MTB

Man Too Hot.

Super Quaich, The Third Round.

Roukenglen Park, 18.2.18.

Albannach and the Unicorn tamer Jim Cameron are the hosts of the last Super Quaich party.

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Roulenglen Park isn’t my best course, but I always look forward to it as my Mum and Dad come and join the ranks of the Two Wheel Army support crew. (also help with Victoria getting the kids out from the trees) This year’s race is a bit later on in the race calendar so no snow this year but there is still a nip in the air.

Clare is racing in the B race today, the crew and I turn up just as the race has begun. Kevin Pugh and Craig Lewis Hamilton are at the font of the race as they come through the trees and into the main support bowl. RGCX has an excellent location for spectating, 95% of the course is watchable from the sign on the tent. (this year the burger van is on hand to feed the faces of all the spectators)

Clare is slogging through lap after lap for the hour’s race. A head full of determination of not getting a DNF on her last Cyclocross race of the season. Her grit and fighting spirit gets her around the course and rolls over the finish line celebrating that she is the last rider home. Well, news for you CC, you didn’t come last, and you beat the course. That’s always the right way to end the race season.

My turn to race approaches, I say my goodbyes, and I am wished good luck as I ride down to the start shoot. I find myself late to the party, squeeze past the bunch and nestle in the right on top of a sand pit. Great, more sand! I thought I had seen enough at Irvine. Chat away to Owen Philipson, then four by four we get moved out the sand and up behind the 20 gridded riders. While chatting away we don’t hear the briefing, and before we know it, the front has burst apart, and the race is on. It takes a moment to hear the Hoot Hoot Hoot of the starting horns, but they are going off, now It’s my turn to race.

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Sprint up the slog of the tarmac hill, suck in lungfuls of oxygen at the top. Navigate the muddy lines and other racers in this condensed area. Come through the trees and out to the open grass, take a quick left and ride along the treeline and then a right turn has you coming back on yourself. The bike soon dips down, taking in the fastest part of the course, a quick descent heading past the spectator bowl for the first time. Drive up the incline with the rear wheel slipping and sliding all the way and turn right and into the woods. A narrow path keeps us all close and fighting for space. Thanks to those pesky B racers they have churned up the grass and made it sticky and slippy slog. I slowly grind my way through the first section, and as I get into the next HTCC old guard Julian passes by, he forces me off track with a close pass, and I’m leaving patches of skin from my leg in the thick bramble bushes.

I like riding the last section of the woods, I always seem to ride this part quite fast, and I gain some place as we exit the woods and ride past the pits. My tyres roll over the timing line for the first time as we race down and around to the first run-up. It’s a short, sharp climb. My feet skid and slide as I run the mud/grassy incline. Dig my feet in a little deeper, and I get to the top of the hill, again taking a few places as I remount the bike and the TWA crew shout me on.

Run the next half of a hill as some riders go past still in the saddle, (why is it called a saddle when its attached to a seat post?) then ride along to the hurdles. Were still bunched up as we turn and dismount for the double magenta barriers. A lot of riders remount and ride along to the new downhill section. Me on the other hand, I keep running until I reach the brow of the hill, back on the bike and freewheel to the bottom of the hill. Some tremendous sweeping switchbacks line you up for the second longer grassy climb. I usually have to dismount and run this hill, but do you know what, I’m going to give it a bash and try to ride this sucker! And I do! I struggle to the top by some zig-zag riding and seeking out grip, also lots of sheer stubbornness helps at this point. The growing crowd also helps with tones of encouragement to all riders tackling the hill.

Back in the saddle (seat) and ride through the mud soup, that takes you into the trees once again. This links you back up with the tarmac start shoot, I have to walk/run the last of the bog as by peddling I don’t seem to be getting anywhere fast. Get to the tarmac and back to riding a bike race in a bike race. It’s being to string out and riding the top wood section I can pick a decent line with some free space ahead. I am gaining on a small group just a few seconds out in front. Deep down I know I won’t be able to hold on to the group as this course isn’t my fastest to get around.

