I really missed racing over last winter, the road season came to a close and I missed going to events and just racing in general and so thought I might give cyclocross a go. I don’t really have much off road riding experience, one mountain bike race on a borrowed bike in a summer league, a few times around Sherwood Pines and Cannock Chase and then up and down the canal close to where I live. So not much really! However it looked good fun from the races I had been watching, it’s something different and I can get away with riding my boyfriend’s cross bike and so had no excuses really to give it a go. I rode four races throughout the season, learnt a lot, enjoyed it and somehow managed to get some results!
Photo by Richard Howe Photography
Leicestershire Cyclo-Cross League Rd 2 – misterton Hall
I was feeling actually really nervous and quite out of my comfort zone, exactly the way I had felt when racing and time trialling for the first time. My aim was just to get round, but I wanted to feel like it had gone well too. I rode a few laps between races to warm up and did think ‘what am I doing’, I really didn’t feel confident about the muddy slippy parts, there was a log to contend with dismounting and getting over and some of the woodland corners felt dicey too.
Cross races are full gas from the go! I didn’t really get the best start, I was slow off the start line and then stuck behind a rider who also wasn’t getting off the start line any quicker than me also. Once I started racing the nerves all settled down and seemed to disappear, I felt more and more confident as I went along and was riding better too. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the event and the variety of riders taking part, a range of ages and abilities. The event was really welcoming and I was pleased to finish 7th and to have given it a go.
Whitham Wheelers Cross/Lincolnshire League 4 – Grantham
The course for this race was totally different to my first race at Misterton. It was across two fields with some tight-ish turns, some up and down hill bits, but two hurdles. Something I haven’t really practiced, and as was evident after this race something I need to practice more! There was a good field of 16 riders in the women’s race and again a total mix of riders.
I was keen to get off the start line quickly and into a good position. I was 5th wheel going into the first bend and then after moving up a position to 4th managed to hold this until the end of the race which I was really pleased with.
It was a hard hour of graft! Riding on grass is hard work and I could always see the rider in 5th place behind. She seemed to catch up with me on the technical parts but I managed to gain time on the straight sections where I could put down a little more power and ride in a straight line! I got slower and slower over the hurdles every time and dismounting to then run felt incredibly unnatural. Something to practice but actually I thought considering I did quite a good job. I was really pleased with the end result, I also was left feeling a bit nauseous from the effort so knew I had tried my best. Second cross race done!
Lincoln Wheelers Cross/Lincolnshire League 7 – Nettleham
Photo by Steph’s Photo Page
Race day was dry and I had in my head that this was a flat and un- technical course and so I had hoped it would suit me! For the most part it was but there were quite a few single-track parts through the woods and then these two sharp upward mounds. I rode round the corner, saw it and my head just said ‘no! Can’t ride that!’ Everyone else was passing and just effortlessly getting up there. I really had to just put those thoughts aside, be brave and just get on with it. I did this, rode a good warm up and come the race I got round just fine. There was a gap between myself and the first junior and the first two seniors but I ended up finishing 3rd senior which I was really pleased with. More so in the end quite proud that I overcame a massive confidence blip!
One thing I have loved about cross is how inclusive it is, you get whole families entering across the categories. You also don’t have to have a cyclocross bike to try it and you can enter on a mountain bike as many people do. I have met some great people and it’s been fun but challenging.
We have also been really lucky to have the new Leicestershire Cyclocross League in my area, it’s been hugely successful and with some excellent courses by the race organisers. I would like to give this a go for the 2018/19 cross season.
Lucy Sturgess | Love Velo CC