LoveCross

Education in Cyclocross 

13.11.16 Fife College, Dunfermline.

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It is the turn of Dunfermline Cycling Club to host round 4 of Scottish Cyclocross Series. A new course for me this time around as I didn’t ride their last race they held here.

On the drive through from Glasgow, it was a constant wall of fine rain. Today’s ground conditions will be soft and slippy think I need to let the air out the tyres for this one. (I aways have them too hard).

After signing on and sorting out my gear, I head up and catch the start of the V40 men’s race. It is a frantic start, Franco Porco getting to the first corner out in front. After the last rider rides passed I start to wander around the course to see what’s in store today.

Mud, mud, glorious mud!  Though I don’t see any glorious mud in Dunfermline. It all looks rather sticky and very deep. Everyone keeps telling me singlespeed will be good for this course. Me, not so sure?

Gary McCrae takes the win in the Vet 40 race followed by Stevie Jackson and then a great comeback race from Craig Hardie taking the third spot. The V40 race is now over, time to make my way to start line.

Just as we are getting gridded the rain starts. Great! Just what we needed! Get settled in amongst the rear of the pack again.

Whistle blasts and we’re off.

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It’s bloody chaos!  I try to remember green is good, brown is bad. I hug the left-hand side of the course as close to the tape as possible.  The brown stuff becomes even thicker now it’s time to get off and run.

Running through ankle deep mud along an off camber section while one arm is flailing about, trying to not let the mud suck your shoes off is a pretty hard task. I managed to drag my feet through it and get back on the bike for a slight downhill chicane. I noticed this became a huge bottleneck when watching the V40 race. I decide to jump off and leg it down the outside of everyone and make up around ten places.  Result!

I don’t bother remounting the bike as just around the corner are two massive hurdles. Jump over these then it’s back onto the bike for a good downhill section, sucking in some much-needed oxygen.

Next part of the course was single-track through the trees. One nice little bomb hole to deal with, then you came to “Jump for Trump”.  Great efforts by the Marshalls encouraging people to catch some air. I bottled it every time!  I would end up in the bushes with a broken bike if I attempted it, so wheels stayed firmly on the ground every lap.

A few more soft zig-zag areas came next. I could ride these well if I got the power down, but once the mud got too deep, I would grind to a halt. Back off and running again.

Swing off the grass and onto some welcome tarmac. Blast up the home straight and over the line, my first lap complete. After the tarmac had run out, it was off the bike and assault the run-up.

Swing the leg off, dismount the bike. Attack the hill with small steps, so I don’t slip on my arse and have the bike land on me or bounce down the hill in a heap. After cresting the hill, I run the next long grass section. I don’t think I would have the power or momentum to keep me driving through the mud if I tried to ride this part.

All my hill running should be paying off today, I am keeping pace with folks with fancy gears (probably their biggest gear) that are still riding through the sludge. Get to the hard stone start area and its back on the bike and power down to ride as much distance to the off camber as I can.

This top grass section is my hardest part of the race, I was glad to get back on the bike and ride the rest of the course. After each lap I dreaded the run-up, I knew I was in for a long slog pushing the bike. After 5 laps and the bike being caked in mud, I nipped into the pits and brought out my clean bike.

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Big mistake, this bike weighs considerably more it also has a smaller gear on it. My next two laps just became even harder. This shows in my results by an extra minute added to each lap.

With me slowing in the last few laps it means I got caught by a group of riders, some are lapping me, some are taking my position. I have nothing in the tank to chase down, so last few corners suck! I felt I had flung away some good positions.

All in all, I finished in 69th place from 96 riders. Harry Johnston made it 100% win rate so far taking the win. Gary Mcdonald stepping up to his usual step on second spot and last podium place goes to David Duggan with third place.

Bikes were manky, I was manky but I loved that course, and it did suit a single speed.

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 Next up is Irvine and it’s Sand Dunes of Doom!

