Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The worst race so far…. by Beate Kubitz

Firstly hello to new new teamster Beate and her first season of cross, I'll let her do the rest of the talking. chrisd
The worst race so far….
I didn't expect it to be the worst race. I have only done four others so I suppose that's not much to go on, and despite my inexperience I've done reasonably well. Not anywhere near last, at least. This 'success' led to Chipps' boast that VCM would get a top three from me every race (at least on the basis that there aren't that many women vets racing). Ho hum, maybe it's the pressure of expectation that led to my monumental lack of focus.
Just to put racing into context. I ride pretty much every day - a 12 mile commute  - on my Jake the Snake. Usually with a couple of extra miles thrown in to visit my sheep. Sometimes I take the off-road route of 5 miles over the tops from gorgeous Mankinholes, one of the hamlets under local landmark Stoodley Pike, to Hebden Bridge. This is the kind of route I love - mainly firm stony going with quite technical stretches, water bars and a fast-as-you-dare cobbled descent or two. Made more interesting by the fact that these cobbles were last maintained about a hundred years ago.
We're now into a (rather late) lambing season so every day is prefaced and ended by the lamb round up. To get to Keighley last night meant I had to leave my shop at 5.30pm exactly. Ride about 6 miles up to my sheep fields, ending in a steep valley floor to top climb, as fast as I can without getting too out of breath so that I don't build up lactic acid in advance of the race. Walk and run about a mile round the fields checking on the new arrivals (two lots of twins and a single since you ask). At which point Chipps collected me and bike in the car to dash to Keighley.
We reached the race with about 30 minutes to spare. Amazing how quickly it goes - just enough time to stumble round a practice lap and get to the start line right at the back whilst still removing non-essential clothing. This less than propitious start led to me being bang last out. Oops.
I hauled a few places in on the first straight (grass, a bit soft but not the end of the world) and then we hit the singletrack section. Which turned out to be 'make your own singletrack on our nasty, wet, slidy, hummocky, grass/bog'. Suddenly daunted, I got off my bike and jogged. For ages. Over the one obstacle, round another nasty slidy corner until there was a clear downhill bank. Back on, down and survived the steep off camber, off at the bottom ready to push back up. More slopping through mud. Another waddle along an off camber bank. Don't get back on too early - the flat bit at the top is actually a deceptive bike-stalling sand pit. Down again. Up and onto a fast concrete path. Totally grumpy by now at losing my early gains I cheered myself up with a perfect rolling dismount for the flight of steps. Little things. The next section was a swooping grassy downhill chicane and suddenly it was not quite so awful.
As I rinsed and repeated I began to realise that I actually could ride most of the nasty muddy sections and that I wasn't actually bang last. The downhill became fun and something to look forward to - I passed a few people on it which was immensely satisfying.
Then I tried a bit harder on one bit of mud and fell off. The one girl I was certain was still behind me crept closer. She caught up with me on one of the banking sections and passed. Disaster. I kept right behind her, realising that if she got ahead for the downhill I would be slowed to her pace so had to overtake before then.
Right at the top of the bank, carrying my bike, I turned tighter than she did, squeezing ahead. Put the bike down, rolling, ahead of me (and the nasty sandpit) and jumped on. A proper cross mount under pressure and it worked, I was ahead with a straight, narrow, section in front of me. Not something I've done before. The fact that it worked spurred me on to mount properly at every opportunity. I only learned to mount and dismount in January (thanks to the combined forces of Chipps and Nick Craig - it was my birthday treat!) and I knew the theory - it creates easy momentum and will save energy - but this was the first race where I could put it to the test.
After that I just had to keep ahead - easy on the downhill, I seemed to be pretty good at that, and by trying harder on the mud. I didn't come off again so kept my lead. By the end I was exhausted but well ahead.

It wasn't great being in a battle to not be last but I managed it. On the up side, a couple of the things I have been working on - the cross mounts and a bit more bravura on the downhills - came good. On the down side, being daunted by the course on the first lap really lost me time and places. I need to practice on mud so that I have a bit more confidence and do a bit more work on powering over the slushy stuff. Oh, and apparently my tyre pressure was all wrong.

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