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Filth! Discomfort! Heckling! Try cyclocross!


130813HeadThe forecast was not great, so a short outing on Friday evening was a sort of pre-disappointment consolation prize for a weekend that looked like it would be spent indoors.

The ride was great, and featured a sunset which would look silly on a postcard but amazing in real life, and was the kind that happens just before rain.

Saturday did as it was instructed: wet, grey, dismal, but Sunday looked more promising. The inaugural CycleZone Mud Warrior cyclocross race was on the programme, and as we were only spectating we had sort of looked forward to a wet day. As it turned out it looked pleasant enough to pack a bike along with the umbrellas. But not a cyclocross bike, obviously. See below.

In case you haven’t seen a cyclocross, it is worth describing the course. A start on a flat paddock is rendered awkward by knee high obstacles made of planks standing edgewise: an enforced dismount, hurdle, remount exercise repeated three or four times in a hundred metres. Then a quick sprint to obstacle two, which is a knee deep mud bog too long to surf through, probably requiring a high-stepping gallop carrying the bike.

But at least its not far to the next thing: a flight of stairs, leading steeply to a 180 degree turn and the descent of the bank just climbed. And repeat, without stairs.

Then, a 20 metre sandpit, followed by a fast piece of gravelled trail, to the water-crossing immortalised by the World Singlespeed Champs. Except, this time the crossing deposits riders at the foot of a greasy clay incline too steep to be climbed in a straight line.

Riders could then relax for perhaps fifteen seconds, before a difficult little section of creekside trail brought them back to the start, and that paddock full of hurdles.

The lap is like the life of a caveman: brutal and short. The duration of the race is an hour, which means a lot of laps must be ridden. As far as the spectators were concerned it was over in no time, but for the competitors who were deep in the hurt-box the first time though the sandpit it must have seemed an eternity. There was nowhere to hide, and if you don’t like people ringing bells and yelling in your ear, don’t enter.

There wasn’t a huge field, but there were enough riders on hand to make it look like a race, and there were hard-fought slugfests at the pointy end of both the mens and womens events. The lack of rain was the only aspect of the event that made life easier for the racers, and at the end Carl Jones and Jenna Makgill took out their respective races.

All my preconceptions about cyclocross were confirmed, and I had a happy ride in the forest, rolling for hours without having to carry my bike at all, or even try very hard because nobody was watching.




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