Cross 2014 Part 2

Two more days until the (probably) final cyclocross race of the season – Dig In At The Dock. I haven’t done this race before, but there’s a video on youtube of the course and it’s completely flat apart from a few steps to run up. Forecast is for fog and cold (2C) and not much wind. That’ll make a grand total of 8 ‘cross races I’ve done this season.

I’ve done more training for this race than any other this year – ie. I’ve done some. Over the last fortnight, I’ve managed two trips to Glentress to whiz around the red route, 30 miles to South Queenferry to muck about on the pump track, an hour ride out to Cramond in foul weather, and an hour in the gym doing intervals on bike and cross trainer.

The previous four races of the seasons were a mixed bag. At Auchentoshan, I got my first ever points in a race for finishing 43rd (out of 65 starters). The 8 points I gained there meant that I finished the season in exactly 100th place (out of 150 or so people).

The course at Auchentoshan had a respectable number of ups and downs – the kind of course that rewards a bit more technique and speed bursts than I can muster. Hallocross in Dalkeith Country Park a few days beforehand was a lot of fun – a fast and straightforward course, made much more exciting by being a night race. My lighting rig (a couple of torches jubilee-clamped to the bike) wasn’t quite up to the job, so I did a fair bit of riding using the force … turning the bike into the darkness and crossing my finger that there was indeed a corner there.

Lochore Meadows was a writeoff. I completed one mudbath lap before my rear mech snapped in two, bending the hanger, twisting the chain 90 degrees and generally destroying the bike. The bike shop didn’t have replacement hangers in stock, so I had to bend it roughly back into line to be ready for the next race at Foxlake.

At Foxlake, things came together pretty well. It was a big field with a wide ability range. It was also a bit more technical than the average scx course with a longish steep climb, and fast descents. I finished 56th our of 125 starters. My gears were sketchy because I couldn’t get the hanger properly straight, but I compensated by using the front mech more and changing carefully in advance of need – something that I should probably be doing anyway!

Lessons learned from this season overall? It’s still all about fitness really. Technical skills, line choice, tyre pressure etc all help a little bit .. but at the end of the day, the people ahead of me are just able to push the pedals harder for longer than I can. I’m pretty happy with my finishes this year (somewhere around 60% down the field). But I’m eager to find out how much better I could do next season if I actually rocked up with a higher level of fitness, rather than treating the races as workout sessions. I’m signed up for 10 Under the Ben in June, and will probably do some SXC MTB races in March/April/May leading up to it. So there’s a good path for keeping a high level of base fitness through the year, and then ramping up for another round of ‘cross.

A few more lessons to braindump so I remember them in 2015:
1. Eat a jam sandwich 2.5-3h before the start time, then drink juice steadily after that. Eating any later causes gastic regret during the race.
2. If you’re going to finish 60% down the field, you should start 60% down the field not at the back! On my first season, I started at the back, because I didn’t have a clue and everyone else looked like they did. But now that I know where I’m likely to finish, I can avoid passing a train of people by starting a bit further up.
3. Tyre pressure might be important, but a puncture wastes your day so there’s no point going crazy. I bought a digital tyre pressure gauge this year which makes reproducible measurements easier. With the clincher tyres I have and weighing 74kg, 35psi was safe (puncture free) at Foxlake.