CCXL Round 1 – Handsling Racing Report
In the first of what will hopefully be a regular series, Handsling Racing rider Scott Heyhoe will chart his 23-24 ‘cyclo-cross season, starting with CCXL Round 1
Central Cyclo Cross League (CCXL), Round 1. Milton Keynes Bowl 17 September 2023
Most of the week before this race I spent searching for a weather forecast that didn’t have it raining at 2:50pm for the start of the v50 race. I did eventually find one – turns out it was wrong. I also searched for an astrology website that had me winning the race by miles. Couldn’t find one, but turns out that they were all right!
I’m planning to ride a lot of these CCXL races, as most are within an hour of Staines where I live. MK Bowl is just outside the hour, but always a terrific race at a terrific venue. I’ve been there a few times to watch some hard rock – ACDC were on excellent form one year.
This time, the place was rock hard; another week of sun had left the course very dry. Again, as per last week, there was plenty of freshly-mown grass to contend with. One real highlight of this venue is that you can see 95% of the course at any one time. There was one section in the woods and another on the perimeter road, but otherwise the racing was all in the bowl.
Time for gridding
Having scored a few BC points last season, I was rewarded with a spot on the 3rd row of the grid. When I’m awake, I have a decent start, and can normally make up a places in the start straight. As my coach says, “it’s easier to make up five places on lap one than it is five places on lap five!” As if by magic, right on cue – as the final rows of the grid were filling up behind me – the rain started pouring down. Plenty of hissing going on as riders – having carefully put the exact right pressures in their tyres – unceremoniously and unscientifically let out a bit of air.
As per last week, many riders had dry/intermediate tyres, though a few had more mud-friendly tyres. I’d pumped mine up to 30psi rear and 25psi front, which is quite high for me. Come the muddy season and I’ll be more like 18/20psi. Anyway, I figured that the ground wouldn’t turn to mud within 40 minutes and the course went up and down the banking plenty of times. So what I might lose on a corner or two, I reckoned I’d make up on climbs.
This generally proved to be correct. I tend to start off fairly tentatively in the corners, getting a feel for the conditions. As it stopped raining, I thought that my tyre and pressure choices had been spot on. I started to pick better lines and increase my speed around the corners and down the hills.
Disaster struck on lap 3 when I must have over-cooked one downhill corner and my back wheel slid out from under me. I tried to correct this, but the wheel lost all traction. Then I think hit a rut as I was thrown to the ground, slamming my shoulder into the ground.
That knocked the wind out of me, so I sat there for a few moments to gather my thoughts. My shoulder was really sore, so I made my way off the course and into the medical tent. Checked over and nothing broken it would seem. I could probably have climbed back on and completed the race, but I didn’t want to make the shoulder any worse and so called it a day. I should probably have headed to the finish line to declare myself a non-finisher, but I was sulking and so headed home. So when the results came out, I was dead last – 61st – and not a DNF as I had expected.
A day later and my chest feels like I’ve been poked with a sharp stick. I’m wondering if in fact I came down on a marker pole. Which would explain the snapping noise I heard, as it clearly wasn’t me! Overall, I felt like I was riding better this week, and my legs felt better too. I tend to do a short running and weights session on a Thursday (important if you’re over 50 to put some impact/resistance training into the mix). This leaves me with a bit of soreness in my legs (takes longer to recover if you’re over 50!).
Several lessons learned! I certainly learned that I prefer a muddy course on a sunny day than a dry course on a rainy day. Who could have predicted that?