traveling

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.

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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.

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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

South Park.

Tweed Cross.

27.8.17 Tweedbank Park.
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An early rise to see who had won the most talked about boxing bout in the world, but the fight hadn’t even begun yet as I got ready to head off on a drive South to help the guys from Happy Trails Cross Collective stake out the course for one of the first Cyclocross races of the year.

Arrive at Tweedbank Park at 7 o’clock (or as the border folk say ‘Seaven’). My legs need a bit of stretch after sitting in the car for the two-hour drive. Park up and wander along to find the HTCC boys. The crew are already working away getting the park into shape, final racing lines being talked and walked through before the final taping is completed. I get busy with some tree trimming and shifting bags of stabbers around the course. As the last bit of sponsorship tape is tied (Orbea) I’m itching to get on the bike and have a ride of the course.

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As the final bit of paint is coming out the can, MC Maddy Robinson shouts the riders over to the freshly painted start grid. The first race of Tweed Cross is about to kick off with the B racers clipped in waiting for the whistle to blast. Maddy gets them underway and they have a nice long left bend on the firm grass to get them all up to speed, the fight for space is on as they head to the start line. Jackie Chan is off to a flyer and should remain out in the lead for the rest of this race if he can keep this speed up and avoid incident. I head over to Tempest Hills to help dish out some encouragement, abuse and after the first lap some beer hand-ups from Tweedbanks local brewer, Tempest Brewing Co.

With six laps complete for the lead riders it doesn’t bode well for me when one of the race organisers describe the course as ‘brutal’. I am really excited about putting my self through a brutal hour of racing, Not! Jackie did manage to keep the speed up and took the win, Robbie Mitchell was second over the line with Graeme McBirnie filling the last of the male podium places. Ladies winners were Alicia Lawson taking first place, Caroline Harvey coming in second and Jamie Nicholson taking the third spot. Well done to all racers and winners.

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Get a few warm up rides in and have a feel for the course. The racing line has been dialled in with the B race. I love the Tempest hills. Also, the big grass swoops at the start area are smooth and fast. I don’t love the dirty bits as much. In the dusty brown areas, it’s hard for me to ride slow with the gear I am on. I manage it in warm up but how I fare during the race at a faster speed is yet to be seen.

We gather at the start shoot, the grided riders get pulled out to the front of the bunch. Me on the other hand, I hang at the back of the bunch, I know my place in this race. Nerves kick in, I am starting to feel out of my depth being In the A race. My thoughts are, jump in at the deep end and prepare for October 1st when the Scottish Cyclocross kicks off for 2017.

MC Maddy gets us boys sorted out, a massive blast of the whistle and the guys fly off the line. I, on the other hand, forget I am in a race and have a slow start to whistle blowing. I am lagging behind as we cross over the start line and fight to remain in touch with the boys just in front of me as we leave the grass bends and head into woods.

In amongst the trees, there was lots of fun to be had if you weren’t on a bike and breathing like an asthmatic with one lung. In here lurks two sand traps and a dusty bank to ride up. The sand was firm and compacted due to previous race and riders ahead of me so wasn’t too hard to ride. The bank, on the other hand, was tough on the legs. For me to ride it, I had to hit it hard to get to the top. After grinding to the top of the mound it was a downhill left and avoid the tree roots. I am sure that blue paint over the roots attracted my wheels every time I went past. Bump out the woods then the next challenge was the double hurdles.

Still, in the battle of the back markers, I clear the barriers without a hitch. Next on the list of Southern fun was ‘Redneck Hill’. My least favourite part of the course because I couldn’t ride it fast, and in the later laps I couldn’t ride it at all. The hill consisted of dust, roots, line options, trees and some sharp turns. I have got another weakness to my limited racing skills now. Ride away from the Rednecks, in doing so it just brings you into more pain. A soft grassy ride up into another tight wood section that slows me down, then it spits you out along some welcome tarmac.

The smoothness is short lived as you ride up onto a grass bank and along past the pits. I get some speed up, trying to claw back onto the wheel I lost by going so slow through the woods. Another small grassy lump which attempts to deposit you into the trees if you are not careful. Then came my favourite part of the course, riding in an out of the woods of Tempest Hills.

