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.
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)
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!
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.
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.