Tom carrying his bike on a steep banked section of the cyclocross race

Training prep

I had entered the Velo South event in Chichester and had been concentrating my “training” on long endurance efforts. The exact opposite of the requirements for a cyclocross race. That having been said as part of my taper down, I thought a one-hour long race with some efforts would be the final ideal prep.

Day of the cyclocross race

The day was beautifully sunny and by the time it was getting to the start of the male senior race it was starting to get very warm. I went for a warm up on the grass alongside the car park and did minor efforts.

Following a recce lap of the course I gathered with the other racers for gridding. Having pre-entered I was going to be gridded against others, albeit still very far back. However, due to the number of cyclists and the high wind we could not hear our names being called out so I ended up at the back with the non-gridded riders. This meant that I was a row or two behind in the start grid than I could have been.

Race start

After the one-minute count down, the whistle went. 90+ riders sprinted along the straight up to the first technical section. Due to the large number of riders, those at the back had to hop off our bikes and run this section as the speed was slow, and after re-mounting we had to immediately dis-mount to run up the concrete steps in the park.

Following another technical section, we descended from the top part of the course. I was in a long line of riders as we approached a spiral, however due to everyone having to slow down, there was a concertina effect and one moments lack of concentration meant I caught the front wheel of the rider in front and was unable to keep my balance so over I went. After that I was unable to get going straight away and never caught up with the group.

I settled into the race on the flat section with long switch backs and went over the hurdles for the first time.

Following some more switchbacks there were some steep banked sections which everyone was required to dismount due to the gradient of the bank and the quick corner.

Very few managed to cycle this section but you could hear the cheer from the large crowd that had gathered at the bank every time someone did.

Taking a tumble

Following a quick descent back to the lower level some more switch backs followed. Then I entered the finishing straight which went the length of the course and straight into a strong headwind.

On the second lap having gone through the technical section I ran up the steps and was returning back to the lower section of the cyclocross course when for some unknown reason I came off the bike and landed on my elbow and shoulder on the only hardstanding part of the course.

The nearby marshal helped me and my bike to my feet. When I asked if my bike was ok, his reply was “forget the bike, are you ok?”. After a pause of 20/30 seconds I decided that I felt ok to continue and I jumped on the bike and completed the rest of the lap.

Finding my stride in the cyclocross race

I was now riding alone but was getting back into the rhythm of the race until the 4th lap. I was lapped by the leaders and other riders started to pass me. Whilst this is slightly annoying as you have to take wider or slower lines through corners. This is to allow the faster riders to take the racing line. You do get to follow wheels and lines through the technical sections so it can help.

On my penultimate lap, I noticed I was catching the rider in front. This gave me a great incentive and I always felt I was gaining. After going through the finish line and hearing the bell for the last lap, I had the rider firmly in my sights. I was able to pass him on the long switchbacks. I held him off to the end of the race.


I finished 78 out of 82 finishers (9 Did not finish). My lap times (with the exception of the first lap) improved with every lap. I felt I had more confidence throughout the race and I only finished 7 seconds behind the rider in front. I could have finished higher if I had not had the crashes, but that is part of cycling (and a large part of cyclocross!).

Cycling weekly also raced. Watch the video below – you see me a couple of times.

Post by Tom Pemberton

Read more posts by Tom:

Tom’s cyclocross season race two: Leeds castle

Things I learned on my second cyclocross season


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