They say time trials are the race of truth - I would argue that it follows that cross is more like the Spanish Inquisition, using any means at its diposal to get to the heart of the matter. The 'heart of the matter' being whether or not you have got it in the tank. Or not, in my case.
Leverhulme Park was balmy. Correction, hot - 22 degrees in fact. Any prospect of real mud had evaporated over the course of Friday, Saturday and then on race day. There was still some residual softness in the ground, that resulted in slowing down the speed of the course a little rather than any mud that stuck to tires or bike. There may have been some softness, but the course was still brutally fast - big ring all the way which is unusual for pack fodder like me in a North West race.
With a Trophy race in Wales, there were fewer big hitters present. It was a good field of stalwart North West regulars on the start line as well as a fair few irregulars and newcomers. A fast start leading into single track was always going to cause a bottleneck at some point, and a botched pedal hook up left me well down. I've been practicing that recently to the point of nailing it every time, except when it counts obviously!
The crash came later than expected and it was 2 riders in front of me. Sorry Mick S, about the Rhino tire tread on your backside, inflicted as I squeezed past on foot! It didn't hold me up too much but left enough of a gap to the next group to need some chasing. This went well and after a couple of laps I was on the back of a reasonable size group with most of the other leading vets in sight. A few slower starters came past after being held up in the crash, including Mick who went on to produce his usual Chris Young type effort and rode through the field with aplomb.
It was then, at about 25 mins in that the Investigators came to call. I was found guilty as charged - of having dwindling power, strength and general smoothness. Cross is all about momentum, and on a fast, largely untechnical course, smoothness through individual sections and bends is paramount. My technical abilities are suspect at the best of times, but as the feebleness set in, I was losing a couple of seconds here and there on riders in front through every turn. The loss of strength was compounded by an almost complete inability to get out of breath toward the end and make any kind of hard effort.
The net result was a tragic descent through the field from 15th to an eventual 27th. Excuses? I have a barrel full, but the only one that counts was that I was simply not prepared for the intensity that a cross race imposes on your system. A crashing sore throat and cold came on later in the day and overnight, and this may not have helped the earlier race effort, but I was cruelly exposed on the day in the way that only cross can. Some work to be done then............
Keith Murray won, for the record, with his White Sex file tread Dugast and White Sex gloves. Very stylish.
PS Thanks to everyone who came up and mentioned that they read the blog. Keep in touch!