Cycle Forme

Thistly Cross

Saturday 12th January, Winton Castle, East Lothian.

It’s 7 am and I have the car packed and coffee poured and now its time to drive to the South East of Edinburgh and into the rolling farmlands of Pencaitland. The fabulous grounds of Winton Castle is the destination for the second last race of the Super Quaich Series.

Roll the car over the sheep shit field and get a front row spacing. (My only front row placing at any racing this season.) Head for the potting shed and get signed on and numbers collected. Drop the pit bike off and wander along taking in all the delights of the new course on route back to the car.

Finally get everything sorted and I roll me and the bike along to the start area, I still have a little bit of time before the start of the race, this gives me a chance to try the downhill off camber section just after the first corner. The off camber its self isn’t a problem but as you come to the bottom and round the tree, it becomes a bit bumpy and a nasty looking rut is waiting to eat your wheel as you descend the next little hill. As per normal, this on the first lap could be a bit of a bottleneck if you are far back in the race.

MC Jammie has us called along to the start line at 10:50 am. I manage to get into the third row and being on the left side of the tape this is going to give me tight turn into corner number 1. Eric Easton gives out the safety brief and invites the local riders and helpers to come and claim thier rightfully owned place on the front of the grid. (now in row four)

After a few radios call back and forth we are 30 seconds away from racing my first race of 2019!

Breeeeppp of the whistle and we’re off, its flat out along the smooth tarmac heading for the timing van, I am slightly boxed in from the rider in front of me and losing places on my right. I look for a gap, pull out and get my legs up to full speed as we take the left turn and point the bike down the embankment.

The first 20 riders or so are battering downhill and I make up some places as we ride the off camber. A short sharp climb has me out the saddle and its a struggle to get to the top, turn left and now for some flat gravel watching out for the potholes as ride under the shadow of Winton Castle on our right, as we head out to the gun range in the woods the speed soon picks back up.

In the woods, things become quite technical as we wound through the trees, the dry conditions made it dusty under the rubber and if I wasn’t careful then my front wheel was always ready to try and slip out from underneath me. Some cool ditches to ride/run came next. The first one was easily ridable if you followed the ruts. The second one was much deeper so that had you off the bike and running it. (except for some of the smart arsed A riders)

A long ride through some bramble and weed clearing at the edge of the woods took you along to lake (way too big to call it a pond) and navigate over the double hurdles (barriers) and past the pits. Race along the single track path and face a trio of climbs that takes you up and onto the tarmac and past the timing van for lap number one.

As always the race strings out and I’m roughly about sitting about 16-17 place. Ride the off camber section well and struggle up the hill to the big house. As I ride along the gravel I decide that I’m pitting and swapping my Cross bike for my MTB. The MTB should have more grip but most of all it has GEARS!

My first off comes as I ride into the woods, the front wheel slips out and the bike goes down, I manage to jump over the bars. (heaps of practice doing this so I’m getting good a bailing out) Right the bike and run to some flat ground where I get back onboard and ride ditch number one. Make it back to the pits without falling off again. Switch to the MTB, lose about five places doing this but in my head its worth it. Now have some gears, this shouldn’t be so hard now. Wrong!

My tyres are a way to hard! I had pumped them up to the max to bead them in a few days beforehand and never thought to deflate them slightly. Due to the tyre pressure, I wasn’t getting a grip in the dust and it was a bit treacherous cornering at any kind of speed. I couldn’t be arse stopping to take off the caps to let some air out as I was on the chase to recover my lost positions. I struggle on and decide to make another pit change.

Come round to the pits and dump the bike, the Cross bike is out for the last few remaining laps. Lose more time fucking about with the bike change and this lets Ross Johnston of HTCC sneak past and now he’s my target for the race. Ross in the past few seasons has been my nemesis, he tends to finish a few places above me so to see him ride past was a wee boost that I was doing alright in the top third of the race. For the next few laps, we would swap places in various parts of the course.

