Sunny spells with heavy showers was the forecast for Dungannon, County Tyrone Northern Ireland for Round 3 of the Chain Reaction Ulster CX series. And the Bureau did not disappoint. The heavens opened 10 minutes before the B grade race turning a difficult but dryish course into a slippy mud fest. Something not seen by this intrepid Victorian cyclocross racer for many’s a year (doubt the New South Welsh people can say that). In fact, the race actually took place in the rain. Well I never!
Continuing on the weather topic my last three CX races have been on three different continents / countries (USA, Australia, Ireland) and the temperature has dropped from a humid 35C in Las Vegas, to hot and windy 25C at Essendon, culminating in a wet and windy 10C at Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, Ireland. A 25C temperature differential, well I never.
Island Wheelers were the organisers of this round of the Ulster CX series. The race took place in Windmill Park on the outskirts of Dungannon. The course was a mixture of parkland, paths, and grass. The parkland sections were not much more than single track. So a good start was going to be a premium as there would be little chance to pass after the first 500 metres.
During the practice laps I was feeling pretty confident. Then it rained. And boy it rained hard. The course went from a relatively fast one to a slow muddy slop fest. Now I had a dilemma. I race in glasses with prescription insets. In the rain and mud I would not be able to see. I had a set of contact lenses in my bag. Should I put them in? Two slight issues. Firstly, the last couple of times that I have raced wearing contact lenses one, or both, have fallen out leaving me rather blind. Secondly, I had applied some very fine Rapha embro to my hairy legs. I had washed my hands but would the embro have worn off? Sitting is a wind blown tent I took the risk and managed to get the lenses in. Ultimately a good decision. Embro stayed on the legs and the contact lenses stayed in the eyes.
I was racing Men’s CX B. I had wanted to race some of my friends from my home town of Bangor, Co. Down. They race at the pointy end of B so I thought that I would try to join them. Unfortunately, one was not racing and the other raced in the MTB race. So I was in a race where I knew nobody, in my Australian CX Magazine skin suit, with a call up position of the late forties in a race with fifty one starters. I was at the back of the grid in a race where to be near the front of the race at the end you needed to be at the front at the start. And it was still bucketing out the heavens.
What does one do when one is faced with scenario? You guessed it. One takes a leaf from the Pete Findon (spoxe) “How to get to the front of the grid” book of CX starting. By the 30 second warning I had made it to the third row, not bad all things considered. At the whistle I got a good pedal strike and was up and running pretty well. It was 40 meters to the first corner, now a very wet and slippy left hand 180 degree turn. I was on the right hand side in a good position. By the next corner, another 180 degree turn, I had made it into the top ten. Thoughts of a decent race entered my head. Too soon. The next corner was a treacherous dog leg in sopping wet grass. As I braked to make the turn in a split second I was on the ground. For once, it was not my mistake. I had been hit from behind and knocked off. Not good. Back on the bike I had lost about 10-15 places some of which I made up on the short path to the first bit of forest.
By the start of the single track I was probably mid fleet with the leaders heading off into the distance. With the rain the corners were now very slippy. About three corners later I was on the deck again. Hit from behind for a second time. Down I went. What was it that Oscar Wilde said? But he wasn’t referring to the clowns who had knocked me off. Very grumpy now, I picked myself up again to find myself pretty near the back.
A bit of red mist descended so the chase was on. A minute later I was on the deck again. This time my fault, too much speed into a corner. I didn’t loose many places on that fall. So after about half a lap I had gone from the back of the grid to the front of the race to the back of the race. All thoughts of a podium had gone so the aim now was to get a top 10 result.
Not having raced in the rain in a wet, slippy forest forest for a long while I was taking my time learning the conditions. With the tyres still pumped up at 22/25 psi to counter the chance of a pinch flat on the bumpy path sections there wasn’t as much grip as needed. It was a day for tubular Baby Limus, unfortunately I had Open Tubular Grifos.
At the end of the first lap I had gained several places on the path sections and the hills. Now I was confident that I could go forward. On the second lap I was still battling lots of traffic. Generally blokes who I suspected would blow up later in the race but who still had some good legs early on. Each corner was a fight. Some pretty ropey (stupid) attempts at passes were going on in those corners. A few racers could do with some risk / reward training. I was having a battle with one bloke from VC Glendale who I was convinced was trying to knock me off in every corner in an attempt to get past me. I would take the Sven line (I thought) and he would take the other line. I did suggest to him politely that it was not assisting any of us. He replied that “that’s racing.” In fairness I did agree. On the third lap I passed him leaving him in the distance. “That’s racing” I thought.
With the layout of the course, half of it being in a forest, it was hard to see where the front of the race was. This was only possible in the grassy start / finish area. At the end of the second lap I could see about 30 ahead of me, including some of the women.
