Rise Of The Machine. 

Could Parts of Strava die?

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With most manufacturers producing e-bikes, I must presume the popularity of them is on the rise.  With the growing market are your hard earned Strava King Of The Mountain (KOM) and segment times in jeopardy?

Lately, I just lost (KOM).  A long held gravel climb, up to the local reservoir.  The rider took it by forty-six seconds.  The loss got me thinking!

Forty-six, how did he manage forty-six? Bet he was aided by battery power! (I don’t really think he did by the way).  I have just been beaten by a faster rider. The thought didn’t leave my head though. It got me wondering, with the e-bikes out on the trails and roads will there be faster time being posted?

Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of blood sweat and gears in claiming a KOM or posting a fast time on Strava.

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With a little Google search, I saw that e-bikes from one company can power you for 80 miles on one charge and up to speeds of 25 kph. So with fresh legs and a little assistance, riding up the slopes might bring you bag load of KOMs after a day of riding. On the flat maybe the extra weight of the battery pack might slow you down in the sprint race, but I’m sure a top ten could be on the cards when you switch on the power of lithium

I don’t actually chase the KOM anymore, but I still use Strava as a tool for logging my rides/races and like to see my feeble annual mileage on the bike. For some King’s out there, their crowns and Kingdom’s could be overpowered by electricity very soon!

A power struggle might take grip soon. Instead of 250 watt motor, like now. Things could get juiced up in the battle to retain the top of the leaderboards 300-400 watt, higher? Then it doesn’t become a cycling app anymore, as with that power your talking mopheads.  I’m not by any means saying riding an e-bike and logging your ride shouldn’t be done, but If you did take a segment KOM, then I think it should be flagged and reported keeping Kingdom’s intact.

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I am sure some sly Strava hunters out there will be taking crowns by electronic technology, getting one up on their mate. But come on guys, give Joe Blogs a chance to claim a piece of Strava for themselves.

Any thoughts post them below.

Mantra Mornings.

Dusting off my Mountain Bike.

Nine years soon to be ten, the bank of Mum and Dad paid for a half decent bike for my 30th birthday.  Ten years on I shall be withdrawing again to purchase a shed to keep all my bikes in (I know how to spend their money).  Having a bike let me escape into the woods and trails around Darnley Dams (it’s a park now, Dams to Darnley County Park).

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I eventually went further to explore offroad tracks.  First was a short cycle over to Pollok Park.  Trying out my skills on their little colour code trails.  Green was super easy, Blue pretty easy.  The Red had a couple of good bits, but after a few loops, it became easy and within half an hour you were done messing about in the woods.  I needed more!

Carren Valley became my next playground for the bike,  I loved the last section of jumps, flight path I think it was called.  Eventually found myself driving to Glentress a few times a week and riding Spooky Wood trail most of the day (the old hub in the forest with its huge slices of cake and great coffee, made it hard to get back on the bike once you descend the full trail).

Recently I have just got my bike back after foolishly rehoming it to a friend.  Glad to get it back and it shall be staying with me now.  It’s a burnt Orange Saracen Mantra 2.  It weighs more than my car, but with plenty of gears, this should help ease the pain of the heavy frame and fat tyres.

If you have read the blog, you will know I race Cyclocross.  For training rides, I head up to the Kilpatrick Hills.  My cross bikes are both singlespeed; this is brutal on my legs going up the hundreds of meters of grass and muddy hills on recent rides.  I decided to dust of the Mantra and take to the hills to see how the MTB compares to riding the same loops on a cross bike.

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I don’t know if it was my lack of bike riding recently or the extra weight and tyre width, but as I climbed the road leading to the hills I was breathing from places I shouldn’t have been breathing from!  This is me only getting to the foot of the Kilpatrick Hills, the offroad tracks up to Jaw reservoir was hard going.  Harder than the cross bike when it had gears.  There are some great trails for a cross bike around the top the hills, so with some suspension on the front, this ride should be even better.

It was, hitting rocky drops not think about, letting the bike ride the ruts and relaxing in the bike as I went was refreshing.  The wider tyres were excellent for riding over the boggy stuff.  I would normally get off and get my socks wet while carrying the bike over the boggy stuff as it normally grinds to a halt with the CX tyres.  The triple rings at the front came in very handy when things went skywards.  Rather than run/walk the hills with the cross bike on my shoulder I worked my way down the gears until spinning was not winning and I was faster walking.

The best bits came as I got to Greenside Reservoir, there is steep and rocky track dropping you from the brow of the hill down to the banks of the reservoir.  I used to have to jump off and pick my bike up and walk my way down, as a puncture on the jagged rock edges was guaranteed.  Not today though!  Arse hanging off the back of the saddle, I ride the rocks to the bottom.  Next thing to put a huge smile on your face was a great gravel road, power onto the pedals and get the speed up, I am blasting back down to the main road then down to the house.

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 Can’t wait to get back out on the heavy bike again as Mountain Bikes are GREAT!

Velodrome Nights!

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Glasgow welcomed the Commonwealth Games in 2014.  With this, it brought some new sporting facilities dotted around the city.  The Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome arose out the dirt in the East End of Glasgow making it the first indoor Velodrome in Scotland.  Three years after it opened its doors I now have the itch to see what riding the board would be like.

After hearing that Clare has booked in for her first level of accreditation (four levels to gain the right to call yourself a track rider) the itch gets bigger, and I decide that I should follow suit and book my slot and the days tick down till track day.

Level 1.

After the night race along the M8 and M74, I arrive just in time to sign my life away on the forms, get kitted out with bike and shoes and make my way to the back straight to meet my fellow novice track riders.  We seem to be a diverse bunch of folk. I feel a bit weird standing in my full lycra amongst the football shorts and baggy t-shirts.

