Stirling Bike Club

The Cali Cartel

1.10.2017 Callander Park, Falkirk.

Round 1 of the Lapierre Scottish Cyclocross Series.

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Cyclocross is a drug that you can’t ride away from. The Cali Park Cartel know this and have taken full advantage of the cross dry up, a surge of riders needing their fix hit the admission button and numbers of 686-690-700+ were being mentioned as signing up to get the mud back into their veins.

The Godfathers of Cali Park (Davie & Franco) and the Cartel have been at work into the small hours to put on Season 6 of Cyclocross Narcos at Cali Park. They are only a small crew but they know how to deliver the product.

It’s my third Season, and there have been some changes made to the already fantastic course. The weather is going to be a major factor today. The rain machine has been on all morning and not letting up on the drive through from Glasgow. With my race last on the cards, things are going to be a bit muddy!

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Sign on, and I slip the brown envelope I received from the Cartel into my inside pocket, wander over to watch a few of the V40 slip and slide around the course. Once the V40s have finished tearing up the course, and I have deflated my tyres by an immeasurable amount it’s time to get drug hit and have a practice lap.

2:30pm and it’s race time.

Roll past the new multicoloured bike starting grid, lots of new bike bling on display, find a spot behind the multicoloured Albannchians and settle in for a long race brief. Some of the V40 boys go past with a smug smile, knowing what we are in for.

The bang of the gun goes, and we’re away. Well, the front of the bunch is away, a few seconds later I push off to start my race. Not that long down the starting tarmac, I start to spin out of gear, losing a few places with my lack of top-end speed.

Tight right turn and onto the grass, now to try and catch those bikes with gears again. The pack is still very bunched together, so space is at a premium as we line up for the first uphill gradient and into the left turn. Go through the turn with everyone still riding their bikes. Downhill and turn right onto the mud fest as we ride parallel to the MyLaps timing van up on the grass verge. It’s super hard to keep a constant line, bike slips and slides as I try to keep the pedals turning. Manage to pass a few folk as I slog through the mud and try to stay upright. This is where the singlespeed comes in handy, you just have to power through it, no option for a granny gear to sit and spin. A 180° turn at the top, ride down the grand entrance driveway to Callander House. Though today its a mix of mud soup, potholes and puddles. Pass the timing van with Jammie rocking the mic.

The first new change in the course design came next. We used to ride up big tree hill, go around the tree, then shoot down and back along the flat. This time we went around the tree hill by a very narrow and mushy back path, into some tight switchbacks under the pine trees. Shootout from the under the canopy and back onto familiar racing lines. Things were still tight in the bunch, I took to running these bends and got a face full of foliage for my troubles as the rider in front let it spring back, to be fair I think I did the same as I heard a yep as I cleared the leaves from my eyes.

Ride uphill on the soft grass to do a 180° turn around another tree, took this at speed as it helped with momentum to reach the top. I also took a few scalps as I went. They were soon lost as we dismounted and ran the steps. Back on the bike and trying to find some grip to keep me in touch with the mid-pack racers. This part of the park was probably the least saturated with the rain. I think the tree canopy and the hills helped drain the water away, giving my legs a slight break from all the heavy pedal strokes.

My first off of the day comes as I line up for muddy hill section. I did manage to ride it in practice, so being a smart arse, I try again. A rider in front of me comes to a halt halfway up, a rear wheel slip and he was off his bike, which in turn makes me reroute my line, my back wheel doesn’t grip, and I was off and into a tangled mess. Right myself and get running to the woods, a quick remount, ride the ruts and roots then get ready to point the bike downwards, into my second off of the day.

This one was my own fault, I grab my brakes and the rear locks up, sending me into a slide. The bike soon spits me off and into a beautiful 360° pirouette on my right arse cheek. Luckily my bike follows me down, its back on the steed and dodge the kerbs, later on, these will take some riders and their bikes out of the race.

