Horwich Humdinger Cyclocross 9th October 2011
Well after my spectator introduction to Cyclocross last week at Clayton Vale in Manchester I decided that I’d give it a go this week up in Bolton at the Horwich Humdinger. We met up with Mike at the venue and after getting signed on we headed out to have a look at the course. It seemed to be quite technical with some sharp turns, short steep climbs, some steps and a bit through a wooded area. As the weather had not been great all week and it was pouring down on the day we knew it was going to be a wet and muddy afternoon.
I currently don’t own a cyclocross bike, but the joy of this discipline is that you can enter races on pretty much any bike you like. I brought my mountain bike and after looking at the course I decided to change my tyres to something a bit more aggressive on the grip side of things (I stole these from Nic’s bike which doesn’t get much use). I certainly had some advantages given the weather as my disc brakes would stop me better and the tyres would grip the muddy sections better, however I did notice during the race that the cyclocross bikes are quicker on the flat grassy bits (perhaps because of the bike-tyre combo or, more likely, because I’m less fit than the other riders around me).
Mike and I headed to the start a few minutes before the race and I was surprisingly not nervous. My plan was to go off easy and if I picked people off as the race went along then it would be a bonus. Mike had done a few races before so set off a bit harder and was relieved to avoid the crash on the starting straight as a rider in front of him washed out and brought down about 6 others!
After 100m I was already very wet and very dirty, but I was enjoying it! We raced for approx 1hr around the circuit and the support from the spectators was great (even for someone as low down in the field as me). Most of our support was coming from Nic who was on hand to take pictures and spur us on. The circuit quickly got torn up by the 100+ riders and mud started getting up under my glasses (I think it was coming off the front wheel) and irritating my eyes. As a contact lens wearer this was proving to be a nightmare and at approximately half way through I had to stop and ask some spectators for a tissue to try to clean some mud from my eye! They kindly obliged and I was on my way again. Half a lap later (when I next saw Nic) I promptly disposed of the glasses and surprisingly got less trouble from then onwards! I also lost my rear cassette on the last lap (I later discovered mud and grit had got up into the cable stopping it shifting up and down), so I had to work with my chainset to change up and down from then on.
It was very physically draining and as the race went on I had to dig very very deep. I eventually crossed the line and had mixed emotions, I was glad it was over but I was also pleased that I stuck in there and finished it on such a miserable day!
As you can see from the pictures we did get a bit muddy! The bike was put back on the rack and cleaned when we got home! I also discovered that a pressure washer is a great way of getting the mud out of white cycle clothing, it only needed a quick spin in the washing machine after that!
Overall it was enjoyable and the fact that the circuits are short and the spectators are supportive adds to this kind of event.
I will be back next week to try again!