Sir Chris Hoy

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.

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Velodrome Nights!

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Glasgow welcomed the Commonwealth Games in 2014.  With this, it brought some new sporting facilities dotted around the city.  The Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome arose out the dirt in the East End of Glasgow making it the first indoor Velodrome in Scotland.  Three years after it opened its doors I now have the itch to see what riding the board would be like.

After hearing that Clare has booked in for her first level of accreditation (four levels to gain the right to call yourself a track rider) the itch gets bigger, and I decide that I should follow suit and book my slot and the days tick down till track day.

Level 1.

After the night race along the M8 and M74, I arrive just in time to sign my life away on the forms, get kitted out with bike and shoes and make my way to the back straight to meet my fellow novice track riders.  We seem to be a diverse bunch of folk. I feel a bit weird standing in my full lycra amongst the football shorts and baggy t-shirts.

We get the brief on the track layout along with the track etiquette for entering/exiting the track correctly and safely, and also talked through how the to be safe while riding around the boards.

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Looking Pro!

Once we have been informed of what’s to be expected of us in this session, it’s time to clip in and roll off (checking over your right-hand shoulder as we go).  We’re not allowed to enter onto the track for the moment, so we are told to ride around the Apron (the flat bit).  After being assessed that we can stay upright on the bikes, we are then told to move up onto the Cote d’Azur (blue boards) and ride a few more laps.  Soon we are slowed down and brought in for a drink and a debrief.

We mount our alloy steeds once again and prepare to ride off for the next part of the lesson.  The whole group seem to be doing well, no spectaculars when tackling the bends at faster speeds.  Some people’s fitness was on the lower end of the scale, but they used their heads and rolled off to recover when it was needed.  My hour was up, and we came to a slow stop then we all came off the track.   Good news came across after a quick chat with the coach, we all made it past level one.  Happy Days!

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Two days after me gaining level one I am now back inside Sir Chris Hoy once again.  Get my Dolan bike and a pair of shoes, I then head up to the inner circle and sort out my helmet while I wait.  I came armed with baby wipes to get rid of a season of Cyclocross mud splatter on it while I wait for the session to begin (was a bit embarrassed about the state of it on the last session).

I look about and it’s the same as the first session, a group of all mixed ages and abilities (no football tops this time around).  First off we are shouted up to the track and told to leave the bikes on the glass and gather up.  Very different feel to this session than the first, more strict and I think this puts a few people on the back foot slightly rather than make us feel at ease.  With this, we were quizzed on the etiquette of the track and what we remember about what we learned on accreditation level one, for some people who sat the course over a year ago weren’t confident in speaking up.

After the brief, we were allowed to saddle up and ride out for five minutes warm up on the track keeping on the Stayer’s line (blue line).  The guy in front of me tries to freewheel on the home straight, and I see his legs bounce about, he manages to recover, I don’t think he will ever do that again.  I move up and shout (outside) to let him know that I am overtaking.  After getting up to speed and staying high, I have to stay up for a while as there are some riders ahead that I am catching.  Shout “outside” as I get to them and move past.  This must look like I am a bloody show-off and bombing around the track like a dick.  Eventual I see a big gap and drop down to the Stayers line, and I finish the five minutes at a more sustainable pace.

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We are all brought back in and grabbed a drink.  We sit at track side and talk about pursuit changes and pursuit lines.  Where to change and what to do if we’re too fast/slow.  This is what we will be doing for the remainder of the session.  Eleven of us are split into two groups, I am in group number one.  We set off, building up speed as we go.  For this first series of changes, we are to stay on the Datum line (black line).  We reach the spot on the back straight, and rider one shoots up, letting me through.  My job is now to keep the speed even all the way to the next change point.  Get round to the back straight, I signal mirror and manoeuvre and peel out and up onto the bank.

