Sunday, 16 October 2011

CXNE Gateshead

I don't think it was nerves but the strawberry bonbons were getting a hammering. If I didn't hold off there'd be none left for the return journey. It’s been 30 years since my last cyclo-cross and today's one hour race at Gateshead Stadium was the first competition the Ridley (or 'the vicar' as I call it) had witnessed. The moth eaten bike gear was exhumed from beneath the bed and with the choice of suitable garments at rock bottom, I was forced to wear the jersey of a club that no longer exists. I had bought a new pair of ivory shoes going cheap earlier in the year. Not the best colour for this muddy, sweat- lashed pursuit. Part of the Cyclo-Cross North East seasons series of events, I don't think I looked too out of place among the garish lycra and fancy gleaming machines, chrome and alloy glinting in the early afternoon sun.

The idea is that you all start together and work your way around the grass course and after an hour or so a bell is rung before the last lap and if you’re not lapped you get a time; if you are lapped you also get a lap number. I was just trying to limit the lap numbers as a goal for the day.
The entry fee was a tenner and being unattached, I had to add an extra 3 quid for a day licence. We got underway and got through the first lap in around 8 and a half minutes. I was nearly at the back but not quite. Moving as smoothly through the gears as a learner driver on his first outing, I was lapped after 17 minutes. Not too bad I thought. I passed a few early on and spent a couple of laps with a rider from the Tyne Fire Service but then he was gone, blown out the back I mused by my raw talent and bike handling finesse. Me and the vicar were going well; better than I had hoped at any rate. Must have been the strawberry bonbons. I might try lemon next time.

I gawped at my watch briefly after a while and found out I'd been riding for 33 minutes and had passed a few buddies. While I couldn't offer much power in the quad department, my skinny frame and recent trips to the weights seemed to be compensating and I was soon gaining some confidence on the more technical bits. I remembered to slow down where the cameras were, but they kept moving around so not sure if they got my best side.
The course was very dry and there were several tight chicanes to deal with so the upper body was getting as good a workout as the legs. After 48 minutes I heard the bell go for the last lap as the race leader went past the finish line and by that time everyone was all over the circuit; some laps ahead, others laps down. I finished soon afterwards and collapsed on the grass in a heap.

After a chat with someone’s father (or granddad) mostly about the astronomical cost of some of the bits of kit (compared to a cheap pair of trainers, for example) I handed in my number and changed out of my ringing t-shirt and padded shorts. I felt as drained as a load of washing after a 1200 rpm spin, but not half as bad as some of the 10k's I've attempted in the recent past. The shoes and bike were still clean which was a bonus and I’m looking forward to seeing where I finished. It’s a tough workout but enjoyable and one thing’s for sure; you’re never alone for long in a cyclo-cross event.

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