Tags: biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, motorists, road
One of the great things about a ‘cross bike is a bit of off-road optionality. Don’t like getting squeezed by buses in Mytholmroyd? Simply drop down onto the towpath instead! But nearly everyone rides on the road at some point, and motorists can be downright scary. So here’s a quick straw poll. You’re riding along, humming a ditty, when a car overtakes you close enough to shave your legs. Do you:
(a) Shout ‘YO, BUMFACE!’*;
(b) Shake your fist at them in impotent fury, like a Scooby Doo villain;
(c) Chase them down so that you can do (a) and (b) right up close;
(d) Smile and wave happily at them.
My one-handed riding is still a bit shaky (I once fell off trying to fling a banana skin into a hedge), which more or less rules out (b) as an option. So I’ll admit that I tend towards (a). Like many of us, this has got me into trouble. A driver tried to run me off the road in Camden. I yelled something NSFW at him; he stopped and got out. Big bloke, menacing expression. ‘WHAT d’you call me?’ Oh, dear. Suddenly remembering some advice from (I think) Richard’s Bicycle Book, I sprinted straight at him. He jumped out of the way; I tore off and hid, sobbing and shaking, until I was sure he’d gone.
Shouting at people sometimes has other, unexpected effects. I SCREAMED obscenities at a driver in Kentish Town, only to realise with horror that he was a colleague. Him (amiably): ‘Oh, hello! Did I do something wrong?’ Me (mumbling): ‘Well, you WERE a bit close back there…’
London is a good place to practise (c), of course, because you do actually catch up with people, even if you’re not very fast. At the traffic lights in Highgate, I pulled up next to a woman who’d sideswiped me. I was STEAMING. She rolled the window down, I took an ENORMOUS breath, and she said, ‘I’m EVER so sorry!’ Me: ‘Oh! Er, well…um. OK then.’
So none of these work too well for me. Recently, I’ve started trying (d) instead. The effects are quite interesting. Waving cheerily at motorists freaks them RIGHT out. You can see them thinking, ‘Oh, crap. Do I know her?’ (An added advantage is that you can do it in great anger; as long as you’re showing your teeth, they won’t be able to tell.)
A variant of (d) is Trying To Stay Calm. A bus driver passed me with inches to spare the other day. I growled to myself, ‘I’ll HAVE you! There’s a bus stop in a minute!’ But when I caught him, I thought, OK, let’s try this. I knocked on the window and said with a blinding smile**, ‘Do you think you could give cyclists a bit more room?’ We discussed his driving good-naturedly and he said he would try harder. ‘At least you’re not shouting at me!’. We wished each other a nice day and I rode off, slightly bewildered.
So I’m trying to extend this principle into general road use. When people let me out, I thank them ostentatiously. If they manage to hold back for a few seconds until it is safe to pass me, or overtake by pulling right out into the opposite lane, I wave and grin delightedly. Once, at the bottom of a long hill with parked cars all down one side, I looked up and saw an HGV coming the other way. Help. I prepared to leap off but the driver saw me, stopped at the top, and waited patiently while I creaked up in bottom gear. I beamed and blew him a kiss; he looked delighted and blew me one back.
Oh, this sounds preachy, doesn’t it. It’s not meant that way. I don’t live in the city any more. I don’t have to deal with multiple, terrifyingly close passes every day, like I used to. It’s not possible to keep your cool if you feel like everyone is trying to kill you. I absolutely believe that less vulnerable road users need to bear the responsibility for looking after the more vulnerable ones, and I’m not trying to shift any of this responsibility onto cyclists. But I often feel helpless as a cyclist, reliant on motorists to be decent and nice, to behave themselves, to think about what it’s like to be me. Pointing out bad behaviour positively, and trying to reward thoughtful behaviour, makes me feel like I’m doing something, however small. If a couple of motorists come away thinking of cyclists as actual people too, maybe it’s worth it.
* you may substitute an epithet of your choice, here
** it really IS blinding. Friend A to Friend B, discussing me: ‘I saw @accidentobizaro outside the Co-op. I couldn’t hear what she was saying because I was so mesmerised by her teeth.’
Tags: advice, beginner, biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, enhancing, performance
I just found out I’m a doper. That’s right, me. Doped to the EYEBALLS. WIRED on the latest candidate for PED status. Nope, not GWR4920 (though getting a lift on that would certainly move me up a few Strava leaderboards). I’m out of my MIND on thyroxine. This, of course, explains why I BURST onto the CX scene last season from NOWHERE and, er, well. Yeah.
