Tim Bailey's report on the 10th event in the Central Cyclocross League

The bottle of beer I had just bought slipped from under my arm and smashed at my feet. I watched the ale soak into my shoe and decided that was probably the most upsetting part of my day. My journey back from Hillingdon in West London, had been slightly fraught and tiring. Misty conditions on the roads had resulted in a couple of minor accidents that had slowed the traffic to a halt on the M25 motorway. Men in weatherproof hi-vis jackets solemnly laid out road cones to block off the affected lanes. Passing motorists surveyed the crumpled cars, their drivers and passengers who huddled nearby, poorly dressed for the cold drizzle, waiting for the traffic Cops to take their details.

In every cyclo-cross race there is a designated zone of the course where spare bikes, wheels, pressure washers, buckets of water and warmly dressed family members/friends/teammates in wellies attend to racers needs. This is called the ‘pits’. In a muddy race this allows you to swap a mud clogged bike, while the one you have dropped off is cleaned ready for your next visit. After the first lap, it became clear to me that I needed to swap bikes. Not having a spare bike in the pits (or anywhere else), my options were to quit before something broke (I was running about fifth-again!) or to stop and try to clear some muck out. I dismounted and made an attempt to clear some of the mud impregnated knotted grass that plastered my bike. It was a futile exercise, as only a lap later my rear derailleur snapped in a half going up a steep bank (not the hanger which is designed to fail, but the actual body of the mech). If I had been closer to the pits I may run in as it is quite common that on arrival you will be offered a bike/wheel/shoe by a complete stranger. That’s the camaraderie of amateur cyclo-cross racing, and one of the many reasons why I love the sport so much. There is something really pleasing about seeing someone hand over a £1500 bike over to a stranger without a second thought about whether it will come back in one piece (they always do). With no time to make any kind of adjustment to the bike means that you may well see a see a 5’ 6” rider ride off on tippy toes because the bike handed up belongs to someone six inches taller, who uses a different pedal system.

 With my race over, I hitched my bike onto my shoulder and made my way back to the start/finish line. On the way, I had a chat to a vet racer who was marshalling, deciding he didn’t fancy breaking another di2 derailleur (he’s already broken two this season!) which made me feel a little better about my knackered 105 mech, which was still jammed in the spokes of my backwheel. I enjoyed being a spectator for the last couple of laps, shouting encouragement to the racers as they passed. I know from experience that the sound of a cow bell ringing or someone calling your club name does make a difference to your race, you just dig that bit deeper, changes your mind about quitting. Dave had a good race finishing 14th in what had proved to be a heavy course, a very creditable result.

I caught up with Dave and Adriana (who was making her return to racing) before her race started on my way back to the car to dump my bike and put on some dry clothes. Feeling warmer, I headed to the clubhouse to pick up a couple of hot drinks and then to the pits, where I had arranged to meet Dave. We cheered on Adriana as she passed, who crossed the line in 14th place. She did very well even to finish such a tough course, considering she hasn’t raced for months. I was tempted to hang around for the Seniors race, but figured I needed to get home before dark to clean my kit and assess the damage, anyway I was looking forward to a post-race beer.

Dave's comments...

I found the course slightly worse than last year. Didn’t mind the mud and slipping around. Plan was to carry on regardless as all around had mechanicals and clogged with mud. Result was a good one considering I do 1 or 2 hours max on a bike every week, steadily watching my threshold power reduce and fitness become less. No technical problems, disc brakes and no bridges in the chainstays or seatstays kept the wheels turning, my vote for the Giant TCX bike design.

Maybe it was the new wheels I have built, about a 400 grams saved and more bling?

Perhaps ‘training’ for that one perfect race all year is a waste of time…..oh, I have done some running also !

Adriana would have found this super tough, she has beaten many of the people ahead of her before but the conditions were full on technical and slow. We are a bit short of pictures as we were racing/warming up.

And a couple of photographs...