We get the brief on the track layout along with the track etiquette for entering/exiting the track correctly and safely, and also talked through how the to be safe while riding around the boards.

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Looking Pro!

Once we have been informed of what’s to be expected of us in this session, it’s time to clip in and roll off (checking over your right-hand shoulder as we go).  We’re not allowed to enter onto the track for the moment, so we are told to ride around the Apron (the flat bit).  After being assessed that we can stay upright on the bikes, we are then told to move up onto the Cote d’Azur (blue boards) and ride a few more laps.  Soon we are slowed down and brought in for a drink and a debrief.

We mount our alloy steeds once again and prepare to ride off for the next part of the lesson.  The whole group seem to be doing well, no spectaculars when tackling the bends at faster speeds.  Some people’s fitness was on the lower end of the scale, but they used their heads and rolled off to recover when it was needed.  My hour was up, and we came to a slow stop then we all came off the track.   Good news came across after a quick chat with the coach, we all made it past level one.  Happy Days!

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Two days after me gaining level one I am now back inside Sir Chris Hoy once again.  Get my Dolan bike and a pair of shoes, I then head up to the inner circle and sort out my helmet while I wait.  I came armed with baby wipes to get rid of a season of Cyclocross mud splatter on it while I wait for the session to begin (was a bit embarrassed about the state of it on the last session).

I look about and it’s the same as the first session, a group of all mixed ages and abilities (no football tops this time around).  First off we are shouted up to the track and told to leave the bikes on the glass and gather up.  Very different feel to this session than the first, more strict and I think this puts a few people on the back foot slightly rather than make us feel at ease.  With this, we were quizzed on the etiquette of the track and what we remember about what we learned on accreditation level one, for some people who sat the course over a year ago weren’t confident in speaking up.

After the brief, we were allowed to saddle up and ride out for five minutes warm up on the track keeping on the Stayer’s line (blue line).  The guy in front of me tries to freewheel on the home straight, and I see his legs bounce about, he manages to recover, I don’t think he will ever do that again.  I move up and shout (outside) to let him know that I am overtaking.  After getting up to speed and staying high, I have to stay up for a while as there are some riders ahead that I am catching.  Shout “outside” as I get to them and move past.  This must look like I am a bloody show-off and bombing around the track like a dick.  Eventual I see a big gap and drop down to the Stayers line, and I finish the five minutes at a more sustainable pace.

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We are all brought back in and grabbed a drink.  We sit at track side and talk about pursuit changes and pursuit lines.  Where to change and what to do if we’re too fast/slow.  This is what we will be doing for the remainder of the session.  Eleven of us are split into two groups, I am in group number one.  We set off, building up speed as we go.  For this first series of changes, we are to stay on the Datum line (black line).  We reach the spot on the back straight, and rider one shoots up, letting me through.  My job is now to keep the speed even all the way to the next change point.  Get round to the back straight, I signal mirror and manoeuvre and peel out and up onto the bank.

This part is where shit gets real!  As I pull out and head up the steepest part of the track, you have to dig in hard and keep your speed high, or you are slipping down the boards and taking folk out.  I watch as the riders slowly come past, we are onto the straight, and there is still no back rider for me to slot in behind.  I have to ride the next bend out of the line and slowly apply pressure scrubbing some speed on the back straight (should have gone higher to make me ride further).  This drill goes on for a few more laps.  We all get hooked off the track along with group 2.

After a quick bollocking had been dished out to group 2, they are set off underway to complete some changes as they only managed a few lucky ones the first time around.  Us, on the other hand, are talking through that the pace was a little slow for changes but all in all we did alright.  We get released back out as a group, we are now told to do the same drill but stay up at the Stayer’s line.

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This is where our group fucked up!  Lead rider takes us off, and I am the second rider again. He asks where do we join onto the track?  Fuck mate that was level one!  Guide him on.  We are soon aiming for the Sprint line (red line).  We are far too slow to hit that line on the first bend, we should be on the black line, were my thoughts.  Somehow we manage to ride the curve at a slow speed with no incidents!  Now were aiming for the Stayer’s line.  WTF!  I try and say were too slow, but he can’t hear, and as we hit the bend, he pulls up to start a change.  Fuck Fuck Fuckity!  I say that were too early, trying to get him to stay down, but he doesn’t!  I’m now the lead rider, and the only thing I am thinking of is speed!  I have got to stay upright.  I aim down for the Sprint line and try to pick up the pace for me and riders behind.

CRASH, BOOM, SQUEAK comes the sound directly behind me.  The rider has slipped off the curve and has taken out the rider just behind me.  I glance behind and see the body’s slide down the track, time to slow up.  I shout to riders behind to slow down as wee need to come off the track asap.

After a few minutes of panic, the guys get them selfs up and return along the Apron to where we all wait. We fall in for a chat!  First thing is were asked how did that happen?  It happened due to lack of speed. Also, the coach hadn’t told the lead rider to start his change as he knew we were going to slow.  Fair play to the guy he held his hands up and said he thought we were to change on the first lap.  So it came down to rider fault and partly the group’s fault, due to us not alerting the leading rider we were not up to speed.  Yeah, I could have shouted louder, but they were also another four silent voices behind me!

After a few minutes, the two guys dust off their new burn tattoos, and we are set off to redeem ourselves.  This time we do three laps before we change.  I am the second rider again, and I seem to be the voice calling out the pace and trying to keep the lead rider going at a steady, we pick up speed each lap, and this time we feel more together.  The extra speed seems to help a lot.  My first change appears to better, as the speed keeps you stuck into the corner as you ride high and let the group come through underneath, get into the back of the line just as we come into the home straight.  It’s still a scary thought that you could slip and come down in a burning slide if you ease off around the corners.  After a few changes we are brought in, and we slow down.  Though maybe one lap early for the coach as he thought it was a bit of an emergency stop from the guy bringing the group to a halt.

