So, 10 years in the making; it finally came. The date was the 24th January 2016, a surprisingly warm and crisp start to the day for the 14th round of the London Cyclocross League held at Redbridge Cycle Centre, NE. The race itself was an hour long and you had to do as many laps as you could in that time.
The route was described as 'fast' and largely on 'graveled' mountain bike paths, but due to the heavy rain on Saturday it meant that the grounds were nicely prepared for what would soon become a mud bath.
I was racing in the Seniors category, the last of the day. There had already been another 5 or so races earlier on in the morning, meaning that the circuit was a mud bath! As a completely unseeded rider, I started in last place and had to watch everyone else line up before me. It was great to see CX racers who had just returned from the British Championships lining up, knowing that we were in the same race.
The start was well and truly in a swamp with every rider opting to run rather than cycle off, something at Ripcor we are not always the biggest fans of. So in true Belgian style the Van Dessel steed was slung over the shoulder ready for the run through the marshes, something I had got used to from doing a few Tough Mudders.
The race was of a faster tempo as we progressed up the hills with some traction on the ground to allow you to pedal and even take a few of the jumps but the lower parts of the course were truly a mud pie. 2 laps in and I had to stop to rip the mud off from around the no longer working brakes and a crank that simply would not turn. At this point all bikes had become single speeds or the rear mechs had been destroyed causing riders to abandon. This is a point where a team mate would have been useful with a spare bike and a quick jet wash.
I came 32nd. It doesn't sound that impressive but when starting in last place (roughly 60th) with a handful of abandonments on what many were saying was one of the most fun but toughest routes of the league was, to me more than good enough! To even finish this race was a real achievement considering the amount of riders abandoning through damaged bikes or just not brave enough to deal with all the mud.
I have to say I was truly astounded by just how good my Cyclocross bike was considering the conditions. Sometimes it pays to see what the Belgians ride (the kings of this sport) and many choose Van Dessel’s.
We all have to start somewhere so onwards and upwards with Ripcor Racing in 2016.