This is no ordinary cycolcross race. Cyclocross generally covers a course of about 1 mile and lasts for between 45mins to an hour. The course is generally based around parkland, a school field something of that nature with lots of sharp switchback turns and off-camber muddy slopes designed to make you slip off.
The Delamere forest course was superb, much more like a mountain bike course but without the steep rocky drop-offs. It was a mix of mainly fast single-track through the woods and fire roads. And for good measure there were some interesting climbs and carries together with one or two bottle testing descents. There was only one very short section of proper mud which was surprising considering the rain we had during the week leading in. The other major difference was that the race was over 3 hours. So this race demanded a different approach to the normal lung busting sprint of a regular cross race.
There were around 100 solo riders and something like 20 relay teams. Four Moonglu cross stalwarts, Sally Houghton, Robyn McLean, Martin Gabriel and Rob Wilkins, naturally all soloists, gathered on the start line nervously making light of the task ahead and ridiculing Rob’s choice of undershirt. The plan had been to start very steadily then get rid of any unspent energy in the latter stages of the race. Unfortunately, I got carried away with the moment and finished the first 6k lap wondering how I could get more oxygen into my bloodstream. I did steady off and got to the end of the first hour feeling quite comfortable. Over such a long race you do get chance to learn the course, to know where full-on effort is required and where you have chance for recovery. Into the third hour you do start to feel weary, and find yourself making mistakes, I had a number of minor falls around this period and had to give myself a talking to ensure that I got myself and my bike to the finish.
As you start counting the laps down you hope and pray that the leader will lap you, again, to knock another lap from your total. My prayers were not answered as I took the bell a short distance in front, but some laps behind, the eventual winner. This meant that I got an extra half hour of fun.
If you have even the slightest tendency to off-road cycling, I can highly recommend this event, a gravel or MTB would be perfectly suitable and MTB are permitted.
For the record Rob finished 33rdsolo male, Martin was 45th, Sally was 5thsolo female and Robyn 7th. Unfortunately, they didn’t split the results into age categories which is a pity as we are all in the 50+ category at least.