A weekend of classic Northern cyclocross

I like these weekends – where there’s a cyclo-cross race on both Saturday and Sunday, and I’m not sure why I like them. There’s something a bit manic about having to finish a race, wash down the bikes, put them back in the car, come home, wash them down properly, mend them, lubricate them, then get yourself in the shower, so you can do it all again the next day. I usually find ‘cross races fairly nerve-free, but if I’m ever nervous, it’s before a Saturday race when there’s two races in a weekend. It’s got something to do with surviving race one so you can do well at race two, or vice verse.

As it happens, this weekend’s races were both on really old-style courses [for old-style, read ‘crappy’]. Otterspool Park in Liverpool is a lovely place, urban parkland at its best in many ways, but the courses seem to be strewn with gnarly singletrack; slippy roots covered in leaves, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, singletrack is the off-roader’s bread and butter – it’s fun to ride and can be one of the true tests of skills – and concentration. But in a mass-start event like these are, with upwards of 70 riders, it’s not long before the people at the front end of the race start lapping people, and with that comes utter chaos on these narrow woodland tracks. It’s no good for the person doing the lapping or the person being lapped.

Sherdley Park in St Helens (Sunday) was no better – a load of fun to ride but utter chaos to race with so many people ‘in the way’. I loved the twists and turns and hidden bits of mud, but the open stretches of grassland and challenging uphill stretches were too few and too short. There is also a liberal dash of tarmac in the park, but stunningly NONE of this featured on the course. Olde World cyclo-cross indeed.

Still, packing up the car with muddy bikes for the second time in 24 hours for the journey home, you can’t help but be satisfied that you’ve done it all. Two flat out efforts of an hour or so (and in my case, two 4th place prizes that just and so pay the entry fees and petrol money), and yet you don’t really feel tired, you just feel recharged. That’s why I love cyclo-cross, and why these two-in-a-row weekends are so memorable.

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