The rain radar this morning had a large clump of red storm clouds traveling perfectly to end up over Strathclyde Country Park at 13:30, just in time for the start of my cyclocross race. It was always going to be a mudfest!
Cyclocross is a crazy sport sometimes, but that’s what I like about it. The course today was a mix of everything – steep gravel climb, swoopy woodland singletrack, loose muddy downhill chute, and several fields of thick gloopy mud. And rain – sometimes heavy rain!
I watched the race prior to mine, and saw a lot of people suffering punctures. Now, I’ve got history in this area. Last year at Strathclyde Park, I drank too much cx “low tyre pressure” coolaid and punctured on lap two, either on a kerb or a rock. I went home and bought a digital tyre gauge so I could introduce some repeatability into my tyre pressures. With all the mud this year, cx wisdom says low tyre pressures are crucial. But, for me, finishing the race is more crucial! So I went towards the safe end of what I’ve tried before – and thankfully finished the whole race this year.
I’d also got a set of proper mud tyres, and I was really impressed by the difference they made. I was able to rail around muddy corners which others were braking for, which was great for both catching up and conserving energy. Unfortunately, the final corner of the lap was hard pack and slidy and I lost the front end there one lap and went for a roll.
Continuing with the experiments, I tried eating (drinking?) an energy gel midrace. I didn’t feel much difference, but the lap timings show that I got faster on the last two laps (where I usually get much slower). So maybe that’s worth continuing with.
In the race, there was a nasty looking crash right at the start. A rider fell at the left, and a few folk tipped over him. It all happened a few riders ahead of me, but that’s the first time I’ve been near to a fast crash. Everything happens very quickly.
Once everything had settled down, I ended up racing rider 380. He was going faster on the straight bits and a bit faster uphill, but with my new tyres railing the muddy corners I made it all back on the downhills. But at the end of lap 3 I fell on the slidy corner which meant I had to catch up all over again. Coming into the last lap, I went for it in the muddy field (tyres giving confidence again) and got a clear gap ahead of the climb. It was good racing – I like when there’s a lot of back-and-forth and you can pick up tips by seeing where the other rider is faster than you.
So, a good day at the office! I finished in 36th place (56th percentile). This gives some actual points in the series. Woo!