The Blunderer’s Guide to Cyclocross – Part 2.2

 With the training evenings and the first races going OK, I felt confident enough to keep on going, even though I was bringing up the rear. But, as I considered this to be my rookie-year, that was cool with me. But pretty soon I had to make a decision whether I keep on CXing, or forego a few for some beach racing…

The hang of things

October 24th.

3088.jpgRound 3 of the CX in Woerden. Again, the course had been altered in some sections, this time stretching the long straight to the max, and adding two short climbs, one I just managed to ride, and another that I just could not ride. And once more I was the last rider to take the first curve, but only because I didn’t want to press the issue. I passed the rider with who I contested last place just a short while after that. For some reason it was tough going, and I only managed to pass two more riders. At the climb I couldn’t ride, there was a file forming, so at some point, everyone was walking, so I had no idea whether I would loose time having to walk compared to riding up. No such problems at the second new climb, but the descent looked a bit like the one at Leiden where I hit the deck, so I was a bit apprehensive, and maybe a bit too much. I did make a recce lap, but I failed to notice that this descent wasn’t really that steep. It was only after the race I noticed
Anyways, after passing rider #3 in the 2nd lap, I pushed things to the limit, forcing me to take things a bit easier in lap 4. It was only then that I could find a good rhythm. Not having anyone breathing down my neck, and not breathing down anyone’s neck myself, it was a relative easy ride to the finish.
The sprained finger didn’t give me much problems to my surprise, but in hindsight, I think I wasn’t pushing things as much as I had done the previous weeks. Seems like it takes more than one good lap to regain confidence. Not screwing things up hopefully is.
As to running versus riding, that didn’t matter at all. My guess is that the difference was at most a second either way. Lap times were consistent once again: 6:51, 6:47, 6:56, 7:08, 7:01, and 7:03.

October 25th.

3090Up for today: the Swabo-Crosscompetitie in Alphen. I’ve done Alphen twice last year, and then it was the easiest of the three. Well, not anymore. Compared to last year, it’s now in reverse, and they’ve added a sand pit. Also, the passage on the sound barrier wall had been changed to a long climb, and a zig-zag down. I had trouble riding up on the recce lap, and I didn’t try riding down, leaving that decision to race time. Also, there were hardly any easy passages where you could take the pressure a bit off without coming to a complete stop.
First round, I had to walk through the sand pit due to traffic, and I wasn’t in last spot, yes, that can happen! The barriers went smooth, plus the section of bends and curves. Then on to the sound barrier wall. I managed to ride up, but it took a lot of effort to get there. Not feeling like having any oomph left, I dismounted and walked down. As a matter of fact, I continued doing that all the way through the race. I’ve thought about hopping back on the bike after the (downward) 180, but chances were high I hadn’t clipped in in time for the downward 90. then some slippery ups and downs before a long bumpy section back to start and finish. I did manage to pass a few riders, mainly at the sand pit or the barriers. Most of the times, I could ride through the sand pit, and even riding in and hopping off half way was faster than walking through, never mind the clumsiness of the dismount. Also, being able to hop on the bike after the barriers saves at least 5 seconds. No drama during the race. The lap times are a bit more scattered this time: 5:35, 5:52, 6:12, 5:56, 6:02, 6:27, 6:03, and 5:56. I did take a breather during one lap, so that’s the 6:27, and there was a bad dash from the starting line, resulting in the 5:35. But if you disregard those two, it’s consistent again around the 6 minutes mark.
Only miff of this day is not being able to find my sunglasses again after I threw them in the grass mid-race.

October 27th.

Sidegrading my CXer.

This was a bit cryptic. One of the causes I felt why I struggled on the down hill 180 was the Campa shifters, the ones with the push-button down-shifter. I’ve had similar shifters on the last Alu racers, and they were OK for touring, not so great for racing. So I decided to swap them for Shimano 105s. As this was neither an upgrade nor a downgrade, I called it a sidegrade. And it worked out pretty sweet.