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Now the session has ended we are back into the inner ring of the track, we are all told that we should return and resit this level.  It’s not a pass/fail course apparently it’s just we all didn’t meet the coaches standard at this stage.  I think that’s a fail in my book!  It’s a bit gutting, to be honest.  As I didn’t come as a group, I came as an Individual and though we were getting assessed individually.  I thought I rode alright and not sure what I have done wrong for the coach to say no.

I believe it was the crash that made their decision easier for them, but we also heard that the other group of five didn’t pass as well.  So a bad night all round for the 8 pm accreditation two folks.  Good for Glasgow Life though, as they get another eleven people paying for round two again.  I think that some people will be put off from resitting and won’t return.

I will go back, as I am stubborn and hate not passing things.  It would have been nice to find out what I did wrong so I can rectify it and pass the second part enabling me to book in for step three of the accreditation.

At first, I thought the accreditation was a load of bollocks, but after the two sessions, I think to ride the boards these courses are essential and has been a bit of an eye opener for me.

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Part Two of Velodrome Nights Coming Soon.

The 10 K Runner. 

Going Hillbilly Today.

5th March 2017. Dalmellington, Ayrshire.

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I have signed up for some trail running to keep me from gaining my weight in pizzas over the offseason in cyclocross.  I think a lot of people stick to racing bikes, be it MTB enduros or slicks and race on the road.  For Clare and me we are going to the hills.  Racing in some hill runs and cross country events.  Hillbilly 10km race is to be our baptism of fire with the running folk.

During sign in, they have a slideshow of the course playing on a big tv.  There was also a large map on the wall showing the terrain.  Both these were a great help, as it meant we could see how the course would pan out today.  These two things were new for me at races, it was an excellent idea.  The slide show would be a good idea at cross races, showing the course features, if it could somehow be rigged up.

20170309_203820.jpgAfter the race briefing, we head down to the start line just outside the gatehouse.  The race begins after the hooter at 11 O’clock, and 138 runners are off at all different speeds.  I managed to get quite close to the front before the start, with a fast pace I soon move up the groups and roughly am about 20/30 position as we run along the canal side.  Think we run approximately 3km before the road turns up, with the gradient going up it also begins to turn rougher underfoot.

The first hill of the run is up and along a farm type road then makes way to a muddy path with some good amount of muddy puddles to splash through.  This is more of the terrain I have been running on and more enjoyable than the first 3km along the flat tarmac.  Splatter my way to the top of the hill, and now it’s time to not fall on my arse as I hit the descent.  I always thought this would be the easy bit of hill running, it’s not!  I am too busy concentrating on not standing on ankle breakers of rocks and dodging the mud to think about how fast to run going down.

No rest at the bottom of the hill, as soon as I get down there the next hill begins. Head back up the hill, more of a nature trail path we follow winding all the way to the top.  Great encouragement from the local army cadets marshalling the course.  What goes up must come down.  Descend down a very potholed access road past some stables (lift to the finishing line on the back of a horse could be good).

Last km now.  Cross the road and clip the kerb, sending me sliding on my knees along the grass.  The guy behind me overtakes while stifling a laugh.  I get back up from the mud and begin the chase along the nature trail.  I can hear the cheers as the front runners take the line.  I know I am close now as I see the bridge over the canal, round the bend and I am on the home straight.  Try to get my tired legs up for a sprint for the last few hundred metres to cross the line.

My 10k race is complete.  Collect my little finishers medal and down some much-needed glasses of water.  I crossed the line in 47 minutes, coming in at 33rd position out of 138 participants.  Clare crossed the line in 61 minutes and in 91st place.  A great run in 10 layers of running tops!

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Bring on some more Hills.

 

 

 

 

Dig In.

4th Quarter of Quaich.

19.2.17 Dig In At The Dock, Bo’ness Harbour.

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The conclusion of Cross ends at Bo’ness Harbour.  Super Quaich is being held by none other than David Hamill and Pete Ward with help from Peddle Power.  Dig In was one of the main reasons I got into Cyclocross, watching the Youtube videos of John and Davy drive about the country racing through mud and shit weather. (like a Scottish version of Max & Paddy’s Road trips with bikes involved) I thought, that looks good, I’m giving that a bash.

Last year I didn’t have the best time at the Docks, so with this being the last ever Dig In I have unfinished business with this course and was glad to get one of the golden tickets.

Head through today team handed, my three boys and my pit chief Victoria want to come through and lend their support.  Sign on and collect my number, timing chip and also receive a great wee goody bag.  The boys see some free tasting at the Cliff bar stand and head over.  I just have to keep them away from the caffeine blocks as hyper kids are murder at times.   They get a free oat bar off the vendor and happily wander back over to the car munching away on that.

Get my number pinned on and bikes off the car.  Drop off the pit bike, time to get a warm up lap of the course done with Kevin Pugh, Ayr Burners.  We role up with the assembling riders at the start area, we settle in around the middle of the bunch and this is still with fifteen minutes to go.  Get the last gulp of water, and the boys tell me to “ride fast and don’t fall off”.

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Outer layers are stripped off, jackets are being dispersed to the crowd, now we are ready for the starter to let us go.  He seems not to be as ready as us, the gun doesn’t want to pop, so the backup plan is used, we are off and racing on the blow of his whistle.

We race straight into a headwind, a battle that will be with every rider today!  The good thing about today’s course is that it’s pretty broad, so loads of room to pick my way past people as we ride along the path heading for the first corners.  The middle of the race is still quite packed together as we come to the first set of barriers.  Off the bike, hop run jump and remount the bike taking some positions as I go.  A quick ride and you are soon eyeing up the second set of barriers.  Go over these without a hitch and now its ride past the Mylaps timing van and here the voice of Scottish Cyclocross “Jammy” calling out the lead riders names.  Now it’s on to the cobbles.

