The morning of my second ever CX World Cup and the course was very muddy with plenty of ruts so this meant that I would need to do lots of bike changes. Something I had not really practiced back home as it is never muddy enough to need a clean bike. The race start was scheduled for 11:30 but had been revised and moved to 11:20 that morning leaving myself and Nick Smith in the dark about the start time change.
I completed my warm up on the rollers to get my legs firing and then headed off towards the start. The crowd was massive and it was really hard to make it through as I got into the course and road backwards down the start straight I could hear riders already being called up. I started to sprint down the road as I was meant to be called up in 24th but there was no way I was going to start that far up the front as there was only a few riders left to line up on start grid. I jumped the fence and quickly got checked by the official and lined up about 50th. This was not ideal but I made it to the start before the gun went off it only takes once to learn something and I can guarantee I won’t be late to a start ever again.
The three minute call echoes across the field or riders and I knew Nick would struggle to make it in time. With only one minute to spare he makes to the back of the grid and Fiona calmly say “boys don’t worry your here now just focus on the race” I took a breath of relief and got set for the race. I removed my jacket and shifted into my third gear down for the start. I looked up at the lights putting my rear brake on and loaded up my left leg ready for the green light.
Green ! We’re off.
I got a clean start moving up a few position on the first climb. The crowd were going wild, I have never seen people at a cycloross event. Dropping off the road and into the mud people are going everywhere as there aren’t any real ruts yet because we are the first race of the day. Past the pits and around into the forest were its much gripper and faster. Down the hill past the VIP tent where I could open it up and gain a few positions. Into some hairpins were there was no grip. I had to grab the fence and pull myself around the corner. As we headed back up the hill I rode the first climb and then decided to run the second half and carry my momentum by getting off early. There were riders trying to stay on their bikes but it was faster to run on the first lap.
Into the forest again and another run up. It was shoulder to shoulder as we pushed past each other trying to get to the decent were we could ride again. Coming past the pits for the first time and I decided to miss as my bike wasn’t heavy and muddy yet. Back down the hill and across the Field over to the tarmac section. Trying not to slide out on the mud covered concrete I made my way up the hill chasing riders ahead. This lead us straight into a slow muddy off camber section that if you lost your speed it was near impossible to pick it back up. Committing to the rut I made my way around to the 42 step run up that was energy zapping to say the least. The concrete steps pounded your already burning thighs. Along the top after the steps was slow and sticky, You had to ride the ruts that were right up against the fence and try not to catch a bar at the same time. Dropping out of that section we raced back up to the start line to complete the first lap. The field had already started to spread out and there was gaps everywhere.
The front riders somehow seemed to float across the top of the mud and not even sink in or slow down for it.As I completed my first lap I had to change bikes, it was completely clogged with mud and grass making the breaks rub and weight the bike own by another 5 kgs. I opted to pit and get a fresh light bike for the next lap or so. I was locked in a battle with a couple of riders that were around my pace and as riders that went too hard to early blew up we could work together to catch and pass them.
The laps passed and I kept catching riders trying to get back to where I was meant to start. It was taking a toll on my body all the mud was like riding with your breaks on. It was heavy and slow going. Every time I changed bikes I was going from either my muds to my intermediates or vice versa. When on my mud tires it was like I was on rails and then when moving back to the smaller treads that usually you can use in the Australian mud races it was like riding on frozen ice. I managed to stay upright and make it to the last lap where I had to battle right to the end to finish in 40th.
Next weekend is my First CX World Champs and I’m going to have to find another level of hurt when I get there. See you next week in Zolder !