October 31st.

3103So one Saturday is not like the other Saturday. Round 4 of the CX competition at Woerden was at almost the same course as last week’s. Almost, as one switchback was made wider to accommodate the riders for the district championships that were held earlier today. Not that because of that our numbers were any less, though. Added plus, or rather a left-over from the championships, was the start box. Gee, almost official!
Anyways, I was once more last to enter the single track. Two junior riders that normally race before us, were also in the mix, and one was just in front of me. I could’ve pressed the issue, and make things tough, but hey, it’s for last place, who would we be kidding? Besides, so far I’ve managed to overtake a few riders in every race, so I wasn’t too worried turning in an FDL (finished dead last). And, indeed, at the start of the second lap, I’d left last place. I’d pass a few more during the race.
As I’d already done 60km in the morning, I was a bit worried I wouldn’t be as fast as last week. The thing with racing is that you never have the time to look at the head unit on the bars to read more than one number, that being my heart rate, usually. Also, I started off counting the laps, but I somehow lost count halfway… How hard can it be to count laps, you might think. Well, try that at close to max heart rate. Very simple cognitive skills suddenly have become unbelievably hard, I can assure you.
And when sweat was running into my eyes a number of times making seeing the damned course a challenging task, I’d lost all hope of doing better than last week. On the other hand, I managed to ride the climb I couldn’t do last week (not sure if I was any faster, but it sure felt better), and that difficult descent wasn’t so difficult this time around. Not that I was flying through, but it was way more smoothly.
So when I finally crossed the finish line I was happy to see I managed to do one more lap than last week! That’s awesome!
I must say, I do love to race at Woerden. It’s a nice course, there’s a nice atmosphere both on and at the sides of the course, and as an added bonus, the speaker already know me by name. That might have a bit to do with me turning up in a Vanderkitten CX outfit the last two times😉 (Oh, speaking about outfits, I’ll be racing in my club’s pink outfit tomorrow. Yeah, I’m 6 sigma out!).
Lap times: 6:28, 6:26, 6:24, 6:27, 6:29, 6:31, 6:25. Don’t ask me how I manage to ride this consistently. It sure didn’t feel that way…

November 1st.

3104So I skipped the longest beach race for the CX race at my club. And, when I woke up at 8 this morning, I was glad I did, as it was quite misty. Eating breakfast, taking a shower, and off to Leiden. When I arrived, the sun was trying its hardest to get through. Getting the race number, pinning it on, and on to the course. I started a recce lap, but pretty soon I noticed that the front wheel was hitting the ground quite a few times, so I cut the lap short, and checked the pressure. Front was at 1.5 the rear just under 2.0. That’s too low, so I topped the front up to 2.5, and the rear to 2.7. By the time I was done it was time to line up at the starting line.
Right from the start, I knew it was going to be hard. I left the tarmac in last place, and I never managed to get even close to the one in front of me. Maybe riding 60km plus a CX the day before is a bit too much… Anyways, even though I was struggling, and more so from lap 2 where my left calf was starting to hurt and I had to take it a bit back not to cramp. The technical sections went well, apart from having problems at times with the dismount. My left foot got stuck a couple of times before the stairs, and one time at the barriers, almost sending the bike flying off.. I almost hit the deck at exactly the same spot I hurt my finger 10 days ago. The guy in front of me did hit the deck, and was blocking the normal route, so I had to go around him. I ended up getting too close to the ribbons, and got it on the inside of the drops. With just 1m to go and too much speed to stop, my hand hit the pole around which the ribbons were wrapped. It sent the bar sharply to the right, and sent me almost flying off on the left side. I could unclip just in time..
I’d just gone through start and finish when the 40 minutes mark was announced. That meant I had another lap to go after finishing this one. That was a pleasant surprise, but only if I started that lap before the race leader finished the race. I think it was close. I expected to finish as the last rider, but that was not to be. At the top of the long climb, a rider had gone down, and was in pain. So I asked him if he was OK, and didn’t quite get a clear answer. It took some time for him to check he was indeed OK, and he managed to get back on the bike, even though his shoulder was hurting. I got back on the bike, too, and rode off in front of him. At the bottom of the long descent I looked up, and he was riding down, too, much to my relief. Not taking any risks at the stairs, the rest was easy going.
In all, it were 50 well-spent minutes on the CXer, and I enjoyed every one of them. Looking at the numbers, it’s interesting to note the heart rates.The max was 170-175 over the last three weeks, with the average climbing from 150 to 165 last week. Yesterday, it was 167 max, 155 average, and 165 and 158 today. So the 60km in the morning had an effect on the race in the afternoon, and the combined effort yesterday had an effect on today. And it pretty much felt that way, too.
And speaking of numbers, I managed to squeeze out 9 laps, the most I’ve ever done so far. Lap times: 5:21, 5:38, 5:37, 5:43, 6:00, 5:37, 5:50, 5:37, and 6:00. I’m pleased with that.