From the third lap I was being to get dialled into the course and was being to feel pretty good. Gaining on the pathways and climbs but losing a little on the muddier sections. But going forward. Each lap I would gaining a couple of places. Around the fourth lap I reckoned I was back in the top twenty. It was on this lap that I realised that my back brake pad had worn out in the wet conditions. This should’t have been too much of a problem expect for the steep path way descent with a muddy 90 turn at the end. If the brakes failed the straw bale would not have kept me, or anybody, out of the railings or the river. So caution was the name of the game.
Two laps to go I reckoned I was now up to about 15th but now there was nobody that I could see in front of me. So I just kept racing as hard as I could. No more falls was the plan. For once I executed the plan well.
At the start we had been told that it was a 7 lap race but with the conditions it had now been reduced to 6. On getting the bell I had a decent gap to the bloke behind and he was tiring and nobody ahead that I could see to chase. I rode pretty conservatively. Passed a few who I assumed were back markers. Rolling over the finish line in around 58 minutes I thought that I may have just cracked the top ten. Later I was surprised to find that I had actually finished 6th. All things considered not a bad result taking into consideration the first two laps. Oh, what might have been.
Racing in the rain in a muddy and slippy forest is very different to racing on most of the Australian courses. It was like the muddy section in Adelaide but with it being at least half the course.
STOP PRESS – the race lap made interesting reading. At the end of the first lap I was 22nd over 1 minute down on the leaders. End of lap 2 – 20th, lap 3 – 12th, lap 4 – 10th, lap 5 – 7th, lap 6 & finish – 6th. The top 5 were never out of the top five all race……
Jake Gray (CCT) won the B’ race ahead of Derek Finnegan (Keevan CC) with Michael Cowan (ChainReaction Cycles) coming into form to take third.
Favourite for the women’s race was Fran Meehan (Team Aqua Blue) the current Irish CX champion but she DNF’ed after a tangle with some barrier tape. Hannah Ormesher (DID Electrical) rode a solid race in the testing conditions to win ahead of Gill Smith (Phoenix CC) and Lisa Millar (Dromara CC). Hannah has form, finishing second in Round 2 at Belfast and, it would appear from some sneaky social media stalking, some CX races in Dublin and England, and some road races. Speaking to Hannah after the race she was pretty pumped to have won in the conditions. She also mentioned that when she races in Dublin the women race in Men’s B in a mass start, however she prefers the Ulster CX method of racing at the same time as Men’s B but with a 1 minute start. Now, I have heard those comments from plenty of Australian CX women, especially on a course with under 10 competitors. Perhaps Australian CX can learn from other countries which have been running races for decades.
Men’s CX A
Having to be back in Bangor early afternoon I didn’t get to stay to watch the finish of the A race. Also, I was shivering from the cold and wet. Even the hot soup and sandwiches laid on by Island Wheelers could not warm me up.
These are the comments on the Men’s A grade race from Martin Grimley:
“Glenn Kinning (Kinning Cycles) was the race favourite and did not dissappoint however he did have his work cut out for him with Darnell Moore (Caldwell Cycles) and Aiden McDonald (Cuchulainn CC) chasing hard to finish second and third overall. Johnny Reid (North Down) converted well to the cyclo-cross bike finishing fourth. Unplaced veteran was Brendan Doherty (VC Glendale) and unplaced Junior was Calvin Moore (Caldwell Cycles).”
42 started the A grade race. I will be racing A grade next week at Bangor if I can drag my sorry hungover arse from Ardara, Co. Donegal. Ardara in south west Co. Donegal is a fantastic wee town with some spectacular scenery and some even better pubs. Whilst in Ardara I will be climbing the evil Glengesh Pass then having a rake of pints in Nancy’s.
When I was washing my rather muddy bike I was speaking to one of the Dungannon County Council workers who was there to help the organisers. Yes, the race was supported by the local Council. He thought that it was a great spectacle and it would keep the kids off the streets. A sound opinion.
263 competed across the following races – Men CX A, Women CX, Men CX B, MTB Men, MTB Women, U16 (Male & Female), U14 (Male & Female), U12 (Male & Female), U10 (Male & Female), U8 (Male & Female), U6 mixed.
Numbers were Euro style to be worn on the right shoulder. Not need for safety pins! Timing chips were worn on the right wrist.
For those who are not aware Chain Reaction is an Ulster based company from Doagh, Co. Antrim. Go on, try to pronounce Doagh. Try Doke. Chain Reaction is a big sponsor of local Ulster / Irish cycling.
Rule 5.1.052 Watch
Rule 5.1.052 has not be heard of in these parts. Everybody gets to do the whole 1 hour of pain.
Quotes of the Day
No.1 “Keep her lit, Wilbur” This is an Ulster term of encouragement.
No.2 “Be careful Danny” by Danny’s wife to Danny (aged over 40)