sport

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.

PSX_20180219_084439.jpg

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.

FB_IMG_1518979559092.jpg

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.
Advertisements

Camber Cross

Super Quaich Round 2.

Irvine Beach, 11.2.18.LRM_EXPORT_20180215_200322.jpg

The car is packed and ready to hit the beach today. Irvine is situated on the West Coast of Scotland, yeah the windy part of the world with multi-weather fronts per day.

We arrive at the carpark with a small dusting of snow covering the grass, the youth riders have just fought through some snowfall during their 15 minutes of racing. The course is open for the B race to have a warm up and see what’s on the menu today.

Sandwiches with camber, cucamber are today’s offering from Walkers Cycling. This is a new course for the Super Quaich race, and it’s a tester before next years National Trophy round. Two sand pits and a multitude of off camber riding, throw in some hills for good measure and you have a tough course served up. Good news is it’s not too soft underfoot due to the fast draining sandy soil.

As the B race gets under way, they race off at a frantic speed on the way to the first sand pit. We watch and learn as the riders bite into the sand(witch) and see what lines are best to avoid/ride. First section is pretty rideable as long as you have some wiggle room, the second one after the downhill descent is rideable, again if you pick the right line! Kevin Pugh is back racing his cross bike, he comes into the sand in third place. Selects the wrong rut,comes to a hault and is off running with sand between his toes and bike held high.

As the B race battle on in the winter sun, we head for sign on and then go sort our race numbers out. Drop the pit bike off and grab a few pictures while making my way back to the warmth of the car as the cold is creeping in.

I mentioned the changeable weather, didn’t I! A snowstorm rolls in as me and G roll away from the car towards the racing tape. It’s brutal, we try and take in a quick lap of the course with the snow stinging your face no matter the direction of travel. My chin is frozen with the bite of the sharp arctic blast. Gary is nearly in tears as he can’t speak and lost all feeling in his pinky fingers. Then we find out the race is being held back for 20 mins.

What! Twenty more minutes riding about in this weather, makes me understand how the athletes in Pyeongchang are dealing with lycra, outdoor sports and cold temperatures. Just as quickly as the snow came on, its soon blow past leaving a dark steel sky, and we soon got shouted forward to the starting area.

2018-02-15 20.09.31.jpg

I get a decent spot in the starting bunch, Discard my jacket and trousers but keep the sunglasses. (Ever the optimist) Gary is about five people in front of me, don’t think he will be that close come the end of this race. Countdown begins as we wait for the whistle.

Breeeeep we are on and racing at the new Irvine Beach Park.

We have a good starting area, an extensive flat grassland soon gets the 87 riders up to racing speed and the dash to the front commences without too much fighting. A right turn has you lining up for the first bottleneck, a small incline with a left turn slowed the riders in front down. I stick wide right and take the long road around the corner as the inside riders tiptoe around the bend.

A few more bends are ridden then we come to the first of the sand pits. I’m still on the right-hand side of the course, and glad I stuck with that. Some riders get into a tangle on the left and stop the race on that side dead in its tracks. A few of us on the right manage to sneak past they play in the sandbox.

A short blast uphill then a sharp left at the top takes you on to the first of many camber section for today. We snake our way around the lower slopes of the hill at the far side of the pond. I’m still making decent progress in the race. As we come to the 90° right turn, I switch from riding to running. LRM_EXPORT_20180211_204835.jpg

I say running it’s more jogging and slidding gradually to the bottom of the camber and along the scrim and barrior tape. Without toe studs, I’m like a dog on lino in these parts. Can’t get grip, so I get back on the bike and see if that’s any better. Manage to ride slowly to the uphill run. And from there is more camber and running/slipping until you reach the highest point of the course, turn 180° right and line yourself up for a big drop down and along to sandpit number two.

I practised riding this sandpit once, I fell right over the bars, so I decided to run it every lap, saving the embaresment of me going face first into the sand. Swing off the bike and run the sand holding my bike like a huge handbag. A flying remount and I have managed to take a few places coming through the sand.

I’m in a group of five as we ride past the pits and over the line. I am just going to hang with this group and see if I can last the pace of the A race. Tackle the double hurdles, and now the group ride up to the uphill yeah uphill switchbacks. I haven’t got the gears to ride this, I opt for swinging off and run my way up the hill. Remount and I’m soon riding back down the hill, I lock the rear wheel, this sends me into a skid and right out the tape! Come to a stop and get back in between the tape, now to chase back into the group as they ride past the hurdles and on to another uphill section that looms over head.

As said, I’m optimistic. Good job I kept the sunglasses on, as the afternoon light is soon cast over the course and brightens my mood for a short period in the race. Then the hill run kicks me back to reality, and I’m soon suffering once again.

Us bitches blaze on past the skate park, past the pits on they way to the sand pit. Then back onto the never-ending off-camber section.

A few more times around the course, my little group soon crumbles, a few push on, and a few fall back. I am now riding solo again. Head along to the first sand pit and for the last time, and I see Gary for the first time since the startline. He just comes through the second sand trap and is heading for the finish line. We give each other a shout and cheer, and roughly at the same time that changeable weather kicks back in.

The snowstorm returns, softly at the start but by the time I have reached the high point with the chambers behind me, the wind picks up and the snowflakes increase. I blast down the hill for the last time, run the sand pit and hop back on the bike. A 30mph headwind with snow in the face is greeting me, I try and push the cranks round, and round, slowly I gain some speed to get me out of the worst of the wind.

