imagine mud and then image riding on mud that feels like a slick frozen pond except with the added bonus of filth spraying on your legs, in your hair and all over the bike. That was the course at Derby.
The frost and hard frozen bike lines were melted within a lap of the first race on the course and by the time the gun went for the Elite Women's race the lines I was going to use were non-existent. The the mud's favourite task was to wrap itself in clumps around very part of the frame. Every gap, every hole, plugged by mud.
The canti brake bike went straight back in the boot of the car. It was go disc brakes or go home kinda scenario. The disc brakes ensured that for at least half a lap the wheel could spin freely. The instant a canti brake bike touched the mud, it gravitated towards the brake stopping on the brake arm and resisting the wheel. 

I fell on the opening lap and lost a few places. By the 3rd and 4th lap I was most running the originally ride-able sections. My running ability enabled me to take back a chunk of places (thank-goodness for Tooting Common Tabata runs).
For a final two laps I was locked in battle of being chased by the former Junior Champion, Hannah Payton and trying to catch up to the former World Champion Tracey Moseley. I could run the sections faster than Moseley but she definitely had the edge riding in the mud. Where I started to slide sideways she would continue straight, when I got off to run, she would ride a couple bike lengths more before dismounting.

Happy to get back to 11th, but annoying I couldn't make the top 10 spot. It was a tough race but the  transitioned into one where soft light pedalling, pointing the bike against the camber was the only way to get around. Hope, try and glide, I didn't feel my physical fitness was coming into it. Another lap I think I might have got another place back or perhaps if I hadn't fallen within the first three minutes of the race, maybe I'd have been better placed?

Huge thank-you to the Barnes family. Graham, Emily and David help pretty much ensured I was 11th and without their help I wouldn't have had a nice clean bike ready every half lap! 
Another huge thanks to ViCiOUS Velo crew, especially Paul and Delia for coming with me on my silly Belgium whims! We've had some great times over the tunnel. 

1 Helen Wyman Kona FSA Factory Team 41 14 0 0
2 Nikki Harris Young Telenet Fidea Cycling Team 1 14
3 Ffion James (J) Abergavenny RC/Lane/Govilon 5 37
4 Abby-Mae Parkinson (J) RST Racing Team 5 54
5 Amira Mellor (J) Paul Milnes/Bradford Olympic RC 6 32
6 Diane Lee Team Mulebar Girl – Sigma Sport 6 58
7 Alice Barnes Scott Contessa Epic 8 24
8 Bethany Crumpton Hargroves Cycles/Specialized/Trant 9 2
9 Delia Beddis Vicious Velo 9 8
10 Tracy Moseley Malvern Cycle Sport 9 28
11 Claire Beaumont Vicious Velo 10 11
12 Hannah Payton The Kinesis Morvelo Project 10 30
13 Sarah Murray www.cxmagazine.com 12 56
14 Sarah Lomas (J) Scott Contessa Epic 13 15
15 Tamina Oliver Team CTC 14 2
16 Isla Short (J) Team Thomsons Cycles at 1 lap
17 Rachel Fenton Trek Bicycle Coventry at 1 lap
18 Rebecca Womersley Scott Contessa Epic at 1 lap
19 Anna Cipullo Hargroves Cycles/Specialized/Trant at 1 lap
20 Jessica Wilkinson (J) Birkenhead North End CC at 1 lap

35 riders
Read that on The Oatmeal, the author of the blog just ran a 50 mile ultra marathon in 11 hours. P.S the blog has nothing to with running , more comics, quizzes and jokes.

...I think that that's a very novel idea! 

Last weekends race (Flickr)

Image: Balint Humvas for Cyclephotos.co.uk 
Delia and I wanted to do another cross race in Belgium that was at least UCI - C2 or C1 in classification (higher than British National Trophy races).

We have to pick them not on the course but on the distance from Calais and so it came to be that we registered and entered for a race in Essen, a small town on the boarder of Belgium and the Netherlands, now home of superstar cross rider Zydnek Stybar.

Looking at previous videos of the race, it has historically always been muddy. The course is in a field with a disused railway station and crumbling former ticket hall in the centre of all the racing.
Flat as a pancake, they course designer had added with own man-made obstacles to force the flow of the race. Two earthy mounds that you'd need to sprint up, a bomb hole (that I struggled to ride out of), a metal stair run up and a metal bridge to ride over.
The final obstacle which I doubt was man-made but must have delighted the crowd was the mud> Thicker than thick, stickier than glue. As soon as my wheels touch the first bog that just past the start/finish line it sank in, stopping my bike and almost bucking me forward. Running was the only option but no easier. The sludge swallowed my foot, muck reaching up to my shins.

The race went pretty well, we got quite cold waiting in the car before the race, waiting in the grid I was shivering.
I followed Delia through the first muddy running section pushing slower riders out of the way. We remounted in 20th position. After the second lap I faded slightly, not managing to rail my bike through the very twisty turns as efficiently as others.
It was a relentless course, I looked for sections to rest on but there were none, if you didn't ride hard all the time your bike would come to a stop.
After slogging through twisty turns at the back of the course, there was then a run up. Then sprint accelerations to get over two consecutive mounds before hitting another deep bog that you had to really focus on to run through. Concentration fell to gathering all ones strength pulling my feet clear  from the deep troughs I was creating with each step. Then we remounted on thick mud and had to do a seated power acceleration to get through it otherwise you'd ground to a halt and have to get off again.
On the last two laps I rode as hard as I could and ran as fast as my heart would allow, I won back two places and ensured I was no way near being lapped by the eventual winner, Sanne Cant.
Image: Gabby Day rides past the decaying ticket hall.
Balint Humvas for Cyclephotos.co.uk
Image: Nikki Harris runs through the second bog.
Balint Humvas for Cyclephotos.co.uk
Image: After the race.
 Balint Humvas for Cyclephotos.co.uk
Image: World Champ Sven Nys strains to ride clear of the bomb hole. Cyclephotos.co.uk
Highlights of the junior and women's race below follow by full coverage of  the men race. 
For women's highlights fast forward to 2mins 40 seconds - provides a pretty good flavour of the course.

Final Result:
1. Sanne Cant, Bel
2. Helen Wyman, Gbr
3. Nikk Harris, Gbr
19th. Delia Beddis (same lap)
26th. Claire Beaumont (same lap)

40 finishers

Opted out of the National Trophy in Shrewsbury because originally no Vicious riders were planning on go and its a really far away course, a good course but a long way away. 
Decided to ride London League a course that uses the grounds of Bethlam Royal Hospital. This would be my first race since Christmas break and the race in Essen. 
There is a wooded section and if the course designer deems it necessary, and this one did, the option to use a large open field. With the awful rain of Christmas it was a bogged, waterlogged 1km of solid riding into the wind and against the resistant of long chewed up grass.

Notes from the race:
Poor start - shouldered bike through the first technical, pushing inept people out the way
Caught up to the 3rd place woman (Onett Deli, a Hungarian MTB champion). 
Rode with Onett who had plenty of power on the thousand metres of grass - but was struggling to keep up with her, but focused on just sticking to her back wheel. 
Her efforts enabled us to ride back to lone leader, Louise Mahe.
Onett then proceeded to run out of energy, I attacked Louise and kept the pressure on for the last 2 laps to secure the win. 
It was filthy muddy but my gloves soon got soak and had no grip. 
The appalling weather seemed to play in my favour.

Happy with that ride. Initially I thought I would have finished 2nd at best and 1st was too far gone.

This Sunday is the National Championship in Derby - race time 12.45