Follow the thinning pack as we head over to another slight change in the course design. I see a lot of riders dismount and start to run the new feature. Being a smart arse again I keep riding, as I hit the treeline my front wheel slips, and I’m on my knees, my third off in one lap, jeezuz! Pick the bike up and tiptoe around the mud pack at the base of the tree. Back in the saddle and slog up and over the crest of the hill, taking me under the branches of the trees and into slippy hell once again. I dismount and run downhill past the growing crowd that cheered if you rode the downhill left-hander and cheered even louder if you hit the deck.

Next to tackle was the practically vertical climb, this took you to the top of the downhill switchbacks. My best option now is to run the hill as there wasn’t chance in hell I would manage to ride the whole lot. Ride the switchbacks without any incident, for the first time in ages. Ride past the pits, then onto the grass where we all kicked off about 7 minutes ago for the lead riders, probably about 10-11 minutes for my slow pace. I remember looking at my watch just after running the steps. Fifteen minutes in I shows. I am still mid-pack but slowing down considerably. My lack of bike riding is taking its toll.

Still plodding around the course, I haven’t fallen again and seem to have got to grips with the course, going well on the grassy uphill sections, some decent speed and grip are helping me to pull riders back. I’m loosing too much time on the vertical hill and the long drag up the grass verge of the driveway. Past by the timing van, I see four laps remaining. Yaaaas as that means three for me, I am sure the lead rider will go past me again which he does. I know I can finish this race now, as long as my bike holds up in the mud.

I have a spare bike in the pit area, but the thought of cleaning two bikes covered in this sticky mud is a huge put-off.

Where I can, I stop to remove the mud build up. Lose more time by doing this, but It hopefully means the bike won’t break. A small battle between me and two other riders is on. They pull away on the flatter parts, but I manage to claw them back on the hills, only for them to get in front and make me chase again.

The two other riders and I swap places all the way into the last lap, where I eventually can’t keep up on the vertical climb, they soon spin-off into the dirty distance and I’m left walking to the top. Now to ride the grass hill past the rowdy HTCC crew for the last time and slog up the drive. I look over my shoulder and see a pack of riders coming, they could be lapping me, but the race brain engages, muster some energy to head for a very dirty finishing line without any of them catching me.

I’m finished. Covered head to toe in mud, mud in my teeth and my bike has put on about 10kg in weight. I am knackered, but I still have a stupid grin spanning my entire face. The drug of the mud has taken over and I’m hooked once again.

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Huge thanks to The Godfathers of Cali Franco Porco and Davie Lines and their small band of Cartel members. You have put on another superb race course.

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Cali Cartel you certainly know how to dish out the Cyclocross drugs.

Thanks to George Stewart, Karly Millar and Pam La’Craig for use of the excellent images.
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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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The High Noon Show Doon.

3rd Quarter of Quaich.

5.2.17 Thistly Cross, Dunbar.

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Super Quaich Series moves onto round Trois, with Haddington CC being the party planners at Foxlake adventure.

Set off early and drive from the West coast over to the East coast.  To keep myself entertained, I try to match the bike to the rider as I pass cars with bikes on the roof and bike racks heading the same direction as me.  Directions are well laid out and I am guided to my parking bay by the yellow jackets.  Time to get the blood back to my lower limbs and go and sign on.

Riding the pit bike down I notice that the access road is very rocky, potentially a puncture before I even get to the start line.  Dispose of the bike and now it’s time for my warm up, a jog back to the car in my heavy hiking boots.  A quick bite to eat while I’m changing and I’m ready for Thistly Cross.

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Gather with the rest of the riders and wait to be set loose around the lake.  I didn’t manage a warm up lap so shall be riding this one carefully on the first lap.  Can’t believe I have a race plan.  My last race went well by riding on more of an even pace, rather than having two hot laps then dying on my arse and hanging on for the last 30 minutes.  Clipped in and sitting around mid-pack for the start.  The whistle is blasted, and we are under way!

