View from the Rear – Welsh Cyclocross Series – 3 – Foxley Cross
This week the Welsh cyclocross scene shifted to the east side of the Principality, just over the border in England. In fact, at a private estate near Hereford. The lovely wooded venue feels rather wintry in the early morning mist, but as this burns away the beauty of the silver birches comes through. The course itself is a tricky, rather technical affair with a couple of stream crossings, an awkward off-camber corner or two – don’t damage the trees when you hit them – and short sections on tarmac to shed mud off the tyres.
Having managed to miss this event due to a total lack of organisational skills I asked Iain Fairley a few questions about the day.
It’s your first season of ‘cross, how are you finding it?
Apart from my hand,s which have yet to forgive me for forsaking suspension, I’m captivated by it. The combination of turning yourself inside out for an hour and the high-density competition is highly addictive!
What did you think of the Foxley course?
Tussocky! Aside from the road section, I struggled to consistently lay down much power, but it was technically absorbing. I initially failed to find suitable passing opportunities, but identifying them just increased the challenge. The section after the road with the right-hand steep drop-away corner was my personal favourite: I managed to gain places on a couple of laps by taking a tight line over the steepest part. Judging by the crowds of hecklers, it seemed the spectators enjoyed the stream crossings best. The second claimed many into its muddy maws, myself included – just desserts for overambitious overtaking.
The setting for the race was glorious too, the epitome of bucolic, especially in the autumn sunshine.
It’s rather more technical than Cardiff, your previous race, which did you prefer?
Cardiff, with its wide grassy course, was a sprint from start to finish and the racing felt fast and furious, how I expected a ‘cross race to be. At Foxley, mid-field traffic jams in the narrower sections gave plenty of aerobic recovery, in some ways akin to an MTB XC race, but mentally it took a lot more out of me, and the technical sections were better. If the wider sections in the second half of Foxley were smoother, that would have got the nod. As it is, it’s a draw.
After racing two rounds have you started thinking about making changes to your bike, your training or your preparation?
The main thing I’ve taken from the two races is to think about lines and tactics on the pre-ride more. Coming from a mountain bike background, at Cardiff I tried to ride the entire course and it wasn’t ’til halfway round the course I realised that there was one corner, a couple of turns before the finish, where it was way faster to get off your bike. After that I told myself I would concentrate more on the pre-ride, but was too pushed for time at Foxley. The narrower and more technical nature of Foxley meant that was a mistake! Following another rider, I had the strange sensation that a corner had completely changed and I nearly collided with a large oak. Subsequently I realised the guy I was following had taken a sneaky line on one side of the tree where the majority were taking an easier, but slower line to the other side.
What are your aims for the season?
I’d never touched a drop-bar bike before this August so I have no expectations: if I can generally better my results I’ll be happy.
From a field of around 115 starters, Jonathan Pugh of The Bulls won the day overall, while Ffion James of Abergavenny RC was lead woman. Iain was 57th.
The circus moves onto Dare Valley Country Park, Aberdare on Sunday 11th October.
Full details and results on cyclocrosswales.co.uk