Thyroxine definitely improves my performance, mostly because I have an underactive thyroid and tend to fall asleep at 4pm without it. So I’ve got a note, and everything.
However, now I’ve Crossed The Line, I feel fully qualified to start dishing out advice on performance-enhancing substances. Here is my list of tried-and-tested supplements to give you that competitive edge.
- Ibuprofen. Best taken after CX training sessions, as it dulls the pain of the bruises from practising those pesky remounts.
- Vitamins. These are EXTREMELY important for effective recovery. An apple should do it.
- Coffee. Sadly, I can’t personally vouch for the effects of caffeine ingestion on performance, as I gave up drinking proper coffee last year. (Me: God, these HEADACHES. I can hardly SEE. Boyf: Maybe it’s the coffee? Me: Don’t be daft. It can’t be the coffee. (It was.)) However, the psychological boost of downing a couple of (fake) espressos before charging over to the start line is not to be underestimated. Especially if you do it while wearing your Rapha top, squinting slightly against the sunlight.
- Music. A bit of jolly salsa in the car on the way to a race can put you in the mood (or, alternatively, enable you to kid yourself that you’re going to be fine, and you really can’t possibly need another wee). More importantly, persuading the kids to sing LET’S BAKE A CAKE! at the tops of their voices all the way home will stop you falling asleep at the wheel after all the Trying Hard you’ve been doing.
- Beconase. If you’re lucky, you’ll have got rid of that lingering cold just in time for hayfever season to start. Ventolin might be frowned on, but a crafty snort of Beconase lets you tackle the grassiest summer ‘cross courses without fear.
- Sedatives. Alcohol is not recommended on race day itself, but if you’re haunted by memories of last year’s Brighouse course, a bottle of Rioja and a couple of whisky chasers will help you get to sleep the night before you tackle it this year.
- Protein supplements. Well, you can’t have a nice bottle of Rioja without a bit of cheese, can you?
- BreatheRight strips. These are ESSENTIAL for optimal performance. Attach one to your partner’s nose, and get a decent pre-race night’s sleep for once.
Tags: advice, beginner, biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, tips, training, turbo
So, winter. Proper winter, too, with snow and ice and freezing winds and two and a half hours of daylight* and all that. Around this time of year, a young [cough] cyclist’s thoughts turn to staying inside out of the ruddy weather, FGS, thank you very much, what do you think I am, crazy?
But sitting around eating cheese footballs and watching Masterchef only appeals for so long. While Christmas is traditionally a time for getting our fitness baseline right down so that we have something to work on in the New Year, by February most of us are surveying our rears in the mirror with growing distaste, unfriending people on Facebook because they’re on holiday in Tenerife, and biting anyone who suggests we might just go out for a little walk, you know, to clear our heads?
The solution, of course, is folded up in the corner of the spare room: the turbo. I’ll confess to a bit of a love-hate relationship with the turbo. I owe it a lot. My first winter of turbo training** revolutionised my cycling. The following summer, instead of trailing up French climbs throwing mental grenades at @spandelles as he disappeared over the horizon, I actually beat him up Mont Ventoux. (‘I’ve created a monster,’ he said ruefully over pizza that evening.) The turbo kept me sane during pregnancy, when I was dutifully trying to keep my HR down so as not to boil the baby, or whatever was supposed to happen if I exceeded 135bpm. When I gave myself an arch strain jumping around the kitchen in my socks to LCD Soundsystem*** and couldn’t run for nearly a year, the turbo saved me from going postal.
Despite all this, turbo-ing can be a depressing prospect. However, with a few tweaks to your routine, you CAN enjoy your turbo session. Based on extensive personal experience, here are my top tips. You’re welcome!
1. Have a playlist with some fast tracks on it, and some REALLY fast tracks. Choose ‘shuffle’, and try and keep up with the music.
2. Do 20/40s, or 30/30s, or 10/10s, or whatever other heinous alternation of sweating and wheezing you can muster.
3. Sing. This is the one time that singing along to your ipod is completely acceptable. (If you can sing along to ‘I Will Always Love You’, mind you, you may not be working hard enough.)
4. Take advantage of those inevitable trips to go to the loo/ answer the door/ get your towel/ check your @mentions by honing your cyclocross skills: dismounts, remounts and getting your feet in and out of the pedals at speed can all be practised on the turbo. (Well, maybe not the remounts. See ‘wonder why your arse hurts’, below.)
5. Fine-tune your raceface. Take a few pictures on your phone, to check yourself out. Make sure that your raceface is sufficiently distinct from your sexface. You don’t want your race pictures showing up on those sites, again.
