adventure cycling

Muddy Meedies Madness

Direction today is Eastwards, For round 4 of Scottish Cyclocross Series.

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Another Dirty weekend for me.  All alone today as pit crew not feeling well. So they told me, think they were not wanting to stand in the mud and cold today.  From what I have heard I am going to have a manky time.

Heading along to sign up area, I spotted four broken rear mech’s from the V50 and Woman’s race heading to their cars.  Sign my life away and get my number 430, head back to the car.  Get my number pinned and bike sorted. Spot another two broken bikes being pushed to the carpark.

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Something is wrong here!

Seeing the bikes being chewed up and spat out of the mud machine of the course, I am slightly worried at what’s to come.  So for my warm up I will be sticking to the road away from the mud, I am sure I will see enough of it when racing.

Little warm up done, head round to the course with Kevin Pugh he’s on a single speed so no worries for him and his bike losing a rear mech.  Though I don’t think he’s keen on getting new bike Dirty.

Head into a little pen at the start area, do a few loops keeping legs turning. Will be riding this course blind again, don’t really want to have a warm up lap and get stuck in the mud.

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Anyone For Some Mud Soup

We are brought to the start line, This is where you think “What have I got myself into this time”.

Gladiators READY! Contenders READY! In the next 30 seconds, you will start on the whistle.

Bbbbbeeeeeeerrrreeeepp we are off.

Off to a belter, making great pace in first few pedal strokes, eat up some places.  Hit the first muddy corner about 25th or so.  Result!  It’s a tight little left with a lot of body’s squeezing through, a lot of mud waiting to make you come off your bike if you chose the wrong line. A bit of a challenge.

Still moving up and feeling good, come through where the barriers will be placed after the first lap, funnel into another tight mud packed path through the trees, bringing you round to some switchbacks.

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This is how the day would pan out. A lot of mud, a lot of switchbacks and lots of falls.  Well for me I would be rolling around in the mud a few times during the race, my first being on the corner coming round past the results van, giving the guys some entertainment. A slight oversteer you were down, next it was up and running ankle deep in mud.

My strong point in last races was off the bike and over hurdles carrying the speed all the way through.  Today was a different story!  The Hurdle’s felt massive in height and the mud was trying to suck your shoes off before you hopped over them. (lost two studs during the race)

I was starting to dip in form, feeling my energy being slowly sucked out of me. 4th lap in and I’m going backwards.  I have no speed at hoping the hurdles, the mud is taking its toll as I pass the pit area.  The ground is getting really churned up, turning into a mud soup in this area. Arms are starting to ache with all the steering trying to find a clean line and fighting the ruts in the mudbath.

Try and remember GCN Youtube video “Green is good Brown is bad”.  Try to ride as many blades of grass as possible.
There were only a few places on the course to get some rest bite from the mud, on these areas you tried to get some speed up, before surfing the mud once again.  So not really a place to rest up and recover.

There was a great little singletrack through the trees, nice and tight.  Had to keep your line correct as were some nasty roots waiting to knock you off course and bring you down in a heap.

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Manage to battle around and do 7 laps, being lapped twice by eventual winner Davie Lines. Second place went to Gary MacDonald and Neil Walker taking Third spot.  43rd place for me.
The last two laps for me were sheer survival, had the onset of the dreaded BONK!

The last two hurdles I just walked over them as I had zero energy.  One final bend to the left, take the flag and now try to recover before I deck it.

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Another lesson learned, have to eat more before my race.  Though I had my pre-race breakfast sorted.  (maybe more rolls & sausage) Conditions took more out of me than I expected.

All in all was a good experience and another great venue.  As my cross course experiences grow I will know what to expect and how to ride certain conditions.  Felt like a good course to ride, yeah a bit on the muddy side but it was relatively flat and no massive inclines to slog up.  I enjoyed this course.  Although could not shake the visions of broken bikes out my mind, I didn’t want to join them.  So when I felt a few weird knocks and bangs from the rear of the bike I didn’t enjoy that.  Maybe making me ease off a tad.  Big thanks to Paul Zarb and his team of Mud Monsters for setting up a great race.

