It is week two of the London summer cyclocross series and I am going into this race with more confidence. I am still a little sore from the half marathon I ran the day before, but thankfully it is mostly muscles that I do not use for biking. It is so nice to see some familiar faces. Several racers there recognize me from last week. The race is taking place at the same location, only we are going the other way and more obstacles have been added. Before the race starts, I have set a few goals for myself based on my performance last time. For this race I am going to focus on pushing harder, riding the flat grassy sections going all out, riding the corners faster, and recovering on the trail sections where I am still developing confidence. I am also not ready to go down steep hills and will be choosing to dismount and run since it will be faster. I have also decided to ride with my clip-less pedals.
We only have time to do one practice lap and I use this time to map out what places I am going to ride at what pace. After the practice lap all the racers line up at the starting line. I am positioned towards the back with my fellow female competitors. This week there are three women racing, so we will all place. (There are about 60 racers in total.) The other women are both category one mountain bike racers. I am here to race, but tonight is less about competition and more about improving my mindset, learning the course, and beating last weeks lap times.
The starting bell is sounded and we take off for an hour around the course. Already this race is different for me. Instead of falling behind at the beginning, I am actually keeping up with a pack. This is a big improvement. We go through the woods and then into a bunch of twisty turns flanked by bramble bushes. On the first lap I take one turn too wide and end up with arm full of bramble thorns. Ouch! On the upside, I now look really badass with blood running down my left arm. After the twisty turns, we move to the open field and I take off at a full out sprint. This is where I am able to pass a few who are at the back. My bad knee starts to ache from yesterday’s race pains, but I tell it to be quiet. Then it is back into the woods followed by a stretch down an unpaved road and finally back to the start as I finish my first lap.
The race day is hot and I am riding really hard. I have to plan my water consumption since hand ups are only allowed from other teammates. (Anyone from Sheclismo want to join me in the London racing scene?) On each lap, I meet my goal of riding the flats at a full out sprint. I still need to ride the single-track sections with more confidence and speed, but I can tell that I am using more of my energy. The organizers of the race recognize me from last week and cheer me on commenting that I look much more comfortable on the bike. At about 45 minutes in, I start to get a second wind and realize that I should have pushed harder at the beginning. Then it hits me, in two weeks I have made several improvements. I might actually have a chance at being a pretty solid racer on day.
|Crossing the Finish|
I go into the final lap with a determination to give all I can and I cross the finish line in a sprint for a third place finish. This feels like a success. I flop on the ground next to the course and pant, then get up to congratulate my fellow competitors.
Next week’s race is a grass crit. I am going to use that as opportunity to practice my sprinting. I am also looking forward to the official season in the fall when I can race against racers in my own category.
|Making New Friends and Showing Off Battle Wounds|
Video and pictures from UKCycleSport.