Sunday 12 February 2012, Great Walstead School
Still not sure how the three of us got persuaded into doing our first cyclo cross event; something to do with Steve Mac thinking it would be a good idea to have a team representing the Mid Sussex Tri Club and we just happened to be in the wrong place at the right time.
Mark Smith from the Crawley Wheelers kindly showed us the course the day before, which really helped familiarise ourselves with the snow, ice, mud, tight corners, Dougie's dip and the odd tree stump! The only thing missing was the other one hundred and thirty two riders.
Morning of the race dawned bright but very cold - oh, what to wear! So we layered up, with me trying to match my colours - which in the end didn't matter as we were all a lovely mud colour by the end. Andy and I arrived with plenty of time to spare, to calm the nerves, which got worse when we saw how professional the other guys were looking, on their cyclo cross bikes and skin suits. I decided to break the reflectors off my mountain bike, in a desperate attempt to fit in. One team member even had a bell on his bike.
Oh, but where was our third team member? A thermos of soup in hand, Mat turned up 30mins before the start, all smiles until we pointed out it might be a good idea to familiarise himself with the course, so off we dashed to the woods.
There we found Steve, Kay, Tim and an old man under a blanket, which turned out to be Kevin trying to keep warm. They did a grand job of lap counting. Off dashed Andy and Matt to recce the course with 15 minutes to go. Five to go...where are they? Round the bend they appear with Mat stripping off, so Andy and I make our way down to the start and position ourselves at the back of the of riders. One minute to go, where is Mat? On the phone to his wife giving directions to the event before a swift handover to Dougie who finished off his conversation! 30 seconds to start ..where are my team members? Peeing in the bushes! Beware of yellow snow.
We're off and any nerves have now disappeared as we head round a field covered in snow, desperately trying to stay on our bikes as by now the route is really slippy. Into the woods and we try to navigate a load of hair pin bends which lead us into our first drop followed by a sharp turn to the right up a quick climb into more bends. We twist and turn on snow and mud until we get to a great little downhill bit, were we could pick up some speed and smile at Ant who was taking some great pictures.
Right hand bend and we are at Dougies dip, for me this was the best bit, straight into the drop no brakes and the speed carries you out the other side, just missing the tree on your right. I think I even got some 'air'! Round the corner someone leaves a tree across the path! Off the bike, carry it over the tree, back on and we're on the home straight and then do it all again (x4).
The course was really technical and made all the more fun by overtaking riders, very slippery conditions (rumour has it Mat fell off three times!), trackside bonfires and Tour de France style drums and tooters! A great day out and a huge recommendation to others.
For the three of us, being our first cyclo cross event, it was fantastic fun, made all the better with the support from the club, the sight of all those familiar faces spurned us on.
Jean Fish, Andy Jenkins and Mat Record