Forth Road bridge

Dig In.

4th Quarter of Quaich.

19.2.17 Dig In At The Dock, Bo’ness Harbour.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

 Arriba Arriba!

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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.

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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

 

 

 

Cyclocross is Coming

Cyclocross season is fast approaching, there was a bit of racing to be had in Aberdour at Haugh-Cross Festival.wpid-wp-1448391697518.jpg

 

The setup for racing at this event was 2 heats of qualifying. 40 minutes + 1 Lap with the top 50% heading into the A final and bottom 50% into the B final, both held later that evening. Giving time for some recovery, also, for the kids to have some racing in between.

This was my 2nd and 3rd ever cross race. Having a few weeks off the bike due to mainly being glued to my bike seats for most of the year I felt I needed a rest.
I was feeling a little under prepared for the double race on the day.

Big thanks to the Guys at Infiniti Glasgow. For they let me take a QX70s. An awesome car to get to the east coast in style and comfort, all to help with an inspired performance on the day.wpid-wp-1448391690002.jpg

 

A quick drive over the Forth Road bridge we head for the seaside, at Aberdour. As we find a spot to park, the nerves kick in as there are plenty of cars here with some keen Cyclocrossers already zooming up and down the course.

A quick change out of the driving gloves and swap the chauffeurs hat for my helmet, I grab the bike for a quick couple of loops of the course to find my bearings.

wpid-wp-1438873709860.jpgThe first thing I find out is – it’s fast!  So fast I come screaming into a tight little right bend before a slightly uphill section.  I take it way too fast and have to bail out the tape, in doing so I take my first tumble of the day.  I was more worried I burst the tape than looking like a tool who can’t ride their bike!

There was more to worry about with hurdles and stairs to come before the up and down of the bridge that had been made the focal point of the race.

Never ridden this type of obstacle, once safely up and over I think they should be mandatory in all cross races.

PA gets to life and asks all riders to leave the course and Heat 1 to muster at the start line.

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Mad dash has begun!

Heat 1

I watch with my mouth slightly ajar at the speed of the bunch as they hit the first bend and head along to the first obstacle, double stairs. Then head under the bridge and up and over.

I am not going to try to do a mad race report here. There are already some more professional reports out there, also a great YouTube report that has been done.

The kids are getting bored and the dog needs a pee so we’re off down to the play park while heat 1 is being battled out. It was a good move as get to see the hurdles getting tackled, see how they are meant to be done.

The countdown clock has hit 20 minutes till the muck is flying in heat 2, I head back up to the car and get my game face on.

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Heat 2

DaDum DaDum DaDum heart rate is rising.

We’re called to the line, told the rules (no biting, eye gouging, or heavy petting) then we get the 30-second wait for the whistle. Beep, Beep, BEEEEEP!

We’re off, I manage to clip in and have not a bad start. Take the first couple of corners wide let the mayhem proceed on the inside while moving up some spots. Hit the bottleneck of the stairs, fight my way through the mash of tires and pedals, get some room to breathe and jump on the bike to tackle the bridge, Good thing about cross is it strings out during the race so space will be on offer at these points later on in the race. Round some bends and hit the line. Now on to the first full lap.
Race seems to be going well, manage to stay on the bike at Bryan’s elbow I have christened the corner of my warm up tumble.
I have a new nemesis, Big tree bend.

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Pray to the Big Tree Bend

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Sure I am meant to be peddling this

I try to be smart and cut it tight. It has the last laugh, Before I know it I am looking at the dirt.

No time to look around to see if anyone had noticed my tumble, I am back up and running.

This race is tougher than I expected, I am losing a lot of places in the straights, the place I thought I might do well. My legs are dying! Feels like I climbing mountains rather than stairs, the hop back onto the bike is getting worse and worse, closer to a broken couple of eggs if I don’t watch what I am doing! The technique is out the window due to tiredness. Have to try to focus and find my groove.

This is only the first race, how will I cope with second? I am tired!

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Few more laps and I will be done. Wrong!! 20 mins gone I hear on the PA.  Have to pull it together think of my blog on quotes, remember some good ones. Yeah, Shut Up Legs, that will do.

I come up with a simple maths equation, break it down to 2×10 mins. Easy, I can do this! (was awesome at maths)
I do do this, after last bridge climb and a few quick corners I cross the line in 33rd position missing out on the top 50% by 6 places.
Feel deflated at not getting to play with big boys and girls in the A final,  B final will be my first Cyclocross final I have qualified for so I will take that even though I was granted a place as long as I finished.

I find my fans and make the way back to car discovering that my back brake disk has decided to keep my break pads in a loving embrace and they are not for separating. That’s why my legs have burnt out, I was riding with back brake ON!
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Get my mechanics on to the job with an Allen key to loosen off the pressure and the disk and pad release and go their separate ways.

