HalloX

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.

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Field Of Dreams

HSBC National Trophy Round 2.

Saturday 27th October 2018, Irvine Beach.

Walkers Cycling Club had a dream, a dream to be hosts to the first ever National Trophy Cyclocross Race in Scotland. I am not sure how long this has been floating in dreamland but Scott Kerr And Brian McCutcheon along with the assistance of the club and many local clubs they had the mentality of “build it and they will come”!

They set about building it and we came! On February, part of the Super Quaich series. Irvine Beach a test race to give the organisers an idea how the course would run and also how all the planning and logistics would work out to host a weekend of high-level racing for all age groups.

Roll on a few months, the day of reckoning is upon them.

Veterans day at the seaside today. At 12 pm, the final bit of coursework has to be finished, as this is time for the first race of the weekend to kick off. All age groups will be racing 40 minutes today.

The Veteran 40, 50 and 60 age group of women are getting lined up in front of the start tape. It’s a strong field today, this level of racing is a step above the normal Scottish Cyclocross series. Having multiple British Champions as well as multiple Master World Champions in the relevant age groups means there is going to be a battle out there get the National Points Leader Jersey. So a pretty good level to have on the front of the grid.

Once the woman battle it out around the course, now it’s time for the V50 and V60 males to race. The same as above British Champions and National Points leader at the front of the grid and another Master World Champion in the V60 race starting a minute after them.

Watching the two races it’s quite clear that it’s going to be a fast day between the tape. The course is dry and there is plenty of grip on the off-camber sections. The sand traps are capturing a few front wheels and toppling riders out of their saddles. Looks like I will be running them again this year.

My times up, time for me to get to the start area. We are gathered into two lines and wait for our name to be called, I know that I’m going to be last called, that feeling of being picked for the school football team crops up (that kid that smells of pee and me are left to see who is least popular of the shite footballers).

Roll onto the second last row and wait for the countdown. (Still, don’t know what the fuck I’m doing racing in the National Trophy Race! When I went to sign up there were only about 18 riders showing. These 18 would absolutely smash me at racing and I knew I’d get lapped, maybe several times. But In my head, I had it that if somehow I finished I would be 19th! My best result in a race for a while) That’s how I ended up on the start line.

It’s not just me and the 18 riders that I dreamt of! It’s me and 74 other riders. Glad to see that more riders stepped up to the line and made it a larger field and show what we kind of racing we can put on in the Scottish Cyclocross Series.

A short blast of the whistle gets the race underway, Wayne Barr is on my right and shoots off like a rocket to get to where he should have been starting, middle of the pack! I jump on his wheel and try and keep pace with him as we pass the pits. I soon run out of gear as we head for the first incline taking us along to the first sand pit. I lose positions to the guys behind, they carry more speed with their gearing and overtake before we enter the sand pit. Now at the back of the bunch!

The first sandpit its a bit of a tangle ahead, off the bike and run through some gaps making up a couple of places. Back on the bike and ride along the long off-camber section, face the bottom of a long climb, a few flat spots helps keep the burn off the legs as you ride up to the highest point of the course.

Still near the rear of the bunch as the front wheel points the down towards the second deeper sand pit. Loved this part of the course as free speed is always welcome. Dismount as I arrive at the sand, start to run but my legs aren’t keeping up with my brain and I somehow stub my foot and I take a trip down to inspect the sand.

Kevin Pugh’s advice from the sideline “get on your feet Bryan” is taken and I get out of the sand and head towards the commentary van and finish line. Two Hurdles later and its time to hit the hills. A few uphill zigzags and a few steep climbs (second one I have to run as it’s to steep for my gear) has you speeding downhill and along to the pits where it all started.

Two laps in and my legs are hurting. (big time regret running to work the day before) Starting to feel like I am way out my depth and will probably have to climb off my bike and give in as this is way to fast for me.

Eventually, the leaders catch on my third lap, I come over the hurdles and give them room to fly past. Now I have only two laps remaining.

A caffeine gum gives me a little boost as I get stuck in and try to finish this race.

No more dramas in both sand pits. I ride the first one each lap slower and slower but I manage it, and the second one I run each time managing not to trip over my own feet and make a spectacle for the good amount of support at the sand pits.

Onto my last lap. I seem to have a big gap from the person chasing me, as long as I don’t do anything stupid only people going past will be riders lapping me. I have a clean last lap and even pick up my pace, try and surf the fast guy’s wheels as the breeze past, but I don’t have the legs to sit on for long.

Roll over the finish line to a waving chequered flag, before the race I really did think I would have been pulled off as being to slow. To see that flag was a good boost of moral.

I managed to race a National level race, alright I finished 69th but I finished.

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Irvine is always a good course to ride, be it the old course with the Big Dipper and long narrow sand dunes to the new course with double sand pit and loads of off chambers and climbs. But the best thing is my bike came away just as clean as it arrived. Roll on 2019 and hopefully another round of National Trophy races at the seaside.

