adventure cross

One Century, One Gear

Ride To The Sun.

17th June 2017, Carlisle.

Ride to the Sun had interested me for a while, so when Clare messaged me about going to this year’s I jumped at it. With a chance to ride a Virgin (train) for £8.50, I was even more eager.

Meet up with Clare at Central Station, she is using her powers of persuasion and negotiating to get our bikes loaded onto the train (apparently have to book your bikes on board).  We get offered the next train with the bikes being stored in the cargo hold, so at least we will get down to the event.  We are told to wait and see if the two passengers who are booked on to our original train turn up, if not, then we get their spots.  Kill a bit of time chatting to the staff, telling them why there are so many bikes going to Carlisle.  They think were mental and wish us well in the final minutes of the cut-off time for bike passengers, soon we are told to get ready to board as we are getting the spots as the other bikes don’t turn up on time.  It’s great to be getting out of Glasgow on time.

Time to sit back and enjoy the train ride down to Carlisle.  Just little over an hour later we pull into a sunny Carlisle.  Grab the bikes, and get our bearings, time to navigate to the shadow of Carlisle Castle at Bitts Park.

 

Clare has arranged to meet a few people from a meetup group she is a member of, one girl turns up.  Before we set off, I have to change her front inner tube, that turned into an hour of changing tubes and trying to locate the monster that is eating holes in them.  Find a huge crack/hole in her rim and think her ride is over before it has even begun.  One of the organisers comes to the rescue with a track pump and also hands over another inner tube (3rd now).  He also donates a five-pound note to her rim to block the hole and hey presto it works.

An hour later than intended, the clock passes 8 pm.  Clare is armed with the directions, and we point our front tyres north and set off to ride to the Sun, Edinburgh here we come.

We had planned to head off with a group, to cut down on the chance of us getting lost but due to leaving later we were in a bit of a rush just to get moving.  The new plan was just to get out on the road and hopefully, we pick people up, or when people pass we can tag onto the back of them.  We manage to get onto the right road, a few fast riders ride past wishing us luck, especially me on the single speed.  We look around, and the Irish girl has been dropped, just Clare and me now.  Soon we roll into and through Longtown, This is where things fuck up!

We intended to stop and look at the directions,  if we did then we would have noticed the mistake we were about to make!  In our excitement of being out riding, we have a brain fart, we follow the road right and continue on the A7 heading to Edinburgh thinking this is the right way.  Wrong!

We are riding at a decent pace and the miles to the border are tumbling down.  Stop off for a quick selfie at the Welcome to Scotland sign.  The mood is high as we as we cross the border into Scotland.  Deep down I am feeling something is not right, in my mind, I am thinking this road is far too quiet of cyclists.  There is meant to be over 1000 people riding to the sun, but on this road, there seems to be only two!  We ride into the village of Langholm, and this is where I ask the question.  “Do you think we have fucked up and went the wrong way?” A look at the directions and it’s a huge YES ya pair of tits!

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We have two options now! Ride all the way back to Longtown, then take the road for Gretna Green, like we were meant to.  Or shall we ride the B7068 road, taking us across into Lockerbie and from there we can get back onto the correct roads.  B7068 wins, Lockerbie here we come!

Thankfully the road doesn’t have too many steep inclines, but there are enough rolling hills to get pissed off with.  Darkness is also coming, and with this, it brings sleepy yawns and heavy eyelids.  After a few hours, we manage to crest the last hill and see one of the greatest sights so far.  Street lights of Lockerbie!  We let out a few yelps of delight as we feel part of the event now, but it’s also good to be into some sort of civilisation again.  A huge boost to the moral as we ride through the town and get on the B7076  and head north to Moffat and keep our date with the chippy.

A long and slow 17 miles later we hit Moffat.  Get to the chippy, it’s good to see some other folks on bikes outside, think we are the last ones to arrive.   The other riders pull away as we sit down to the last of the fish and chips, we are lone cyclists once again.  I am suffering big time, my head is pounding, obviously not drinking enough.  Also, I feel like shit, the consumption of a gel a while back doesn’t sit well in my empty stomach (might have been out of date?)  With the feeling that I was going to puke at any minute, I don’t eat any of the last supper.  By not eating it didn’t help me refuel for the remaining 55 miles to go.

Moffat from Carlisle is looked at the halfway point of the event, roughly 45 miles.  It’s also one of the last places for refuelling this late at night.  My Garmin was showing 60 miles covered, so we had ridden a massive detour to this chippy date.  Water bottles get refilled, and now it’s time to roll out and tackle the seven-mile climb up the Devils Beef Tub. (best road name ever)

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As we ride up, up and up, our moral goes down, down and down.  I pull over and stop for Clare to catch up, her lights blinding me as she creeps ever closer. One look at each other and we can tell we are both finished with this cycle!

This is not enjoyable anymore, it never was going to be super fun, but this is a struggle. We are alone on the high pass, in the middle of the night and the temperature is dropping as the minute’s tick by.  We have over nine miles to get to the Cyclorave at the Crook Inn, Tweedsmuir.  This is our next chance to eat if banana man is still hanging around dishing out the yellow fruit.  Can we make it?  We discuss what to do, the topic that Clare could get our emergency driver Jas to come and rescue us from our looming nightmare.  At one in the morning halfway up a hill, this is the best idea of 2017.  The SOS call is placed and we decide that a two mile ride back down the hill to Moffat is the best option as A. It’s downhill and B. it’s not that far off the motorway for Jas to come and get us.

