The end of February soon came around, which meant it was time to head to Newnham Park once again for the second round of this year’s Soggy Bottom Winter Series!
After the mud-fest of round 1, it was a nice surprise to wake up to a cold but bright and sunny morning, and given the dry weather in the days leading up to the race, it was looking promising for a dry(ish) course! After progressing with my structured winter training from the last round and feeling quicker on some recent training rides, I was looking forward to punishing myself for an hour and a half to see whether it was all really paying off!
Team Complete Cycle Works had another good turnout, with Tom Thorne, Mark Moss, Ben Farrer and Max Johnson representing alongside myself. After registering and getting kitted up we headed out for a quick test lap.
After the relatively tame course for round 1, this round’s course threw in a couple of technical ‘A’ lines, namely the near-vertical Derriford Drop, and an alternative line on the Cottage Carnage descent with a drop-off part way down. Despite wanting to at least try them, I wimped out and decided not to take the risk and play it safe with the ‘B’ lines instead.
I’m always impressed at the courses Fully Sussed manage to create in Newnham Park, with every race taking in a selection of the numerous technical features, yet linking them differently making every course feel completely unique. As a whole, this round’s course suited me really well – it was almost dusty-dry with some significant climbs, a few flat sprint sections and reasonably fast non-technical descents.
As with all of the Soggy races, we lined up in the big field just before 10:30, ready for the mass-start. Following my bad start from the last round and ending up stuck in traffic when the course narrowed, this time I was determined to position myself as close as possible to the gravel track running through the field to hopefully ensure a better position as the course bottlenecked.
As soon as the whistle blew I headed straight for the gravel, finding myself within the top few riders as we headed out of the field. I pushed past as we neared the river crossing, but then made the wrong choice to take the slower option of the bridge rather than ride through the river – it cost me a few places, but I did stay warm and dry! After a few short sharp climbs, I managed to reduce the gap on the leaders again as we continued around the start loop to begin the first full lap.
The main lap started with the same long fire road climb as the last round, climbing up towards Bluebell Woods. It then peeled back on itself with a fast fire road straight before reaching a rooty technical climb taking us into the woods and some fast woodland dirt tracks with the odd rooty section. This led into possibly my favourite section at Newnham, a small drop off followed by a fast and flowy undulating trail, with a few fun rocks and roots to jump over.
After a short fire road section, this then joined Cottage Carnage, before returning parallel to the river and sending us up two steep power climbs, each with 90 degree approaches making them very challenging, as traction was difficult to maintain and you couldn’t hit them with any momentum! This then came to the optional Derriford Drop ‘A’ line before returning to the start finish line for the next lap. Senior category riders had to complete 5 laps, with Expert riders completing 6.
The only problem I find with the mass start is it’s difficult to gauge your position, especially if you’re not sure of the category of the riders around you, so I was quite surprised to hear I was in third place as I started my second lap! The potential of a podium finish gave me extra motivation to keep pushing and hold off the chasing riders.
I was then even more surprised to find myself in second place as I started my third lap. Kevin Yim was close on my tail keeping the pressure on, and come lap 3 or 4 managed to get ahead of me after taking the Derriford Drop ‘A’ line whilst I stuck to the safer slower ‘B’ line – fair play to the guys that were riding the ‘A’s, definitelty something I need to continue working towards!
I continued to chase for 2nd place, sitting on Kevin’s tail for best part of the final two laps hoping for an opportunity to get ahead towards the last lap. Unfortunately he continued taking the ‘A’ lines and created a big enough gap to get back to finish in 2nd place.
I crossed the line 10 seconds later taking 3rd place, my first ever podium and by far my best performance to date! At least it goes some way to showing the winter training is paying off, and I’m beginning to feel a bit more confident technically following my crash at the end of last season. Now just to build up to tackling the scarier ‘A’ lines!
Team Complete Cycle Works had great results all round with Ben Farrer taking 2nd Elite, and Tom Thorne, Mark Moss and Max Johnson taking 18th, 21st and 24th Sport respectively.
A huge thanks to Jay and Maddie at Fully Sussed for such a great course and another well organised event. Also to Snapper Chick, and Ross Wildman who filled the role of team photographer for the day after being unable to race due to injury.
Roll on the next round in a few weeks time!