It was hard work, a lot harder than I thought it would be if I'm honest. I have spent a year photographing CX events, always thinking to myself "Yeah! I could do that". My first race was an eye opener. I learnt so much!!
You get the chance to try the course in between races, which I knew would be key for me to put my three weeks training into practice. For those that follow my twitter account you will probably be aware (by my persistent moaning) that I was struck with the dreaded cold two days before the race and dribbled snot throughout most the day- it made breathing even more of a chore!
As I attempted my first practice lap there was one key problem, an area I had over looked during training - off camber sections! These are basically small slopes you ride across rather than up, mix mud into that and you spend a lot of time running or slipping. I knew I was in trouble, I was going to have to learn as I went round.
I nervously crawled to the start line, taking my position at the back of the pack. We had the race rules sung between gulps of gel and adopted our well rehearsed starting positions. To my surprise I had a great start, shot through the pack and felt good! I followed the wheel of Glenn, who I knew was a great rider, he is also the dude that build the bike I was racing on - cool hey!! Glenn carved a neat hole in the group and I followed with little stress... that was until we hit the first technical section!
I jumped off my bike with the goal of completing a tiny off camber section with a little run, it did not go to plan. I ran into the guy in front who had stopped dramatically due to a traffic jam on the course! This pushed me from around 12th to pretty much the back of the pack. I was secretly pleased, the last thing I wanted was to be near the front and for people to assume I knew what the hell I was doing - lets be honest I was always destined to just complete the race, not compete the race!
From there on each technical section presented more and more problems. I was learning on the job but loving every second of it.
It worked out to be roughly 5 laps. Each lap was harder and harder. The mud was chewed up by riders in front, which caused a sticky strength draining ride. There were times I jumped off the bike for a run up and couldn't get the energy to jump back on the thing. With one lap to go you hear a bell. The sound of joy, the sound of freedom and release. I now know why the crowd frantically wave bells at riders throughout the race, they are being kind to the soul - giving you that glimmer of hope and reminding you it will be over soon!
I have no idea what position I finished in. I have no idea how far ahead the rider was in front. I crossed the line, headed back to my car and texted my family straight away, who were waiting nervously for my reaction - "I bloody loved it! Cannot wait for the next race! Bring it on"