I’ve been making noises about wanting a wet race for weeks now, so could I make it count when it mattered?..
The Preston Park Velo Club had worked hard to put on such a great race in the dire conditions that we found, when we arrived at Happy Valley, in the South Downs. Previously I’ve raced here twice in the dry and, especially last year, hated the flat out grass crit style of racing that Happy Valley provides. But after weeks of complaining about the racing being too hot and sunny, the wet muddy conditions really helped to level the playing field, literally.
“Mummy, why won’t it stop raining? This is so not a Happy Valley any more.”
I signed on first purely by chance, but it felt quite nice to pin the number one onto my spangly new Bike Science/Boardman Elite skinsuit. Warming up in the rain I made the decision to run with a dry grass tyre on the rear and a new Schwalbe Racing Ralph on the front – the extra spikes on the side making a world of difference in the fast corners, whilst I could allow the rear to do pretty much what it wanted.
When the whistle blew I clipped in better than I’ve ever done and sprinted for the first corner, slightly taking myself by surprise by making it there first – for anyone who doesn’t regularly read this blog, holeshots are not normally something I win. Or have ever won in fact. I made the most of it by holding onto the lead for half of the first lap. Even when a few riders did eventually come through they didn’t breakaway and I learned a lot by riding near the front.
A few laps in I started to feel awful – I think I’d left it too late to eat before the race – and had dropped a few positions. At the halfway point I was in the familiar position of being in a group of six riders with Chris McGovern pushing the pace. I was getting over feeling crappy and was trying my best to stay out of the wind!
One by one I passed the riders in our group as they fell off the pace which left me battling closely with Alex Pettett, with James Waddington and Connor Murphy just behind, keeping us honest! I stayed glued to Alex’s wheel on the penultimate lap and watched closely to see where he was strong and where he could be beaten. There was only one section that was vaguely technical and it had got to the point of being so wet that it really needed to be run rather than ridden – I made sure to ride it on the penultimate lap to hide my strategy.
Alex, quite rightly, wasn’t going to let me sit on his wheel for the last lap and forced me past on the tough headwindy section at the start. I got my head down and tried to stay as low as possible into the wind. I stayed ahead for the first half a lap and expected him to come past on the fast centre section, but he never came through. I knew if I could lead into that last techy bit I’d have a good chance.
I slowed Alex and me down as we descended through the now very deep ruts into the technical section, rounded the first tight left and then played that joker card, leaping of the bike and sprinting up the slope. Again I slipped straight back into my pedals and rode down and left for the second of three times, riding up the second slope, before down and left for the final time. Sprinting up that final slope I knew I had found just enough of a gap to see me across the line in 7th – an absolute result on a course that really shouldn’t suit me. I came here with doubt in my mind, hoping for a top fifteen place and left with a top ten and a smile – a happy valley indeed.
1 22 ALEX PATON Team Gwb – ACTiV S 53:25
2 8 MATT HOLMES Arctic SRAM @3’40”
3 11 PHILLIP GLOWINSKI VC Londres @3’44”
4 28 DAN DRAKE VC Deal @5’16”
5 15 CHRIS ATKINS Specialized @5’23”
6 24 RUSSELL SHORT London Dynamo @6’25”
7 1 GLEN WHITTINGTON Bike-Science / Boardman-Elite @7’02”
8 32 ALEX PETTETT Private member @7’09”
9 6 JAMES WADDINGTON Dulwich Paragon CC @7’59”
10 42 CONNOR MURPHY VC Jubilee @1 lap
Results published by ukcyclesport.com.
Photos and video by John at UKCyclesport.
Header Image by Pip Jenkins.
Glen races a pair of Boardman Elite CX Pro’s which are available via Tribeca Sport. He races in the London CycloCross League and is supported by Bike Science and Helly Hansen. All views and opinions are personal and should be taken with a pinch of salt – This blog is not for cissies or cry-babies.
Glen runs THE.TRIBECA.SPORT.WØRKSHOP which is based at 28 London Road, Southborough, TN4 0QB – 01892 533 339 – firstname.lastname@example.org . The shop specialises in precision servicing, race prepping, 3D Bike Science bike fitting and high quality bikes and equipment. Drop in, give us a call, visit our Facebook page or browse our website for more details. He also runs the shop race team and club as well as racing ‘cross, road and cross-country nationally.