Tweed Cross

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.

Field Of Dreams

HSBC National Trophy Round 2.

Saturday 27th October 2018, Irvine Beach.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Built It, And We Came!

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

Bute The Brute

Bute Cross, Rothesay.

Saturday 15.9.18

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The blog is back, but not by popular demand!

The first race of the season for me, the lone Two Wheel Army rider again. Clare and Gary have chucked racing for more better things in life. Eating cakes and munching Pizza I think.

Dust off the Cross bike on Friday night, the kit bag is sorted now, All I have to do on Saturday is just bundle my loyal support crew into the car (until they are old enough to stay themselves, they get dragged to the races haha) and drive to Wemyss Bay and board the ferry to Rothesay (Isle of Bute).

As I stand to wait to embark the boat, some familiar and ugly mugs who turn up at Scottish parks on damp cold weekends from September to February start to appear in the queue. It’s great to be back! The cars soon fill the ferry deck, now the two wheels are allowed on board and store our bikes on the great new bike racks that the crew pull out the cupboard.

My boys head to the upper deck to go shark spotting on the short crossing to Bute. Surprisingly we don’t see any, but we did spot a mahoosive jellyfish (I thought it was a poly bag at first). Twenty minutes later we pull alongside the harbour. The Ferry soon empties of vehicles and bikes. A short wander past the Castle and up to the Leisure centre to sign on and get my first race number of the season. Sort my pins out and I take in a quick lap before the V60, V50, Woman and Junior get called up to the start line and it’s not long until they are let loose an start their race season.

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That time has come! The nerves, excitement, fear all start to rumble about your head and the pit of your stomach as 4 pm approaches, It’s time to ride to the start line.

As I stepped up in age group (or down don’t know how it goes) I recognise a few faces but not as many as normal in the open race. I know one face, bloody Davie Lines. (though I would escape being lapped by him for a season, haha) Just as the faster riders are sorted and us not so special ones fall in behind, low and behold the wet stuff from the sky comes down to christen us and the first race of the season. Feeling sorry for our old bones the commissars will let us go in the next 30 seconds.

Brrrrrreeeep goes the whistle and season 18/19 is a go!

Foot clipped in and power-down on the pedal, my unfit body starts the sprint up to the commentary box and to the voice of Morven Brown rocking the mic and shouting us through the timing/finishing line. I am doing well just now, not the last rider and my bike still holding together, result!

Take the first corner on the inside and with a dab of the foot, I’m through along with the other 56 riders all still on the bikes. Another long sprint past the football game on our right we ride down to where we have just started. The long fast straight soon has us racers strung out as we cross the gravel and push round to the metal bridge.

A bottleneck soon appears here as we slow to ride over the slippy metal surface. The speed soon kicks back up as we ride out onto the field and take on the S bends. Struggle up the small incline with the red ash tennis courts on my left. Then come to my nemesis, the slow corners of a chicane (always think I am going to wash out and ride way to slow).

The run-up is next, I try to ride as much as possible but come to halt a third of the way up. Dismount/fall off and a peddle to the shin soon gets me moving again. (will be running it from now on). On top of the run-up is a great wooded trail along to the sharp hairpin bend and shoot down the slope trying not to get myself tangled in the fence at the bottom (as I nearly do a few laps in).

Now I am on the hard part of the course for me, soft grass! Need to ride this part mostly out of the saddle to keep my speed up, in doing so it’s killing my legs and lower back. Some gravel paths come next, I ride past the big tree covering my fan club as they hide from the rain, and now head up to the start line to complete lap one.

Things go quite consistent from here to the finish 6 laps later. I consistently go backwards in placings, consistently get slower going up the run/walk up, and the pain in my lower back consistently lets me know its needing oiled or something.

After a lot of determination to keep riding the bike with its bar tape peeling off along with the very low front brake hood angle. (that made my hand slide off going downhill towards that fence every lap) I happily managed to cross the line after 47 minutes of a 40-minute race in 47th place.