November 3rd.

So it was time again for the LCTC training in Leiden, tonight, this time lead by relief trainer Jeroen Devilee. Even though I’ve done 7 CX races in the last month, it’s always worth to do your training. During a race, you often don’t notice all your little mistakes and mechanical flaws, but at trainings, you sure do notice them! I’d noticed last Sunday that the left pedal’s springs were too tight, making a dismount a challenge at times, but that was made perfectly clear tonight. Another find was that my brake pads had been slipping somewhat.
One of a more biological flaws I was just made aware of is that at night, I can’t see the darker patches at night. My night vision is still pretty good at night, but when there’s also a bright light around, those darker parts become completely black. Comes with old age, I reckon. I noticed this problem on a somewhat badly lit patch of the course where there was a switchback, and alternatively a right-hander, both going back down. The right-hander posed no problem, as there was a bit of light hitting the path down, but the switchback looked like riding into a dark pit to me, and I couldn’t get my head around taking it again after I almost went down the first time around. OK, at least I know that, now. Apart from these mishaps, it was a fun hour.
Oh, and the obligatory tumble was this time courtesy of the front wheel stepping out completely unexpectedly, sending me to the ground. The left knee did hurt for a bit, but the pain subsided after a few minutes. Guess I was lucky.

November 7th.

3114So, round 5 of the CX competition in Woerden. It’d been raining somewhat over the last days, so I was wondering if there were any alterations to the course. As I managed to arrive somewhat late I opted for a quick scan, and then do a couple of warm-up starts rather than riding the full course. The short, steep climb had given way for a sand pit, but the pit was running upwards… But apart from that, I didn’t see much different from last week.
The start was the regular dash to the single track section, but this time I decided to push on, and keep my line. There was one rider on my left contesting my place, and we did touch, but he was one wheel behind me, and therefore backed off. I expected him to pass me, and it did eventually happen, but only midway through the second lap. Once past me, he was gone in a matter of minutes. Kinda awesome you can keep a better rider behind you for so long by just riding good lines and maintaining good speed on the more straight sections.
Due to the rain some sections were more slippery than on the previous weeks, but they were manageable. The sand pit was a different story. When I checked it out before the start (without being on the course), I noticed that none of the riders that attempted to ride through it managed to do so. So it was clear to me I had to dismount, and run through it. Well, run…. I’m not a good runner with a bike on my shoulder, and starting with a heart rate of 165….. Anyways, it didn’t surprise me that I lost time in the sand pit. At one time, I overtook a rider some 30 seconds before entering the sand pit. Once out, he’d overtaken me, and was leading by some 30 meters. I was back on his wheels within two minutes, and powered past him on a particular bumpy section.
Just over halfway through the race, I noticed that the ride in front of me was slowing down. In the curves and switchbacks, the difference was more or less stable, but on the straights I was approaching fast. Just before the sand pit, I was on her wheel. Her being a lot younger and lighter than me, she was a long way away once out of the pit. So, if I wanted to finish in front of her, with the sand pit just some 200m before the finish, I had to have a lead of some 15 seconds entering the sand pit in the last lap. But honestly, it would be easier if I only have to pass her once. So I either stay in her wheel until the next and last lap, or overtake her straight away, and try to build a comfortable lead in this lap. As I still had to catch up with her, and she’d sped up again, I was starting to doubt if it ever would come to that. So, at the