Here's Nathan's report on the fifth round in the Central Cyclocross League Round 5.

Arrived for round 5 feeling a little under the weather, but decided to ride anyway as conditions were fine and dry, if a little chilly. The complete opposite of last weeks event at LBRCC.

I rode a practice lap with two guys I’d regularly found myself battling with over the last few races, Mark from Bossard Wheelers, and a guy called Neil whom I think is unattached to a club. We chatted as we scouted the layout, which was very technically challenging with a very fast tarmac start, followed by a number of off camber turns (both down and uphill) in the first section, including the corner that saw me stuff my chances of a good finish in the last race at the bowl. A second fast tarmac section gave little chance to recover, but I expected this would be where I could make time/positions up as I’ve previously been stronger through the fast sections. The course then featured a steep climb through the wood, which would require a dismount, before remounting, and riding through a twisting downhill section. Once descended it was flat out into a U turn, then back up the side of the bowl with a twisty ascent, before coming back down and gathering some speed where the boards lay in wait after the final corner and just before the start finish straight. The fine conditions, meant that grip was in abundance and I was happy with the intermediate challenge grifo tyres I was running, unlike the week before where the quagmire meant I felt I was riding on ice!

I met up with John Reed for the start, and we ended up second row on the grid. As it was tarmac, the start was more aggressive than usual with an all out sprint straight from the line. A look at my post race data shows over 700 watts power output, with a speed of 20 miles per hour for the initial sprint which gives you an idea of how competitive it can get, even though it is the “novice category”. As we negotiated the initial few off camber corners, which I found faster to dismount and run the bike through, a crash held up the field behind myself and John. I hung on to Mark from Bossard Wheelers, and had John about a place or two ahead of me. He was obviously feeling strong, and his mountain biking background paying dividends for him.  At numerous points throughout the lap I was grateful to hear Tim shouting encouragement at me, it does always give you a little boost when you hear a familiar voice.

The dismount and remount over the boards always causes me to lose time, fortunately I managed to get over much more smoothly  than on previous occasions and didn’t lose any positions. This was pleasing as my other half and youngest daughter were spectating, it’s one thing to look rubbish in front of strangers, you definitely don’t want to do it in front of your family. I crossed the line, and negotiated the s bends and onto the smooth tarmac at the beginning of lap 2. As I rode up the banking, I started to feel the rim through my rear wheel…. I shouldered the bike and ran the uphill section, having a quick look at the tyre as I did so… it appeared ok, but as I run clinchers at around 20-25 PSI it can be difficult to tell. I remounted for the short down hill, and made my way into the pit which was at the bottom. Unfortunately, it had noticeably gone down by this point and having no spare bike or spare wheelset that was race over. I can’t say I wasn’t a tiny bit relieved, because it was a very challenging course and I wasn’t feeling particularly well!

I walked the bike to the start/finish straight and suck around to watch John and shout encouragement (or abuse….). This obviously worked as he rode to a sterling 8th place.

After the novice race I stayed around to watch Aaron in the Vets 40, who had another good race, and then to watch Adrianna in the women’s race and Tim in the vets 50. Once again joined by a still unwell Dave Goodhew, providing pit services. We were immediately called into action for a bike change as Tim “breaker of bikes” Bailey rolled a tub in the first couple of corners. Reports that this was karma after him mocking Aaron for doing the same thing last week are unconfirmed….