I headed across to Apollo Bay to do the Victorian State Cyclocross round that was held as part of Amy’s Gran Fondo.
We had a brief hail shower in the morning which cleared quickly, leaving behind sunshine but a cold wind. My race was at 11:30am – when it was a balmy 10 degrees with 35kph winds. At least it wasn’t raining. I did my warm-up wearing two jackets in an attempt to keep warm, and took them off only 5 min before our race, when they called us up. The only problem was that they had problems with the fancy electronic timing system, so our race start was delayed by 20 min and they ended up going with manual timing. I was shaking with cold by the time we started.
There were four women in A grade, who did one lap then we started straight after they came around on the second lap. It was a very short course, approx 1.1km so definitely not UCI legal, which meant each lap took about 4-5 min (apparently the local council restricted the areas they could use for the course at the last minute, which is why it was so short).
There were four of us in B grade as well (around eight in C grade). We were all a bit confused by the start procedure, which required us to roll over barrier tape as we set off. So away we went in a relatively relaxed start. I had time to realise I should be sprinting for position, then everyone else realised the same thing and by the time we got to the first real obstacle I was behind the other three. No worries here as we were all close together.
There were a couple of corners then into the sand trap, which was a 180 degree right hand turn. I had sussed this out on my recon laps and realised (a) I would be faster running it, and (b) I would be faster if I could dismount on the right hand side of my bike and run on the inside of my bike around the corner. I’d never dismounted on the right hand side before. I had to psych myself up to do it in practice, balking the first few times. But after I’d done it once I realised it was totally fine. Half a dozen practice runs through and I was a pro.
So we get to the sand trap and I’m in last place. I dismount on the right hand side and everyone else dismounts on the left hand side. I made up at least one place taking the inside line through the sand trap.
Then I quickly try to clip back in as the next obstacle is the skate park. Down a big 30-40cm drop, then a smaller 20cm drop, then a whoopdie up and down, then a ramp up with two steps up on the other side the same as the steps down. Dismount then remount and get the speed up again. We were all still pretty close together here.
A short straight then there was a long steep hill up, back down, then up another steep but not quite as long hill. I knew I had to have some good momentum going into these hills and I REALLY missed my lowest gear that I couldn’t use thanks to a bent rear derailleur hanger (damn airplanes). Coming up the first hill I got in front of another rider so I was in second place and right behind first.
There were a few corners, then a really cool bit along the outside of a horseshoe shaped hill, around the end then back along the inside. I took the wrong line going around the end of the horseshoe and went wide – I later figured out the best line was to stay tight and high on the corner. But I headed high onto the bank of the inside of the horseshoe and stayed up there, which was the right line because you could use it like the banking on a track and get free speed. And who doesn’t love free speed?!
I carried my free speed along the next straight, which went through a little mud puddle, along a limestone pathway, then over a barrier made of mini hay bales. Dismount and remount again. Then a sweet section of four or five corners, then back through the start- finish line. Somewhere around this back section of the course I passed the other lady in my grade, so I was in first place but only briefly as she passed me again before we crossed the start- finish line.
She was in my sights but somehow she got away from me and had a good 10m gap by the time we got back to the steep hills. On the first lap, I didn’t think she was that much faster than me and I like to think that if I’d had my missing gear I might have been able to challenge her. But I didn’t see her the rest of the race, so perhaps not!
I didn’t see any of the other B grade ladies the rest of the race either. C grade had started as A grade came through for their third lap, so they were in front of us. I spent the next four or five laps picking off all the C grade riders. Then I saw a faster rider coming through from behind – gosh I hope that isn’t third place catching me! She went past pretty quick – no she is A grade, phew. Then there was another one – I tried to pick up my pace but there wasn’t much more I could do. She went by – another A grader.
I did nine laps all up, 10.24km in 40 min. Although I was getting tired after 15 min, I kept trying to improve my lines and get more speed for free. I found a good line through the top corner on the second hill – and I heard one of the spectators say “that’s a good line” – huge mark of respect!
I was very happy to finish second in women’s B grade. It shows that the grading in WA is pretty equivalent to the other side of the country.
It was a great course, physically demanding on the hills rather than technically demanding, but with less corners and accelerations than I’m used to from our courses in Perth. Having a shorter course meant I remembered each bit and wasn’t as surprised/ lost as I normally am!
It was terrific to have Shannon and Sean there cheering me on, plus every time I went across the start line I could hear the announcer saying “that is Emma Molloy in second place”. Very cool. It was also a very spectator friendly course and there were loads of people cheering on the hills and various other parts of the course, which was great.
Huge thanks to Waterfront Motel where I’m staying for rustling up a hose for me to use. Now I’ve washed the mud off the bike ready for the gravel ride tomorrow!
I continued my tradition of burger and beer as my cyclocross race recovery meal 🙂