sand pit I still hadn’t caught up with her, but I had reduced the gap to some 25m, and out of the pit I saw she was slowing down again. So, I pushed as hard as I could, and coming out of the first switchbacks I was on her wheel again. Although it was a bad spot to overtake, I steered into the rough, and put the power full on. She was having none of that, of course, and did the same. Halfway to the next curves, I had passed her, but being in front is one thing, staying in front is another thing completely, so I took the gamble to keep the power on, and try to open a gap right away. The risk of doing so is that you start to make little mistakes that are going to cost you. Riding on that thin edge for a few minutes, I took a look at how things were progressing at the third cluster of switchbacks, and I was happy with the size of the gap, and I eased up just a little. Coming out of the sand pit and into the last switchbacks I still had a sizable lead going into the last lap. There was one rider some 10s in front of me, and I decided to push it in the last lap, just to see how close I could get. In short, what I’d win on the straights I lost when it wasn’t straight… And that’s a thing I have to work on. I corner way too slow. Still, I feel I’m doing better than a month ago. I may be cornering slow, but I’m cornering far more confident than at the start of the competition.
Lap times: 6:44, 7:07, 7:11, 7:05, 7:12, and 6:58. Not bad. And I was totally wasted when I passed the finish line. This was the hardest here so far. So, yeah, I’m happy.

October 8th.

3116Lisse for round 5 of the Swabo CX competition. I arrived early enough to do a two-lap warm-up and course recce, and top up the rear tire as it hit the ground a couple of times on the first lap. The course hadn’t changed much, only the barriers were replaced by shorter ones that you could zig-zag through. And some of the bumps after the start had been flattened and sort of removed. There were some nasty remnants, however, that made life less agreeable if you weren’t careful.
The mad dash after the start ended at the start of these bumps and the back field almost came to a complete stop. One of my team mates found herself on the right of the line, and threw herself into the first available gap, however small that one was, causing the rest behind her to click out. Clever move! I may have been in last place at that spot, but I think there were still one or two behind me. On the next somewhat higher bump, someone had come down, and was blocking the way just long enough for everyone behind him to have to click out, and take a few steps. Oh well, all in the game. Only thing is, I had to brake so hard that the cable to the front brake slipped twice…
The race itself was more or less as usual. A couple of laps on my own, then paying attention to the faster riders that come to overtake you. Most of the times, there’s no problem. I try to get out of the way as much as possible, but every now and then, it goes awry. Coming out of a right-hander, I stayed on the left to let three riders pass, but the first rider somehow expected me to go right, and somehow got stuck behind me, and the others behind him, even though the course continued on the right of the line I was taking. So they were still behind me when we entered a single track section. When we came out of that, I told them to go left. Problem solved.
Speaking of overtaking, the way that works best for me is do it as soon as possible, and put the power on, even if that means going through some rough terrain. Waiting half a lap or so to overtake on an easy spot just doesn’t work for me. I do take care not to get either one in trouble, after all, we’re riding in the back field.
Lap times: 6:41, 6:44, 6:50, 6:58, 6:49, 6:56, 6:43, 6:27.

November 13th.

So it had been raining this morning, but it had stopped when I started riding. At some point, I had to take a blind corner as a minivan was blocking my view. As a result, I couldn’t see that iron manhole cover about 1m long, and rode straight over it. A few seconds later, I realized both wheels had slid over it.
I love CX just a bit more.

November 14th.

