Cyclocross season is fast approaching, there was a bit of racing to be had in Aberdour at Haugh-Cross Festival.
The setup for racing at this event was 2 heats of qualifying. 40 minutes + 1 Lap with the top 50% heading into the A final and bottom 50% into the B final, both held later that evening. Giving time for some recovery, also, for the kids to have some racing in between.
This was my 2nd and 3rd ever cross race. Having a few weeks off the bike due to mainly being glued to my bike seats for most of the year I felt I needed a rest.
I was feeling a little under prepared for the double race on the day.
Big thanks to the Guys at Infiniti Glasgow. For they let me take a QX70s. An awesome car to get to the east coast in style and comfort, all to help with an inspired performance on the day.
A quick drive over the Forth Road bridge we head for the seaside, at Aberdour. As we find a spot to park, the nerves kick in as there are plenty of cars here with some keen Cyclocrossers already zooming up and down the course.
A quick change out of the driving gloves and swap the chauffeurs hat for my helmet, I grab the bike for a quick couple of loops of the course to find my bearings.
The first thing I find out is – it’s fast! So fast I come screaming into a tight little right bend before a slightly uphill section. I take it way too fast and have to bail out the tape, in doing so I take my first tumble of the day. I was more worried I burst the tape than looking like a tool who can’t ride their bike!
There was more to worry about with hurdles and stairs to come before the up and down of the bridge that had been made the focal point of the race.
Never ridden this type of obstacle, once safely up and over I think they should be mandatory in all cross races.
PA gets to life and asks all riders to leave the course and Heat 1 to muster at the start line.
I watch with my mouth slightly ajar at the speed of the bunch as they hit the first bend and head along to the first obstacle, double stairs. Then head under the bridge and up and over.
I am not going to try to do a mad race report here. There are already some more professional reports out there, also a great YouTube report that has been done.
The kids are getting bored and the dog needs a pee so we’re off down to the play park while heat 1 is being battled out. It was a good move as get to see the hurdles getting tackled, see how they are meant to be done.
The countdown clock has hit 20 minutes till the muck is flying in heat 2, I head back up to the car and get my game face on.
DaDum DaDum DaDum heart rate is rising.
We’re called to the line, told the rules (no biting, eye gouging, or heavy petting) then we get the 30-second wait for the whistle. Beep, Beep, BEEEEEP!
We’re off, I manage to clip in and have not a bad start. Take the first couple of corners wide let the mayhem proceed on the inside while moving up some spots. Hit the bottleneck of the stairs, fight my way through the mash of tires and pedals, get some room to breathe and jump on the bike to tackle the bridge, Good thing about cross is it strings out during the race so space will be on offer at these points later on in the race. Round some bends and hit the line. Now on to the first full lap.
Race seems to be going well, manage to stay on the bike at Bryan’s elbow I have christened the corner of my warm up tumble.
I have a new nemesis, Big tree bend.
I try to be smart and cut it tight. It has the last laugh, Before I know it I am looking at the dirt.
No time to look around to see if anyone had noticed my tumble, I am back up and running.
This race is tougher than I expected, I am losing a lot of places in the straights, the place I thought I might do well. My legs are dying! Feels like I climbing mountains rather than stairs, the hop back onto the bike is getting worse and worse, closer to a broken couple of eggs if I don’t watch what I am doing! The technique is out the window due to tiredness. Have to try to focus and find my groove.
This is only the first race, how will I cope with second? I am tired!
Few more laps and I will be done. Wrong!! 20 mins gone I hear on the PA. Have to pull it together think of my blog on quotes, remember some good ones. Yeah, Shut Up Legs, that will do.
I come up with a simple maths equation, break it down to 2×10 mins. Easy, I can do this! (was awesome at maths)
I do do this, after last bridge climb and a few quick corners I cross the line in 33rd position missing out on the top 50% by 6 places.
Feel deflated at not getting to play with big boys and girls in the A final, B final will be my first Cyclocross final I have qualified for so I will take that even though I was granted a place as long as I finished.
I find my fans and make the way back to car discovering that my back brake disk has decided to keep my break pads in a loving embrace and they are not for separating. That’s why my legs have burnt out, I was riding with back brake ON!
Get my mechanics on to the job with an Allen key to loosen off the pressure and the disk and pad release and go their separate ways.