Huge thanks to all the Organisers and the Marshalls for putting on this round of the series.

Also thanks to Anthony and Michael and the rest of the photography crew for helping bring the memories of pain and tears through the medium of images.

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Happy HalloX

Cross has been a struggle.

With me having a slow start to the training regime, my results have been terrible in the few early cross races. I feel that It’s a game of catch up with everyone now, but my main goal is just to be able to last the hour of racing.

When I saw HalloX on the calendar it was something I really wanted to be part of. Main reason was it would be taking part at night. A totally new experience for me to race in the dark. Then fancy dress costumes were to be the attire for the night. I thought of aero gains and went for a Morph Suit.

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Get signed on, get my bike and I sorted out my lights. I have a head torch for lighting up my line of sight and main flood light on bars to guide me through the course. Leaving the car park you get glimpses of riders on the course, lines of little lights in the distance. Music is pumping and flood lights are showing off some remarkable costumes.

Meet up with Kevin Pugh and we take ET for a spin around the course, wonder if they two will fly over the barriers later. It’s a bit mental trying to figure out who you are talking to.

A. Due to the dark and being blinded by their head torch.

B. Can’t recognise them due to their costume.

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We are all like moths, follow the light in front of us along to the start line. All the miserable bastards that didn’t dress up are weeded out and moved to the back. Everyone is eyeing the person in front to see if the made the effort or if they could be part of the cull going on. I’m next to a BMX rider with ET in his basket and behind a Bee and a Sheep. We’re good.

Lights are on full, Garmen is set, Just waiting on the siren to mark the start of the evening’s race. RrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaahhhhrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrRRRR (something like that) We are off, and what a sight it must be to the spectators. It’s mental!  I keep up with the Bee and Sheep, lose ET at first bend then get passed by some zombies and other creatures. I struggle to get past some inflatable wings at the single track on the first wood section. The woods had a hidden surprise, the kids were here hiding and jumping up screaming scaring the riders that got too close.

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 There was a last minute change to the course layout with the discovery of a badger sett in the woods. Well done to the organisers for rerouting the course and keeping a good flow to the course.

There would be three main talking points on the course. First is the first set of barriers, they were pretty high. Glad I have long limbs and could still take them at a decent speed. Next was the zig zags just after the finishing lap, some uphill and downhill ramps then the double barriers onto a small run up.

This took you along to another super technical area. Tight bend taking you onto a short off camber section, cut back on yourself at the bottom then came Carnage corner. Uphill left-hand bend that then spat you out onto a long off camber section. This was the hardest part of the course due to the morning and afternoon rain making it soft and slippy. This part of the course was taking riders out for fun. The pressure was on to ride it as the crowd had gathered here and  the atmosphere was great if you made it a cheer went up, but if you took a tumble the crowd went OOOOOH!

I managed to ride it a couple of time before the hill eventually fought back and took me out the race. I rode the corner and was on the high line, then front wheel slipped out and I went down like a sack of potatoes. My right-hand shifter took the brunt of the hit along with a good impact on my lid. I didn’t realise my race was over until I got up and ran to the next section and noticed shifter was in two parts and totally destroyed.

Ah baws, another repair bill. I now become a spectator at Carnage corner.

My first night ride and I loved it. The course at Nether Pollok was a belter, no super big hills to kill you, but the open grass areas were soft and sucked the wheels down and you had to use a fair amount of energy to power through. I loved the barriers and Carnage corner was always a good challenge on every lap.

Look forward to HalloX 2017 now.

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Thanks to Jay Golian for letting his images be stolen and used in this post.

Eilean Bhòid *

 The Isle Of Bute    17.9.16

The time of today’s race is at 5:30pm, no mad panic to get up and ready and in the car for silly O’Clock.  I head for Wymess Bay and get the 2pm Ferry over to Rothesay, the main town on Bute.  Disembark the Ferry with a few more Cross racers and we make our way up to the sign on area.

