This week's Cyclocross report is from John and Nathan:

The CCXL events are impressively and consistently organised by a different host club each week and Round 9 at Prologis Park near Kettering was no exception.  Sounding more like an Industrial Park than a cycling location the reality was that we were heading to a course laid out in a country park, which was created for local community use by the logistics property developer Prologis.   Indeed, Tim and Dave feature on their news page here:

A frosty but sunny Saturday morning welcomed the early arrivals at the event.  A ride of the course revealed a healthy mix of switchbacks, long grassy descents and climbs and even a short single track section through a wooded area. Limited chance for a recovery breather anywhere though .... Just to add some interruption to the lap was a very short steep up ramp, followed by a corresponding short steep down ramp offering peril for the unprepared to fall while carrying a bike with lots of pointy metal components on your shoulder (well this is cyclocross after all).

Fortunate news for us Novices was that this feature along with the hurdle section was not in our circuit. Good luck Tim...

Having worked out that being at the front of the grid at the start is a Good Thing I lined up with Nathan who was sporting a sexy new single ring set-up.  I got to the first corner at the head of the pack which helped as the first section was narrow in places and duly went about getting my heart rate into CX territory (i.e. bumping along at a ridiculous level for 30 minutes in my case).

Lap 1 saw me passed at speed by the eventual winner who came in some 3 minutes ahead of the next finisher!  Lap 2 saw me dismount unexpectedly on an innocuous corner and let another rider through (I think Sideways Gallavan also styled it up on the same corner on another lap). So now it was down to me to push out and try to keep my place.  I crossed the line in third at the end of lap 3 but still had one more to go as another rider slipped by although by now with the volume dial at number 11 I was feeling the fatigue!  As we came in close to the finish area for the final switchbacks I was cheekily passed by another rider so I put my best gurn on and stayed on his wheel hoping for a finish line miracle sprint on my part.  Sadly, he had a better one (a sprint not a gurn) and there was a proper finish line free for all as we caught the formerly third-place rider unawares right at the end.  Cue some chip timing confusion but as it turns out I got 4= once the dust had settled.

So, another weekend of smile inducing learning in my CX journey!  As my daughter succinctly pointed out ‘You just need to go faster Daddy’.

Over to Nathan...

Thanks John. My legendary organisational skills meant that I arrived at the venue just after 10am, and after signing on and attaching the timing chip and race number in record time, I scooped my bike out of the car and headed over to the course to try and get a scout lap/warm up in. Unfortunately, the lack of time and my brilliant sense of direction (i.e having no real clue which way the course went) meant that I ended up just doing a very small loop around the start finish. This was far from ideal as I was using an absoluteblack 38t single chainring set up after ditching the 46/36 double and had no idea whether I would have enough low gear for the steep sections (I run a 12-28 10 speed cassette), or a big enough gear for the fast sections . As they say, “the biggest risk is not taking any risk” (I believe it was Mark Zuckerberg, and I’m not certain he was debating changing from a cx double to a single ring setup…..)

I made my way towards the timing tent at the start after completing my pathetic loop, and said hello to John…. After a quick chat about the course terrain, and the fact that it seemed like it was going to be a pretty quick course it was time to line up at the start. The novice race doesn’t have gridding so it’s a bit of a free for all at the start… after some jostling, I settled in the third row, behind John who had got in the front. It’s often hard to overtake in a CX race as it can be quite narrow, so getting a good position at the start is very important. However, seeing as I had missed a couple of races through illness and still had the lingering effects, I was pretty confident I wasn’t going to be troubling the top places. My plan was to take it easy and treat it as a skills practice.

Then the whistle went.

A surge forward, the wheel in front of me doesn’t get going as the rider couldn’t clip in first time (been there mate…. More than once….), evasive action to get through and stamp on the pedals…. Suddenly made three places up and guessed I was hovering around 16th place as we went into the first corner, a sharp right hand turn.  A small straight followed; into a downhill left… take care to avoid the R and D cycles rider who’s come off (nerves and over enthusiasm?). Settle down, narrow section, no room for overtaking… faster than these guys though… got to get though…

After following in a procession for most of the lap, then comes the climb, nice and draggy, this is where I will make up position I think to myself as I take 3 places. A couple of fast turns and we’re round, hands in the drops picking up some speed, I cross the start finish line and start lap 2.

The second lap is a battle for 7th between four of us; me and an unknown/unattached rider, the rider from R and D cycles who came off early on lap 1 has got back on, and a rider from Aylesbury CC. We’ve gapped everyone behind us, but I can’t tell how far away we are from the lead group. I felt confident I was the strongest rider in this group, but as is often the case, my ability let me down as I chose to go around what should have been a straightforward corner on my side. I got back on as quick as possible and chased onto the back of the group, holding the wheel of the Aylesbury rider (who was chuckling at my swearing to myself), with the R and D cycles rider just ahead of us. I overhauled them both again only to fall off around another corner, on my other side. At least my muddy kit now matched.

A hard chase back and I was with the Aylesbury rider as we went through the final lap, I felt that he was tiring quicker than me and thought I would be able to take him once we got out of the singletrack through the wood, but a misjudged line resulted in me getting the front wheel stuck in a tree route. I heaved it out, and again tried to chase this guy down but unfortunately ran out of road taking the flag. John, by virtue of being in the mix had a fourth lap to do, so I stood by the start/finish shouting encouragement to him as he fought for position. After checking our results, we were provisionally given 3rd (John) and 9th (me), however there appears to have been some technical issue with one of the other riders chips, as we were later demoted to 4th and 10th. Still, it was a great morning of racing for both of us.

The only other NBRC rider was Tim Bailey, who has recently been in great form with a 5th place at the previous round. His excellent form continued with another great ride into 10th place here, pushing him further up the league rankings.