Track Cycling

RGCX V

Sunday 20th January, Roukenglen Park, Glasgow.

The Annual visit to the Coliseum of Cross and the last race of the Super Quaich Series and my last race of the 2018/19 season.

Head past the duck pond and wander my way past the waterfall following many of the pink arrows leading the way to the Unicross Headquarters. Number 181 and my fifth time of racing RGCX. The course is soon opened for warmup laps, get finished pinning my number on, tuck my belongings away behind the tent as I dump my Cross bike into the pits.

I take the choice to start and hopefully finish the race on the Mountain Bike, simply because Roukenglen has hills. Last year I slogged around on the single speed but this year I have no chance with the 40-18 and I couldn’t be arsed changing gearing! Manage a few laps, even manage to ride the little hill that brings you back up towards the rocky podium. Time to head for the start line and take my place on the foot of the tarmac hill.

Same as Thistly Cross I am on the left and in the third row. The nervous chatter begins as we load up the pink buckets with our outer layers coming off. Four minutes to race were told. About one minute into that four was are told: “In the next 15 seconds we will be going”. Toot toot toot of the pink horn has us pushing off to begin the 50 minutes plus one lap race.

A bit of a jam happens on the front of the grid and the middle of the bunch slows. This gives me a wee sneaky chance to ride up the inside and take a few scalps on the first few turns of the peddles. Doesn’t last long though, as about halfway up people are flying and soon overtaking me and my granny gear.

Crest the hill and swing left into the woods and ride the softer ground. The first lap is a bit of a blur, as I am soon riding past the timing van and heading for the first incline. Riding this in practice laps was way easier, I get halfway and have to dismount and run up, but hidden just under the grass is some ice. Having no toe studs in these shoes makes things even harder to run up this hill.

Next up is the pink barriers to hop over (on foot, not on the bike). Once back on the bike its a fast descent to the lowest part if the course setting you up for another slippy hill climb. Think the guys this year have gone easy on us, as this ramp is not as steep as previous years and the majority of riders are riding it this year (or we have all just got stronger).

After a few bits of zigging and zagging through the pink and white tape its time to head for the trees and onto the tarmac where we join the course halfway up the start shoot. Back into the granny gear and let people push on past me as I spin up the never-ending hill. This part of the course I’m losing way to much time, but my legs just can’t compete with the speed.

The break over Christmas has killed any fitness I had, and now I am going backwards every lap.

My first off of the day comes as I ride the woods just behind the pits and leads you out to timing van, I am chasing to stay with a group of riders and misjudge the distance of the wooden posts and my handlebar width. Boom! Clip the post with my bars I am taken into a slide across the track and into some overgrowth were me and the bike comes to a stop.

Then the rain comes on and this makes the course even slicker. Great!

Last few laps the grass is turning to mud but still has a touch of ice, and the mud patches are getting deeper. Still, managed to ride the big hill every lap but the small one I give up on even trying to ride. Feet out to the side and dig them in for grip as I waddle up the embankment.

On my last lap, I exit the woods after completing the road climb for the last time, I take the higher line for some reason and as soon as I put the power down both my wheels slip out and I am in a slide. The poor guy behind me had nowhere to go and I take him out. He gets a soft landing as my body brakes his fall. But that’s the price I pay for the takedown.

He’s up and away, I retrieve the bike and have to set the back wheel back into its lugs. Tighten it down then I take an easier ride down the incline and past the pits.

Come out the woods and have two turns left, then I see the pink and white flag waving and season 2018/19 is over for Two Wheel Army.

Huge thanks to Albannach boss Jim Cameron and the rest of the Albannachians that helps set up another amazing race on the Scottish Cyclocross race calendar. The set up was a masterpiece, the attention to detail is amazing, all pink stake posts to match the barriers and own branded tape to layout the course in Abannach colours.

Look forward to year six of six next year.

Huge thanks to Michael Martin for letting me use some of his images from the races. Click the link below to see the full album.

https://www.facebook.com/michael.martin.75248795/media_set?set=a.10215948906349657&type=3

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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.

https://adobe.ly/2FvIdwV

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.

Rise Of The Machine. 

Could Parts of Strava die?

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With most manufacturers producing e-bikes, I must presume the popularity of them is on the rise.  With the growing market are your hard earned Strava King Of The Mountain (KOM) and segment times in jeopardy?

Lately, I just lost (KOM).  A long held gravel climb, up to the local reservoir.  The rider took it by forty-six seconds.  The loss got me thinking!

Forty-six, how did he manage forty-six? Bet he was aided by battery power! (I don’t really think he did by the way).  I have just been beaten by a faster rider. The thought didn’t leave my head though. It got me wondering, with the e-bikes out on the trails and roads will there be faster time being posted?

Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of blood sweat and gears in claiming a KOM or posting a fast time on Strava.

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With a little Google search, I saw that e-bikes from one company can power you for 80 miles on one charge and up to speeds of 25 kph. So with fresh legs and a little assistance, riding up the slopes might bring you bag load of KOMs after a day of riding. On the flat maybe the extra weight of the battery pack might slow you down in the sprint race, but I’m sure a top ten could be on the cards when you switch on the power of lithium

I don’t actually chase the KOM anymore, but I still use Strava as a tool for logging my rides/races and like to see my feeble annual mileage on the bike. For some King’s out there, their crowns and Kingdom’s could be overpowered by electricity very soon!

A power struggle might take grip soon. Instead of 250 watt motor, like now. Things could get juiced up in the battle to retain the top of the leaderboards 300-400 watt, higher? Then it doesn’t become a cycling app anymore, as with that power your talking mopheads.  I’m not by any means saying riding an e-bike and logging your ride shouldn’t be done, but If you did take a segment KOM, then I think it should be flagged and reported keeping Kingdom’s intact.

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I am sure some sly Strava hunters out there will be taking crowns by electronic technology, getting one up on their mate. But come on guys, give Joe Blogs a chance to claim a piece of Strava for themselves.

Any thoughts post them below.

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.