6. Observe the functioning of your body under stress. Wonder why your elbows/ wrists/ knees sweat so much (delete as applicable). Try to get your HR into zone 5. Try to get your HR back down out of zone 5. Wonder if anyone will miss you if your drop off the turbo stone dead, or if you’ll be discovered three weeks later with the cat eating your face.
7. Think about bike fit. Does your arse hurt because your saddle is too high, or because you’re wearing your shortest shorts? When you’re in TT position, can people see down your top? (You’ll need a mirror, or a friend, for this one.)
8. Have a really brilliant idea for a blogpost/ million selling book/ dastardly world domination plan that you can’t write down. Forget it by the time you get in the shower.
* I may have been watching a bit too much Borgen, here
** by which I mean, riding my bike attached to the turbo; ‘training’ is overstating it a touch
*** When I told the doctor this story, she looked at me and went, ‘Idiot.’
Tags: biking, clifcross, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, skills, training
OK. You remember last time? I vowed to go out and ride with other people. My first opportunity was Friday night, at an informal CX skills session in Todmorden park. Riding over there just before 7pm, I was thinking, ‘God, I’m tired. I mean, I’m REALLY tired. What am I doing this for? It’s cold, it’s dark. I’ll have to wash my bike afterwards. Gah.’ And to be honest, if I’d been on my own, I would have turned round and gone home again. But the thought of seeing the #CXChix* kept me going.
When I got there, the Chix were already riding round and round the kiddies’ mini road layout (good cornering practice. And hilarious). We charged over to the other side of the park to find somewhere to practise dismounts & remounts. Hopelessly overexcited, I immediately toppled over. (I did turn my pratfall seamlessly into a TJ Hooker-style somersault; all that falling-off practice I did last year finally paid off.) Sweetly, the Chix managed not to laugh. We set out my orange mini-cones and did a little circuit, jumping on and off and leaping over imaginary barriers. We tried (not very expertly) to teach @CorinneKielty to do it. Then we rode up and down steep banks in the pitch black, which was BRILLIANT, and much easier than doing it when you can see (I’m just going to close my eyes in races from now on). We looked unsuccessfully for some steps to run up, and did some cornering between the bowling greens. We laughed and shared tips and supported and learnt from each other. It was almost tear-jerkingly lovely.
The next morning, I was up early for my second #RidingWithPeople experience in as many days! So keen! Ali (@millsphysio) wanted to ride a bit of the CLIF’cross route which Emma (@waterrat77) had been speccing out. It was bright, clear and C-C-C-COLD as we trundled off from the Co-op and immediately turned up an impossible hill. We were still on-road, and I was walking… Hmm. Onto the bridleway, back into the saddle, and Ali reassured me she was just happy to be out, no pressure, no need to ride for hours, etc. I relaxed. A bit. The off-road riding was HARD for MTB-deniers like myself: lots of rocks and cobbly bits, holes and loosely packed rubble. Add in the gradient and my general lack of conviction, and I got off the bike quite a lot in the next couple of hours. Pushing didn’t feel like failure though, as it was almost as hard as riding. And we were having such a jolly time! It didn’t seem to matter. At the Top Of The World™ we grinned at the 360° view, then screeched down a long descent to Gorple reservoir and rode along past the water in delight.
UP and OVER and DOWN and UP and DOWN via Widdop reservoir to Hurstwood, where we were pretty sure we saw @GreatRock’s back (he says this is his best angle). We turned into the icy wind here and, although the track was easily rideable, I creaked almost to a stop. Hoo. TIRED. Uncharacteristically, I didn’t freak out. I’d eaten enough, and I knew I just needed to keep going. I can’t emphasise enough how COMPLETELY out of character this is for me. Normally I just cry. Maybe ‘cross is teaching me something after all… Ali’s happy attitude really helped, too. I knew I wasn’t being judged. We stopped for a ‘We Were Here’ photo, then turned on to the road for the return leg.
Riding straight into the freezing headwind, being buzzed by motorbikes, I realised how tired my legs had got. 8 fairly hilly miles to go, and nothing left at all. Ali was freewheeling uphill to give me a chance to catch up. Her: You OK? Gonna make it? Me: Yes. What’s the alternative? Her: Good attitude… We chose the offroad route back down from Blackshaw Head, mercifully out of the wind. Mirages of hot baths and cups of tea floated before me. I could smell home.
We took nearly three and a half hours to do 21 miles, which tells you something about the terrain**. It’s the longest ride I’ve done since having kids. We were IMMENSELY proud of ourselves.