3126With the CXer in the back of the car, I turned on the ignition, and was instantly reminded of the empty gas tank… By the time I’d topped up the tank, I was running late. So late, in fact, I had to put my name on the list at the finish rather than the club house. And so late as to having to depressurize my bladder at the start.
So with only the frantic dash to the starting area as a warm up, I got ready for the start. We’d practiced that in last Thursday’s training, so I had the best start so far only to find out my position on the track was far from ideal: lots of wheel spin in the wet grass. Still, it was a decent start, and exiting the first bend, I could already overtake two riders. I kept the power on in the first lap, but had to back off a bit in the second lap (so it felt anyways), also due to the lack of warming up.
The course had changed a little, some long zig-zags had been replaced by short curves, the sand pit was now a descent, followed by that short steep climb, and some trees were now passed on the other side. In all, changes that suited be just fine.
About half way, I somewhat got stuck behind a group of three riders. I managed to pass one before a series of curves, and the plan was to overtake the second ride on the inside of the last curve. I’d done that a couple of races ago at that same spot. But when I turned into the leaves on the inside, my front wheel hit something and washed out, sending me to the ground. Thankfully, I’d not taken out anyone other than myself, and I was OK. The bike had only suffered a dropped chain. At which point I was grateful for being so late at the start as to not having had the time to grease the chain.
Back on the bike I reminded myself to take it easy for half a lap, and then get going again. I’d been faster than the riders I’d attempted to pass, so with about two laps to go, I should be able to catch up on them again. And so it happened one lap later, at almost the same spots again. That’s also where my inexperience with overtaking riders showed, as I never thought of calling out I’d be taking the inside, and got myself in a bit of trouble where it got narrow again. No harm came out of that, thankfully, albeit that I got just about everything wrong whilst staying on the bike in the next section…
The call for the last lap came a bit early to my taste, and I wouldn’t’ve minded doing another lap, or even maybe two, as I was riding well. Oh well, maybe next time.
Lap times: 6:17, 6:03, 5:57, 6:05, 6:28, 6:04. Hitting the deck’s gonna cost you 25 secs, it seems…

November 15th.

3129When I woke up this morning, I had no idea what I was going to do, apart from racing a bike. I’d been enrolled in a run-bike-run with my running mate Frans van Kampenhout, but yesterday he let me know that he might pull out because of personal reasons.So when I hadn’t heard from him this morning, I prepared for the bike part of the R-B-R. Just when I drove away from home, Frans texted me he pulled out. OK, go back home, swap bikes and kit, and on my way to Swift Leiden for round 6 if the SwaboCrossCompetitie.
Driving to Leiden, I noticed that there was a strong wind blowing, and with the skies being overcast, it was only a matter of time that it was going to rain. And a lot of rain had already fallen. Knowing the course was built on an old landfill using mostly clay, well, it was going to be a slippery affair…
The course recce lap showed that the course had remained unchanged, but some sections had become very tricky (at least, to me). And I hit the deck when on a short but steep incline my front wheel took a different course than expected… Taking it the second time was far less dramatic, thankfully.
So, race time. Where the start went pretty good yesterday, today was a different matter. I just couldn’t get the left foot clicked in. When I finally managed to do that, last place was firmly in my grip. About a minute later, I overtook a rider, but he quit after one lap, and from there on, I’d lost track of whether I was still in last place, or that I’d overtaken someone having a mechanical. Anyways, the going was tough, but I was determined to go on, as this was the first time I’d been riding on such a slippery track. And with rain falling half an hour into the race meant it was going to get even harder. And it did. By that time, I was in survival mode, just trying not to make any bad mistake. I’m cool with slippery sections when it’s flat, but it’s a different matter if it goes up or down, or on a slope. I don’t have the confidence yet to keep the pace on such sections. Making it in one piece was good practice, and probably instrumental in gaining that confidence.
Lap times: 6:20, 6:36, 7:08, 6:52, 7:06, 7:19, 7:10.

November 21st.

