Scottish Cyclocross is now bigger than ever, some of the rounds had almost 300 people turning up. Great courses and great people, I look forward to more of this in 2012.
SCX Round 1 – Irvine
I’d never ridden the cyclocross course at Irvine before, despite it appearing twice in the past, once as an SCX round in 2009, and as the delayed 2010 champs in January 2011. Famous for it’s sand-trap, a long stretch in the dunes at the back of the beach, I was keen to see this was a gimmick or something worth using as part of the course.
The course has two runups, one short up a set of steps, the other a 25m steep grass section. The sand-trap is about 100m long, and is an awesome addition to the course. It takes more grunt than skill to ride it, though things are much easier when you realise you can skirt along the margins out of the really soft stuff, though you risk getting stuck in some of the larger ruts.
As for the racing, I had a horrible first couple of laps, going backwards after the initial fast start it took me a while to get into the swing of things. For the second half of the race I had Rapha’s James McCallum in sight, allowing me to keep my lap times sensible even though I was feeling a bit horrible. I put in a big effort on the last few laps, but didn’t make the catch by the end.
13th place, an improvement on my first CX race last year. Full results on the SCX website.
SCX Round 2 – Plean
A bit of a classic course remixed for 2011. Gone was the large climb at the back of the course, replaced with two new grassy sections. Loads of people complained about this course, but despite only having the one bike I had little issue with the bike clogging up. Definitely a course for the more powerful and skilled riders.
I got into fourth wheel into the first singletrack, then had to stop because my brake hanger cable was rubbing on the tyre. Almost as soon as I remounted I jammed my too-short chain on the big-ring, big-sprocket combination. My fault, fixed that then remounted. I was down in about 30th at this point. My disaster lap continues as I go some course tape caught in my cassette.
After this things started to come together, I was making up lots of places by riding sections others with running, and taking risks on some of the fast muddy descents. I did manage to drop my bike about halfway through as I hopped the hurdles, resulting in twisted bars and a bent STI. With no tools I just had to ride it like that.
I ended up 10th, which I was very pleased with given the troubles I had. Full results on the SCX website.
SCX Round 3 – Mugdock
Another classic course, this time without the crazy start of last year which resulted in lots of pileups. I got a good start and started to pick people off quite early. On the third lap I thought I felt my front tubeless tyre burping some air when I slammed it into some off-camber ruts. The next lap at the same point I was sure it was happening, and now had a very low front tyre. I kept riding it, hoping to make the pits where I could borrow a pump. Alas it burped the remaining air on a fast gravel corner, I luckily managed to step off the bike as it happened, with no injury. I ran round to the start-finish area to see what the time was like, then posted my DNF, my first of the year. Spectating was great fun after this, though I think some people were a little shocked by my enthusiastic heckling.
Organised by the Tri Centre on the same course as the Edinburgh 48 races, Hallocross was night-time cyclocross, in fancy dress, with cider. 60 people turned out for it, very impressive for a midweek event that required lights. Even knowing the course very well it was pretty frightening at times keeping the ’cross bike upright on the gravel corners and going over some of the blind drops. The racing was close and fast, with lots of mini battles to be had. Results were only down to third, due to the technical difficulties of reading numbers in the dark. I think I was seventh or eighth, but had fantastic fun whatever the result.
SCX Round 4 – Ballater
Ballater isn’t exactly close, but some nice weather meant the drive north of the Lecht was one to remember. The Ballater course was very non-traditional ’cross, with some fast rocky tracks interspersed with forestry road. A few technical sections, punchy climbs and a horrible set of steps made it a tough one though. My only issue with the course was a rocky burn crossing which was very hard to cross without kissing the rims against the rocks.
I had a good start here too, and picked off places as people dropped chains and punctured due to the rocks. The climbs were really suiting me, with the descents allowing some recovery time.
I ended up 6th, my best result so far. Full results on the SCX website.
SCX Round 5 – Strathclyde Country Park
One of my favourite courses from last year, it had been changed slightly with one of the grassy climbs replaced with hardpack, and one of the descents on a gravel path. It was super muddy, with the field section being calve-deep mud. More than 30 people sheared their rear mechs off due to the small stones on the descent getting dragged into the mech by the mud. I joined them on the third lap, my mech sheared clean through, with the hanger being left completely perfect. Bah. The chain needed replaced too, only having been on for three races prior.
SCX Round 6 – Meadowmill
Another redesigned course for 2011, with lots of flat out fast sections, the usual awesome singletrack, and some horrible headwind sections due to gale force winds all day. It was nice to race on a dry mud-free course after the previous round. The course wasn’t really for me, there was no rest on it so I had to ride at a pace I could sustain for the whole hour, rather than just a few minutes at a time.
Despite this I really enjoyed the high pace all the way round, and the interesting technical sections. I had a near-miss with a spectator on the course, unfortunately Davie Lines didn’t manage to swerve and was on the ground and out of the race instantly.
I ended up 15th. Full results on the SCX website.
Scottish Cyclo-Cross Championships
Made it to within a mile of this race when I crashed the car due to slippy conditions. No race! I don’t think I’ve actually ridden the champs since I won them as a junior in 2002. Will have to make it next year for the 10th anniversary.
Callendar Christmas Cross
A new event for 2011, run by Franco Porco and Davie lines around the spectacular venue of Callendar House and the Antonine Wall. The course was fantastic, with steep run-ups, long off-camber sections and slippy climbs. Those who were technically inclined had no running at all. It rained for almost the entire day before the race, meaning there was lots of sloppy mud to be had once the grass was chewed up. This was good, certainly better than the sticky mud we had seen at other venues.
The start was along a fast section of tarmac. I hung back so as to avoid those weaving side-to-side as they tested their VO2 maxes. On the first steep run-up and muddy corner I went from 25th to 10th by virtue of riding it then going round the inside near the apex. I then stormed up the first climb to find myself in fourth position for the rest of the lap. Myself and the other mountainbikers were definitely at a big advantage on this course. I couldn’t hold my position on the flat sections of the following lap, and was riding round with Paul McInally and junior rider Calum Foster. I only made two mistakes the whole race, one being losing my line on a long off-camber section and losing about 20s, and the other crashing on an off-camber descent where I lost very little time.
Calum started to make some mistakes about halfway through, and I took full-advantage of him losing his line on the section I lost time on, by putting the hammer down as soon as I saw him veer. Paul was yo-yoing back and forth, making lots of time up on the fast sections round the house and one muddy section that had become a run, and losing it as I took risks on the back-side of the course. On the last two laps I put in the big efforts on the climbs and the running section, eeking out enough of a gap to take 7th overall and 5th senior. Paul was 8th a few seconds back, and Calum finished an impressive ride to take 9th,
A great result to end the year, especially after a few weeks of zone-2 riding and a complete lack of intervals in December.
Full results on the SCX website.