Last weekend was a good weekend for cross - with the Herne Hill race on Saturday and the Inter-Area team champs on Sunday I ended up getting a double fix of the muddy stuff.
Although we were into November, conditions were really mild. The sun shone and in fact my bike didn't collect much mud at all. More mud was collected at one race in Penshurst Off Road Circuit in October than in these two races on the first weekend of November !
Saturday's Herne Hill race was fun and well organised. It was a nice low key event being held just down the hill from me. It's always good to be able to ride over to your race an hour before. I actually did the race on my mountain bike as I wanted to save the cross bike for the important Inter-Area champs the following day. Also the race was more about me practicing my bike handling skills than about doing anything speedy.
Julene, a rookie to cyclo cross, from Dulwich Paragon beat me convincingly. She rode really well. It would be easy for me to say I was just on a mountain bike and not really pushing myself. However, to be honest there's no guarantee that I'd have been faster than her if I'd ridden at race pace. With a high ranking league rider for a husband, she'll be getting some good training from him. I'd better watch out when we do Reed Court Farm this Sunday !
Sunday was a more formal affair. We had an early start in order to get up to the stately surroundings of Misterton Hall (Leicestershire) for our lunchtime race.
With big hitters in the shape of Rebecca Thompson (Evans RT) and Nicky Hughes (Folkactiv Cycles) our London team looked very competitive. Emma Wood (London Phoenix) was our third counting rider, and I was fourth on the gridding, acting as the sweeper in case one of our top 3 counting riders dnf'd. It was good to know there wouldn't be any real pressure on me during the race, but I was still determined to race as fast as possible.
My limiting factor in cyclo cross races comes down to how technical the course is, and how quickly I can dismount and re-mount my bike.
Reccing the course, I was relieved to see that it was 100% rideable - not even any planks or steep run-ups to contend with. I bet some would've found it disappointing ! Stanley had lent me his mud tyres, so even the sticky sections were okay for me. The main difficulty for me was the sharp left hand turn at the bottom of a descent, and over some rocks. It's funny how the very things I want to avoid are the objects that I end up focusing on and tripping myself up on - story of my life !
Still, immediately the gun sounded I and my team-mates raced our hearts out for the London Team. It wasn't a massively technical course, but the undulations and sticky muddy sections made it hard work. Rebecca came 2nd - pipped at the post by Isla Rowntree (West Midlands), Nicky came 11th, Emma was 20th. The day ended well with us being awarded 3rd spot and getting photographed on the podium in our medals. We went home happy.
But then Monday, was the real anti-climax. We then read in the race reports that we had been nudged off the podium by Eastern Region who had apparently had their riders finish 8th, 10th and 12th. And even worse for me - I didn't even get a result. I had a big DNF after my name. I know I wasn't a counting rider, but I still wanted to see where I finished in the field and what my lap times were. After a couple of plaintive emails I was awarded 22nd place. I won't ever know my lap scores. We'd been hoping to be re-instated to 3rd place, but the maths won't allow that. Still, we've got medals so our day wasn't completely wasted !
Thanks to Emma for getting us all together, and co-ordinating a great day out for us. Thanks to Neil S for driving us up there, and thanks to John Mullineaux for providing us with our stylish London Cyclesport T-shirts. We'll do our best to get a real podium place next year.