This is the point of the race last year that I went and surfed the fence, ripping my shoulder open, and my bike nearly ended up in the skip.  It was also the topic of conversation with a few people before the race, don’t think I will be let off from crashing out on the first lap. Get to the other side without incident and try to pick up my pace working my way up the field.  Same plan today as previous races, go out steady and keep an even pace for as long as I can.

We race out to the furthest point of the course, along some grass and stone covered paths looping back around in the direction of the harbour.  An excellent series of off cambers and some punchy little ramps gets you out of the saddle.  Ride over the bridge and on to “Unicorner”.  Roll down the ramp and line the bike up on the outside of the corner.  There are a few steps taking you up to the tarmac above, but if you stayed right and took the outside line, there was the chance to ride up.  I took the chance and failed!  Managed all but one step, awkwardly push/ride over the lip and onto the tarmac.  Now to recover my lost place to the rider who ran the steps.  Down and along the Harbour wall we then 180 degrees turn, putting you eyeball to eyeball with the chasing riders as you head back up and turn into the headwind.

Trying all the tricks to stay out of the strong headwind coming off the Firth of Forth as it flows out to the North Sea.  Sitting in behind riders, riding beside riders, then trying to make myself as small as possible by riding on the drops.  All seem to fail, so now it is time to get the head down and grind it out in the wind.  Turn out of the wind and ride around to the sets of barriers and over the line.  I get cheered on by my fan club and discard my glasses while I have someone to pick them up.  The crowd is massive along the start straight, and horns are blasting giving this race an epic atmosphere.  Back over the cobbles and try to catch the rider in front.

I seem to be racing well today, think with three laps to go I am around 24th.  Just as I come over the bridge into the noise of Unicorner, I drop down the ramp and feel my back tyre puncture.  Shite!  Run the steps and get to the top, feel the tyre and yip its race over for that wheel.  Lucky for me the pits are only a short run from here.  Get to my pit bike and change my Garmin over and its back in the race.  I lose a few positions while I run to the pits and mess about with the Garmin, need to upgrade to a watch for next season.

As I head into the last few laps I just have to protect my position and try and reel in the riders in front of me.  By this point in the race I am not sure who I am catching and who I might be lapping.  Brian McCutcheon, Walkers CC overtakes me, so I keep my eyes locked on him and try and pull him back.  Into the last lap and Brian is just edging too far ahead of me to catch, now my concern is on who is chasing me.  Darren Lindsay, Haddington CC is on my tail, I have a decent gap after the long headwind section, now I just need to relax and not mess anything up as I come to the last third of the course.

Easier said than done!  I come to the first set of barriers.  I dismount the bike, hop the first barrier, I don’t lift the bike high enough the rear wheel clatters the barrier, and the bike drops out my hands.  I stumble all over the place and somehow stay on my feet as I jump the second barrier minus a bike.  Back over the barrier and retrieve the bike, get over the barrier again, finding the handle bars are squint.  A quick straighten then I am back on the bike and sprinting to the next set of barriers.  Hit the barriers and now determined to lift the bloody bike higher this time, over them with the bike and around to the finish line still in front of Darren (even though mylaps doesn’t agree) in 36th place.

Dig In At The Dock, I won this time.

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What a race, It’s pretty much pan flat, no mud, no sand traps and no zigzags.  How is it a great race then?  I don’t know, it just has some magic about it.  A well thought out course that gives novice riders and expert riders just as much joy to race on.  I know a lot of riders are going to miss this race not being on next year.

A quick change into the Sombrero and Poncho I join the Happy Trails Cross Collective and Mr Trumpit to cheer on the star-studded and full gas A race.

 Arriba Arriba!

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Chatelherault Cross

12.2.17 Chatelherault Country Park, Hamilton.

This is another new venue for me today, the start to 2017 has taken me to some excellent new courses and giving me some good results too.  Hopefully today keeps with that trend.  The house in the park grounds certainly gives a fantastic backdrop to the race.

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My young apprentice is racing today.  Clare will be in the 12 pm race and will give her a taste of what an age grouping race will be like in the Scottish Cyclocross Series.  She will be lining up with the junior male, V50+ and the rest of the women.  We arrive and go get our numbers and timing chips.  Then have a little look at the front of the course.  Clare is a little anxious about the downhill run to the start/finish line.  After watching the kids ride the hill and see what line to take she relaxes a little.

Noon is soon upon Clare, she rolls up to the very back of the bunch and settles in with the race chatter.  Strava is activated and a few minutes later they are off and racing.  It’s weird watching someone else I know race.  You just want them to go well and hope nothing stops them from finishing the race, like another mechanical!  It’s gutting to see a race come to an abrupt end with a broken bike.  

It’s going to be a slog for her today, the field is well spread as they come up the massive hill climb through the woods for the first time.  Clare has bridged the gap to some rides since coming over the barriers.  With some riders in front of her now hopefully she can stick with them as the laps go on and even push past when the opportunity arises.  Four laps complete, Clare takes the checkered flag and rolls over the line to take 33rd place.  

A great effort in her forth race.  Today was all about gaining fitness and race experience.  I think she got both from that course. (It would be good too, hear how Clares introduction into Cyclocross has gone.  Sometime soon, maybe)

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Proud of my team mate.

After the V40 men battle it out it’s my turn to roll up to the start line.  Thirty-nine riders today, not a massive field to race against but at least I shall have my highest placing in the senior’s race this year, even if I finish dead last.  Make my way near to the front and we are all set for the gun.