I’m riding past the pits and the weather is killing me. As I hit the tarmac, I find Andy Ingles on my tail. Another sprint finish is on the cards. Both of us get out the saddle, and the line is coming up fast, Andy is creaking ahead, I am out of gear and spinning at my fastest. He soon pulls away and takes the line and 43rd spot.

44th from 87 riders isn’t to bad a result from me. Last year I would have been down at 60s-70s so an improvement. Imagine if I stopped eating shite and pushed my training. I might actually be top 20-30.

Gary finished in 23rd spot and became my pit bitch for finishing ahead of me, although he done well by getting my pit bike and jacket. But forgot the trousers with the car key. Bloody useless these young ones. LRM_EXPORT_20180211_202629.jpg

That’s Garys Cross season over, and he’s been a natural at the racing game, some excellent results and a lot of experience gained for 18/19 season kicking off at the tail end of the year.

Clare and I have one more race, RGCX is our last bike race. Then we swap tyres for trainers and take on the hill running races. With our first being the Hill Billy Trail Race. Hosted by CX racer Brian Yates.

Thanks to Michael Martin, Bill Kennedy and George Stewart for letting me use the images from the race.

Huge thanks to all the Walkers and their cycling team, thanks to the marshals who braved the cold and wind to let the racing go ahead. This will be a grat National Trouphy Round looking forward to the beach again in October. received_1907882002872509_20171118142324756.jpg

40 Year Old Veteran.

4 February 2018 Cyclocross Race.

The World Champs? Nope, it’s M&G’s Cyclocross Playpark.IMG_20180129_113639.jpeg

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.

PSX_20180208_001718.jpg

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.

IMG_zifmiv.jpg

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.

received_1907882002872509_20171118142324756.jpg

F#©π Off Gary!

Super Quaich 2018.

28.1.18 Razelle Park, Ayr.

Super Quaich, the first batch has been organised by Christopher JC and JP Baxter their band of Ayr Burners. Clare and I have been drawn out in today’s B race. Gary will be racing an hour after us in with the A race chasing the Pros.

It’s a proud moment for me seeing my two teammates roll up to race altogether, making it a six-wheel army. Just have to get the kit sorted and pay the fees to British Cycling again and become Team Two Wheel Army for realsies. (hopefully, kit will be ready for Sunday)

A couple of the kids trundle past racing for the orange and black checkered flag as Gary and I dodge our way over the puddles and through the mud heading to sign on. Brown envelop to match the brown shoes is secured, time to walk the course and let Gary see what he’s signed up for. (No Ice Cream and deck chairs with this visit to Ayr G Dog)

The trio of us wanders through to the start area, ditch the pit bike then ditch the body waste at the other pits, then me and CC head for the growing bunch of riders assembling for the B race. It’s good to see lots familiar faces and join in with the nervous/excited chatter waiting for the call to grid up. The Commissioner and Jammy battle it out in trying to talk over each other. Jammy wins as he has the mic and PA power. Eventually, we get the brief and in 30 seconds we will be racing.

2018-01-21 10.40.16.png

I secured a spot on the second row, four riders are between me and the start line. (Still, reminisce about being called to the front row of the grid at Dig In The Dock) Clare is just a few rows back and super eager to defeat Rozelle Park in 2018.

Brrrreeeeeep the whistle blows and we are off.

FB_IMG_1517229004149.jpg

Clip in and time to power down the centre of the course. Sprinting down the start shoot we send the puddles flying into the air, a rather large puddle is directly in front of me, have to ride through it as I am boxed in with riders each side of me. Bang! My rear tyre takes a beating, it’s got to have punctured with that impact. The bouncing of the rim on the hard surface isn’t a great sign. Though I have luck on my side for now. Seems my tyre is just somewhat soft with the couple of baby farts of air I put into my tube.

We ride off the hardpack onto the grass for the first time, I am still near the front. But due to my limited top end speed on the single speed, I lose a few position in the sprint. Point the bike downhill and ride through swampageddon and between the gap in the hedge. Through the gate, we turn left and are sandwiched between the hedgerows. A long grass/mud hill is the view, I manage to stay on the bike and ride halfway, then it became time to jump off and join in on running to the top.

Still only a fist full of people in front of me as get to the top of the hill and disappear into the woods. Try and calm down now, the first few minutes are always chaos and burning myself out trying to catch the lead riders is a possibility. Another uphill run soon comes into vision, jump off the bike and dig the toes in and run past the pits. Onto some firmer ground which takes us down and round to tackle the triple stair threat. I can see I am closing in on Gary Currie from Ayr Burners. He’s riding about 4th, I am back to my starting position.

Ride back into the woods after riding a nice grassy bend, as I ride up the muddy knoll I have the orange jersey of Currie in my sights. Slip and slide around the curves trying to find some grip. Then a slow slog through the mud to the double barriers. I have a crazy idea of bunny hoping these barriers, they aren’t too high off the dirt making them very tempting to hop over. I bin that stupid idea, and I stick to getting off the bike and running over them. As I turn for the timing van and finish line, I catch Gary and now surf his rear wheel.

In doing so, I earn a face full mud. I had just discarded my glasses to HTCC massive at the hurdles so I couldn’t see a bloody thing. I pop out from Gary’s wheel and ride beside him, blinking out the mud and grit as we cross the line. I have the inside track into the approaching left bend so move up a place as we race under the trees on the fastest section of the course.

