After 3 years of racing Cyclocross, I decided that I had achieved all I could without resorting to training, and decided to (semi) retire myself at the end of last season

I know I couldn’t quite give up on off-roading so after Mark bought me a full suspension mountain bike in November, and I quite obviously really really really enjoyed it, I decided to give MTB racing a go.
None of this Enduro or Downhill nonsense for me, not in my 50th year on this Earth, so Cross Country seemed a perfect choice.
I was pointed towards Southern XC Series, a fairly local (Reading/Newbury way) series of events.
Up I turned at Wasing Park near Reading 2 weeks ago, expecting to stand out like a sore thumb in Lycra. I was wrong, there were hardly any loose shorts in sight! Everyone looked like a road rider.
All the women in all the bewildering range of Categories (about 7 of them!) lined up, with the 2 of us Grand Vets squeezing ourselves in behind everyone else.
All of a sudden a voice says: “Are you causing trouble already, Sol??”
It’s Ian, one of the CX Commisaires, who I know pretty well
Everyone turns and looks at me. Great! Not!
Off we set, along a flat grass bit, and just like in CX racing, there’s a sprint to get to the first corner, to go clear. I mess up my start as usual. It’s taken me 3 seasons to perfect that, and it works again today. My direct rival is well ahead. I try not to panic (as usual) and sit in. Then I get bored, and overtake a few girls. OUCH! The Antelope 3-up legs from the previous day kick in. Ouch, ouch. But I manage to create a gap and get closer to the other Grand Vet, eventually catching and passing her. I like this game of picking off people.
Star of the second lap, and suddenly I hear Go Sol! It’s Mac! Gives me a boost for sure! 100 metres later, and another cheer, from Richard Collins. Can’t even hide in a MTB race in the wilds of Reading!
Then we hit the technical bits. I don’t even look at the A lines, too scary, it’s B line for me every time. Even then I decide to get off a couple of times. A girl is down on the biggest drop. Looks serious. Which does nothing to my confidence. I take the newly created C lone on that bit.
It’s a hot day and I haven’t got a bottle. My hungover soigneur has my  Lucozade somewhere in the woods, but by the time I get to him, he’s asleep! Shout, stop, sip, and onward again!
By 3rd and final lap, I have the course sussed, and I know I am well ahead of Main Rival. Time to relax a bit, and, and stop for drink. Or what’s left of the Lucozade, used for hangover cure.
I catch up a younger Vet, and sit behind her in a mildly threatening manner for the last quarter lap, plotting to pass on the run up to finish, just for the sake of it. But she gets second wind and I can’t get past her on the 3 switchbacks before finish line. Oh well, no matter.
I come across the line to Mac’s cheering. Even the soigneur has woken up and is there to welcome me.
Mac is over the moon with my (Grand Vet Cat) win and warns me that I am a marked woman now, with a target on my back. Oh dear
So I arrive today at my second ever MTB race, sign on and notice there are a whopping 4 Grand Vets entered. I chat to Main Rival from last race. She reckons the other 2 are either really rubbish, or really good. Hmm, let’s find out.
Off we go, slightly uphill, along a long drag. Yup, you guessed it, my trademark messed up start!
I eventually get my act together, and manage to pass people just before singletrack in the woods, where it becomes a lot trickier to pass. Main Rival from last week is behind me but I can see the New Main Rival quite a bit ahead. I can catch her, I think.
The course is completely different from last week, not as technical, and a bit wet from rain in the night. That means a lot of slippery tree roots and general slidyness. I come off  almost as soon as I hit the track. Oops. There are 2 more slight offs.
I go past the 2 younger vets I ride with, on a long gravelly uphill,and go clear. Not that great on long straight drags, those MTBers, I think to myself. Then I pass The New Main Rival.
I am now on my own in the woods, there’s no one in sight at all.  Have I got myself onto a wrong course, I wonder. But I can now relax a tiny bit, so decide to take a drink from a bottle in my back pocket. But putting said bottle back one-handed is tricky and I drop it. Grr, stop, turn back, collect bottle, get back on track. How amateurish of me.
This course has only 2 technical bits, one down and one up. Down the B line is easy, but I mistakenly try to go up the A line, in a completely wrong gear, and have to give up, turn around, and start again, on the B line, still in wrong gear. Something to bear in mind for next lap, I think to myslef.
I come to the finish of penultimate lap, and decide to get rid of the bottle, throwing it at my soigneur (who is awake, not hungover, and compus mentis!) in a true Pro style.
I pass 2 more girls, in the Open Cat I think, feeling rather pleased with myself. By last lap I have the course sussed (now, where have you heard that before?) and manage to navigate all of it, inc the uphill B line perfectly.
I high five the soigneur on the finish straight, and cruise over the line, happy
“Here comes Sol Findley of Twickenham CC” says the MC, “Second place in Grand Vet Women’s”, he says
WHAATTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT?
I go to have a look at the finish computer, and yes, New Main Rival is ahead of me!
But, but, but, I say, passed her on 1st lap, she was miles behind me! That’s not right!
They look at lap times, all present and correct
Then they say, there are 2 Cheltenham ladies in the event, you know. AH!
KNOW YOUR ENEMY!
Still, 2 races, 2 podiums, can’t complain. Plus, I beat all the other girls in younger Vet Cats, so that ok
You live and learn
Eventually
Happy Riding
Sol
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