Crit Racing

Double Army Down to Doonbank. 

2nd Quarter Of Quaich. 

22.1.17 Rozelle Park, Ayr.

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A trip to Rabbie Burns neck of the woods today, Ayr Burners are hosting the second round of the Super Quaich Series.

Today I am joined by Clare Campbell racing in the B race.  I missed this race last year with being away topping up on Vitamin D in the sun, so I’m looking forward to getting to grips with the course and see what’s on offer fo an hour of pain in the park.  We go get our timing chips and numbers, while on the way we suck in the smell of freshly cooked pizza.  Pretty sure I will return after the race to sample what’s on offer.  Back to the car and we get on with getting set up for race day and Clare’s second Cyclocross race.

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A slow wander up makes us a late to get to the start line, have to head to the rear of the already assembled group.  There are 91 riders today, we exchange some banter while the other riders fall in behind us.  My nerves build with each second ticking on the clock, as we wait for the start of the race.  The nervous chatter dies down as we are told we will be let loose in 30 seconds.  Quickly tell Clare to get foot clipped in, while I battle with my cleat and pedal combo (some mentor me, can’t even clip in).

Before we know it the front is off and moving, it trickles down to us and it’s our turn to push off and get racing.  Today I shall try something a bit different from other races.  I am going to take it steady from the gun and try not to be blowing out my hoop after the first 100 meters.  It’s hard not to go and attack every bit of space I see and by following wheels it does mean I catch a lot of mud to the eyes (glasses would have been good).  We have a nice big bit of solid tarmac to start us off, this gets us up to speed before we hit the grass and off cambers to come.

Ride down to the first obstacle, a bottleneck happens as we are squeezed through a small gap in the hedgerow.  Off the bike and scurry through.  Hoist the bike up onto the shoulder and set off running uphill.  After making it to the top I am glad to see some downhill taking me around to another run-up.  This one being slightly steeper, I will definitely have to run this one every lap.  Doing well for positions as I still take it easy, feel good as I crest the climb.

Swing past the pits with a group of riders, a nice looping bend means I get to suck in some much-needed oxygen.  Next up is the triple steps, dismount the bike and with some big strides, you are at the top.  Do your best flying remount in front of the ever growing crowd and back to the business of peddling.  A small decent, 180 degrees turn to the right, you are out the saddle riding back up the gradient.  Hang a left and recover while you take the long bend and lines you up for the small wooded section.  Nice quick downhill through the avenue of trees is next. It gives your legs a quick rest before you hit a short mound to ride up, taking you out the canopy of trees onto the ever softening grass.

I am starting to find a good rhythm to my racing.  I peddle past Gordan Dalglish of HTCC (hope I make it on to HTCC TV ).  Next to tick off the list of must-haves on a cross course are the barriers.  Dismount and hop, run, hop and keep on running to find some firm ground for me and my one gear to get going again.  Back on the bike and we are into the woods again.  Ride up the start area and past MYlaps timing van engulfing the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and pizza.  A sharp turn and your weaving your way through the trees (like riding a speeder bike in Return of the Jedi, awesome part of the course).

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Out from the trees and around the off camber, trying not to get sucked into the black scrim that seemed to act as magnet for my bike.  Fast ride through soft mushy grass and now the hedgerow was congestion free.  Ride through the gap, now to try and ride as much of the incline as possible.  Halfway up it became apparent I would be quicker to get off and run.  I seemed to be riding this course well and singlespeed appeared to be well suited to this course.  Still keeping it calm and not feeling like death fifteen minutes in seems to be a good way to race.

After the third lap, the bike was clogging up with mud.  So with a shout to Victoria (my new pit crew) “You need to clean my bike” with a reply “Aye fuck off, you can clean it at home”.  I suddenly shout “No I need you to clean the shit off the wheels and cranks” as I dump my bike, strip off arm warmers, then take my spare bike.

At the bottom of the woods, I see Clare.  I am about to shout and give her some encouragement as I go by but she pulls off just as I get to her.  She looks fine and it’s not until the next lap she tells me her rear mech hanger has snapped. (well it was more like, “bikes fucked” as I go past)  Get to pits and Victoria is waiting with my bike, a quick change and I’m back racing again.  A great job was done for not knowing or having anything to clean it with apart from my gloves and arm warmers.  Though I did notice on the next few laps and one more bike change she was nowhere to be seen.

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Take the last lap bell and now I have to get a shifty on.  Got to try and make up some lost ground with my slow pit changes.  In am in a little battle with a Glasgow Green rider and just ahead is Russell Mowat from Walkers Cycling.  We hit the barriers neck and neck.  Russell gets back on the bike while I have to run a few meters as can’t ride the soft bit straight after the barriers.  He stretches the gap as we enter into the trees.  I give it my all as we both sprint along the tarmac with the finishing line rapidly closing in.  Russell gets over in 16th place and I take 17th.  Not too shabby from where I started.  Maybe just maybe there is something in this new structured approach to racing.  A little part of me does wonder if I could have finished slightly higher up if we got to the start line slightly earlier and we got a space at the front.

