1 July has attained a significance in recent years for me - it marks the beginning of the preparation for the cross season in a number of ways.
Comtemplating a season of mud, tubs and washing gear never seems right before this date, despite any summer season cross races that crop up from time to time. Even now it feels strange with the temperature hitting 26 degrees. It is more that it isn't possible (for me at least) to sustain the enthusiasm and dedication to get you through a cross season to January for more than 6 months. Add in the fact that the 3 Peaks entry forms go online on this date, and you have a series of conditions to concentrate the mind, body and equipment for the season of attrition to come.
Any longer than that and even the most obsessive of us can fail to live up to our own expectations. Even 3 Peaks guru :-) Dave Haygarth refused to go out on a cross bike with me a couple of weeks ago - "I know a good 3 Peaks 'loop' for cross bikes but got to leave it till August or I'll go mental if I start too long in advance".
Wise words, promptly ignored by me the following weekend when I went out on the moors and woods with Mark who was also missing the feel of off road riding on skinny tires. Like some kind of forbidden activity, it felt all the better to be doing it when by rights we shouldn't have been. Dave H is sagely restricting himself to a diet of crits and road racing, long the traditional preparation for the hardened crosser. Seeing as I have a phobia of bunch racing and high speed corners it makes sense to throw caution to the wind and get out off road again. Witness a hayfeverish, snotty and sweaty ride across the moors to work this morning........... Must work on those downhills as I currently look like a contestant on a reality TV show who'll do anything however inept to get on TV - 'ride a rocky Black level ski run on a unicycle, blindfold? Sure, where do i sign......'
At least by starting even earlier than 1 July this year I have time to work on those weaknesses........
Also, I can't resist passing on this little story from friend Rich who suffered my whinging and wheezing on an abortive (for me) White Rose Challenge last weekend. Rich mentioned he was starting a club/group called Dead Wren Velo - a cryptic and evocative name if ever there was one:
Dead Wren Velo was named after a ride with Jules, Rob, John and a few others. As Jules and I dropped down to Burnsall, I indicated as a wheel hazard, a perfectly intact dead wren. We then waited for longer than expected for the boys to arrive at the cafe. When they did, John was resplendent in road rash! Robbie had also seen the amazingly intact dead wren and instead of indicating he just slammed on the anchors for a better look with the inevitable result for those following his wheel (John). As always, Robbie was completely unhurt!
Rich is one of those quiet, but always strong riders you love to ride with, but you don't - if you get what I mean in terms of suffering. Always sartorially exact, with an eye not for the latest mainstream fashion, more for what works and works well, in clothing and equipment. He rode alongside me for the first few hilly miles of the White Rose Challenge in Yorkshire, pedalling a much bigger gear and looking like he was working considerably less than me. He was indeed smooth and stylish on a modern steel frame and his own handbuilt wheels, though I noted with some pride as well as consternation that we had picked the same articles of clothing to ride in from the Assos and Rapha stable - the cycling equivalent of not checking with your best girl friend as to what dress she was going to wear at the party. Rich went on to post a very fast time for the WRC despite putting up with me for the first hour while I spluttered and heaved my way up the climbs, before urging him to leave me and tag on to a faster group as it came through. Thank God, I was able to slow down then...............
Chapeau Rich and cheers for the lesson in how not to do it.