Crack!  We are off racing along a nice straight, speed is building and mud is flying!  A quick right and we were under the start/finish banner.  Onto the penis now, (see map below) this was my worst bit of the course.  Just can’t get to grips with slow turns (my front tyre being over inflated didn’t help).  I take it cautiously around these parts of the penis, losing places as I go.  Once the bell end of the course was complete it was a swift ride down to the barriers.  Hop run hop over the barriers and back onto the bike, clip in and try to catch some riders as we went around the back of the course.  This was where evil lurked!  (The front of the house is all nice and pleasant, where the nice guests get to play.  Around the back is the darkside, we’re the dodgy folk would come and go)  

As you turned onto a nice solid tarmac, things headed upwards.  This part was alright as I could ride it, and ride it fast, making up ground on riders ahead.  Get to the top and you are directed down into Hell!

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Dense Pine trees make it rather dark and the trail becomes soft and spongy with the millions of needles on the ground.  As the trail heads down, the speed picks up.  It’s short lived as you come to the foot of the first of two run ups.  Rock music is blasting as you dismount the bike and begin the ascent back towards the light.  It’s a bit of a leg burner, but manage to pass someone as we summit.  Suck in some gulps of air during a short ride along the single track to the next upward struggle.  Bike up onto my shoulder, eyes down at my feet as they gradually make their way to the top, more music is being blasted for encouragement and I need it at this point.

Next came the meadow loop.  The loop began with a short climb that then shot you down a very straight slalom section.  The course builder could have made this a lot more technical, I am so glad they didn’t as was good to get some speed up again (plus I’m crap at slaloms). The trail followed the edge of the meadow then turned back on itself.  Making the final part of the loop was a tough uphill slog for me.  Then it was back into the woods.

Out the woods and onto tarmac riding past the visitor’s centre at the house, you then were riding down through trees to the car parks.  Sharp breaking and no bounce off trees get’s you out to solid ground again.  Ride another fast climb back to the front of the house and then time to tackle a great fast drop then around to the start/finish banner.  Another five times around the Phallus and Hell’s Hills, I roll over the line in 12th place.  I only get lapped by the winner John MacKenzie, Albannach.  Colin Sergeant, Law Wheelers and Karl Daly, Deeside Thistle were right on my tail fighting for second place.  Deeside won that battle and I stayed ahead of both, managing not to get lapped by Colin for the first time this year.

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Course Layout.

Chatelherault you were a great course with the good side and evil side.  Thanks to all the Marshals who stood out and braved the cold all day.  Huge congratulations to Shona Girdwood and here team on putting on a great event.

I’m sure this will be a grower of a race and would love to see it as part of the Scottish Cyclocross Race Callander.

The High Noon Show Doon.

3rd Quarter of Quaich.

5.2.17 Thistly Cross, Dunbar.

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Super Quaich Series moves onto round Trois, with Haddington CC being the party planners at Foxlake adventure.

Set off early and drive from the West coast over to the East coast.  To keep myself entertained, I try to match the bike to the rider as I pass cars with bikes on the roof and bike racks heading the same direction as me.  Directions are well laid out and I am guided to my parking bay by the yellow jackets.  Time to get the blood back to my lower limbs and go and sign on.

Riding the pit bike down I notice that the access road is very rocky, potentially a puncture before I even get to the start line.  Dispose of the bike and now it’s time for my warm up, a jog back to the car in my heavy hiking boots.  A quick bite to eat while I’m changing and I’m ready for Thistly Cross.

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Gather with the rest of the riders and wait to be set loose around the lake.  I didn’t manage a warm up lap so shall be riding this one carefully on the first lap.  Can’t believe I have a race plan.  My last race went well by riding on more of an even pace, rather than having two hot laps then dying on my arse and hanging on for the last 30 minutes.  Clipped in and sitting around mid-pack for the start.  The whistle is blasted, and we are under way!

A little drag up hill spreads us out a bit, rise to the top and then we shoot down and behind the café and pits.  Off the stone path and onto soft grass along the side of the lake.  Once at the end of Lake it’s time to navigate the wide mushy zigzags then it’s into the lower woods where the going goes up.  Ride the incline well, taking over a few riders as I go.  Once at the top, we get into a bottleneck as there is a tight turn to the left over a log.  Jump off the bike and squeeze through the pack, point the bike downhill and back in the saddle.  Still in the woods, we ride a great narrow single track path that takes you out onto another quick climb past the sign on Barn.

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Climb complete, we are into the woods and more single track.  I am following wheels at this point, still not sure what’s coming next on the course.  A brace of hurdles/barriers come next.  Off the bike run, hop, run, hop and back on the bike.  I don’t have the confidence to bunny hop the barriers so I just stick to running every lap.  A great flowing section around the trees kicks you back up and over the access road,  aim your wheel downhill and gather speed before a left turn and more squiggles at the edge of the tree line that tee’s you up for a steep banking and out into the main arena.  I dismount and run the wee bugger as I don’t want to look a fool in front of the cameras when I deck it if I tried to ride it.

Remount, still following wheels as we come around to where it all began.  This time we take a turn at the top of the small stone slope.  Off the bike, jump the barrier and we are running diagonally uphill and onto the switchbacks.  Ride all but one, the first one is just a bit steep for me and my gearing so running is the more efficient way to go.  Back in the saddle and few more bends takes me over the line and past Mylaps timing van and onto lap two.

Now I have had one lap under my belt, feeling more relaxed I start to move up and take places on all the features of the course.  Hills are my strong point today, as most people stick it in their granny gear when the course goes up.  Only having one gear with 18 teeth, I have to get the power down and keep the pace high, giving me more momentum to catch riders in front.  I’m enjoying this race, so much so next time I ride past the timing van I see two laps to go (where did the time go).  Squeeze a gel to death trying to get some taste back in my mouth.  Head down, pedal hard and time to catch some riders.  Have another good lap and gain places, I ride over the line and take the lap bell.