I’m third place as we come to the first corner and back down to the swampland. Third bloody place! What’s happening here, I think to myself. I ride through the hedge and try to ride as much of hedgerow slope as I can. (I know Gary runs this part of the course so I try and gain a bit of ground by riding) It’s not long before I’m off and running and I didn’t gain much distacne on the Currie.

As we ride past the pits, Gary’s getting a lot of encouragement from his teammates (Rabbie Burners). “Come On Garrrrry” “Keep Chasing Gary” “Come On Gary“. Sorry to the young readers and spectators, but I blurt out “Fuck Of Gary” as he’s stuck to me like smelly fart and can’t escape from him.

As we ride this year’s new addition, a small section of singletrack, with a dash of deep puddles, rider number two is struggling with his gears. We overtake him as we hit the mud soup. Me and my shadow are now in second and third place as we race towards the hurdles.

What’s happened to me, 2nd place! It’s only lap two and still have 45 minutes of racing to go. Time to put the podium dreams to the back of my mind.

The shadow is still tracking me, I seem to distance him on the second half of the course but on the first half, he keeps on pulling me back. With his presence, I start to crumble under the pressure. Mistakes are creeping in and these result in some stupid falls making be lose valuble time. Number four rider soon joins us in the battle for 2nd place. He takes full advantage of us two scrapping it out and before we know it he is pulling into the second spot and getting a gap on us.

Thoughts return to the battle at hand, fight Currie off! If I can get to the last lap and Gary is just ahead of me I know, there is a good chance I can take his position as I am riding the last half faster on each lap. We take the bell as we cross the line. I look behind and I have distanced him, now I am actually gaining on the second spot. I’m spurred on to try and make the catch.

On the ride down to Swampageddon for the last time, I make a huge mistake. I am pushing it to the edge trying to give me a chance to catch rider number two. I take a massive fall as I pass a lapped rider. Over cook it on the corner before the descent and my front wheel slips out shipping me off the bike face first onto the grass. Normally when you fall your feet come out your pedals. Not this time. My right foot was stuck, and stuck fast!

Full panic mode sets in, I can feel the shadow closing in on me while I roll about the mud. Eventually, my shoe gets out the death grip just as Gary rides past. I right my bike and run after him like a loonball. I manage to get past once more as we run the hill, but soon as I start to ride the bike, I realise my cleat has been ripped from the sole of my shoe and won’t clip into the pedal. Trying to ride one gear, with one foot clipped in, uphill and through mud, at race pace was an impossible task.

I hear the deep breaths of a rider coming through as we ride under the branches of the trees, It’s not Gary this time it’s a Velo rider coming to take third spot from me. My nemesis is not to far behind him and now I am riding in fifth spot. I conceded my podium dreams with my shoe malfunction and keep riding to try and finish top five. I manage not to lose any more places as I take the flag and finish in fifth place. I came into todays race hoping for a top ten placing and beating my 2017 place of 17th. To get top five today was amazing and my best result in all of my bike racing. If I am right, I gain promotion into the A race now?.

This is what Super Quaich racing is all about, a battle from lap one to the checkered flag. Huge thanks to Gary Currie for the best race I have ever had and putting up with my wide lines and blocking tactics.

The rest of 2WA done well, Clare fought the course for four laps then her chain snapped, so the course won again, 2019 you better watch out as she’s mad and looking for vengeance.

Gary had a slog-fest after the course being turned into chocolate by the B racers destroying the grass. He came home in 32 place, so he was happy with being in the top third of the field.

Huge thanks to Kenny Girvan Photography and Velo Cafe for the use off their amazing images.

2018-01-30 22.03.16.png

Next up is M&G’s Strathy Park all three of us racing again.IMG_20180129_113639.jpeg

received_1907882002872509_20171118142324756.jpg

Riding The Fat Tyres.

MTB Days.

ecb8dcbe28a0a1eeba5c3b60ac7a019b.jpg

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)

2018-01-09 19.03.21.jpg

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.

a7c58924dce9be86d84b231713c7ab4e.jpg

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.

1a70562a934d18f39bdd6b1aab8188b6.jpg

Northern Soul.

Scottish Championships Knockburn Loch. 3.12.17

LRM_EXPORT_20171204_090238.jpg

Beep beep beep beep, the noise of the alarm at 6am gets me up and out from the comfort of a warm bed. Drag the poor dog out into the cold, and I wake up to the morning of the Scottish Cyclocross Championships.

The early alarm is for me to get some food made then load the bikes onto the car, double check I have packed everything before I go and pick DNF Dougan up at 8am. We have just short of a three hour drive up Aberdeenshire and another new venue for me this year of Knockburn Loch.

Break some crusts of cow shite as I roll the car over the field and into a cow pat free zone in the already busy Knockburn Loch Outdoor Sports Center and it’s just clicked past 11 am. One of the earliest times I have been at the races. The regular routine is to tumble out the car, get my numbers on and then race. With this one, the long drive I wanted to get here and get blood to my legs by having a scout of the course and see a bit of racing.

LRM_EXPORT_20171203_112040.jpg

The start of the week brought some snowfall to the course, turning it into a white wonderland. A rapid defrost midweek took it right back to a standard green and brown tone just in time for race day. Now the course I have in mind is going to be a mud fest with the quick thaw. I am wrong as its actually holding out really well as I take in the V50, Women and Junior race. The ground is still hard under the top inch of grass so the mud fest might not be on the cards after all.