So, the tentative verdict on #RidingWithPeople is: GOOD. Key for me have been a happy atmosphere, lots of chat and laughter, challenging riding but a complete absence of competitiveness. It IS possible…
**or maybe about my lack of leg strength and terror of going uphill and downhill
Tags: beginner, biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, racing, training, women
So. My 2012 season ended with a whimper, as I was ill for both the Heptonstall Fancy Dress charity ‘cross race and TodCross (which take place within a week of each other and are 2 miles and 5.5 miles from my house, respectively. Insert your own emoticon, here).
But it’s New Year, and everyone is busy Resolving. I hate resolutions; they just seem to be a formal way of giving yourself a hard time about not being good enough (at which I am already black belt, seventh dan). But I need a plan of action for this year, if I’m going to be not quite so comprehensively rubbish at ‘cross.
@sparkieturner suggested doing a SWOT analysis. Once I’d established that this didn’t mean reading a lot of books and sticking my hand up excitedly in class (it couldn’t be that easy, could it), I gave it a go. My first attempt looked like this:
@sparkieturner said this was ‘a start’, but I needed to put at least five items in each quadrant. Ooh.
Well, weaknesses are easy. Descending, rooty singletrack, riding in mud, riding up steep banks, riding down steep banks, grinning instead of doing #sufferface in photos, wobbling and shouting ‘Hoo!’ when people overtake me, being scared of everything, not really trying hard enough, almost complete lack of killer instinct, and most obviously, a general absence of power on the bike. I’m gonna need a bigger quadrant.
Strengths? Oh, I hate this. I don’t have any strengths. Writing about riding my bike? Not sure that qualifies. (I suppose I could always yell at everyone who laps me, “I bet my blog’s funnier than yours!”) Um… My cornering’s better than it was, though I’m still not sure I’d describe it as a strength. I’m going to put running, simply because I know some ‘crossers would do ANYTHING rather than run.
Opportunities. Well, the women-only training sessions have been great, and more of those would be fab. I can find time to ride, as my work is quite flexible, and there are plenty of places nearby to practise. I’m also getting to know other women ‘crossers around here, and they’re very friendly. I should be out riding with them, though I am dimly aware of avoiding this, which brings me to threats.
Threats are (as far as I can tell) almost entirely in my head. I’m not just talking about confidence to tackle scary stuff on the bike (though heaven knows I could do with a bit more of that). No, I’m frightened of riding with others. Anonymous at the back of some race, I can concentrate on how *I’m* doing. That corner was quite good! Look, I got up that bank! I’m gonna get you, Mesh Insert Man! And so on. But bring people I actually know into the equation, and I become despondent. The women’s race at Waddow was brilliant, but I’d really hoped I would do better; having my arse kicked by women who’d only been racing ‘cross for a couple of weeks honestly made me want to weep with despair.
There are of course many excuses I can bring in here (though, strangely, there’s no column for these in the SWOT analysis*). These include: being a good ten years older than many of the women I’m comparing myself with; not having been in a race of any kind since childhood (apart from coming 176th out of 244 in the Hot Toddy a few years back); having always been completely rubbish at competitive sport; and being generally weak, feeble and prone to crying and giving up when I can’t do things. But enough! I can still improve. I must be able to do better than this: after all, I’m not dead yet. So what do I need?
I think the main thing is to be stronger. To get stronger I need to get fitter; to get fitter I need to ride harder, faster and further. I also need to stop thinking being competitive is nasty and unfriendly. To achieve both of these, I probably need people to whip my sorry arse. So, @waterrat77 and @millsphysio and @makepiece, my resolution is this: I will swallow my pride and my fear, and come out riding with you, if you’ll have me. Just try not to laugh at me until after I’ve gone home…
* maybe because that would make it a SWEOT analysis, which sounds a bit icky
Tags: beginner, biking, cross, csp, cycle sport pendle, cycling, cyclocross, diary, north west cyclocross, nwcca, race, racing, waddow hall, women
I’d been worrying all week about the ice. But Friday was wet and warm, and everything started to thaw. Saturday brought Cycle Sport Pendle’s CX event at Waddow Hall: much-anticipated as it included a women-only race. Our OWN race! Just for US. I was so excited, I even had a dream about it:
We were out of the house at a hitherto uncharted time, to get there for the women’s race at 10am. The satnav looked like it was dumping us in the middle of nowhere, but – uncharacteristically for ‘cross – the entrance to the venue was signalled with two enormous orange CSP flags. We parked and immediately found @trio25, @nosila107, @waterrat77, @millsphysio and @makepiece, all in good spirits (apart from @makepiece, who was ill but riding anyway #badass). The course recce sobered us up a bit, though: a long push up an endless hill, zigzags round the tape, a singletrack climb and KER-RAZY descent, a bit more zigzagging and downhilling, and an uphill drag of a finishing strait complete with soft mud and plenty of leaves. Ooh. No resting up, then. I took off most of my layers, ate half a sandwich and went to line up.
