It rained the weekend before last, and I see lots of Belgians got very wet and muddy!
I entered my first 'cross race as a Belgian, and also my first for 25yrs. The course was going to be challenging..........three laps of the car park at Blenheim Palace!
Given my lack of respect for car park races, I decided to cycle from home and enjoy a soaking wet hour off-road beforehand. So I arrived rather cold, wet and covered with a thin layer of Cotswold grit filled mud. Expecting to meet 2 non Belgians at the start I check my phone to find they had decided to read the paper and brunch with the family, rather than flog around in the butt end of Hurricane Igor. Hey ho no mates, no support!
I decided that I would ride the course in case I had missed any hills or technical sections. I quickly realised the course had been designed by the Aztecs from Nazca! 4 spiral loops were connected by long straights with a couple of jumps and a large area of standing water. Imagine your motorcycle CBT in 10" long grass, 2" of standing water and driving rain. Somehow I was looking forward to this.
Anyway a much depleted field assembled at the startline. I was aiming for a top 10 and with the number of dropouts it was on the cards. The start line banter was designed to intimidate, a couple of entrants looked in need of a good meal, and we had to wait for one character who was practising bunny hops over a rather large fallen tree.
The race commenced with quick shout of "go" and we were off. I did my usual tactic. Go to the back, and the only way to go is up the field. This has always worked, from marathons to triathlons, but today it seem to be different. The fat bloke in the HCtB top was in for a tough hour. After about 20 dizzying minutes of spirals and tree roots I had picked off about five people but now the race was spreading out. I was hoping mechanicals and boredom might set in and I would pick them off one by one. It didn't happen though I was going to have to dig deep and race! I did pick up a few more places and I ended up 9th, more on the turnout than ability, but I acheived my goal.
Having no reason to get any wetter or colder, and having no interest in watching people race Bromptons, I headed back home for a hot bath and to receive the adulation of my 6 year old, who now thinks Daddy is in a Belgian cycling team.
I had a fun first outing, and might look for my next race to include a hill and some proper mud.