This was a great area for me, if I could just leave the brakes alone it would have been much better. I still bottle it at hitting corners at speed, so Martin Steele drifts off into the distance as I potter around the last few bends. A quick jump for Trump and it’s on the edge of the saddle and pick up some speed as I come past the back of the timing van and turn and burn for the line to take my first lap, Nick Jupp still stalking me from behind.

Five more laps, one off and I take the checkered HTCC shirt. I am knackered and in desperate need of a drink. Head over and trade a few Tempest beer mats for some cold beers. The best way to end a race in my eyes. I lasted around three laps of racing with Nick, but in the end, he broke me on the dirt climb just after the sand traps. He kept pulling away as we hit the barriers and then the gap grew bigger as I toiled at Redneck Hill. Once he was away, the lead riders came through for the first time. With each rider catching me I lost time on him as I slowed or stopped to let them through. My race became against the course and clock now.

Tweed Cross you were indeed “BRUTAL.”

Podium placing was a hard fought battle, Jeremy Durrin taking the top spot, Gary MacDonald taking the second step and David Duggan stepping up to third.

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A great use of imagination was used to put this course together, the use of all of the topography the park could offer. I am still in awe of what a pretty flat park can produce for a cross race. The HTCC organisation should be very proud of what they put on here. Their first race they have hosted had a lot of boxes to be ticked and people to please to get this race on the go. The numbers and quality of the riders that turned up for this race were outstanding.

From all the novices to the best of Scotland and International stars we can’t wait for Tweed 2018. #TWEEDBANKSY

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One Century, One Gear

Ride To The Sun.

17th June 2017, Carlisle.

Ride to the Sun had interested me for a while, so when Clare messaged me about going to this year’s I jumped at it. With a chance to ride a Virgin (train) for £8.50, I was even more eager.

Meet up with Clare at Central Station, she is using her powers of persuasion and negotiating to get our bikes loaded onto the train (apparently have to book your bikes on board).  We get offered the next train with the bikes being stored in the cargo hold, so at least we will get down to the event.  We are told to wait and see if the two passengers who are booked on to our original train turn up, if not, then we get their spots.  Kill a bit of time chatting to the staff, telling them why there are so many bikes going to Carlisle.  They think were mental and wish us well in the final minutes of the cut-off time for bike passengers, soon we are told to get ready to board as we are getting the spots as the other bikes don’t turn up on time.  It’s great to be getting out of Glasgow on time.

Time to sit back and enjoy the train ride down to Carlisle.  Just little over an hour later we pull into a sunny Carlisle.  Grab the bikes, and get our bearings, time to navigate to the shadow of Carlisle Castle at Bitts Park.

 

Clare has arranged to meet a few people from a meetup group she is a member of, one girl turns up.  Before we set off, I have to change her front inner tube, that turned into an hour of changing tubes and trying to locate the monster that is eating holes in them.  Find a huge crack/hole in her rim and think her ride is over before it has even begun.  One of the organisers comes to the rescue with a track pump and also hands over another inner tube (3rd now).  He also donates a five-pound note to her rim to block the hole and hey presto it works.

An hour later than intended, the clock passes 8 pm.  Clare is armed with the directions, and we point our front tyres north and set off to ride to the Sun, Edinburgh here we come.

We had planned to head off with a group, to cut down on the chance of us getting lost but due to leaving later we were in a bit of a rush just to get moving.  The new plan was just to get out on the road and hopefully, we pick people up, or when people pass we can tag onto the back of them.  We manage to get onto the right road, a few fast riders ride past wishing us luck, especially me on the single speed.  We look around, and the Irish girl has been dropped, just Clare and me now.  Soon we roll into and through Longtown, This is where things fuck up!

We intended to stop and look at the directions,  if we did then we would have noticed the mistake we were about to make!  In our excitement of being out riding, we have a brain fart, we follow the road right and continue on the A7 heading to Edinburgh thinking this is the right way.  Wrong!

We are riding at a decent pace and the miles to the border are tumbling down.  Stop off for a quick selfie at the Welcome to Scotland sign.  The mood is high as we as we cross the border into Scotland.  Deep down I am feeling something is not right, in my mind, I am thinking this road is far too quiet of cyclists.  There is meant to be over 1000 people riding to the sun, but on this road, there seems to be only two!  We ride into the village of Langholm, and this is where I ask the question.  “Do you think we have fucked up and went the wrong way?” A look at the directions and it’s a huge YES ya pair of tits!