A little drag up hill spreads us out a bit, rise to the top and then we shoot down and behind the café and pits.  Off the stone path and onto soft grass along the side of the lake.  Once at the end of Lake it’s time to navigate the wide mushy zigzags then it’s into the lower woods where the going goes up.  Ride the incline well, taking over a few riders as I go.  Once at the top, we get into a bottleneck as there is a tight turn to the left over a log.  Jump off the bike and squeeze through the pack, point the bike downhill and back in the saddle.  Still in the woods, we ride a great narrow single track path that takes you out onto another quick climb past the sign on Barn.

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Climb complete, we are into the woods and more single track.  I am following wheels at this point, still not sure what’s coming next on the course.  A brace of hurdles/barriers come next.  Off the bike run, hop, run, hop and back on the bike.  I don’t have the confidence to bunny hop the barriers so I just stick to running every lap.  A great flowing section around the trees kicks you back up and over the access road,  aim your wheel downhill and gather speed before a left turn and more squiggles at the edge of the tree line that tee’s you up for a steep banking and out into the main arena.  I dismount and run the wee bugger as I don’t want to look a fool in front of the cameras when I deck it if I tried to ride it.

Remount, still following wheels as we come around to where it all began.  This time we take a turn at the top of the small stone slope.  Off the bike, jump the barrier and we are running diagonally uphill and onto the switchbacks.  Ride all but one, the first one is just a bit steep for me and my gearing so running is the more efficient way to go.  Back in the saddle and few more bends takes me over the line and past Mylaps timing van and onto lap two.

Now I have had one lap under my belt, feeling more relaxed I start to move up and take places on all the features of the course.  Hills are my strong point today, as most people stick it in their granny gear when the course goes up.  Only having one gear with 18 teeth, I have to get the power down and keep the pace high, giving me more momentum to catch riders in front.  I’m enjoying this race, so much so next time I ride past the timing van I see two laps to go (where did the time go).  Squeeze a gel to death trying to get some taste back in my mouth.  Head down, pedal hard and time to catch some riders.  Have another good lap and gain places, I ride over the line and take the lap bell.

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By the time I hit the hurdles for the last time I have just caught Katie Carmichael and Tony Jones.  I take the lead as we descend into the woods.  I try and push the pace weaving through the trees back up to the gravel path.  Down the fast slope to the bomb hole and steep banking.  I jump off the bike, I can hear someone very close behind me.  Quickly back on the bike, I’ve got to try and make a gap on the small hill up to the barrier.  Hop the barrier and run the hill, back on the bike, down the grassy slope, taking a quick turn. (At this point the pressure of a chasing rider takes its toll).  I make a mess of the dismount and end up on the wrong side of the bike.  Running while juggling the bike trying to correct my position isn’t the best combination and I nearly fall.

I peek around and Tony is still on my tail.  Get to the right side of the bike for my remount, we are neck and neck.  I take a bad line and now riding the soft grass/mud.  Tony is powering through on a better line.  I have to jump off and run as I am grinding to a halt.  He gets to the corner ahead of me and powers on and over the line.  I remount and ride in just behind him.  That’s two races in a row I have had a battle to the line!  This time it was for 20th which I lost, rolling over the line to take 21st from 114 riders.  Super Quaich you have done it again.  A and race layout has given so much competition right through the field and I am sure the racers are all enjoying it.

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Huge thanks to Eric Easton, Colin Sergeant and the band of course builders from Haddington CC for putting on the race at Foxlake.  This course was amazing, I think it has become my favourite course on the calendar.

Last Quarter of Quaich is at Dig In At The Dock, Bo’ness.  The B race is going to be the toughest one yet with a few A riders dropping down, as the A race is being packed with stars from the CX world.  The A race will be a spectacle to watch.  The flying Gary McDonald taking on international cyclocross racers like Helen Wyman, Amira Mellor, Jeremy Durrin and Thomas Mein and will be interesting to see if the young pups Sean Flynn, Harry Johnston and Cameron Mason will catch the G machine.

