Balloch Park

Eilean Bhòid *

 The Isle Of Bute    17.9.16

The time of today’s race is at 5:30pm, no mad panic to get up and ready and in the car for silly O’Clock.  I head for Wymess Bay and get the 2pm Ferry over to Rothesay, the main town on Bute.  Disembark the Ferry with a few more Cross racers and we make our way up to the sign on area.

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This weekend there will be a high number of cyclists on the Isle due to the Rothesay Weekend Of Cycling.  Saturday will see a Hill Climb up the Serpentine, a Two Up TT race then our Cyclocross Race in the evening.  Then on Sunday there shall be the Road Race.

Once the sign on is open, Kevin Pugh and I go for a little bash up the Serpentine Climb, think there is around 15 bends in total.  We get to number 10 to stop for some pictures and also a good excuse not to tackle the last few bends.  Think I shall bring the road bike over one day and explore the last 5 bends then more of the Isle.

After a few warm-up laps of the Cross course, we are told to make our way down to the Castle near the harbour.  In the car park, we are told the race rules and duration of the race. The field is then gridded on the High Street, the rest of us slow folk file into the back. The race will not start until we get into King Georges Playing Fields.

During my last race, I heard my bike making some terrible crunching noises.  During the warm up laps, the noise returned, along with the gears not engaging properly.

To my horror, the gears do not engage when we are counted down and we are off following the Police and Lead car.  I can’t even get a good start under a neutralised start!  I push off and bingo the gears click in and I managed to get some drive to my rear wheel.

We’re riding up the High Street and receiving lots of support from the locals and riders from earlier in the day.  We get to the gates of the park and cars pull left and he hit the gravel and swing right.  THE RACE IS ON!

The first obstacle was the deep gravel, I thought this would take a few people out, but we all managed to ride it without incident. I make a few places up before we are snaking in a long line through the tree slaloms, out in the open I try and improve positions along the red blaze of an old football pitch.  On to the grass again and major obstacle coming up.  The run-up!

I made up a load of places slipping and sliding up the mud hill, back on the bike along a narrow nature trail path, then there was a line of riders slowing to do the little drop down into the woods, I decide to jump off the bike and squeeze past Anthony Aka Tony The Tiger. Take a few more places running to woods and hopping the two fallen logs then run the final incline back onto the path.

The next part of the course will be mostly on flattened grass and a few more leg sapping thick gravel patches. Then it’s out along the side the football pitch, quite a narrow path so no chance to move up, have to wait to dismount the bike and run the few steps up onto the flat grass.  Down to the noisy crowd on the wall (Stirling Bike Club) then turn 180 and its a long drag up to the line.  Cross for one lap.

I can feel the gears grinding every time I put the power down. Also some non-engagement at times too.  I still head in the right direction of the leaderboard, improving once again on the run-up and also running most of the wooded section again.

Once I get back to the football pitch and run the steps, my bike has had enough and gives up on the race. I am spinning the cranks and there is just nothing going to the rear wheel. Freehub has failed. The crowd on the wall shout for me to run, it’s a pointless task as I have no spare bike or wheel to get me back into the race.  They’re happy to shout I am welcome to join in a beer and watch the remainder of the race.  Great Offer!

I do the walk of shame for the last 100m then I cross the line to complete lap 2.  Hand in my chip and its game over for me!

A mechanical so early on was a gutter, I was feeling better than Balloch and liked the course. Think I would have had the legs to keep picking folk off all race. Not to be!

I watch the race unfold amongst the large crowd and great atmosphere,  Gary MacDonald comes home as the first rider.  Well done Sir. A few sprint finishes are on the cards due to the long finishing straight and its good to see people fight all the way to the line.

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After the race, have a good chat with riders, everyone I spoke with hated but loved the course.  Cross does that to you.  Well done to the course designers and riders who asked for a change in the course due to one part being slightly dodgy, it got handled and rerouted without a problem.

Now gather the gear and a freewheel on the bike along to the Harbor before the Dark settles and last Ferry departs.

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Thanks to MT Photography Bute for the use of some great images.

Roll on 2017 as Bute I have unfinished business.

Up Next For Twowheelarmy is.uk-1107-762935-front

* Isle of Bute (Scottish Gaelic: Eilean Bhòid or An t-Eilean Bhòdach)

Tale Of Two Wheel Army

 

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2015

Begin with my first ever Cyclocross race, I got a new shiny bike for my Birthday so had to try it out in anger at First ever Rukenglen CX.

