First Cyclocross Race

First CX Race

For all you SEO hunters, this wasn’t a race for the best customer experience. In my world, CX is cyclocross – arguably the hardest type of cycling you can do. I’ve yet to try BMX properly (the time I did try it, I was petrified of the small ramp that the kids go down) or MTB so bear with me until then.

I bought my new CX bike just over a week ago and had been commuting on it for a few days a week and not even off road but down a sealed bike path.

Giant TCX SLR 2

As you can see, I’ve stayed loyal to Giant. I’ve never had a problem with my road bike and it seemed silly to go to any other brand when I have such great memories with my road bike. I also know a few from the Australian contingent who race on giant cross bikes too.

I spontaneously decided to sign up for the NWCCA when a few other ladies from the Wheelers had signed up for round one at Hoghton Tower. With the forecast biblical, there was no better way to jump into this but in the deep end.

Ella and I made our way up there ready for our race at 12:45. I feel the need to clarify and emphasise that I hadn’t previously taken my bike off road until about half an hour before my race! I can’t dismount on the move, I can’t mount and clip in immediately after getting myself over the obstacle. I was textbook useless!

As promised, the weather was horrendous: cold, wet, not too windy but bleak in general. It was a bit hard to get excited! I signed on and was designated number 165, a number you’ll see throughout the season. I prepped my bike, as in I got it out of the car and put the front wheel in. I could hear the hiss of tyres deflating around me. Nobody told me there were century long debates still causing a stir today in relation to tyre pressures. As Ella put it, “mine feel like a melon but I’m going for more of an over ripe strawberry.”

The grounds of Hoghton Tower were on full display as we rolled through before the race hoping to recce the route before I raced. A plaque above the barn said 1619 which is almost 400 years old! Don’t think I’ll be doing CX when I’m that old!


Emerging less and less supreme with every lap

My friend lead us to where we could recce the course while the kids did their race in front of the barn. The majority of our course was in the fields surrounding the tower. There was a section almost immediately into the field where we were off camber and looping around to an uneven hill. At first, I pedalled up but when I got to the top there was a pretty scary steep dip with an equally scary steep uphill the other side. It was only a couple of metres down and a couple back up again but as became apparent, it sorted the races out good ‘n’ proper. I definitely ran down and up that section, even during the race!

After that nail biter, it was simply a matter of snaking around the rest of the field, which progressively got more and more worn and the chance of skidding and sliding increased exponentially with the passing of each set of wheels.

It was thrilling. Really thrilling. It put me right out of my comfort zone and made me think in a split second unlike many other types of cycling. Very often, I find myself on auto-pilot, which I absolutely love but the mental strain definitely added to the intensity of those 40 minutes.

I managed to complete 4 laps in the 40 minutes and I can tell you now, I wouldn’t have liked to do another! I was fried.

To my surprise, I didn’t come last: 141st out of 145 finishers. The winner did two more laps than me! *gulp* There were just 13 women in yesterday’s field of 145. If you’re female and umming and aahing, please sign up! It’s great, muddy fun if nothing else!


I’ll leave it up to you to caption this


If you’ve thought about trying CX, I would encourage you to do exactly what I’ve done and jump in the deep end. Perhaps take your bike off road a couple of times before you storm into your first race but there’s only one way to learn, right?!

Also, don’t take gels with you on the course, there’s no time for that.

There were 157 riders in my race (combined women’s and veterans) and from my quick counting, maybe 10 women. We need more ballsy women to join us! Don’t be scared, you can only improve with every ride and/or race you do. If there’s one thing I learnt about CX it’s the community you instantly feel part of. Nobody was rude or unwilling to help, there was chat after asking how I did and whether I’d be back for more (to which the answer was yes) and lovely words of encouragement from everyone I met.


  • Lisa Stonehouse

    Hi Grace,
    I’m a photographer based near Manchester. I shoot sports documentary – running, cycling, ballet and I’d love to get into the British Cyclocross season this year. I wondered if I might be able to ask some advice of good races/sponsors to target. Perhaps you have a couple of races you particularly like which you think would photographically look good – any I shoot I’ll give you the images of you for sure.

    I currently shoot a lot for Sportstours International so it’s mostly PR shooting (like Scott Mitchell does for Sky) rather than event photographer to sell to individuals.
    Many thanks
    07903 222 445

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