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ANDREW ROOKE

CYCLOCROSS - TRINITY PARK 18/01/15
I was told many years ago when I first took part in a duathon that if I was serious and with my running ability that I should consider cyclocross in the winter as a way of keeping fit, getting bike handling skills and competing. Recently Jason made another point that with my running background and my ‘lightweight’ frame that it should suit me. It’s only taken 6 years but today was the day I gave it ago, I previously hadn’t done it, partly due to lack of a cyclocross bike, I run cross country competitively and more to the point it looks frantic and chaotic!

I was fortunate enough for Jason to offer his cyclocross bike to me which after seeing how incredible the bike looked it would be rude not to give it ago. As from my performance you can tell it’s a very good bike, excellent wheels and great colour coordination. The bike didn’t take too long to get used to, just the canterleaver brakes which as Jason described them don’t stop you but slow you down, I soon found this out whilst having to perform an abrupt stop behind a car on the way to some muddy paths.

The other skill to quickly pick up was unclipping picking the bike up and a flying squirrel remount, to start off with I struggled as I realised my cleats weren’t tight enough and were turning in the shoe, tightened and off I go again, not too many problems my only apprehension was doing it under the race pressure and the ever watching crowd. Usually the race pressure helps me excel, it gives me that adrenaline to focus on what I’m doing in the moment, although after my swim last week in the county cross country championships I was questioning that.

The day of the race I woke up a few times but felt really lethargic and sleepy so I slept a bit more, that’s the problem when match of the day was good and Ipswich won so had to watch the highlights. I already had my kit laid out ready to go and bag packed so all it took was putting the bike in the car and going down.

When we arrived it was straight to HQ sign on (not as glamorous as the Tour De France) I was given the number 23 which was a good sign (Michael Jordan wore it #GOAT) it was then quick course reccy. Straight away the ‘step’ as I think it was infamously known was the first obvious dismount hazard, followed by a sharp turn up hill to another quick turn up another hill which then levelled out for around 30 metres around a bend and then a double kicker with boggy mud in the middle, I soon noticed some people struggling up and around and realised where I was best to dismount and run. The next technical part was in the woods on narrow routes that twisted and turned making speed impossible. It was then time to take the bike round, unfortunately my practise was cut short I just about got round a lap but a very tentative pace, partly as I didn’t want to do more than I had to and secondly because I was overwhelmed!

The race itself, unsurprisingly I was drawn back of the grid, which was kind of good that I wasn’t mid pack in my debut cyclocross but it also meant I had some chasing to do. The start straight to the first corner was interesting, and actually played in to my hands as I had limited speed so didn’t have to follow everyone’s racing line around the bend I could simply cut up across a lovely green patch of grass and took 3 places straight away, It reminded me of formula 1 except I was Lewis Hamilton. This continued all throughout the first 600 metres, before the field had finned out. The next obstacle and challenge was the step, which much to my surprise my aggressive approach paid off and I could see people ahead struggling and I was gaining. The next obstacle with the hill on off the bend leading up to another hill I decided to run all of it, all the way through and past the double kicker, which I did for the first 3 laps eventually catching up with Antonio, one of the Ipswich juniors I coach and train with at Ipswich harriers. My running however tiring it was for me was certainly paying off. The next challenging parts were the woods, Antonio was able to cycle through a lot more fluidly than me, on later laps I decided to dismount and run these sections so could actually keep momentum and not lose any distance. On the start/finish straight other than the top end guys I think I was one of the only ones to use the drops which surprised me, it’s free speed! I used a bit off effort to gun it down there and catch Antonio we were then sweeping right and I was flaring the breaks and Antonio chose not to, I’m thinking his coming in hot here not way is going to stay up right…maybe he is…bang and his down, my initial thoughts being one of his running coaches was don’t panic but I didn’t really have the breath to mutter it at this stage. I then spent the next few laps catching a few stragglers and seemed to be less aggressive as I was initially but far more comfortable handling the bike round the course, noticeably my leg speed was sapping but then again so was everyone else’s!