CrosstoberFest

It was a couple of weeks for erecting tents, a Beer Tent in the IFSC and Sign-On Tents in Public Parks. It could only mean one thing, the Northern Hemisphere had entered its final season… CycloCross season. Grab a cup of Hot Cocoa with Marshmallows as Luke GJ takes us through the initial fortnight.

Fixx SuperCross Cup Round 1: Grange Castle


The start. Courtesy of Alfie Wallace’s race video

I pulled into the Pfizer carpark, my two-day old crash-replacement helmet in hand. It’s predecessor had saved me from resembling a Hammerhead shark. I played fetch with a dog, until the stone went under a car. I had parked strategically this year. There was no cycling allowed in the carpark, so it was key to park as close to the gate as possible. After signing on, I met Richard, Eric and Breda. On my way to whip out some practice laps, I met, my previous nemesis and spawner of the hashtag #GottaBeatBarry, Barry.

Cross courses have a way of etching themselves deep into your mind. So deep that your spinal fluid remembers why the course is not on its Christmas Card list. I remembered the smoothest lines through the two bumpiest corners. By the mid-point of my second practice lap, my back was in agony. After my three laps, I met CX debutante, Paul and Panda the Dalmatian.

I watched the start of the Women’s race. Michelle took control of the race, emulating Sven Nys in his prime. Breda was battling for second. Monica was reeling in Caomhie. Emma was also tussling for position. Some Dad was loudly criticising his daughter’s cadence. I spent most of my life having obscenities hurled at me whilst the stakes were high (read: herding cattle). I can confirm that no child wants their name included in sentences with four letter swear words. He went a bit Wealdstone Raider on me after I asked him to chill and explained the finer points about cadence selection on the course sections. I guess some homies are OG, and throw up gang signs for 60rpm.

On the grid, looking around I noticed that the bikes had changed since last year. Half the number of chainrings, and dramatically more cassette teeth. I was running a 40t Oval ring and an 11-36. I was on the second row. Richard was on the third row. Barry, Paul and Dave were buried further back.

We were unleashed. Richard’s side of the grid were faster away. I was boxed in and was losing positions hand over fist. I find 1x systems require a lot of gear changes to get to a good speed. The out of fashion double chainrings had me spoilt with their ease of acceleration.


Dave in action. Note the ground condition. Courtesy of Paul and Sinéad

I got some nice drive over the first gravel and bumpy grass section. I had forcefully commandeered the middle line I wanted. A nice gap opened behind me. This meant that your ginger protagonist would not be getting dive-bombed by some adrenaline fueled nutjob. I looked to my left after the third corner. A beautiful, Luke-favoured sight was unfolding. There was a massive compression. Riders were stopped, whilst I was accelerating away into the next section. It was strung out along onto the footpath. This made the line choices really easy. I only had to be aware of the stronger riders burning matches to get to the front. I fell on an uphill off-camber section, as a rabbit hole had decreased my traction. I looked back as I lay on the ground, threaded tyres coming at my face. I jumped up really quickly, a career as a “before” plastic surgery model flashed before my eyes. As I exited that section, another rider fell in the same position.

There was a gap in front of me going into the stairs section, this meant that I would not be stopping to queue. I made a few places in the remount. That short term income turned into a net loss on the oncoming boards and off-camber sections. Toni was the best supporter at the boards. Paul and Barry put me to the sword on this first lap.

I was not bothered by the 45-minute long Black Friday-esque barrage going past me. Included in this stampede was the Junior twins from Kanturk, who started two minutes behind the seniors. My goal for this race was to beat my Top 90 place finish from last season. The heavy grass was sapping my strength. My lower back was full of lactic acid, cramped muscles and probably a herniated disc or two. I wanted to pull out after two laps, but I kept thinking that I was putting “money in the bank”. The compound interest I would earn would see me make my goal of a Top 20 finish again this season.


Richard at the barriers. Courtesy of Paul and Sinéad

For the remainder of the race, I was getting fearful of not being able to clear the barriers due to my increasingly weak quads. But Toni’s encouragement kept the social pressure of being “Luke who snotted himself on the barriers” ever-present. Dave finally passed me. Unlike in the Randonée, he would only pass me once this day. On the last lap, I looked back and seen a group far behind. I wanted to stay away from them. On the back section I put in a dig, but I blew up before the barriers. The group passed me on the last section.

I gave back my timing tag and met with the frequent posters from Boards.ie. There was new format of giving the A racers 45 minutes to try the course (as opposed to last year’s 10 minutes). I took an express shower. I went back to the Coffee truck sporting a similar level of hygiene as an Electric Picnic patron.


Eoin in action. The ground condition has changed from the B Race and Rain. Courtesy of Verge Sport’s Blog “Cross Is Here”

Out of nowhere, it started to rain. This would mean that the course would be drastically different for the A race. Robin, fresh from his Masters XC World Championship win, was looking snazzy with his Masters CX National Jersey.