According to event sponsor Cheryl King’s blogpost, there were 21 of us on the start line. Wow. You should have seen us, going up the long hill the first time! We were dead enthusiastic. I was running in and out of competitors, trying to make up places. @waterrat77 even shouldered her bike! Naturally, subsequent ascents got slower and slower. I managed a bit of a jog for the @SportSunday photographer, once. Blimey.
It was a tough course, even before it had got all churned up (the main race was a fearsome grind through deep, cloggy mud: @spandelles described it as ‘the Somme’). Having no faith in my bike handling ability, I ran down the singletrack every time (despite @crossjunkie yelling RIDE IT at me. Sorry…). Downhills were leaps of faith, as my brakes had pretty much given up by the second lap; afterwards I realised that I’d hauled on them so hard, I’d pulled the straddle cables right through the adjusters.
On the final lap, I tried in vain to hold off @waterrat77 and @trio25, who were gaining on me, inexorably, like the truck in Duel). They lapped me going up the finishing strait. NOOOO! In a final, desperate burst of effort, I unlapped myself, managing to pass @trio25 just before the line. I got off and couldn’t talk for about five minutes. How it should be, I guess.
We hung around washing bikes, pushing Segundo on the swing and chatting to people before Primo’s race. It was a bit later than we’d expected, and quite a long time since breakfast, looking back… He set off in high spirits and rode really well: running up the hills, passing people, getting back on quickly, cornering like a pro.
I chased him round the field in true #CXMum style, yelling encouragement, grinning from ear to ear at my brilliant boy. When I caught up with him, to my astonishment, he was crying with rage. I HATE THIS! THEY MADE IT ALL MUDDY ON PURPOSE! I’M GOING TO COME LAST! He made it up the finishing strait, pushing the bike (like most of his competitors). As he went over the line, the bell rang. Me: Come on Primo! That means there’s only one more lap! You can do that! You’ve been riding so brilliantly! I’ve never seen you ride this well! Everyone’s pushing! Everyone’s struggling! Him: I HATE CYCLOCROSS! I’M NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN, EVER! But he carried on… and he ran up the hill, and got back on, and zigzagged down with aplomb, looking MURDEROUS the whole time.
It took a good fifteen minutes for him to calm down afterwards. The bonk: of course. Should have realised. We force fed him isotonic drink and Shot Blox (the only thing he would eat: I’M NOT HUNGRY!). By the time we got down to the sign-on to give in his number, he was looking happier. Woman collecting numbers: Did you enjoy that? Him: Yes! Well, more or less… He was really chuffed with his prize (a Hope bottle). The Girl Guides were doing an amazing job producing hot food for next to no money. Primo inhaled a baked potato and a chip butty, and normal service was resumed.
Hat tip and enormous thanks to @sparkieturner , @crossjunkie and all at CSP for putting on a brilliant day of racing. Best ‘cross event we have been to, bar none. And thanks for your vision and faith in putting on a women-only race; really hope this will pave the way for other organisers to take this route.
- Terrific pictures of the women’s race and main race from C King Images on Flickr
- Comprehensive writeup with pictures and results on the North West Cyclocross Association blog
- Enormous set of great pictures from all races on SportSunday’s site
Tags: advice, beginner, biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, dismount, remount, skills, training, women
Well. I’d been off work (and the bike) all week with sinusitis, and in a MASSIVE sulk as Sunday approached and I didn’t seem to be getting any better. But then on Saturday afternoon my fairy godmother appeared in the kitchen in a puff of WD40, dressed head to toe in Planet X kit. She waved a track pump at me and declared ‘You SHALL go to CX training with @sparkieturner and @crossjunkie!’ And miraculously, my head cleared, and I grinned like an idiot.
Sunday dawned beautiful, bright, and dry. I hefted my bike onto the car with the minimum of swearing, changed three times (longs? shorts & legwarmers? 3/4s?), and threw the rest of my cycling wardrobe into the back of the car (just in case). The boys hugged me distractedly, one eye on Charlie & Lola at all times.
Mark and Alan are keen to get women into ‘cross, and they’d rustled up a number of bright-eyed girls from Cycle Sport Pendle (CSP) for this session. Then there was @trio25, and me, and @waterrat77 and @millsphysio, who’d (impressively) got hold of CX bikes the week before and immediately entered Cyclists V. Harriers.
