Tim Bailey rode the South of England Cyclocross champs on Sunday 4th December. How did he get on? Read on and find out...

A couple of weeks ago I saw a post on the Central cyclo-cross league informing riders we were eligible to race in the Southern regional champs in Swindon. I decided to see if I fulfilled the selection criteria, which was result based, and submitted an entry.  My recent form has been fair considering I had carried a cold for a month (a new record for me) but I have scored some BC point in the last few races (I currently sit in 10th place overall for my category in the league, not too bad seeing I had missed three rounds as well as being such a brave soldier and racing with a cold). A few days before the race my entry was accepted. I was looking forward to racing for the first time in a regional championship, I decided I would be happy with a top 20 finish.

Up before dawn on an icy Sunday morning, I loaded the car and headed towards Swindon. My race was starting at 11.45 and I wanted a couple of hours before the start to do all my preparations. After signing on and receiving my race number and electronic timing chip I got straight out on the course for a few recce laps. It was icy and the ground was rock hard in the shadows, but it was starting to thaw in the sun and starting to form a thin layer of mud on top. The course was long and mostly grassy but it flowed nicely and it was technically challenging with steep off camber sections as well as a short tarmac straight leading to an abrupt left hand drop off leading into the first grass section. Plenty of slippery mud made sure you would pay for any lack of concentration or gung-ho riding.

I decided to start with an intermediate tyre on the back and have my other bike with full mud tyres in the pit. It was a little risky as conditions were right on the edge but I thought it worth starting on a faster tyre and hoping the conditions didn’t deteriorate quickly.

Forty-eight riders assembled for my race on the tarmac straight and waited to be individually called to the grid. I was on the third row, so had a good few riders in front of me but also plenty behind. The whistle was blown and the charge for the first corner began. My start was okay, I kept out of trouble in the melee after some brief contact in the first twisty section I settled into a long line of front running riders, around fifteenth place. I felt good and seeing that the guys in front weren’t pulling away I had high hopes of moving up quickly. I had decided to push hard as I wanted to pass riders, rather than sit on their wheels so I made up a couple of places swiftly, very much aware that my rear tyre was losing grip much quicker than I had hoped and that I was just about hanging onto the bike in many sections. The back end was fishtailing alarmingly and I was losing traction when getting out of the saddle but I carried on regardless. I pushed hard and paid for it on the third lap. I crashed heavily on the fastest section, twisted my bars and banged up my knees on the frozen ground. I lost a lot of time but no one was too close to so I straightened my bars and remounted, heading towards the pits for a bike change. Andrew Whelan from 23c was there as my pit support and handed up my other bike with mud tyres. From then on I just pushed as hard as could, catching and passing riders as I went. Frustratingly I dropped it a couple more times resulting in my saddle getting twisted and another dismount to sort it out. I ended up giving back places I had taken but by the last lap had taken them all back again and was within three seconds of the rider in front. I crossed the line slightly frustrated but knowing I had ridden to the limit of my technical ability and hadn’t quit when my poor old right knee got banged up. I had no idea where I had finished, and hoped I had made the top twenty. From then on I was on pit duty for Andrew in the senior race and busy sorting out all the post-race stuff with the guys from 23c.

On Monday I was pleasantly surprised when the results were published and I saw that I had finished the race in 12th place. One less crash would have seen me well into in the top ten (as it was I came down three times). Being a higher category race it also means I was awarded nine BC points (the equivalent of a second place in a local league race).

 All in all, I made a bit of a pig’s ear of it really; my last two laps (on full mud tyres) were my fastest and if I had started on them I am sure I would have been higher placed. Having said that I am left feeling content (and a bit sore), and I had given my first regional champs a real go.