Feel a bit gutted for Clare, having been there and had this happen, it sucks big time!  She was not alone in the broken bike finishers as it seemed Rozelle Park had a taste for rear mech hangers that day.  The main thing is she rolled up to the line to race and gave it her all.  It’s all experience in the bag and will just make her want to come back and avenge the park that killed her bike.

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Huge thanks to JP Baxter and the Burners team for hosting this race, from what I heard the changes to this course were well received and made the course more flowing.

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3rd Quarter is at Foxlake on the 5th of February.

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Oh,Crit! What have I done?

Crit On The Campus 2016

This is my third trip to Stirling Univerity Campus.  The first one 2014 to see what a Crit race was, gauging if I was fit enough and how fast I had to become.  The second 2015 was me thinking I was healthy and fast enough. Turns out I wasn’t! I got pulled out before the five sprint laps finishing in 39th place.  2016 will I do better? We shall see.

off to battle

Today’s course is going to be fast if my failing memory serves me correctly.  Not overly technical and possibly only one or two tight corners.  The first of these will be the mass start, sprinting to the top of the hill taking the left-hander.  Due to the volume of riders think this could be a problem on the first lap or if I am in the bunch.  The other corner is last bend taking you onto the start/finish line.  A tight left after the fast sweeping S-bend, the weather conditions will play their part as the rain is coming down in a fine mist making the course a little slippy in places.

After a few laps of the warm-up course we are called to the start line.

Roll up to the start, always end up at the back or mid pack.  Set the Garmin on to record, one ear listing to the Commissars briefing, the other listing into some bits of advice being passed from races who have just competed in the first Cat 4 race.  Bikes get a quick check over, few Ass Savers are removed, and we are ready to race!

A quick blast of the whistle and we are off!  Get moving only to find my foot doesn’t want to clip in.  AAAAaarrrhh!  Just get on with taking a few places as others struggle with cleats and pedals not wanting to mate together.  Hit the corner, all is good no crashes and no fighting.  Picking up speed past the pits and finally get my foot connected to the pedal, so time to move.

course

As you can see from the map, this course is kind of split in two.  The backend of the course has a few speed bumps to contend with, once those are taken care of the fast section of the race is on the side taking you past the ponds and round towards the finishing area.

I deal with the speed bumps (keep all my fillings too).  The bumps just interrupt with your rhythm on the bike I find so glad to get past them.  Next up is a quick left setting you up for the sweeping downhill left.  Hit the breaks scrub some speed and follow the riders in front. I love this section, it means you can get the speed up and get that beautiful sound from your rims.  I do the totally wrong thing, pop out from drafting the rider in front.  Trying to push on and catch the riders in front.  I say wrong thing as I should actually have saved my energy for later and stayed tucked in out the wind letting the guy on the front do the work.  That’s not me, though, need to become a smarter racer.

A quick blast through the S-bend and hold the speed into the last corner.  Take the bend with no dramas, now onto an uphill sprint to cross the line for lap number 1.  It turns out only 14 more to go!

The main bunch of guys are heading out of view, my only hope is that the little group that I am in starts working together and can pick some other folk up as the laps tick by.  This seems to be what happens, and we are doing alright.  I miss the gap on the back end of the course on about lap 6-7, and I am off the group.  In hindsight, I should have buried myself and got back on, for two minutes of hard effort it would have saved me 8-9 more laps of riding solo and struggling.  Just don’t have the fitness as not been riding much this year.

Once I got dropped, things get hard.  I had one goal for this race.  Finish it!  Head down and keep legs turning.  I have a glance behind, and it’s clear, will I make the sprint laps before I get lapped?  Half of me wants to, so I don’t have to go on.  The inner racer deep down inside wants to keep fighting to the end.

Lap board goes out the next time I go past the line. 5 to go!  I make it before the bunch get me, they eventually pick me off with 3 laps to go.  Let them roll through and don’t jump on the end of the pack.  Still not sure if hanging on to the bunch when they go past is the correct etiquette?

With two laps to go the bunch is still in sight, there is a tangle of riders, and two guys go down.  On the last lap, I see that the guy who crashed is in a bad way.  Some cuts to the face, I am sure there will be more cuts on the limbs too. (turns out 27 stitches 22 of them to the face, broken nose and suspect broken cheek bone) Speedy recovery mate.

Final swoop around the S-bends and round last corner to sprint for the line.

All in all, I had a pretty much uneventful race.  That sounds boring, but it was anything but! In the Crit, you are always looking for more speed.  With the extra space of me riding half the race all alone, you can really get to grips with the course.  Not scrubbing so much speed on the corners, finding the little groove of the course.  Even on some corners not even touching your breaks as you know how fast you can take it.  In one way you are racing yourself lap by lap.

Results

After a long, long wait, the results are finally uploaded.  With my stubbornness, I manage to finish 31st.  Not the best placing but I achieved my goal and finished the race.(last year was 39th)

A Massive effort by Stirling Bike Club for putting on a great day of racing.  From the young kids at 8:30 am all the way through to the big boys at 2:10 pm.  A very long day for club members and volunteers marshalling the course.

A huge thanks to all involved, see you at Crit Under The Castle.

 

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All images were of E123 race, click to see more.

 

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Results are in.