The North Road squadron had to fit the long range tanks for the latest round of Eastern Cyclocross League. A 60 mile plus journey to the outer reaches of Essex lay in wait for a 3-ship of Steve James, Dave Kiely and Tim Brown. Regular powerhouse John McDowall was unserviceable due to a back injury and certified himself absent (sick). The sleepy town of Mistley on the River Stour estuary was the venue, specifically the ground of Mistley Rugby Club which provided the excellent facilities. But this was no field of dreams, the course was evil, almost entirely set in a thickly wooded area with just a narrow, twisty path carving through the mighty oaks which was distinctly hilly for the most part with more 90 degree bends than Hampton Court maze. The surface was a soft carpet of decaying leaves, twigs and acorns which was ideal for denying traction to a fast moving cyclocross bike. Mercifully there were no hurdles or steps on this course. The pre race reconnaissance laps forced the decision to reduce tyre pressures from 70psi to something like 50psi, the need for traction outweighing the risk of pinch flats for the clincher shod North Road boys.
Tim Brown's pre race nutrition was unconventional. The previous evening on a North Road night out he had consumed seven pints of lager, one double vodka, one doner kebab (with chilli sauce) and several Halloween marshmallows he found in the fridge when he got home. Some may say foolish, some may say experimental, radical even. He did declare himself to feeling a bit queasy on the drive up and said he expected to cruise round for a few laps before expiring. However that fate was to befall Steve James. Steve was on the 4th row of the grid but was caught completely napping at the start and then on the first lap got badly held up behind three minor crashes and came off himself once to find himself at the back of the field. The final ignominy was hearing the shrill voices of the ladies approaching who had started a minute behind the main race. Feeling distinctly peed off he took his bat home on the second lap, not being able to face 30 more minutes of suffering to move up from nearly last to about 10th from nearly last. He retired to the pits to watch the rest of the race unfold and plan his start strategy for the next race
Dave Kiely had an unconventional race by his recent standards. Nothing fell off his bike and he maintained full contact with it for the whole race, he didn't hit any trees and kept it moving forwards. He was going well, having a little duel (these things are important in CX) with another rider until the last lap where due, to extreme torture, he didn't make it up the very steep slope, dismounted mid climb and then was so done in by the running effort that he could barely get his leg over and re-mount so lost a few vital places in the run in.
Tim fuelled up on his lager lout diet was having a great ride. He was promoted to front row on the grid after his recent results and by lap four he was lying fourth and going like a train. Then enthusiastically chasing down third, he crashed on a left down hill turn and then again on the next bend. Upon remounting he noticed he had a front wheel puncture developing. He soldiered on towards the pit area and had the presence of mind to shout to Steve to get his front wheel off ready for a swap and a lightning quick F1 style change was perfectly executed. Unfortunately he lost several places in the pits and nobody in front of him was on a two stop strategy. He caught one of the line though in a full chat sprint finish for an excellent eighth place.
Final result was a fine win by Phil Buick of Iceni Velo who covered the six laps in 41:54 over a minute clear of 2nd. Tim was 8th at +2.46, Dave was 45th at +1 lap and 2.26, Steve a shameful DNF. 58 started and 56 finished.
Full results are at http://www.easterncross.org.uk/race11-12-8.htm