The battle to be crowned Scottish V40 Champion has just kicked off and I now have just over an hour to get my numbers pinned on and sort myself out, then get to the start line with a little detour of a few laps of the grass velodrome.

PSX_20171205_172836.jpg

Sixty-nine riders line up for the Scottish Open Cyclocross Championships, while the top twenty riders or so get gridded the cold wind picks up, and I am eager to get going and get a bit of heat into my bones. After a long hold, the whistle finally blasts, and the race begins. We are off to a flyer as we batter along the grass and sprint down the start shoot. From walking the course I planned to keep left of the course, I manage to execute my plan, and this gives me a good line to shoot up the small incline and then hustle along the soft ground making our way to the woods.

Still riding on the left of the course as we narrow through the entry gate into the woods. Davie Hamill is just in front of me and has the same idea in mind. Both of us dismount and get running when the speed slows, and the bottleneck grows. I gain a few places while pushing the bike, but a lousy remount kills my momentum, and the positions are soon lost. The wood section has a great flow to it, your eyes have to be peeled though as there are plenty of roots waiting to knock you to the ground. (Gary found this out later on in the race)

A fast pedal past the pits after negotiating the first slippery little hill takes you over the bridge and around to the back of the Loch. This brings you to the highest and hardest part of the course. On the first part of the climb, my bike is making some spectacular crunching and grinding noises. My freehub will need a wee looking at, it’s not engaging when I put some power through the pedals, making it skip just like last year at Bute. I lose a heap load of places while I nurse the bike up to the top. The climb isn’t over as I get to the top, we hang a right, and now a slippy grass incline is on the menu.

I use a bit of advice before the start of my race, I got told to get off and run the short muddy downhill section, and then keep running when the gradient turns uphill again. The bike stays on my shoulder as I drop down between the gorse bushes, then keep on trudging to the top of the never-ending hill. As I crest the summit of Knockburn Everest, a magnificent sight comes into my eyes. A 200 meter decent, and is a joy to behold.

It is also a joy to ride, but the mud flicking into one’s eyes isn’t so helpful with where you are pointing the front wheel as you rattle down the hill. Ride around the Loch and back over the bridge passing the busy pits. Now comes the fans favourite. The sand trap! Ride up and over a red gravel hill, try to keep the speed up and power through the sand/gravel, hoping I don’t come off and make a fool of myself in the cat litter box. Manage to get to the end of the pit without incident and ride out into the finishing field.

Ride past the finishing line and with George Stewart’s advice being spot on about the hill climb, I decide to take him up on his other words of wisdom. He told me that the S bends behind the timing van are cut up and slightly slippy under the tyre. Again that the best option is to get off and run them. Roll down the first hill the swing off and get my running legs going. Back on the bike on the last turn and ride down the long grassy decent, back to the left of the course as I ride the hill up and along into the woods once again.

The woods were a joy to ride with a bit of space in front of me as the race spread out as the laps grew. The hill climb became harder and longer with each passing lap. The 200 meter decent never changed with every lap. That was always a blast to ride down, but I know a few people didn’t enjoy it as they shipped their chain as the battered down at high speed. The cat litter tray I managed to ride every lap except for the final time, where I ground to a halt and dropped down like a dead fly. (But thankfully most of the spectators and cameras had moved around to the finishing field) The S bends I enjoyed every lap, as I kept it simple and didn’t even to entertain the thought of trying to ride them, a 99% chance that I would fail and end up in a tangled mess at the bottom of a hill, with running them it gave me a chance to gain a lot of time on riders ahead of my front wheel.

I get lapped once while I am plodding through the course and as always I am in awe of how fast the top riders can get through a lap. My bike holds out for the full race, and the weird crunching noise doesn’t return in my 6 laps of Knockburn Loch which is a huge relief. I take the finishing flag after 1hr 6mins of riding and finishing 47th place. The other two-wheel-army rider Gazza came in 35th in his first champs with is an excellent result for the novice rider.

Huge, huge thanks to Gordon Watt and his merry band of Deesiders that bring a heap of Northen Soul to Cyclocross racing in Scotland.

Huge congratulations to all the Scottish Champions and to every rider who rolls over the start line week in week out. All results are here.

All the best over in Mull with round 6 of the Lapierre Scottish Cyclocross Series and also the Santa Cross Champions on Sunday.

received_1907882002872509_20171118142324756.jpg

Riding The Dream At Plean.

Plean Country Park. 26.11.17

I have wanted to write this blog for a while. A blog about a race where I turn up, finish without any incident or mechanicals then I end the hour within the top 30 riders. Well, I finally get to tell you about it.

Plean is a new course for me, I have seen the footage on YouTube, and every one of them has snow and mud involved. Today is no different. A small covering of snow has dusted the car park, and it’s a little thicker as I wander through the woods on the way to pick up my race numbers.

The course from what I have been told has been shortened due to heavy ice on one part deeming it a bit of a hazard. From the practice lap and dropping the pit bike off, I get a feel for the course and that feeling is slippy. I am confident that the soft grass and fast decents combo will be taking a few people down if it’s ridden too fast. So leaving out another hazard for us to contend with was the right call by the organisers, (Stirling Bike Club)

Head to the start line and strip off the manky waterproofs and prepare to race. Look around, there is a small number of riders at the line in today’s race. I think, even if I come dead last I will still have one of my best placings in the senior open race. I just hope the bikes hold together and no DNFs today.