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Last race of the 2016/17 calendar should be a cracker so get along and ring a cowbell or two.

Double Army Down to Doonbank. 

2nd Quarter Of Quaich. 

22.1.17 Rozelle Park, Ayr.

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A trip to Rabbie Burns neck of the woods today, Ayr Burners are hosting the second round of the Super Quaich Series.

Today I am joined by Clare Campbell racing in the B race.  I missed this race last year with being away topping up on Vitamin D in the sun, so I’m looking forward to getting to grips with the course and see what’s on offer fo an hour of pain in the park.  We go get our timing chips and numbers, while on the way we suck in the smell of freshly cooked pizza.  Pretty sure I will return after the race to sample what’s on offer.  Back to the car and we get on with getting set up for race day and Clare’s second Cyclocross race.

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A slow wander up makes us a late to get to the start line, have to head to the rear of the already assembled group.  There are 91 riders today, we exchange some banter while the other riders fall in behind us.  My nerves build with each second ticking on the clock, as we wait for the start of the race.  The nervous chatter dies down as we are told we will be let loose in 30 seconds.  Quickly tell Clare to get foot clipped in, while I battle with my cleat and pedal combo (some mentor me, can’t even clip in).

Before we know it the front is off and moving, it trickles down to us and it’s our turn to push off and get racing.  Today I shall try something a bit different from other races.  I am going to take it steady from the gun and try not to be blowing out my hoop after the first 100 meters.  It’s hard not to go and attack every bit of space I see and by following wheels it does mean I catch a lot of mud to the eyes (glasses would have been good).  We have a nice big bit of solid tarmac to start us off, this gets us up to speed before we hit the grass and off cambers to come.

Ride down to the first obstacle, a bottleneck happens as we are squeezed through a small gap in the hedgerow.  Off the bike and scurry through.  Hoist the bike up onto the shoulder and set off running uphill.  After making it to the top I am glad to see some downhill taking me around to another run-up.  This one being slightly steeper, I will definitely have to run this one every lap.  Doing well for positions as I still take it easy, feel good as I crest the climb.

Swing past the pits with a group of riders, a nice looping bend means I get to suck in some much-needed oxygen.  Next up is the triple steps, dismount the bike and with some big strides, you are at the top.  Do your best flying remount in front of the ever growing crowd and back to the business of peddling.  A small decent, 180 degrees turn to the right, you are out the saddle riding back up the gradient.  Hang a left and recover while you take the long bend and lines you up for the small wooded section.  Nice quick downhill through the avenue of trees is next. It gives your legs a quick rest before you hit a short mound to ride up, taking you out the canopy of trees onto the ever softening grass.

I am starting to find a good rhythm to my racing.  I peddle past Gordan Dalglish of HTCC (hope I make it on to HTCC TV ).  Next to tick off the list of must-haves on a cross course are the barriers.  Dismount and hop, run, hop and keep on running to find some firm ground for me and my one gear to get going again.  Back on the bike and we are into the woods again.  Ride up the start area and past MYlaps timing van engulfing the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and pizza.  A sharp turn and your weaving your way through the trees (like riding a speeder bike in Return of the Jedi, awesome part of the course).

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Out from the trees and around the off camber, trying not to get sucked into the black scrim that seemed to act as magnet for my bike.  Fast ride through soft mushy grass and now the hedgerow was congestion free.  Ride through the gap, now to try and ride as much of the incline as possible.  Halfway up it became apparent I would be quicker to get off and run.  I seemed to be riding this course well and singlespeed appeared to be well suited to this course.  Still keeping it calm and not feeling like death fifteen minutes in seems to be a good way to race.

After the third lap, the bike was clogging up with mud.  So with a shout to Victoria (my new pit crew) “You need to clean my bike” with a reply “Aye fuck off, you can clean it at home”.  I suddenly shout “No I need you to clean the shit off the wheels and cranks” as I dump my bike, strip off arm warmers, then take my spare bike.