Sunday was for the Junior and Elite races, sadly I didn’t get down to witness these but from the clips and photos on Facebook, under the bright blue sky’s the racing looked fast and furious once again.

A huge well done to all involved on the planning and organising of the first and hopefully not the last time the world and national champions turn up to race in Scotland.

You Built It, And We Came!

Superb images from the sand pit by Alan Draffan, Pammie Ball and Fiona Wallace. Click here to see an amazing video by ImacImages.

Callender Cross

Far Flung Falkirk.

7th October 2018 Callender House, Falkirk.

Falkirk has three good things going for it, The Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies and the fantastic Callender House. In the grounds of the house, an annual event comes along that just gets bigger and better. Callender Cross!

This is my fourth trip over to Davie and Franco’s Cyclocross Playground. Storm damage to some of the old mature trees has meant there has to be some rerouting of the course, which makes this year’s course a little different from the previous three.

The first race I catch is the woman’s. The race kicks off and they speed away along the course. I wander along and take in some of the new changes. The major changes are two new off camber slopes to ride down and a new super steep run-up to contend with halfway through the lap.

There’s a huge field of racers in the woman’s 40-minute race and its good to see them race once again in their own category. Battles are fought hard from the front all the way to the back of the pack, and a wide range of smiles to grimaces for the camera tells a story of how the new challenges on the course are shaping every rider’s experience in this race.

The Old Guard and Young Guns are up next. As soon as the V50 get underway the rain starts to drop down that little bit harder. So I take this opportunity to ride about and try and keep warm. Once they have finished making the place all muddy its time for the V40 riders to congregate at the start line.

The outer layers are discarded into the bushes, we get the grided riders sorted and the rain comes down a bit harder as we fill in spaces behind the fast bikes.

Colin Chisholm turns his back and in the next 30 seconds, the whistle will indicate the start of the race getting us veterans underway on Callender park 2018.

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Breeeeeeep! Push off and slowly we begin to move.

I start on the right side of the course, the bright Orange top of Anthony Robinson is in my sights (I know he’s been training more than I so need to keep him as my target man). I hope to keep him there for a few laps and not let him creep too far out in front.

No major incidents during the fast and furious start as 105 riders jostle for space. We head up to one of the new parts of the course, have to run the new downward off-camber sections due to the volume of riders as the turn creates a bottleneck and the race comes to a grinding halt. Still quite bunched together all the way around the first lap but I don’t have any silly mistakes on lap one, so still roughly around the same position as when I started.

I ride the two new decent’s on the second lap as we start to thin out. I ride the middle ruts each time I am descending but it’s not the prettiest of downhill riding you will see, as I expected to hit the dirt each and every time I come down. And on the second lap, I did come off! The marshal was busy clearing barrier tape that a rider snagged on their way down. I take my eye off my line to see what he was trying to point out, this loss in concentration ended with my front wheel washing out and me sliding along on my knees. Once back in the saddle, I settle into a good pace and lap two is now complete.

From the start of lap three to the last lap, I have a great race! Gareth Edwards from Edinburgh Road Club was my race partner for the next three laps.

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We trade places all over the course, me scaling the run-up and catching him up just as we crest the top, to him overtaking as we ride up to the three stairs. Halfway through the 4th lap, I thought I was done as he rode away from me and created a decent gap. But ever so slowly I clawed back to his rear wheel and we traded places once again.

On the last lap, I thought I had the upper hand as we ride along to the run-up (crawl up) I was in front, this is where I could possibly gain some time and snap the elastic holding us together. I ride the downhill switchbacks (probably my best time of doing these in the race) at the bottom of the hill I tuck in low as I picked up speed and ride past the pits.

After the pits, I ride onto the small climb for the last time. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! The heavy breaths of Gareth as he rides past, not only that he had someone on his tail as well! Have to turn the pedals that little bit harder and try and get on their wheels. Turn left and point the bike down the off camber decent trying to close the small gap they have on me. No tumbles from me or them and I hit the tarmac and get my head down, try to get my sprint on as I see the timing van come into view.

Gareth finishes 6 seconds ahead and takes 68th, David Lewis sneaks in and takes 69th 2 seconds ahead of me and I finish in 48:57 minutes in 70th place.

That was a great race. A proper race just like F*@k Off Gary.

Sometimes cross races can get lonely at the back as you tick down the laps and time, but fighting it out lap after lap, even for 68th place is an amazing buzz.

The target has changed colour from Orange to Red! Red of Edinburgh and Gareth Edwards.

While the Open race battle the course, I head along and battle to get warm and jet hose the bike clean and prepare for the journey back home with a hot coffee from McDonald’s that washed down the post-race cheeseburger. A proper race feed!

Click for all the results.

See you at the National Trophy In Irvine.

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.