Some good news for the skinny guys, we aren’t being held for too long at the start line, meaning they won’t be shivering in the cold for too long. That’s the bonus of my bigger belly, extra winter heat! The whistle blasts as soon as the griding has been sorted and the fast boys power away.

It seems I am going backwards, I run out of gear on the start and lose distance on the bunch as we descend down to the first turn. A right corner takes us up through a thick carpet of leaf litter with the bare skeletal branches keeping us in the shade overhead.

On the climb is where I claw back a few seconds, manage to get back onto the wheels of the guys in front making me feel I am back into the race. Speed along the snow, past the pits and now it’s time to pick a good line through the spacious but very soft ground taking you to the first of two fast grass downhills.

I keep right as we shoot down the hill, bang on the brakes to take the inside of the corner and away from the soft ground on the right. Rise out the seat and climb up the hill to repeat the same move over again. Keep to the right of the grass, to try and bang off the mud build up on the bumps. Brakes on and ride the tight inside line. This time two barriers have to be negotiated before I ride uphill once more. None of this bunny hopping malarkey from me. So off the bike and run over the two small barriers, then back on to a grind up the hill.

The next descent was a bit sketchy, multiple lines to choose from but they all seemed to try and spit you out of the course, or worse down into the small burn as it narrowed taking you around a fast right-hand berm. Blast through a muddy sinkhole, then time to shoot down through the woods on a loose gravel path. At the end of the gravel, I dismount and slog up the muddy run-up. The encouragement never faltered from this marshalling point and spurs you on to the top of the deepening mud.

Get back on the peddles and swing around the condemned building in the park, and past the timing van. Time to suck in some much-needed air and not let the Stirling rider get too far ahead, as we ride down to the foot of the first climb up to the pit area.

Managed to keep on the guy’s wheel, then overtake as I passed my pit bike. A lousy line and some colourful language escaped from my mouth that shocks the English HTCC spectators as we battle through the mud. My wallowing in the mire allows him to sneak past once again. I am on his wheel for the remainder of the lap, Stirling rider receives great encouragement from his bike club as we both run the mud up to the tarmac.

I take the chance and overtake as we ride the first climb, I push on a bit harder and manage to gap him as we journey through the mud, I control my race line this time, which in turn controls my corrupt language. On the drop down I stick to the lumps to try to clear the mud on the grass decent.

I hike through the mucky runup, and as I pass the marshall and sporting a smug smile, I ask where his rider is now after gaining a bit of distance on the chasing Stirling rider. Just go to hope it doesn’t come back and bit me later on in the race. Go past the finish line for another lap and get shown the 9 laps to go. Whit!! Nine laps. I am not feeling so smug now.

I feel I can’t manage another 9 laps at the moment but settle in and time to take each lap as it comes. It’s a short course today, so it’s not long before the leaders come past. Then they do so another twice, so my nine-lap fear turned into seven laps slog. All in I complete ten laps within the hour.

I rolled over the line covered in mud and boogies in 24th position, which sounds good and gives my Statage ranking a tremendous boost, but it was only out 30 riders so when you say it like that it doesn’t seem that impressive.

Gary lapped me on the second last lap, he completed 11 laps while the winners have done 13. He rolls over the line in another impressive 17th place.

Plean you were a dream. Let’s see if I can make it the same for next week at Knockburn Loch and the Scottish Cyclocross Championships.

2529af71e01b0c6af786b838dc559950_20171127205332075.jpg

received_1907882002872509_20171118142324756.jpg

Thanks to Karly Millar, Falk Meier for the use of the images in the blog post.

Goldie Lookin Chain.

Lapierre Scottish Cyclocross Series. Round 4

Lochore Meadows. 19th November 2017.

The direction of travel is Eastward today, taking in my first trip over the new Queensferry Crossing as Gary and I head for Lochore Meadows. The course usually is muddy in sections and has a hunger for rear mechs hangers. It has also grown a split opinion on its main feature, The Spiral Of Doom. I like the feature, and it makes this course a bit different to others and uses the limited space well.

img.jpg

Arrive at a very full carpark, but plenty of space in the overflow area where I manage to track down Scott McKendrick and get my new kit hot from the printer. Advertising Direct knocked it out the Country Park once again with the logo for CycleForm, and TwoWheelArmy added to the new Endura kit. Time to fill it with little holes and blood as I try to pin the numbers on the sleeve and back.

Hydrate with a hot cup of tea and take in the start of the V40 race while the pit bike gets dropped off. With the cold night and frosty morning, it has helped keep the course running quite firm, so it’s not too badly cut up with all the racing of the morning and early afternoon. The regularly sloppy parts seem rideable from watching the lead riders of the V40s pass by. One new feature added this year is the stairs to run at the old ruin. With the firm course, it looks like we will be in for a fast race and maybe I will add a few pumps of air into my tyres.

The senior open riders assemble at the start area, I finish off riding a loop of the dizzying spiral and head to the start. I hang my jacket along with plenty of others amongst the branches of the trees, from a distance it looks like a poorly arranged Christmas tree. Gary squeezes up a few rows in front giving me my first target of the day. The front riders get gridded, and with the shuffle of the pack, I manage to move forward one or two spaces and find myself to too far off Gary’s wheel.