A bit of discussion about tyre pressure – and a mass letting-out of air – and we were off to practise remounts. Getting my leg over the saddle at slow speeds still eludes me, so I cheated and went straight to jog ‘n’ hop, which works, even if it’s not elegant. We then combined this with dismounting; everyone made a lot of progress very quickly, much to my dismay (avid readers will remember how many HOURS I spent falling off while practising this).
@crossjunkie got the sticks out and constructed a barrier, then videoed us all trying to coast up to it, dismount smoothly, hoik the bike up and over and leap back on without losing momentum. Here is @millsphysio, a complete newbie, doing it perfectly. I’m not jealous. Not at all.
We practised hoisting bikes onto shoulders without whacking fellow competitors in the face (my secret weapon, according to a video @spandelles took of me at Keighley), and running with them through the dog poo. There followed a discussion about shoulder bruises and the acceptability of sewing Joan Collins-style pads into your jersey. @crossjunkie said this was fine (it’s good enough for Rapha, anyhow) but if any of us put pipe lagging round the top tube he would disown us.
Then we were off for a ‘bimble’ (@sparkieturner’s word; it makes it sound so jolly and effortless, doesn’t it) through the woods. Towneley Park really is lovely, and even when your shoes are full of muddy water it’s a terrific place to ride your bike around. We picked up some pro tips on riding in the mud (weight back; stand up slightly; pull on the bars; pedal smoothly; be confident), judging lines (try going round the outside of churned up bits; standing water probably means there’s a hard bit underneath, so a good place to ride) and keeping your momentum up (when to get off and run; when to shoulder your bike, and when to push). We finished up with a bit of downhilling (the short sharp shock variety). Next time, we’re going to ride @crossjunkie’s CX loop, which has ‘everything’, apparently. Can’t wait.
Many thanks to Mark and Alan for this session, which was friendly, fun, unintimidating and packed with useful stuff. Everyone had made visible progress by the end, and we all left with grins on our faces. Brilliant.
- CSP are running a women-only race as part of their CX event at Waddow Hall on 15 December. It would be brilliant to have as many women as possible entering, to support the event and show the demand for this kind of racing, so please circulate the details far and wide!
- Thanks very much to Alan (@crossjunkie) for the photos and the video.
- And here is @trio25‘s take on the training session.
Tags: beginner, biking, brighouse, child, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, race, racing, wellholme park, yorkshire points
After the joys of Rapha Super Cross, we were RARING to go again. My mum was up for the weekend, and we were keen to show her what Yorkshire CX was all about. She put on her waterproof and her fleece, and tights under her trousers in that sensible-mum way, and asked good, thoughtful questions in the car. (To Primo: Do you fall off like Mummy does? Primo: No! I NEVER fall off.)
For her benefit, we performed the traditional Yorkshire Points ritual of driving around the park looking for the right entrance: we could see the course tape through the trees, but we made three wrong turns and a circuit of Tesco’s car park before @spandelles spotted the little notice in 14-point saying ‘cyclocross parking’.
Uncharacteristically, the first person we asked knew where the sign-on was. We trudged up to a Great British Bake Off-style marquee, where some jolly but indecisive chaps were discussing whether ladies paid £10 or £12. The atmosphere of genial vagueness continued as we tried to find the loo; general waving in the direction of the bowling club got us there eventually.
By now the rain had stopped, and @spandelles had the bikes off the car, so Primo and I rode round his course. It was mostly on the flat grass, with one little foray into the woods over a log. The under-8s had their own race again; Primo really gave it some this week, tearing round and overtaking a couple of people. His remount probably lost him about six places each lap, though; like mother, like son…
He got off his bike at the end and immediately wanted to sit down. We congratulated him on his pro effort, and I rode off to have a look at the course. Round the grassy zigzags… my cornering’s improved, so I look forward to these now. Over the log and up into the woods… and a long uphill, shouldering the bike. Oof. Then a flatter bit of muddy singletrack. I was just thinking I might put the bike down, when UP the path went again, at an even steeper angle. OK. Keep going. There’ll be a bit I can ride in a minute. Round a corner and… up again. Oh. Right. Soldier on. The path twisted up and up for another couple of minutes, always too steep to ride. A final impossibly steep KICK and onto a flatter bit. I fluffed the remount (of course) and rode off. Sticky singletrack through the woods, flat but very narrow. (Here I’m imagining all the people careering past me at speed, their handlebars a whisker from bringing me down.) We must be going down again soon… oh. No. You’re kidding. It was SHEER. I climbed off and slithered down the side of the embankment, my bike trying to escape my grasp. My shoes couldn’t grip and I fell over, sliding down the hill on my side for a few yards. Finally I was at the bottom. I got back on, shaking, and looked ahead. The course went straight back up into the woods again.