A few changes have been made since my last race here two years ago. I quite liked doing the neutralised ride up from the Castle, then the mad dash over the stone carpark as a start. The turns on the red ash tennis courts were removed, but I don’t mind not having slower turns to do. Another missing part was after struggling up the run-up we went down into the woods, a thin natural trail was great along with the fallen logs that had to be jumped. Don’t get me wrong the course still had its challenges and was a great addition to the series races.

After reflecting on my first race back, I now know, there will be some great battles at the back of the bunch this season with the HTCC crew (happy trail cross collective) as were all fat and slow now, not just them.

See you all at the next one, Callender Park 7.10.18

Thanks to the Organiser Stewart and his band of helpers from the Bike Shed. Rothesay’s Weekend Of Cycling has something for everyone, so next year get yourself over.

Thanks to Richard Croasdale for the capturing and letting me have use of images at the run-up.

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Full results are found here.

Head to the Facebook page to see the full photo gallery.

Man Too Hot.

Super Quaich, The Third Round.

Roukenglen Park, 18.2.18.

Albannach and the Unicorn tamer Jim Cameron are the hosts of the last Super Quaich party.

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Roulenglen Park isn’t my best course, but I always look forward to it as my Mum and Dad come and join the ranks of the Two Wheel Army support crew. (also help with Victoria getting the kids out from the trees) This year’s race is a bit later on in the race calendar so no snow this year but there is still a nip in the air.

Clare is racing in the B race today, the crew and I turn up just as the race has begun. Kevin Pugh and Craig Lewis Hamilton are at the font of the race as they come through the trees and into the main support bowl. RGCX has an excellent location for spectating, 95% of the course is watchable from the sign on the tent. (this year the burger van is on hand to feed the faces of all the spectators)

Clare is slogging through lap after lap for the hour’s race. A head full of determination of not getting a DNF on her last Cyclocross race of the season. Her grit and fighting spirit gets her around the course and rolls over the finish line celebrating that she is the last rider home. Well, news for you CC, you didn’t come last, and you beat the course. That’s always the right way to end the race season.

My turn to race approaches, I say my goodbyes, and I am wished good luck as I ride down to the start shoot. I find myself late to the party, squeeze past the bunch and nestle in the right on top of a sand pit. Great, more sand! I thought I had seen enough at Irvine. Chat away to Owen Philipson, then four by four we get moved out the sand and up behind the 20 gridded riders. While chatting away we don’t hear the briefing, and before we know it, the front has burst apart, and the race is on. It takes a moment to hear the Hoot Hoot Hoot of the starting horns, but they are going off, now It’s my turn to race.

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Sprint up the slog of the tarmac hill, suck in lungfuls of oxygen at the top. Navigate the muddy lines and other racers in this condensed area. Come through the trees and out to the open grass, take a quick left and ride along the treeline and then a right turn has you coming back on yourself. The bike soon dips down, taking in the fastest part of the course, a quick descent heading past the spectator bowl for the first time. Drive up the incline with the rear wheel slipping and sliding all the way and turn right and into the woods. A narrow path keeps us all close and fighting for space. Thanks to those pesky B racers they have churned up the grass and made it sticky and slippy slog. I slowly grind my way through the first section, and as I get into the next HTCC old guard Julian passes by, he forces me off track with a close pass, and I’m leaving patches of skin from my leg in the thick bramble bushes.

I like riding the last section of the woods, I always seem to ride this part quite fast, and I gain some place as we exit the woods and ride past the pits. My tyres roll over the timing line for the first time as we race down and around to the first run-up. It’s a short, sharp climb. My feet skid and slide as I run the mud/grassy incline. Dig my feet in a little deeper, and I get to the top of the hill, again taking a few places as I remount the bike and the TWA crew shout me on.