Had a good hard ride, the bike didn’t break so happy Bryan.

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Next up for TwoWheelArmy is Irvine.

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Next on the Scottish Cyclocross Calendar is Plean.wpid-wp-1448291620675.jpg

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Strath-Mudbath Park

Strathclyde Park, Scottish Cyclocross, Round 3. Ding ding!

Deployed for Action

Deployed for Action

I knew we wouldn’t always have the sunshine and short sleeves, no real surprise that today’s race would be done in a true Scottish winters day (Pissing of rain). Making conditions a nice muddy soup for most of the course.
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Drag my carcase from the warmth of the car to wander up to the sign on area. It is a disaster zone, tents have been blown about and barriers are all over the place, like being on set when World War Z came to town. Get number and timing chip for the Seniors race at half one. I am just in time to catch the mayhem of the V40 race start.

It’s chaos, the old guy in new John Lewis advert has a better surface on the moon than the start straight.

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Let the fun begin

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Splish Splash

Soon as they whiz by I scamper to the car and dry off. Have about an hour to kill so I get on pinning number and sorting myself out. Make one sensible decision today, Leg warmers. I was going to leave them off but so glad I put them on, making it easier to peel the mud off my legs.

I trundle up to the starting area just as the V40 are rolling in, they look utterly soaked and filthy. Looks like my first mud race won’t disappoint on the mud part. I have a little ride of the course, see what I am in for. I do a very short part then chuck it. Decide to wait and see what’s ahead while riding. Good thing? Not sure but I don’t want to get clogged up in mud before I get underway.

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Wet, Wet, Wet (by Michael Martin)

Last time I raced in Strathclyde park was in my friends pimped up VW Polo, thinking we were cool because he had a 500-watt speaker and a Pioneer stereo. When I say raced it was a sprint between speed bumps and around the car park. Hopeful to get the glance from a car full of girls. Never really worked, I think it was his bad music choice rather than the faded gold colour car.

Time to dodge the holes in the ground.

Discard the waterproof jacket, well I will just call it a jacket as wasn’t much good at being waterproof today. We stand and shiver in the rain while the riders are called forward to the grid. Once they’re all sorted we get to roll up, not bad mid pack. Wait for the whistle to go in the next 30 seconds.

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Photo by Michael Martin

BEEEEEEEeeeeeeeppppppppp we are off.

The water is spraying, while we try and play dodge the biggest crater. Manage to somehow gain a few spaces before we hit the mud.

First up is a mush of grass and water, we have a few zigzag bends to navigate while we slip and slide for positions.

Back on solid ground and we hang a left onto the mushy stuff once again, drive through the mud trying to keep the back wheel spinning. Come to a slight off camber left turn that is super slippy, most people are off the bike and running at this point. I did try to ride it later on in the laps but came to a quick standstill, back to running.

Mud, Mud Glorious MUD (Photo Michael Martin)

That was the soggy part of the course done, it went onto some gravel paths after that, shooting you back out to Crater Carpark and along to little steps to run up, then might as well keep running as there seemed to be another mush pit waiting to suck your shoes off.

Uphill Travelator (photo by Paula Stronach)

Back on the bike to face Monster Red, a red gravel path taking you high up into the top of the park. Leveling out for more mushiness to slow you down when you least need it. Catch your breath on a slight down hill taking you to Bridge Runup. At this point I was glad to have stuck my toe studs on, it was a mud fest up this incline after over 450 riders tackling it before our race. 517 riders in all age groups today. Great turn out.

Into some nice single track through the woods, wasn’t too bad though I did feel at this point that my rear wheel was under inflated. Could feel every bump in the path. I like this area of the course and reminds me to get my finger out around to Auchentoshan and do some training there. There was one bomb hole to come, had to take it easy or you were on the deck and plenty were. Once that was taken care of it was a dash down to a right and then past the pits and along to the finish line. Both eyeballs looking in different directions so you didn’t bust a rim on an underwater wheel eater in Crater Carpark.

