Cyclo Cross Blog
Atrophy and Enthusiasm
‘You can’t keep a good man down’ as the saying goes and despite Uncle Phil’s sage advice:
You’ll do three races and it will all go Pete Tong, it’s as predictable as my nuts erupting (not in that way folks he’s too old) just before our Majorca Training Camp
I ignored him obviously I was unsatisfied with the nine hour plod that was my Marmotte debacle and wanted to play to my diminishing and questionable strengths. I licked my wounds, went on holiday and shuffled around a boat for two weeks and watched my legs wither away while putting on weight ready for some intense cyclo-cross racing. Inspired by the Northern Cross Vets – wirey, tanned, grumpy and tight - and the evergreen Mick Bell I thought I would see if I could get my ageing body back in action, maybe I could tackle a Star Trophy event or even turn out a decent performance at the National Champs? First though I had to get fit and that meant riding the bike and racing in the London X-League
I mainly use - optimistic current tense here - the commute and ride in easy and a bit harder home with a rest day in-between. Riding in London is not ideal in many ways but for cross racing my one hour ride is similar in duration to cross races and the stop-start and weaving between traffic replicates the repeated effort and handling required in a race. Not structured intervals more like ‘Fartlek’ as this type of riding is also known or according to Garth Fox our power guru ‘farting about’.
Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: AM One hour easy PM One hour hard (fartlek)
Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: 1.5 hours in the woods repeated efforts
Friday: Rest day or AM Easy PM Tempo (or commuter challenge if the gauntlet is laid down).
Saturday: Rest day
No running for me due to my gimpy ankle but contrary to popular belief there is hardly any running in UK cross races, just a few scrambles up little ramps and the odd hurdle.
HQ at London X League
I also included a couple of Tuesday night chaingang efforts before I started racing (while racing I would not be recovered in time). They left at 7:15pm from somewhere deep in South London and I managed to get lost every time I rode to the rendezvous. On the first week there were about ten riders and I tucked in at the back having already alluded to the other chaingangers that I might not be making an appearance at the front.
Bang we were off, the traffic lights gave me time to breathe and then bang off again hard, like ‘we’re going to blow as many people out the back as we can’…and they did.
On the drag up to Knockolt while I was clinging on to the last wheel with the tip of my saddle right up my arse and snot coming out of my nose I felt a tug on my jersey pocket.
A voice gasped behind me: “Jules is that you? It’s me Tim”
I managed to turn my head round a bit and spotted the wiry figure of Tim from my Finsbury Park days.
“yourrr’rrrright?” I drawled, I hadn’t seen him for ten years and couldn’t remember his name and as most of my blood had been extracted from my brain to feed my quads the task was virtually impossible.
“That’s my boy on the front” he proudly exclaimed.
“Tell him to fucking slow down then” I suggested.
Then zumpff my body’s survival mechanism kicked in and my brain circumvented my naïve ambition to ride with cyclists half my age, their blinking rear lights disappeared in to the distance as my heart re-calibrated itself to extend my life expectancy beyond Knockolt Station.
It was all going so well, I’d managed five cyclo-cross races and the form was coming. At Betteshanger I chased down the youthful Jimmy Wilson (Sigma) and tried to drop him on the last lap. I tracked him for three laps and gradually gained on him a few seconds here an there and then fell off. I clawed back up to him and eventually I think he sat up as I was getting on his nerves. I lead to the finish kicking at every opportunity and eventuallyhad to wind up the sprint wooh hoo what fun but Jimmy caught me on the line, he’d played his cards right, but I was happy.
Junior, Vet, Senior
It was a good sign for the Rapha Supercross my first target of the season. If I could get on the vets podium I would be happy having already had a 3rd and a couple of 6ths previously. But what my body likes is repeated hard efforts with short rests on drop-offs or technical sections, Alexandra Palace the venue for the Rapha Supercross was a series of three minute hill reps in the wrong gear. Jesus it hurt…I rolled down the descent trying to make it last as long as possible before I went back up again. Not really my cup of tea….and no mud, a bit of mud and rain makes everything a little more tricky, more finesse is required to keep the power on without slipping all over the place.
This has to be the first time I’ve ridden in October and got a suntan.
Dust, lots of dust and supporters sitting on the grass in their T-shirts, cyclo-cross should run all year round.
After the Supercross I gave myslelf a rest week and got back on the bike the following Monday; despite only riding the Brompton for twenty minutes a day I felt fantastic on the way in, on the way back I laid it down all the way back. On Rochester Way as I rolled up the drag I sensed a presence behind my right elbow and gradually a commuter started to flap by in his fluo jacket, gripping the drops intent on passing. So I pushed a little harder and it felt good so I pushed a bit more and the pain in my legs felt even better and I left him behind despite still being on the Griffos at 45psi.
Next morning, sore throat.
That was two weeks ago, a bout of man flu and some lingering unknown phenomenon (Wall-itus) still lurks…
So Uncle Phil has been proved right for the fifteenth year in succession but I lasted a little bit longer due to a less intense training programme and possibly better condition going in to the cross season.
Kid's cross race
Now I do have a theory about racing this time of year as the days shorten. We as humans tend to ignore the seasons, we want perpetual sunshine and to ride all year but our bodies have evolved with the seasons over millions of years and we should take heed.
As the days get shorter we turn on the lights and stay up as late as we would do in the middle of the summer. In winter we should sleep more and work less as there is less daylight. Recharge our bodies for the next year. Some mammals hibernate, we just carry on regardless, who needs seasons when we’ve got Twitter? I once read that traditional Chinese Medical practitioners advised their patients not to do any strenuous activities in the Autumn and to wear a scarf to keep the cold off the back of one’s neck.
It is what roadies used to do in the old days, come September it was a couple of months off with just the Sunday club ride and a bit of circuit training at the village hall. Training would always start in earnest again in January after the Winter Solstice.
At the London X-League race at Reed Court farm a few weeks after the chaingang I bumped into Tim again and his boy who was on crutches. It turns out that after Tim Jnr had dropped me and dad he was t-boned by a car and Tim senior found him on the deck beside said car with a bike in pieces in the middle of nowhere on a dark and inhospitable road.
Finding your damaged son on the road doing the sport you both love must be a shock but Tim’s response wasn’t what I would have predicted:
‘It comes with the territory’.
He’s one dad that won’t be wrapping his son in cotton wool and soon as he is fit again he’ll be back on the road via Cyclefit.
As I headed off to the start Tim Jnr called out to me: “What size do you think I am, 52?”
“You’ll have to pay him a lot of money for that” his dad quipped.
That’s cycling folks.