Dig In At The Dock

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.
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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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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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