Tags: beginner, biking, cycling, diary, road, skills, training, women
So, you know me. I’m the one who likes getting muddy, and toiling up slopes with my bike on my shoulder, and falling off on singletrack. I do a bit of running. I ride on the road when I have to, mainly to try and get a bit fitter for ‘cross.
But something weird is happening to me. I’m turning into a ROADIE. I find myself idly browsing forums, looking for views on Look vs. Time pedals. Someone goes past on a Dual and I think, that’s the one with the mudguard eyes. I wonder whether I need different handlebars. I still can’t do anything useful, like adjust my gears, but I nod sagely as the boyf tells me that clunk-down-two-gears-at-once-and-have-to-go-up-a-gear-again is a common Campy problem. I start to refer to Campagnolo as ‘Campy’.
Of course, there’s a simple reason for this. Avid readers will remember me buying a new road bike. A part of me still feels embarrassedly ‘all the gear, no idea’ when I’m getting ready to go out on it. Everyone’s pointing and laughing at the slow chick on the cool bike, right? But this evaporates as soon as I am riding it, because the FUN takes up all of my brain.
Nevertheless, it strikes me I lack skillz. I mostly go out on my own, and the tricks of group riding are mysterious to me. (Until recently, I thought ‘through and off’ was when you wobble up the inside of a line of stationary traffic, then topple over at the lights because all your library books are in one pannier.) So when @sparkieturner volunteers to run some women-only skills sessions at Seedhill athletics track*, I know this has my name on it.
We have all sorts of laughs. Mark sets out the cones and we wobble in between them. (Well, I wobble; Lucy manages to nip in and out of them without knocking over a single one.) I practise. Mark moves the cones nearer to each other. It’s like the Matrix. I am Neo. Suddenly, I start to believe that the back wheel will follow the front one. I do it perfectly, raise both hands from the bars in jubilation, and don’t fall off. No-hands riding, too, then. There is no spoon.
We do partner work, passing each other bottles while going along, or giving each other a friendly push. We learn that elbows-out riding is just like that bit in Dirty Dancing. We try to learn to trackstand, to impress our kids.
Most funly, we try to go FAST. I’m scared of this on the road. OK, I’ve been doing my TT-for-one, creaking up to Todmorden and back, trying to break 33 minutes for 10 miles. But I don’t dare go for it properly, as buses have a habit of suddenly appearing in front of me. Indecisive sheep loom out of the fog. Potholes materialise like gateways to Hades. Whizzing round a running track turns out to be the answer. The bike wants to go fast, and now I can let it try, safe in its artificial world, where the only thing holding us back is the indignant screaming of my quads and the howling headwind in the back straight. We do through and off in a little group. I’m so excited I keep forgetting to yell CLEAR! and the person behind has to do it for me. We push the pace up and SPRINT for the line, each lap. I’m right down as far as I can get, chin on the bars, pretending I am Cav (the boyf remarks later, ‘You’re just a 12 year old boy.’) I notice that I can wind the sprint up a bit and catch Lucy for the line, even when she starts ahead of me. This feels so utterly PRO I can hardly breathe for glee.
There’s a lot to learn. I’m still scared to get on someone’s wheel (though I’m getting used to the slightly unsettling feeling of staring at the bum in front of me). I have no idea how to position myself coming into the sprint, and I push far too big a gear, ‘cos I can’t think about changing up in the middle of it. I STILL can’t get my left foot into the DAMN pedal. But, astonishingly, I’m not terrible at this. And that makes me too happy for words.
* You’ll remember Mark from the terrific cyclocross skills sessions last winter. There are still a couple of weeks to go on the women-only road skills course: Fridays, 7-9pm, Seedhill Athletics Track, Nelson, BB9 7TY. Just show up with your bike. £5 a session.
Tags: beginner, biking, cross, cyclocross, training, women
I’m on Strava. I KNOW. Get me! It’s all highly scientific. I’m uploading all my rides, and checking myself out. I got my heart rate up to 162 on the turbo, the other day! And I beat my PB on one segment (though, admittedly, I did have that modern equivalent of a hen’s tooth, a tailwind up Cragg Vale). Garmin overestimates my calorie expenditure; Strava underestimates it, I reckon. I split the difference, and work out how many eclairs it equates to.
People are following me, mad fools. Not sure what they are expecting. Mostly I suppose it makes them feel a bit better about themselves, as I struggle through the week, running slowly, and cycling weakly. I ride 10 miles in 35 minutes; somebody gives me kudos. Bless them.