Onto the final lap, I get caught up behind some lapped riders and Ross pushes on ahead. With the gap widening, I try and speed up. Ride to the first trench, I don’t stick to the main rut that has formed, for some reason I gone to the right of it. Bad choice Bryan, as this line choice has me off the bike with a big hit! I snag a root or something and it stops my bike dead in its tracks. I, on the other hand, continued through the air and land on my side and head. (That’s why we wear lids, kids!)

Ross continues to distance himself from me as I roll about the dusty floor. I dust my self down and get back to riding the bike. No more offs, please! Head for ditch number 2 and run through with the bike held high. Still in the sadle as come to the lake. Hop over the barriers and have no legs left to ride all three hills, push the bike up the last two and it’s up onto the smooth tarmac and head for the finish line.

Roll over the line in 21st positions and swap my chip for a can of Erdinger 0% lager and it’s the best post refreshment I have ever tasted!

Huge thanks to Colin Shearer, Eric Easton and all the Thistly Cross Crew for having us and of course to the King and Queen of Winton Castle for letting us rip up their grass.

Last round of the Super Quaich is at RGCX, Sunday 20.1.19 and hosted by the Albannach crew.

For full Photo Album click the link below.

https://adobe.ly/2FvIdwV

TunnnnneBank Trofee.

Sunday 9th December, Rozelle Park, Ayr. 

A super cold start to the morning has me flipping down the back seats in the car and wrestle my two bikes into the boot. The tightening system on the bike rack is a block of Ice and won’t budge, just as well the Citroen C4 is a big bus and gives me the option to get to Ayr with both bikes.

Ayr Burners are hosting the opening round of the Super Quaich series. It looks like Christopher, JP and crew have been out with the park maps and made a few adjustments to an already good racing course. The main change I see is we ride down between the hedgerows, as to previous years of running up in between them. A new section in the woods halfway through the lap looks interesting and a possible bit of running for me and my wan gear!

Head over to sign on and the other J Baxter (Joe) informs me that the timing chips are still cooking and sign on will be delayed slightly. With that, I take the pit bike the long way to the pits and eye up some of the changes the course has to offer. Have a chin wag to Montvelo crew about (MoX) the second round of Super Quaich up in Montrose. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend that race but what I heard it’s going to be epic and a good addition to the Scottish Cyclocross Scene.

The chips come out of the oven and its time to go to the car and get sorted for the B race today. Doonbank has been good to me the last few years so hopeful that luck keeps up with me in today’s race. Roll up to the start line and settle in amongst the first few rows.

For the start grid this year we are on a long tarmac road facing towards Rozelle house, the main hazard will be the speed bump at the end of the straight as we turn left onto the new section of the course. 

Bar ends are checked, feet are clipped in and 60 odd riders are ready to tackle the hour of racing. The whistle soon blows and we are off and racing like maniacs! We all manage to get to the grass in one piece after the mad dash down the road. Some nice curves around some huge trees soon bring the speed down, only slightly though, as we’re back up to race pace as we ride up and around to the double hurdles.

I am doing not bad, just surfing about 10th place as I hoppped over the hurdles and get back in the saddle. Before the race I was in a panic, I had changed over my three seasons old 36 shark-toothed chainring. I only had a brand new 40 tooth chainring in the house and have been thinking since the switching that the gearing would be too high (40-18). But thanks to the Burners they have giving me more flat stuff to ride and I can keep pace with the gear monkeys. 

As we zig-zag through the woods and down between the hedges I feel I am in a good position to try and beat last years result of 5th. Get to the bottom of the hill, ride through some mud soup and head for a muddy slog up a short slope. Ride past one side of the double pit area, round the corner to aim slightly back down the hill with a nice wide right-hand bend to take you out if you lost grip! Stomp on the pedals and bring the speed up and aim for the woods. 