5 pm the race is on! After a few hours in the comfort of the Infiniti, well the back of the car, as my boys (mechanics) commandeered the front to watch a DVD while (team manager) Victoria slept on the driver seat, quite a relaxed approach to her role.
Unfold myself after sitting for so long and get wheel spinning on the rear to make sure It’s working as it should. Let’s roll up to the start line, see how my legs cope.
Get a good spot on the start line.
Wait for the whistle!
Beep Beep Beeeeeppppp we’re off!
I get a touch to the front wheel, have to ease on power as nearly took a tumble. Drop back a few spaces into the first corner. Taking the corners wide worked well for heat 2, this tactic I stick to stay out of trouble then on straight take some spots. Now to tackle big stair bottleneck.
Take the inside line and head up the stairs meaning I will be on the outside hopefully get a clean line under the bridge. Well, plans always go wrong. Guy stops dead in front of me to remount. I have known were to go, I run into him and have to wait a second to duck out of his road. Wasn’t part of the plan. To that guy, sorry I shouted but race head was on. A quick hop on the bike and I were through up and over the bridge. Just like the first round space soon opens up and I can start to move up the field. Bryan’s elbow mastered, down to hurdle, a smooth dismount into a quick hop, overtaking two places as I remount back on to the bike.
Big tree Bend coming up and seems I have conquered this part. Now I can see the lead, group. Head down, up the gravel hill, then into straight along to stairs and under, up and over the bridge.
One of the best part of the course I was riding. The slight downhill into flowing right-hand bend then tight left, uphill, quick left for over the line.
The race is strung out, trying to see the lead group, there not far away just keep peddling. Feeling good, the bike feeling light. PA announce 4 laps to go!
What! 4 to go? Must be wrong as I feel too good. I am also enjoying this race. Yup next lap round see 3 on the lap board.
Cool, I might actually have a good effort here. Lose a place on the hill climb but also, gain at Big Tree Bend.
2 to go. Look around and I am clear in front with space behind. I will try to keep this pace. Don’t want to lose any places, can see two ahead and that’s my target. Up over the bridge and swing round to home straight to take the bell.
Last lap. Got to keep focused on riders ahead, I am not sure if they are lapped riders or if I will be gaining positions. Just got to concentrate on not losing my position, try to keep it smooth through the corners with keeping the pedals turning on downhill sections and straights.
Off the bike, hop the hurdle, back on to bike to clip into pedals, then on to Big tree bend for the last time. Through the woods onto the hill climb, knowing I have only the steps of Mordor to come then under, up and over the bridge for the last time.
Bridge complete and down to fast bends then up to the last left-hand bend and onto the checkered flag.
Now it’s done I rolled into the side of the course to congratulate fellow riders, looks like quite a few so not sure about placing.
We all wait till the last rider has taken the flag, Its great at the end of the race.
All the little groups meet, friends exchange excited banter, stories are swapped about this corner and that hurdle.
There is quite a buzz about the finishing line, that’s what gets you hooked.
We’re all beetroot red, breath is coming but only just making our body’s function, yet we’re all reliving the race through our arm movements and Adrenalin fueled chatter.
After getting some well-earned sugary drink down me, I wander over to the results van with the dog while the kids and team manager head into the Marquee to check out the live band.
I start from the bottom up and finally stop at 10th place. 10th bloody place. Yaaaassssss!
I skip across to the Marquee to join in with foot tapping kids to share the good news. ‘Cokes all around’ I shout (whisper really as the tent was quite busy) My mechanics, team manager and mascot were hoping for more by the looks on their face, not at the result they were chuffed with that. Think they wanted Irn-Bru!?
They do deserve more than that, so thank you Victoria (Team Manager)
Rory (Wheel Guy)
Without my loving fan base, I would have chucked it after heat one, found a McDonald’s and filled my face.
A good result in the bag after a crap heat . . . Plus I took 2 minutes off my heat time!
A Final is now under way and looking fast, again main players are out in front and making the course look easy and smooth. Good to see some faces I have spoken to on social media in the race, giving them the hup, hup, hup shout has they pass.
Cross season is yet to take firm hold this time of year, what I saw at Haugh-Cross Festival I think it will be more and more coming to this format. Heat races to make the fields even which creates good battles of the bikes all through the field.
So well done guys at Haugh-Cross Festival for putting on a great day of racing, as well with the festival, band and the food that was on offer in the Marquee.
Now let the Game of Cross begin.
Next race will be by Portage Cycling, See you there folks.