At the bottom of the woods, I see Clare.  I am about to shout and give her some encouragement as I go by but she pulls off just as I get to her.  She looks fine and it’s not until the next lap she tells me her rear mech hanger has snapped. (well it was more like, “bikes fucked” as I go past)  Get to pits and Victoria is waiting with my bike, a quick change and I’m back racing again.  A great job was done for not knowing or having anything to clean it with apart from my gloves and arm warmers.  Though I did notice on the next few laps and one more bike change she was nowhere to be seen.

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Take the last lap bell and now I have to get a shifty on.  Got to try and make up some lost ground with my slow pit changes.  In am in a little battle with a Glasgow Green rider and just ahead is Russell Mowat from Walkers Cycling.  We hit the barriers neck and neck.  Russell gets back on the bike while I have to run a few meters as can’t ride the soft bit straight after the barriers.  He stretches the gap as we enter into the trees.  I give it my all as we both sprint along the tarmac with the finishing line rapidly closing in.  Russell gets over in 16th place and I take 17th.  Not too shabby from where I started.  Maybe just maybe there is something in this new structured approach to racing.  A little part of me does wonder if I could have finished slightly higher up if we got to the start line slightly earlier and we got a space at the front.

Feel a bit gutted for Clare, having been there and had this happen, it sucks big time!  She was not alone in the broken bike finishers as it seemed Rozelle Park had a taste for rear mech hangers that day.  The main thing is she rolled up to the line to race and gave it her all.  It’s all experience in the bag and will just make her want to come back and avenge the park that killed her bike.

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Huge thanks to JP Baxter and the Burners team for hosting this race, from what I heard the changes to this course were well received and made the course more flowing.

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3rd Quarter is at Foxlake on the 5th of February.

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Gangs Of Cyclocross

Callender Park, Falkirk, Scotland, 9th October 2016.

Round 1 of the Scottish Cyclocross Series.callender-park-1

The gangs assemble at another park in Scotland, readying themselves for terrible battles that lie ahead. Cuts, bruises and dramatic falls are to come in the next few months of an ever growing gang population. 600 people assemble today to battle it out to be crowned the first winner of their fight, taking the bragging rights to the next park.

As I make my way to the sign on tent, register myself and represent my team in this first pitch battle, I see a lot of gangs have congregated under their banners, staking out their little patch of turf as their stronghold for the day.

Walkers are next to RCCK who are eyeing up Leslie Bikers Boutique. Pedal Power seems to be jammed in between the two. On the fringes, Ayr Burners are looking thin on numbers with people switching alliances on the day. Albannach always seem to multiply in numbers at every park, HTCC  swarm about looking for an opportunity to make their colours noticed. After this, you have the unattached fighters, eyeing up the influential groups deciding who’s colours they might wear for the rest of the battles to come.

I head back to the car and get my fighting gear ready and tooled up with all I need to survive in an all out battle for an hour. Then it is down to the battlefield and to the line drawn in the dirt. The big hitters are all at the front of the bunch, whilst we wannabes are content for spots at the back of the pack. The nerves begin to build, eyeball the surrounding people looking for any weakness, find none!  Rules are being laid out, some people ignore them as they are too focused on the mayhem that is about to come down on them, get ready for the call for action.

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30 seconds and we will be let loose! I get my foot clipped in, other is firmly planted, ready to drive off. Eyes focused on the person in front of me, body weight leaning forward and ready for the charge ahead.

BANG! We are off! I drive off with my foot and keep my eyes on the guy in front, whilst scanning my periphery for the dangers coming at me from both sides. I see a space and move left into a bit of clean air and now I have control of my battle. Get onto the grass on the outside taking some places and look ahead for the next bend. Manage to get into a decent gap which allows for me to take the racing line around the bend. Still in the middle of the crowd by the time we ride the gravel path taking me past the timing van. Next to tackle is the Big Tree Bend. Keep left on this as looked the smoothest way up, it also gave to a good line around the roots at the top.

