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Field Of Dreams

HSBC National Trophy Round 2.

Saturday 27th October 2018, Irvine Beach.

Walkers Cycling Club had a dream, a dream to be hosts to the first ever National Trophy Cyclocross Race in Scotland. I am not sure how long this has been floating in dreamland but Scott Kerr And Brian McCutcheon along with the assistance of the club and many local clubs they had the mentality of “build it and they will come”!

They set about building it and we came! On February, part of the Super Quaich series. Irvine Beach a test race to give the organisers an idea how the course would run and also how all the planning and logistics would work out to host a weekend of high-level racing for all age groups.

Roll on a few months, the day of reckoning is upon them.

Veterans day at the seaside today. At 12 pm, the final bit of coursework has to be finished, as this is time for the first race of the weekend to kick off. All age groups will be racing 40 minutes today.

The Veteran 40, 50 and 60 age group of women are getting lined up in front of the start tape. It’s a strong field today, this level of racing is a step above the normal Scottish Cyclocross series. Having multiple British Champions as well as multiple Master World Champions in the relevant age groups means there is going to be a battle out there get the National Points Leader Jersey. So a pretty good level to have on the front of the grid.

Once the woman battle it out around the course, now it’s time for the V50 and V60 males to race. The same as above British Champions and National Points leader at the front of the grid and another Master World Champion in the V60 race starting a minute after them.

Watching the two races it’s quite clear that it’s going to be a fast day between the tape. The course is dry and there is plenty of grip on the off-camber sections. The sand traps are capturing a few front wheels and toppling riders out of their saddles. Looks like I will be running them again this year.

My times up, time for me to get to the start area. We are gathered into two lines and wait for our name to be called, I know that I’m going to be last called, that feeling of being picked for the school football team crops up (that kid that smells of pee and me are left to see who is least popular of the shite footballers).

Roll onto the second last row and wait for the countdown. (Still, don’t know what the fuck I’m doing racing in the National Trophy Race! When I went to sign up there were only about 18 riders showing. These 18 would absolutely smash me at racing and I knew I’d get lapped, maybe several times. But In my head, I had it that if somehow I finished I would be 19th! My best result in a race for a while) That’s how I ended up on the start line.

It’s not just me and the 18 riders that I dreamt of! It’s me and 74 other riders. Glad to see that more riders stepped up to the line and made it a larger field and show what we kind of racing we can put on in the Scottish Cyclocross Series.

A short blast of the whistle gets the race underway, Wayne Barr is on my right and shoots off like a rocket to get to where he should have been starting, middle of the pack! I jump on his wheel and try and keep pace with him as we pass the pits. I soon run out of gear as we head for the first incline taking us along to the first sand pit. I lose positions to the guys behind, they carry more speed with their gearing and overtake before we enter the sand pit. Now at the back of the bunch!

The first sandpit its a bit of a tangle ahead, off the bike and run through some gaps making up a couple of places. Back on the bike and ride along the long off-camber section, face the bottom of a long climb, a few flat spots helps keep the burn off the legs as you ride up to the highest point of the course.

Still near the rear of the bunch as the front wheel points the down towards the second deeper sand pit. Loved this part of the course as free speed is always welcome. Dismount as I arrive at the sand, start to run but my legs aren’t keeping up with my brain and I somehow stub my foot and I take a trip down to inspect the sand.

Kevin Pugh’s advice from the sideline “get on your feet Bryan” is taken and I get out of the sand and head towards the commentary van and finish line. Two Hurdles later and its time to hit the hills. A few uphill zigzags and a few steep climbs (second one I have to run as it’s to steep for my gear) has you speeding downhill and along to the pits where it all started.

Two laps in and my legs are hurting. (big time regret running to work the day before) Starting to feel like I am way out my depth and will probably have to climb off my bike and give in as this is way to fast for me.

Eventually, the leaders catch on my third lap, I come over the hurdles and give them room to fly past. Now I have only two laps remaining.

A caffeine gum gives me a little boost as I get stuck in and try to finish this race.

No more dramas in both sand pits. I ride the first one each lap slower and slower but I manage it, and the second one I run each time managing not to trip over my own feet and make a spectacle for the good amount of support at the sand pits.

Onto my last lap. I seem to have a big gap from the person chasing me, as long as I don’t do anything stupid only people going past will be riders lapping me. I have a clean last lap and even pick up my pace, try and surf the fast guy’s wheels as the breeze past, but I don’t have the legs to sit on for long.

Roll over the finish line to a waving chequered flag, before the race I really did think I would have been pulled off as being to slow. To see that flag was a good boost of moral.

I managed to race a National level race, alright I finished 69th but I finished.

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Irvine is always a good course to ride, be it the old course with the Big Dipper and long narrow sand dunes to the new course with double sand pit and loads of off chambers and climbs. But the best thing is my bike came away just as clean as it arrived. Roll on 2019 and hopefully another round of National Trophy races at the seaside.