We find a bus shelter to get us out cold, some locals head home from the pub and ask why the funk are cyclist waiting for a bus at this time in the morning  “you’re in for a long wait” they shout and laugh as the stagger up the main street.  Youtube and Facebook keep us entertained for a while as we have used up all our chat in our 65 miles cycle.  Jas pulls up after an hour, we load the bikes onto the car and seek the warmth and comfort of the car. (first time I have ever looked forward to seeing a BMW driver)

Was it the right decision to quit, YIP it sure was.  I had the onset of the Bonk and to think I would make the ride to Edinburgh on a few gels that I had left in my pocket was a joke.  Also, I was freezing.  I only had a lightweight jacket and an even lighter gilet to keep me warm.  This set up wasn’t even enough to keep me warm going up half the Beef Tub never mind descending from it.

A huge learning curve for next year.  Learn to follow directions correctly and not just blast up the road.  Ride with a bunch as you can share the riding on the front but more importantly enjoy chatting with folk, this should take the mind of the grind.  Take my saddle bag with a better jacket packed and pack a lot better food options, rather than out of date gels.  Last of all is to book the bike onto the train and don’t gamble on getting it at aboard the train at the platform.

Carlisle we shall see you in 2018.

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Rise Of The Machine. 

Could Parts of Strava die?

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With most manufacturers producing e-bikes, I must presume the popularity of them is on the rise.  With the growing market are your hard earned Strava King Of The Mountain (KOM) and segment times in jeopardy?

Lately, I just lost (KOM).  A long held gravel climb, up to the local reservoir.  The rider took it by forty-six seconds.  The loss got me thinking!

Forty-six, how did he manage forty-six? Bet he was aided by battery power! (I don’t really think he did by the way).  I have just been beaten by a faster rider. The thought didn’t leave my head though. It got me wondering, with the e-bikes out on the trails and roads will there be faster time being posted?

Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of blood sweat and gears in claiming a KOM or posting a fast time on Strava.

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With a little Google search, I saw that e-bikes from one company can power you for 80 miles on one charge and up to speeds of 25 kph. So with fresh legs and a little assistance, riding up the slopes might bring you bag load of KOMs after a day of riding. On the flat maybe the extra weight of the battery pack might slow you down in the sprint race, but I’m sure a top ten could be on the cards when you switch on the power of lithium

I don’t actually chase the KOM anymore, but I still use Strava as a tool for logging my rides/races and like to see my feeble annual mileage on the bike. For some King’s out there, their crowns and Kingdom’s could be overpowered by electricity very soon!

A power struggle might take grip soon. Instead of 250 watt motor, like now. Things could get juiced up in the battle to retain the top of the leaderboards 300-400 watt, higher? Then it doesn’t become a cycling app anymore, as with that power your talking mopheads.  I’m not by any means saying riding an e-bike and logging your ride shouldn’t be done, but If you did take a segment KOM, then I think it should be flagged and reported keeping Kingdom’s intact.

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I am sure some sly Strava hunters out there will be taking crowns by electronic technology, getting one up on their mate. But come on guys, give Joe Blogs a chance to claim a piece of Strava for themselves.

Any thoughts post them below.

Mantra Mornings.

Dusting off my Mountain Bike.

Nine years soon to be ten, the bank of Mum and Dad paid for a half decent bike for my 30th birthday.  Ten years on I shall be withdrawing again to purchase a shed to keep all my bikes in (I know how to spend their money).  Having a bike let me escape into the woods and trails around Darnley Dams (it’s a park now, Dams to Darnley County Park).

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I eventually went further to explore offroad tracks.  First was a short cycle over to Pollok Park.  Trying out my skills on their little colour code trails.  Green was super easy, Blue pretty easy.  The Red had a couple of good bits, but after a few loops, it became easy and within half an hour you were done messing about in the woods.  I needed more!

Carren Valley became my next playground for the bike,  I loved the last section of jumps, flight path I think it was called.  Eventually found myself driving to Glentress a few times a week and riding Spooky Wood trail most of the day (the old hub in the forest with its huge slices of cake and great coffee, made it hard to get back on the bike once you descend the full trail).

Recently I have just got my bike back after foolishly rehoming it to a friend.  Glad to get it back and it shall be staying with me now.  It’s a burnt Orange Saracen Mantra 2.  It weighs more than my car, but with plenty of gears, this should help ease the pain of the heavy frame and fat tyres.

If you have read the blog, you will know I race Cyclocross.  For training rides, I head up to the Kilpatrick Hills.  My cross bikes are both singlespeed; this is brutal on my legs going up the hundreds of meters of grass and muddy hills on recent rides.  I decided to dust of the Mantra and take to the hills to see how the MTB compares to riding the same loops on a cross bike.

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I don’t know if it was my lack of bike riding recently or the extra weight and tyre width, but as I climbed the road leading to the hills I was breathing from places I shouldn’t have been breathing from!  This is me only getting to the foot of the Kilpatrick Hills, the offroad tracks up to Jaw reservoir was hard going.  Harder than the cross bike when it had gears.  There are some great trails for a cross bike around the top the hills, so with some suspension on the front, this ride should be even better.

It was, hitting rocky drops not think about, letting the bike ride the ruts and relaxing in the bike as I went was refreshing.  The wider tyres were excellent for riding over the boggy stuff.  I would normally get off and get my socks wet while carrying the bike over the boggy stuff as it normally grinds to a halt with the CX tyres.  The triple rings at the front came in very handy when things went skywards.  Rather than run/walk the hills with the cross bike on my shoulder I worked my way down the gears until spinning was not winning and I was faster walking.

The best bits came as I got to Greenside Reservoir, there is steep and rocky track dropping you from the brow of the hill down to the banks of the reservoir.  I used to have to jump off and pick my bike up and walk my way down, as a puncture on the jagged rock edges was guaranteed.  Not today though!  Arse hanging off the back of the saddle, I ride the rocks to the bottom.  Next thing to put a huge smile on your face was a great gravel road, power onto the pedals and get the speed up, I am blasting back down to the main road then down to the house.

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 Can’t wait to get back out on the heavy bike again as Mountain Bikes are GREAT!