So that was my decision made. I pulled the tape up and rode across the field, then stopped to phone @spandelles in frustrated tears. I felt terrible, but I knew it was beyond me. Tong had been hard and MTB-ish, but for me, this felt like it wouldn’t even be safe.
When I found the family, poor Primo was looking white as a sheet. He’d spent the last five minutes trying to throw up. A migraine, then. Poor love. The only thing to do is to get him home and into bed, and let him sleep it off. We gave in his race number and he got his reward sweeties, while the commissaires’ gazebo blew over into the 12-14 year olds as they charged past.
I rode my bike through the ford a few times, ostensibly to wash its wheels, but really because it was fun. The Women’s World Masters Downhill Mountain Bike Champion 1999 gave me a cheery grin. I misidentified a Hope rider as Paul Oldham (he was actually in London at the Ally Pally Super Cross), and had a nice chat with Jackie from Cycle Sport Pendle. We crammed everyone back into the car and I drove home, trying not to cry. My mum said she was happy I’d been sensible; @spandelles said Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valour. I told myself this was the ‘in training’ bit of being a Fearless Badass In Training™.
But I hated bailing. Hope I never have to do it again.
Tags: 2012, beginner, biking, broughton, child, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, race, racing, rapha, rapha super cross, skipton
Avid readers will remember what a jolly time we had at last year’s Rapha Super Cross in Huddersfield. The cowbells! The frites! The commentary! The runups! The pain! So you’ll understand why I signed myself and Primo up for the Skipton round of the 2012 Super Cross series MONTHS ago.
I’d been looking forward to it with a mixture of fear (not sand again, please! Not those horrible zigzags up and down the banks!) and delight (EVERYONE was going to be there) ever since. The night before, I gave myself a proper pro-style CX manicure and got out all my best kit.
We rolled up to the refined surroundings of Broughton Hall in beautiful sunshine and got unpacked. Chirpy families assembled bikes and dug around in kitbags for snacks. Primo hopped onto his brand new CX bike and we rode off together to sign on, @spandelles and Segundo bringing up the rear on foot. The Rapha show was already under way, with the crêpe van and the face-painter doing a brisk trade, and @antmccrossan loosening the vocal cords with a rundown of the day’s racing. A couple of chaps, their jeans artlessly rolled up, pushed fixies gingerly through the mud.
Primo rode up and down on the grass for a while, then lined up for the under-10s. He got quite a slow start but was picking his way through the bunch by the end, and was thrilled to hear his name called out over the tannoy as he crossed the line.
While the under-12s were racing, I went off to have a look at the course. Barriers! I immediately fluffed the remount; not a brilliant omen. The course wound up, across the soggy grass. And up, across the soggy grass. And through some muddier bits. And down a bit, and up, across the soggy grass. And then MAD DOWNHILL OFF-CAMBER MUD HOLY MOLY OH MY GAWD HELP. And then up, across the soggy grass. You get the idea. Mmm.
Worried, I jumped on and off a bit, then chatted to the lovely smiley chap who counts off the numbers at Yorkshire Cyclocross events. The boys worked their way unconcernedly through posh sausage sandwiches, while I tried to decide whether to keep my armwarmers on or not. I played ‘Where do I know you from?’ with a girl called Camilla (it was a draw; neither of us could remember), and ran into @makepiece by the loos, still in her civvies with twenty minutes to go. (‘What happened?!’ ‘Late.’)
I was awestruck to see @LittleSimo lining up at the front. That’s right: I raced with Annie Simpson. (This is where my grandchildren look up at me, wide-eyed, as I reminisce from my bath chair.) I tried to pick up a few places when we set off, but that was all the racing I managed, to be honest. Oh, it was HARD. I mean, it was REALLY hard. No little technical sections to ease the pain. No jumping off and running for a bit. Nowhere to catch your breath: when you weren’t grinding over the sog, you were gripping the bars for dear life, hoping you weren’t going to skitter across the ruts and bring down someone important. I’m sure the views were magnificent; sadly, all I saw was a self-replenishing two foot square of torn-up lawn as I hauled round, grimly, in bottom gear.
