Monday, 29 October 2012

Round 7 Wessex CX League - Swindon at Rutherford Appleton Lab, Didcot

What a place! In amongst the egg heads' radio telescopes and laboratories, lies a stony, chalky hill. Someone with a sense of humour thought it would be entertaining to build a cyclocross course around it, like a helter-skelter, roller-coaster theme park kind of affair. It was so entertaining, that I didn't even notice this digger until after the race: 
The chalky hill was just rideable and hard work. I wish I'd taken photos from the summit of the hill, and in particular, down a chalky side towards a fence that goes alongside a right hander on a grassy ledge. Quite spectacular. One could imagine how an overcooked descent could slam the rider into the fence at best, or send them over it, like when those crazy Tour de France riders sometimes misjudge an alpine corner. And I wish I'd taken a picture looking down THE steep muddy bank, where there were spills and thrills aplenty, but alas, I didn't get the chance. 

Many punctured on this course. Some considered it not a "real" cyclocross course, but more like a mountain bike circuit. Well, it had a few hundred yards on flat concrete, quite a lot on grass, plenty of banks and off-camber sections, some of which forced a dismount. And it was hard work, windy and cold. Sounds like cyclocross to me! And cyclocross has always been cool:

Now that's what I'm talking about!

And, before I forget, a huge round of applause for the brand-spanking-new-looking changing rooms and shower block. Never has a hot shower felt so good!

Round 6 Wessex CX League - Reading CC at Prospect Park

Rain over the last few days created luxurious mud baths around the course. The section in the woods was surprisingly dry, but there were a couple of peaty mud corners that were tricky to negotiate. A couple of the ubiquitous Cotswold Veldrijden warming up:

Seriously, the blues are everywhere. Lovely kit though, I've got to admit. 
This part of the course had puddles - you can just about see them below. Who knows whether a tree root lurks under the surface, just like the Loch Ness Monster...

This is what I call a determined youngster, no fear going straight into the mud.
The steep uphill banks were muddy, which made a challenging course all the more demanding. Altogether, a superbly organised event in tricky conditions.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Round 5 Wessex CX League - GWR Team Swindon at Supermarine RFC

A sunny autumn day at Supermarine rugby club, founded in 1958 by the workers at Vickers/Armstrong. In the background, you can just about see the archery targets of the Supermarine Bowmen, who were out training this lovely, but chilly, Sunday:
Once again, an entertaining course. On each lap, many things came in pairs. There were two twisty grassy sections. Two flattish stretches across the playing fields each swooping into a right hander. Two barriers far enough apart that it was better to ground the bike and roll it between the hurdles. Two wooded sections. Each wooded section had a brief excursion out of the woods before shortly diving back into the trees.

It had rained heavily in the week, so some of the course was muddy. I have no pictures of the muddy sections, but it was the kind that sticks like clay in shoe tread and doesn't allow you to clip in to the pedal. The mud was worst coming out of the second wooded section. Interesting study in mud here. To exit the woods you had to cross a bank, which required a dismount and running up and down the other side. The bank had sticky clay type material on both slopes. Immediately after that was a twisty section through peaty, loamy stuff. On some of these turns by the end of the race, running may have been faster than riding. So, different kinds of mud just a few yards apart.   

A twisty grassy section at the end of the lap had some slight off camber bends, which did catch out a few riders (not me thankfully). Here's an intrepid junior negotiating it nicely:
The only downside today was that from the start, a wide stretch of grass, to the first wooded section in single track, there was a drastic funneling effect. This created a huge traffic jam, like a hopper jamming. Ho hum, you can only play the cards you're dealt. At least there weren't any major crashes. 

Monday, 8 October 2012

Round 4 Wessex CX league - Sotonia CC at Fleming Park

It was one of those lovely autumn days, when golden sunshine backlights the trees (when it was not overcast, anyway). Evil course designers had laid switchbacks going uphill and downhill. The sequence was: medium uphill drag, long descent, long hard uphill drag, short descent, short uphill drag, to a sandpit! Fine for all those wiry, squirrely, hobbity types, but not for those who, like me, have been blessed with carrying a few extra, ahem, "panniers".

No pictures this time, but a great video from Julian Gee here:
This being an old golf course, the sandpit was a bunker, complete with trip-worthy lips at each end. Quite a few tumbles there as riders' front wheels dug in either on entry or exit. I rode it a couple of times, got bogged in once, but mostly found it safer to run it. There was one great section which went downhill into a right hander up a short bank, a left hander down a small ramp, then an off camber left hand up slope section, diving down a bank into a right hander. My main memory of this was ducking under the birch tree branches on the dive exit. It was great! On the first lap, it was on this sequence where in all the traffic I came unstuck and lost a number of places. On the last lap, the lines and curves were dialed in and with no other riders nearby, I flew round it, but I guess so did everyone else by then.

Quite a few small ramps and banks on the course, which required getting speed, gears and lines sorted out - I suppose that's the definition of "technical section". In addition, most downhill bits required the brain to stay engaged, because they were snakey, or down a ramp into a tight corner, or entering an off camber bend!

It was certainly not boring. I understand it was their first event here, so big congratulations to Sotonia CC, the helpers, and the course organisers.