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Lap one done!

Took me about 11 minutes, one of the longest laps I have done timewise.

Pull up just after the finish line to check the state of my rear wheel, it’s still soft not punctured. Back on I go and try and hunt down those who overtook me while I was playing about with my wheel. Slog on through the mud and mushy corners for 4 more laps then I see the great sight of the black and white flag begin to wave.

That was hard!

Lonley Climb(Michael Martin)

Lonely Climb (By Michael Martin)

I was nearly waving the white flag every time that Monster Red showed up, doesn’t look much of a climb but due to soft ground, soft tyres it meant a second of composure, focus the mind and grind up it.

All in all a good race as finished 41st so feels like I have gained some momentum, but there was a lot of DNF due to mechanicals etc.

Cyclocross has well and truly started now after the mild and sunny conditions.
TwoWheelArmy AGM

TwoWheelArmy AGM

Thanks for having us Strathclyde park, and huge thanks to Michael Martin with his team of Bog Monsters for putting on a great race in atrocious conditions, also a thanks for the use of some of his photographs too.

Up next is back to the East coast for SCX round 4 at Lochore Meadows.
Lochore Meadows, 22nd November

Lochore Meadows, 22nd November 2015

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Full Calender on Scottish Cyclocross website.

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Battle Of Balloch Park.

Back Racing in a Park today, on the Grass and Mud of Cyclocross.

Balloch park is a great location for me. A 20-minute drive away,  I arrive without getting lost this time around, always a good start to the day.

Even better news, the hills leading up to Balloch Castle on the grounds will not feature today, I really thought we would be up and down those suckers! Bonus!

A little lap around the course to find my bearings, it’s a fast course with the ground holding well. Dodged a mud bath for another day.

Chat with a few people, Some RCCK guys are eyeballing me after I took one of their own out on my last visit to a park, Kilmarnock Crits. (only kidding they were cool but did tell them to stay clear just in case)

We’re called to Arms, Dressed in two ranks,wpid-wp-1444030505516.jpg like good Cross Soldiers. I bag a good spot on the front of the line, this is my moment to shine!

21 gun salute goes(well we can imagine that).
Bang goes the starter’s gun and we are off, to a shite start for me, absolute mince! Think I have a drunk foot? It’s got a mind of its own! Wants to turn around, think it likes the start line.
Sober it up with a bang on the pedal, get it clipped in and manage to pull back some space before we hit the narrowing sandy track.

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Surfing The HTCC Wheels

This point I am eating places up. Diving down the inside, belting through the bushes, weaving around the weeds to gain places. I finally get some clean air. Sitting top 15-20 for now I think.

Settle it down, keep picking people off is my aim.

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The course is made up of some gravel paths around the picturesque walled garden, smelled great there too. After that, we came up stone infested path taking riders out into the lush grass hills, down through some zigzag bends.

Hated this half of the course.

I was junk on the gravel, didn’t trust going at any speed there as I felt I had no grip. Then came the hill which was alright but it’s still a hill. I had the same situation on the grass as I did on the gravel. No grip so took it easy. Something to work on midweek.

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Hitting The Hurdles

I think the problem was my tyres were overinflated, so that’s something for future races. (Every day is a school day).
Once zigging and zagging was done with, we were racing down a jungle trail through some long grass. Out onto the sandy path heading for the starting arena. Sandy path sounds tough on the legs, it’s actually held together with square plastic matting making it firm, which gave you a good bit of speed if you could manage it.
Once into the arena, you took a sharp left. Letting you look into the whites of the leader’s eyes while they concentrated hurdling over the trio of barriers.

 

Time for me to do 180° turn to the right and attack the barriers. This was my strongest point in the race. Only if they had a barrier every 100 yards I would have smashed this race.
Back on the bike, hang left then sprint to the line.
Now to repeat for 35 minutes plus one lap.

