People who know me well enough (and people who have known me long enough), will know that my first two wheeled love was the mountain bike. It all began back in the early 1990s when I was craving thumbshifters, the BMBF was on TV and everyone was happily drilling holes in their handlebars. I was there when Grundig sponsored the World Cup and when it was possible to win a downhill race on a Kona Hei Hei.
The problem was that I was never especially good at riding off road when the going got technical. At best, I was mediocre. The only reason I didn’t come last in my first race was because I persuaded a friend to enter and the only mountain bike races I’ve ever won have been dry and technically easy, essentially crits on two inch tyres. I remember one race in Peebles around 1999/2000, each lap the course went up a dirty great hill for about 20 minutes and then plummeted us down the other side in about 5. It was my final season as a Sport rider and every lap I was first at the top of the hill…and every lap I was third at the bottom. The finishing line was at the bottom.
I’ve rattled on about this because I’ve recently rediscovered my love of riding off road. In a fit of post injury enthusiasm I bought a second hand cyclocross bike and committed to the Central Regional Cyclocross Series. I told Claire that it was “just a bit of winter training” and it didn’t take long before I was falling off, but the bug was back, and I was loving it.
My ego loved it too when I was beating a rider fifteen (ok, seventeen) years younger than me, especially when he was on a bike supplied by his sponsor and I was on something I picked up second hand. I might have even confessed to a close friend that a podium overall was a possibility if other people’s results went my way. Although of course, it was “just a bit of winter training.”
Anyway, blaming the bike for my crashes I quickly dug deeper into my overdraft and splashed out on a brand new Specialized Crux from Grafham Cycling. You might be able to score a free bike from your sponsor Mr “Fifteen years younger free bike” but I can get a discount, and a free water bottle. Result.
Two days later I was back in the game, and the new bike was perfect. Trips to Oxford, Hillingdon, Bedford and Reading followed interspersed with a selection for the inter area championships in Milton Keynes and a race at Grafham Water to support St Ives Cycling Club.
It was fun. Predictably, my best results came when it was dry and technically easy (crits on inch and a half tyres), but I suppose I expected that, and the weather gods smiled on me every single day. I got the podium I was looking for and before I knew it we were in the middle of December and my fitness wasn’t in the basement. My exploits even made the local paper and the club website, mediocre Mike went big time.
Now, although this was just a bit of fun it did turn into a bit more than just a bit of winter training. I suppose it was always likely to. I’m not in the same league as cyclocross specialists like Mike Cotty or Greg Simcock and I never will be, but I don’t care. Cyclocross was supposed to give me my enthusiasm for cycling back, and there’s no doubt that it has done a fantastic job. Mr “Fifteen years younger free bike”, I’ll see you on the road.