Sorry if the title offends just a play on the old Rovers song which is dragged out when Derby day duty calls. The sentiment of hellish suffering seemed to fit with many of the descriptions of cyclocross printed online.
On to the cycling, I am never shy of identifying myself as a mediocre cyclist, average in ability and in essence lacking in the drive to chase any significant change in my cycling profile. Given I don’t aspire to take on the human powered land speed record that’s kind of OK.
However, a winter’s morning trip to the Beverage Park Kirkcaldy to watch some cyclocross provided a moment of clarity and instead of my usual self-deprecation the reality struck home that what I have been doing by belittling my time on a bike is limiting the nonsense I can get involved in.
The event comprised of an A race and a B race each for up 50+ adult riders of every ability under the sun. I watched the B race before the biting wind and rain took away my companions will to remain outdoors and I left with a mission. If these folk can flog themselves round the track with everyone admiring their tenacity and no one caring a jot about their prowess then why can’t I. Why is my fear of coming in last in a race that I am allowed to be rubbish in stopping me from having a go!!
Cyclocross is….a sport where riders generally attack a course for 40 minutes to an hour using road style bikes modified for off road use. Throw in some hurdles, obstacles, hills and a mix of surfaces: tarmac, sand, gravel, grass, mud, mud then there’s mud and you have the basis of cyclocross.
I like the description of the sport as being akin to “a time trial with torturous intervals thrown in for good measure” It’s not for the faint hearted, it’s not easy and every definition I have found seems to reference the word brutal as if it’s a legal necessity.
So up until last week I thought it wasn’t for me…..
However my first act when I got home was something I never thought I would do: flip open the iPad, type in Cyclocross races Fife and immediately sign up for an event 7 days away in the neighbouring town of Dunfermline.
British Cycling- Valentines masCXacre
So Saturday night and my bags packed: bottles, multi-tool, track pump, tubes, Garmin, heart rate strap, food, socks, gloves, arm warmers, helmet, glasses and CX shoes.
What kit to wear simple choice look in the cupboard and find the blackest gear I have- I did throw in the line from Spinal Tap about me having “none more black” kit but I just received a blank stare.
Bike had been tested out a couple of days before so was cleaned and lubed..titter..lubed!! So along with a spare set of wheels these were thrown in to the car and we were good to go.
It was a blast seeing the kids charge round their course as we arrived. In my real world job I have to face people who too often trot out the myth that kids are only interested in computer games. Sure these are a big draw but what about a word for these kids who were giving it laldy?
We have been to quite a few pro races and seen the big names sign in so it was a hoot for my kid to see her Dads name listed as I signed in. Even more hilarity ensued as I bagged my race licence for the day.
I had asked a steward what tthe protocol was when I arrived and aside from telling me where the start, pits and toilets were he just said “enjoy it” which seemed pertinent advice.
I had a couple of practice laps in my legs and decided the tail end of the pack was the best starting point. Let’s not mess around with a corner by corner disection of the next 60 minutes. The truth is I had no idea what was about to hit me. Mud soup had replaced the grass from my arrival, off camber turns, switchbacks, single track wooded section, barriers of various sizes, sharp descents and a couple of stiff inclines where climb or carry the bike was the decision.
I was passed by way more people than I picked off (not bad when you start at the back!) but Ifinished in the mix with a few of the riders I had stated with. It was quite something to see the “talent” hurl past, I had been worried of causing a Headline grabbing incident by dealing a front placed rider but that was avoided by good verbals from all concerned.
What did I learn? Dismount and remount are key, I had done no learning and it showed as I was dropped in a moment by those who had this skill, fighting back to see this happen time and time again was noted. Ride the mud, this stuff does not compare to anything I’ve ridden before, my front wheel rim was not visible for many of the sections of the course. I had no experience of this from towpath rides or local parks. Ride slow fall over, it’s counter intuitive but if you feel like your going over then you best speed up. Train cross to ride cross would seem to be the theme from the people who shared wisdom. Steady winter pace road riding doesn’t help with what’s needed for a guts out hour.
Finally I learned that the comments relating to “Just enjoy it” were actually true. I have joined football teams, social clubs, cycle rides and even workplace activities where people believe they are inclusive and welcoming. This in my opinion hasn’t always been the case. Maybe I was too nieve to see the cliques today but I don’t think that was the case.
It was a riot and I am certain that when the next season starts towards the end of the year then I will be up for some more action; better prepared, more aware and maybe even in possession of some proper bike skills.
A great day out, a step into the unknown and a chance to show the kids that sometimes even old guys get rewards if they are willing to step out of their comfort zones.
Dunfermline Cycling Club, Bravo