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By the time I hit the hurdles for the last time I have just caught Katie Carmichael and Tony Jones.  I take the lead as we descend into the woods.  I try and push the pace weaving through the trees back up to the gravel path.  Down the fast slope to the bomb hole and steep banking.  I jump off the bike, I can hear someone very close behind me.  Quickly back on the bike, I’ve got to try and make a gap on the small hill up to the barrier.  Hop the barrier and run the hill, back on the bike, down the grassy slope, taking a quick turn. (At this point the pressure of a chasing rider takes its toll).  I make a mess of the dismount and end up on the wrong side of the bike.  Running while juggling the bike trying to correct my position isn’t the best combination and I nearly fall.

I peek around and Tony is still on my tail.  Get to the right side of the bike for my remount, we are neck and neck.  I take a bad line and now riding the soft grass/mud.  Tony is powering through on a better line.  I have to jump off and run as I am grinding to a halt.  He gets to the corner ahead of me and powers on and over the line.  I remount and ride in just behind him.  That’s two races in a row I have had a battle to the line!  This time it was for 20th which I lost, rolling over the line to take 21st from 114 riders.  Super Quaich you have done it again.  A and race layout has given so much competition right through the field and I am sure the racers are all enjoying it.

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Huge thanks to Eric Easton, Colin Sergeant and the band of course builders from Haddington CC for putting on the race at Foxlake.  This course was amazing, I think it has become my favourite course on the calendar.

Last Quarter of Quaich is at Dig In At The Dock, Bo’ness.  The B race is going to be the toughest one yet with a few A riders dropping down, as the A race is being packed with stars from the CX world.  The A race will be a spectacle to watch.  The flying Gary McDonald taking on international cyclocross racers like Helen Wyman, Amira Mellor, Jeremy Durrin and Thomas Mein and will be interesting to see if the young pups Sean Flynn, Harry Johnston and Cameron Mason will catch the G machine.

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Last race of the 2016/17 calendar should be a cracker so get along and ring a cowbell or two.

Double Army Down to Doonbank. 

2nd Quarter Of Quaich. 

22.1.17 Rozelle Park, Ayr.

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A trip to Rabbie Burns neck of the woods today, Ayr Burners are hosting the second round of the Super Quaich Series.

Today I am joined by Clare Campbell racing in the B race.  I missed this race last year with being away topping up on Vitamin D in the sun, so I’m looking forward to getting to grips with the course and see what’s on offer fo an hour of pain in the park.  We go get our timing chips and numbers, while on the way we suck in the smell of freshly cooked pizza.  Pretty sure I will return after the race to sample what’s on offer.  Back to the car and we get on with getting set up for race day and Clare’s second Cyclocross race.

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A slow wander up makes us a late to get to the start line, have to head to the rear of the already assembled group.  There are 91 riders today, we exchange some banter while the other riders fall in behind us.  My nerves build with each second ticking on the clock, as we wait for the start of the race.  The nervous chatter dies down as we are told we will be let loose in 30 seconds.  Quickly tell Clare to get foot clipped in, while I battle with my cleat and pedal combo (some mentor me, can’t even clip in).

Before we know it the front is off and moving, it trickles down to us and it’s our turn to push off and get racing.  Today I shall try something a bit different from other races.  I am going to take it steady from the gun and try not to be blowing out my hoop after the first 100 meters.  It’s hard not to go and attack every bit of space I see and by following wheels it does mean I catch a lot of mud to the eyes (glasses would have been good).  We have a nice big bit of solid tarmac to start us off, this gets us up to speed before we hit the grass and off cambers to come.

Ride down to the first obstacle, a bottleneck happens as we are squeezed through a small gap in the hedgerow.  Off the bike and scurry through.  Hoist the bike up onto the shoulder and set off running uphill.  After making it to the top I am glad to see some downhill taking me around to another run-up.  This one being slightly steeper, I will definitely have to run this one every lap.  Doing well for positions as I still take it easy, feel good as I crest the climb.

Swing past the pits with a group of riders, a nice looping bend means I get to suck in some much-needed oxygen.  Next up is the triple steps, dismount the bike and with some big strides, you are at the top.  Do your best flying remount in front of the ever growing crowd and back to the business of peddling.  A small decent, 180 degrees turn to the right, you are out the saddle riding back up the gradient.  Hang a left and recover while you take the long bend and lines you up for the small wooded section.  Nice quick downhill through the avenue of trees is next. It gives your legs a quick rest before you hit a short mound to ride up, taking you out the canopy of trees onto the ever softening grass.

I am starting to find a good rhythm to my racing.  I peddle past Gordan Dalglish of HTCC (hope I make it on to HTCC TV ).  Next to tick off the list of must-haves on a cross course are the barriers.  Dismount and hop, run, hop and keep on running to find some firm ground for me and my one gear to get going again.  Back on the bike and we are into the woods again.  Ride up the start area and past MYlaps timing van engulfing the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and pizza.  A sharp turn and your weaving your way through the trees (like riding a speeder bike in Return of the Jedi, awesome part of the course).

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Out from the trees and around the off camber, trying not to get sucked into the black scrim that seemed to act as magnet for my bike.  Fast ride through soft mushy grass and now the hedgerow was congestion free.  Ride through the gap, now to try and ride as much of the incline as possible.  Halfway up it became apparent I would be quicker to get off and run.  I seemed to be riding this course well and singlespeed appeared to be well suited to this course.  Still keeping it calm and not feeling like death fifteen minutes in seems to be a good way to race.