Dig In.

4th Quarter of Quaich.

19.2.17 Dig In At The Dock, Bo’ness Harbour.

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The conclusion of Cross ends at Bo’ness Harbour.  Super Quaich is being held by none other than David Hamill and Pete Ward with help from Peddle Power.  Dig In was one of the main reasons I got into Cyclocross, watching the Youtube videos of John and Davy drive about the country racing through mud and shit weather. (like a Scottish version of Max & Paddy’s Road trips with bikes involved) I thought, that looks good, I’m giving that a bash.

Last year I didn’t have the best time at the Docks, so with this being the last ever Dig In I have unfinished business with this course and was glad to get one of the golden tickets.

Head through today team handed, my three boys and my pit chief Victoria want to come through and lend their support.  Sign on and collect my number, timing chip and also receive a great wee goody bag.  The boys see some free tasting at the Cliff bar stand and head over.  I just have to keep them away from the caffeine blocks as hyper kids are murder at times.   They get a free oat bar off the vendor and happily wander back over to the car munching away on that.

Get my number pinned on and bikes off the car.  Drop off the pit bike, time to get a warm up lap of the course done with Kevin Pugh, Ayr Burners.  We role up with the assembling riders at the start area, we settle in around the middle of the bunch and this is still with fifteen minutes to go.  Get the last gulp of water, and the boys tell me to “ride fast and don’t fall off”.

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Outer layers are stripped off, jackets are being dispersed to the crowd, now we are ready for the starter to let us go.  He seems not to be as ready as us, the gun doesn’t want to pop, so the backup plan is used, we are off and racing on the blow of his whistle.

We race straight into a headwind, a battle that will be with every rider today!  The good thing about today’s course is that it’s pretty broad, so loads of room to pick my way past people as we ride along the path heading for the first corners.  The middle of the race is still quite packed together as we come to the first set of barriers.  Off the bike, hop run jump and remount the bike taking some positions as I go.  A quick ride and you are soon eyeing up the second set of barriers.  Go over these without a hitch and now its ride past the Mylaps timing van and here the voice of Scottish Cyclocross “Jammy” calling out the lead riders names.  Now it’s on to the cobbles.

This is the point of the race last year that I went and surfed the fence, ripping my shoulder open, and my bike nearly ended up in the skip.  It was also the topic of conversation with a few people before the race, don’t think I will be let off from crashing out on the first lap. Get to the other side without incident and try to pick up my pace working my way up the field.  Same plan today as previous races, go out steady and keep an even pace for as long as I can.

We race out to the furthest point of the course, along some grass and stone covered paths looping back around in the direction of the harbour.  An excellent series of off cambers and some punchy little ramps gets you out of the saddle.  Ride over the bridge and on to “Unicorner”.  Roll down the ramp and line the bike up on the outside of the corner.  There are a few steps taking you up to the tarmac above, but if you stayed right and took the outside line, there was the chance to ride up.  I took the chance and failed!  Managed all but one step, awkwardly push/ride over the lip and onto the tarmac.  Now to recover my lost place to the rider who ran the steps.  Down and along the Harbour wall we then 180 degrees turn, putting you eyeball to eyeball with the chasing riders as you head back up and turn into the headwind.

Trying all the tricks to stay out of the strong headwind coming off the Firth of Forth as it flows out to the North Sea.  Sitting in behind riders, riding beside riders, then trying to make myself as small as possible by riding on the drops.  All seem to fail, so now it is time to get the head down and grind it out in the wind.  Turn out of the wind and ride around to the sets of barriers and over the line.  I get cheered on by my fan club and discard my glasses while I have someone to pick them up.  The crowd is massive along the start straight, and horns are blasting giving this race an epic atmosphere.  Back over the cobbles and try to catch the rider in front.

I seem to be racing well today, think with three laps to go I am around 24th.  Just as I come over the bridge into the noise of Unicorner, I drop down the ramp and feel my back tyre puncture.  Shite!  Run the steps and get to the top, feel the tyre and yip its race over for that wheel.  Lucky for me the pits are only a short run from here.  Get to my pit bike and change my Garmin over and its back in the race.  I lose a few positions while I run to the pits and mess about with the Garmin, need to upgrade to a watch for next season.

As I head into the last few laps I just have to protect my position and try and reel in the riders in front of me.  By this point in the race I am not sure who I am catching and who I might be lapping.  Brian McCutcheon, Walkers CC overtakes me, so I keep my eyes locked on him and try and pull him back.  Into the last lap and Brian is just edging too far ahead of me to catch, now my concern is on who is chasing me.  Darren Lindsay, Haddington CC is on my tail, I have a decent gap after the long headwind section, now I just need to relax and not mess anything up as I come to the last third of the course.

Easier said than done!  I come to the first set of barriers.  I dismount the bike, hop the first barrier, I don’t lift the bike high enough the rear wheel clatters the barrier, and the bike drops out my hands.  I stumble all over the place and somehow stay on my feet as I jump the second barrier minus a bike.  Back over the barrier and retrieve the bike, get over the barrier again, finding the handle bars are squint.  A quick straighten then I am back on the bike and sprinting to the next set of barriers.  Hit the barriers and now determined to lift the bloody bike higher this time, over them with the bike and around to the finish line still in front of Darren (even though mylaps doesn’t agree) in 36th place.

Dig In At The Dock, I won this time.

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What a race, It’s pretty much pan flat, no mud, no sand traps and no zigzags.  How is it a great race then?  I don’t know, it just has some magic about it.  A well thought out course that gives novice riders and expert riders just as much joy to race on.  I know a lot of riders are going to miss this race not being on next year.

A quick change into the Sombrero and Poncho I join the Happy Trails Cross Collective and Mr Trumpit to cheer on the star-studded and full gas A race.

 Arriba Arriba!

