Yes, that’s right. Part 2.5 is missing. That should describe the 2016-2017 season, but due to various circumstances I didn’t ride as much as I had planned. Which was a shame, not in the least as it had a detrimental effect on my time trial season. But before diving in the 2017-2018 season, some tidbits from what happened after the 2015-2016 CX season ended.
Somewhere in 2016, I read a review of the 3T Exploro. And, boy, did I like what I saw. I wouldn’t say I decided then and there I would buy one, but the idea was taking hold. So, after a few months brooding over it, and checking my bank account a couple of times, I put an order in for a Team frame (the “cheaper” red/white version). One week later, a big box arrived.
The plan was to gradually build the bike, and have it ready somewhere in 2017. But then I broke the derailler hanger _twice_ in 10 days. Having already the wheels and disk brakes, I decided to finish the 3T by stripping the CXer. The last crosses were done on the newly finished bike. I’d rather start using that bike on the road, but after going through some scary moments during the build, taking that bike out on a CX course for its maiden ride wasn’t that scary anymore.
One of the CXes I did manage to ride was the first one in Alphen aan den Rijn, which had a 180 degree turn on the off-camber of a sound barrier wall. For some reason, I couldn’t get my head around how to ride that. The next time we rode there, that particular section had been removed. However, this was still on my mind when I started thinking about the 2017-2018 CX season. As I had to make a few tweaks to the bike, what better way to test it in training riding a 180 downhill? So I did, and I put in a few other CX exercises.
For the 2017-2018 season, I decided to up the ante, and ride in two regional competitions as well as the club CX in Woerden. The last four crosses from the previous season were part of the Zuid-Holland regional competition, and found them challenging. And so it was that on the 30th of September, I lined up for the first CX of the 2017-2018 season.
My cross season kicked off today in Bergschenhoek. After riding club crosses for two seasons, I decided to challence myself this time by ramping up the game, and ride in regional competitions. I’ve done four of those last season, and put in FDL (Finished Dead Last) every single time. So I fully expected to put in another one today.
I arrived early to have enough time to prepare and warm up. The course was laid on a sound barrier wall, and consisted mainly of grass. However, pretty soon after arriving there, it started to drizzle. The patches where the grass wasn’t abundant quickly turned into patches of slick clay, and other parts into soggy puddles… It wasn’t going to be easy today. But, hey! That’s what I just signed up for. I managed to do three laps as a warm up, and cycle through the last two, throughout.
At the start, I lined up at the back of the field, fully expecting to be the last to leave the starting stretch of tarmac, but to my complete surprise I wasn’t. And a minute later it became clear he wasn’t a faster rider having botched up his start.
The ladies started roughly one minute after us, and they came flying past me in the second half of the first lap. Two laps later, I managed to pass one of them again, not sure if she had a mechanical, or couldn’t sustain the pace.
As for challenging myself, I managed to do that. Last year, I had problems making a 180 on the downhill. This course had two, and I rode them, albeit slowly, without much problems. And finishing 2nd to last was an added bonus
In all, it was tough, but a lot of fun to do. And I’ve been building confidence. The only downside to all this is having to clean a white bike…
Last year’s CX season opener was this year’s second. There were more differences to last year’s. Then it was a balmy 17 degrees, now barely 13. The it was sunny all day, now rainy just about all day. I remembered the course: curves, corners, and tight turns. With that course being shredded and turned into a clay pit, it was going to be awesome.
Got my race number, pinned it on the back pockets, and rode off for the course recce. Pretty soon I heard the chain climb into the inner ring. I’d put on a new chain for good measure, but obviously that didn’t keep chain suck from happening… I had chain suck in the latter stages of the race last week, and could deal with it then, but an entire race wasn’t something I looked forward to, let alone it ruins the paint on the frame (another thingie I have to fix). So I put the chain on the big ring. That solved that problem. Thankfully last year’s climb had been taken out, so the gearing wouldn’t be too much of an issue. However, during the recce lap another problem materialized: I was losing braking power, and I was losing it fast. In fact, I barely had any brakes at the end of the lap… Gonna make for interesting racing
Being on the big ring meant I had a sluggish start, and going into the first turn, I was in last place. Or was I? A minute or so later I was overtaken by two guys who’d either botched up or had completely missed the start, and during the remainder of the first lap I had the feeling at times there were a few more still behind me.
I had a ball all race long. All the twisting and turning went increasingly well, the slippery slope downward had me on my toes, but posed no real problem, even when sliding away from time to time it all was controllable. The only scary thing was the last stretch before start and finish, which was tarmac, but with a tight 180 turn in it. Ride that without brakes, boy! Only one time was truly hairy as I was being overtaken right there. Thankfully he braked and so I didn’t run him into the barriers as I barely could hold the curve. I apologized profusely for losing all brakes, but luckily he didn’t take offense. At the end of the penultimate lap, I saw the race leader closing in fast, so I took my chances, and went as fast as I thought possible in order to make it through that 180. I’d guessed right, and some 15 seconds into my last lap, the leader claimed his win. I didn’t make a mistake on the last lap, and so I think for the first time I finished a CX in the same lap as the winner
Lap times: 7:21, 8:17, 8:23, 8:12 and 8:23.