Race calms down a bit. See the front bunch go over the line for another lap, they’re not too far ahead. Keep pressing on 15 minutes on the clock I’m 7th-8th, good stuff. With my pressing, I am starting to gain some ground on lead riders. I get confident and smart on last grass zag and lose my back wheel, spinning 180° on one knee, a bit like an 80’s break-dancer on lino but with a bike attached to my other foot.

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Don’t Forget To Breath

With that happening, I lose all confidence in my turns in this area. Lose time on leaders too.
Hating on the Gravel/Grass combo half of the course. Loving the barriers, fast sandy sections. Lose a position every time I hit the gravel section to a Glasgow Nightingales rider but seem to have the better speed over the barriers so were locking horns for a few laps until he manages to drift off into the distance.

“Right numb nuts get this finished” is the brief chat I give myself. Two laps left, stop being scared of the course, face your nemesis and conquer it. It appears I bottle it! Another position is lost. Dang!!!

Chase is on

Chase Is On

Still in the fight, I can still see riders up ahead they have just taken the lap bell. “I can do this“, “get them“. Charge! Until I hit the gravel then slow to a reasonable speed. The Wee voice in my head is telling me “don’t fall and lose another blinking position“.

Glad to wave bye to the bad half after easing around it, embrace the good half of the course where I get some speed up. Hop, Skip, and a Jump over the barriers and belt around the lefthander, take the flag.
Woohoo, that was a good ride even after my spin on the grass.

Can’t wait for more manoeuvres in Balloch park next year already. Massive thanks to Glasgow United for being a great host.

As usual, the fun begins with teammates coming over the line. All getting together and swapping stories of race, Some doing better than others.

So I had a deal with the Team Director, I finished top half of the race I get to sign up for Callander Park next week.
wpid-wp-1444033881526.jpgTop 10 baby, just managing to scrape into tenth. That was my goal for today to make the top ten.
Target is done.

 Up next is Callander Park 11th October.wpid-wp-1444038360078.jpg

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This is going to be my first Scottish Series Race.
I will be in with the Senior Men,  defiantly won’t be top ten. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t give it my all.
See you all there folks.

Thanks to Kevin Pugh and Victoria Atkinson for letting me use their photography skills.

Tour Of Duty

Sunday was going to be a long day in the saddle.

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I understood this, but somehow I didn’t expect it to be so long. My derrière is letting me know that it was miserable being next to my saddle for so long.

My alarm set at 1 am (then changed to 1:15 am) that extra 15mins was going to be needed.
Beep beep I am up, after 3hours slumber.

Creep about the bedroom and get out and stretch without waking the boss and the little bed hoppers, (even in a super king size bed the little boys manage to take up all the space).
Get my new team kit on and grab my 2 bags, feels like an expedition, not days Cycling.

So your wondering why I am up at this crazy hour, well I foolishly said I would do the graveyard shift on Mark Beaumont’s Cycling challenge for STVAppeal.

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Mark set a goal of Cycling 450 miles in 24 hours, also with a total target of 2400 miles Glasgow to Africa ridden by more insane folk. I had the slot of 2am-4am I was pleased to do this time at the time of sending the tweet, not so much at 1 am.

mark beaumont stv appeal

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The event was held within the showroom at Infiniti Glasgow, with the support these great people show me it was an easy thing to agree to.

I get there and I see that I am not alone at this early hour, some guys are on the bikes keeping Mark encouraged and all importantly keeping the miles ticking over.

There was an info wall,  giving you everyone’s pace and accumulative mph, to hit the target the aim was 100mph, info showed they were sitting at 107mph, looks like the target was on and the pace was good. The map was on Italy with the tracker dot making its journey south, down to the sole of the boot as the country looks.

So now I can claim I have ridden in Southern Italy.

Well, I get going and it’s apparent I am going to get hot, Mega hot.

15 minutes in and I am soaked through with sweat, think my skin must have a leak, I am drinking water yet it’s just coming straight back out and pooling on the shiny floor.

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Mark is on fine form, keeping an even pace even though he’s 12hrs in. Chatting away nicely too, making it look so easy, while we’re a mess on the bikes. Other guys are due to finish soon, we wonder who the next victims on the watt bike sauna will be.
Not sure if anyone was booked in or if they just didn’t fancy getting up before the dawn chorus, some of the guys who had done their stint stayed on to turn the pedals over and chip away at some miles. Great effort to do that.