After the third lap, the bike was clogging up with mud.  So with a shout to Victoria (my new pit crew) “You need to clean my bike” with a reply “Aye fuck off, you can clean it at home”.  I suddenly shout “No I need you to clean the shit off the wheels and cranks” as I dump my bike, strip off arm warmers, then take my spare bike.

At the bottom of the woods, I see Clare.  I am about to shout and give her some encouragement as I go by but she pulls off just as I get to her.  She looks fine and it’s not until the next lap she tells me her rear mech hanger has snapped. (well it was more like, “bikes fucked” as I go past)  Get to pits and Victoria is waiting with my bike, a quick change and I’m back racing again.  A great job was done for not knowing or having anything to clean it with apart from my gloves and arm warmers.  Though I did notice on the next few laps and one more bike change she was nowhere to be seen.

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Take the last lap bell and now I have to get a shifty on.  Got to try and make up some lost ground with my slow pit changes.  In am in a little battle with a Glasgow Green rider and just ahead is Russell Mowat from Walkers Cycling.  We hit the barriers neck and neck.  Russell gets back on the bike while I have to run a few meters as can’t ride the soft bit straight after the barriers.  He stretches the gap as we enter into the trees.  I give it my all as we both sprint along the tarmac with the finishing line rapidly closing in.  Russell gets over in 16th place and I take 17th.  Not too shabby from where I started.  Maybe just maybe there is something in this new structured approach to racing.  A little part of me does wonder if I could have finished slightly higher up if we got to the start line slightly earlier and we got a space at the front.

Feel a bit gutted for Clare, having been there and had this happen, it sucks big time!  She was not alone in the broken bike finishers as it seemed Rozelle Park had a taste for rear mech hangers that day.  The main thing is she rolled up to the line to race and gave it her all.  It’s all experience in the bag and will just make her want to come back and avenge the park that killed her bike.

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Huge thanks to JP Baxter and the Burners team for hosting this race, from what I heard the changes to this course were well received and made the course more flowing.

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3rd Quarter is at Foxlake on the 5th of February.

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Rocking Rouken Glen.

1st Quarter Of Quaich

17.1.17 Rouken Glen Park, Giffnock.

Albannach will be our hosts for the first Cyclocross race of 2017.  This race is the first of four in the Super Quaich Series.  The course is looking very professional with all the scrim and sponsor banners flying on Endura Hill.  The setup crew have done a smashing job turning the park into a Cross course.  I am always amazed at the vision the course builders have and how they manage to pull it all together and give us riders a brilliant day of racing.

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I shall be racing in the “B” races this series as I know I am not fast enough to get into the top five and earn promotion.  With that being said I will give it my all.  I manage to get one lap in to check out how the course is running, very different to the last two years.  The previous years have been raced on snow and ice.  Today’s offering is going to be a lot of brown stuff, as the snow melted the day before leaving the ground rather soft.

I strip off my outer layers and reveal my new kit for the season, blinding half a dozen folk in doing so!  Time to head down to the start line, fight my way through the crowd and sneak in front of a few people and share some banter with Happy Trails CC riders.  More riders assemble and the start shoot is getting a bit cramped for space and wheels are overlapping in every direction.  I just hope everyone takes it easy and we get off to a good start.

Toot,Toot, Toot we are off.  Well, the front of the grid are off and racing.  It takes a few seconds to filter through all the bikes until us riders further back get going.  I make a slow but steady ride up the climb, catching up to the riders who were around me by the time we get to the first corner, taking you into a small woodland section.  Once out the woods, you can build up speed on the open grass.  I take a few positions riding the lower line along the grass.  This is short lived, as soon we are about to enter the woods again my rear wheel spins out just as I hit the bend, nearly taking Ross Johnstone out as a result.  He manages to dodge me and rides past into the woods.

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Slog through the mud and leaves then it’s out onto the tarmac with a gentle upward slope for even more punishment!  Back onto the grass and I am shoulder to shoulder with Ross again.  I hear him click up a gear and I pick up speed as we hit the corner.  BANG!  I’m down and sliding on the grass.  Over cooked it in the turn and my front wheel slips out.  I am sure I hear Ross chuckle to himself as he rides down the hill.  Backup and onto the bike, trying to get as much speed out of the one gear as I can, giving me momentum to ride the incline and catch the riders in front of me.  I struggle to get my feet clipped to my pedals after my tumble, no option but to jump off the bike and run the hill.

Past the back of the pits taking you into more woods.  The first long section was a bit of a struggle again some nice big tree roots to navigate past.  The second section you followed along the side of the railway track with not a lot of room for overtaking.  The third part was good to ride, it opened up slightly and I managed to start to pass the people who rode past me while I struggled at the first section.  Out the canopy of the trees again and round the front of the pits, hang a sharp left and it was a sprint over the line and past MYLAPS Timing van.

Half a lap was gone and I’m doing good for positions, sitting around 20-30th.  The next half of the lap proved to be just as hard.  After crossing the line, you came down two nice flowing corners taking you to the bottom of the first run up.  Dismount the bike and start pushing the sucker up to the top. (what am I thinking, get it on your shoulder dummy)  My bike was now in the correct position and I get to the top and remount the bike without hurting my nuts.  Another slight descent takes you back up onto a grassy incline that levels off taking you into the downhill chicane bends.  I generally hate these, I am surprised that I actually ride this bit well and trouble free.  Once at the bottom and it is time to line yourself up to tackle Endura Climb.  Not a chance I am riding to the top think I manage a quarter of the way and its off the bike and run to the top.

Double hurdles are next to come, then it’s down the back of the course.  It took you through the edge of a tree line then throw in some severe leg burning climbing taking you back up to some more single track through the trees.  At this point, I am exhausted!  I know there is a tarmac climb coming up.  I’m off the bike and pushing as the singlespeed is getting a bit tough to ride all of this course.