Eventually lap after lap I run out of gas, I hear two laps to go as I come round to the timing van. (great commentary by @mikefixerpayne) Which probably means one and a half for me as I’m sure David Duggan will catch me again. I manage to ride the big hill a few more times but slowing every time I complete it. The last two times I manage 3/4 of the way up. I don’t have any lying down in the mud today, always a good race when that happens but I do regret wearing gloves and arm warmers.

Man got too hot! Halfway around I have stop and strip my arm warmers down to my wrists to cool down. Then at the spectator’s bowl, I pull up to remove my gloves and warmers altogether. I hate being too hot! It distracts me, I think about it too much instead of concentrating on racing. Also, I get a bit nauseous if I am too hot. I lose a tone of time to the riders in front of me by pissing about, but at least I feel some much-needed fresh air.

David does catch me again, just as we entered the woods behind the pits. I now know my race will soon be over as David is riding along to get the checkered flag and the win. I have someone in my sights, a Johnston Wheeler is slowing, this spurs my legs on and the speed is up as we come through the last section of woods. At the end of the woods and entry into the pit area, he slips and goes down. I dig in and pass him on the inside. Kept the power going, ride around the bend and into the last corner. A quick glance over my shoulder and I see I have some space on riders at my back, let the bike glide over the line in 64th spot and to complete RGCX and my Cyclocross season.

Huge thanks to all the Unicorn helpers and event organisers, RGCX is always special.
Thanks again to Michael Martin again some incredible pictures and also to Graeme Cross for some classic black and white images.
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40 Year Old Veteran.

4 February 2018 Cyclocross Race.

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Half the Scottish Cyclocross Population are eating Frites & Mayo
in Valkenburg, cheering on the riders at the pinnacle of the Cyclocross Calander, Team Two Wheel Army head for Rolls & Sausage at Strathclyde Park. Today wraps up the Lappiere Scottish Cyclocross Series.

Clare is first rider up in the trio of races that the army span today. Her race has been held back while the commissars and organisers work out some minor course tweaks. We manage to lend our support as Clare rides over the line and onto her 2nd lap. We soon greet her as she grinds up the bridge climb and gets back on with riding the fast wood section of the course. She completed three laps of the 2.8km course and accomplishes her mission and finishes the race in 32nd spot.

I’m next to race. My V40 virginity is going to be ripped away from me as I roll up to the start line for the 40-minute long race.

With two seasons of riding the open race, I have become accustomed to seeing my race nemesis on the start grid. This gives me a starting target but I usually scan ahead at the front riders, assessing who I can pick out as a target, gauging if I’m making improvements in my racing at the end of the race. Rolling up to the V40 I kinda felt like the new guy again. Even though I do know a few faces around me.

As the race brief is going down, the marshall’s radio crackles, a V50 rider has been posted missing. (Maybe the deer has got him!)

After a being held while, we are told to watch out as there might be a rider on the course, and we will be off in the next 30 seconds. (does anyone else hum the countdown theme in there head at this point)

Breeeep we are off, and off to a soggy start. The soft grass is being ripped up with the 97 sets of wheels digging in and driving the riders forward and up to full speed. I am grateful I oppted for glasses now, they keep the worst of the mud out my eyes in the first few frantic seconds. I try to stick wide right as we come down to the carpark, but a couple of ditches slow me down, finally ride off the soft stuff with a left turn, ride behind the Mylaps timing van and onto the foot of the Big Red climb. Power down on the cranks and weave in and out of the slowing riders that are spinning in the top of their cassette. Eventually get to the top of the red ash, but instead of jumping off and running through the quagmire, I continue to slowly pedal through the ever thicking mud. Eventually, I come to my senses and jump off and push the bike towards some solid ground.