The race briefing goes down, we are told all to behave, no hitting or spitting and the pain will last for just over an hour. Then the whistle goes, and we are off. Well, to be honest, I didn’t hear the whistle blast! I just hear the sound of pedals meeting cleats, then I see that the riders out at the front are on the move. Get myself going and charge down the lefthand side of the course, fighting for space as we hit the first corner. The first turn is a bottleneck into woods, we come to slow roll, I manage to stay on the bike and ride out of trouble. We are still all in a fight for space as we drift into the small but tight S bends just after the double-sided pits.

Jump off the bike as it bunches up again and run the S bends still elbow to elbow with the mid-pack crush. After the bends, you usually have a 50-yard slog through ever deepening mud. Not this year, it was still soft underfoot, but you could ride it if you had space, I didn’t, have to stick with the running for now! Ride past the other side of the pits with the next obstacle to come will be the barriers. Just as I fight to take some space, my bike chucks off its chain. Disaster! Pull over and get the chain back on to the cogs. Can’t believe I am dead last in another race with a shipped chain. Ride to the hurdles, and with two turns of the cranks, the chain is off again. Refix it, hop the massive barriers and try the riding thing again.

The same thing happens again! Two turns of the cranks, and it pushes the chain off. Apparently, the chain tensioner isn’t happy at being in a race today and doesn’t want to put through the torture of a cross race. I have two options bouncing about in my skull. Number one is just to call it a day and get a DNF. Option two is to run the remainder of the lap and get to the pits for the spare bike. Shoulder the bike and get on with running as I am not here to give up.

I have a bit of a jog now, over three-quarters of the lap I have to run, just as well I have been putting extra miles by running with the dog in the mornings. As I hit the spiral for the first time, I get to see the backmarkers finish the last few bends which leaves me all alone at the edge of the impending doom. It was a slog running at the of the tape for about five minutes on a constant left curve. Get to the eye of the spiral and turn and run the continuous curve on the right for another five minutes to get to the exit. Just as I am finished the spiral, I get lapped by the top three while still being on my first lap. This is was a strange one! All I can do now is target the pits and get my bike changed and aim for a finish.

IMG_20171121_085529_294.jpg

Finally, I get a break, I have forgotten the pits are double-sided. That means I have run my last on the first lap, change bikes and I am glad for a seat. I am still being lapped as I cross the line for my opening lap. Head down and push on hoping I might get fortunate and by the end of the race I could even take a position if I try hard enough.

Lap two, all is going well, my tyres feel a little too inflated, making riding the mud a bit sketchy at times. Ride the spiral of doom well, manage to hang on to some wheels as the top guys go past. On lap three I tackle the mud better and running the new stairs are my strong point taking two at a time. The blue gravel sprays overhead as my speed increases along the newly laid path, take the left turn and try to power down the tarmac.

Ping! My goldie looking chain snaps! Well, that’s just GREAT! My race is now over!

PSX_20171121_135435.jpg

Walking up to get my jacket from the tree, Gary scoots past in a small group. He feels sorry for me for a fraction of a second just as I did when he had his DNF.

Gather my bikes and broken bits, walk over to timing van and hand in my chip. My first DNF of the season and hopefully my last. Another two bikes to fix, but at least they are minor fixes, annoying all the same though. Last year the bike ran well, and the only mechanicals were two punctures. Hopefully, that’s the bad luck out the way for the remainder of the season.

Hang about the start line to shout, jeer and laugh with the Happy Trail crew. Gary rolls over the line in an impressive 35th position and in an exhausted state. The boy is not bad at this racing thing, and he can only get better with more practice and course knowledge.

Pack up the car and head home with Gary chewing my ear about my singlespeed and how shit my backyard bike mechanics are. (Bike mechanics in a car for over an hour talking about broken bikes must be some sort of cyclocross extra time torture. Next time he’s on the roof, and the bikes are in the car)

Plean is up next. A new venue for Two Wheel Army.

received_1907882002872509_20171118142324756.jpg

Educating Monsters

Lapierre Scottish Cyclocross Series

Round Three, Fife College 22.10.17

The Kingdom Of Fife is our destination today. Load the two bikes, new power washer and pick up a nervous but very excited Gary Dougan. He’s breaking his racing virginity today and hopes that’s all he breaks today.

We arrive into a full carpark under a welcoming blue sky. Head on down to heckle the V50 as we make our way to sign on and receive our timing chips. A brief walk of the course while the V40 get ready to race the mud, shows Gary is in store for him at half-past two. Just as we leave the car for a warm-up ride along the road, the darkness rollovers and a wall of rain moves in. You couldn’t script this any better. Blue skies all the way through from Glasgow, park the car under golden sunshine and then it starts to drizzle down half an hour before our race. Gladly it’s just a passing shower, and just as the last lap bell sounds for the V40, the blue sky’s are back again.

Once the Bryan Donnelly has just finished rolling in the mud, it’s time for me to head up and settle into the start area. I pick my usual spot at the back, look around for Gary. Can’t see him anywhere, then spot his mug up within the top twenty. Good skills in sneaking up there mate. Set Garmin, clip one foot in and get ready to race.