Get through the first hour averaging 24mph not bad going, then it’s a case of tick off the 15mins blocks for the last hour, I don’t know if I have the mental attitude to sit for any longer, 24 hours must be hell.

Get to last few minutes of the hour, try to up the pace, though being distracted by watching YouTube videos of guys in wing suits jumping off the Alps. Think I will stick to the bike!
My 2-hour stint is up, I manage 44.5 miles, happy with that though I would have done the 45 if it wasn’t for YouTube distraction.
Would have loved to have hung about and maybe done another hour, but I had to shoot off with a long drive to Kirroughtree Bike Center, Galloway Forest.

So say my goodbyes to Mark and wish him well with the remaining 10hrs. Wish the lads on the other bikes all the best as the put in a tough shift.

keep spinning

keep spinning

4am and going strong

4 am and going strong

So my second part in the saddle was going to be at Galloway Gallop.

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A quick change of top in Infiniti carpark, armed with hot coffee and a slice of cake I muster a plan.

Set satnav with postcode, point the car in the right direction, off I go. The main thing is I have plenty of time to get there so no mad rush as usual.

The second thing is I need to fill my belly, 4:30 am there is only one place. Yip the shop with the Golden Archie’s.
fat mcds

Rock up to the drive through and order my Double Sausage Egg McMuffin to be told “Sorry Sir breakfast is served from 5 am” What Da Funk!!

So all that salivating over my hashbrowns and morning coffee were crushed. Ok Mr Bad News hit me with a Quarter Pounder meal, yes it will be large!

Hit the M77 with my Dinner (burger and chips are not breakfast) I get to Kilmarnock and all is well, see on satnav I have to take a left soon. To my horror I notice the battery on my phone/satnav is exhausted more than me. It needs some CPR. Cool, I have got this. Wrong! The car charger is not working and the phone gives in. nooo!!!

From now on it was a guess when to turn left! F@#k it, I will turn in Maybole. Should have a sign somewhere! I know its Newton Stewart I have to head near. Can’t be hard.

The Race Is On

The Race Is On

Well those roads sure are tight and winding, this route takes you through some interesting hills, would have been quite a scenic route in the daytime, not at 6am with the full beam on, mad hare’s running in the road. Dashing in and out of the cars headlights, I know there fast, but there were starting to hold me up. Fingers crossed they weren’t racing any tortoises up ahead.

Eventually, I make it to Kirroughtree bike centre, after a few more wrong turns and plugging in my external battery charger for the Satnav/Phone to spark to life and help me out.

Art of getting lost

Art of getting lost

Meet up with Kevin Pugh, he’s not long arrived. Though I think his journey was a lot simpler. This is what can happen, Bryan. If you prepare! Or look at a bloody map!

We get to the sign on tent receive our numbers and a sticker stuck to our helmet. This will record our time around the course. Help ourselves to energy bars and gels, then get our free cuppa, well I get mine but the guy who signed Kevin up didn’t hand over his beverage card, must be saving them up and going to overdose on Earl Gray once everyone was out on the hills.

The course for today will be a nice little 67miles with over 5100ft of climbing or as my Garmin told me 5500ft. There was not so much Galloping going to go on today I think.

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Some Of The Terrain

I have never done a Sportive, so this organised adventure cross was all new, I normally just hit the hills with the aim of getting home at a reasonable hour without injury. We roll up to the start line with another few people from Kevins Club, Walkers Cycling Club from Ayrshire, we get a quick briefing then were let loose on the course, we start off going up a few little switchbacks then into the woods, this is pretty much the way the rest of the day panned out, upwards and onwards.

Weather is favourable, no rain but no blazing sun either. We get to the first feed station. Stock up on gels and bounce bars, then tuck into the sandwiches and cakes. I hear the guy say “fill up with gels and energy bars” being the typical Glaswegian I head back and fill my bag.

