First round of the (to be sporadically attended by me...) Yorkshire summer CX season yesterday. I'd entered without really noticing how close after the Dirty Reiver, in a fit of excitement about getting a chance to try out my new bike, so - on realising - I'd sort of half written it off as anything but an hour of grinding sore legs round slowly and uncomfortably.
Lee, who keeps a far better track of these things, disagreed and pointed out that my legs tend to respond well when there's a touch of fatigue in them and that, although most of the summer training is aimed at TTs, I should still be able to hold my own in the very specific world of repeated sprints and recovery needed in CX. All very encouraging even if it did leave me in search of a secondary excuse for any poor performance!
Despite awful rush hour traffic I managed to get parked up early enough to have a bit of a warm up and get to the start line almost on time. I say almost as I was still rolling forward through the riders lined up in their correct positions when the whistle went and everyone sprinted off in front of me. Oh well, at least I'd be out of the way if my legs gave up on me... Th first few laps were spent on one of the steepest learning curves ever as the new bike - unridden until I rolled down to the start line - was instantly put to the test. If I had to use one word to describe the 'average' Yorkshire Cyclocross course, that word would be "cornery" (which isn't really a word, but never mind...) and this course was a masterclass in them. For the cornering aficionado, every type, size and shape was included. Fast, slow, tight, wide, off camber, uphill, downhill, strings of them in various orders. Every corner you could imagine, occasionally even (somehow...) corners within corners. For the first two or three laps I was all over the place working out how the bike would respond to my movements, what worked and what caused the tyres to drift, how tight a line I could hold and what steering input was needed. All while putting more and more faith in my ability to properly glue the new tubs onto the wheels (keeping up with the "new and untested" theme as far as I could!).
I was also grinning like a Cheshire cat.
True to Lee's prediction, my legs weren't much of an issue, certainly not as much as I expected, in fact the only real problem that had carried over from the 7.5hrs riding on Saturday was sore hands, the bumpy, solid (apart from one muddy puddle....) ground feeling somewhat like a jackhammer, made even worse by me leaving the new tubs pumped up quite hard (which also slightly hindered the cornering grip, so there's plenty more learning still to be done!).
As the race went on I got more to grips with the bike and started to speed up, not through putting more effort out through my legs, but just stringing the corners together a bit better. The bike was starting to feel great, even if everything on it was very quickly bedded in over the rutted nature of the course, with the classic "loose headset" feeling appearing pretty quickly, and I was starting to fall back in love with the close racing, skill and sheer fun involved in racing cross. Not that I was ever close to disliking it, or forgetting about it, but every time you race one of these things it's a reminder of how ace they are.
I managed to make up quite a few places over the 2nd half of the race, even if I was miles off the front and by the final lap was feeling pretty 'zen' on the bike. It was more than capable of dealing with whatever stomping power I tried to push out on the straighter sections and showed itself to be happy carving round any of the types of corner it was flung into. Proper tool for the job.
I crossed the finish line several minute down on the podium places (and feeling fine with that, given the steady start/first few laps), but still in a decent 8th place (or 2nd in the V40s behind Ian Taylor, who really should be a V50 by now, surely ;-) ). I'd loved how all of the adult races rode together and how down-to-earth it all was; no pits or anything like that, just a bunch of people racing whoever happened to be around them, one bike, one race course, no aggro just plenty of gasping for breath and plenty of opportunities for taking (or losing...) places. Brilliant.
Big shout out to everyone involved in setting the event up and, of course, to the ever positive Lee from @ North Cycling Performance who knows my legs better than I do! Roll on the rest of (summer) cross season :)
PS here is a picture of the bike I've been waffling on about, with sweat, snot and a bit of mud on - as it should be :) Even the low rent drivechain was impeccably behaved throughout!