Run the next half of a hill as some riders go past still in the saddle, (why is it called a saddle when its attached to a seat post?) then ride along to the hurdles. Were still bunched up as we turn and dismount for the double magenta barriers. A lot of riders remount and ride along to the new downhill section. Me on the other hand, I keep running until I reach the brow of the hill, back on the bike and freewheel to the bottom of the hill. Some tremendous sweeping switchbacks line you up for the second longer grassy climb. I usually have to dismount and run this hill, but do you know what, I’m going to give it a bash and try to ride this sucker! And I do! I struggle to the top by some zig-zag riding and seeking out grip, also lots of sheer stubbornness helps at this point. The growing crowd also helps with tones of encouragement to all riders tackling the hill.

Back in the saddle (seat) and ride through the mud soup, that takes you into the trees once again. This links you back up with the tarmac start shoot, I have to walk/run the last of the bog as by peddling I don’t seem to be getting anywhere fast. Get to the tarmac and back to riding a bike race in a bike race. It’s being to string out and riding the top wood section I can pick a decent line with some free space ahead. I am gaining on a small group just a few seconds out in front. Deep down I know I won’t be able to hold on to the group as this course isn’t my fastest to get around.

Eventually lap after lap I run out of gas, I hear two laps to go as I come round to the timing van. (great commentary by @mikefixerpayne) Which probably means one and a half for me as I’m sure David Duggan will catch me again. I manage to ride the big hill a few more times but slowing every time I complete it. The last two times I manage 3/4 of the way up. I don’t have any lying down in the mud today, always a good race when that happens but I do regret wearing gloves and arm warmers.

Man got too hot! Halfway around I have stop and strip my arm warmers down to my wrists to cool down. Then at the spectator’s bowl, I pull up to remove my gloves and warmers altogether. I hate being too hot! It distracts me, I think about it too much instead of concentrating on racing. Also, I get a bit nauseous if I am too hot. I lose a tone of time to the riders in front of me by pissing about, but at least I feel some much-needed fresh air.

David does catch me again, just as we entered the woods behind the pits. I now know my race will soon be over as David is riding along to get the checkered flag and the win. I have someone in my sights, a Johnston Wheeler is slowing, this spurs my legs on and the speed is up as we come through the last section of woods. At the end of the woods and entry into the pit area, he slips and goes down. I dig in and pass him on the inside. Kept the power going, ride around the bend and into the last corner. A quick glance over my shoulder and I see I have some space on riders at my back, let the bike glide over the line in 64th spot and to complete RGCX and my Cyclocross season.

Huge thanks to all the Unicorn helpers and event organisers, RGCX is always special.
Thanks again to Michael Martin again some incredible pictures and also to Graeme Cross for some classic black and white images.

South Park.

Tweed Cross.

27.8.17 Tweedbank Park.
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An early rise to see who had won the most talked about boxing bout in the world, but the fight hadn’t even begun yet as I got ready to head off on a drive South to help the guys from Happy Trails Cross Collective stake out the course for one of the first Cyclocross races of the year.

Arrive at Tweedbank Park at 7 o’clock (or as the border folk say ‘Seaven’). My legs need a bit of stretch after sitting in the car for the two-hour drive. Park up and wander along to find the HTCC boys. The crew are already working away getting the park into shape, final racing lines being talked and walked through before the final taping is completed. I get busy with some tree trimming and shifting bags of stabbers around the course. As the last bit of sponsorship tape is tied (Orbea) I’m itching to get on the bike and have a ride of the course.

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As the final bit of paint is coming out the can, MC Maddy Robinson shouts the riders over to the freshly painted start grid. The first race of Tweed Cross is about to kick off with the B racers clipped in waiting for the whistle to blast. Maddy gets them underway and they have a nice long left bend on the firm grass to get them all up to speed, the fight for space is on as they head to the start line. Jackie Chan is off to a flyer and should remain out in the lead for the rest of this race if he can keep this speed up and avoid incident. I head over to Tempest Hills to help dish out some encouragement, abuse and after the first lap some beer hand-ups from Tweedbanks local brewer, Tempest Brewing Co.

With six laps complete for the lead riders it doesn’t bode well for me when one of the race organisers describe the course as ‘brutal’. I am really excited about putting my self through a brutal hour of racing, Not! Jackie did manage to keep the speed up and took the win, Robbie Mitchell was second over the line with Graeme McBirnie filling the last of the male podium places. Ladies winners were Alicia Lawson taking first place, Caroline Harvey coming in second and Jamie Nicholson taking the third spot. Well done to all racers and winners.

