October 4th saw this season’s East Kent Cyclocross league get underway at Sandwich Technology School. Series organisers VC Deal have clearly done the hard yards to put on their usual five-race calendar in a way that complies with current restrictions, and it was a very grateful bunch of cyclocross enthusiasts who showed up on Sunday morning in the traditional drizzle from above and soggy grass underfoot. A long list of additional rules, one-way systems, and compulsory mask-wearing outside of official practice and racing didn’t detract from the experience, which still included cheerful marshals, tunes over the PA system, and an egg and bacon bap van.
Having failed to stop the march of time, I recently “graduated” to the Vet 50 age category and was keen to see how I’d stack up against a new group of competitors. In what I can only imagine was a nod to my youthful vigour, I was gridded on the front row and took off like a scolded cat at the start whistle. Having led the race for about 10 seconds – not a situation I’ve ever encountered before – I was happy for more seasoned campaigners to take up the pace.
The eventual winner soon shattered any delusional visions of glory that I may have had by riding serenely off into the mists, living up to his widely-acknowledged status of being metaphorically (though – sadly for everyone else – not literally) in a different league. But over the next 45 minutes there followed a fantastic tussle for the minor honours of 2nd to 5th spot. Perhaps naively, I rode in 2nd for much of the race but couldn’t cajole the gap to my pursuers into growing decisively. When that gap began to close in the penultimate lap of the race, I wished I could retrospectively trade some of my early enthusiasm for a few more final-10-minute watts, but knew the game was up. In the end, I managed to hold on for 4th place, just outside the giddy heights of podium ceremonies and prize money, contemplating what might have been but happy to have been in the mix.
Next week: Round 2 at Astor College, Dover.