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We have two options now! Ride all the way back to Longtown, then take the road for Gretna Green, like we were meant to.  Or shall we ride the B7068 road, taking us across into Lockerbie and from there we can get back onto the correct roads.  B7068 wins, Lockerbie here we come!

Thankfully the road doesn’t have too many steep inclines, but there are enough rolling hills to get pissed off with.  Darkness is also coming, and with this, it brings sleepy yawns and heavy eyelids.  After a few hours, we manage to crest the last hill and see one of the greatest sights so far.  Street lights of Lockerbie!  We let out a few yelps of delight as we feel part of the event now, but it’s also good to be into some sort of civilisation again.  A huge boost to the moral as we ride through the town and get on the B7076  and head north to Moffat and keep our date with the chippy.

A long and slow 17 miles later we hit Moffat.  Get to the chippy, it’s good to see some other folks on bikes outside, think we are the last ones to arrive.   The other riders pull away as we sit down to the last of the fish and chips, we are lone cyclists once again.  I am suffering big time, my head is pounding, obviously not drinking enough.  Also, I feel like shit, the consumption of a gel a while back doesn’t sit well in my empty stomach (might have been out of date?)  With the feeling that I was going to puke at any minute, I don’t eat any of the last supper.  By not eating it didn’t help me refuel for the remaining 55 miles to go.

Moffat from Carlisle is looked at the halfway point of the event, roughly 45 miles.  It’s also one of the last places for refuelling this late at night.  My Garmin was showing 60 miles covered, so we had ridden a massive detour to this chippy date.  Water bottles get refilled, and now it’s time to roll out and tackle the seven-mile climb up the Devils Beef Tub. (best road name ever)

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As we ride up, up and up, our moral goes down, down and down.  I pull over and stop for Clare to catch up, her lights blinding me as she creeps ever closer. One look at each other and we can tell we are both finished with this cycle!

This is not enjoyable anymore, it never was going to be super fun, but this is a struggle. We are alone on the high pass, in the middle of the night and the temperature is dropping as the minute’s tick by.  We have over nine miles to get to the Cyclorave at the Crook Inn, Tweedsmuir.  This is our next chance to eat if banana man is still hanging around dishing out the yellow fruit.  Can we make it?  We discuss what to do, the topic that Clare could get our emergency driver Jas to come and rescue us from our looming nightmare.  At one in the morning halfway up a hill, this is the best idea of 2017.  The SOS call is placed and we decide that a two mile ride back down the hill to Moffat is the best option as A. It’s downhill and B. it’s not that far off the motorway for Jas to come and get us.

We find a bus shelter to get us out cold, some locals head home from the pub and ask why the funk are cyclist waiting for a bus at this time in the morning  “you’re in for a long wait” they shout and laugh as the stagger up the main street.  Youtube and Facebook keep us entertained for a while as we have used up all our chat in our 65 miles cycle.  Jas pulls up after an hour, we load the bikes onto the car and seek the warmth and comfort of the car. (first time I have ever looked forward to seeing a BMW driver)

Was it the right decision to quit, YIP it sure was.  I had the onset of the Bonk and to think I would make the ride to Edinburgh on a few gels that I had left in my pocket was a joke.  Also, I was freezing.  I only had a lightweight jacket and an even lighter gilet to keep me warm.  This set up wasn’t even enough to keep me warm going up half the Beef Tub never mind descending from it.

A huge learning curve for next year.  Learn to follow directions correctly and not just blast up the road.  Ride with a bunch as you can share the riding on the front but more importantly enjoy chatting with folk, this should take the mind of the grind.  Take my saddle bag with a better jacket packed and pack a lot better food options, rather than out of date gels.  Last of all is to book the bike onto the train and don’t gamble on getting it at aboard the train at the platform.

Carlisle we shall see you in 2018.

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The 10 K Runner. 

Going Hillbilly Today.

5th March 2017. Dalmellington, Ayrshire.

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I have signed up for some trail running to keep me from gaining my weight in pizzas over the offseason in cyclocross.  I think a lot of people stick to racing bikes, be it MTB enduros or slicks and race on the road.  For Clare and me we are going to the hills.  Racing in some hill runs and cross country events.  Hillbilly 10km race is to be our baptism of fire with the running folk.

