On Saturday I rode my final TT of the season, achieving a course best 55:42 for J2/9, and 4thoverall. On Sunday I rode my first ever cyclocross race at Leverhulme Park in Bolton. This was the second round of the NWCCA series that takes place for the next few months around the north-west. I was pretty nervous leading up to it so I thought I’d get there well ahead of the 12-45pm start time to have a look around and try to see what was what. The place was already full with kids races in full swing. I have to say the kids looked like they had a ball and were really going for it – very impressive stuff. I was told that the course wasn’t very technical and would be a good one to start on. It looked reasonably technical from my perspective but that perspective generally involves riding very fast on flat roads in essentially a straight line, turning at a roundabout and doing the same back! So I signed on and got my pack for the season – you keep your number and timing chip for the whole shebang – and headed back to get my bike. There were lots of people with multiple wheels, tyres and even bikes and some warming up on rollers. There were quite a few in skinsuits which surprised me, as I thought you needed to be going >25mph to get any real aero benefit? Anyway, I did a couple of practice laps which got my heartrate up a bit, but my legs felt slightly heavy from the day before. I went and chatted to Giles at the start-line and before long was surrounded by a huge number of riders as they gathered for the start. 154 to be precise! When you are used to starting on your own at one minute intervals it’s a bit of a shock! The commissaire gave some last minute instructions and then the whistle went.
We were off in an almighty sprint up a long, open grass section. I held back slightly as I wanted to see what the form was before getting in anyone’s way but soon realised if I did I’d get swamped. At the end of the open section there was a slightly damp/muddy section and then a sharp right into a narrow section through some trees. The course then arced back round on itself, down and up some dips and rises before we headed to some steps. I was able to approach and dismount and run up the steps pretty quickly, surprising myself that I overtook some riders as I did. Reality intervened as they all then went past me as I struggled to get back on and start pedalling in anything even remotely like a fluid movement. This was repeated on subsequent laps (note to self, learn to get on my bike running). Up another incline and then sharp right and down snaking through and past trees, rattling my teeth as we bounced over the protruding roots. Several times people were bumping and nudging the back of my bike – I’ve no idea if that was their lack of skill or mine! We then looped back up towards the finish line and then through a few grass switchbacks before zipping off through some more trees and then dropping steeply into a wood, hard on the brakes to make the 90 turn at the bottom and then climb back out again. Up onto the grass and out into the open again before zipping into some long grass which just sapped any speed completely. Back onto the grass for the second lap! I was knackered!
What I did find was that on the long grass bits I could make a lot of ground up, passing a lot of people and being able to power past them. On the “technical” bits I got caught quite a lot, but I was really only trying to understand how far I could push my handling skills. It didn’t take long before I was overcooking some bits and nearly hitting trees! Anyway, the constant up and down of the efforts, sprinting out of corners and up bankings started to take its toll on my single-paced tester’s fitness, and I got slower and slower as the laps went on. And there is no pack to hide in either to get a breather. It’s very definitely a different type of fitness. By the end I was hanging on and we only raced for 49 minutes! I came 34th which I’m pretty pleased with for a first effort and I think I can probably improve on that – although probably less so when it all gets a bit more technical!
Some interesting contrasts between my two weekend races – Cyclocross first.
Race time – Saturday 55:42, Sunday 49:36
Distance – Saturday 25M, Sunday 10.6M
Average Speed – Saturday 27mph, Sunday 12.9mph
Elevation gain – Saturday 522ft, Sunday 335ft
Average/Maximum HR – Saturday 173bpm/181bpm, Sunday 179bpm/188bpm
Strava suffer score – Saturday 46, Sunday 71
I was in my threshold HR zone on Sunday for 4x longer than in my TT, which is leading me to question whether, all things being equal, I could squeeze more power out during a TT? All very interesting and promising as a means of increasing my fitness over winter whilst having a bit of fun too! Roll on the next one in two weeks.