My friends in other parts of the country are busy amassing QoMs. There’s not much chance of that round here, what with all the demonically fast women Yorkshire seems to nurture. This got me thinking: how am I, a bit rubbish and Not Trying Very Hard, supposed to compete with these Amazons? How can Strava include us, the Crap Ones, and give us a bit of a chance? A level playing field, if you like? Of course, I’m not suggesting we dope (I’m already up to my eyeballs in that, as you may recall). No! Instead, I propose some modifications to the Strava interface.
A new Handicap feature will allow you to modify the details of your ride to take into account the particular conditions that we all know affect performance:
For individual segments, you will also be able to filter results to include only riders who are similar to yourself:
So, fear not! No more will you have to attach comments to your ride, saying how the sun was in your eyes, and you weren’t ready. Strava will work out your handicap for you, and move you up the appropriate leaderboard. Bon courage!
Cartoon by @HerbieGreen. Reproduced with kind permission.
Tags: biking, cycling, ladies, women
(It’s a bit of a departure, this one. I discuss the meaning of some of these words, and wonder a bit about women and cycling. It’s quite long; I’d get a cup of tea, if I were you. )
So! I’d noticed myself getting irritable at the use of ‘ladies’ in tweets like these:
I’m worried about this word. Its connotations are bad, for me. Ladies are perfectly-behaved, delicate creatures in twinsets and pearls, or bootylicious babes in bikinis (as satirised by Flight of the Conchords so perfectly here). I can’t identify with either of these groups. I’m not that old, yet; I swear quite a bit and laugh like Sid James; I occasionally wonder what it would be like to have a cleavage. I’m not much of a lady.
But maybe it’s just me? I asked my twitter friends what they thought.
So there’s some ‘chivalrous sexism‘ associated with the term, at least for some people. Is there a real difference in meaning? One thing to try is substitution. Substitute the equivalent term for men, and see if the effect is different (e.g. funny, demeaning, ridiculous). (This is similar to Caitlin Moran’s ‘Are the boys doing it?’ test, and also related to @Ellyblue‘s The Bike Test, question 3.) This works for the word ‘girls’: if you’re going to talk about ‘Team GB’s golden girls’, does ‘Team GB’s golden boys’ sound right? If not, you probably shouldn’t say ‘girls’, either. (And I know there’s alliteration in ‘golden girls’, but ‘golden boys’ is as common a phrase.) Does this work for ‘ladies’?
But the connotations are different. ‘Gentlemen’ is often used to denote good, upstanding behaviour, especially in sporting contexts. See this example by Mark Cavendish (thanks to @mmmaiko for the spot):
Would Marianne Vos say ‘Amazing to have a race full of real ladies today’ in a similar situation? I’m not sure she would. So the meanings are different; the words are not equivalent.
But! I hear you cry. Even if we decide that men calling women ‘ladies’ may give the wrong impression, what about women calling each other ‘ladies’? Those tweets from Gabby Day and TWC again:
These interest me because they use both terms – ‘women’ and ‘ladies’ – in the same tweet. Does this mean the terms are interchangeable? Linguists understand the meanings of words as being at least partly ‘constructed’ through their use; the dictionary definition of a word may not accurately reflect the way it is currently used, as communities of language users unconsciously decide on what words mean, by using them in particular ways. Looking at usage can give you ideas about the connotations that words carry – the difficult-to-pin-down subtleties that people convey (whether they mean to or not) by choosing one term over another.
A twitter search returned a whole HOST of tweets using both terms in the same tweet. I looked at tweets that were (as far as I could tell) written by women, back to 01 March. (Only 35 tweets, but it’s a start.) ‘Ladies’ was most commonly used by women as a term of address (12 tweets):
Do we need to address ourselves as a group at all? As Caitlin Moran suggests in How To Be A Woman, can’t we all just be ‘the guys’?
In some contexts it can be wise to avoid making a gender-based distinction at all. The (male) correspondent who asked the owner of this business writing blog how to address a group of females in a work email was advised, gently but firmly, that ‘colleagues’ would be fine. Some of my twitter correspondents made a similar point:
The inequalities and discrimination faced by women in professional cycling are clear. We also know that women are under-represented in cycling at an amateur and leisure level. Assuming we want to encourage more women into cycling, it seems logical to address them as a group, and try to cater for their needs. But might we actually be unwittingly undermining this aim by doing this?