During sign in, they have a slideshow of the course playing on a big tv.  There was also a large map on the wall showing the terrain.  Both these were a great help, as it meant we could see how the course would pan out today.  These two things were new for me at races, it was an excellent idea.  The slide show would be a good idea at cross races, showing the course features, if it could somehow be rigged up.

20170309_203820.jpgAfter the race briefing, we head down to the start line just outside the gatehouse.  The race begins after the hooter at 11 O’clock, and 138 runners are off at all different speeds.  I managed to get quite close to the front before the start, with a fast pace I soon move up the groups and roughly am about 20/30 position as we run along the canal side.  Think we run approximately 3km before the road turns up, with the gradient going up it also begins to turn rougher underfoot.

The first hill of the run is up and along a farm type road then makes way to a muddy path with some good amount of muddy puddles to splash through.  This is more of the terrain I have been running on and more enjoyable than the first 3km along the flat tarmac.  Splatter my way to the top of the hill, and now it’s time to not fall on my arse as I hit the descent.  I always thought this would be the easy bit of hill running, it’s not!  I am too busy concentrating on not standing on ankle breakers of rocks and dodging the mud to think about how fast to run going down.

No rest at the bottom of the hill, as soon as I get down there the next hill begins. Head back up the hill, more of a nature trail path we follow winding all the way to the top.  Great encouragement from the local army cadets marshalling the course.  What goes up must come down.  Descend down a very potholed access road past some stables (lift to the finishing line on the back of a horse could be good).

Last km now.  Cross the road and clip the kerb, sending me sliding on my knees along the grass.  The guy behind me overtakes while stifling a laugh.  I get back up from the mud and begin the chase along the nature trail.  I can hear the cheers as the front runners take the line.  I know I am close now as I see the bridge over the canal, round the bend and I am on the home straight.  Try to get my tired legs up for a sprint for the last few hundred metres to cross the line.

My 10k race is complete.  Collect my little finishers medal and down some much-needed glasses of water.  I crossed the line in 47 minutes, coming in at 33rd position out of 138 participants.  Clare crossed the line in 61 minutes and in 91st place.  A great run in 10 layers of running tops!

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Bring on some more Hills.

 

 

 

 

The High Noon Show Doon.

3rd Quarter of Quaich.

5.2.17 Thistly Cross, Dunbar.

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Super Quaich Series moves onto round Trois, with Haddington CC being the party planners at Foxlake adventure.

Set off early and drive from the West coast over to the East coast.  To keep myself entertained, I try to match the bike to the rider as I pass cars with bikes on the roof and bike racks heading the same direction as me.  Directions are well laid out and I am guided to my parking bay by the yellow jackets.  Time to get the blood back to my lower limbs and go and sign on.

Riding the pit bike down I notice that the access road is very rocky, potentially a puncture before I even get to the start line.  Dispose of the bike and now it’s time for my warm up, a jog back to the car in my heavy hiking boots.  A quick bite to eat while I’m changing and I’m ready for Thistly Cross.

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Gather with the rest of the riders and wait to be set loose around the lake.  I didn’t manage a warm up lap so shall be riding this one carefully on the first lap.  Can’t believe I have a race plan.  My last race went well by riding on more of an even pace, rather than having two hot laps then dying on my arse and hanging on for the last 30 minutes.  Clipped in and sitting around mid-pack for the start.  The whistle is blasted, and we are under way!

A little drag up hill spreads us out a bit, rise to the top and then we shoot down and behind the café and pits.  Off the stone path and onto soft grass along the side of the lake.  Once at the end of Lake it’s time to navigate the wide mushy zigzags then it’s into the lower woods where the going goes up.  Ride the incline well, taking over a few riders as I go.  Once at the top, we get into a bottleneck as there is a tight turn to the left over a log.  Jump off the bike and squeeze through the pack, point the bike downhill and back in the saddle.  Still in the woods, we ride a great narrow single track path that takes you out onto another quick climb past the sign on Barn.

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Climb complete, we are into the woods and more single track.  I am following wheels at this point, still not sure what’s coming next on the course.  A brace of hurdles/barriers come next.  Off the bike run, hop, run, hop and back on the bike.  I don’t have the confidence to bunny hop the barriers so I just stick to running every lap.  A great flowing section around the trees kicks you back up and over the access road,  aim your wheel downhill and gather speed before a left turn and more squiggles at the edge of the tree line that tee’s you up for a steep banking and out into the main arena.  I dismount and run the wee bugger as I don’t want to look a fool in front of the cameras when I deck it if I tried to ride it.