I really did want to give up, about sixteen times a lap. I couldn’t even raise a smile for the cameras. Things that stopped me climbing off in tears included @crossjunkie intoning ‘Go on…’ every time he lapped me, and a family with cowbells on the remotest section of the course, whose little son shouted ‘Keep going! You’re doing really well!’ whenever I went past. Near the end, I was creaking along dejectedly when a sludgy section finally forced me off. I cast a look at the back of my bike; my brakes were hidden in a cowpat-sized block of mud and leaves. Ah. I poked it out, got back on and steamed off, at least six times as fast.
@spandelles said I made up a lot of time on that last lap. Not enough to catch @amyling, sadly, but I finished, of which I’m inordinately proud*. I’m dimly aware that I missed loads of people I wanted to meet, including @PETERSYOUNG (who later tweeted that he’d recognised me by my brakes); happily, we caught up with @bex_love and @mattlovecycling and @melaniebbikes, who’d dug out her INBFC badge specially (I was touched).
We wanted to stay for the fun race, but I was driving, and the grass was starting to look very comfortable. The boys sang LET’S MAKE A CAKE! all the way home, to stop me drifting off. @spandelles cleaned my bike, and cooked my tea, and told me he was proud.
(British Cycling report of the day here)
Tags: beginner, biking, bradford, child, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, race, racing, remount, tong, women, yorkshire points
Another Sunday, another Yorkshire Points round. Our routine is improving; the car was packed and the bacon sandwiches consumed in record time. We set off, me already worrying about the MTBishness of the course, and @spandelles helpfully intoning ‘It cost me six Gs/ I crash it into trees…’) The satnav wanted to take us straight past the entrance to Home Farm but luckily @spandelles spotted the fluorescent, hand-inked arrow saying CYCLO-X and we bumped down the track. This venue was a bit different from the schools we’ve got used to: a blow up tent, a coffee concession in the back of a van, and two portaloos comprised the facilities. As usual, everyone was ridiculously jolly. My name was already on the list, which was too exciting for words. Primo reminded me to put him in the right age category this time. Oops. @ianstreet67 turned out to be standing right next to Segundo and Daddy. Great to meet you, Ian!
Primo and I rode round his course. There were BARRIERS! For the under 12s! Primo took them in his stride, of course. The usual mixture of pro-looking pre-teens with miniature SPDs and teeny kiddies on bikes with pink handlebar tassles lined up. One ten-year-old said to another, ‘Do you want a gel?’ After a lap of looking pretty unhappy with everything, Primo got going and did a great job, shouting out excitedly ‘I’m in gear FIVE!’ as he went downhill.
One of my resolutions from last week was to warm up properly this time, so I went and rode round the car park (=field) and practised jumping on and off for about 15 minutes. Then: the course recce. The first sections were great: barriers, gravelly climbs, lots of zigzags on the grass, up and down hill. Then the course disappeared into the woods. Mere words cannot convey the abject terror. A sheer descent on singletrack with a steep drop to one side; roots and fallen trunks and streams to vault; trees to dodge and enormous jolting LUMPS and BUMPS and then a WALL of a runup at the end. Ohmigod.
I compared falling-off-in-public-embarrassedly tales with a woman on the start line. The bloke next to me ventured, ‘I thought you did well, at Keighley.’ Aw. We were off up the hill, round the zigzags and down into the woods. I jumped off and slithered through the soil, gripping the bike for dear life, grasping at trees as I went down. People fell off all around me, to OOH!s and EEEH!s from spectators. One chap stood dejectedly with a severed crank in his hand. I got back on and gingerly foot-dabbed my way round, riding for a few feet here and there. The runup was actually a relief; at least I know how to shoulder my bike. I set it down at the top and leapt back on seamlessly, to the delighted cheers of my family. (I may have squeaked YESSS! at this point.)
As my natural tendency is to take it a bit easy, I concentrated on Trying Hard All The Time. Amazingly, this really worked. I passed a couple of people going up the zigzags, and held another chap off who threatened to pass me but faded on the climb. Hooray! (Of course they all passed me again in the woods, but hey.) I shot up little inclines and cornered fearlessly, doing SUFFERFACE the whole way round (though in the photos I look disappointingly like I have stick-on goggly eyes, one pointing up and one down). Along with my New Improved remounts, I suddenly felt like I was actually racing. Gosh. It was BRILLIANT.
So. This week felt like PROGRESS. I remembered to eat, which (predictably) made a massive difference; ALL my remounts were functional, even when I was dead tired; I tried as hard as I could nearly all the time. I drove home singing ‘Cy-clo-cross!’ to the tune of ‘Ho-lly-wood!’ and fell asleep in the bath.