As I ride past the pits along to the trio of steps I feel my front tyre isn’t too happy. Dismount and run the steps, as I climb back on to the bike I can feel that I have picked up a puncture on the front! A shite! I have only just gone past the pits so pretty much the worst place on the course that it could happen. I decide to ride on anyway, as to run to the pits would be way to slow. As long as I take It easy I should be good. (Thank god I don’t have carbon rims!

As my race slows right down, the top ten racers scoot away, now I am losing places at every turn of the cranks as we start the second lap. I make my way to the pits, navigate the down hedges riding the ruts on a flat was tricky but I manage to get to the bottom in one piece. Run through the sloppy mud at the bottom and see the yellow flags of the pit just at the top of the hill. Never been happier to see my Mountain Bike waiting for me. Ditch the CX bike and now I have lots and lot of places to make up.

Lap after lap I start to pick riders off, and lap after lap I get more confident on the course. With the assistance of gears, I am starting to enjoy the technical parts on the course rather than resorting to running through them. The best part is gathering speed through the trees after the hurdles, keeping the speed high and batter down through the hedgerows. The first few laps I was hesitant going down between them, but the more I eased off the brakes and just let the bike roll the more I enjoyed it and easier it becomes.

The last two laps I have a shadow, Rider number 201 (Murray Doyle) we would swap positions on our stronger part of the lap, mine being the second half after the steps. Its good having a shadow as it means you need to push oneself to maintain the battle of mid-pack positions. I learnt from last year at Doonbank that I didn’t need to panic when someone is breathing down my neck. Just ride the final lap just like I normally would.

We race past the pits heading for the steps for the last time, Murray takes over me and with him doing so I stick with his wheel. We ride down to dismount the bike, BANG! he’s down on the ground. 

Murray has slipped while dismounting his bike and both him and bike are sliding towards the netting. Time for me to shake a leg and try and make a gap on him. I manage to get a tiny gap, but he’s quick to his feet and back in pursuit of my rear wheel.

Good, I think to myself, he is using more energy chasing me and we have some fast areas to come as we head for the line.

Next big obstacle to get around is the new uphill around a tree off camber area thing! I head in on the wrong line and have to dismount and get running as I curse too myself. My error also had an effect on Murray, he’s also off and running too.

Sprint up the small incline and out of the woods for the last time. Time to get the speed up as we hit the tarmac. The finish line is about 400 meters away. Get my thumb clicking and also whack it up on the top triple ring and get some wind in my hair.

I have got to break him! Keep the speed up Bryan! A quick look over my shoulder before we turn onto the home straight and I see the elastic has snapped. I am not going to lose another position in this race. Hit the 50 meters to go marker, bunny hopped the speed bump and roll through the line for 15th place.

Doonbank you have done it again, created another great race for me and it wasn’t the podium that I had been dreaming of the previous night. I did have a hard race on my hands after being away back down in the mid-thirties so happy to be 15th rider home.

I can’t wait for 2019 Doonbank as I’m going for a podium spot now.

Huge thanks to all the Ayr Burners for hosting a great day at the park.  Thanks to Alan Anderson bring the tunes to tuuuuunebank.

Man Too Hot.

Super Quaich, The Third Round.

Roukenglen Park, 18.2.18.

Albannach and the Unicorn tamer Jim Cameron are the hosts of the last Super Quaich party.

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Roulenglen Park isn’t my best course, but I always look forward to it as my Mum and Dad come and join the ranks of the Two Wheel Army support crew. (also help with Victoria getting the kids out from the trees) This year’s race is a bit later on in the race calendar so no snow this year but there is still a nip in the air.

Clare is racing in the B race today, the crew and I turn up just as the race has begun. Kevin Pugh and Craig Lewis Hamilton are at the font of the race as they come through the trees and into the main support bowl. RGCX has an excellent location for spectating, 95% of the course is watchable from the sign on the tent. (this year the burger van is on hand to feed the faces of all the spectators)

Clare is slogging through lap after lap for the hour’s race. A head full of determination of not getting a DNF on her last Cyclocross race of the season. Her grit and fighting spirit gets her around the course and rolls over the finish line celebrating that she is the last rider home. Well, news for you CC, you didn’t come last, and you beat the course. That’s always the right way to end the race season.

