Only my second cross race of the year, and one where it would be all to easy to make a James Naughtie mistake with the title sponsors. Rachel's thoughts on the experience can be found on here new blog here. My report from the men's race later in the afternoon is below:
Having cheered Rachel along, and even found time to take some fairly terrible pictures whilst wolfing down some Shotbloks (my, what a nutritious lunch i hear you say!), it was all too soon my turn to take to the freezing start line. A small, but “elite” (in BC report parlance) group of ‘crossers assembled on the front row, clearly the appeal of driving to Bradford for a kicking hadn’t been sufficient to keep them from the real competition. After last year’s competitive lay-off between September and March, i’ve been keen not to stop the racing juices completely over the winter months this year, and so took to the line with a mixture of apprehension and satisfaction. I had a hard act to follow, however, with Rachel almost doing a “Spud” and winning her first race for the team!
The commissaire kindly pointed out where we would be going on the first lap, making a particular point to talk loudly and slowly to the non-locals (that was most of us!), and then gave us five minutes warning. Five minutes. Crap – white knees exposed to the winter breeze, the skinsuit was doing nothing for my core temperature when standing next to a frozen lake. I tried to distract myself with memories of Gran Canaria until the whistle went, and i was off for my “lull them into a false sense of security” start (patent pending). Sure enough, i got ritually elbowed out of the way, and ended up some way back of the leading group, engaged in a good battle for the higher single-figure placings. I had ridden around the course and knew that i would be less strong on the “field of tea cups” section at the back of the course – luckily with elbows out and shouts of “it’s just my riding style” i managed to hold position until a cheeky passing manoeuvre from a Cambridge Uni rider woke me up. Not being ready to cede a position to an upstart from my alma mater, i gave what i like to think was a spirited chase. Thankfully for me, he blew before i did, and i picked him off on one of the increasingly greasy and unrideable bank sections.
Coming into the final lap, it was a case of trying to stem the rot, and i quickly became aware of a rider closing fast. In a panic caused mainly by lack of racing, i tried in vain to ride him off my wheel (bad plan) rather than sitting up and forcing him to take up the pace to the line (better plan). He passed me on the draggy grass in the final straight, and i didn’t have the heart to spoil his day (cough cough cough). 9th place was actually a lot better than i was expecting, but i was disappointed to be beaten by a man sporting a fantastically unfetching blue cat-suit. Justifiably perhaps, i received further friendly “abuse” for this on finishing, unable to return fire through the chilling air in my lungs.
Once again i seem to have blinked and missed the 'cross season almost entirely; i had originally had planned to blow the winter cobwebs off with a blast around the Rutland National Trophy, but given that the Belgies tend to turn up to this one i figured i wouldn't get value for money racing around for two laps before being pulled. So i'll be relegated to pit crew and tub-gluer for Rachel for that one, and put what little racing form i have into the last round of the Eastern League at Ipswich on January 2nd.