For the last 4 and a bit months I’ve been embraced in a warm, slightly damp, musty smelling muddy hug. I call this hug the cross season.
Friends new and old, Dulwich club mates, Digi Dave, John Mx the Guru, Bill the results, and of course my pit bitch JC have all been a part of this group hug.
Here come the girls
A year ago I sat at a Dulwich committee meeting with the statement ‘I want to get more women racing cross’. And that we did. A whole bunch of them, attending training, loaning bikes and getting stuck in. I didn’t promise it would be easy, but I did promise that it would be fun. Without the support of the club and BC we wouldn’t have had the numbers we did that’s for sure. Big up to the Dulwich ladies who pinned a number on this year.
John Mx gave a big nod to the fact that the women’s numbers this year had increased. There’s more to be done but I’m proud for playing my part in that- next step- lobbying for a separate women’s race….?!
Feeling like Nigel Mansell- sans ‘tach
This season, I got on ‘the grid’. Now, to those riders who are used to generally being ace all the time, this is probably no big deal. But for me, first full cross season and all that, getting on the grid was a real right of passage. Staying there however was not so easy, and each race I would wait with hope to hear my name called out. Even if I was last on the grid list, I had a great feeling as I pulled my bike forward (albeit only a foot to be quickly overtaken on the whistle) but! No better way to start a race with a bit more fire in your belly.
Ok so this season was average. I’m not at my fittest- a new job which sees me travelling a lot and several responsibilities outside of work has put paid to my energy levels.
My end of season report might read ‘fair to middling- could try harder’. What I did manage to take from each race was watching the technique of the stronger girls. I would watch their line and although they would soon be away from me, I would be brave enough to try it too- if they could ride that line then so should I be able to. Easy on those brakes going down a muddy descent, have confidence in the drops, feeling the bike round the sharp corners without tensing up- all skills I’ve tried my best to improve by watching and learning from the best. Thanks for the schooling you rippers, you know who you are.
That round at Herne Hill, you know the one in the blazing October heat that produced the most insane hand blister Instagram posts. Ouch.
3rd party substance
Yes, we love the mud (or as one well known bike brand once quoted to me- “3rd party substance”), that’s why we race cross. But when that mud invades your day to day life, it starts to become a little waring shall we say…without a van and pressure washer to get rid straight after a race it’s a little tricky- not impossible- but sometimes leads to some interesting finds. I’ve found mud in the bed, mud in my bottles, mud between my toes…you get the idea.
The results table of doom
Favourite part of the week. Pouring over the latest league rankings even though I knew there was work to be done.
A tradition started. Every race day JC and I got into race mode. Porridge in the house, boiled eggs in the car (stinky, yeah). So what did I get for Christmas? A boiled egg holder. Also useful for transporting creme eggs (less healthy).
The D word
It won’t happen to me! No way will my bike break! Oh but it did, that stomach dropping crunch of a derailleur crack and the immediate very loud swear word that follows when you’re on your last lap. That particular occasion did however lead to an extremely fun scooting race over the humps between me and Dougie Fox at Redbridge. (He won, obvs).
Fryland’s was a disaster zone. My ‘spare’ bike (the one with third party substance issues), decided that actually it wasn’t a cross bike after all, and within half a lap promptly stuck two fingers up to me and gave up the ghost. Such was my top ten finishers dream that I picked up the damn thing and ran the rest of that sodding race. Roughly 40 minutes with a bike that is a direct descendant of a Boris bike. Never stop unless your leg is hanging off. (Or do and have a beer).
The day after my 30th birthday bash (where I was dressed as Didi the Devil) I raced at Penhurst Off Road Club, over a really fun, slippery, fairground like cross course, followed by a roast dinner. Best birthday ever.
And finally, THAT hill!!
Huw never disappoints with a cross course. He had been excited about his round at Cyclopark for weeks, rubbing his hands with glee at the pain that lay ahead. Alongside a world class spiral of doom, Huw had removed a section of fencing to give us a hill that matched the might of the Koppenberg. Add in the gale force winds on that day, and getting back on at the top was pure comedy gold. Apart from those riders who made it all the way up without getting off…one day!
So here’s a Leffe toast to my cross mates this season, looking forward to next year already.