 B Final

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5 pm the race is on! After a few hours in the comfort of the Infiniti, well the back of the car, as my boys (mechanics) commandeered the front to watch a DVD while (team manager) Victoria slept on the driver seat, quite a relaxed approach to her role.

Unfold myself after sitting for so long and get wheel spinning on the rear to make sure It’s working as it should. Let’s roll up to the start line, see how my legs cope.

Get a good spot on the start line.

Wait for the whistle!

Beep Beep Beeeeeppppp we’re off!

I get a touch to the front wheel, have to ease on power as nearly took a tumble. Drop back a few spaces into the first corner. Taking the corners wide worked well for heat 2, this tactic I stick to stay out of trouble then on straight take some spots. Now to tackle big stair bottleneck.

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Take the inside line and head up the stairs meaning I will be on the outside hopefully get a clean line under the bridge. Well, plans always go wrong. Guy stops dead in front of me to remount. I have known were to go, I run into him and have to wait a second to duck out of his road. Wasn’t part of the plan. To that guy, sorry I shouted but race head was on. A quick hop on the bike and I were through up and over the bridge. Just like the first round space soon opens up and I can start to move up the field. Bryan’s elbow mastered, down to hurdle, a  smooth dismount into a quick hop, overtaking two places as I remount back on to the bike.

Big tree Bend coming up and seems I have conquered this part. Now I can see the lead, group. Head down, up the gravel hill, then into straight along to stairs and under, up and over the bridge.

One of the best part of the course I was riding. The slight downhill into flowing right-hand bend then tight left, uphill, quick left for over the line.

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The race is strung out, trying to see the lead group, there not far away just keep peddling. Feeling good, the bike feeling light. PA announce 4 laps to go!

What! 4 to go? Must be wrong as I feel too good. I am also enjoying this race. Yup next lap round see 3 on the lap board.
Cool, I might actually have a good effort here. Lose a place on the hill climb but also, gain at Big Tree Bend.
2 to go. Look around and I am clear in front with space behind. I will try to keep this pace. Don’t want to lose any places, can see two ahead and that’s my target. Up over the bridge and swing round to home straight to take the bell.

Last lap. Got to keep focused on riders ahead, I am not sure if they are lapped riders or if I will be gaining positions. Just got to concentrate on not losing my position, try to keep it smooth through the corners with keeping the pedals turning on downhill sections and straights.

imageOff the bike, hop the hurdle, back on to bike to clip into pedals, then on to Big tree bend for the last time. Through the woods onto the hill climb, knowing I have only the steps of Mordor to come then under, up and over the bridge for the last time.

Bridge complete and down to fast bends then up to the last left-hand bend and onto the checkered flag.

 

 

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Glad to see this sight

Now it’s done I rolled into the side of the course to congratulate fellow riders, looks like quite a few so not sure about placing.

We all wait till the last rider has taken the flag, Its great at the end of the race.

All the little groups meet, friends exchange excited banter, stories are swapped about this corner and that hurdle.
There is quite a buzz about the finishing line, that’s what gets you hooked.

We’re all beetroot red, breath is coming but only just making our body’s function, yet we’re all reliving the race through our arm movements and Adrenalin fueled chatter.

After getting some well-earned sugary drink down me, I wander over to the results van with the dog while the kids and team manager head into the Marquee to check out the live band.
I start from the bottom up and finally stop at 10th place. 10th bloody place. Yaaaassssss!

I skip across to the Marquee to join in with foot tapping kids to share the good news. ‘Cokes all around’ I shout (whisper really as the tent was quite busy) My mechanics, team manager and mascot were hoping for more by the looks on their face, not at the result they were chuffed with that. Think they wanted Irn-Bru!?

They do deserve more than that, so thank you Victoria (Team Manager)
Oscar (Mechanic)
Rory (Wheel Guy)
Mac (Mascot)

Without my loving fan base, I would have chucked it after heat one, found a McDonald’s and filled my face.burger challenge

A good result in the bag after a crap heat . . . Plus I took 2 minutes off my heat time!

A Final is now under way and looking fast, again main players are out in front and making the course look easy and smooth. Good to see some faces I have spoken to on social media in the race, giving them the hup, hup, hup shout has they pass.

Cross season is yet to take firm hold this time of year, what I saw at Haugh-Cross Festival I think it will be more and more coming to this format. Heat races to make the fields even which creates good battles of the bikes all through the field.
So well done guys at Haugh-Cross Festival for putting on a great day of racing, as well with the festival, band and the food that was on offer in the Marquee.

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Now let the Game of Cross begin.

Next race will be by Portage Cycling, See you there folks.

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