Ffion heads over to the heartland of cyclocross racing

After an incredible amount of planning, research and stress I finally managed to find a way to go racing during the pandemic. With everything being cancelled in the UK, this meant heading out to Belgium, the heart of cyclocross racing. I combined my trip to Belgium with racing the European Championships in The Netherlands, my first time representing GB as an Elite rider.
I was super excited, even though I was feeling a little unprepared. It would be only my third race since February.

The courses in Belgium are very different to the UK. Every town in Belgium wants to hold a CX race so you get every terrain possible. The Euros course was fast, dry and sandy with a lot of bridges and steps chucked in. The race was flat out from the start and I struggled a bit with the speed, but all things considered I was pleased to come across the line in 21st place. Riding for GB is always an awesome experience and I seem to be able to find that little extra to give when I’ve got the British jersey on.

After Euros, I had a few days recovery before racing again Wednesday. Belgium was in a super strict lockdown when I was there so it felt quite strange to be doing something as normal as riding and racing my bike. The rest of the time was spent sitting around in our apartment, only leaving for trips to the supermarket or local bakery (a little too often!). Wednesday’s course was very different to Euros. It was quite muddy and slow-going with a large amount on road and paths through the local town. The race didn’t go exactly to plan... I was riding well enough until a mistake on my behalf led to a snapped seat post followed by a bike change and quite a lot of lost time. I struggled to get my rhythm going again after that and finished the race quite disappointed. Luckily I had my next race on Saturday to give it another go.

Race day came around again very quickly. CX racing may be short but it’s incredibly intense! My average heart rate for Euros was 195 for 45 minutes with a max of 203.
My favourite course of the three, with it being dry and fast but with similarities to a MTB course. It had a technical section in the woods plus a pump track style section which is pretty unusual to see in CX! The field was stacked and I was starting on the 5th row. This meant a manic first lap trying to manoeuvre around people on a tight and twisty course. Luckily I had no problems this time and after a tough race I came over the line feeling like I put in a solid performance.

In all three races I was shocked by the speed of the girls at the front and was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t quite at the level I wanted to be at. However, more than anything it was just awesome to be back racing again and I felt incredibly lucky to be able to travel and compete during these times. Hopefully I’ll be back out there racing again soon!

More on Ffion's racing on: @ffionj97