Sunday, January 10, 2016

National Cyclo-cross championships 2016

Well, on this post I was clearly feeling ambivalent about the National Cyclo-cross championships and in all of 13 days since it was written, my chest infection really hasn't improved that much at all.  The annoying rattling cough continues to wake me up at various points throughout the night.

With a 9:30am Saturday start, at least there isn't much time to worry about how you're feeling.  Between finishing work on Friday, arriving in Shrewsbury for a hotel night with my husband and arriving at the venue, I squeezed in a small amount of aerobic exercise (that might be a euphamism) and a sizeable quantity of pasta and porridge.

Next thing I know, it's time to go racing.

Being first on the course has two advantages:
  • we get the best conditions
  • we get to ride around the course without being shouted at by shouty officials.
After 30 minutes riding the bike was already starting to chatter at me and lock.  I had to get it washed and quickly and I couldn't find my bucket.  Thankfully, the Parkers were on hand to jet wash the bike 5 minutes before I had to grid and after a few nervous moments of fuel top ups and messing with the choke on the engine, I was away again.

Gleefully, I found myself first on the second row and positioned myself behind Maddie Smith.

Usual banter dispensed with, I had the worst start ever of my National career with a jump in the chain slowing me out the back of the field.  It was my plan to go off slowly though and I found myself hopping over Tracy Fletcher and a number of other riders as the slippery conditions got the best of other peoples' grip on gravity.

By the woods we had all sorted ourselves into the relevant placings and my lungs had settled into mediocre performance.  I settled for getting round and holding my place.  Juliette Horrocks was with me and we exchanged positions a few times.  Generally, we followed eachother into the pits, relieved to get a clean bike each time.  Neither of us wanted to risk a mechanical.  Unfortunately my first change I found Red's brakes were rubbing horribly and I did an entire half a lap with the brakes rasping and my left foot slipping out of pedals.  I dumped her back in the pits and requested brakes looser, pedal tighter and carried on with Dirty Beast (the best bike, not Juliette).

Every  line I picked was the best one but every line also had its downsides.  I picked the most solid line - I rode into a post.  I picked the straightest line - my front wheel ground to a halt.  I slammed the brakes on to run - I could've ridden it.

I bumped over a curb and felt something clack.  It sounded like my saddle dropping but it wasn't.  I later discovered that my wheel had been skew and the clacking noise must've been something dislodging it.  For the rest of the race it rattled alongside me, the brakes dragging through the mud.

Another lap and a half passed and I switched to red again to give Andrew a chance to wash Dirty Beast.  I attempted to switch into the big ring for the road section but the chain dropped off.  For a moment I thought I'd get away with lifting it back on with the dérailleur.  When I realised I couldn't I was deflated and lost all will to drive on - just for a moment.  At that point I decided to stop being so crap and got off to put my chain back on.  Juliette had disappeared.

It was just at that point I got a lump of mud in my eyes and completed the next half a lap on a squint.  I amused myself my cheering for some of my friends moving in the opposite direction and answering back at Cripsin Doyle who accused me of not trying hard enough because I was smiling.

I felt like I rode half of that lap with my eyes shut and no focus and then Juliette was there again, just in front.  I pushed and I pushed as hard as I could for the next two laps.  I let rip with a primal scream as I hauled my bike through muddy puddles and up slopes and my calf muscles screamed for mercy.  The screaming was there to control the pain.  I wasn't going to DNF again, or end up in A&E.

The last lap was a pain.  I struggled through , un-exited but finish I did, unhappy about my position because of my cold but happy that with the cold, I did as well as that.  With over 1:20 before the rider behind me finished, I felt, for the first time ever, like I was at the back of the best group instead of best of the rest.

7th FV40 of 11
16th Overall of 27

I declare it over.

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