London League 2009/10, round 3: brutally fun

So first cyclocross race of the season done and dusted. I’d forgotten just how much it hurts and how much fun it is. That’s me on the right, somewhere between complete power failure mid-race and power-slide-gone-wrong fall on the penultimate lap.


It’s all done in sharp contrast to road racing in terms of the sense of enjoyment and general good humour.

On Saturday, at Hillingdon, I rode a 4th category road race where a bunch of men all shouted at each other like a bunch of drunks trying to get served at the bar over every perceived infringement.

There was abundant pointless swearing and shouting rather than communication. Far too much “hold your line” from people who don’t know what the drops are for – I say this in the context of being someone who doesn’t generally do bunch sprints but can take back ten places in a corner by getting on the drops.

On Sunday, at the Gunpowder Park course, the leaders politely called “on your left” or “on your right” as they came bundling past me and almost every rider was looking out for each other and encouraging their fellow competitors.

My race started well, I moved up through traffic until I managed to unclip my left foot on the entrance to the horrid middle section and went backwards to my usual spot.

That middle section remained purgatory for the entire race: grassed-over reclaimed ground that was hard as concrete and as uneven as badly-laid cobbles.

Perhaps my tyre pressures were too high or I’m just rubbish. Either way I could not get going through there and on around lap 5 had a total meltdown, practically grinding to a halt in frustration.

The other sections were plenty of fun and the sort of thing that I really enjoy.

The infield grass and paths around the start/finish were sweeping and fast, allowing me to get up some pace and throw the bike about in the corners. Note to self: long grass makes good alternative to brakes for scrubbing off speed on entrance/exit of corners.

The back section consisted of several off-camber traverses and switchback corners that involved dismounts. I think Luke from Rapha managed to fall off at least three times to my one.

I’m out of practice when it comes to dismounts but my remounts aren’t too bad which allowed me to past a few people who were struggling to get going again.

I did come a cropper on the penultimate lap when I ambitiously tried to powerslide one downhill corner and lost the back end. Knocked my bars out a bit and I seem to have done some minor damage to my left-hand shifter. Mostly dented dignity and bruised hip.

Unlike Rene who managed to break his seatpin bolt before the race and had to borrow one. He still beat me by at least a lap. I finished 2 laps down on the winner which isn’t bad – usually I aim to finish within 3 laps of them, so that counts as good going.

The great thing about cross is that everyone mucks in, there’s plenty of kids events and it doesn’t hurt too much when you fall off. Had next weekend’s not been cancelled, I’d be looking forward to it already. Instead I’ve got to try and keep in shape for two weeks for the next opportunity.

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