4 February 2018 Cyclocross Race.
The World Champs? Nope, it’s M&G’s Cyclocross Playpark.
Half the Scottish Cyclocross Population are eating Frites & Mayo
in Valkenburg, cheering on the riders at the pinnacle of the Cyclocross Calander, Team Two Wheel Army head for Rolls & Sausage at Strathclyde Park. Today wraps up the Lappiere Scottish Cyclocross Series.
Clare is first rider up in the trio of races that the army span today. Her race has been held back while the commissars and organisers work out some minor course tweaks. We manage to lend our support as Clare rides over the line and onto her 2nd lap. We soon greet her as she grinds up the bridge climb and gets back on with riding the fast wood section of the course. She completed three laps of the 2.8km course and accomplishes her mission and finishes the race in 32nd spot.
I’m next to race. My V40 virginity is going to be ripped away from me as I roll up to the start line for the 40-minute long race.
With two seasons of riding the open race, I have become accustomed to seeing my race nemesis on the start grid. This gives me a starting target but I usually scan ahead at the front riders, assessing who I can pick out as a target, gauging if I’m making improvements in my racing at the end of the race. Rolling up to the V40 I kinda felt like the new guy again. Even though I do know a few faces around me.
As the race brief is going down, the marshall’s radio crackles, a V50 rider has been posted missing. (Maybe the deer has got him!)
After a being held while, we are told to watch out as there might be a rider on the course, and we will be off in the next 30 seconds. (does anyone else hum the countdown theme in there head at this point)
Breeeep we are off, and off to a soggy start. The soft grass is being ripped up with the 97 sets of wheels digging in and driving the riders forward and up to full speed. I am grateful I oppted for glasses now, they keep the worst of the mud out my eyes in the first few frantic seconds. I try to stick wide right as we come down to the carpark, but a couple of ditches slow me down, finally ride off the soft stuff with a left turn, ride behind the Mylaps timing van and onto the foot of the Big Red climb. Power down on the cranks and weave in and out of the slowing riders that are spinning in the top of their cassette. Eventually get to the top of the red ash, but instead of jumping off and running through the quagmire, I continue to slowly pedal through the ever thicking mud. Eventually, I come to my senses and jump off and push the bike towards some solid ground.
Shoot down towards the Bridge, I can’t see a thing through the dirty glasses as we ride in a bunch towards the run-up. Dismount the bike and time to charge up the side of the bridge wall. My spare shoes don’t have the studs, so at this point, I’m panicking about grip. I manage to use some well-placed boulders to assist with the climb. (An excellent organiser has even marked them out for me with some bright white paint!)
The fast part of the course comes next. The speed increases as we flow along the gravel paths and through the woods at the back of the theme park. The low sun and a pack of riders make it difficult to see the ruts and racing line. Ride over the bridge and down through the soft leaf litter weaving through the trees. A quick flick of the bike through the taped off chicane has you out onto the carpark and breathing in lungfuls of salt and vinegar from the chips at the burger van.
Shoot past the pits chasing a few riders as we head for the timing van and the grass on the far side of the course. Ditch my glasses to the fan club as I slowly ride past as fellow single speeder Scott McKendrick seeks past. We hit a bump in the track, and as we turn 180° to ride back over the bump, there is a traffic jam. I head left and shout at Scott to get his fat arse out the way. (I’ll have to add that to the apology Facebook thread)
The next grass section looks a bit wet and sticky. I line the bike up, dismount and start off running at a pretty fast pace. Two bends in and I am taking places. Three curves in and I’m breathing out my hoop but still taking places, back into the saddle and round the back of timing van again and Big Red is in my sight once again.
Big Red was ridden two more times, and I run the top swamp section each time, learning from my first lap mistake. As I came into the pits to tackle Big Red the fourth time I swap bikes as the brakes on the cross bike have decided to stop working. Using my foot as an anchor coming down to the bridge and through the bomb hole at the trees is the only way to ditch some speed.
My MTB was passed on by Clare, and I was soon riding up the red gravel. Every time I tried to push the power down the chain skipped about and I lose momentum. Gary used the bike at Doonbank for the last lap, and he said the same. A dead cassette is his diagnostics. I struggle on the fourth lap with speed up any hill and gears are all over the place, as I come past the pits on the last lap, I get back on the Cross bike. I would rather have no brakes than no gears. Just as well, the MTB picks up a rear puncture as I come into the carpark before the pits.
Last time up Big Red and I’m struggling. Glad to get to the top as that’s the hard part of the course taken care of. As I come through the woods, I see a funny shape in the mud at the dip in the trees. It’s all flattened and smooth! As I round the bend, I understand why. A Nightingale has fallen. He’s getting back onto his bike and covered with a nice layer of mud.
I push my speed up the small drag that takes you along and over the bridge. Ride down to the woods and remember my brakes are non-existent, take it easy riding the bomb hole, turn left to ride down and through the chicane. I am carrying too much speed as I go through the first of the tapes, I can’t stop! My foots out and dragging on the ground, brake levers are at the max, yet I’m still gliding forward. Then BANG! I soon stop as I hit the tarmac. My rear wheel slipped out and took me down.
I’m on the floor, things are sore. I hear the Nightingale close in, I right my bike and bang the lever level again and try to ride off. My right hand has gone numb with the hit to my elbow, I’m bent over as the Nightingale swoops past. I hear Victoria, my boys and Clare shout me on, I suck it up and chase the rider down. I’m gaining as the line rapidly approaches, before I know it I’m flinging the bike forward like Chris Hoy in a track sprint. I take 37th place by a Vulgar sprint as Jammy described.
Last on today’s race card is Gary. He will have to suffer an hour of racing the course and probably seven times around the course. They get underway about an hour behind schedule, Gary goes past us in the top half of the field he is off to a good start. The late start sends quite a lot of the crowd home, and the car park is alive with the sound of power washers.
Gary seems to be in the top 15 on lap three and is keeping pace with riders just ahead. The race is being strung out with the fast pace of David Duggan riding at the front. As the light slowly fades me and the boys head to the bridge and cheer Gary on his last accent along the wall. He scoots through the woods knowing he’s not that far from the finishing line. His seventh and last time over the line gives him a 16th place.
Not a bad days racing for the team. All three riders home and bikes intact (except in I have three punctures by the time I get back home, two slow punctures but all three due to thorns)
Thanks to Pamela La’Craig & Pete Bentley for the use of some images. thanks to M&G and EK Cycling Club for hosting today’s race.