The forecast for Saturday was dire - torrential rain all day with strong winds. Luckily the rain stayed away and conditions in St Helens were surprisingly mild and clement - it warmed up on the way from 8.5 degrees at crossjunkie towers to 13 degrees at the course!
A new course greeted riders at Sutton Manor - fast, gravel based with a couple of muddy but rideable stretches and 3 hard climbs. Comparisons with the Treviso World Champs course from last January were perhaps a little far fetched, but it was clear that this would be a hard, fast course suiting those with superior fitness and power rather than technical ability. That was me out on both counts then.........
After a couple of laps, the crossjunkie tire pressure formula (see below) was beginning to show its limitations - what tire pressure can rail mud and smooth gravel track, as well as dealing with stray rocks and bricks on the surface? I plumped for 34mm Rhino tread and hoped the puncture gods would be appeased by running at 45psi!
An interesting(!?) start, narrow and with a wooden bench and marshall in the middle led straight into the first climb which luckily had the effect of stringing the field out before the dicey plunge down the gravel into a mini and muddy bombhole. One of the good things about cross racing at this grassroots level is that other riders are almost exclusively respectful and easygoing with their fellow competitors and everyone seemed to negotiate the potential bottleneck in one piece. As an ageing family man, I was most appreciative of this....
My race went surprisingly well - a brief flurry with the group containing the top 3 vets, before a graceful and considerably less tragic (than previous) slide down the field. Only 3 came past in the last 20 mins so that has to be considered a result compared to the last race! You see, one has to take whatever positive one can in these situations. I ended up 22nd at the end and 8th Vet, having suffered to lighter and more nimble riders on the 3 steep climbs each lap. But, I was racing rather than surviving, and beginning to get used to the gut-wrenching effort over the hour. Those turbo sessions must be paying off, and a brief break in my relationship with alcohol based substances in the few days before helped too. Some work to be done still though.
Keith Murray lost out in a sprint to a Wilkinson from SIS (Ian or Richard??) with Rob Pugh in third. Back to the glory days of cross when 'amateur' roadies rode the Saturday races and disappeared on Sundays to leave the specialists to nurse their egos? The Horwich boys and girls were well placed overall but a challenger has appeared in the woods for the team prize ........... It is going to be long and hard fought season for overall team honours I suspect. None of which I will be able to influence directly, but one can live in hope.
Sorry no photos or links are available yet.