Ronan had a nice place near the front rows of the grid. Eric, Philippe and CX newbie Tom were at the back of the grid. With Eoin somewhere in between Ronan got a good start. Eric was trying too hard on the opening laps and crashed a few times, so he decided to pull out. I observed all of this from my vantage point of under the coffee truck’s canopy. My mullet has many features, alas water-resistance is not one. After the rain stopped, I bravely ventured to the board section just as Robin was turning the screw on the fast starting Squeak.

After I got home, I looked at my Strava results for the Course segment. My slowest lap this year, was similar as my fastest lap the previous year. I didn’t get lapped by anyone either. So all-in-all, it was a solid opener after my eleven week lay off.


Ronan doing his post-race ritual. Courtesy of Paul and Sinéad

Orwell Results

Women

Pos Name      Time
 1  MICHELLE  39:13 Four Laps
 3  BREDA     40:53
4 MONICA 42:35
5 CAOIMHE 42:50
14 EMMA 45:38

Men B

Pos Name     Time
1 DARREN 45:50 Five Laps Bray Wheelers
34 PAUL 49:52
35 RICHARD 49:59
38 BARRY M 50:17
48 DAVID 51:19
74 LUKE 54:07

Men A

Pos Name      Time
1 ROBIN 55:42 Seven Laps Team WORC
8 RONAN 58:59
26 EOIN 1:01:19
45 TOM 1:04:01
51 PHILIPPE 1:06:21
74 ERIC 8:15 One Lap

Full Results are available from Fixx Round 1: A Race and B Race and Ladies

Navan RC Planet X Series Round 1: Blackwater Park


90 riders on the B Race grid. Courtesy of Navan Camera Club

What followed, was a week where some experienced Yogi Bear and Park Ranger Smith adventures, and Mayo went back to being the Shadowy Place that Mufasa told Simba never to go. On Saturday, I went for a spin in the mountains and had medium salsa on my burrito with the aim of dropping some weight.

The course covered an area of wasteland between the river and a football pitch, with some tree-rooty single track sections. They had used a JCB to create the obstacles; a Bomb Hole, a high step up and some large mounds. The ground was really firm, even the previous two days of rain could not soften it. This meant that the parcours was bumpier than my face after a Pizza, Pesto and Pringles binge. I reckon that for the next two runnings of Navan’s CX series, it will be softer.

I arrived, signed on and prepared for some practise laps. I would’ve completely missed the first barrier only for Michael standing there. The barrier was grey and the path behind it was also grey. I only got two practice laps in. The reason for this was the time consuming process of me trying to build up the courage to ride the drop off. After my crash and subsequent concussion, I cannot mentally bring myself to take a risk again. I’m not a Johny Sexton wannabe. Philly demanded that I try to ride it. Paul Kane zipped by me, shouting “No Brakes Luke”, and bunny-hopped down it. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote “Do the thing and you will have the power” was not the first thing that came to my mind as I watched the ground disappear. This would be a similar situation to Tymon Park last year. I would jump down the drop each lap.


Barry putting his MTB skills to use. Courtesy of Paul and Sinéad

I went back to the car to discover that I had 20 mins before the start. It took me 10 mins to get ready. I was on the third row of a wide grid, there was 90 riders starting the combined B race. Women, Children and Men of the caliber of Billy Zane would be making a Titanic dash the length of the football field.

We held a minute’s silence for Richie Byrne. It took some auld lads 15 seconds to realise that this was quite time.

The whistle blew, pedals engaged, breaths were drawn, tyres bit. 90 riders sprinted to the first 90 degree corner. I was going backwards. A fitting football analogy for this would be, Colin Hendry and Gazza in Euro 96. Everyone was held up by a guy unable to ride the first ramp. After a quick dismount, long run and a remount, I was behind a rider from Cuchullain CC. I thought to myself, “this guy has the Bike Station League to practice so he should be confident”. I presumed wrong. He didn’t ride the clay mound, couldn’t remount a top it. I was right up his chuff, I was boxed in. Same thing happened on the sandy mound. He was slightly faster than me on the flat. So he cleared the boards and was onto the single track in front of me. Luckily he completely messed up the log in the forest, softly crashed, dropped his chain. I dropped the hammer and caught up to my next quarry. It was a young lady from Bray. She had similar remounting speed on the next boards and step up.

As I approached the drop off, I dismounted and ran down the drop. I heard another rider shouting at me to get off her line. I had enough of a gap to not interfere with her. She got a gap on me with her speed from riding the drop. I passed both her and the Bray rider on the first part of the football pitch. I apologised for almost cutting her off, she accepted, we got on with our races. It’s always a good idea to apologise when you’re in the wrong, least Johnny Lawrence try to seek retribution in the carpark and you need to wax cars and paint fences for your neighbour Mr. Miyagi.

I had a minor tussle with Breda. By “minor tussle”, I mean she passed me and remained in my field of view for 45 seconds. Elsewhere Barry Keogh and Dave had a tussle. By “tussle”, I mean Barry was playing footsie with Dave’s wheel. They did this until they emulated WVA and MVDP at the 2016 Worlds and Dave withdrew.

