This memory popped up on Facebook today which prompted a quick post about it.
On the face of it, this picture of me climbing some steps with my bike on my shoulder, covered in mud with the effort etched on my face is a great ‘action’ pic. Its the epitome of cyclocross. Behind it though, was quite different. Definitely one of the worst ever cross races I did.
10 years ago I was one or two seasons into cyclocross riding for Wyre Forest CRC. I had the bug and I had all the kit too. 2 x identical cross bikes. Ridley Supercrossers, Ultegra groupsets and two sets of Easton wheels and tubs per bike. Loads of kit. Loads of money. I was also pretty fit. A few kg’s lighter than now and I was regularly placing top 5 and 10 in the West Midlands League with the odd Top 3 and a rare win. I was on it. The next step up from Regional Races are the National Trophy’s which I’d begun to do a few. This one was in Ipswich and was the first time the race had been held at this venue which was cited as the venue for the 2012 (I think) European Cyclocross champs. Subsequent years saw more Trophy Races and the National Champs take place here in preparation.
Being so far away, it was just too much to drive down, race and drive back on the day so I stayed the night before but the weather was rubbish. I’d had a look at the course on Saturday but it was still being laid out so I couldn’t get on it (Trophy races were a single day then, not two like now).
My race was at 2.15pm so I got to the venue around noon as I would normally. I did all my prep and got a few circuits of the course in between events as best I could. It was pretty grim and very muddy. The steps in the photo were quite ridiculous. A massive 20-30ft bank of earth with planks popped in to hold back so-called steps. The trouble was the first step was half up your body so you had to try and climb the vertical bank to get to it and as the rain fell the steps became eroded so you stepped over and into the step. When you finally got to the top you simply got on and let go down the other side into deep mud. Horrible.
The race came and I was just not feeling it. It was one of those days when you try but you just don’t seem to be able to get your heart rate up. Could have been the travelling, I may have been ill or just tired from not sleeping in my own bed. The race just went away from me. To make it worse there was a wooded section which was quite rooty from the trees and I crashed quite heavily after about 20 minutes and smacked up my knee. I stopped for a bit but carried on but after 40 minutes the leaders caught and lapped me and I was taken out of the race by the commissaires for the first time. All that way. All that money. All that effort for just 40 minutes and an injured knee. It was just shit really.
In the coming days and weeks, I wouldn’t be able to ride my bike for more than an hour without my knee flaring up. I think I did one more long distance Trophy race in Devon and that was a disaster too so I just stayed local after that.
It was the worse cyclocross race I ever did.