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Shoot down towards the Bridge, I can’t see a thing through the dirty glasses as we ride in a bunch towards the run-up. Dismount the bike and time to charge up the side of the bridge wall. My spare shoes don’t have the studs, so at this point, I’m panicking about grip. I manage to use some well-placed boulders to assist with the climb. (An excellent organiser has even marked them out for me with some bright white paint!)

The fast part of the course comes next. The speed increases as we flow along the gravel paths and through the woods at the back of the theme park. The low sun and a pack of riders make it difficult to see the ruts and racing line. Ride over the bridge and down through the soft leaf litter weaving through the trees. A quick flick of the bike through the taped off chicane has you out onto the carpark and breathing in lungfuls of salt and vinegar from the chips at the burger van.

Shoot past the pits chasing a few riders as we head for the timing van and the grass on the far side of the course. Ditch my glasses to the fan club as I slowly ride past as fellow single speeder Scott McKendrick seeks past. We hit a bump in the track, and as we turn 180° to ride back over the bump, there is a traffic jam. I head left and shout at Scott to get his fat arse out the way. (I’ll have to add that to the apology Facebook thread)

The next grass section looks a bit wet and sticky. I line the bike up, dismount and start off running at a pretty fast pace. Two bends in and I am taking places. Three curves in and I’m breathing out my hoop but still taking places, back into the saddle and round the back of timing van again and Big Red is in my sight once again.

Big Red was ridden two more times, and I run the top swamp section each time, learning from my first lap mistake. As I came into the pits to tackle Big Red the fourth time I swap bikes as the brakes on the cross bike have decided to stop working. Using my foot as an anchor coming down to the bridge and through the bomb hole at the trees is the only way to ditch some speed.

My MTB was passed on by Clare, and I was soon riding up the red gravel. Every time I tried to push the power down the chain skipped about and I lose momentum. Gary used the bike at Doonbank for the last lap, and he said the same. A dead cassette is his diagnostics. I struggle on the fourth lap with speed up any hill and gears are all over the place, as I come past the pits on the last lap, I get back on the Cross bike. I would rather have no brakes than no gears. Just as well, the MTB picks up a rear puncture as I come into the carpark before the pits.

Last time up Big Red and I’m struggling. Glad to get to the top as that’s the hard part of the course taken care of. As I come through the woods, I see a funny shape in the mud at the dip in the trees. It’s all flattened and smooth! As I round the bend, I understand why. A Nightingale has fallen. He’s getting back onto his bike and covered with a nice layer of mud.

I push my speed up the small drag that takes you along and over the bridge. Ride down to the woods and remember my brakes are non-existent, take it easy riding the bomb hole, turn left to ride down and through the chicane. I am carrying too much speed as I go through the first of the tapes, I can’t stop! My foots out and dragging on the ground, brake levers are at the max, yet I’m still gliding forward. Then BANG! I soon stop as I hit the tarmac. My rear wheel slipped out and took me down.

I’m on the floor, things are sore. I hear the Nightingale close in, I right my bike and bang the lever level again and try to ride off. My right hand has gone numb with the hit to my elbow, I’m bent over as the Nightingale swoops past. I hear Victoria, my boys and Clare shout me on, I suck it up and chase the rider down. I’m gaining as the line rapidly approaches, before I know it I’m flinging the bike forward like Chris Hoy in a track sprint. I take 37th place by a Vulgar sprint as Jammy described.

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Last on today’s race card is Gary. He will have to suffer an hour of racing the course and probably seven times around the course. They get underway about an hour behind schedule, Gary goes past us in the top half of the field he is off to a good start. The late start sends quite a lot of the crowd home, and the car park is alive with the sound of power washers.

Gary seems to be in the top 15 on lap three and is keeping pace with riders just ahead. The race is being strung out with the fast pace of David Duggan riding at the front. As the light slowly fades me and the boys head to the bridge and cheer Gary on his last accent along the wall. He scoots through the woods knowing he’s not that far from the finishing line. His seventh and last time over the line gives him a 16th place.