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The High Noon Show Doon.

3rd Quarter of Quaich.

5.2.17 Thistly Cross, Dunbar.

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Super Quaich Series moves onto round Trois, with Haddington CC being the party planners at Foxlake adventure.

Set off early and drive from the West coast over to the East coast.  To keep myself entertained, I try to match the bike to the rider as I pass cars with bikes on the roof and bike racks heading the same direction as me.  Directions are well laid out and I am guided to my parking bay by the yellow jackets.  Time to get the blood back to my lower limbs and go and sign on.

Riding the pit bike down I notice that the access road is very rocky, potentially a puncture before I even get to the start line.  Dispose of the bike and now it’s time for my warm up, a jog back to the car in my heavy hiking boots.  A quick bite to eat while I’m changing and I’m ready for Thistly Cross.

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Gather with the rest of the riders and wait to be set loose around the lake.  I didn’t manage a warm up lap so shall be riding this one carefully on the first lap.  Can’t believe I have a race plan.  My last race went well by riding on more of an even pace, rather than having two hot laps then dying on my arse and hanging on for the last 30 minutes.  Clipped in and sitting around mid-pack for the start.  The whistle is blasted, and we are under way!

A little drag up hill spreads us out a bit, rise to the top and then we shoot down and behind the café and pits.  Off the stone path and onto soft grass along the side of the lake.  Once at the end of Lake it’s time to navigate the wide mushy zigzags then it’s into the lower woods where the going goes up.  Ride the incline well, taking over a few riders as I go.  Once at the top, we get into a bottleneck as there is a tight turn to the left over a log.  Jump off the bike and squeeze through the pack, point the bike downhill and back in the saddle.  Still in the woods, we ride a great narrow single track path that takes you out onto another quick climb past the sign on Barn.

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Climb complete, we are into the woods and more single track.  I am following wheels at this point, still not sure what’s coming next on the course.  A brace of hurdles/barriers come next.  Off the bike run, hop, run, hop and back on the bike.  I don’t have the confidence to bunny hop the barriers so I just stick to running every lap.  A great flowing section around the trees kicks you back up and over the access road,  aim your wheel downhill and gather speed before a left turn and more squiggles at the edge of the tree line that tee’s you up for a steep banking and out into the main arena.  I dismount and run the wee bugger as I don’t want to look a fool in front of the cameras when I deck it if I tried to ride it.

Remount, still following wheels as we come around to where it all began.  This time we take a turn at the top of the small stone slope.  Off the bike, jump the barrier and we are running diagonally uphill and onto the switchbacks.  Ride all but one, the first one is just a bit steep for me and my gearing so running is the more efficient way to go.  Back in the saddle and few more bends takes me over the line and past Mylaps timing van and onto lap two.

Now I have had one lap under my belt, feeling more relaxed I start to move up and take places on all the features of the course.  Hills are my strong point today, as most people stick it in their granny gear when the course goes up.  Only having one gear with 18 teeth, I have to get the power down and keep the pace high, giving me more momentum to catch riders in front.  I’m enjoying this race, so much so next time I ride past the timing van I see two laps to go (where did the time go).  Squeeze a gel to death trying to get some taste back in my mouth.  Head down, pedal hard and time to catch some riders.  Have another good lap and gain places, I ride over the line and take the lap bell.

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By the time I hit the hurdles for the last time I have just caught Katie Carmichael and Tony Jones.  I take the lead as we descend into the woods.  I try and push the pace weaving through the trees back up to the gravel path.  Down the fast slope to the bomb hole and steep banking.  I jump off the bike, I can hear someone very close behind me.  Quickly back on the bike, I’ve got to try and make a gap on the small hill up to the barrier.  Hop the barrier and run the hill, back on the bike, down the grassy slope, taking a quick turn. (At this point the pressure of a chasing rider takes its toll).  I make a mess of the dismount and end up on the wrong side of the bike.  Running while juggling the bike trying to correct my position isn’t the best combination and I nearly fall.

I peek around and Tony is still on my tail.  Get to the right side of the bike for my remount, we are neck and neck.  I take a bad line and now riding the soft grass/mud.  Tony is powering through on a better line.  I have to jump off and run as I am grinding to a halt.  He gets to the corner ahead of me and powers on and over the line.  I remount and ride in just behind him.  That’s two races in a row I have had a battle to the line!  This time it was for 20th which I lost, rolling over the line to take 21st from 114 riders.  Super Quaich you have done it again.  A and race layout has given so much competition right through the field and I am sure the racers are all enjoying it.

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Huge thanks to Eric Easton, Colin Sergeant and the band of course builders from Haddington CC for putting on the race at Foxlake.  This course was amazing, I think it has become my favourite course on the calendar.

Last Quarter of Quaich is at Dig In At The Dock, Bo’ness.  The B race is going to be the toughest one yet with a few A riders dropping down, as the A race is being packed with stars from the CX world.  The A race will be a spectacle to watch.  The flying Gary McDonald taking on international cyclocross racers like Helen Wyman, Amira Mellor, Jeremy Durrin and Thomas Mein and will be interesting to see if the young pups Sean Flynn, Harry Johnston and Cameron Mason will catch the G machine.

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Last race of the 2016/17 calendar should be a cracker so get along and ring a cowbell or two.

Double Army Down to Doonbank. 

2nd Quarter Of Quaich. 

22.1.17 Rozelle Park, Ayr.

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A trip to Rabbie Burns neck of the woods today, Ayr Burners are hosting the second round of the Super Quaich Series.

Today I am joined by Clare Campbell racing in the B race.  I missed this race last year with being away topping up on Vitamin D in the sun, so I’m looking forward to getting to grips with the course and see what’s on offer fo an hour of pain in the park.  We go get our timing chips and numbers, while on the way we suck in the smell of freshly cooked pizza.  Pretty sure I will return after the race to sample what’s on offer.  Back to the car and we get on with getting set up for race day and Clare’s second Cyclocross race.

