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, cycling, cyclocross, diary, race, racing, rapha super cross, women
Sunday: We arrived in Huddersfield in time for Son no. 1 (6 years old, hereafter known as Primo) to race in the under 10s. There was Rapha Super Cross bling everywhere, and lots of juniors riding around in team kit looking terrifyingly pro. I took the boys to register; we got in the way, and didn’t know where to sign or what to write, but everybody was lovely anyway. Primo rode off with an impressive field including several kiddies on tiny bikes being pushed by their dads. Segundo (son no. 2) and I rang cowbells and screamed ourselves silly for him. Primo held his position well and was completely thrilled to have raced. ‘I wish they’d had 157 laps!’
Then it was time for me to get nervous. Partner gave my bike the once over and sent me on my way. I approached a very friendly veteran who pinned my number in the correct place for me, on condition that I did the same for him. A marshal pointed me in the right direction and I rode off to recce the course. The first obstacle I hit was a series of diagonal turns up and down a seemingly vertical bank, with hairpins at the bottom and top. No way could I ride that. I immediately felt like crying; I’m not going to be able to do this. But then I thought: sod it. I can just run the whole section. There was another vertical descent later on; I held my breath and took the brakes off and, miraculously, was fine. The course continued through some steep turns (= foot dabs) and then hit a zigzag ascent up the side of a hill. My cornering was definitely not up to it, and I was worried about dismounting going uphill. Solution: get off at the bottom and run the whole thing. Some singletrack through the woods and up and down the grass a few times (those blardy corners again) and that was basically it.
Time to line up. I found a place at the back and did a bit of last minute stretching. Cue cracks from the blokes next to me: Are you psyching us out? My body won’t even do that. They joked with another woman: You’ll be too hot, with that snood on. Her: It keeps me hair out me eyes. I can’t go fast with hair in me eyes. I looked to my right and saw Castle Hill lit up in the sunlight. What on earth was I doing?
We were off. I didn’t dare to mix it with the crowd and found a safer-feeling place at the back, with another woman on a mountain bike. I completed a lap and felt like I was going to die. Heard the commentator saying ‘Well, we’re about 15 minutes into this race,’ and thought, oh, God, that means another 2 laps at least. Help. I seriously considered getting off about 3 times during the next lap, but then found a weird rhythm, and kept going. Getting lapped all the time was worrying; I kept thinking I was going to bring someone down. But everyone was lovely: ‘Rider, on your right!’ ‘OK!’ ‘Thank you! Keep going!’. One guy even said ‘Nice brakes!’ as he went past. The worst sections were the bits up and down the bank, and the zigzag ascent. But even these were still fun, in some kind of worryingly masochistic way. At the top of one vicious run-up, I quipped ‘Where are all the dollars?’ which got a couple of laughs. People took photos of me grinning like a nut. Spectators shouted ‘Keep it up!’. My boys rang cowbells and shouted ‘Go on Mummy!’ So I did.
Partner thought it was funny that I didn’t even realise where the finish line was. I was so massively relieved when I realised I could stop. At that moment, I thought: I am never doing this again, ever. But on the way home, I was thinking: I need to work on those right-hand corners. And find some banks to ride up and down. And I need to get fitter. I thought I was fit, but I’m not. And those remounts… must find someone to help with the remounts. And next time we need to bring sandwiches, and energy drink…
Watch a short video of our efforts here.
NEW: Official video of the elite race, and a link to some images on the British Cycling site . Gives a really good idea of what the course was like.