I’m quite sure that the words Jesus and Christ have been whispered by many lips this week in the run up to the big man's birthday. Presents wrapped and under the tree, lights twinkling along every road and cupboards stocked with festive treats with a power-to-weight ratio of at least one million calories per 100 grams. If the neighbours had listened carefully they’d have no doubt heard the odd ‘Christ almighty’ or ‘sweet baby Jesus’ in a louder than normal voice, coming from the Cotty residence, as dawn breaks and I desperately try to make it out of bed with more grace than an OAP come retiree. Some things in life should never be taken for granted. Number one on the list (and quite rightly so) should always be your mum, narrowly edging out a good pair of thermal socks in the battle for world supremacy. Now, I’ll let you into a little Chrimbo secret, next time you’re drawing up your ‘don’t take for granted’ list feel free to slip ‘thoracic cage’ into your top five. It may not be the first thing that comes to mind but, believe me, if you ever have the misfortune to batter yourself on an icy road (as I did little over a week ago) then you’ll certainly feel smug at its inclusion. It’s eye-opening (literally) just how much a defect in this area can hinder the simplest of movements. Take the common ‘twist’ for example, something that is normally performed without so much of a second thought. Factor in some localised abuse to your 8th and 9th ribs and that same movement will swiftly turn into a lesson in pain (or maybe anger) management. What I have now come to realise is that whoever termed these as ‘false ribs’ must’ve seriously overdosed on chocolate coins as there’s no doubt that they’re real, even if I’ve temporarily gained a couple of extra ‘floating ribs’ for the foreseeable future. Anyway, that’s enough anatomy for now, I’m starting to bore myself. The main thing is that hurting on the bike feels infinitely better than hurting in the house (always has and always will do) which means there’s no excuses. Boxing Day ‘cross, bring it on!
With just a couple of slight changes compared to the National Trophy course that we raced on in the middle of November, it was good to be back at the Southampton Sports Centre once again. Considering the amount of rain that had been spilled in recent times the conditions looked to be drier than I’d anticipated, ensuring a fast race was on the cards. You’re never sure who may take to the start the day after Christmas, some opting for a moment of respite from the cyclocross battlefield in preference for another glass of mulled wine and a mince pie. What counts is the quality of the competition and with a strong contingent of Hargroves riders (including Steve James, Stu Bowers and Matt MacDonald) not to mention last week’s victor Mike Simpson all in attendance, it was important to come out swinging like McGuigan on Boxing Day.
As the one hour countdown began I managed to get a clean start, carefully negotiating the first series of bends that can all too easily catch out the over eager. Climbing into the copse I could see that I was being closely followed by Steve James and Matt MacDonald, with Stu Bowers a few bike lengths further back. As one of the stickiest parts of the course I focused on trying to ride this section smoothly, without any mistakes, before pushing the pace when out in the open. By the end of the lap things were still tight at the front. I daren’t take a look back at the chasers, preferring to try and forge a gap wherever possible.
There’s definitely a fine line between riding the slipperiest corners too fast, inevitably losing more time than you hope to gain. On days like this I break the course down into chunks. Parts that you just need to roll through trying not to touch the brakes, and sections where you need to dig deep and ride with 110% effort. It’s very different to a course where it’s all about power or those that favour a bias toward pure technique and skill. After twenty minutes cracks were starting to appear. Sensing that this could be the time for a knock-out punch I put in a fast lap to see what damage it may do. To my delight I was soon away and with good daylight behind, from here on in it was all about keeping each lap consistent until the bell lap when anything goes. As I crossed the line I was reminded just how greedy I’ve now been, six wins in the Wessex league was far from my mind. Two arms in the air, one for every bowl of homemade crumble that had been consumed the day before. Now that’s pig greedy.
I was wondering exactly where I’d got my power from. Now I know. By my calculation a kilogram of crumble is the best part of ten million calories. Mmmmmm. Nice. Let’s just hope it lasts, I’ve got a feeling by the end of the week I’m going to need all of that and more if the below start sheet is anything to go by. That and a plate full of Belgium waffles should just about do it I think. My mouth is already watering at the prospect of a kicking by the world's best. Feel the burn MC, feel the burn.