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A slow wander up makes us a late to get to the start line, have to head to the rear of the already assembled group.  There are 91 riders today, we exchange some banter while the other riders fall in behind us.  My nerves build with each second ticking on the clock, as we wait for the start of the race.  The nervous chatter dies down as we are told we will be let loose in 30 seconds.  Quickly tell Clare to get foot clipped in, while I battle with my cleat and pedal combo (some mentor me, can’t even clip in).

Before we know it the front is off and moving, it trickles down to us and it’s our turn to push off and get racing.  Today I shall try something a bit different from other races.  I am going to take it steady from the gun and try not to be blowing out my hoop after the first 100 meters.  It’s hard not to go and attack every bit of space I see and by following wheels it does mean I catch a lot of mud to the eyes (glasses would have been good).  We have a nice big bit of solid tarmac to start us off, this gets us up to speed before we hit the grass and off cambers to come.

Ride down to the first obstacle, a bottleneck happens as we are squeezed through a small gap in the hedgerow.  Off the bike and scurry through.  Hoist the bike up onto the shoulder and set off running uphill.  After making it to the top I am glad to see some downhill taking me around to another run-up.  This one being slightly steeper, I will definitely have to run this one every lap.  Doing well for positions as I still take it easy, feel good as I crest the climb.

Swing past the pits with a group of riders, a nice looping bend means I get to suck in some much-needed oxygen.  Next up is the triple steps, dismount the bike and with some big strides, you are at the top.  Do your best flying remount in front of the ever growing crowd and back to the business of peddling.  A small decent, 180 degrees turn to the right, you are out the saddle riding back up the gradient.  Hang a left and recover while you take the long bend and lines you up for the small wooded section.  Nice quick downhill through the avenue of trees is next. It gives your legs a quick rest before you hit a short mound to ride up, taking you out the canopy of trees onto the ever softening grass.

I am starting to find a good rhythm to my racing.  I peddle past Gordan Dalglish of HTCC (hope I make it on to HTCC TV ).  Next to tick off the list of must-haves on a cross course are the barriers.  Dismount and hop, run, hop and keep on running to find some firm ground for me and my one gear to get going again.  Back on the bike and we are into the woods again.  Ride up the start area and past MYlaps timing van engulfing the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and pizza.  A sharp turn and your weaving your way through the trees (like riding a speeder bike in Return of the Jedi, awesome part of the course).

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Out from the trees and around the off camber, trying not to get sucked into the black scrim that seemed to act as magnet for my bike.  Fast ride through soft mushy grass and now the hedgerow was congestion free.  Ride through the gap, now to try and ride as much of the incline as possible.  Halfway up it became apparent I would be quicker to get off and run.  I seemed to be riding this course well and singlespeed appeared to be well suited to this course.  Still keeping it calm and not feeling like death fifteen minutes in seems to be a good way to race.

After the third lap, the bike was clogging up with mud.  So with a shout to Victoria (my new pit crew) “You need to clean my bike” with a reply “Aye fuck off, you can clean it at home”.  I suddenly shout “No I need you to clean the shit off the wheels and cranks” as I dump my bike, strip off arm warmers, then take my spare bike.

At the bottom of the woods, I see Clare.  I am about to shout and give her some encouragement as I go by but she pulls off just as I get to her.  She looks fine and it’s not until the next lap she tells me her rear mech hanger has snapped. (well it was more like, “bikes fucked” as I go past)  Get to pits and Victoria is waiting with my bike, a quick change and I’m back racing again.  A great job was done for not knowing or having anything to clean it with apart from my gloves and arm warmers.  Though I did notice on the next few laps and one more bike change she was nowhere to be seen.

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Take the last lap bell and now I have to get a shifty on.  Got to try and make up some lost ground with my slow pit changes.  In am in a little battle with a Glasgow Green rider and just ahead is Russell Mowat from Walkers Cycling.  We hit the barriers neck and neck.  Russell gets back on the bike while I have to run a few meters as can’t ride the soft bit straight after the barriers.  He stretches the gap as we enter into the trees.  I give it my all as we both sprint along the tarmac with the finishing line rapidly closing in.  Russell gets over in 16th place and I take 17th.  Not too shabby from where I started.  Maybe just maybe there is something in this new structured approach to racing.  A little part of me does wonder if I could have finished slightly higher up if we got to the start line slightly earlier and we got a space at the front.

Feel a bit gutted for Clare, having been there and had this happen, it sucks big time!  She was not alone in the broken bike finishers as it seemed Rozelle Park had a taste for rear mech hangers that day.  The main thing is she rolled up to the line to race and gave it her all.  It’s all experience in the bag and will just make her want to come back and avenge the park that killed her bike.

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Huge thanks to JP Baxter and the Burners team for hosting this race, from what I heard the changes to this course were well received and made the course more flowing.

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3rd Quarter is at Foxlake on the 5th of February.

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A Kick To The Balloch’s

10th of September 2016

I got beaten up in a park, Balloch Park!

This day has been long in coming, though not long enough for me to actually get off my arse and get fit again.  With a new little addition to the fan club, I have found my Mojo for riding my bike being lost.  Also trying to find the time to ride my bikes has been limited.

Battle Of Balloch Castle will be a good starting point to see what needs to be done to get me fit enough just to finish this season’s races. Not worrying about placings just yet, maybe look at that for the Super Quaich Series later on in the year.

mojo1

If Found Please Call.

I bottled it and have signed up for the “B” race (the first skirmish).  I raced this event last year and finished 10th, a repeat of this would be awesome but highly unlikely.  My number is pinned and chip strapped to my ankle, have a few warm up laps then we are all called to the start line.

