Mud, please…


The weather seems finally to have turned in our part of the world. File treads and short sleeves are gradually being replaced by mud tyres and arm-warmers, although the real ‘cross weather is yet to come.

I’ve had a taste of what’s in store on my local training rides. In the space of a rainy afternoon, Epping Forest is transformed from a dry and dusty playground to a sodden swamp, but slick trails are good practice, and I enjoy the added challenge of some leaf-strewn slipperiness to keep my skills topped-up.

The last few weekends have been packed with racing and riding, the high point being a trip to Round 1 of the National Trophy Series in Shrewsbury, a nerve-jangling foray into the top end of UK cyclocross, but one that actually went surprisingly well.

Shrewsbury has been a mud-bath for the past two seasons, but a relatively dry September gave us a course that was sticky and technically tough in places, but 99% rideable and totally my kind of circuit.

I’m in the V40 category now, so, rather than being the oldest in a field of 20- and 30-somethings, I was actually one of the youngsters on the grid, a fact that I hoped might serve me well when racing against some of the most experienced riders in the country.

I got a good start on the long tarmac straight that took us into the first tech section, and I managed to avoid a small pile-up that took out a couple of early favourites. After a frantic first half-lap I began to settle into the race, pushing hard through the woods and holding my ground on the power sections.

I never seemed to get the technical, off-camber sections quite right – ploughing into the claggy mud and hoping for the best – a ‘strategy’ that only worked once and a lesson learned. More pre-race practice next time out.

The bell lap was a struggle – one place lost on the flat-out outfield, but one gained in the woodland single-track, crossing the line in 7th place, very happy to have achieved my aim of a top 10 and looking forward to my next Trophy outing at Milton Keynes in November.

On the local scene, I’ve had a couple of V40 wins and a close 2nd place in my last open race at Davy Down in Essex. I’m feeling fit, a nagging cold has passed and the weekend calendar is filling up fast.

Sundays can’t come round quick enough.