Michael Hanley’s inner monologue sheds light on this dark CX race.

Beth, Silvia and Michelle at the front of the Rainy Women’s Race. Courtesy of Mark Murphy.  

FIXX Supercross Cup Round 2: Kilternan.

It’s at night!

Bring lights!

The ramp is gone!

This was all I really knew about the course apart from what little info I got from Breda. “It’s grand” she said. You could ask Breda what she thinks about plunging her arm into a furnace and she would give you the same answer. People who don’t know her might think she is being coy or maybe even keeping her cards close before a race. But as her 2nd place showed, Breda just doesn’t get rattled by seemingly difficult challenges. This explains a lot, right?

I was meant to get to Kilternan for 3pm. 3pm to help out. Help out at 3pm. Sharp. Got it. What time is it? 4pm. I grabbed everything I could and shoved it into my backpack. If I could remount my bike while moving, I would have, but this is yet another cyclocross skill I don’t possess. The route from home took me along much of my commute, so I know the roads and I know my usual speed along them. Today, I crawled along them at a pace that would have made a cargo bike blush. I considered bailing. Had I done too much leading up to this? Was my cold completely gone? Had I remembered to record strictly?

I had missed the first round due to a wedding in Poland. There was a lot of vodka, that’s about all I can remember. My first race in Navan was scuppered by poor preparation; I’d ended up last on the grid after leaving my timing chip in the car. Starting at the back in cross is a cardinal sin. Your race is over before it’s even begun; the guys up front get nice lines into everything, while everyone at the back end gets to queue up at each obstacle like they’re in Lidl on a Thursday.

This time I’d made a more conscious effort to get the details right, apart from showing up a little late of course. I signed on and my friend Phil helped me pin on my number while I tightened the timing chip down like a tourniquet on my wrist. “You’re not getting away from me this time” I thought, as my now purple hand flailed about lifelessly.

Two slow laps to inspect the course - an essential part of the pre-race routine in cross. Surprises are bad and they lead to mistakes or falls. In a race where these little errors add up over each lap, proper analysis of the course features is critical. I’d identified the first wooded section as my weakness. A narrow track of slick mud broke into a right-left chicane, with a bit of a hump to ride over at the end. It was difficult to turn on without the bike squirming beneath me. Putting a foot down wasn’t an option because you needed momentum to carry over the hump.

Caoimhe and Lara after the muddy race. Courtesy of Ann Horan.

We watched the women’s race, cheering Breda as she sprinted to a thrilling second place behind the effortless Beth McCluskey. An Orwell one-two in a race that featured plenty of rising Orwell stars.

I jumped back on for another lap, a bit faster this time. The course felt a little better when it was cut up a bit more, as I found myself enjoying it rather than planning my stealthy retreat from the event. Phil shouted at me as I came back onto the pitches - riders were lining up in the grid and I needed to get in there. I decided to abandon any reservedness and barged my way up to the front. A rather bemused David Maher looked down at me. Sorry David, I’m in it to win it, I’ll apologise to you afterwards assuming you don’t send me into the barriers.

Mike, Dave and Paul ready to move up behind the B Race gridded riders. Courtesy of Ann Horan.

Phil told me to keep the jacket on, stay warm right up until the start. Cross is like a series of VO2max intervals - you can’t ease yourself into it, there is no fuse to burn through, just a loud bang and then 45 minutes of pain. The course was pitch black save for some (brilliant) floodlights attached to portable generators, a quad bike's headlights and a man holding a torch. In a moment that I can only compare to Luke Skywalker’s infamous run on the first Death Star, I decided to “let go” of my lights and let the force guide me. It actually worked well and my best riding was done in absolute darkness. I may heed Aishling’s advice and go fully blindfolded in the next race.

The start was key. Give it socks and don’t stop until you taste blood or mud. Unfortunately my poor handling cost me early places and I slipped back into the top 15. Still in a good spot and far enough up the front to avoid too much slow down at any of the obstacles. My handling was aided somewhat by the rush of adrenaline that I was feeling and I felt the front wheel slip once or twice but managed to control it. The 180 degree turns in the mud were killing me though, my lines were all wrong and I was easily passed by other riders. I came into my own on the less technical sections around the pitches. I honestly felt like I had a motor on the bike (disclaimer: I did not have a motor in my cross bike) as I cruised past people. I heard heavy breathing and saw heavy legs, but I was happily spinning away and these sections gave me a bit of a lift. Even my dismount and remount, while not pretty, were comparatively fast and got me a couple of seconds here and there.

Eric and Eoin at the barriers in the A race. Courtesy of Gareth Gibbons.

I didn’t make the podium in the end. My lengthy victory speech was neatly folded and placed back in my skinsuit for the next race. The good news is that I learned a lot from this race, probably more than I learned in all the cross races last year, and I now have some actionable insights to take into training. Tell those under 14 riders to keep the podium warm for me, I’ll knock them off it yet.

Yes, we were all beaten by children. 

Orwell Results

FIXX SuperCross Cup Round 2: Kilternan

Beth and Breda on the Women’s podium. Courtesy of Ann Horan.
Women
Pos Name      Time
1  BETH      32:04
2  BREDA     32:28
4  LARA      32:29
5  MICHELLE  32:34
6  CAOIMHE   34:43
8  ORLA H    35:49
12  MONICA    37:40
14  EMMA      37:59
15  ORLA W    38:31
Men B
Pos Name       Time
1  WILL RYAN  40:01 O'Leary Stone Kanturk Five Laps
12  MICHAEL    43:40
19  DAVID      44:05
33  BARRY M    45:42
39  PAUL       46:13
53  OISIN      49:23
Men A
Pos Name          Time
1  DAVID CONROY  51:46 Scott Eurocycles Six Laps
20  ERIC          56:18
41  EOIN          51:56 Five Laps
58  RONAN         22:53 Two Laps

 

Ulster CX Series Round 3: Lady Dixon Park

Beth leading the Lady Dixon field in her National Champions Kit. Courtesy of The Belgian Project
Women
Pos Name      Time
1  Beth      47:30
3  Michelle  52:23
4  Breda     53:36
14  Emma     -1 lap
Eddie entered the Lady Dixon A race, but was listed as a DNF. Courtesy of Stephen Lindsay.

Upcoming Races

  • Oct 23: Kinning Cycles Cross League Rd. 2 and Connaught CX Rd. 1
  • Oct 30: Munster CX Series Rd. 3 and Ulster CX Rd 4
  • Nov 06: Navan CX Series Rd. 2
  • Nov 12: Fixx SuperCross Cup Rd. 3

More Details on the Irish CX Calendar.

Breda and Emma enjoyed their two race weekend. Courtesy of The Belgian Project
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