Sunday was for the Junior and Elite races, sadly I didn’t get down to witness these but from the clips and photos on Facebook, under the bright blue sky’s the racing looked fast and furious once again.

A huge well done to all involved on the planning and organising of the first and hopefully not the last time the world and national champions turn up to race in Scotland.

You Built It, And We Came!

Superb images from the sand pit by Alan Draffan, Pammie Ball and Fiona Wallace. Click here to see an amazing video by ImacImages.

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Callender Cross

Far Flung Falkirk.

7th October 2018 Callender House, Falkirk.

Falkirk has three good things going for it, The Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies and the fantastic Callender House. In the grounds of the house, an annual event comes along that just gets bigger and better. Callender Cross!

This is my fourth trip over to Davie and Franco’s Cyclocross Playground. Storm damage to some of the old mature trees has meant there has to be some rerouting of the course, which makes this year’s course a little different from the previous three.

The first race I catch is the woman’s. The race kicks off and they speed away along the course. I wander along and take in some of the new changes. The major changes are two new off camber slopes to ride down and a new super steep run-up to contend with halfway through the lap.

There’s a huge field of racers in the woman’s 40-minute race and its good to see them race once again in their own category. Battles are fought hard from the front all the way to the back of the pack, and a wide range of smiles to grimaces for the camera tells a story of how the new challenges on the course are shaping every rider’s experience in this race.

The Old Guard and Young Guns are up next. As soon as the V50 get underway the rain starts to drop down that little bit harder. So I take this opportunity to ride about and try and keep warm. Once they have finished making the place all muddy its time for the V40 riders to congregate at the start line.

The outer layers are discarded into the bushes, we get the grided riders sorted and the rain comes down a bit harder as we fill in spaces behind the fast bikes.

Colin Chisholm turns his back and in the next 30 seconds, the whistle will indicate the start of the race getting us veterans underway on Callender park 2018.

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Breeeeeeep! Push off and slowly we begin to move.

I start on the right side of the course, the bright Orange top of Anthony Robinson is in my sights (I know he’s been training more than I so need to keep him as my target man). I hope to keep him there for a few laps and not let him creep too far out in front.

No major incidents during the fast and furious start as 105 riders jostle for space. We head up to one of the new parts of the course, have to run the new downward off-camber sections due to the volume of riders as the turn creates a bottleneck and the race comes to a grinding halt. Still quite bunched together all the way around the first lap but I don’t have any silly mistakes on lap one, so still roughly around the same position as when I started.

I ride the two new decent’s on the second lap as we start to thin out. I ride the middle ruts each time I am descending but it’s not the prettiest of downhill riding you will see, as I expected to hit the dirt each and every time I come down. And on the second lap, I did come off! The marshal was busy clearing barrier tape that a rider snagged on their way down. I take my eye off my line to see what he was trying to point out, this loss in concentration ended with my front wheel washing out and me sliding along on my knees. Once back in the saddle, I settle into a good pace and lap two is now complete.

From the start of lap three to the last lap, I have a great race! Gareth Edwards from Edinburgh Road Club was my race partner for the next three laps.

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We trade places all over the course, me scaling the run-up and catching him up just as we crest the top, to him overtaking as we ride up to the three stairs. Halfway through the 4th lap, I thought I was done as he rode away from me and created a decent gap. But ever so slowly I clawed back to his rear wheel and we traded places once again.

On the last lap, I thought I had the upper hand as we ride along to the run-up (crawl up) I was in front, this is where I could possibly gain some time and snap the elastic holding us together. I ride the downhill switchbacks (probably my best time of doing these in the race) at the bottom of the hill I tuck in low as I picked up speed and ride past the pits.

After the pits, I ride onto the small climb for the last time. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! The heavy breaths of Gareth as he rides past, not only that he had someone on his tail as well! Have to turn the pedals that little bit harder and try and get on their wheels. Turn left and point the bike down the off camber decent trying to close the small gap they have on me. No tumbles from me or them and I hit the tarmac and get my head down, try to get my sprint on as I see the timing van come into view.

Gareth finishes 6 seconds ahead and takes 68th, David Lewis sneaks in and takes 69th 2 seconds ahead of me and I finish in 48:57 minutes in 70th place.

That was a great race. A proper race just like F*@k Off Gary.

Sometimes cross races can get lonely at the back as you tick down the laps and time, but fighting it out lap after lap, even for 68th place is an amazing buzz.

The target has changed colour from Orange to Red! Red of Edinburgh and Gareth Edwards.

While the Open race battle the course, I head along and battle to get warm and jet hose the bike clean and prepare for the journey back home with a hot coffee from McDonald’s that washed down the post-race cheeseburger. A proper race feed!

