Every year I seem to forget just how painful cyclocross racing is just in time for the new season. Having had a year and a half to forget the pain I was itching for a race, so much so that I was easily persuaded to get out of a warm bed at 7:15am having had very little sleep, walk home to find breakfast, bike and kit to meet Andy at 8am. The race didnt start til 10am, but it was decided that we (being poor students and hardcore athletes...) would ride there. The race was in Trentham park in Upper Hutt, a good 35km + ride which was done mostly on the Hutt River trail with a stop in Lower Hutt to find some coffee in a vain attempt to spark some life into my legs.
On arriving at the park at 9.45am we soon remembered why we were calling it sicko-cross. The course (as far as we could see) was slippery grass and sucking mud. We were not wholly wrong although it did turn out to contain a nice flowing wooded track, which although not technical, provided a welcome relief from the mud. Having signed on and changed my pedals and shoes to my mtb shoes (my left mtb pedal had worked itself very loose and I didn't trust it to stay on the bike for the whole session) we tapped out the majority of a lap (missing out the worst of the mud, although we didn't know this at the time) and were given a 10minute warning.
Setting myself well back on the start line so as not to hold up any of the quicks on their actual cross bikes we were given a little briefing before seeing the race organiser smash off the front with a head-start. We then followed, through the first 2 slippery turns (which I later slid out on quick spectacularly on the penultimate lap) and over the series of 5 barriers before the real mud fest began. A 200m ish drag over slow grass culminating in a bog at the pinch point where we went from fields onto the forest path. I attempted to make up places here, passing Andy and a few others before the path assuming that on the mtb I would be a little faster. There were a few nice corners here that required the use of brakes, but nothing to trouble any rider.
On exiting this section we came to a small set of steps up a bank which were easily negotiated before traversing down the bank onto tar-seal. Climbing back up the bank on the tar-seal through an S-bend onto the top before dropping back off was probably the most technically challenging component of the course, which allowed riders to really focus on bringing the pain for the whole lap. This was followed by the worst bog section of the course which brought me to a near standstill every lap and seemed to be where I was losing most time to those on 'cross bikes before a final slippery turn and a flat-out smash to the finish.
This was repeated for 45mins +1 lap in normal cross style. I made it up to the top 10 in the first lap then set my focus on the top 5 and first mtb. With 3 laps to go I was really hurting, the first twinges of crap setting into my Quads showing the lack of hydration, however it didn't seem serious so on I plodded, every lap longing for the bell. In the excitement of finally hearing the bell I took myself out just after the finish line much to the amusement of the crowd... I thought I had my position (I think 5th, but I will have to wait and see) sewn up, but having crashed and being quite tired the gap I had worked hard to build had closed to about 20m. This prompted some rapid gear shifting showing up just how muddy my bike was; only the 2 gears that I had been predominantly using were not skipping. Cue rapid spinning but knowing that I just had a few more minutes to suffer I just about held on.
First priority was to find some way to clean our bikes after finishing, and ourselves for that matter, so into the stream we went, bikes fully immersed and faces dunked we put some fresh kit on and set off for home with the plan of getting to iRide for some food. Andy did as he usually does and sat on the front and smashed it, whilst I was grateful of the tow, I was not to enthused by the pace and by the time we got to Petone and I took a turn on the Hutt road I was tanked. having fed up, coffee-ed up and gotten warm we both went our separate ways and I realised how little I like living at the top of a hill.