Mmmm Cake

Mmmm Cake

Understand why it is called feed zone, the dreaded midge has been invited and there out in force having a banquette of arm and leg.

After eating and being eaten were back on the trails, it has became apparent that the bikes of choice are 50/50. Cross bike, Mountain Bike.

There is pro’s and con’s to both bike set ups. Me and Kevin being on Cross bike seem to be making up time on the flats and hills, whereas the MTB folk are spinning like crazy going uphill, getting nowhere fast (think Chris Froome on a chunky bike, stuck on the same spot)

MTB’S would then zip past on the few downhill sections due to extra weight, but the crucial thing is having the shocks to deal with ruts and stones on this terrain, making for a more confident downhill experience.

galloway gallop 3galloway gallop 2

Halfway round now I can feel the back wheel start to bounce, now I am riding the rim of the wheel rather than nice cushion of air, I have now received a puncture thanks to a bump in the road. AAAAAHHHH, I dig in my bag and pull out an innertube for my road bike, NAW!

Kevin gets me sorted with his spare and were back on the bumpy road again, it’s mostly fire roads and little trails, before we get to next feed station we have to get through the old railway section.
muddy puddle

“Parts of this are underwater”, we were told at the  start. Mate, it wasn’t parts of it, it was all of it!

This is what Adventure Cross is all about, beating back the grass, surfing those muddy puddles, riding those hidden gems of disused trails.

Final feed station, the mud is acting as a barrier, keeping the midges at bay, long enough for us to grab some sandwiches, cake. Kevin fills up his water supply in his bag, I try to drain mine so I can squeeze more energy bars and gels into it (do have a few races coming up so it’s all needed). Back in the saddle and were off, we did hear chat about tarmac, nice smooth tarmac, would be a great relief on the old buttocks. This little bit of joy comes after a few more hills and tons of gravel.

The joy is short lived as now were into a nice headwind, we draft each other and pick up a fellow cross rider, work as a trio to pick the pace up the only galloping we will do today. Soon another hill appears back to spinning in top gear again. After this hill the only hill we want to see is a downhill, we were going to find a nice little surprise with a mile to go, a little lane covered in pine needles with the added bonus, an incline of about 20%, Think Kevin has enough of the hills so jumps off and gets some running practice in for the for 3 Peaks Challenge. Where I struggle on, zigzagging up trying to find grip in the needle nest. Manage to crest the last of the hill, then it was a few trails and roads back down to the Kirroughtree bike center, Under the inflatable banner, across the finishing line. 6hr 44min since we left off.wpid-wp-1443084263704.jpg

Get my first ever cycling medal (well everyone gets one), head over to cafe fo a hot strong cup of black coffee.

Cleaning process goes like this: Removal of soggy socks, use for wiping the muck off legs, chuck the manky bike in the car. Done!

Now for the journey home, wish Teleportation was real. For now I will just have to drive the 2 half hours home.

Once home and in the land of Wifi, I go on twitter to find out how Mark has done with his record attempt and STV Appeal, well he has just smashed out 470 miles in 24 hours. Some effort to get those miles clocked up and congratulate you on the attempt, and new watt bike record.

Infiniti QX70s

Infiniti QX70s

Massive well done to Arron at Infiniti, he was there for all the setup, the whole event, along with the odd hour on the challenge too. Well played Sir. Alastair from Team Cycles, was the man with the plan, making sure data was all correct, doubled up as the event setup guy too. Wasn’t sure how long their shifts were but I am sure it was a record attempt as well.

470 miles in the bag

470 miles Done

Twowheelarmy Kit

Twowheelarmy Kit

Long hot shower and fueled by pizza it’s time to get comfy on the sofa, Let the recovery process begin. Well for a little bit, long day out on the bike but had such a great day spinning about in the new kit.

Up next is Kilmarnock Crit, 27th September

Hosted By Walkers Cycling Club.

I am racing in the Cat 4s, Team Two Wheel Army newest recruit Clare Campbell is doing her first ever race. In with a tough field but is going to give it all she’s got!

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