20.11.16 Irvine Beach.
Round 5 of Scottish Cyclocross Series takes us to a wee trip to the beach. No bucket and spade to play with today though.
Wandering up to sign on, I see that there has been already a change from last year’s championship course. We won’t be riding past the stench of the portaloos today as the car parking area has been extended. Meet up with Kevin Pugh for a wander around the course taking in what else is new/been cut from last year.
Vet 40 men are just starting their race, head up to the run-up and shout some words of encouragement to the riders or hill runners at this point. Stevie Jackson was the first one to the run up still with the yellow test seat on his bike, must be the longest test for that seat ever. Craig Hardie is hot on his heels while the rest of the racers snake out along the single track.
While the V40 battle it out it’s my time to get my bikes seen too. The debate over my tyre pressure begins. Dump the spare bike into the pits then head along to see the conclusion of the V40. Craig Hardie rolls over the line to take the win just four seconds ahead of Stevie Jackson and John Woodrow takes the third spot. A good bit of racing by the auld yins!
Warm up lap complete, I make my way to the start line. Gridding places are sorted and I find a spot and settle in. Only 69 riders in today race making it feel like I am near the front compared to last few races. Whistle blasts and so do I, Craig Lewis-Hamilton shoots off like his namesake and I go with him, trying to keep the same pace into the first corner.
Then I run out of gear on the single speed as we pass the commentators van and he pulls away. Hang a tight right, and we are on the climb. Last year this was a huge strength sapper for me. Today though I am going up the ever changing colour of grass pretty well.
Crest the hill suck in air and get my breathing slowed. Now onto a great addition to the course, some nice little rollercoaster bends with a little dipper at the end warming you up for its big brother once you tackle the long zig-zags. The Big Dipper (The Big Diaper as I called it last year, I shat it every time I rolled over the edge) is next up. Gain speed, roll over the edge and drop down to sea level, as soon as you hit the flat its back on the peddles and keep the speed to blast up and over the top. Yasssssss! Conquered that sucker!
One legged peddling came next, with two areas of off camber awesomeness. Feet back into pedals and up the valley path towards the sea with the dragon watching down from your left.
Turn right and along the tight single trail, one eye on the ever looming run-up. Dismount at the foot of the climb, and it’s time to try and attack the hill and move up positions. My new shoes don’t have toe studs, so half way up the slope it turns soft and slippy. (I have a plan for this, the penguin walk.) Feet are out to the side, searching for good grip. Making headway to the summit. Over the top and back onto the saddle, rolling down and around to another fast downhill section. Up past the pond and take the path to the beach.
Just as last year, hanging on to the left-hand side of this monster of a sand trap was the best and firmest line. Seem to be riding it well, the single speed has a significant advantage here as I am pushing a harder gear than I would be if I had gears, giving me great momentum. Get to the deepest section of sand drive hard and push around the left-hand bend taking you out and along where we started. A few quick corners, past the timing van and finish line, then it was time to drive up the hill again.
Every time I got to the hill, I was out the saddle driving all the way to the top. Definitely my strong point today. If I didn’t pick people off, I seemed to gap the person behind. Really enjoyed the rest of the course once the hill climb was behind me. Even looked forward to tackling the “Big Dipper” on every lap.
After 8 laps and being lapped twice it was race over, I wasn’t too sure I would see the finish today. Like most people this time of year I came down with the cold a few days before the race. I was still coughing at the start line and after Lap 1 and seeing 8 more laps to go, I really did think of chucking it. Maybe if it was another course, I might have pulled up and had a DNF, but what Scott Kerr, Brian McCtcheon and the Walker Cycling Team done with this bit of grass and sand, it was incredible! Loved the new parts of the course and also they supplied the right kind of weather too.
Well done to Harry Johnston keeping it a clean sweep for the series. Gary McDonald sprinting home to take second from Rab Wardell in third.
Huge thanks to all who shouted encouragement to me as I struggled on. I came into this sport not knowing a soul, yet now after last season and this it is good to hear so many people shout ‘Go, Bryan’. It can be a massive boost helping you struggle on to the next lap. Feel like I am part of the family now. Sorry, Jim Cameron, you will have to put up with my parody posters for a while yet! Haha!
Thanks once again to Michael Martin and Cameron Mason for the images.
Next up for TwoWheelArmy is the Scottish CHAMPS! At Lochore Meadows.