The rest of the race followed the pattern of last week. The faster riders, who got bad starts passing me. Other riders who passed me included the even faster guys who got great starts… although they were lapping me. Unlike last week, at no point did I want to give up. Although my back was again not coping well with the firm ground.

I could hear the commentary about the charge the Ryan twins were on. I knew they were coming up to lap me. I kept one eye behind, as to not impede Kanturk’s next crop. Knowing that the path ahead was only wide enough for one rider, I pulled over and stopped before it. This allowed the youngsters to pass. I also afforded the same passage to the pursuing Woggles.

There was a guy in a Rabbit costume handing out glasses of beer. I abstained until I started getting lapped. At this point, on the second last lap, I stopped to have a beer. It really took the edge off the tough day. Karl from Tiernan's stopped off too. The beer gave him super-powers. Me less so. It was not sitting well inside my abdomen. The next time I passed my Rabbit costumed enabler, I refused his kind offer.


Mike attended the AA-GM on Monday. Courtesy of Navan Camera Club

Mike had a great race. He was on the grid, only to realise that he left something in the car. He left and came back to the grid. He started from the back and made his way up 16th place, 3 seconds behind 15th. I was expressly courteous to Mike when he came up to lap me on the Singletrack. One might even say… I went out of my way to help him.

Had the race been a lap longer, Paul Kane would’ve also lapped me. Michelle started on the front row and had a strong performance, finishing second in the Women’s category. Barry, after eliminating Dave, kept pushing and finished just behind Michelle. Breda continued her strong work from the previous race again finishing third. I would finish in the dream position of 69. No CycloCross race results would be complete without at least one person’s name being wrong. This week the honor went to Dave.


Michelle making it look easy. Courtesy of Navan Camera Club

After the race, I freshened up via tried and trusted method, towel and deodorant. I got chatting to the guy from the Giant team beside me. I was all packed up and ready to watch the start of the A race when Ronan rushes up looking for a Multi-Tool. I choose that moment to do my one good deed of the week.

I looked sad as I waited in the queue for the €2 coffee and bun. Dave told me to cheer up. Dave did not understand the gravity of the situation. There was a lot of people in front of me, and what looked to be only one tray of buns. I got the second last bun, it tasted really nice. The coffee was great quality too. It rivaled the Fixx coffee and wiped the floor with the guy, pushing Instant Kenco, at the Leinster Champs.

Unfortunately Orwell’s wheel problems didn’t end with Dave. Ronan rolled a Tubular and was too far away from his spare wheel in the pits. Tom burped a Tubeless tyre.

There was some exciting battles in the A race. David Conroy and Glenn Kinning were providing the excitement up front. David got a massive gap early. Glenn reeled him in and had a gap of 20 seconds on him going into the last lap. Glenn dropped his chain, David capitalised for the victory.


Eric making hay. Courtesy of Navan Camera Club

We cheered Philippe each time round. The real Orwell action centred on Eric and Eoin. Eric was in pursuit of the rider ahead of him. Behind, Eoin was holding the gap at 20 seconds. Alas Eoin could not keep in touch with Eric as the pace increased on the last lap. A solid 8th and 9th for the lads. With Eric 2 seconds off 7th place. Philippe held a 7 second advantage to score 22nd place.

Former Triathlete, Bryan Keane lost concentration after he finished the race and hit a bump, sending him over the handlebars.

Navan put on a really great event. There was even post-race food. It was chicken curry, although I only had the rice and curry sauce.

The low point of the day came on my way home. I decided to stop at the shop to pick up water. I made the executive decision to try a Vit-Hit drink, the green one... It was tough going. I cleaned the bike as is tradition. I lay on the floor for a while to align my spine.


Michelle and Breda on the podium. Courtesy of Navan Camera Club

Orwell Results

Women

Pos Name      Time
1 SILVIA 51:59 GRAVITY BC Five Laps
2 MICHELLE 54:57
3 BREDA 49:34 Four Laps

Men B

Pos Name     Time
1 WILL RYAN 46:34 O'Leary Stone Kanturk Five Laps
16 MICHAEL 51:26
21 PAUL 52:41
35 MICHELLE 54:57
36 BARRY K 54:59
56 BREDA 49:34 Four Laps
69 LUKE 53:05
84 DAVE 10:48 Two Laps

Men A

Pos Name      Time
1 DAVID 59:51 EUROCYCLES Eight Laps
8 ERIC 1:05:05
9 EOIN 1:05:48
22 PHILIPPE 1:08:30 Seven Laps
27 TOM B 26:17 Four Laps
29 RONAN 09:04 One Lap

Full Results are available from Navan Round 1: Overall.

Upcoming Races

On Saturday evening there will be a race in Kilternan, it will be floodlit. It’s the football field, just before the Topaz station on the Enniskerry road.

The ladies race will be underway at 18:00, B race at 19:00 and the A race at 20:00.

Everyone is welcome to have a coffee, BYOB and cheer on your favourites.

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