Friday, February 19, 2010

2010 Irish National Cyclocross Championships

It takes a long stopover in Heathrow Airport for me to finally be able to put something down about the 2010 National Cyclocross Championships.

The cyclocross season for me was about doing something a little bit different in the winter, getting a few high intensity workouts (races) thrown in and enjoy another aspect of cycling. Having just complete the season, I achieved all of the above. But, I digress, back to the racing...

Due to the terrible weather back in January the original date for our National Championships had to be delayed by almost a month – the course itself, on the original day of the championship, was great – covered in snow, slippery, but very very fast. However, road conditions in the country meant that the venue would be hard to reach for some which forced a postponement. For that race, I had prepped a little, for the first time in the season I had taken it a little easier in the lead up week and was feeling fresh for race day when I found out about the delay. This complicated matters as two days after the initial championship, I was traveling to Gran Canaria for a month of hard road training. This camp is a cornerstone for the coming cross country and road racing seasons so I was not going to change my plans.

Fortunately for me, the rescheduled date for the championship was after I returned from the camp – the following day in fact! Arriving home at midnight on a Saturday having travelled from another continent for a one hour sprint the following day isn't great, but I was really thankful to be there at all for it.

Race morning arrived and I was groggy – first things first, prep my bike for the race and then start prepping Mel's as she was going to take part in the MTB short track support race. This all took more time than I wanted which meant a slightly later arrival at the race venue than I had planned. My plan was: preride a couple of laps (and learn how to ride off-road again!), go back to the car, get race kit on, and then head to the road for a high intensity warmup.

The warmup laps went pretty well – I adjusted the pressure in the tires up a little as it felt a bit squidgy for me (being used to 110psi, dropping to 26psi felt weird). I then met my parents and brother who came up to watch the race (incidentally, they loved it – a great spectator sport). As I noticed that the mtb race had not started, I inquired when our race would start and was told 1:30pm, 30 minutes later than scheduled – no problem, I'll just hang out a bit and then head to the car to get ready at 12:50. At 12:45, as I started to head to the car to get ready I heard that the race was in fact going to be held ON schedule – damn – I'm not even ready and have not had a warmup! I raced to the car (the warmup?) and got my race gear on and got a passer by to pin on the number. Crap...

On the start line (legs cold), there was no ranking based on any races from the last 12 months, only the previous years national championships of which I was not a part. It was a very wide start with around 12 riders lined out and it made a nervous few minutes trying to make sure my race for 1st was not hampered before we even begin this technical course.

I just about got to line up on the front row and a while later the race started – I say a while later because there was no “race will start soon” announcement, or the REQUIRED, “anytime in the next 30 seconds” announcement! Just a random whistle, followed by a “go” when there was a realization that most of the competitors didn't know the race was starting!

Picture via bikepure

I had a poor start (something I have been working on and getting better at) and spent the first lap and a half moving through traffic. I than sat in third and started chasing down Liam McCreevey and Joe McCall. Joe, who has been very focused on this race for many months sensed that he didn't want me close to him and attacked hard when I was about 10 seconds back – Liam dropped off on the attack and I soon passed him. Joe and I raced at around the same pace, him always around 10-20 seconds up until midway through the race when cornering aggressively (the course was a joy to ride with highspeed slightly bermed corners) when my bike skidded to a halt – instantly, I thought I had lost a derailleur as my gears had started to cause problems. After a few seconds, I figured my wheel had simply come loose and dropped out of the dropouts – a bit of fiddling and I was ready to go – my Garmin tells me I lost 40 seconds in this episode. I continued on but found it hard to get a flow again with Joe and I staying about the same distance apart. I finished feeling fresh a minute back on Joe to claim my 2nd place. When I say fresh, I mean, I could keep the same pace for another hour or two but going quicker than that was very very hard – cycling 90 hours in the previous 4 weeks over big mountains tends to do that to you!

As you can probably tell, there were a couple of things that frustrated me about the day (only one being down to me, although I did skip my usual kit check before the race start as I hurried to get to the line) – the main thing though was that I would have enjoyed a good race against Joe – some close racing. This race for me was a simple time trial around the course – thankfully, the course was exceptional and I enjoyed that aspect immensely.

Thanks to the organization for running the event – especially Greg May – due to the postponement etc... he came under a lot of flak, thank you for holding through and running a great event in a great venue. Thank's too to all the supporters who where out to cheer us on – I hope you got to see at least a few of us suffer!

So that was the end of my first Cyclocross season – I learnt a lot from it and enjoyed it. I will have to see how it effects me a little later in the year (too much racing?) but I'm pretty certain I'll be back next year to give it another go and claim that Green jersey. In the last two years, I have claimed National Elite medals, silver or better, in four different disciplines – the Pokemon phrase springs to mind – “gotta catch 'em all”... Maybe I should get a Time Trial bike... :)

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