This is how it goes on for an hour.  Trees, Mud, Trees, Mud, Hills, Running/Walking, did I mention the mud?  I have raced in muddier conditions but this mud just jumped on the bike and stuck like glue.  After a few laps, I had to spend a few minutes poking the mud out of my rear wheel.  This became a frequent problem on each of the laps.  I had a pit bike I could use, but the conversation in my head about only cleaning one bike rather than cleaning two won, so the bike stayed in the pits.

I managed to somehow ride six laps and finish the race in 48th position.  I really had to fight hard not to quit this race, the course was brutal with the one gear.  Two laps in and I was going to chuck it, but my little boys came to see me race so I stay on the bike and continue racing, one lap at a time!  I love racing RGCX as this was my very first Cyclocross race and being the park that I grew up playing about as a boy it will always be my favourite place to race.

Hanging around to take in the “A” race was fantastic, seeing some of these riders tackle the course I slogged around with such speed and skill was unbelievable at times.  Huge congratulations to all the winners, but also huge respect to everyone who swung a leg over the bike and participated in both of the races.

Huge thanks to Jim Cameron and the Albannach Crew for putting on such a great race.

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Next Quarter of Quaich is Ayr Burners Turn with Doonbank Trofee.

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Sunday Going Down The Spiral.

4th December 2016.
Lochore Meadows, Scottish Cyclocross Championships.

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My second year racing at Scottish Champs. Pretty sure I will not surpass last year’s position, but I shall give it my all.

It’s a nice crisp winters morning drive through to Fife.  Last year’s course was eating a lot of rear mechs for lunch.  I escaped incident free last year so hopefully by the time my race comes around the course won’t be too badly churned up and I’ll escape with my bike intact.

A quick warm up along the road reveals my front break is super loose.  Head back to the car and fix it as I’m pretty sure it will be needed at some point today.  Drop the pit bike off and head off to get to grips with the “Spiral of Doom“.  This part of the course wasn’t here last year but it’s made its return for the Champs.  Basically a lot of riding to your left for two minutes then ride to your right for another two minutes.  If I was to stake that out I would have been there for a week.  Well played Paul Zarb. 

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After a few dizzy laps of the Spiral its time to hit the start line.  I manage to squeeze quite far up in the grid.  My highest place of the year so far!  A quick brief was shouted out, now it’s time to wait for the bang of the gun.

BANG!  We are let loose, I get a solid start on the inside.  Keep up with the guys who were in front of me on the line.  It’s a mad dash down to the first corner, a tight left taking you into a small wooded section.  A bottleneck happens and we all slow to a stop, find a space on the outside and I’m off racing again.  Once out of the woods the low sun makes spotting the best line for the next turn a bit hard.  Ride over some soft grass and back into the woods and out into a small clearing.  Dismount off the bike, run around the sharp left and right chicane.  Stay off the bike and continue running through the mud out to the main arena where the low sun makes for difficult viewing.

The flat grass in the main arena gets you back up to speed, hang a sharp right and you’re now eyeing up the ever growing double hurdles.  A quick run with some big leaps over the hurdles, hop back onto the bike and get the gear turning again.  Ride past the timing van and over the finishing line with the sun burning your retinas.  I am with a group of riders as we hit the solid tarmac and race up to a sharp left keeping you on the tarmac heading back to the woods.  I lose some distance here, one gear can only get you so fast!  Drift to the back of the group as we ride under the canopy of the trees once again.

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Ride out from under the tree cover and past the pits and into the Spiral for the first time. Halfway through the spiral, I am closing in on the leader of the pack Ross Johnston from HTCC, taking some positions as I go.  Then disaster strikes!  I’m down on the deck!  I over cooked it on one of the turns and front wheel slipped out, back to the end of the bunch I go.  The group have a small gap on me by the time we go past the start line and into the woods again.  At least there is no bottleneck at this point again.  Manage to catch back onto the group as we come back into main areas and eye up the hurdles for the second time.

Take another lap and we are starting to split.  By the time the tight corners and woods are dispatched, we are back onto the tarmac path.  The front riders have pulled away again and now I am being caught by riders behind.  I know losing too much speed and time in the corners but I don’t want to push it and take a tumble.  Into the Spiral again and this is where I am making ground on riders (if you took the wide line there was more grip).  An Ayr Road rider is my target. I pull him back, but over the next few corners, he’s away again. This happens each lap (really need to work on keeping the speed up on corners or applying the power out of them).

Onto the last lap, I brave it more in the corners and keep some speed up (smooth is fast). Franco Porco shouting to me to keep the wheel of riders in front. It spurs me out the saddle, and I catch on to Darren Lindsay’s wheel (and his shrinking seat post) as we tackle the spiral, we catch the Ayr Road rider again.  Now it’s time to work my socks off and try and gain two places before we finish.  We hit the last wooded section, off the bike and run the bends, sling the bike on the shoulder and run the ever-thickening mud back out to the main arena.

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Only a few corners left and the double hurdles.  Head down and pedal like mad!  A clean dismount off the bike and attack the barriers.  I can see that I have gapped the two riders chasing me, now I know that I can’t lose any positions and could ease off.  I don’t!  I keep my head down and speed up, going for a fast lap.  Roll over the line absolutely spent to take 54th place in the Senior male race.  I think I qualify for V40 races with me turning 39 in a few days time so could be my last race as a Senior, could be wrong though.  The sound of a 40-minute race looks much appealing.

That’s my racing done for 2016, but have the Super Quaich Series starting in January at Rouken Glen Park to keep training for and also keep me off the Christmas cakes.

2016 it’s been eventful, started shite, broken bikes but finished last few races in one piece, which was my primary objective.