West Midlands Cyclo Cross Rnd 6 – Wolverhampton

Last year I did not manage to do any of the West Midlands CycloCross series, clashes with other events and various things getting in the way. Being addicted to competition and with no chance of making it to the West Midlands foot Orienteering Champs on the Sunday morning after returning from an evening down south, I decided to take in the Wolverhampton Wheelers, Fred Williams Scramble CycloCross race on the way home, as the seniors race did not start till 2pm.

The atmosphere as I arrived to register half way through the Vets, Juniors and Women’s race was fantastic, with lots of supporters and even commentary blaring out. The course seemed to snake its way around the parkland and old railway embankment at Aldersley Leisure Village, home of the Wolves football academy, with lots of opportunities for spectators to get a good view of the racing as the riders pounded round the short, lapped course.

I seemed to stand out like a sore thumb on my Corratec mountain bike as we lined up ready to start, pretty much everyone else on shiny, light cyclocross bikes, many even having a spare one in the pits!

I had to start at the back, as I did not have a league position to grid me. On "Go!", I tried to scythe through the slower riders ahead of me before the course narrowed and get a better position, but was frustrated somewhat on the corners as many wobbled and slithered their way round generally getting in the way. After a ½ lap on the flat open area of the course to spread out the pack, we got stuck in to the course proper with its very steep short power climbs up onto the old railway embankments, equally steep descents and standard cyclocross weaving in and out of the woods and flatter areas of parkland.

I slowly reeled in a few more riders and then started a cat-and-mouse battle with a Shropshire Wheelers rider. He would pull away on a couple parts of the course only for me to get back on his wheel later, though his thinner tyres seemed to get more bite on one of the climbs and particularly on the slippery traverse. Eventually, we caught a Rugeley Peloton rider and the Shropshire chap attacked. I simply couldn’t hold on and found myself alone for the last few laps, until I was caught by the leader on the straight after the finish line. Unsure of whether I would have to do another lap I dug deep and managed to hold off the second place rider until just before the line and got a taste of the sort of speed needed to win at this level.

I was very pleased that the results show me mid table at 21st which I’m sure raised a few eyebrows as to why I wasn’t on a proper cross bike, but I simply don’t have one. I now have the cyclocross bug back again as it feeds my racing habit very nicely and can’t wait for the next one to come along.

Results available here http://www.wmccl.co.uk/results/league06/league06.html

West Midlands Cyclo-X Rnd 8 – Solihull

I nearly didnt get to the race. A huge pile up on the M6 Toll in the horrendous weather completley blocked the motorway. It must have just happened as I was one of the first cars in the queue that quickly built up. As I didn’t witness it and there seemed plenty of people milling about getting things sorted I got going as soon as the motorway was partially clear. The weather all the way down was a combination of hail, lightening and torrential rain, but it eased off a little as I got to the event. The Vets/Ladies/Youth race was still in progress, so after I signed on I watched and cheered on my new clubmates. After lots of pondering I have finally decided to join Lichfield City CC. I can’t wear my own sponsors logos etc at Cyclo Cross and other British Cycling events once I get a racing license for various reasons, so I thought I’d join a club where I already know a few people.
Donning the club Jersey, quite a few club members introduced themselves and seemed to know who I was, I made to feel most welcome, and am glad I’ve joined.
The race itself was a bit star studded. Liam Killeen was in attendance (watching Mammoth’s Mechanic Darrell competing at cross for the first time on his old bike), and a Columbia Rider Roger Hammond. The mud was sticky and disgusting, the course tough with lots of running and huge head winds, plus the rain started again. I enjoyed the course, particularly outbraking the cross bikes on the slipperly decents, and other than being laped by Hammond mid race I only got lapped by the other top riders on the last lap. The gears just about held together only causing me a problem on thr last lap, but I didnt lose any time to them. I ended up 18th ( out of 44) which I am very happy with, I’m not sure how much quicker I would be on a cross bike, but I have decided to finish the season on the mountain bike. Results

        

A Week of Contrasts

My week started with great news, my first sponsor, Eat Natural have given me lots and lots of bars ( I do tend to go through them), so thanks to the Eat Natural Marketing people. Please follow the link on the right to their website for more info on their tasty bars.

Anyway back to racing and training, Wednesday evening ride was great with fireworks going off everywhere, some bangs a little too close for comfort and a little scary to be honest though.

Fridays ride brought sunshine and a fantastic display of Autumn colours so I put the camera in my bag and stopped a few times to get some piccys. At the top of my first climb there were at least 20 deer wandering about, but it was too dark in the forest to get any decent pics. I then followed a circular route of the chase going down as far as Gentleshaw. The thought the best leafy displays were in Birches Valley and on the road from Longdon up to the Wandon cross roads, with the Beech orange’s almost glowing in the sunshine.

I had been looking forward to doing another Cyclo Cross race, and Sunday gave me the opportunity in Bromsgrove. Cath and Holly were off at the Yvette Baker Trophy Qualifier near Tamworth so I had a relaxing morning templating the new kitchen worktops and a quick blast down the motorway in time to see the Vets / Women’s race at 12.30 in which fellow Walton Chasers Neil Lawford and Beth Clayton were competing. It was getting very muddy and the rain came just before the end. At 2pm when we started it hadn’t got any better and there was a cold wind blowing from the SW. I had decided to keep my bike clean and didnt ride a recce lap, just walked parts of it. Even on the first lap it was very muddy, with parts of the course becoming unrideable. I had a good start and then started picking my way up through the field. The bike was becoming harder and harder to ride with the mud balling up round the gears and brakes. Then came a very painful hailstorm (well it is for me being bald as a coot!) whilst I was out on the most exposed part of the course. It only lasted a few minutes and then turned back into heavy rain. The great thing was that it seemed to clear the muck off the bike and from then on, although the going was harder and it became very slippery, the mud didnt ball up on the bike and the gears worked well again. I was very pleased with the 24th place but my legs started to tire on the last lap and my heart rate trace for this time was noticeably lower which reflects this. Getting changed in the car afterwards was a challenge with filthy clothes and I didn’t notice the state of my my face until after I had called into a petrol station for a choccy stop, no wonder the chap behind the till was giggling ! – Thanks to Neil for the X-photos
Mark Stodgell

      Mud  

First Cyclo Cross Race

The Lichfield Leg of The Midlands Cyclo League was too good to miss for my first Cyclo Cross race. Ada has reccomended these as good winter training and I can see why.
With fantastic weather, temperature in the mid 20s, Holly and I arrived in time to help on the Vets race so Neil could ride. Calling out race numbers for 45 mins and entertaining Holls was fun, then it was my turn. I recognised a few people in Stafford Tri tops and said hello but mainly it was very fit looking types on very swish cyclo cross bikes. The start was a bit fast and furious but we then all settled down. I was lapping on average at about 5 mins, with Holly egging me on at the finish line each time. I got lapped twice by the leaders but as Holly rang the last lap bell I was pulling up through the field. I thouroghly enjoyed my first cross outing, but the bike obviously slowed me down. However I was really suprised how poor the bike handling skills of many of the other riders were, so big advantage there. Can’t make the next one as am running CSC for Chasers but I will try and get to as many as possible this winter.29th out of 47, 2 laps down.