The front brake problems turned out to be caused by a slipped cable. I haven’t figured out what’s wrong with the rear brake, but most likely it’s the same issue. But rear brakes aren’t that important. I’ve done many races without ever touching the rear brake.
In retrospect, the CX was as awesome as I initially hoped for. I’m more confident compared to last year, albeit probably not much faster. Although, without brakes I had to take a few curves a lot faster than I was comfortable with. And not crashing out does embolden you, I can assure you!
October 14th and 15th
So I tried to double cross last weekend, but I got double-crossed. And maybe even twice….
Last Saturday, it was the start of the CX competition at Woerden. I drove off with time to spare, but that got eaten away on some road closures in Woerden, causing me to find an alternative route. I did find one, but I shouldn’t’ve been a minute later, or I’d not gotten a race number… All this left me with no time to do a course recce, nor a warming up. The former wasn’t such a big deal, plenty of riders to follow, but the latter could potentially hurt me. Not knowing the course also means that you don’t yet know where it’s safe to push and where you can take a breather. So I tried to not overcook in the first lap, but I didn’t manage to do that very well. Going into the fourth lap I felt myself fading a bit, and started to make little mistakes. Most of the time, you can correct them, every once in a while, you pay. This time I paid by crashing in a not too difficult curve. I tried to pick up the pace once back on the bike, but it took me about half a lap to get going again. Still, it was a good race.
Sunday had the first race of the Amsterdam circuit on the program. This time I managed to get there in time to do a course recce, and it was an interesting, but tough one. Lining up for the start at the back of the pack I had some 100 riders in front of me. So, very predictable, at the first set of turns everything ground to a hold, and we had to get off the bike and walk. Oh well, next round would be better. But that wasn’t to be. On one of the descents from a dyke I suddenly felt my left foot unclip for no apparent reason. Looking down, I saw the crank attached to the cleat, not the BB… Well, that’s a first (and it should remain that way). It’s kinda odd the crank got loose at this cross, as I must’ve rode the previous two CXes plus a dozen or so rides to and from the office with that crank.
Anyways, I’ve got that fixed, or so I think. Guess I’ll find out next weekend, where I’ll go for triple
October 21st and 22nd
Round 2 weekend, so to speak. Round 2 of both regional CXes I ride in. Saturday, the one in Spijkenisse. As I drove down there, it was raining, then pouring, and then raining again. But as I arrived at the club house, the sun was out.
I’d changed the tires, but that still didn’t keep my rear wheel from slipping. The course itself was somewhat challenging, but not too hard to ride. It had some tricky sections, and some very wet sections that had the potential to turn into a mud pit in no time. As I was riding the last sections of the course, the speaker started calling the riders to the starting line, so I cut the recce lap short, and took my place at the back of the bunch. The race itself was rather uneventful. I wasn’t the last to enter the field, but got passed when I made some little mistakes. Then again, the others make their little mistakes, and you pass them. In the end, I banked an FDL, as the one (or ones) I passed had turned in DNFs… It was a tough race, mostly I wasn’t yet used to having the wheels slightly slide in all directions.
The plan then was to move to Woerden to start in the club cross there, but detours and their ensuing traffic jams kept me from arriving on time, so I drove on to home.
Sunday had round 2 of the Amsterdam CX on the roster, this time being held at Sloten. As that’s about 10 miles away, I decided to bike to the cross, thereby ticking off warming up and cooling down from the to-do list.
After registering, I went out for a recce lap. From what I saw driving down the venue, it looked interesting, and it turned out to be even better than expected. Long sections, tight and not-so-tight turns and twists, going up and down embankments, 5 meter drops with a right-hander at the bottom, all that stretched over more than two miles (actually, 3500 meters). A quick check at the end of the recce lap showed I needed over a quarter of an hour to get round. So I reckoned I got to ride about three laps.
The race went a bit better than I thought. I was now more comfortable with the bike sliding left and right, could keep the pace most of the time (there were some spongy sections that really slowed you down), had some climbs I could ride, others I couldn’t. I found out that it was easier to put distance between me and the ones behind me by putting the hammer down on the easier sections, and take it just a bit easier on the hard parts, In the end, I think I passed about the same number of riders as that passed me from the start. No FDL this time, but 67th from 74 finishers this time.