Not a bad days racing for the team. All three riders home and bikes intact (except in I have three punctures by the time I get back home, two slow punctures but all three due to thorns)

Thanks to Pamela La’Craig & Pete Bentley for the use of some images. thanks to M&G and EK Cycling Club for hosting today’s race.

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Riding The Fat Tyres.

MTB Days.

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A break in the Scottish Cyclocross season gives me a chance to change up the 33mm Cross tyres for the large 2.1-inch Schwalbes to hit the local snow-covered hills.

I am grateful I decided to keep the triple ring up front on the Dirty Harry MTB. By spinning in the little 22 tooth cog I can ride the 90% of the grassy slopes in the Kilpatrick Hills, this gets me to the playground of singletrack and fire roads.

Gary comes from an MTB riding history and is desperate to take me out and show me his G-string but more worryingly he’s talking about his Mangina! When talk of talking about taking me up the Khyber Pass I really started to worry about being alone in the woods with him. Lucky for me these are just the names of the Strava segments. (Mountain bikers and their weird humour I suppose)

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The trails up in the Kilpatrick Hills have some great singletrack riding amongst the heather strewn hills, but the G-string section is a lot more technical for my standard. A lot of arse crack hanging an inch off the back tyre and rear wheel skids gets me down the switchbacks in one piece, with only the one little tumble in the deep snow. Navigate through the darkness of the Pine Forest and come out to where the trees are being cut down and turned to massive piles of logs by the roadside, we pick our way over dead branches and carpet of needles as we head down to a small pond. We are now at the ass crack of the G-string, a lengthy climb back up to the Loch Humphrey on the logging roads is ahead of us. (Glad again to have the wee 22 upfront)

Next ride out on the fat tyres takes us out along to Mugdock Park, Milngavie. The rain is coming down quite persistent, It’s going to be a somewhat wet ride today. Gary wants to let me loose on his Mangina trail. This is another bike handling level up on my limited bike handling skills. Some very technical riding through the Pine Forest starts us off. The constant up-down, up-down of drainage ditches between the rows of trees have some deep ruts and exposed rocks just waiting to have a fight with my rigid front fork and hardtail MTB. Gary is alright and scoots along on his full suspension bouncy bike like its a freshly laid tarmac road.

The good thing about Mugdock trails is the coffee shop halfway through. Stop off to top up our caffeine levels then swing back into the saddle and ride back out into the sleet. The quick stop didn’t help to defrost our frozen fingers, back on with the wet gloves and try to warm up again as we ride the next section of the Mangina trail.

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A lot of wooden bridge riding comes next, and when we come to a massive fallen tree, the local trail builders have put this to use, they have built a wooden ramp to get you up and over and back riding the trail. Gary rides it without a hitch, me on the other hand, I ride around the long way as I know my skill level and just now it wasn’t going to be put to the test on this obstacle.

We come to the end of the trail, we take the decision to turn around and ride back the way we have come. Today we had planned on getting to the end of the Mugdock trails and then ride over the heather moors and hills to join back in with the Kilpatrick Hills, then towards home. The low lying clouds put an end to these plans. We would be riding up into the clouds as we made our way home. It could become a bit of a hazard as we don’t have any GPS equipment with us apart from our smartphones. They can be temperamental with the weather and not the best equipment to pick up a strong signal and aid with navigating the deer trails to get us in the right direction of home. The safe option was to turn around.

Riding back along the trails gave me a little bit more practice and helped build more confidence in my bike handling abilities, but I’m a long way off being comfortable and taking drop-offs and jumps just yet. The more I get out and ride these things the better and more natural It will become on the bike. Hopefully, some of the skills I learn will help during some cross races as well. Transferable bike skills, we should all have them.

Mountain Bikes Belong in the Hills, not the shopping run to Aldi.

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