A blast of the whistle and we are let loose. Fife College has a broad grass start area, pan flat but somewhat soft under the wheels (A Scottish record of 689 signing up to ride through this area so it’s no surprise it doesn’t stay very grassy or flat of for long.) Just as I was hitting top speed, a rider goes down, luckily there is plenty of room and doesn’t become a new hurdle for the riders on his rear wheel. Back on the power and bang! The chain drops, manage to freewheel to the barrier tape without incident. A quick scramble and the chain is in place, but where I stopped it is mud central, I have to leg it to dry land. I get to the first corner in dead last position and up to my ankles in mud. The only way is up from here I suppose.

By the second corner, I have taken a few position back, and when I hit the hurdle, I take a few more places as me and a few riders hop over the single barrier. Flying remount back into the saddle and get back to turning the single gear. The bike isn’t happy at all. The chain is skipping with every few turns of the cranks. The inevitable happens as I apply to much pressure and the chain jumps off again as I exit the singletrack and out to Burrito Boulevard. More oily/muddy fingers as I get it back on. The plan is now to nurse the bike around the course and make it to the pits in one piece.

The chain is skipping and clicking as I ride past HTCC Encouragement Corner. Then a few more gingerly passes around the grass turns and straights. Ride out onto the tarmac home straight, most riders can get some speed up, not me, as this bike is slowly breaking under me. Cross over the timing mat for lap one. Next to come is the run-up, get to the end of the tarmac swing off the bike and run the hill. With my bike firmly placed on my shoulder, I start to run through the mud aiming for the pits. There is no hope in hell I could ride through this slop to the pits with very limited power.

Dump the Cross bike and Lift the MTB in a race daze. Just as I am about to leave Gary comes running in. He has just punctured and was hoping to lift my pit bike. Unfortunately, I beat him to it. Tell him to grab my Felt, let him know he will have to nurse it through the race, as the chain is jumping like a kangaroo and dropping off. He’s back racing again, not for long though! His race brain takes over, as he tries to overtake me on the soft grass, he whacks too much pressure through pedals and snap, crack, and some weird noise! My mech hanger is snapped! Can you guess the bike mechanic who is now fixing my bike?

A DNF for Dougan. I feel bad as I carried on and he couldn’t complete his first race. That feeling lasted for all of three seconds, as I remember I have now gained another place. Silver linings and all that.

Complete a full lap without incident, Hated the stone and rocky barrier switchback turns after the pit, just because I am crap at turning but also seemed to get caught by the lead riders here on a lot of laps, so slowed down to give the fast boys extra room. Ramp up the speed and back onto the slush of the start area, power down the left side as close to the outer fenceline as I could get. There is still some grass here that offers up some decent grip. Turn and hug the course tape riding as much of the mud as possible heading for the notorious “Clay Corner” half a foot of mud awaits to steal your shoes if you haven’t strapped them up to the max. Off the bike and plod through the sticky mud until I find the harder ground of the off camber section, back in the saddle and shoot down the road and turn into the big field and ride along and eye up the lonely barrier.

I am getting into a rhythm now, only a few laps to go. I feel can get some decent speed through the straights of Burrito Boulevard. Then comes the joy of trying to ride Encouragement corner but could never master it, so I resort to running it the last few times and save some face. Into the last lap, my energy levels are at an all time low and the last lap bell is a joy to hear. Get into the last singletrack section, I try and chase down the riders in the distance as my little lads and Victoria shout some much-needed encouragement. Ride into the last segment of the Boulevard turns and crack! Chain drop! I can’t believe this! Try to get it back into place but its jammed tight. Out of options and out of time, lift the bike and run for the line.

Cross the line with a second broken bike and finish in 71st place.

After gathering my breath I annalise my broken bikes, Cross bike has snapped mech hanger, but also a new chain tensioner might be on the fix list. The Dirty Harry MTB has lost all the inner chainring bolts, wedging the chain in between the chainrings. How that has happened, I haven’t a clue? Just as strange as a pedal being unscrewed by the course tape! Monsters are at work in Fife College.

Thanks to Paul Davies and Dunfermline CC for hosting round three.
Thanks to all photographers for their images I have used in this blog.

The Cali Cartel

1.10.2017 Callander Park, Falkirk.

Round 1 of the Lapierre Scottish Cyclocross Series.

b2d90660b022bf8bc2c6c8f20fc68ac1_20170930214608226_20171001105835193_20171003162032325.jpg

Cyclocross is a drug that you can’t ride away from. The Cali Park Cartel know this and have taken full advantage of the cross dry up, a surge of riders needing their fix hit the admission button and numbers of 686-690-700+ were being mentioned as signing up to get the mud back into their veins.

The Godfathers of Cali Park (Davie & Franco) and the Cartel have been at work into the small hours to put on Season 6 of Cyclocross Narcos at Cali Park. They are only a small crew but they know how to deliver the product.

It’s my third Season, and there have been some changes made to the already fantastic course. The weather is going to be a major factor today. The rain machine has been on all morning and not letting up on the drive through from Glasgow. With my race last on the cards, things are going to be a bit muddy!

_20171002_220009.JPG

Sign on, and I slip the brown envelope I received from the Cartel into my inside pocket, wander over to watch a few of the V40 slip and slide around the course. Once the V40s have finished tearing up the course, and I have deflated my tyres by an immeasurable amount it’s time to get drug hit and have a practice lap.

2:30pm and it’s race time.

Roll past the new multicoloured bike starting grid, lots of new bike bling on display, find a spot behind the multicoloured Albannchians and settle in for a long race brief. Some of the V40 boys go past with a smug smile, knowing what we are in for.