Descend the hill and now it is time to hustle up along to the stairs, good little drag from the Big Tree Bend to the stairs.  Grippy grass enabling you to get the speed up, seem to be gaining and closing gaps with each stroke of the pedals. Dismount the bike, run up the steps, then with a flying leap I remount back on to the bike, taking a couple of spaces as I go.

A few more ridable areas taking you up to a short sharp incline, apply the power and you were up and over, taking you under the canopy of some large trees. Then came the great downhill speed section, miss the kerbs at the bottom of the hill and you are then zipping up to the hard part of the course. Long grassy uphill section that was slightly slippery due to the morning dew and the other 500 riders being on the course before us.

A dashing decent through the little wood section taking you down to a big swooping lefthander, pinging you out at the foot of another climb sucking all the speed out of your legs. Next part was so much better than 2015.  Organisers had still kept the switchbacks but this year they were lengthened, making them much more rideable but still keeping a degree of technicality about them.

Come off the bends and you are past the pits, heading past the main crowd arena. There was an amazing amount of support today, as the dry conditions made this race more pleasable to watch. Two more bends and then it was the drag up the grass take an 180-degree turn and shoot back down the gravel and take a lap.

All was going well, kept moving up the field and felt good. Then disaster, I hit the kerb on the downhill section.  My rear tyre was a little underinflated before the race so with the bang it pinches and now inner is punctured. Gutter!

Race over? No way! I came to Falkirk for a fight, and fight I shall do! Off and running to the pits (jogging)(very slowly) I came with a pit bike. My new single speed cross bike would be getting its maiden voyage. I had to run roughly half a lap and survive. I took an age to get to the pits, I was burst! Big thanks to Harry McGarvie for taking care of my bike while it got to the end of the pits and mounted my second bike of the day.

OMG! How hard did the remainder of the race become? With the gears, you can slightly get a rest on some parts of this course. With the SS it was a battle all the was around. But battle I did, I was super happy with my next lap as I managed to ride the whole course, well except the steps. I wasn’t in this fight for a position now, it was just survival mode, trying to make it to the end of the hours racing. When I received the bell indicating that I was on my last lap the goal now was to ride the whole course and not have to run any hills.

callender-park-me

When that last drag up the hill to the switchbacks conquered I knew I had achieved my goal. Try and pick up the pace want to get this over with but also try to take a lap back from some riders that passed me. Hit the last 180-degree turn and with the line in sight I pick it up again and take the flag. I take 84th place, rather disappointing.

Job done! Seems like I have to do things the hard way the past few races. So I am grateful I managed to get a good hours worth of training in and also knowing I can race a single speed if need be.

A huge effort has been put in with Davie Lines and Franco Porco to create a great course in a great park for a great cyclocross community.

lords-of-the-big-hoose

Thanks, guys and also to all the helper’s marshalls and to all that stayed to cheer on the racers.

Next up for me is Halloween Dressup time at HalloX.people2

Thanks to the photography skills and images in this post from Michael Martin, The Pressoom and Anthony Robson.

 

 

Oh,Crit! What have I done?

Crit On The Campus 2016

This is my third trip to Stirling Univerity Campus.  The first one 2014 to see what a Crit race was, gauging if I was fit enough and how fast I had to become.  The second 2015 was me thinking I was healthy and fast enough. Turns out I wasn’t! I got pulled out before the five sprint laps finishing in 39th place.  2016 will I do better? We shall see.

off to battle

Today’s course is going to be fast if my failing memory serves me correctly.  Not overly technical and possibly only one or two tight corners.  The first of these will be the mass start, sprinting to the top of the hill taking the left-hander.  Due to the volume of riders think this could be a problem on the first lap or if I am in the bunch.  The other corner is last bend taking you onto the start/finish line.  A tight left after the fast sweeping S-bend, the weather conditions will play their part as the rain is coming down in a fine mist making the course a little slippy in places.

