In true Pulp Fiction style lets start at the end, that's me tapping down Pen-y-Ghent after the nice American chap i met at the top. Rode most of they way home together in a mixture of cramp and smiles. So i may as well do it the right way round....
The last month has been hell. No training, work pressure, research pressure, life pressure and just general feelings of malaise have meant that i am in absolute terrible condition. Light, but in no good shape.
Saturday morning, packing, packing, realising my bike is not race ready, but its in UK ahead of me. Balls. Last minute lift to the airport (thanks Andy) and getting ready to go when the phone rings, PhD supervisor on the phone...not a happy camper...instantly i'm in no mood to travel. Don't want to do anything, want to just crawl under a rock and hide. But i'm past security and they ain't going to let me out are they. It's almost as if the race is trying to mess with my head before i'm even in the country.
Hop on the plane, Simon Burnley's Cyclocross is on my lap as if i'm going to get any last minute tips to win, and mp3 player blaring Skinny Puppy in my ears, just daring a flight attendant to tell me to take them off. Plane goes up, plane goes down, spits me out of the flying bus. Meet Pauline in a total mood and head off to Decathlon to get last minute nutrition and tubes. The drive up and banter get my mood raised, find the lovely camp-site in Austwick after some food in Settle, a pint of local in Helwith Bridge and a quick scout of the drivers route for Pauline who was doing crew for me, and settle in for the night (pun 100% intended).
Sleep. Wake. Urinate. Sleep. Wake. Insert food. Drive to start of race and register. Just get my warm-up in and i'm lined up, 30 seconds later after spotting Trio the race is go. I love the road section at the start, fast, technical, and scares the crap out of the pure MTB heads. No crashes this year, even spot Twinklydave at one point on his nice new Rodwell, me likey. Nice easy average power at 280W, not to hard, but staying to the right of the pack to avoid the wind from the left side. No issues on the way to the bottom of Whernside, hit the bottom and am walking earlier than last year due to the hoards of people who cant ride up a hill, and are puncturing all over the place. Kids, cmmon, basic one, don't run 20PSI, its not actually a CX race! Shoulder and run time. Gain a few places by the time it gets seriously steep. Damn i'd forgotten just how steep Simon fell actually is. Oh well, get on with it and move. Short fast steps allow me to keep my place and move on up the hill.
Onto the moonscape that is the top in a total fog out. Bleep, and turn for the descent, see the first crash of the day guy in the boulder field below the steps off the top, looks nasty, but people are tending to him. Then the daemons arrived. No idea why, partially because i've not been on the CX bike much this year compared to last year, and partially due to nerves, but i rode the descent like a granny. Felt tight, sloppy and scared. Got to the feed grabbed my bottle off Pauline, and had to stop to put it in the pocket. 'Are you ok?' Pauline shouted, 'No' was the simple response as i pulled off onto the road section. Time down, felling low, only a third into the race.
Missed the tail of a group and ended up solo. Ok triathlon boy, lets see what you can do. TT time. Tucked up, head down and gunned it, caught the group and kept going, picked up one guy who did nothing, dropped him on the steep hill. Looks like France paid off anyway! TT...TT...TT...drink..TT...TT...eat...TT...TT Ingleborough. Rode as far as the little legs could go then hit the climb, not stopping ever was today's plan. Peak at the watch let me know i was on time for last years ride, hmm ok, well once i'm not slower. Got to the top of the never-ending staircase and started the lovely ridge ride, oh how i love this section. Descent time, no punctures are allowed, ride clean, ride fast, ride smart. Quicker than i know it i'm off the slabs and on the flatter section, passing people and descending like i am supposed to. Better, but not best. Feeling strong as we ride to the via-duct. Just about hear Pauline to get the bottle and shout a happy 'Thanks!' back. Feeling good as i hit the road, no cramps, not issues, and a big ring that works this year. TT time all the way to Horton. Hard as i can, pass a lot of riders i know will get me on the climb so i need to make as much time as i can.
Pen-Y-Ghent lane and i have issues. I nearly gave up at this point last year, due to a combination of cramping; tiredness; and hatred off all things vertical. Rode the whole section up to the gate. Stunned. i have no idea how i did but i did. I am taking this as my shining point from the day. Up up up we go, all the way to the top, once again the people who give us water half way up are gods among men and cyclists. I love you guys so much for not making me drink sweet carbo drink. On the final section my head started to calculate for the first time. 20 mins from the top to Helwith bridge to go under 4:30.....doable...but realistic i dont know. Descend like a daemon for the first time, feeling good, but wait is that....crap left calf starts to cramp. Ok, no jumping re-mounts. 5 mins later and the right starts to go. Damn it...descend, worry about it at the bottom.
Hit the road in a bunch of 3 look at the other lads and make the obvious statement. 'Want to go for this lads?' A resounding YES and i hit the front giving it all i have which proves to be a pathetic 290W. Turn it over to the American, and the pace stays high, not looking at the clock, keep gunning it. We drop rider number 3 and i take the front again. On the edge now as i spot the bridge and bring it home, avoid the gravel face plant add cross the line for a respectable 4:35. 5 mins outside what i wanted, but 10 mins faster than last year.
I've only toyed with the power data from the Powertap, although not the lightest option, it should give me some interesting data to look at. I'll do a post about it tomorrow if i get time.
Am i happy, yes. Will i be back, yes. But am i disappointed, yes more so. I had a terrible lead up, no specific training, and little to know enthusiasm. But next year, it will be different.
Also have to give a big thanks to Amy who without i would have not got an entry this year. I owe you something large and pink.....ehh ok...that sounds very very bad....erm....oh well.