My turn to race approaches, I say my goodbyes, and I am wished good luck as I ride down to the start shoot. I find myself late to the party, squeeze past the bunch and nestle in the right on top of a sand pit. Great, more sand! I thought I had seen enough at Irvine. Chat away to Owen Philipson, then four by four we get moved out the sand and up behind the 20 gridded riders. While chatting away we don’t hear the briefing, and before we know it, the front has burst apart, and the race is on. It takes a moment to hear the Hoot Hoot Hoot of the starting horns, but they are going off, now It’s my turn to race.

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Sprint up the slog of the tarmac hill, suck in lungfuls of oxygen at the top. Navigate the muddy lines and other racers in this condensed area. Come through the trees and out to the open grass, take a quick left and ride along the treeline and then a right turn has you coming back on yourself. The bike soon dips down, taking in the fastest part of the course, a quick descent heading past the spectator bowl for the first time. Drive up the incline with the rear wheel slipping and sliding all the way and turn right and into the woods. A narrow path keeps us all close and fighting for space. Thanks to those pesky B racers they have churned up the grass and made it sticky and slippy slog. I slowly grind my way through the first section, and as I get into the next HTCC old guard Julian passes by, he forces me off track with a close pass, and I’m leaving patches of skin from my leg in the thick bramble bushes.

I like riding the last section of the woods, I always seem to ride this part quite fast, and I gain some place as we exit the woods and ride past the pits. My tyres roll over the timing line for the first time as we race down and around to the first run-up. It’s a short, sharp climb. My feet skid and slide as I run the mud/grassy incline. Dig my feet in a little deeper, and I get to the top of the hill, again taking a few places as I remount the bike and the TWA crew shout me on.

Run the next half of a hill as some riders go past still in the saddle, (why is it called a saddle when its attached to a seat post?) then ride along to the hurdles. Were still bunched up as we turn and dismount for the double magenta barriers. A lot of riders remount and ride along to the new downhill section. Me on the other hand, I keep running until I reach the brow of the hill, back on the bike and freewheel to the bottom of the hill. Some tremendous sweeping switchbacks line you up for the second longer grassy climb. I usually have to dismount and run this hill, but do you know what, I’m going to give it a bash and try to ride this sucker! And I do! I struggle to the top by some zig-zag riding and seeking out grip, also lots of sheer stubbornness helps at this point. The growing crowd also helps with tones of encouragement to all riders tackling the hill.

Back in the saddle (seat) and ride through the mud soup, that takes you into the trees once again. This links you back up with the tarmac start shoot, I have to walk/run the last of the bog as by peddling I don’t seem to be getting anywhere fast. Get to the tarmac and back to riding a bike race in a bike race. It’s being to string out and riding the top wood section I can pick a decent line with some free space ahead. I am gaining on a small group just a few seconds out in front. Deep down I know I won’t be able to hold on to the group as this course isn’t my fastest to get around.

Eventually lap after lap I run out of gas, I hear two laps to go as I come round to the timing van. (great commentary by @mikefixerpayne) Which probably means one and a half for me as I’m sure David Duggan will catch me again. I manage to ride the big hill a few more times but slowing every time I complete it. The last two times I manage 3/4 of the way up. I don’t have any lying down in the mud today, always a good race when that happens but I do regret wearing gloves and arm warmers.

Man got too hot! Halfway around I have stop and strip my arm warmers down to my wrists to cool down. Then at the spectator’s bowl, I pull up to remove my gloves and warmers altogether. I hate being too hot! It distracts me, I think about it too much instead of concentrating on racing. Also, I get a bit nauseous if I am too hot. I lose a tone of time to the riders in front of me by pissing about, but at least I feel some much-needed fresh air.

