Sunday, 20 November 2016

Central Cyclocross League Round 9: Kettering. My first ever cycle race!

On Saturday 19th November, two days from my 46th birthday I finally ticked off another part of my cycling to do list. I entered a race. I've only had a distant interest in CX until recently so it's almost a surprise I found my self in the Central Cyclocross League Round 9 Novice Race. It took place just a few miles from my front door so really this was the ideal start point. 

So how did this all happen? Well, having taken SuperSam to a few of these events this year I'd started to take interest in the novice race and the seed of a thought had planted:"I could do that!" Then some chat started. First Andy Brown (fellow C&Der and KCC Cyclones Dad,) mentioned we should enter, then some other Dad's and some other C&D Cycles CC members joined in and before we knew it we were signed up. If I'd had time I think I should have purchased a KCC jersey and then worn it with my C&D shorts to show my links to both clubs.

CXL R9 Kettering -joining-instructions-2016 Week 9, Race 9 with the action moving to the north with Mark Evans and the team from Kettering CC hosting. PLEASE NOTE this week and […]
Race Organiser and Cyclones Coach - Mark Evans

The bulk of the work in organising the race was done by Mark Evans. It's a thankless task dealing with all the rigmarole involved so I'm going to take this opportunity to thank Mark for such a great event. 

The course was at Prologis Park near Kettering and hosted at the Kettering Football Club, known as the Red Kites because we're knee deep in those magnificent raptors around here! It was pretty close to the perfect location.


Before my race there was of course the more important matter of Sam and the other cyclones. The under 8's and 10's race was a joy to watch! The kids put in heaps of effort. Then in the U12 race Sam again showed a lot of grit and improved technique. At the front of the race the MK kids continue to set a furious pace but the KCC Cyclones never give up. Kudos to: Jake, Oliver, Harrison, Kyan, Coen, Tasmin, Ruben, Corben, Aimee, Jack, Dominic, Amelia, Hannah, Sam, Eddie, Josh, Bethany, Charlie, Fin and Jonny.

Screengrab of the Route

My first mistake of the day was not setting Strava at the start of the race. I logged my ride getting to the event and then turned it off to get a pure log of the race! I guess the excitement got to me. We lined up on the grid and the banter started. Everyone was trying to claim the position of most likely to come last. The commisaire then warned us about the course hazards, including his great dislike of the wooden fence, which we all then threatened to push Ashley into. So really it was just like any other Saturday ride. Then the whistle went and stopped being like any other Saturday ride!

In a world of pain!

We shot off from the line and after about 30 seconds I was knackered. Normal service resumed as I found myself behind my C&D teammates. Then Ashley took a tumble and it was 'see you later kid!' He overtook me a lap later. I think the disadvantage of 20 years plus a few extra stone in weight doesn't help me keep up with the whippets! The course was great. Some good ups and downs and a couple of technical bits but thankfully not the drop the experienced racers would face. 

Our race was just 30 minutes and the bell for the last lap did come as a bit of a relief. I'm not sure how but I started catching people on that last lap and set my fastest time. I had a lovely tustle with Jonny and Fin from the cyclones under 14/16's who did the right thing and outsprinted the old man for the line! I'm not going to pretend I went easy on them, I tried to go faster and my legs politely reminded me I'm not Wout van Aert! On the line I was 13th out of 20 Novice men. That's fine for me, I never expected to win, I just didn't really want to be last. I was gaining fast on Chris at the end but I think he'd have just outsprinted me if I'd caught him. Also he could hear me coming as all of Kettering must have thought my huffing and puffing was an oncoming buffalo stampede!

There was some controversy at the finish as the leaderboard showed Andy Brown in first place! The mix up became apparent when he wasn't even invited to the podium. Later on it was all sorted as Andy and Josh had swapped race chips apparently by accident. Our very own mountain goat is secretly a very competitive man though. He's obviously practised cx by entering an event the week before and leading a course reccie under the pretense it was a practise session for the kids! He lulled us into a false sense of security with his ridiculous mudguard and then tore off leaving us all in his wake! Andy, as you'll see was 6th in the end and all joking aside it was well deserved. In my eyes he has the honour of being the current C&DCycles CC CX champion. Some black and blue stripes seem in order!

Screengrab of the race results!

You can ride a cx race on any offroad bike. My 29r was a pretty good bit of kit for this challenge and as Andy did the best of any of us on an MTB I'd say a proper cx bike is not necessary. However I'll also say that there were some serious bits of kit on display and a fair bit of bike envy kicked in. The picture below is quite apt with the British Cycling 'Go-Ride Racing' banner. My advice for anyone considering having a go is: GO-RIDE!

Too fast for the camera!

After my race I thought I was heading home. I decided to hang around for a bit and Lee took Sam for a well earned McDonald's (Author's note: I do not approve of Ronald flipping McDonald either for the pathetic products he purveys or the general ethos of his despicable company!) It was a good job I didn't rush off because I'd completely forgotten I'd volunteered for marshaling duty. Quite an error as it turns out because lovely as the day was, as soon as you stood still it was freezing! Mark lent me his fleece and off I set to prevent dog walkers inadvertently wandering onto the course. The racing was good to watch but I was struggling with the cold. A quick look at my race programme showed another couple of hours to go! Thankfully Mark is not only a good organsiser but he also looks after people. Another coat and a nice cuppa, which he brought to me one handed on his MTB, sorted me out.

My marshaling station

It was good to watch the more experienced riders mastering the course. My highlight of the day was seeing, Stuart Walters, another C&D/KCC member on the course. Stuart, 78, has featured a few times in my blogs because he's a phenomenal rider who inspires us all. I'd love to think I will still be riding in 30 years time. Stuart proves it can be done. There was also some very competent lady riders on the course. It was also very friendly with many riders shouting 'thanks marshall,' as they rode past. Then the last race of the day, the senior men. Wow they were quick!

Lee's Performance Enhancing KCC Cupcakes

My final comment on the day is a big shout out to everyone who gave their time. So, to all volunteers, in whatever capacity, you really are wonderful people. I'm glad I did my bit. Also the Queen of Cakes did us proud again with her KCC cupcakes. A really great day!

Apparently you should always wash your bike in a Santa onesie!

I was so tired last night I fell asleep on the sofa at 8pm watching the England rugby highlights. I'm glad I did because I watched them again on the iplayer this morning and unearthed an absolute gem as a result. Richard Parks Extreme Wales: Episode 1 Extreme Cycling This programme feels like it was invented for me. An ex rugby player cycling through Wales, creating a cracking four day route, talking about his love of cycling with other lovely cyclists and he even does a feature on Red Kites! Check it out for yourself, really really great cycling telly!

Image result for Richard Parks snowdon ride

Another thing I've unearthed is a Cycling Weekly article 20 things for cyclists to do in 2017. This is great and number 20 is my all time favourite quote from cycling legend Eddy Merckx: 

“Ride, lots. It doesn’t matter about the bike, take any bike, but ride.” 

Happy Pedaling!

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