Last Wednesday saw me get my fourth cyclocross under my belt with a return to the course at Hengrove. While the rain held off (until the very moment that I crossed the finish line), the course proved to be challenging. Whereas the first outing at Hengrove was a counter-clockwise circuit that introduced me to the art of cycling on grass, last week the organisers made it a clockwise circuit and introduced some tighter corners, but still kept us on the grass.
So what did I learn this week?
1 – That routine maintenance of a race bike pays off… after the last outing at Hengrove I’ve been doing weekly cleans, checks and services on the Kinesis, and it’s thanking me by working faultlessly during races.
2 – More warm-up is required – Before this race I did two recce laps of the circuits and then spent a good 10 minutes doing some laps of a shorter circuit on tarmac, but it wasn’t enough. When the race started I found myself lagging behind the field and it wasn’t until the end of the first lap (at ‘my’ race-pace) that I was settled into a faster and more comfortable pace.
3 – Cyclocross circuits can be technically challenging – none of the little sharp corners on odd cambers that the organizers engineered in this course were a challenge in themselves. However, when you’re trying to cover the ground quickly and approaching these ‘obstacles’ faster than you might do otherwise, they start to be ‘challenging’. There’s definitely an art to weighting the bike into corners and understanding that the wheels will hang on as long as you commit to the corner – saying that I over-ran on a few occasions. More importantly the course recce was key and helped to see the lines that straightened the corners and made good use of cambers.
4 – I don’t need to drink during a 50 minute race – although the weather was warm and humid, and I sweated a lot, I didn’t feel the need to drink anything during the race. That was probably helped by good hydration ahead of the event, in terms of tea, coffees, water and a Red Bull during the day. So at the next race I’ll jettison my water bottle and save myself some weight.
5 – Tyre pressures are a black art – I’ve run tubeless tyres on mountain bikes for a couple of years now, but I’m still learning the art of cyclocross tyres. During the warm-up laps it was clear that I was still running my tyres too hard, relying on my road-bike’ experience to guide me, so I let out some pressure. Without a gauge I can’t be certain where I went to with the pressure, but about 50psi seems about right (I’ll check that). The tryres were clearly running soft on the tarmac sections, but not so soft as to risk any punctures. Let’s see how this experiment evolves.
All-in-all… another good week. I can definitely feel my fitness improving and I’m starting to get a feel for the nature of a cyclocross event. I’d like to say that my times compared to the other riders are improving as well, but they’re clearly getting as well. Let’s see the race on the 24th June is any faster/easier?