The first day of November, and we got the most un-cyclocross weather of the season so far. No bobble hats and gloves for us here in the balmy Welsh Riviera. We had to contend with the mercury making its way into the twenties and sweat dripping off racers wearing summer racing kit. The course, however, was classic ‘cross. Gower Riders, the organising club provided us with long boggy sections, slippery corners and off-camber bends. The unseasonable weather brought out the crowds as well, with another huge turnout of almost 170 in the senior race.
The race began with a few riders taking a tumble and a jerky start-stop-start for those of us behind. A couple of hectic laps after the start, and I was regretting the pre-race cake, and all of the other cakes I’ve ever eaten. Having made a good start, I started losing places in the boggier sections, something I’ll blame on that cake-loving waist measurement. Riding into the longest boggy section, the back wheel would seemingly spin in place until I came to a standstill while the rest of the world rode around me, skimming easily over the mud. This section became a struggle as riders looked for non-existent drier lines and increasing numbers of riders opted to run up the slope. The low winter sun, so welcome earlier, proved a problem at the bottom of the course simply by blinding us as we rode into shadowy singletrack. This was the section that handed me a surprise as I passed downhill world champion Manon Carpenter enjoying some off-season training. Sensibly she enjoyed her cake after the event.
As the race moved through the halfway mark I was feeling stronger, but paradoxically going slower as the bike was getting increasingly clogged with mud. This is of course a classic racing dilemma – if you lose time clearing the bike, will it make you faster when you remount? In my case the answer was ‘No’ as I hadn’t noticed that the jockey wheels were on the verge of seizing with grass wrapped fully around them. Some riders were less fortunate and lost their rear mechs completely.
The race finished for me with a small triumph as I inched towards a Tredz rider, who had passed me a few laps earlier, and I overtook him with a clean dismount and remount over the hurdles at the last corner. I was just pleased that I made the remount with some style and hadn’t landed in a heap in front of the finish line crowd.
The race finished in blazing sunshine with Jacob Phelps of Muddybumbikes winning overall, Ffion James of Abergavenny RC coming across the line as lead woman. I was in 76th position, still stubbornly refusing to give up the middle of the field.
The next round is the Hafren CC event at Newtown on the 8th November. I’ll be taking a break of a few weeks before resuming at Abergavenny on the 22nd November, having packed my suntan cream and eaten fewer cakes.
Full results and calendar at www.cyclocrosswales.co.uk
Photographs by Steve Roe.