The Tweed Love bike festival is one of the biggest bike festivals in the UK with a wide range of events taking place over the fortnight. You can participate in the Skinny Tweed sportive, mountain bike races, ride outs, family events etc. The festival this year culminates next weekend with the Enduro World Series coming to Glentress and Innerleithen. This brings riders from all over the world to this small area in the Scottish borders.
This year, since I now live here, I was persuaded to sign up for the Urban Cross race. An inaugural event for Tweedlove and for me. I have never raced on a bike in a competitive environment before and although this was billed as a fun event, which it was, it was still a race and I knew there would be lots of fast and fancy riders taking part.
I have to say I was very nervous as Alistair and I cycled along to Peebles. What was I letting myself in for? I had practiced getting on and off my bike but was still slightly panicky about getting my feet out in time to dismount or indeed forgetting they were clipped in all together! After all it was grass I had practiced on, not tarmac. It was going to hurt if I hit the ground.
As we reached Tweed Green it was good to see some familiar faces and meet some new ones. Everyone was ready for a good event and thankfully it had actually stopped raining.
A quick recce of the course with my sidekick and coach (Alistair Cyclocross Dow) helped to calm my nerves as he reassured me that it was all rideable and I was capable of getting round in one piece.
The start was a Le Mans style start, which normally wouldn't bother me but getting a slight running injury the previous week meant I was pretty slow over the 50m and was almost last to get to my bike. On the upside it kept me away from all the fast guys.
There was 2 heats and I, along with the other 7/8 ladies were in heat 1. It was first 4 through to the final and first 10 men.
I really didn't know what to expect but once I started cycling I really got into it.
Once on your bike it was a sprint along the High Street past an army of kids with water pistols, then a downhill slalom course. Then it was round the corner where you had to jump off and run up a fairly steep set of church steps. Back on the bike, over some sand bags and back onto the High Street and through some hanging tape. Round another corner and down to a loop and more hay bales. At the bottom of the hill you had a few meters to take a deep breathe for a steep climb back up to the High street to do it all again and again and again.
The race was timed over 15 mins + 1 lap and I managed to stay alive round 6 laps. I was grinning from ear to ear when I finished. Hard work had never been so much fun! Then I found out I had to do it all again as I had made it through to the final!!!
Remarkably I managed another 6 laps and came 3rd. I really couldn't believe it, I think the last time I actually won any sort of prize I was in my teens.
The whole event was extremely well organised and the atmosphere of the crowd, riders and supporters made this a truly fantastic start to my venture into the world of cyclocross. Every minute of the evening was enjoyable.
Through the tape tent.
Vennel and cobbles.
Got to practice my tight turns.
Nicola being awesome.
Steps of pain.
Chuffed tae bits.
Lovely new friends.
Cold and nervous before final.
Ah hay bales.
3rd place behind the young talent Lucy Grant.
If you can get yourself down here for the festival there is still time, if not check it out next year.
All photos by Ali Dow x