urban cross

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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LoveCross

An evening in Peebles.

Satnav destination is for Peebles High Street for a bit of early season Cyclocross racing.   Love Cross is part of Tweed Love Bike Festival that runs from 14th- 30th of May.  Two weeks of all sorts of bike shenanigans going on, my kind of festival.

This Cyclocross race is a little bit different from the usual Scottish Cyclocross races, a couple of main differences.

First of all, it is at night!  My Race kicks off at 7:30pm, racing under the warm spring sun. (sounds romantic, this is Scotland so probably wet and dull)

Secondly, it will take place through the town centre and not through any kind of mud fest park! Looking forward to this type of Urban Cyclocross, seeing what kind of obstacles will be used on the course, like the use of water gun alley in last year’s photographs.

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Also to add a slightly different twist to this is that I will be racing in the pairs category.  The way I understand it is, myself and Kevin Pugh will be playing tag team racing.  One of us will be racing a lap whilst the other sits out, then quick high five, releasing the fresh pair of legs onto the course for their lap.  Having a lap out to recover seems quite appealing to me.

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To start the night off there was a family ride.  Around 1000 children and adults get to ride a little loop of Peebles High Street and round past Tweed Green then back around the High Street.  It was great seeing all the little kids showing off their bike skills, one little guy was popping wheelies on his bike while another youngster was zooming around on a unicycle.

Peebles sure is a bike town!

Rider briefing was held while the course was being changed from the family loop into an obstacle-laden cross circuit.  We were given instructions on how to record the lap, seems a bit daunting but actually was just another obstacle to remember.  We were issued with a wristband, with this we were to stop, scan the band on the gate.  Each and every lap.  If you rode through the gates not scanning, then that lap didn’t count.  More laps = prizes.  Easy!

Solo riders are taken to start line for their 18 minutes of racing.  Bikes were laid down and then riders were taken about 120 metres away to start the “Le Mans” style run to the bike. The crowd counted down from 10, once we got to GO!  The sprint in cleats began.  Bryan Donnelly of Glasgow Nightingales had brought his sprint legs tonight, he was out the blocks faster than Usain Bolt.  Seems that his good start was short lived, his bike was blocked in and had to wait for a clear path to get out onto the course.  Something to learn from  for next year Bryan.

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Image by Ian Linton

18 minutes of racing turned into 18 minutes in hell.  There is no let up on the course so, 100% full gas is the only option.  Well the exception was maybe Cameron Mason, he and his mountain bike took the course apart and lapped the field.  Taking the top spot on the night.

Pairs race, here we go!

Kevin and I got split up, unlucky for Kev he registered us so he is the “A” rider meaning he shall have the sprint to his singlespeed bike.  Which he parked next to a BMX!  Mental doing a race on a BMX, only this madness was topped off by the guy in a leather jacket, jeans and riding his FAT bike in the solo race.

The crowd counts down the start, Go Go Go!  They are off and running,  Anthony Robson using his long limbs to good advantage is first to his bike.  Kevin in third, BMX guy is second. Though he soon moves up to first as he is schooling us all in how to bunny hop the bales of hay.  Bloody marvellous!

Now for the nerves to build.  Kevin is out on the back end of the course we are still in third place as they head into the “dob” station.  Kev doesn’t become a “dobber”!  He remembers to scan his wristband, sprints up the street and jump’s the last bales of hay.  Now it’s my turn to hit the course.

BMX guy got caught by Anthony , his partner is just in front of me as we head out onto the course.  I overtake, moving up into second place.  Time to get a shuffle on and catch Man Mountain on his Mountain Bike. Thomas Mitchell.

The first obstacle is on a right bend, a nice wedge of car tyres for you to run through.  I did my best long jump effort while shouldering the bike.  Man Mountain just bunny hopped right over the lot!  Next was a downhill slalom, in and out the barrier tape.  I took this as fast as I thought possible, Man Mountain brushed this aside and made it look like he was on rails.

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Image by Anthony Robson

A quick right bend and it was onto first haybale leap.  I used the good old “Handbag” technique, Man Mountain used the Bunny hop technique.  Gaining momentum and distance with every hop.  I didn’t even see what he did for the three, yes THREE flights of stairs up to the Church.  I was too busy with my head down, attacking them, two steps at a time.

Snagging the barrier tape as I came around the corner to find Man Mountain finish fiddling with his dropped chain, only for him to blast off and bunny hop the sand bags and hit the high street.  Out on the street, you had a short sprint through some gazebos with some Tweetfest barrier tape to block your view.  Tight left turn taking you down an alleyway round to a zig zag barrier system and then over two hay bale barriers.  I shouldered the bike and ran this section, I was way quicker to do that than fumble around the barriers only to dismount and hop the bales of hay.  Man Mountain probably bunny hopped the two hurdles at once for all I know as he was out of sight.

The bottom of the hill you took a right and an all out sprint to the sharp right turn up through the hotel car park , round the bend shooting you out onto the high street yet again. A bale of hay to hop, stop at gate and swipe band (not becoming a dobber).  Then it was a sprint past water pistol alley to get a drenching and a drink from the kids.  Hop the last bale of hay and Kevin was on his way.

Man Mountain had gapped me massively giving Kevin some work to do to chase down Anthony. We were still holding second place with a decent size gap to third.

This is how it played out for the next 30 minutes.  Kevin chased, I got gapped every lap.  We managed to do 10 or 11 laps, poor Kev did 6 of those.  I got the lap bell as I scanned my wristband and handed over, giving him the last lap.  We couldn’t chase down the first place as they had a really good race but we did manage to hold our lead over third place. Making the podium with SECOND place. Woohoo!

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All the winners on the night.

Well done to all the racers on the night.  Also huge thanks to all of the event team and marshalls putting on a great fun event.  A good bit of team riding with Kevin and hopefully we will return in 2017 trying to improve on our position on the steps of Tontine Hotel.

Thanks to Anthony Robson and Ian Linton for the use of their images, click the names and see more of their amazing Photography skills.

straight outta lovecross

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