Going back to my twitter search, the next most common usage of ‘ladies’ by women (10 tweets) was as a tongue-in-cheek way to include the author in the group referred to:
Here, the term ‘ladies’ almost seems to negate the message: women are on the list of influential, powerful people, but referring to them as ‘ladies’ feels chummy and non-threatening. Is this assumed to be the reason that women don’t take part in cycling to the extent that men do? ‘Ladies’ are expected to be uncompetitive, to minimise their achievements, to emphasise that they are ‘just one of the girls’.
‘Ladies’, in this sense, doesn’t really describe many of the women I know and admire.
Of course, I may just be weird. Never mind being a ‘lady’ cyclist, I don’t even identify that strongly as a ‘woman’ cyclist. (To be frank, I’m not sure I particularly think of myself as a woman at all: my strongest self-identification is probably ‘bit of a twit’**.) I like to ride my bike. I’d like to be able to do it on a comfortable saddle, in clothes that fit. I’d like to ride it with people I can have a laugh with. I am a bit crap: I’m nervous, and lack skills, and am a bit lazy. I want to be inspired to do better.
Maybe if we concentrated less on what we assume ‘women’ or ‘ladies’ need, and more on what newbies, or scared-but-kind-of-want-to-have-a-go types, or experienced-audaxers-that-want-to-have-a-go-at-racing, or I-could-probably-get-to-work-by-bike types might need, we could end up with a ‘cycling’ that subdivides into different groups of ‘the guys’, each of which naturally includes some women. Then I wouldn’t be flipping through Cycling Weekly, looking at the pictures and going ‘Men, men, men, men, men, WOMAN! Men, men, men, WOMEN!’*** (And this is a publication where 1/3 of the writers in their ‘Meet the Team’ feature are women.)****
So here are the cycling publications I want to see:
And then we can all find our little niche, and be with ‘the guys’ who really ARE like us.
* The title of this post refers to this song. Country & Western really does have a song about everything.
** This may be a matter for my therapist, rather than this post.)
*** This did make my small sons laugh, though
**** @Ellyblue’s excellent Bike test is relevant here, too: although the answer to her first question, ‘Are women present or represented at all?’, is ‘Yes’, two pictures in the whole magazine is slim pickings. If women aren’t represented ‘doing cycling’, they may not even consider it as an activity they can take up.
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, child, cross, cycling, cyclocross, race, racing, thornes park, wakefield, women, yorkshire points
All week, Sunday’s forecast was RAIN. Proper ‘cross weather! We packed waterproofs and wellies. I tried (and failed) to source golf umbrellas. But on the day, it was bright and dry as we trundled round the perimeter of Thornes Park, asking car boot sale marshals if they knew where the race was. (They didn’t.)
The signing on table had run out of safety pins, so I did my bit for Yorkshire Cyclocross by donating most of my stash. Back out past the cake stall (which also featured a barbecue churning out bacon sandwiches, mesmerising the boys) and off to find the start of the kids’ race. Sheer numbers meant the under-8s got their own race, which was thrilling. Even more thrilling, they were allowed to go into the WOODS. Primo started slowly, then picked up the pace and started passing people, even sprinting for the line. We cheered him on like lunatics.
I rode round a kids’ football match to warm up, jumping on and off a few times in case I’d forgotten how to do it (you never know). The recce was fun; twisty stuff in the woods, an uphill drag, a steep bank, some grassy cornery bits, and a mad dash round the playing field. There were a lot of us on the start line this week; a bit of banter and a few nods and grins of recognition, then we were off. Going round on the flat, I remembered to Try Hard and passed a couple of people! Blimey! Then we were into the woods. I tackled a tree-rooty hairpin a bit too confidently, and fell off, instantly losing my hard-earned places. Bah! Back on the bike, I pursued a bloke with an unfortunately-placed mesh insert in the back of his shorts. (We ended up duelling throughout the race; I kept thinking ‘I’ve left him behind!’, only to find him mysteriously in front of me again.)
The long drag out of the woods led suddenly into DOWNabankandUPabank at speed. I got up the bank (HOORAY!) and charged off after Mesh Insert Man. The boys suddenly appeared on a corner, and yelled GO ON MUMMY! (This is why I’m grinning in the photo. I was doing #sufferface all the rest of the time, honest.) I undertook Mesh Insert Man on a corner (HA!) and held him off all round the playing field. Then into the woods again and, you guessed it, SPLAT. Noooooooo! Same corner. A kind spectator disentangled me from my bike while competitors bunnyhopped me. Mesh Insert Man disappeared with nary a backward glance.
I only managed another couple of laps before it was all over. The chap calling out the numbers said to me, ‘Did you enjoy that?’ It was BRILLIANT, I gushed. It was, too. Even though I’m still bumping along the bottom of the results list, I felt like I was racing properly. I got up a steep bank! I passed people! I tried really hard nearly all the time! Progress. And I have the bruises to prove it.
