Wessex League, Swindon, Rd2
James on board his Cannondale Super X
Every Monday following a race is recovery day. Always has been always will be, and consists of nothing more than an hour or so horsing around on the 'cross bike through local parts of the forest I know well. I've gotten to know each and every bump almost by name, where to push, what feels good and more so, when things don't feel so good. So after playing around with set-ups the following week, new shoes, new cleats etc and believing I'd got it right, it came as a bit of a surprise that my trusted local paths didn't feel, well let’s say, 'quite as local'.... The bike felt the same as the Sunday before, but now judged against paths I know well just didn't have the zing, the zap or the ease with which it rode pre-changes.
So, in usual style I then spent the rest of Monday evening with the allen keys sat in the forest adjusting the saddle height and angle and cleat positions until normal service was resumed. Change ride, change ride, change ride, it almost gets boring.... but resulted in a saddle height increase of 12mm. The feeling of the previous rides slowly returning. No more foot dropping below the pedal centre line. This was also a true 12mm increase over the previous race height at Rd1 which may explain why I didn't feel 'powerful' on the parts I'm usually good at.
And so to round two, held on the flat but twisty turns of the Moredon Par 3 golf course. The course was in fine shape from the previous days' rain and even a short heavy shower half an hour before the start did little to damage what was proving to be a very resilient set of turns. Starting from row 3 this week proved a little tricky and the train quickly formed as a long line of riders rolled single-file through the slippery turns of the out-field. After a little pushing and shoving I made up a couple of places but that was to be it for the time being on a course I considered 'my kind of course'. Fast rollers through certain corners, slow sticky hairpins through others, and with my new found confidence under braking, I was happy pulling up into hairpins from faster sections.
As the first two laps rolled by I tried to keep in the wheels and make little gains where possible. In front was a massive group, possibly twelve to 15 riders I just couldn't quite make contact with. It's amazing how hard it is to close gaps immediately on a course with so many slow switchbacks - you feel so close, but the true time between entering a corner and leaving is still more than it appears visually. Laps three and four started to come to me – riders in front now feeling the efforts from the start and those who'd gone off too hard slipping back whilst others made progress. This is where I managed to pick off a few more.
Laps five and six came almost too quickly and I felt like I was just getting into my stride. The four riders in front now nothing more than a hairpin away being stretched by the guy pulling them along. For close comfort was a Cotswold rider who had been trying to bring me back for three laps, so with half a lap to go I made sure I jumped extra hard out of one or two corners to show him I was serious about keeping my position. By the time we reached the final piece of tarmac I was still clear by 30 yards and one final spurt ensured I arrived at the last couple of grassy turns without the need to sprint for the line.
Final position 16th overall, 10th Vet and 1m30 off of a Vet podium, so not impossible to close over the coming weeks. As always I'll ponder every single turn I made on Sunday analysing how I can make up time into corners and whether I should be pushing harder on the way out. In cross every second counts!
If you are looking for a new cyclocross bike the Cannondale Super X is just awesome. Very responsive bikes but handles in a way to give you confidence in your riding, climbs & decents soon become fun.