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James Vickers First Cross Race

James Vickers First Cross Race

It’s probably a good start if I introduce myself – My name is James Vickers, I am the eCommerce Product Manager at Planet X. I started road cycling a few years ago and have been taking part in local road races for about a year. I rode four British Cycling road races last season and took my Cat Three licence in the process.

My plan was always to start Cyclo Cross this year and, after taking part in some local sprint hill climbs, it was time to call it a day on the road season. I was late getting sorted out with my first Cyclo Cross bike, only picking the On-One Titanium Pickenflick up, two weeks ago.

I had set myself an optimistic target, I had never dismounted for an obstacle in race conditions before and I had no experience of riding off road. I asked myself if I was biting off more than I could chew and my nerves forced me to take some advice from a few experienced riders who managed to make me feel worse with a flippant “just go for it”.

Fast-forwarding two weeks and five “night time training rides” on the Pickenflick, and I found myself pulling in to Nettleham Police HQ, home to the Lincoln Wheelers and Lincoln Cyclo Cross League race for Sunday the 16th November.

After some very dubious warm up laps in the wake of my good friend and accomplished cross-country rider, Alistair Siebert, I had identified one “dismount”, four “up and overs” sections, some open flat grass land, and upwards of 20 tough, technical and muddy hair pin corners.

The race official blew the whistle and around 50 to 60 riders (I didn’t count) made their way to the start line, me being one of them. All riders waited patiently as the seeded riders were “called up”, around 25 riders names were called and one by one these seeded riders took their place – in front of me.

Feeling pretty nervous by this point and in a bid to not get boxed in I decided to move to the very outside of the back markers and the thought of “just gun it” crept in to my mind. The race brief was over before it had started and the next whistle I heard, signified the race had started.

I have a reasonable sprint so sprint is what I did; I pressed down hard on the Pickenflick and started to make good ground up the outside of the bunch – I moved up one row, then two rows and I was going faster then I ever had off road. The group, very quickly strung out as we passed over the first obstacle and made our way to the first up and over.

It was CARNAGE - When I eventually look around and assess the situation I realise I have made it in to the top 25 riders.

From this point on, it was simply a case of getting my head down and picking off riders one place at a time. As the race went on I felt really good about my ride, I had loads of “sketchy” moments when cornering and managed to miss my saddle when jumping back on after a dismount, but I was riding the conditions and the bike really well for a first go.

By the time I came to the last wooded section of the second to last lap, I had a feeling a top ten was not out of the question.

And Then…

Catastrophe.

My rear wheel picked up a stick in the spokes and ripped the top off my valve extender. The tyre wheel deflates in a split second and my tub gets cleanly pulled off the rim as I tank it up a steep hill towards the start finish line.

NO! My first ride was not going to be a “did not finish”. But with no spare wheel for the Pickenflick in the pits this was not going to be easy.

I run to the finish line and realise that if I run the last lap I at least get a finish on the scorecard. So I commit, throw the On-One on my shoulder and start, what can only be described as a miserable ten minutes.

It was a disgusting run; I was passed by every rider, with every other rider shouting encouragement and respect for the decision to get to the line. I finish dead last being applauded from a good number of supporters that waited for me to get to the end.

My experience was amazing, I had ridden the race and survived, gone from my own hero to my own zero and then back up to being proud of what I had managed to accomplish.

I will be doing this again – next weekend and although I can see where the turbo and rollers have a place for specific training programmes will struggle not to get the cross bike out and smash the local trails until my legs don’t work.

The bike (On-One Pickenflick) was outstanding. It was responsive in the right places but with give when hitting corners hard and I needed to soften my power, I had no problems with clearance on some really hellish steep to flat sections and it really came in to it’s own for me on the flat grass.

The only other thing to talk about was the prototype Planet X Cyclo Cross Race Suit. My feedback for this will all be good. We might need to look at adjusting the Zip to make sure it’s up to the task but warm enough, slick enough and cool enough for the job.

Next time – I will take some spare wheels. James.

See James's racing stats on Strava here.

17 November 2014