The bang of the gun goes, and we’re away. Well, the front of the bunch is away, a few seconds later I push off to start my race. Not that long down the starting tarmac, I start to spin out of gear, losing a few places with my lack of top-end speed.

Tight right turn and onto the grass, now to try and catch those bikes with gears again. The pack is still very bunched together, so space is at a premium as we line up for the first uphill gradient and into the left turn. Go through the turn with everyone still riding their bikes. Downhill and turn right onto the mud fest as we ride parallel to the MyLaps timing van up on the grass verge. It’s super hard to keep a constant line, bike slips and slides as I try to keep the pedals turning. Manage to pass a few folk as I slog through the mud and try to stay upright. This is where the singlespeed comes in handy, you just have to power through it, no option for a granny gear to sit and spin. A 180° turn at the top, ride down the grand entrance driveway to Callander House. Though today its a mix of mud soup, potholes and puddles. Pass the timing van with Jammie rocking the mic.

The first new change in the course design came next. We used to ride up big tree hill, go around the tree, then shoot down and back along the flat. This time we went around the tree hill by a very narrow and mushy back path, into some tight switchbacks under the pine trees. Shootout from the under the canopy and back onto familiar racing lines. Things were still tight in the bunch, I took to running these bends and got a face full of foliage for my troubles as the rider in front let it spring back, to be fair I think I did the same as I heard a yep as I cleared the leaves from my eyes.

Ride uphill on the soft grass to do a 180° turn around another tree, took this at speed as it helped with momentum to reach the top. I also took a few scalps as I went. They were soon lost as we dismounted and ran the steps. Back on the bike and trying to find some grip to keep me in touch with the mid-pack racers. This part of the park was probably the least saturated with the rain. I think the tree canopy and the hills helped drain the water away, giving my legs a slight break from all the heavy pedal strokes.

My first off of the day comes as I line up for muddy hill section. I did manage to ride it in practice, so being a smart arse, I try again. A rider in front of me comes to a halt halfway up, a rear wheel slip and he was off his bike, which in turn makes me reroute my line, my back wheel doesn’t grip, and I was off and into a tangled mess. Right myself and get running to the woods, a quick remount, ride the ruts and roots then get ready to point the bike downwards, into my second off of the day.

This one was my own fault, I grab my brakes and the rear locks up, sending me into a slide. The bike soon spits me off and into a beautiful 360° pirouette on my right arse cheek. Luckily my bike follows me down, its back on the steed and dodge the kerbs, later on, these will take some riders and their bikes out of the race.

Follow the thinning pack as we head over to another slight change in the course design. I see a lot of riders dismount and start to run the new feature. Being a smart arse again I keep riding, as I hit the treeline my front wheel slips, and I’m on my knees, my third off in one lap, jeezuz! Pick the bike up and tiptoe around the mud pack at the base of the tree. Back in the saddle and slog up and over the crest of the hill, taking me under the branches of the trees and into slippy hell once again. I dismount and run downhill past the growing crowd that cheered if you rode the downhill left-hander and cheered even louder if you hit the deck.

Next to tackle was the practically vertical climb, this took you to the top of the downhill switchbacks. My best option now is to run the hill as there wasn’t chance in hell I would manage to ride the whole lot. Ride the switchbacks without any incident, for the first time in ages. Ride past the pits, then onto the grass where we all kicked off about 7 minutes ago for the lead riders, probably about 10-11 minutes for my slow pace. I remember looking at my watch just after running the steps. Fifteen minutes in I shows. I am still mid-pack but slowing down considerably. My lack of bike riding is taking its toll.

Still plodding around the course, I haven’t fallen again and seem to have got to grips with the course, going well on the grassy uphill sections, some decent speed and grip are helping me to pull riders back. I’m loosing too much time on the vertical hill and the long drag up the grass verge of the driveway. Past by the timing van, I see four laps remaining. Yaaaas as that means three for me, I am sure the lead rider will go past me again which he does. I know I can finish this race now, as long as my bike holds up in the mud.

I have a spare bike in the pit area, but the thought of cleaning two bikes covered in this sticky mud is a huge put-off.

Where I can, I stop to remove the mud build up. Lose more time by doing this, but It hopefully means the bike won’t break. A small battle between me and two other riders is on. They pull away on the flatter parts, but I manage to claw them back on the hills, only for them to get in front and make me chase again.

The two other riders and I swap places all the way into the last lap, where I eventually can’t keep up on the vertical climb, they soon spin-off into the dirty distance and I’m left walking to the top. Now to ride the grass hill past the rowdy HTCC crew for the last time and slog up the drive. I look over my shoulder and see a pack of riders coming, they could be lapping me, but the race brain engages, muster some energy to head for a very dirty finishing line without any of them catching me.

I’m finished. Covered head to toe in mud, mud in my teeth and my bike has put on about 10kg in weight. I am knackered, but I still have a stupid grin spanning my entire face. The drug of the mud has taken over and I’m hooked once again.

IMG_20171002_144216_994.jpg

Huge thanks to The Godfathers of Cali Franco Porco and Davie Lines and their small band of Cartel members. You have put on another superb race course.

6ffd948f47c4be02e6f1f2cfe5391b5b_20170930215654487.jpg

Cali Cartel you certainly know how to dish out the Cyclocross drugs.

Thanks to George Stewart, Karly Millar and Pam La’Craig for use of the excellent images.