David does catch me again, just as we entered the woods behind the pits. I now know my race will soon be over as David is riding along to get the checkered flag and the win. I have someone in my sights, a Johnston Wheeler is slowing, this spurs my legs on and the speed is up as we come through the last section of woods. At the end of the woods and entry into the pit area, he slips and goes down. I dig in and pass him on the inside. Kept the power going, ride around the bend and into the last corner. A quick glance over my shoulder and I see I have some space on riders at my back, let the bike glide over the line in 64th spot and to complete RGCX and my Cyclocross season.

Huge thanks to all the Unicorn helpers and event organisers, RGCX is always special.
Thanks again to Michael Martin again some incredible pictures and also to Graeme Cross for some classic black and white images.

F#©π Off Gary!

Super Quaich 2018.

28.1.18 Razelle Park, Ayr.

Super Quaich, the first batch has been organised by Christopher JC and JP Baxter their band of Ayr Burners. Clare and I have been drawn out in today’s B race. Gary will be racing an hour after us in with the A race chasing the Pros.

It’s a proud moment for me seeing my two teammates roll up to race altogether, making it a six-wheel army. Just have to get the kit sorted and pay the fees to British Cycling again and become Team Two Wheel Army for realsies. (hopefully, kit will be ready for Sunday)

A couple of the kids trundle past racing for the orange and black checkered flag as Gary and I dodge our way over the puddles and through the mud heading to sign on. Brown envelop to match the brown shoes is secured, time to walk the course and let Gary see what he’s signed up for. (No Ice Cream and deck chairs with this visit to Ayr G Dog)

The trio of us wanders through to the start area, ditch the pit bike then ditch the body waste at the other pits, then me and CC head for the growing bunch of riders assembling for the B race. It’s good to see lots familiar faces and join in with the nervous/excited chatter waiting for the call to grid up. The Commissioner and Jammy battle it out in trying to talk over each other. Jammy wins as he has the mic and PA power. Eventually, we get the brief and in 30 seconds we will be racing.

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I secured a spot on the second row, four riders are between me and the start line. (Still, reminisce about being called to the front row of the grid at Dig In The Dock) Clare is just a few rows back and super eager to defeat Rozelle Park in 2018.

Brrrreeeeeep the whistle blows and we are off.

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Clip in and time to power down the centre of the course. Sprinting down the start shoot we send the puddles flying into the air, a rather large puddle is directly in front of me, have to ride through it as I am boxed in with riders each side of me. Bang! My rear tyre takes a beating, it’s got to have punctured with that impact. The bouncing of the rim on the hard surface isn’t a great sign. Though I have luck on my side for now. Seems my tyre is just somewhat soft with the couple of baby farts of air I put into my tube.

We ride off the hardpack onto the grass for the first time, I am still near the front. But due to my limited top end speed on the single speed, I lose a few position in the sprint. Point the bike downhill and ride through swampageddon and between the gap in the hedge. Through the gate, we turn left and are sandwiched between the hedgerows. A long grass/mud hill is the view, I manage to stay on the bike and ride halfway, then it became time to jump off and join in on running to the top.

Still only a fist full of people in front of me as get to the top of the hill and disappear into the woods. Try and calm down now, the first few minutes are always chaos and burning myself out trying to catch the lead riders is a possibility. Another uphill run soon comes into vision, jump off the bike and dig the toes in and run past the pits. Onto some firmer ground which takes us down and round to tackle the triple stair threat. I can see I am closing in on Gary Currie from Ayr Burners. He’s riding about 4th, I am back to my starting position.

Ride back into the woods after riding a nice grassy bend, as I ride up the muddy knoll I have the orange jersey of Currie in my sights. Slip and slide around the curves trying to find some grip. Then a slow slog through the mud to the double barriers. I have a crazy idea of bunny hoping these barriers, they aren’t too high off the dirt making them very tempting to hop over. I bin that stupid idea, and I stick to getting off the bike and running over them. As I turn for the timing van and finish line, I catch Gary and now surf his rear wheel.

