Tim Bailey reports on the 9th Central Cyclocross round, held on 22nd November:

This round of the Central league cyclocross took the racing to a former golf course (now a public park). This year’s league has seen an increase in the number of clubs hosting races and as a consequence more varied courses. Hosted by GC Henley and 70 miles from MK, it was a drag to get to but as there is a three week break before the next round I decided it was worth the effort. Dave and Adriana also made the trip and we had a chat on the way to sign on and collect our timing chips (which would record our lap times and positions during the race). Hopefully Adriana will be back racing very soon but in the mean time she is doing a great job as NBRC official photographer. Thanks Adriana!

As it turns out a golf course is very good for cx racing. The rolling terrain was a little soft but well drained, so there was very little mud. The obstacles included ditches and a deep sand trap (this caught out Mike Simpson, who was leading the race until a heavy crash in the sand which ripped the sole from one of his shoes!). All in all it was quite technical and long sections were very narrow but on a long lap there are always places to overtake. Because of the conditions I decided to use intermediate tyres and leave my mud tyres as spares in the pits. I felt pretty confident that the faster tyres would give enough traction in the muddy bits to get through and shed whatever they picked up on the drier parts of the course.

It was a very chilly day but nearly 70 competitors turned out for the midday race anyway. By far the largest field of the day was the Vet 40-49 category with sixty-one starters including Dave and me. Gridded on the front row I had a good view of the wide, short ramp up to the first corner. Having ridden the course I knew there was a very narrow section immediately after that corner, a pinch point for the mass of riders at the start. I made a good start and was running in around 13th place on the first lap. A couple of laps later I was in a tight group of three riders, exchanging 5th place between us. We had opened up a gap on 8th place and were steadily pulling in the man ahead. Unfortunately as we passed under some trees, a long twig was kicked up into my rear derailleur and cassette where it caught. With my derailleur mis-shifting horribly, I had no option but to dismount and clear it before it did some real damage. Having lost a few places I started to chase back, but I was running out of time with the end of the race approaching. Pushing on hard, it was great fun getting the bike to slide around, correcting the wheel drifting with little adjustments to steering and weight distribution. Inevitably I made mistakes that cost me more time. The most frustrating one was catching my front wheel in a tree root and twisting the bars requiring another dismount to straighten the bars. The most embarrassing mistake was dropping it in a corner while announcing to the two backmarkers I was about to pass which side I was coming through on (I should have said “underneath you”). In the end I finished in 9th place, all things considered not so bad, but a little frustrating as I had felt pretty good when running higher up the field with just two laps to go. Dave finished a very creditable 20th and his form is steadily improving. This meant NBRC was the only club to have two riders in top 20. Not too shabby.

After the race Dave and I spent a little time chatting with other riders before the cold forced us to make our way back to the car park for more clothing and the long drive home. It was then that I discovered the release catch on my left shoe had been snapped off (probably when I had my little off trying to get past backmarkers) and after much heaving and pulling, it seemed very likely I would be driving home wearing one muddy cycling shoe. I managed to release the ratchet after going through my kit and finding a suitable tool, now that was a small victory.

Hillingdon is up next, which I hope will be better than last year. My race ended after 100m when I was taken out in the sprint for the first corner by a kamikaze move from a rider who took me down heavily, wrecking both my wheels beyond repair and bruising my knees badly in the process

Dave writes - It was a near perfect race for me considering I didn't quite have the fitness to remain in around the approx 15th place after two laps. Only snag was I couldn't feel my feet to clip in after the dismounts so was a bit slow to get cranking after sandpit. Expected Aaron to come barrelling past on last lap as he was breathing down my neck at points. Highlights for me was getting sideways at speed round the corners after pits, new bike is the dogs bits, easy to push to limits.

I think you must have had a ReadyBrek glow going in cold conditions? I had a good race in the seniors last year at Hillingdon so will see if this is the standard from now!