3140Never thought I could have so much fun on a CX! Originally, I’d planned to do an off-road ride in the morning, and then go to Woerden for the race, but hours of rain in the morning kept me at home. Although it had stopped raining late in the morning, the course was wet and muddy at places. There were some changes, the sand pit now sported a switch-back: going down first, a 180, and up again. I might have tried it if it’d been level, but not in this case. Overall, the number of switch-backs had been decreased. In hind sight, I’m a bit disappointed by it.
I’d made some changes in the setup of the bike. I’d put the saddle horizontally, and a full cm further back. Thankfully enough, I was early enough to do a recce lap, and I fully needed that lap to get used to the new setup. Also, I felt I’d somewhat over-inflated the tires, so after the recce lap I deflated both a tad.
I had a good start for a change, right up to the point where the rear wheel lost traction a couple of times, and I was in the back field once more going into the first curve. Coming out of that curve, I started to overtake a couple of riders, and I noticed that I’d deflated the rear tire just a bit too much, as I was hitting the ground more often than I’m used to. Still, coming to the second curve, I’d passed two riders.
At the end of the second lap, I was right behind another rider. However, out of the sand pit, where he ran and I walked, he was having a 30m lead. Unfortunately, I was being held up by three ATB riders that overtook me, them being faster than me. It took me the remainder of the lap to get back to that rider in front of me. And again, he had a lead coming out of the sand pit, but this time I saw his lead was just 10m or so. Half a minute later, I was on hist wheel, right at a section where it was easy to overtake. I did just that, and kept the power on for the remainder of the lap. Next lap, I passed one more rider, and put a comfortable gap between us. That came in handy when my front wheel stepped out in a particular tricky section, and I barely avoided hitting two trees… Once on the course again, he was right behind me. Putting the power on, I was able to open up that gap again. At the end of the penultimate lap I took the time to look around me, and I couldn’t see any rider in front of me, nor behind me. So I could take a bit of a breather in the last lap, and I just had to cross the finish line in one piece, and I did.
This was the most slippery and muddy course I’ve done so far, but I felt very comfortable. Only at a few points, for instance coming down on a slippery section with a sharp left-hander at right the bottom, I wasn’t feeling very confident. Still, even when the wheels were sliding out in every direction, I had little problems keeping things upright. I’d never thought that two months ago!
OK, lap times: 6:10, 6:32, 6:45, 6:32, 6:48, and 6:46.

November 22nd.

3141And if I thought yesterday was muddy, well, I was in for a surprise today. Even more mud. So much more that at places it was close to swamp riding. The course had been changed at one point, the 180 at the slope of the sound barrier wall was gone, and it was a straight up and down. As the course had been raced on yesterday, it was already muddy, and that climb was close to impossible to ride for me.
During the recce lap, it started to rain a bit, but it came with a crack of thunder, so we left the course for shelter. A couple of minutes later, that had passed, and we were called to the start. Due to the weather and the mud, only 18 riders lined up. After the mad dash on the tarmac I pretty soon found myself in last place. Well, that was to be expected. On the other hand, this is really my first CX year, so it’s more about learning than anything else, but it’s an added bonus when you can overtake another rider. All that mud was making the going pretty tough, and as a consequence, I started making little mistakes as early as the second lap. Nothing really bad came out of that, apart from having to stop every now and then. It was only in the first lap that I could ride up that slope, from lap two my rear wheel started slipping from underneath me before I reached the top, and with every lap it became more difficult to walk up… Clipping in also became more difficult, and riding down a slippery slope while not being clipped in is scary, let me tell you that! Apart from that section, I didn’t have much problems with the rest of the course, but all the mud made it a hard race.
The last lap was called a bit early, or so it felt, but when I looked down at my Garmin, we’d been riding already for 42 minutes. Time flies when you’re having fun. In all, it was a good race, and I’ve learned a lot. Guess I’m becoming a mudslinger😉
Lap times: 5:48, 5:55, 6:02, 5:59, 6:09, 6:16, 6:05, and 6:04.

November 28th.

