View from the Rear – Welsh Cyclocross Series – 2 – Aberystwyth
Cycle racing teaches you many lessons, very often cruel ones. You will learn about eating during longer races, and what the dreaded bonk, the fringale, feels like, where you can remember every piece of food that is in your car while you die a slow death of sugar deprivation. You will learn to pack your wheels into your car and not forget to pick them up from the roadside. You will learn not to celebrate a famous rugby win with too much beer the day before and arrive at the start line feeling like the man with the hammer (inside your head).
I learned a lesson or two on Sunday.
The trip up to Aberystwyth on a sunny Sunday morning throws the best of Wales at you. Driving through verdant fields and hills, you eventually arrive at the coast with the azure sea stretching away into the distance, just a suggestion of headlands and islands making shadows in the distance. The course for Round 2 sat on a steep hillside overlooking this glorious coast. The circuit itself was another grassy one, seemingly without an inch of flat, but with the bonus of it being dry and fast-rolling.
A field of around 100 gently warmed up in the autumn warmth, chatting to friends and strangers alike. My first lesson of the day was to always listen to people when they warn you of the dangers of the course. I came down with a thump on the fastest part of the course having ignored the advice about the stony ground hidden under the grass. A rush to line up, a desperate fiddle with the bike to straighten shifters and an attempt to stop the rear wheel from rubbing meant that I had a poor start. This improved though as the field spread out and I started overtaking and getting into a groove.
Two laps in, and I almost slid off the bike on exactly the same corner as before, but this time the front tyre gripped at the last moment and righted the bike. I carried on, grimly muttering to myself, and didn’t trust that corner again for the rest of the race, cornering like a wonky shopping trolley.
And then I started slowing. No matter how hard I pushed, riders passed me. Banks that I had ridden in the warm-up defeated me. The last gentle hill was now a push, while others rode. I worried that my warm-up crash had caused more damage than I knew about – by now I had seen my swollen forearm and the blood oozing from the gouges in it. A perfect excuse to pull out?
However, in those lessons I talked about one stands out: Never give up. I crossed the line, despondent and puzzled. The race leaders had lapped me twice, maybe even three times. Was the course too tough? I didn’t think so. Was there too much climbing for my middle-aged waist measurement? I hoped not.
Andrew Parry of Urban Cyclery won overall with Ffion James of Abergavenny RC being lead woman. I came 65th, a better result than I could have hoped for considering I felt as though I was riding with my brakes on.
And so, the next day, I checked the bike over and another lesson was learned. When I slid the bike the second time and the front wheel dug in, the jolt must have ripped the tyre bead out of the rim. The squealing noise that I had convinced myself was brake rub was actually the tyre rubbing the inside of the fork every revolution. I was in fact racing with my front brake on. Lesson? When you think you have caught the ‘flu in the middle of a race, get off your bike and check it over.
Check back soon for the next installment of The View from Behind, from the series stop on the other side of Wales – Foxley Cross, near Hereford.
Full results and calendar at www.cyclocrosswales.co.uk
Photographs by Hayley Parry and Aled Richards.