Irvine BeachPark Round 5 Ding Ding.
Family trip to the seaside today, hoping “Storm Desmond” has disappeared. Forecast for strong winds (40mph+). At least, we will have a break from the constant rain. December and Beaches don’t really mix in Scotland. Must be another round of Scottish Cyclocross Series bringing the two together.
This round is incorporating Scottish Championships.
Do the usual routine on race day, bike out the car, grab my race license then follow the bikes and music to the sign on area.
Junior/Women and V50 are blasting around the course. While they battle it out for the win there was an older creature battling through the sand. A Loggerhead Turtle has been washed ashore, presumably by the strong seas with the Storm battering the coast for the past few days.
He/She got looked after by some race marshalls then picked up by S.S.P.C.A and taken to The Sealife Center at Loch Lomond. Where it will be looked after and recuperate. Then I think will be sent onwards to Spain for its winter holidays, possibly to Benidorm with the rest of the wrinkly old folk who flock to the sun.
This must be the most popular age group, the start line was packed with racers getting ready to tackle the course, see who will be triumphant and crowned Scottish Champ?
98 in total wait for the gun to go off, then endure 40 mins of pain, suffering and wondering why this is a good idea.
Gun goes and the mayhem begins, on with my turn to let the butterfly’s grow and try to get a warm up done.
V40 has a winner Gary McCrea congratulations on the win.
The course is now open for me to have a little ride around, find out what delights are in store for me. I don’t do a full lap of the course, I was keen on giving the sand a try. Wish I didn’t! Fell off on the first sand trap, not enough speed to get me through. Come to a complete stop and flop off my bike onto the soft deep sand. At least, I learned something.
One other feature I want to try out was the infamous “Big Dipper”. I shall be calling this the “Big Diaper”. As I shat myself every time I came to it, my first attempt I used my brakes, only managing half way up before I bailed out, got off and had to slip slide up it.
Warm up is done, time to head for the start line.
Grid process begins, front three rows being brought forward to the grid, once they have sorted out the fast guys the rest of us fall in behind. Managed somehow to get into the fourth row. All I have to do now is keep up with the guys in front of me and don’t lose places by being slow off the mark.
We get the marks, anytime in the next 30 seconds the pistol will go the race is on!
Wheels get turning, dash for the hole shot is on and I am in a fight to keep my space, seem to be losing this fight, I am going back the way. Get your finger out Bryan find the space.
Nice wide left bend taking you out onto the mud fest next to the car park, slip and slide past the portaloos and down over the road and past the start/finish line. That part was super soggy, a lot of people off and running. Something to remember when I come back around to it.
Next, on the list of challenges was the winding right and left uphill bends taking you up past the pit area. This part is tough going also tight for space, some shoulder rubbing going on. Fighting to try and stay away from the tape, the other rider trying to stay wide on a good line and avoid the mush of the inside corner.
Try to suck some air in and try to calm my nerves as the Big Dipper is on its way, time to attack. Fingers off the brakes, this time, freewheel down, then pedal like a mad man to get to the top. No luck. I am off and scrambling to the top. Toe studs now all of a sudden feel short, should have stuck the bigger ones in. The Big Dipper doesn’t look that bad when you are looking back at photos of it. It’s when you ride over the edge, see a big soggy downhill. Try to pick your line, then you’re looking at the sky, praying not to come off as bikes are chasing you all the way down gathering speed to make the top.
Back to riding the bike now, well for a short while. Next, on the Cyclocross Challenge list was Off Cambers. Lots of them on this course. Very hard to ride and you were destined to take a tumble if you pushed it too fast and hard.
You then have a respite, ride through the Valley of Doom! The Irvine Dragon sitting high on your left with another great hill to your right and a headwind blowing sand at your face. This lead you down to the exposed beach area hanging a right to head along and eye up the longest run up I have ever seen in a cross race.
Here is where the super size studs would have come in handy. I end up running this with my feet turned out to try and get extra grip. Keeping my momentum going to get summit, get back on the bike and suck lung fulls of sea air in.
Nice little bit of riding through the grass at the peak of the park, hit a slight off camber section taking you onto a left turn onto the trickiest part of the course. Mega long off camber sections, this was hard. I think I have been watching too much Sporza as I try riding one legged with the other hanging out like a counter weight. It actually worked! Then had to admit defeat and get off to run up a small incline, bombing back downhill to take you along to the Duo of Dunes.
The mighty Sand Traps. The first section is quite a short but rather deep. Have to go for it build the speed and drive through. Manage to get to the end on my bike. Now it’s onto the biggest sand section. Figured out on this one you have to stay left as is most compact there.
The only problem is at the end, there is a left turn taking you into a downhill sand section that was soft again, so back on the power and struggle through.
Sand is finished, Bringing you back out to where we began, hit the grass path then hang looping left. Bounce out into the muddy mess at the carpark, slog your way past the toilet corner then up and down over the road to take a lap.
Lap 1 complete. Another 5 laps till I get the flag.
Five more laps of falling, sliding and some bike riding going on. Every lap I get better at one part but worse on another part. Falling off at easy corners trying to push it, end up losing more time detangling myself from the bushes.
On the last lap, I have a shocker. Two minutes slower than my fastest lap, my third lap was my hot lap. My lost minutes were in the bushes losing skin on my legs. Then at the end of the long sand section I go over my handlebars, go head first into the side of a sand mound. Scratch the side of my head and stub my thumb a belter. The worst part was losing about Four places. Shake the sand from my head and get going try and catch the riders in front before the line.
To no avail, roll over the line and take 40th place in Scottish Senior Cyclocross Champs.
Time to clean up, go see my fan club who ran to the car after the first lap, Due to a hailstone shower soaking them to the bone.
Big thanks to Walker Cycling Club, Neil Walker, and Scott Kerr with their band of merry Sand People for putting on a fantastic Cross race and Championship level course. Would love to see a British Champs being held here.
Congratulations to the new Senior champ Grant Ferguson, Davie Lines taking second and Rab Wardell taking the third step on the podium.
Up next in the Series is Weekend in Mull.
Mull is to be the last race of the Series, I won’t be at that weekend in Mull. Though the racing continues on through to February with a new exciting race series.
Thanks to Graham Milne for the use of his pictures.