Click for all the results.

See you at the National Trophy In Irvine.

Bute The Brute

Bute Cross, Rothesay.

Saturday 15.9.18

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The blog is back, but not by popular demand!

The first race of the season for me, the lone Two Wheel Army rider again. Clare and Gary have chucked racing for more better things in life. Eating cakes and munching Pizza I think.

Dust off the Cross bike on Friday night, the kit bag is sorted now, All I have to do on Saturday is just bundle my loyal support crew into the car (until they are old enough to stay themselves, they get dragged to the races haha) and drive to Wemyss Bay and board the ferry to Rothesay (Isle of Bute).

As I stand to wait to embark the boat, some familiar and ugly mugs who turn up at Scottish parks on damp cold weekends from September to February start to appear in the queue. It’s great to be back! The cars soon fill the ferry deck, now the two wheels are allowed on board and store our bikes on the great new bike racks that the crew pull out the cupboard.

My boys head to the upper deck to go shark spotting on the short crossing to Bute. Surprisingly we don’t see any, but we did spot a mahoosive jellyfish (I thought it was a poly bag at first). Twenty minutes later we pull alongside the harbour. The Ferry soon empties of vehicles and bikes. A short wander past the Castle and up to the Leisure centre to sign on and get my first race number of the season. Sort my pins out and I take in a quick lap before the V60, V50, Woman and Junior get called up to the start line and it’s not long until they are let loose an start their race season.

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That time has come! The nerves, excitement, fear all start to rumble about your head and the pit of your stomach as 4 pm approaches, It’s time to ride to the start line.

As I stepped up in age group (or down don’t know how it goes) I recognise a few faces but not as many as normal in the open race. I know one face, bloody Davie Lines. (though I would escape being lapped by him for a season, haha) Just as the faster riders are sorted and us not so special ones fall in behind, low and behold the wet stuff from the sky comes down to christen us and the first race of the season. Feeling sorry for our old bones the commissars will let us go in the next 30 seconds.

Brrrrrreeeep goes the whistle and season 18/19 is a go!

Foot clipped in and power-down on the pedal, my unfit body starts the sprint up to the commentary box and to the voice of Morven Brown rocking the mic and shouting us through the timing/finishing line. I am doing well just now, not the last rider and my bike still holding together, result!

Take the first corner on the inside and with a dab of the foot, I’m through along with the other 56 riders all still on the bikes. Another long sprint past the football game on our right we ride down to where we have just started. The long fast straight soon has us racers strung out as we cross the gravel and push round to the metal bridge.

A bottleneck soon appears here as we slow to ride over the slippy metal surface. The speed soon kicks back up as we ride out onto the field and take on the S bends. Struggle up the small incline with the red ash tennis courts on my left. Then come to my nemesis, the slow corners of a chicane (always think I am going to wash out and ride way to slow).

The run-up is next, I try to ride as much as possible but come to halt a third of the way up. Dismount/fall off and a peddle to the shin soon gets me moving again. (will be running it from now on). On top of the run-up is a great wooded trail along to the sharp hairpin bend and shoot down the slope trying not to get myself tangled in the fence at the bottom (as I nearly do a few laps in).

Now I am on the hard part of the course for me, soft grass! Need to ride this part mostly out of the saddle to keep my speed up, in doing so it’s killing my legs and lower back. Some gravel paths come next, I ride past the big tree covering my fan club as they hide from the rain, and now head up to the start line to complete lap one.

Things go quite consistent from here to the finish 6 laps later. I consistently go backwards in placings, consistently get slower going up the run/walk up, and the pain in my lower back consistently lets me know its needing oiled or something.

After a lot of determination to keep riding the bike with its bar tape peeling off along with the very low front brake hood angle. (that made my hand slide off going downhill towards that fence every lap) I happily managed to cross the line after 47 minutes of a 40-minute race in 47th place.

A few changes have been made since my last race here two years ago. I quite liked doing the neutralised ride up from the Castle, then the mad dash over the stone carpark as a start. The turns on the red ash tennis courts were removed, but I don’t mind not having slower turns to do. Another missing part was after struggling up the run-up we went down into the woods, a thin natural trail was great along with the fallen logs that had to be jumped. Don’t get me wrong the course still had its challenges and was a great addition to the series races.

After reflecting on my first race back, I now know, there will be some great battles at the back of the bunch this season with the HTCC crew (happy trail cross collective) as were all fat and slow now, not just them.

See you all at the next one, Callender Park 7.10.18

Thanks to the Organiser Stewart and his band of helpers from the Bike Shed. Rothesay’s Weekend Of Cycling has something for everyone, so next year get yourself over.

Thanks to Richard Croasdale for the capturing and letting me have use of images at the run-up.

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Full results are found here.

Head to the Facebook page to see the full photo gallery.