In doing so, I earn a face full mud. I had just discarded my glasses to HTCC massive at the hurdles so I couldn’t see a bloody thing. I pop out from Gary’s wheel and ride beside him, blinking out the mud and grit as we cross the line. I have the inside track into the approaching left bend so move up a place as we race under the trees on the fastest section of the course.

I’m third place as we come to the first corner and back down to the swampland. Third bloody place! What’s happening here, I think to myself. I ride through the hedge and try to ride as much of hedgerow slope as I can. (I know Gary runs this part of the course so I try and gain a bit of ground by riding) It’s not long before I’m off and running and I didn’t gain much distacne on the Currie.

As we ride past the pits, Gary’s getting a lot of encouragement from his teammates (Rabbie Burners). “Come On Garrrrry” “Keep Chasing Gary” “Come On Gary“. Sorry to the young readers and spectators, but I blurt out “Fuck Of Gary” as he’s stuck to me like smelly fart and can’t escape from him.

As we ride this year’s new addition, a small section of singletrack, with a dash of deep puddles, rider number two is struggling with his gears. We overtake him as we hit the mud soup. Me and my shadow are now in second and third place as we race towards the hurdles.

What’s happened to me, 2nd place! It’s only lap two and still have 45 minutes of racing to go. Time to put the podium dreams to the back of my mind.

The shadow is still tracking me, I seem to distance him on the second half of the course but on the first half, he keeps on pulling me back. With his presence, I start to crumble under the pressure. Mistakes are creeping in and these result in some stupid falls making be lose valuble time. Number four rider soon joins us in the battle for 2nd place. He takes full advantage of us two scrapping it out and before we know it he is pulling into the second spot and getting a gap on us.

Thoughts return to the battle at hand, fight Currie off! If I can get to the last lap and Gary is just ahead of me I know, there is a good chance I can take his position as I am riding the last half faster on each lap. We take the bell as we cross the line. I look behind and I have distanced him, now I am actually gaining on the second spot. I’m spurred on to try and make the catch.

On the ride down to Swampageddon for the last time, I make a huge mistake. I am pushing it to the edge trying to give me a chance to catch rider number two. I take a massive fall as I pass a lapped rider. Over cook it on the corner before the descent and my front wheel slips out shipping me off the bike face first onto the grass. Normally when you fall your feet come out your pedals. Not this time. My right foot was stuck, and stuck fast!

Full panic mode sets in, I can feel the shadow closing in on me while I roll about the mud. Eventually, my shoe gets out the death grip just as Gary rides past. I right my bike and run after him like a loonball. I manage to get past once more as we run the hill, but soon as I start to ride the bike, I realise my cleat has been ripped from the sole of my shoe and won’t clip into the pedal. Trying to ride one gear, with one foot clipped in, uphill and through mud, at race pace was an impossible task.

I hear the deep breaths of a rider coming through as we ride under the branches of the trees, It’s not Gary this time it’s a Velo rider coming to take third spot from me. My nemesis is not to far behind him and now I am riding in fifth spot. I conceded my podium dreams with my shoe malfunction and keep riding to try and finish top five. I manage not to lose any more places as I take the flag and finish in fifth place. I came into todays race hoping for a top ten placing and beating my 2017 place of 17th. To get top five today was amazing and my best result in all of my bike racing. If I am right, I gain promotion into the A race now?.

This is what Super Quaich racing is all about, a battle from lap one to the checkered flag. Huge thanks to Gary Currie for the best race I have ever had and putting up with my wide lines and blocking tactics.

The rest of 2WA done well, Clare fought the course for four laps then her chain snapped, so the course won again, 2019 you better watch out as she’s mad and looking for vengeance.

Gary had a slog-fest after the course being turned into chocolate by the B racers destroying the grass. He came home in 32 place, so he was happy with being in the top third of the field.

Huge thanks to Kenny Girvan Photography and Velo Cafe for the use off their amazing images.

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Next up is M&G’s Strathy Park all three of us racing again.IMG_20180129_113639.jpeg

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