My nerves have been growing since I left the house, I drive the 20 minutes to the course and they keep building, they are eased slightly as I chat to a few familiar faces on the start line.

We are on our marks and set for the word Go.  Jammy the PA announcer shouts Go over the mic and we are off.  Ed Vickers is directly in front of me and gets a great start. This, in turn, leaves a small gap and the rider to my left goes for it.  In doing so his wheel takes a rub on my front wheel sending me to eat some grass!

I fear that my race is over!  My handlebars are squint, along with my gear shifter.  Get on with straightening them out with a bit of force. Everything else looks good, so back on the bike and I am dead last. I have to stop 100 metres down the track and get my bars lined up again.  At this point, I feel I have taken a big knock on my left leg.  With a dead leg its back on the bike and try and play catch up with the field of riders ahead of me.

About halfway through I manage to get to the back markers and feel a bit more relaxed and now to take one lap at a time.

I am riding well and actually enjoying the course, well apart from the new addition to the course.  Glasgow United Cycling Club was good enough to add a nice little hill climb just after the finish line. It seemed to suck the energy out of your legs, a case of head down and grind it out. Staying up and on the bike going around the tree is the best way to go after the hill climb. Then get on the drops and shoot down the hill, sucking in some needed oxygen.

Last year I had problems on the gravel paths around the wall garden area, but this year I deflated the tyre’s a little and this was probably my fastest part of the course along with the rocky hill climb, which came just after the gravel paths.

Then came the Bastards Of Balloch, I don’t know if this had been extended this year? As it felt like the switchbacks went on for a while.  I don’t think I will ever be good at this slalom type obstacle.  I creep around the bends, losing loads of time and distance to the riders ahead.

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Bastards Of Balloch Click for Video

Gather speed and belt down the small grassy paths, these became ever more swampy with the amount of riders and the heavy rain the night before. Leave the mud and shoot along the sandy paths bringing you out into the main square.  Hop, skip and jump the trio of barriers. Don’t crush my nuts on the remount, then it’s round  the last corner, head for the line with one eye on the looming hill climb.

That was my first lap done, turns out six more to go before I shall revive the checkered flag.  Though to be honest once I saw Mark Young stick out the 5 to go, board, I did have to fight with my inner wimpy self, it was telling me to chuck it!

One more fall on the bike and a lot more mud being consumed in the last few laps, I was glad to see the lead rider (Ed Vickers) come past me.  This meant I was on my last lap and only the trio of hurdles in my way to achieving my goal of the first finish of the Cyclocross season.

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End of the Battle

 

In the end, it was great to get back out on the Cross bike and actually push me to my limit at times.  My lap times weren’t the best and I know I have much more to give during a race but with the bad start and being dead last to finishing 34th out of 66 riders I will take that.

Big thanks to Stevie Couper and Glasgow United for hosting this Cross race on the Bonnie Banks.

Up next is Bute CX Race.

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The Long Race!

Go big, to get home.Tibet-lake-picassa-crop-1587377_958x383

There have been a few exciting things I have been watching the past few weeks on Twitter and Facebook.  Some big rides and races going on at the moment and coming up this year.

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Kicking off first was my Social Media Mate Robbie Ferri heading out to bag a Guinness World Record or two.  The aim was to cycle the most amount of countries in seven days.  Robbie got off to a great start, getting a World Record in the first 24hrs.  He managed to ride through 5 countries in 24hrs beating the record by one.  A celebratory burger was consumed.

After three days on the road, rattling off countries at a good speed and aiming to beat the 11 countries record, taking up to 15  Robbie suffered an injury to his knee and with sad news he lets everyone know that it’s game over.  He doesn’t want to risk long-term damage, a hard decision to make overnight but the correct one.  It was a sterling effort mate, sure you will be back fitter and faster.

Switzerland was the final bleep of his tracker for this trip.  All in all, Robbie managed to ride through 6 countries in 3 days.  Well done mate look forward to seeing you become a double record holder soon.  Head over to his page Living The Dream.

TransAtlantic WaytransAtlantic Way

The TransAtlanticWay is a 2,500 km one stage self-supported road bike race between Dublin and Cork via The Wild Atlantic Way.  The race began on 17th June and by now most of all the riders have finished.

This race was the brainchild of Adrian O’Sullivan and if I didn’t just have my third baby boy on the 15th I really think I would have been on this start line and dipping my cleated toe into the world of long distance bike racing.

Tour Dividetour divide

Tour Divide is an ultra-cycling challenge to race self-supported along Adventure Cycling Associations Great Divide Route.  Grand Depart was on  6/10/2016

Tour Divide is a bit mental, to be honest. Consisting of mostly off-road taking you through the remote backcountry, sharing the landscape with Mountain Lions and Grizzly Bears. Sleeping under the stars at night in a bivi bag or find shelter for the night.

British rider Mike Hall has only gone and smashed this race completing it in 13 days 22 hours and 50 minutes.  Creating a new TD record.  Huge Chapeau Mike.

Trans Am Bike Racetramsam

This is the description of Trans Am on their Facebook page.

What: A non-stop, self-supported road bike race along the 4,440 mile Trans America Trail.
When: June 4th, 2016 08:00 PST
Where: Yorktown Victory Monunment and Astoria Maritime Museum
Why: Because bike racing
Who: Clearly those who would like to see a healthy dose of the continent, quickly.
How: Solely under your own wheeled human power with no outside support.

This is one for the bucket list I think.  This year Lael Wilcox came home as the first rider in 18 days.  Think I would be a lot longer I can say with confidence.