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This weekend there will be a high number of cyclists on the Isle due to the Rothesay Weekend Of Cycling.  Saturday will see a Hill Climb up the Serpentine, a Two Up TT race then our Cyclocross Race in the evening.  Then on Sunday there shall be the Road Race.

Once the sign on is open, Kevin Pugh and I go for a little bash up the Serpentine Climb, think there is around 15 bends in total.  We get to number 10 to stop for some pictures and also a good excuse not to tackle the last few bends.  Think I shall bring the road bike over one day and explore the last 5 bends then more of the Isle.

After a few warm-up laps of the Cross course, we are told to make our way down to the Castle near the harbour.  In the car park, we are told the race rules and duration of the race. The field is then gridded on the High Street, the rest of us slow folk file into the back. The race will not start until we get into King Georges Playing Fields.

During my last race, I heard my bike making some terrible crunching noises.  During the warm up laps, the noise returned, along with the gears not engaging properly.

To my horror, the gears do not engage when we are counted down and we are off following the Police and Lead car.  I can’t even get a good start under a neutralised start!  I push off and bingo the gears click in and I managed to get some drive to my rear wheel.

We’re riding up the High Street and receiving lots of support from the locals and riders from earlier in the day.  We get to the gates of the park and cars pull left and he hit the gravel and swing right.  THE RACE IS ON!

The first obstacle was the deep gravel, I thought this would take a few people out, but we all managed to ride it without incident. I make a few places up before we are snaking in a long line through the tree slaloms, out in the open I try and improve positions along the red blaze of an old football pitch.  On to the grass again and major obstacle coming up.  The run-up!

I made up a load of places slipping and sliding up the mud hill, back on the bike along a narrow nature trail path, then there was a line of riders slowing to do the little drop down into the woods, I decide to jump off the bike and squeeze past Anthony Aka Tony The Tiger. Take a few more places running to woods and hopping the two fallen logs then run the final incline back onto the path.

The next part of the course will be mostly on flattened grass and a few more leg sapping thick gravel patches. Then it’s out along the side the football pitch, quite a narrow path so no chance to move up, have to wait to dismount the bike and run the few steps up onto the flat grass.  Down to the noisy crowd on the wall (Stirling Bike Club) then turn 180 and its a long drag up to the line.  Cross for one lap.

I can feel the gears grinding every time I put the power down. Also some non-engagement at times too.  I still head in the right direction of the leaderboard, improving once again on the run-up and also running most of the wooded section again.

Once I get back to the football pitch and run the steps, my bike has had enough and gives up on the race. I am spinning the cranks and there is just nothing going to the rear wheel. Freehub has failed. The crowd on the wall shout for me to run, it’s a pointless task as I have no spare bike or wheel to get me back into the race.  They’re happy to shout I am welcome to join in a beer and watch the remainder of the race.  Great Offer!

I do the walk of shame for the last 100m then I cross the line to complete lap 2.  Hand in my chip and its game over for me!

A mechanical so early on was a gutter, I was feeling better than Balloch and liked the course. Think I would have had the legs to keep picking folk off all race. Not to be!

I watch the race unfold amongst the large crowd and great atmosphere,  Gary MacDonald comes home as the first rider.  Well done Sir. A few sprint finishes are on the cards due to the long finishing straight and its good to see people fight all the way to the line.

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After the race, have a good chat with riders, everyone I spoke with hated but loved the course.  Cross does that to you.  Well done to the course designers and riders who asked for a change in the course due to one part being slightly dodgy, it got handled and rerouted without a problem.

Now gather the gear and a freewheel on the bike along to the Harbor before the Dark settles and last Ferry departs.

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Thanks to MT Photography Bute for the use of some great images.

Roll on 2017 as Bute I have unfinished business.

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* Isle of Bute (Scottish Gaelic: Eilean Bhòid or An t-Eilean Bhòdach)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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