So my run of wins finished. Two wins in a row at the cyclo cross races - Strood, then Hillingdon. But then the curse of Deers Leap Park reared its ugly head and tripped me up - literally !
Deers Leap is one of those course you either love or hate. As cyclo cross courses go it is fast, but not flat - lots of ups, downs, twists and turns. It's the cyclo cross equivalent of Crystal Palace road race circuit - a rollercoaster ride. Many people love it.
Mind you, the first round held there last season became a complete mudbath as the heavens opened. The second round held there was in more pleasant conditions, but the mud was still extremely sticky. The field became a mini exhibition of broken rear mechs ! A real nightmare !
However, in the "dry" this is a favourite among the accomplished 'cross riders. Watching them sail around the course is poetry in motion.
You get straight sections where you really pick up speed as you hurtle through the fields, but then the run is punctuated with a sharp turn through trees, a twisting descent that you take somewhat gingerly, and then a sharp climb which you attack with gusto, but then you lose commitment, your momentum drops, and you're forced to dismount and finish things off on foot. You get a few of these along the course, some in quick succession. Then as if you haven't lost enough time you are slowed right down as you struggle up the long drag. That's how I negotiate the course on a good day !
Unfortunately last Sunday was a bad day. I didn't "come to the race" (as Sprinter Michael Johnson used to say). I'd brought my bike, dressed in my kit, but I'd left my confidence at home.
The warm up frightened me - I stood and contemplated each drop-off for about 3 minutes before trying to take the plunge - only to quickly dismount and run down the slope. The run-ups were just that - run-ups. Where was the momentum to ride up ?? Of course all this dithering meant that I was still trying to complete the course when the start gun was sounded !
It made no difference to me. This disastrous recce-ing meant that I had already decided to remove my number and take no part in the race. Had I returned to the HQ area earlier I might even have asked for my entry fee back !
The commissaire was quite apologetic as he saw me emerge through the trees and realised what had happened. (The race had apparently begun earlier than scheduled when they'd mistakenly thought all the riders were present.)
"It's ok I'm not ready to race. The course is too tough for me." I said, still feeling shell-shocked by the obstacles. In the end, I was allowed to pootle around - if nothing else, just as training.
I managed to get in a few laps - but really it had become more like a cross-country running event for me ! I was pleased that I attempted 2 or 3 dips, but I didn't do anything cleanly - especially when I had to deal with the stress of fast and furious elites on my tail trying to squeeze round me !
Needless to say I didn't win. Nicky Hughes (Folkactive) did, and that was no surprise to anyone - I was 4th lady - out of 4. The 3rd placed lady Sarah Sutton (San Fairy Ann) lapped me twice even though normally we are of a similar level !
Yesterday I managed to "come to the race" at Howard School. This course was more my thing. Fast, not completely flat, but not very technical. I was focused and committed and was readier for the challenge than the previous week. I was still not that skillful but I was in the zone. With an unusually big field of 9 girls it would be hard for me to come out on top. The young Rebecca Thompson (Evans RT) took that crown. I managed 6th - just outside of the points, but I was just happy to have turned up with all my stuff for the race - including my confidence !
I've got a short break to do some hill-climbing, and then after that I'll be back at Penshurst Off-Road Circuit. Hopefully I'll remember to take everything.