I did got to ride three laps. I was told that if I wanted, I could ride another lap, and I did set out to ride another. However, it seems that I do need race circumstances to ride well on a CX course, as I pretty soon lost the determination to keep pushing through the tougher sections. So I left the course at a convenient point, did a quick hose-down of the bike, and went home.
In short, this was a tough weekend. Tough, but enjoyable. And, as far as you can judge your own skills, I have the feeling I’m already riding better than at the end of last year. I’m feeling more confident dealing with the harder sections, and I make fewer big mistakes. the only thing lacking now is speed. But that’s the price you pay by riding the tougher courses. And, after all, when your technical skills increase and sharpen, you’ll also get faster. So I’m not worried. Far from it, I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.
October 28th and 29th
I noticed I failed to file a race report last week, so without further ado, a double report!
Last week’s weekend was a mixed bag – CX on Saturday, a 10k run on Sunday. It was also marred by the last training on the Tuesday before, as it left me with sore muscles right until Saturday..
Due to roadworks I parked the car on the industrial estate in Woerden, and rode to the CX. The course recce showed that the sand pit has still not been restored to its former gruelling glory, but replacing it was a short steep climb with a 90 degree turn at the top, and a matching descent, followed by another 90 degree turn right at the bottom. I didn’t even try to ride up…
The race itself started furious, for which I (almost) always pay in the second lap. This time was no exception. However, all remaining laps were done within three seconds from one another. I don’t think I’ve been so consistent before.
I somewhat dreaded the 10k run on Sunday, mostly because of the sore muscles and the effects the CX might have had. But it turned out to be totally unwarranted as I was feeling pretty OK when I got out of bed. As I intend to do some run-bike-runs next year, I donned a skinsuit, and got on a regular Dutch bike, and headed out to the start (must’ve been quite a sight to see ).
The run itself was rather uneventful, running hot in the third kilometer and therefore cutting back on power, but keeping a nice, solid pace throughout. I’d set out to have a good run, and had a possible end time of 1:05 in mind. So when at 8 kilometers it was said I was at 51 minutes, I was pretty pleased as that would lead to 1:04.
Imagine my surprise when I saw the clock at the finish showing 1:00:42! Where did those 4 minutes go? I don’t care! Net time turned out to be 1:00:01. That’s about the coolest time I could ever imagine!
November 4th and 5th
Fast forward to this weekend. I had some wild plans, but both a case of Lyme’s disease and its (thankfully successful) treatment made me reconsider, and settle for just one CX each day.
Woerden had pretty much the same course as last week, but with a little rearranging at the end. Being a little late, I’d forgotten to take the Garmin, which pissed me off a bit. But, well, I can race without it. Having said that, I still managed to go all-out at the start where I probably shouldn’t (and no Garmin would’ve kept me from it, to be honest), because even before finishing the starting half-lap I was already struggling… Half way into the race, it started to rain. As the course was already somewhat slippery from earlier rains, the course became even more slippery. Normally, I can deal with that, and I even do like it that way, but for some reason, it didn’t suit me this day. But I struggled on, and managed to keep the rubber-side down all the time. In all, this was a fairly OK race.
Today’s CX was at Nes aan den Amstel, a small village not too far away from my home, so I rode on bike down there. Ever since I had a CX-bike, I’ve been wanting to start there, but up to today, I never had. Partly because the world’s longest beach race, HvH-DH, was held at the same day, partly because, honestly, I lacked the confidence. And even today, it was hard to partake in this one, as HvH-DH was being held for (most likely) the very last time.
After registering as a rider, I set out for a course recce. Well, it wasn’t going to be easy. Lots of mud, wet grass with lost and lots of potholes, some muddy sections, in all, a tough course.
At the staring line, I took my position at the back. I managed to overtake a few on the first couple of hundred meters after the start, and headed out into the fields. Even before being half-way into the first lap, I felt the strain, but I managed to keep a steady pace. At some point, I could oversee the field behind me, and there were still some 10 guys behind me. I managed to do five laps in total, and overtook some more riders. In the end, I finished 60 out of (probably, as there were some stray transponders being registered) 78. I’m very pleased with that.
Looking back, I’m very happy with the way today’s race went. It’s been one of the toughest courses I’ve ridden so far. And even though it went pretty good, I learned something important: when you’re committed, be committed for at least 150%. I rode down one time, and though “oops” as I was a bit more to the left than I intended. I almost completely missed the curve… Next lap, I may have taken that curve a bit too wide, but I was fully confident it wasn’t going to be a problem, and it wasn’t. Cross is also a mind’s game.
November 11th and 12th
Another weekend, another round of CX. At least when there’s an “r” in the month
First up was the regional CX of Zuid Holland, this time at Alphen a/d Rijn. I’d known that one for a couple of years, as it’s included in the SwABo cross that I’ve done the last two years. This time, however, the course was a bit more challenging.