After a few laps of the warm-up course we are called to the start line.

Roll up to the start, always end up at the back or mid pack.  Set the Garmin on to record, one ear listing to the Commissars briefing, the other listing into some bits of advice being passed from races who have just competed in the first Cat 4 race.  Bikes get a quick check over, few Ass Savers are removed, and we are ready to race!

A quick blast of the whistle and we are off!  Get moving only to find my foot doesn’t want to clip in.  AAAAaarrrhh!  Just get on with taking a few places as others struggle with cleats and pedals not wanting to mate together.  Hit the corner, all is good no crashes and no fighting.  Picking up speed past the pits and finally get my foot connected to the pedal, so time to move.

course

As you can see from the map, this course is kind of split in two.  The backend of the course has a few speed bumps to contend with, once those are taken care of the fast section of the race is on the side taking you past the ponds and round towards the finishing area.

I deal with the speed bumps (keep all my fillings too).  The bumps just interrupt with your rhythm on the bike I find so glad to get past them.  Next up is a quick left setting you up for the sweeping downhill left.  Hit the breaks scrub some speed and follow the riders in front. I love this section, it means you can get the speed up and get that beautiful sound from your rims.  I do the totally wrong thing, pop out from drafting the rider in front.  Trying to push on and catch the riders in front.  I say wrong thing as I should actually have saved my energy for later and stayed tucked in out the wind letting the guy on the front do the work.  That’s not me, though, need to become a smarter racer.

A quick blast through the S-bend and hold the speed into the last corner.  Take the bend with no dramas, now onto an uphill sprint to cross the line for lap number 1.  It turns out only 14 more to go!

The main bunch of guys are heading out of view, my only hope is that the little group that I am in starts working together and can pick some other folk up as the laps tick by.  This seems to be what happens, and we are doing alright.  I miss the gap on the back end of the course on about lap 6-7, and I am off the group.  In hindsight, I should have buried myself and got back on, for two minutes of hard effort it would have saved me 8-9 more laps of riding solo and struggling.  Just don’t have the fitness as not been riding much this year.

Once I got dropped, things get hard.  I had one goal for this race.  Finish it!  Head down and keep legs turning.  I have a glance behind, and it’s clear, will I make the sprint laps before I get lapped?  Half of me wants to, so I don’t have to go on.  The inner racer deep down inside wants to keep fighting to the end.

Lap board goes out the next time I go past the line. 5 to go!  I make it before the bunch get me, they eventually pick me off with 3 laps to go.  Let them roll through and don’t jump on the end of the pack.  Still not sure if hanging on to the bunch when they go past is the correct etiquette?

With two laps to go the bunch is still in sight, there is a tangle of riders, and two guys go down.  On the last lap, I see that the guy who crashed is in a bad way.  Some cuts to the face, I am sure there will be more cuts on the limbs too. (turns out 27 stitches 22 of them to the face, broken nose and suspect broken cheek bone) Speedy recovery mate.

Final swoop around the S-bends and round last corner to sprint for the line.

All in all, I had a pretty much uneventful race.  That sounds boring, but it was anything but! In the Crit, you are always looking for more speed.  With the extra space of me riding half the race all alone, you can really get to grips with the course.  Not scrubbing so much speed on the corners, finding the little groove of the course.  Even on some corners not even touching your breaks as you know how fast you can take it.  In one way you are racing yourself lap by lap.

Results

After a long, long wait, the results are finally uploaded.  With my stubbornness, I manage to finish 31st.  Not the best placing but I achieved my goal and finished the race.(last year was 39th)

A Massive effort by Stirling Bike Club for putting on a great day of racing.  From the young kids at 8:30 am all the way through to the big boys at 2:10 pm.  A very long day for club members and volunteers marshalling the course.

A huge thanks to all involved, see you at Crit Under The Castle.

 

flickr

All images were of E123 race, click to see more.

 

mylaps

Results are in.