3rd Quarter of Quaich.
5.2.17 Thistly Cross, Dunbar.
Set off early and drive from the West coast over to the East coast. To keep myself entertained, I try to match the bike to the rider as I pass cars with bikes on the roof and bike racks heading the same direction as me. Directions are well laid out and I am guided to my parking bay by the yellow jackets. Time to get the blood back to my lower limbs and go and sign on.
Riding the pit bike down I notice that the access road is very rocky, potentially a puncture before I even get to the start line. Dispose of the bike and now it’s time for my warm up, a jog back to the car in my heavy hiking boots. A quick bite to eat while I’m changing and I’m ready for Thistly Cross.
Gather with the rest of the riders and wait to be set loose around the lake. I didn’t manage a warm up lap so shall be riding this one carefully on the first lap. Can’t believe I have a race plan. My last race went well by riding on more of an even pace, rather than having two hot laps then dying on my arse and hanging on for the last 30 minutes. Clipped in and sitting around mid-pack for the start. The whistle is blasted, and we are under way!
A little drag up hill spreads us out a bit, rise to the top and then we shoot down and behind the café and pits. Off the stone path and onto soft grass along the side of the lake. Once at the end of Lake it’s time to navigate the wide mushy zigzags then it’s into the lower woods where the going goes up. Ride the incline well, taking over a few riders as I go. Once at the top, we get into a bottleneck as there is a tight turn to the left over a log. Jump off the bike and squeeze through the pack, point the bike downhill and back in the saddle. Still in the woods, we ride a great narrow single track path that takes you out onto another quick climb past the sign on Barn.
Climb complete, we are into the woods and more single track. I am following wheels at this point, still not sure what’s coming next on the course. A brace of hurdles/barriers come next. Off the bike run, hop, run, hop and back on the bike. I don’t have the confidence to bunny hop the barriers so I just stick to running every lap. A great flowing section around the trees kicks you back up and over the access road, aim your wheel downhill and gather speed before a left turn and more squiggles at the edge of the tree line that tee’s you up for a steep banking and out into the main arena. I dismount and run the wee bugger as I don’t want to look a fool in front of the cameras when I deck it if I tried to ride it.
Remount, still following wheels as we come around to where it all began. This time we take a turn at the top of the small stone slope. Off the bike, jump the barrier and we are running diagonally uphill and onto the switchbacks. Ride all but one, the first one is just a bit steep for me and my gearing so running is the more efficient way to go. Back in the saddle and few more bends takes me over the line and past Mylaps timing van and onto lap two.
Now I have had one lap under my belt, feeling more relaxed I start to move up and take places on all the features of the course. Hills are my strong point today, as most people stick it in their granny gear when the course goes up. Only having one gear with 18 teeth, I have to get the power down and keep the pace high, giving me more momentum to catch riders in front. I’m enjoying this race, so much so next time I ride past the timing van I see two laps to go (where did the time go). Squeeze a gel to death trying to get some taste back in my mouth. Head down, pedal hard and time to catch some riders. Have another good lap and gain places, I ride over the line and take the lap bell.
By the time I hit the hurdles for the last time I have just caught Katie Carmichael and Tony Jones. I take the lead as we descend into the woods. I try and push the pace weaving through the trees back up to the gravel path. Down the fast slope to the bomb hole and steep banking. I jump off the bike, I can hear someone very close behind me. Quickly back on the bike, I’ve got to try and make a gap on the small hill up to the barrier. Hop the barrier and run the hill, back on the bike, down the grassy slope, taking a quick turn. (At this point the pressure of a chasing rider takes its toll). I make a mess of the dismount and end up on the wrong side of the bike. Running while juggling the bike trying to correct my position isn’t the best combination and I nearly fall.
I peek around and Tony is still on my tail. Get to the right side of the bike for my remount, we are neck and neck. I take a bad line and now riding the soft grass/mud. Tony is powering through on a better line. I have to jump off and run as I am grinding to a halt. He gets to the corner ahead of me and powers on and over the line. I remount and ride in just behind him. That’s two races in a row I have had a battle to the line! This time it was for 20th which I lost, rolling over the line to take 21st from 114 riders. Super Quaich you have done it again. A and B race layout has given so much competition right through the field and I am sure the racers are all enjoying it.
Huge thanks to Eric Easton, Colin Sergeant and the band of course builders from Haddington CC for putting on the race at Foxlake. This course was amazing, I think it has become my favourite course on the calendar.
Last Quarter of Quaich is at Dig In At The Dock, Bo’ness. The B race is going to be the toughest one yet with a few A riders dropping down, as the A race is being packed with stars from the CX world. The A race will be a spectacle to watch. The flying Gary McDonald taking on international cyclocross racers like Helen Wyman, Amira Mellor, Jeremy Durrin and Thomas Mein and will be interesting to see if the young pups Sean Flynn, Harry Johnston and Cameron Mason will catch the G machine.