3149Saturday, so CXing in Woerden. It had been reasonably day over the last days, so I assumed the course would be more firm than last week. How wrong I was….
After pinning my race number to my shirt, I rode down to the course. There were quite some changes to the course, so I went out for a recce lap. I noticed right away that it was very muddy and, hence, slippery. That point was brought home rather drastically when I turned into the starting area, and the front wheel just slid out from underneath me. No harm done, apart from mud on a new kit… On the other hand, it’s CX kit, so it’s kinda fitting😉
I botched up the start somewhat, clipped in only after some (slow) meters, and I had to plow through some swampy grass. I hardly had to break for the first curve, that being the positive thing. However, it could’ve been worse, as one rider was already pulling out due to a flat. I had some problems finding my rhythm and I had to sprint a couple of times in order not to lose contact with the field. Half way into the first lap I got things going, and I could overtake the guy in front of me. The sand pit still had last week’s 180 in it, and in the recce lap I’d tried riding through it, but failed to keep traction. So I gave it another go in the first lap, only to get the same result. Problem is, I’m not (yet) comfortable with tight turns on an incline, especially when leading down. So it was walking up on the sand for the rest of the race. It took me a few laps to get used to the slick sections, but when I was, I was having lots of fun, even though I wasn’t going any faster. I must say that I’m quite getting the hang of having the wheels sliding out just a few inches, even when going faster.
I didn’t fall during the race, and I found out in the second lap why I went down in the recce lap. There was a small ridge in the most slippery part of the turn, and the front wheel caught it, and followed it, sending me down. I was happy to find that out, because now I knew how to take that turn without getting into trouble. Also, I’m curious as to I like to know whether I made a mistake, or just had bad luck. I always try to learn from these incidents. The tough thing is forgetting it happened during the race, otherwise you start to make other mistakes just to avoid making the first one. That’s never a good thing.
CXing is funky business. Sometimes you’ve got to react blindingly fast, sometimes you just need to not react at all. I’m kinda amazed I seem to get that right about every time. It does make it fun, and I’m enjoying it like I never thought I would.
Lap times: 7:11, 7:15, 7:20, 7:27, 7:32, 7:24.

November 29th.

3151More brutality this morning in Lisse at round 8 of the SwaboCrossCompetitie. It had been raining for the larger part of the night, so it would be more mud than ever. The recce lap confirmed that. It was a small field, today. I’d say about 30 riders in all, starting in one group. After the start I was right behind a rider, and I had the feeling is was somewhat faster than him. With the first obstacle (a series of short bumps) a 10 seconds away, I thought about overtaking him on the tarmac, or on the long grassy stretch after the obstacle. I decided to go for the latter. I think it turned out to be a wise decision, as we almost came to a complete stop at the obstacle, and I’d probably would’ve crashed into the file because of the extra speed I’d be carrying. Right after the obstacle I rode up to him, and passed him without too much difficulty. At the end of that stretch there’s a 1.5m rise plus descent on the other side, a 180 turn, and back up the rise again. That rise is sandy, and the rain had caked the top 5cm of it, but underneath, it’s still fairly loose sand. So every time you’d ride up again, your rear wheel slips in the loose sand… Other sections that were made “more interesting” were the twisting and turning sections at the second half of the lap, where the trees are mere inches away from the track, and at times you’d find yourself sliding towards them.
Having not a lot of riders meant that I’d find myself all on my own already at the start of lap 3. Without someone within reach in front of you it’s hard to keep concentrated, but I managed to keep going without making too bad a mistake.You’d slip out every now and then, and choose sub-optimal lines, but in all I was doing dandy. One small incident in the last lap: I got lapped, and I tried to follow as best as I could. But some 15 seconds later I saw he hit the deck in a not too difficult bend. He was on the bike again when I was a few meters behind him, so I could follow him again. After the finish he said he relaxed just a bit too much, and missed to spot that little tree stump that clipped his foot. But that’s cross.
Lap times: 7:09, 7:43, 7:58, 8:14, 7:57, 8:43, and 7:17.

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