Januaryimage

I entered the race not having a clue what to expect, lots of YouTube videos of Dig In The Dock. Gave me some idea of what was to come.  Race was where I was to cut my teeth, had a great time in the snow and frozen mud, managed to finish 22nd so not a bad result first time out. 

March

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Crit on the Campus was my first road race.  I watched this from the sidelines in 2014, from then on I knew I wanted to race some Crits. Was a hard race, once you loose the bunch It turns into a dogfight just to keep going around and minimize the amount you will be lapped.  Finish 39th and absolutely spent.

May

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Next on the road was Crit race in Motherwell, this was a big boy race.  Pearl Izumi Tour Series is in town.  This is a warm up race before the main women’s and men’s go ahead.  I am still struggling Cat 4 racer, this was to be an open race.  Cats 2, 3 and 4 were all scrapping it out in this race.  Good course nice and fast but a brutal headwind on the back half of the course, then you had a bit of a climb coming up to the finish line.  Same as previous Crits I can’t hang with the bunch so try to slip in behind others to help with hiding from the headwind.  Finish 36th.

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May was also to bring my first ever road race.  Wee Run Out Before The Morra.  36 miles was to be the race distance today, my biggest test of fitness yet.  Race being held on the A77 at Fenwick, this is also a Cat 2, 3 and 4 races. With also an open road, adding cars into the mix as well.  We’re racing in a loop one roundabout to another.  Try my best to keep with the bunch, sit in and keep out of trouble.  Even feel brave enough to have a little attack and help reel in a two man break.  Then disaster strikes.  Wrong gear coming off the roundabout, the bunch sail past, I am now being gapped.  From now on it’s a time trial for me.  Seeing the bunch gain and they eventually go past on opposite sides of the road.  Struggle on and finish the last rider home 49th for me.

June

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June brings me into another Crit I have been wanting to do, Crit Under The Castle.  Stirling Castle.  Battling up the cobbled streets was great, a brilliant crit course and great crowds out cheering us on, think we even had a “Dutch corner”.  Manage to hang with the bunch, doing well top ten looking achievable.  Then disaster struck, dropped my chain after the cobbled climb.  Dropping down a whack of positions and finish the race disappointed but still 22nd.  That’s racing for you!

Having caught the racing bug fully now, I enter another road race.  John Davies Memorial Road Race, held by VC Glasgow.  50-miles, 5laps of a 10-mile loop around Kilmaurs.  The weather was horrible, heavy rain and wind.  It was a struggle to get out the car and warm up.  Think I manage two laps then get dropped again.  Manage one more lap then after a wrong turn I end up throwing in the towel.  Not got the head to last another 20 miles on my own.  Once I am changed the sun comes out and the riders flash by for the final lap.  I receive my first DNFwp-1450429404855.jpg

 August

This month was a massive month for me, not only did it bring me some Cyclocross but also Two Wheel Army was born.  Racing at Haugh-Cross Festival.

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Click To Read More Two Wheel Army

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Click To Read More Haugh-Cross

September

One Cyclocross race, one Crit race and an Adventure Cross ride this month.  Talking all the cycling options.

Click To Read More Of Tour Of Duty

Click To Read More Of Tour Of Duty

Click To Read More Of Kilmarnock Crits

Click To Read More Of Kilmarnock Crits

Click To Read More Of Beverage Park GP

Click To Read More Of Beverage Park GP

October

Click To Read More Of Callender Cross

Click To Read More Of Callender Cross

Click To Read More of Battle Of Balloch

Click To Read More of Battle Of Balloch

A-race and a B-race this month, Seen me getting a top ten place again.  Then during Big boys race, I reside to mid-table again, though still moving up the placing ladder.

November

Scottish Cyclocross is in full swing, rounds 4-5 taking up the month of November.  Both proper mud fests, lots of broken bikes after these rounds.

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Click On To Read More Of Strath-Mud Bath

Click To Read More Of Lochore Meadows

Click To Read More Of Lochore Meadows

December

Click To Read More Of Irvine's Dragon Riders

Click To Read More Of Irvine’s Dragon Riders

This was to be my last race of 2015.  Now I will focus on the Super Quaich series, starting in January.  It has been a good year for me on the bike.  Not doing as many longer rides like 2014, but I have been more constant on the bike, keeping my fitness levels up.  I liked the way my results went as there was always an improvement within every race.  Now it is time to trying and get fitter and keep the momentum going for 2016.

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Hope to see you all on the start line in 2016.

The End

The End

 

 

 

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.