Today was different from the other days of my Festive 500 challenge. Yes, I was out on my bike, I put in a few kms, but I worked harder than I have worked all week on the bike! Yes, I did a cyclocross race. As this was an inaugural event taking place in a park just three miles from my home it would have been rude not to race there!
It seems like Lewisham Council are keen to revamp and reinvigorate the house and grounds of Beckenham Place Park, and have given permission for different sporting events to take place. They have started doing Park Runs there, and now Lewisham have allowed for cyclocross racing to take place.
So I rolled along to Beckenham for the Yulecross. Riding through the park at a rather sluggish pace I began to feel my efforts from the previous three days beginning to catch up on me. In fact, my legs felt so creaky that I wondered if I should have been racing at all. I guess there was time for me to duck out gracefully as I had not signed on, and as I hadn't yet arrived at the race HQ I could have easily turned round and gone home before anyone saw me!
However, a deep-seated curiosity kept me moving towards the house, and before I knew it I had paid my £10 and pinned on a race number. So I was in, whether I liked it or not.
There was a good turnout for the race, with around 13 women on the start line. That was down on the large numbers there have been in recent rounds of the London League, probably due to Christmas holidays, but it was still a massive improvement compared with a couple of years ago.
On the blow of the whistle we set off on a steep uphill section (what is it with steep sections at the start of races? It's not fair!) My legs were still feeling heavy, so I just crawled up at a slow warm-up pace. Needless to say I was shot off the back into last place within a few metres. This didn't bother me much, and I just decided to do my own ride and ease my legs into the pace.
Being a festive event, I had dressed up for the occasion - well at least my version of dressing up. I was wearing my new Hackney GT arm warmers, my jazzy Madison three-quarter tights and my favourite jersey, so the hope was that this would at least be worth a photograph, if not any British Cycling points or prize money! Sadly, when you are in last place and off the back the photographer tends not to want to waste his energy or his film on you!
By about half-way through the race I could feel my legs waking up, and I suddenly had the energy to get into race mode. Gradually my pace kranked up and I began to catch a few of the women one-by-one. Without me realising, my body had found a first wind that was making me race. My legs put in a spurt on the hills, and threw me over the bumps. I had a grrr going on!
|With Abi Armstrong post-race - photo by David Steele|
Going over the planks was still a bit pants and I did stack it in the sandpit, getting my chain all messy with the stuff, but hey, the adrenaline rush was great and I felt strong.
In fact, by some fluke I had managed to ride myself from last out of 13, up to 5th place, once again overtaking (as with the SE Championships) Liz Orr from Kent Velogirls in the closing metres (sorry Liz - I'm sure you'll get me back next time!).
It was nice to have finished better than I started, even if I was a lap down on the winner, Louise Heywood-Mahe of Les Filles RT.
And as a bonus though, it turns out I was photographed after all!
After the fun and games of the cyclocross race, catching up with other riders including Abi and David who were up from Eastbourne, and Russ Jones who designed my arm warmers, I sauntered home, the tank empty but feeling happy.
25.4km ridden; running total - 226.4; 273.6km left
Weather: sunny, 8degC, light wind
Rapha Festive 500: Day 3
Rapha Festive 500: Day 2
Rapha Festive 500: Day 1
Tackling the Rapha Festive 500
Mudplugging again! Cyclocross is back