There had been a thrill of excitement for the last few weeks about this race. The first Welsh league race with electronic chip timing; the upgraded category, which meant a bigger prize fund – not something that I would be worrying over; and the record number of entries – 196 on the day in the main race.
Brecon has been a venue for many years, and the last time I raced here, maybe ten years ago, I broke my thumb on one of the off-camber banks. I finished the race and then didn’t enter another ‘cross race for six years. I was long overdue a return.
Coffee and cake consumed and warm-up completed, I lined up somewhere around three-quarters of the way through the field. At 12.30 a whistle blew in the distance and we started. Slowly. There were a lot of us trying to ease around the first few corners. The first few laps were physical, if a gap appeared it was filled immediately. The race never thinned out to a level that could be described as calm, but after about twenty minutes the field had spread out to a level where you could see clearly who your rivals were and where they were. The race proceeded in the normal way, slowly hauling in a rider in front, being caught by a faster rider, all the while finding lapped riders and being lapped by the fastest. My initial thoughts on the course were that it was a bit a tight for the number of riders but it seemed that most riders coped with it. The tight switchbacks made the race interesting by needing a different approach every lap, depending on how many other riders were trying to go through at that moment.
The general consensus at the finish was that it was great to see so many riders, and everyone I spoke to had been through a battle. Normally several. I was told that my crash looked impressive, which puzzled me as I didn’t remember crashing. There was laughter about the failed overtakes or the audacious ones. ’Audacious’ being a by-word for passing with a shoulder check or while crashing through the tapes. The riders will remain nameless, although Dan deserves a name-check for passing his club-mate while shouting ‘Leader!’ All good fun and all points that I’m sure will be remembered.
The day after the event I spent a while trying to work out where all the bumps and bruises had come from, and at which point in the race. A pointless pursuit, much like riding around a playing field. It’s astonishing that so much fun can be wrung from that patch of dirt.
Steven Roach of Ride Coventry won the event overall, with Ffion James of Abergavenny RC being lead woman. I was in 92nd place.
Full results and calendar at www.cyclocrosswales.co.uk
Photographs by Felicity Parker.