SWCX #2 – Taunton Vale

SJVW | Taunton Vale CX | 21st September 2014

Photo by Mark Deakin

Less than 25 miles up the M5 is a small town called Wellington in Somerset. Today the local park hosted the second round of the South West CycloCross series. With a DJ playing classic tunes, a few tents and a burger van the event had a great vibe and a good turn-out of riders

With surprisingly warm weather (over 20°!), a few laps to sight the course were sufficient warm-up.

Cyclocross races (regional ones at least) are a mass start affair, with senior men, veteran men, junior men and all categories of women racing as part of one race. (The commissaires have to pay attention to work out who is leading which race!) Normally the top 10-20 senior men are gridded in order at the front of the start line, followed by the top veterans or sometimes the top women. Everyone else lines up behind them.

The top riders are chosen based on their previous results, so this early on in the season it is hard for the organisers to know exactly where to put you. Today they gridded around ten seniors and then called forward those that considered themselves to be ‘good’. I tucked myself as close to the front as possible, as a nominal ‘junior’, as starting further back in the field really damages your first lap as you’re stuck behind all the other (potentially slower) riders.

This start position worked well, although I didn’t notice that Lucy Allen had got in ahead of me and had an immediate head start on me as a result.

An unfortunately poor negotiation of a manhole cover lost me time on the first lap as I had to wait for a gap in the riders behind me before I could rejoin the course.

My next few laps were consistent. The course was not very technical – mostly consisting of a flat grass field with with wide switchbacks across it. The route wove up and down a grassy bank at one point, giving an off-camber segment. The school long jump sandpit had also been incorporated into the course (although there was a smoother and faster route around it so I never actually rode through the sand).

Here are my lap times below (taken from Strava as there were no lap timers today). My first lap was slow as everyone was still together, but as the field opened up in the following laps I set a consistent pace.

I was perhaps going too hard as the heat of the day and long stretches of open field began to wear me down. I don’t have a power meter on my cross bike, but today would have been a good day to have one as the grassy course called for a steady threshold power – there was little stop/start technicality to the course – a strong TTer would have been well suited. I was riding with my perceived exertion and heart rate – for sure I slacked off in the middle laps, but I could see I wasn’t going to catch Lucy and the next woman was not in sight, even on the switchbacks.

In the last few laps I sped back up (partly because the lap board was showing the incorrect number of laps remaining…!) but then I began to get cramp in my calves every time I jumped over the barriers – I had to walk the last two times over the boards to avoid being crippled! And so I slowed down again, but still comfortably came home in second.

Lap times

Lap No. Time Avg. Speed (mi/h) Fastest
1 12:33:00 9 7
2 07:43:00 14.6 1
3 08:43:00 12.9 4
4 08:40:00 13 3
5 08:54:00 12.7 5
6 08:27:00 13.3 2
7 09:23:00 12 6
photo 2 (5) - Copy
Photo by Tom Staniford


Position Laps Name Team
1 7 Lucy Allan Fully Sussed
2 7 Alice Miller Look Mum No Hands
3 7 Penny Allen Yogi
4 7 Catherine Kilburn Unattached
5 6 Nicky Grant MDCC
6 6 Maria Weymouth MDCC
7 6 Elaine Mason MDCC
8 6 Jackie Shute EMBC
9 5 Claire Haskins Unattached
DNF unk Fiona Verney Exeter Wheelers
DNF unk Carol Sheehan Unattached

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