Remount, still following wheels as we come around to where it all began.  This time we take a turn at the top of the small stone slope.  Off the bike, jump the barrier and we are running diagonally uphill and onto the switchbacks.  Ride all but one, the first one is just a bit steep for me and my gearing so running is the more efficient way to go.  Back in the saddle and few more bends takes me over the line and past Mylaps timing van and onto lap two.

Now I have had one lap under my belt, feeling more relaxed I start to move up and take places on all the features of the course.  Hills are my strong point today, as most people stick it in their granny gear when the course goes up.  Only having one gear with 18 teeth, I have to get the power down and keep the pace high, giving me more momentum to catch riders in front.  I’m enjoying this race, so much so next time I ride past the timing van I see two laps to go (where did the time go).  Squeeze a gel to death trying to get some taste back in my mouth.  Head down, pedal hard and time to catch some riders.  Have another good lap and gain places, I ride over the line and take the lap bell.

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By the time I hit the hurdles for the last time I have just caught Katie Carmichael and Tony Jones.  I take the lead as we descend into the woods.  I try and push the pace weaving through the trees back up to the gravel path.  Down the fast slope to the bomb hole and steep banking.  I jump off the bike, I can hear someone very close behind me.  Quickly back on the bike, I’ve got to try and make a gap on the small hill up to the barrier.  Hop the barrier and run the hill, back on the bike, down the grassy slope, taking a quick turn. (At this point the pressure of a chasing rider takes its toll).  I make a mess of the dismount and end up on the wrong side of the bike.  Running while juggling the bike trying to correct my position isn’t the best combination and I nearly fall.

I peek around and Tony is still on my tail.  Get to the right side of the bike for my remount, we are neck and neck.  I take a bad line and now riding the soft grass/mud.  Tony is powering through on a better line.  I have to jump off and run as I am grinding to a halt.  He gets to the corner ahead of me and powers on and over the line.  I remount and ride in just behind him.  That’s two races in a row I have had a battle to the line!  This time it was for 20th which I lost, rolling over the line to take 21st from 114 riders.  Super Quaich you have done it again.  A and race layout has given so much competition right through the field and I am sure the racers are all enjoying it.

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Huge thanks to Eric Easton, Colin Sergeant and the band of course builders from Haddington CC for putting on the race at Foxlake.  This course was amazing, I think it has become my favourite course on the calendar.

Last Quarter of Quaich is at Dig In At The Dock, Bo’ness.  The B race is going to be the toughest one yet with a few A riders dropping down, as the A race is being packed with stars from the CX world.  The A race will be a spectacle to watch.  The flying Gary McDonald taking on international cyclocross racers like Helen Wyman, Amira Mellor, Jeremy Durrin and Thomas Mein and will be interesting to see if the young pups Sean Flynn, Harry Johnston and Cameron Mason will catch the G machine.

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Last race of the 2016/17 calendar should be a cracker so get along and ring a cowbell or two.

Double Army Down to Doonbank. 

2nd Quarter Of Quaich. 

22.1.17 Rozelle Park, Ayr.

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A trip to Rabbie Burns neck of the woods today, Ayr Burners are hosting the second round of the Super Quaich Series.

Today I am joined by Clare Campbell racing in the B race.  I missed this race last year with being away topping up on Vitamin D in the sun, so I’m looking forward to getting to grips with the course and see what’s on offer fo an hour of pain in the park.  We go get our timing chips and numbers, while on the way we suck in the smell of freshly cooked pizza.  Pretty sure I will return after the race to sample what’s on offer.  Back to the car and we get on with getting set up for race day and Clare’s second Cyclocross race.

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A slow wander up makes us a late to get to the start line, have to head to the rear of the already assembled group.  There are 91 riders today, we exchange some banter while the other riders fall in behind us.  My nerves build with each second ticking on the clock, as we wait for the start of the race.  The nervous chatter dies down as we are told we will be let loose in 30 seconds.  Quickly tell Clare to get foot clipped in, while I battle with my cleat and pedal combo (some mentor me, can’t even clip in).