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Get a few warm up rides in and have a feel for the course. The racing line has been dialled in with the B race. I love the Tempest hills. Also, the big grass swoops at the start area are smooth and fast. I don’t love the dirty bits as much. In the dusty brown areas, it’s hard for me to ride slow with the gear I am on. I manage it in warm up but how I fare during the race at a faster speed is yet to be seen.

We gather at the start shoot, the grided riders get pulled out to the front of the bunch. Me on the other hand, I hang at the back of the bunch, I know my place in this race. Nerves kick in, I am starting to feel out of my depth being In the A race. My thoughts are, jump in at the deep end and prepare for October 1st when the Scottish Cyclocross kicks off for 2017.

MC Maddy gets us boys sorted out, a massive blast of the whistle and the guys fly off the line. I, on the other hand, forget I am in a race and have a slow start to whistle blowing. I am lagging behind as we cross over the start line and fight to remain in touch with the boys just in front of me as we leave the grass bends and head into woods.

In amongst the trees, there was lots of fun to be had if you weren’t on a bike and breathing like an asthmatic with one lung. In here lurks two sand traps and a dusty bank to ride up. The sand was firm and compacted due to previous race and riders ahead of me so wasn’t too hard to ride. The bank, on the other hand, was tough on the legs. For me to ride it, I had to hit it hard to get to the top. After grinding to the top of the mound it was a downhill left and avoid the tree roots. I am sure that blue paint over the roots attracted my wheels every time I went past. Bump out the woods then the next challenge was the double hurdles.

Still, in the battle of the back markers, I clear the barriers without a hitch. Next on the list of Southern fun was ‘Redneck Hill’. My least favourite part of the course because I couldn’t ride it fast, and in the later laps I couldn’t ride it at all. The hill consisted of dust, roots, line options, trees and some sharp turns. I have got another weakness to my limited racing skills now. Ride away from the Rednecks, in doing so it just brings you into more pain. A soft grassy ride up into another tight wood section that slows me down, then it spits you out along some welcome tarmac.

The smoothness is short lived as you ride up onto a grass bank and along past the pits. I get some speed up, trying to claw back onto the wheel I lost by going so slow through the woods. Another small grassy lump which attempts to deposit you into the trees if you are not careful. Then came my favourite part of the course, riding in an out of the woods of Tempest Hills.

This was a great area for me, if I could just leave the brakes alone it would have been much better. I still bottle it at hitting corners at speed, so Martin Steele drifts off into the distance as I potter around the last few bends. A quick jump for Trump and it’s on the edge of the saddle and pick up some speed as I come past the back of the timing van and turn and burn for the line to take my first lap, Nick Jupp still stalking me from behind.

Five more laps, one off and I take the checkered HTCC shirt. I am knackered and in desperate need of a drink. Head over and trade a few Tempest beer mats for some cold beers. The best way to end a race in my eyes. I lasted around three laps of racing with Nick, but in the end, he broke me on the dirt climb just after the sand traps. He kept pulling away as we hit the barriers and then the gap grew bigger as I toiled at Redneck Hill. Once he was away, the lead riders came through for the first time. With each rider catching me I lost time on him as I slowed or stopped to let them through. My race became against the course and clock now.

Tweed Cross you were indeed “BRUTAL.”

Podium placing was a hard fought battle, Jeremy Durrin taking the top spot, Gary MacDonald taking the second step and David Duggan stepping up to third.

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A great use of imagination was used to put this course together, the use of all of the topography the park could offer. I am still in awe of what a pretty flat park can produce for a cross race. The HTCC organisation should be very proud of what they put on here. Their first race they have hosted had a lot of boxes to be ticked and people to please to get this race on the go. The numbers and quality of the riders that turned up for this race were outstanding.

From all the novices to the best of Scotland and International stars we can’t wait for Tweed 2018. #TWEEDBANKSY

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