This part is where shit gets real!  As I pull out and head up the steepest part of the track, you have to dig in hard and keep your speed high, or you are slipping down the boards and taking folk out.  I watch as the riders slowly come past, we are onto the straight, and there is still no back rider for me to slot in behind.  I have to ride the next bend out of the line and slowly apply pressure scrubbing some speed on the back straight (should have gone higher to make me ride further).  This drill goes on for a few more laps.  We all get hooked off the track along with group 2.

After a quick bollocking had been dished out to group 2, they are set off underway to complete some changes as they only managed a few lucky ones the first time around.  Us, on the other hand, are talking through that the pace was a little slow for changes but all in all we did alright.  We get released back out as a group, we are now told to do the same drill but stay up at the Stayer’s line.

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This is where our group fucked up!  Lead rider takes us off, and I am the second rider again. He asks where do we join onto the track?  Fuck mate that was level one!  Guide him on.  We are soon aiming for the Sprint line (red line).  We are far too slow to hit that line on the first bend, we should be on the black line, were my thoughts.  Somehow we manage to ride the curve at a slow speed with no incidents!  Now were aiming for the Stayer’s line.  WTF!  I try and say were too slow, but he can’t hear, and as we hit the bend, he pulls up to start a change.  Fuck Fuck Fuckity!  I say that were too early, trying to get him to stay down, but he doesn’t!  I’m now the lead rider, and the only thing I am thinking of is speed!  I have got to stay upright.  I aim down for the Sprint line and try to pick up the pace for me and riders behind.

CRASH, BOOM, SQUEAK comes the sound directly behind me.  The rider has slipped off the curve and has taken out the rider just behind me.  I glance behind and see the body’s slide down the track, time to slow up.  I shout to riders behind to slow down as wee need to come off the track asap.

After a few minutes of panic, the guys get them selfs up and return along the Apron to where we all wait. We fall in for a chat!  First thing is were asked how did that happen?  It happened due to lack of speed. Also, the coach hadn’t told the lead rider to start his change as he knew we were going to slow.  Fair play to the guy he held his hands up and said he thought we were to change on the first lap.  So it came down to rider fault and partly the group’s fault, due to us not alerting the leading rider we were not up to speed.  Yeah, I could have shouted louder, but they were also another four silent voices behind me!

After a few minutes, the two guys dust off their new burn tattoos, and we are set off to redeem ourselves.  This time we do three laps before we change.  I am the second rider again, and I seem to be the voice calling out the pace and trying to keep the lead rider going at a steady, we pick up speed each lap, and this time we feel more together.  The extra speed seems to help a lot.  My first change appears to better, as the speed keeps you stuck into the corner as you ride high and let the group come through underneath, get into the back of the line just as we come into the home straight.  It’s still a scary thought that you could slip and come down in a burning slide if you ease off around the corners.  After a few changes we are brought in, and we slow down.  Though maybe one lap early for the coach as he thought it was a bit of an emergency stop from the guy bringing the group to a halt.

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Now the session has ended we are back into the inner ring of the track, we are all told that we should return and resit this level.  It’s not a pass/fail course apparently it’s just we all didn’t meet the coaches standard at this stage.  I think that’s a fail in my book!  It’s a bit gutting, to be honest.  As I didn’t come as a group, I came as an Individual and though we were getting assessed individually.  I thought I rode alright and not sure what I have done wrong for the coach to say no.

I believe it was the crash that made their decision easier for them, but we also heard that the other group of five didn’t pass as well.  So a bad night all round for the 8 pm accreditation two folks.  Good for Glasgow Life though, as they get another eleven people paying for round two again.  I think that some people will be put off from resitting and won’t return.

I will go back, as I am stubborn and hate not passing things.  It would have been nice to find out what I did wrong so I can rectify it and pass the second part enabling me to book in for step three of the accreditation.

At first, I thought the accreditation was a load of bollocks, but after the two sessions, I think to ride the boards these courses are essential and has been a bit of an eye opener for me.

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Part Two of Velodrome Nights Coming Soon.