Before we know it the front is off and moving, it trickles down to us and it’s our turn to push off and get racing.  Today I shall try something a bit different from other races.  I am going to take it steady from the gun and try not to be blowing out my hoop after the first 100 meters.  It’s hard not to go and attack every bit of space I see and by following wheels it does mean I catch a lot of mud to the eyes (glasses would have been good).  We have a nice big bit of solid tarmac to start us off, this gets us up to speed before we hit the grass and off cambers to come.

Ride down to the first obstacle, a bottleneck happens as we are squeezed through a small gap in the hedgerow.  Off the bike and scurry through.  Hoist the bike up onto the shoulder and set off running uphill.  After making it to the top I am glad to see some downhill taking me around to another run-up.  This one being slightly steeper, I will definitely have to run this one every lap.  Doing well for positions as I still take it easy, feel good as I crest the climb.

Swing past the pits with a group of riders, a nice looping bend means I get to suck in some much-needed oxygen.  Next up is the triple steps, dismount the bike and with some big strides, you are at the top.  Do your best flying remount in front of the ever growing crowd and back to the business of peddling.  A small decent, 180 degrees turn to the right, you are out the saddle riding back up the gradient.  Hang a left and recover while you take the long bend and lines you up for the small wooded section.  Nice quick downhill through the avenue of trees is next. It gives your legs a quick rest before you hit a short mound to ride up, taking you out the canopy of trees onto the ever softening grass.

I am starting to find a good rhythm to my racing.  I peddle past Gordan Dalglish of HTCC (hope I make it on to HTCC TV ).  Next to tick off the list of must-haves on a cross course are the barriers.  Dismount and hop, run, hop and keep on running to find some firm ground for me and my one gear to get going again.  Back on the bike and we are into the woods again.  Ride up the start area and past MYlaps timing van engulfing the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and pizza.  A sharp turn and your weaving your way through the trees (like riding a speeder bike in Return of the Jedi, awesome part of the course).

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Out from the trees and around the off camber, trying not to get sucked into the black scrim that seemed to act as magnet for my bike.  Fast ride through soft mushy grass and now the hedgerow was congestion free.  Ride through the gap, now to try and ride as much of the incline as possible.  Halfway up it became apparent I would be quicker to get off and run.  I seemed to be riding this course well and singlespeed appeared to be well suited to this course.  Still keeping it calm and not feeling like death fifteen minutes in seems to be a good way to race.

After the third lap, the bike was clogging up with mud.  So with a shout to Victoria (my new pit crew) “You need to clean my bike” with a reply “Aye fuck off, you can clean it at home”.  I suddenly shout “No I need you to clean the shit off the wheels and cranks” as I dump my bike, strip off arm warmers, then take my spare bike.

At the bottom of the woods, I see Clare.  I am about to shout and give her some encouragement as I go by but she pulls off just as I get to her.  She looks fine and it’s not until the next lap she tells me her rear mech hanger has snapped. (well it was more like, “bikes fucked” as I go past)  Get to pits and Victoria is waiting with my bike, a quick change and I’m back racing again.  A great job was done for not knowing or having anything to clean it with apart from my gloves and arm warmers.  Though I did notice on the next few laps and one more bike change she was nowhere to be seen.

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Take the last lap bell and now I have to get a shifty on.  Got to try and make up some lost ground with my slow pit changes.  In am in a little battle with a Glasgow Green rider and just ahead is Russell Mowat from Walkers Cycling.  We hit the barriers neck and neck.  Russell gets back on the bike while I have to run a few meters as can’t ride the soft bit straight after the barriers.  He stretches the gap as we enter into the trees.  I give it my all as we both sprint along the tarmac with the finishing line rapidly closing in.  Russell gets over in 16th place and I take 17th.  Not too shabby from where I started.  Maybe just maybe there is something in this new structured approach to racing.  A little part of me does wonder if I could have finished slightly higher up if we got to the start line slightly earlier and we got a space at the front.

Feel a bit gutted for Clare, having been there and had this happen, it sucks big time!  She was not alone in the broken bike finishers as it seemed Rozelle Park had a taste for rear mech hangers that day.  The main thing is she rolled up to the line to race and gave it her all.  It’s all experience in the bag and will just make her want to come back and avenge the park that killed her bike.

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Huge thanks to JP Baxter and the Burners team for hosting this race, from what I heard the changes to this course were well received and made the course more flowing.

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3rd Quarter is at Foxlake on the 5th of February.

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