[British Cycling report and pictures here]
Thanks as ever to @spandelles for bike fettling, child wrangling and sausage sandwich distribution. You’re a hero.
Also lovely to meet @nik_tweet who STEAMED past me at about 617mph and came home First Lady. Excellent stuff!
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.
Tags: beginner, biking, child, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, dismount, oakbank, race, racing, remount, skills, women, yorkshire points
Well. I’ve had a full summer of denial, happily avoiding thinking about how I still can’t ride up or down banks, corner, get any speed up on grass, remount, or get my feet back into the pedals. No matter! The Yorkshire Points round is underway, so on a beautiful Sunday morning we filled the car with bicycles, tools, sandwiches, sun cream and children, and went off In Search Of Cross.
We found it at Oakbank School. The youth race was in full swing as we wandered up to look for the loo. Women from @sparkieturner’s CX training session accosted us delightedly, in between cheering on their boys. Primo was off at 11:30 in the under-10s; I signed up at the same time, fourth on the women/ vets list, briefly entertaining fantasies of riding round with only three rivals.
The under-10s rode round and round the playing field, parents chasing them on bikes yelling GO ON HAVE HIM! Hat tip to the mother who sprinted round the field twice at full tilt in flowered sundress and ballerinas. Primo did a brilliant job, charging up hills and grinding over grass with relentless energy and enthusiasm.
When he’d finished (‘I want a cross bike!’), I went off to recce the course. Ooh. A water crossing? Hmm… LOTS of mud and off-cambers and steep banks, then some zigzags with MORE mud, and more off-cambers, and a sheer descent with a turn at the bottom, and pavement and STEPS (hooray!) and downhill zigzags (help!) and more steep banks and more corners and then a bit of tearing across the grass. I’m exhausted just remembering it all.
I rode around feeling desperate for a while, then went back to the car for snacks. The woman parked next door was jolly: we rode down to the start together, laughing and comparing CX weaknesses, before she let slip she was Masters Downhill Mountain Bike World Champion (1999). We joked amiably with the other women on the start line, who were comparing tan lines and telling unconvincing tales of CX ineptitude.
They sent us off round the field first, to string us out before the woods. To be honest, the rest is a bit of a blur. The sun beat down. It was HOT. The first two laps were ghastly, but then I got into it, though I ran about a third of each lap, too scared to go uphill/ downhill/ round corners/ through mud/ you name it. Oof. I did two passable remounts, then my technique disintegrated and I spent the rest of the time stopping to climb back on. Bah.
At least I’m cooler about being lapped, now; I barely even wobble. One chap muttered ‘What the fook are you DOING?’ when I foot-dabbed on a corner, but everyone else was lovely. One guy said ‘Go on buddy!’ as he steamed past. A knot of riders zipped through, a woman shouting ‘You’re doing brilliantly! And even if you’re not, you look BEAUTIFUL!’ Someone yelled DIG IN! The boys rang their cowbells. People tried to take photographs round me. I could hear spectators talking about lunch as I staggered past. It would have been Zen-like, if I hadn’t been about to keel over.
Like last time, I didn’t know I’d finished. Above a certain HR, my brain just stops working. @spandelles congratulated me, and told me my dismount was terrific; my boys ate their sandwiches, unconcerned that Mummy had just nearly EXPIRED out there what with all the trying hard and everything.
So. In the best tradition of games of two halves, the round up.
Better than last time:
- Tried A Bit Harder (@spandelles said I looked like I was actually racing this time, rather than just riding around)
- Getting lapped without shouting ‘Hoo!’
- Didn’t fall off ONCE
Still v. poor:
- Need to Try Much Harder
- Combinations of things e.g. going up banks plus cornering
- Riding in mud, or on pretty much any kind of terrain
- Eating enough beforehand
- Getting Back On (oh dear…)
We got a bit of intel on the next couple of fixtures. One is quite MTB-y, with woods and singletrack and stuff. Mmm. Should be fine then. Ha ha ha! The other is ‘basically haring around on the grass. They all go really fast, it’s terrifying.’ Sounds ideal…
See you next week. Hup hup!
[Proper British Cycling race report and preliminary results here. I'm in the pictures, too. Cake to anyone who can spot me.]
Massive THANK YOU to @spandelles who was pit crew, soigneur, childminder, moral support, satnav wrangler and chief-adjudicator-of-arguments-over-cowbells. You are brilliant.
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.