TransContinental Racetranscontinental

The Transcontiental was the first race I dot watched, quite a weird way to spend a few hours, sitting watching these wee blue dots and numbers move about a map.  I will be once again checking up on the blue dots as they start from De Muur, Geraardsbergen, BELGIUM  

Then make their way to four checkpoints

  • CP1 // Puy du Dome, FRANCE  
  • CP2 // Furkapass, SWITZERLAND 
  • CP3 // Passo Giau, ITALY 
  • CP4 // Durmitor, MONTENEGRO

Once all the checkpoints have been passed it will be a sprint on to the finish at Canakkale, TURKEY

3,800km of roads makes it shorter than 2015 (4,200km) but this comes with a whole lot more climbing in the Alps.

  • One stage – The clock never stops.  Racers chose where, when and if at all to rest.
  • No Support – Racers can only use what they take with them, or what they can find en-route at commercially available services.
  • No Route – Only mandatory controls ensure that racers visit some of the most famous pieces of road in Europe and connect with the suffering of their forebears.  The rest is up to them.
  • Live Tracking –  Through the miracle of modern satellite technology and the interweb we can check up on our riders progress wherever they may be.

Again another for the bucket list.

Is there any other long distance races out there? Dirty Kanza I know of.  Race the World don’t know?  Is there a Silk Road Race?

Would love to hear about the riders experience of these races and of any other great races on a bike out there.

 

 

LoveCross

An evening in Peebles.

Satnav destination is for Peebles High Street for a bit of early season Cyclocross racing.   Love Cross is part of Tweed Love Bike Festival that runs from 14th- 30th of May.  Two weeks of all sorts of bike shenanigans going on, my kind of festival.

This Cyclocross race is a little bit different from the usual Scottish Cyclocross races, a couple of main differences.

First of all, it is at night!  My Race kicks off at 7:30pm, racing under the warm spring sun. (sounds romantic, this is Scotland so probably wet and dull)

Secondly, it will take place through the town centre and not through any kind of mud fest park! Looking forward to this type of Urban Cyclocross, seeing what kind of obstacles will be used on the course, like the use of water gun alley in last year’s photographs.

cross urban

Also to add a slightly different twist to this is that I will be racing in the pairs category.  The way I understand it is, myself and Kevin Pugh will be playing tag team racing.  One of us will be racing a lap whilst the other sits out, then quick high five, releasing the fresh pair of legs onto the course for their lap.  Having a lap out to recover seems quite appealing to me.

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To start the night off there was a family ride.  Around 1000 children and adults get to ride a little loop of Peebles High Street and round past Tweed Green then back around the High Street.  It was great seeing all the little kids showing off their bike skills, one little guy was popping wheelies on his bike while another youngster was zooming around on a unicycle.

Peebles sure is a bike town!

Rider briefing was held while the course was being changed from the family loop into an obstacle-laden cross circuit.  We were given instructions on how to record the lap, seems a bit daunting but actually was just another obstacle to remember.  We were issued with a wristband, with this we were to stop, scan the band on the gate.  Each and every lap.  If you rode through the gates not scanning, then that lap didn’t count.  More laps = prizes.  Easy!

Solo riders are taken to start line for their 18 minutes of racing.  Bikes were laid down and then riders were taken about 120 metres away to start the “Le Mans” style run to the bike. The crowd counted down from 10, once we got to GO!  The sprint in cleats began.  Bryan Donnelly of Glasgow Nightingales had brought his sprint legs tonight, he was out the blocks faster than Usain Bolt.  Seems that his good start was short lived, his bike was blocked in and had to wait for a clear path to get out onto the course.  Something to learn from  for next year Bryan.

le mans race

Image by Ian Linton

18 minutes of racing turned into 18 minutes in hell.  There is no let up on the course so, 100% full gas is the only option.  Well the exception was maybe Cameron Mason, he and his mountain bike took the course apart and lapped the field.  Taking the top spot on the night.

Pairs race, here we go!

Kevin and I got split up, unlucky for Kev he registered us so he is the “A” rider meaning he shall have the sprint to his singlespeed bike.  Which he parked next to a BMX!  Mental doing a race on a BMX, only this madness was topped off by the guy in a leather jacket, jeans and riding his FAT bike in the solo race.

The crowd counts down the start, Go Go Go!  They are off and running,  Anthony Robson using his long limbs to good advantage is first to his bike.  Kevin in third, BMX guy is second. Though he soon moves up to first as he is schooling us all in how to bunny hop the bales of hay.  Bloody marvellous!

Now for the nerves to build.  Kevin is out on the back end of the course we are still in third place as they head into the “dob” station.  Kev doesn’t become a “dobber”!  He remembers to scan his wristband, sprints up the street and jump’s the last bales of hay.  Now it’s my turn to hit the course.

BMX guy got caught by Anthony , his partner is just in front of me as we head out onto the course.  I overtake, moving up into second place.  Time to get a shuffle on and catch Man Mountain on his Mountain Bike. Thomas Mitchell.

The first obstacle is on a right bend, a nice wedge of car tyres for you to run through.  I did my best long jump effort while shouldering the bike.  Man Mountain just bunny hopped right over the lot!  Next was a downhill slalom, in and out the barrier tape.  I took this as fast as I thought possible, Man Mountain brushed this aside and made it look like he was on rails.

barrier slalom

Image by Anthony Robson

A quick right bend and it was onto first haybale leap.  I used the good old “Handbag” technique, Man Mountain used the Bunny hop technique.  Gaining momentum and distance with every hop.  I didn’t even see what he did for the three, yes THREE flights of stairs up to the Church.  I was too busy with my head down, attacking them, two steps at a time.

Snagging the barrier tape as I came around the corner to find Man Mountain finish fiddling with his dropped chain, only for him to blast off and bunny hop the sand bags and hit the high street.  Out on the street, you had a short sprint through some gazebos with some Tweetfest barrier tape to block your view.  Tight left turn taking you down an alleyway round to a zig zag barrier system and then over two hay bale barriers.  I shouldered the bike and ran this section, I was way quicker to do that than fumble around the barriers only to dismount and hop the bales of hay.  Man Mountain probably bunny hopped the two hurdles at once for all I know as he was out of sight.

