4th Quarter of Quaich.
19.2.17 Dig In At The Dock, Bo’ness Harbour.
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”.
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.
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.