The course consists of two main sections, a flat part, which is doable, and a sound-barrier wall, which at time is doable. Not this time – at least not for riders with limited capabilities as I am
In short, you ride up the wall, but remain on the off-camber, There, you do a 180 turn, then another 180 turn, but you don’t go to the bottom, but you ride up to the top. There, you take a plunge down to the bottom.
I didn’t even try the 180-ies. I might’ve if it’d started from the top, but having to walk up the wall, you can hardly mount on an off-camber…. And I crashed on the plunge in the first recce lap. Not a great confidence booster… Combine that with a mistake in putting the tires on the rims, causing me to slip and slide every which way, and I knew I had my work cut out…
The first lap wasn’t actually that bad. Sure, I slid out a lot of times in the twists and turns, but it was manageable. Going in into the end of the lap, I noticed a bike with the rubber-side up down the course. As I got near, I saw a rider had taken a bad crash, and was lying on the ground. As I was passing him, people were trying to lift him from the course. A few seconds later, I heard his shrieks of pain…
2nd lap was pretty much the same as the first, slipping and sliding in every turn, but keeping it upright. the downed rider was still there, this time covered in blankets to keep him warm, and with the poles moved so we wouldn’t pass close by him.
As they say, sometimes you’re the hammer, and sometimes, you’re the nail. For me, it was nail-time. I’d made a bad call on the tires, leaving me with limited control. He’d gone down on an insignificant part of the course, and I could very well see myself go down on a similar stretch. That took all the fun away. And as it’s been said before, “if it ain’t fun, it ain’t worth doin'”. So I called it quits after the 2nd lap. And as I didn’t feel like riding another one, I skipped the one in Woerden.
Come Sunday, I was feeling pretty good. Apart from fixing the bike’s tires, I’d been busy working with some weights the evening before, but this time I didn’t feel any side effects. Last time it’d left me with sore muscles for a couple of days. Landsmeer was the destination for this day’s Amsterdam’s regional CX. Now, that course is part of a MTB track that I’ve done a few years back. So I hoped they’d left out some of the sketchy parts. Well, they did, but not the parts I wouldn’t mind being skipped.
There was a lot of grass, which I didn’t mind, some slippery tracks, which were OK, but also some steep descents followed by equally tough climbs (and vice versa). Contrary to Alphen, riding down wasn’t a problem, it was riding up. And the course was long. Not as long as Sloten, where I managed to only do three laps, but I was fearing I wouldn’t do much more here, as this course was a whole lot tougher.
The start was OK, this being the start of the largest grassy stretch, and I passed a few riders. However, come the ups and downs, I was struggling, and most I’d managed to get behind me were passing me by. And the playing with weights did have left some marks: I lacked the power to push on on the false flats. Anyway, I soldiered on, kept the wheels underneath of me, and managed to do four laps. One thing I really enjoyed this time was the stepping out of the rear wheel in the grassy turns. Not only could I control it, but I managed also to use it at will. I must say, that’s a cool thing to do.
Race report, yeah, right! Including last week’s CX. Yeah, Okey…
So. last week’s CX (yeah, only did one) was last Saturday’s regional CX at Ridderkerk. And, boy, was that a tough one. Never did so much climbing in a CX (hey, pancake-flat Holland, y’all).. But what goes up, needs to come down, and that was fun/tricky/scary, it varied from lap to lap. Almost made it without crashing (well, front wheel slipped out, and I managed to land on my knee, doesn’t count as a crash, right?), and this being the toughest one I rode, I was happy, even when finishing dead last.
November 25th and 26th
On to this weekend, first Rijswijk on Saturday. A grassy course with some sand walls to climb. And lots of twists and turns, combined with long straights. It was a hard course where really the only time you could take a breather was on the tarmac stretches. The rest was either soggy grass or muddy twists and turns. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Today’s CX was my “home race”, it being held at the Ouderkerkerplas, only 5km away from my house. I did a few training rides on that premises last year, so I kinda knew what I was getting in to. And even though it had some evil parts (riding up a wall, the having to do an uphill-180 right at the top, stretches of loose sand, the boards), the course was kinder than I expected.
I has a decent start (from the back of the pack), and I managed to overtake a few. Then, after making a mistake on a technical section (that 180 I mentioned), I lost a few. The gained some. Then lost a few again. Right until the finish line. In the end, I finished 74 out of 84, according to the preliminary results,
The race itself was tough. I pushed it hard in the first lap, and usually I have to pay for that in the 2nd lap. This time, it wasn’t so bad, and I could keep on pushing, even though not as hard as in the first lap. From there on, the field was so stretched out that you could only gain or lose a few places, , and that’s exactly what happened.
In all, this had been a tough, but fun weekend. Ouderkerkerplas will very likely be on the menu next year. Ridderkerk, too. CX is fun, even when you’re in the back field.