The bottom of the hill you took a right and an all out sprint to the sharp right turn up through the hotel car park , round the bend shooting you out onto the high street yet again. A bale of hay to hop, stop at gate and swipe band (not becoming a dobber).  Then it was a sprint past water pistol alley to get a drenching and a drink from the kids.  Hop the last bale of hay and Kevin was on his way.

Man Mountain had gapped me massively giving Kevin some work to do to chase down Anthony. We were still holding second place with a decent size gap to third.

This is how it played out for the next 30 minutes.  Kevin chased, I got gapped every lap.  We managed to do 10 or 11 laps, poor Kev did 6 of those.  I got the lap bell as I scanned my wristband and handed over, giving him the last lap.  We couldn’t chase down the first place as they had a really good race but we did manage to hold our lead over third place. Making the podium with SECOND place. Woohoo!

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All the winners on the night.

Well done to all the racers on the night.  Also huge thanks to all of the event team and marshalls putting on a great fun event.  A good bit of team riding with Kevin and hopefully we will return in 2017 trying to improve on our position on the steps of Tontine Hotel.

Thanks to Anthony Robson and Ian Linton for the use of their images, click the names and see more of their amazing Photography skills.

straight outta lovecross

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Bryan & Burners Battle Bute.

Don’t Break The Crust!

A sunny Saturday morning meeting at Wemyss Bay Ferry Terminal, I meet up with some Ayr Burners.  Kevin Pugh, Lindsay McGarvie, JP Baxter and Gary Currie and I are about to board the 10:15am Ferry to Rothesay, Isle of Bute, West Coast of Scotland.

In 2000, Janet Street-Porter came to the Island and opened the West Island Way.  This is a 40mile/65km walk through the Isle in celebration of the Millenium.  After riding this I wonder if she actually walked the whole route?  (next time JSP, fancy doing a nice flat walk along the beach!)

west island way

Once we depart the Ferry, we take a left heading South to the bottom of the Isle. Some nice smooth roads give our legs a nice chance to warm up.  Then we come to the end of the road, we won’t be seeing much more of the tarmac for the rest of the day.

The Adventure Cross now and truly begins, along the Southern coastline we are following the sheep trails.  Most of the trails are rideable but there is a bit of rock hopping and dodging sheep shit.  Riding along the coast is great, the sun is out and warming us up, making the base layer feel like a bad choice.  After some puddle swerving and a few climbs, we get to a small beach and have an impromptu bike wash with a scrubbing brush that has been washed up.

Ater getting to the most Southerly point of Bute.  The only way to head now is North along the East coast, we take in more rocky outcrops and more hike-a-bike heading for the golf course.  With this comes some nice riding along some grass trails with the beach on our left.  We are finished with the coast for just now as we head into the middle of the Isle taking in some farm roads and more sheep trails.

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This bit gets shit! Really SHIT!

Farms bring animal by-product.  We had to ride through said by-product. Twice!  Myself, JP and Lindsay are out in front and going up shit creek without a paddle, when Mr Pugh pipes up with “lads, you need to come back”.  Apparently we should have gone right not straight through, which means riding back through the shit again.  Things will get worse. (Well for one of us).

After a long march uphill and through some sharp and jaggy gorse bushes we see the dirt path we are supposed to be following.  Head back downhill and now we are tackling a dusty road.  Gary is out in front and he is the first to try Slurry Surfing.  We pull up and assess our route/options.  The now famous words of DON’T BREAK THE CRUST form.

These words are muffled in JP’s mind as the words RIDE IT, RIDE IT are louder.  JP rides it, for about 3 metres then gets that sinking feeling. (stinking feeling)

ah shite!

Hope those shoes are tight.

After a little tug of war between bike and shite, JP and the bike escape the quick shit.  Now head to bike cleaning station number 2.  A stream of water coming out from under the road, it’s probably 50-50 piss and water combo but it does the job and gets the bike/sock/shoes clean.  I am pretty sure no one wants to sit in behind his bike for a while now.

We are still heading up the East coast, now heading for a cafe stop at Ettrick bay.  Fuel up on coffee, sandwiches, and burgers.  We leave the cafe with the ripe old smell of the farmyard left at the table.

We leave the East coast and head Northwest riding up into the grassland.  Then into some pinewoods for some fun descents and mega climbing on pine needle trails.

Time is ticking on and we are still playing in the woods, after the last mega climb we stop for a check of the map.  Kevin thinks we have overshot the turn to take us out onto the road which would take us back to Rothesay.  We have a choice!  Head on and see where we end up? Potential to head through more fields/marshes or have a nice descent and find the road.  Yip you guessed it the descent won.

We turn around and get going, blast downhill enjoying some wind in our faces.  Gary has turned into a descending demon, battering through everything and splashing puddles feet in the air. He’s having a ball.  We get to the bottom and find the waypoint directing us to the road. After all the climbing and hike-a-bike the tarmac is a welcome sight.

It’s 5:50pm and next Ferry is at 6:15pm, we have a little time trial ahead of us to make the next boat.

We muck in, string out, pull one and other along the oh so smooth surface,  I look to the left and can see the Calmac ferry steaming through the water heading for the dock.  The race is truly on.  We pull into Rothesay as the anchor lines are tightened and cars trundle off.

We wait our turn to embark, park the bikes up and head indoors for a heat.  The weather like most of Scotland, had sun/rain/snow and hail all in one day.

Drinks all round for a great ride/walk exploring the Isle of Bute.

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Check out the route

Thanks to Ayr Burners Cycling Club for letting me tag along, also to Kevin for the amazing coffee.  While I got battered on Bute, the freshly ground coffee was wafting around the car for 5hrs.  The smell was amazing heading home.