Monday, 14 December 2015

I've never been so Cross.

It all started back in May when I took part in the Lovecross race which was part of the Tweedlove festival. Although an urban race around the streets of Peebles it gave me taste of things to come.

Little did I know back then, that I would go on to compete in another 11 cyclocross races over the next 7 months and enjoy every single one of them.

For those that don't know much about cyclocross here is the dictionary definition;

"a bicycle race over a cross-country course, featuring steep hills, turns, and sometimes muddy terrain, that occasionally requires a rider to carry the bicycle over fences and up stairs."

What this definition doesn't tell you is the complete lung and leg bursting effort that is generally required and the fantastically friendly atmosphere at every single event.

In August it was time for Haughcross over the bridge in Aberdour which I have previously blogged about in the August archive.

Next up was a trip to Fife and a great day out at Beveridge Park, the sun shone on this fine September day and it was toasty hot. The course was fast with a few good hills and tight corners.

The Battle at Balloch Castle was our next trip. As a non series race it too took on a slightly different format. When entering you had to sign up for either the A or B race. Alistair talked me into doing the A race. This like Haughcross was and hour long. I enjoyed the course but it was possibly my least favourite in retrospect, mostly due to the gravel. I am not yet confident on gravel and find it quite a formidable surface to ride on. Even with all my fire road practice I still squeal a lot of the time if my tyres slip and slide.

The weekend after Balloch was the first of the Scottish series events, this took place at Callendar Park near Falkirk. The format was the traditional 40 mins plus a lap, with the Juniors, Women and Vet 50+ all starting at the same time. The field was large, the womens field was one of the largest a Scottish Cross race has seen with nearly 50 of us on the start line.

I really loved the course at Callendar, it had a good mixture of fast and technical and for the first time included off camber switchbacks. In practice I was shockingly bad at them and was panicking at how I would do with all the other riders around me, but come race time I faired well and thankfully didn't manage to make a mess of them, much!

The third race in October was a non series again and took place next to the race circuit at Knockhill. It looked like it was going to be a wet and soggy day to start but thankfully the skies cleared in time for racing, although I was glad of my new birthday arm warmers. At first look on the warm up, I didn't think I was going to enjoy the course but as I raced I enjoyed it more and more. 

The last race in October took us up to Aberdeenshire and Knockburn Loch. We travelled up on the Saturday afternoon and stayed overnight in a Travel lodge, mostly so we could a a slightly longer sleep but also there was roadwork shenanigans happening on the Forth Road Bridge.

It was a chilly morning and we had to scrape the frost off the car windscreen but again the temperature rose slightly by the 11.30 start time. Lochore was one of the first races I watched Alistair in last year so I had a better idea of what to expect on this course. This course had a few tricky sections especially some off camber mud, but thankfully once again I managed round my laps without any mechanical problems or falling off.

At the beginning of November it was time to travel West and head for Strathclyde Country Park. The forecast was terrible and it was set to rain for pretty much the whole day. It had been raining for days beforehand also, so the course was extremely muddy. Until this point I had not been on too much mud as the weather had been kind, so was apprehensive about wether or not I could A) stay upright and B) have the strength to claw my way through it. I would be telling a fib if I said it wasn't hard work, my legs were bursting but thought it was a great course. I especially liked the single track through the woods.

Next was Lochore Meadows near Lochgelly. I had been told a few tales about this course. It was usually very muddy, it was very flat and incorporated a spiral that made you quite dizzy. This was another tough one as there was absolutely no respite, you just had to pedal all the time and pedal hard. This course definitely suited those roadies with millions of miles in there legs. It was quite different to the other courses but I still had fun. 

At the end of November we travelled to Plean outside Stirling. This was the worst weather I think I have possibly cycled in. It was extremely cold and started to snow before the start. Trying to stay warm even when cycling was difficult as the water falling from the sky and the water from the puddles were so very cold. I thought my hands and feet might fall off they were so cold. However poor Alistair was much worse and I thought he was hypothermic. It took us the rest of the day to try and warm up.

The last race of the series that we could compete in was at Irvine, this race also included the Scottish Champs. Again, I had been told many stories of Irvine, none of which were particularly good. Lots of sand and hills and generally a ten force gale coming in off the sea. My nerves only worsened after my warm up laps, this course had everything, off cambers, mud, sand, steep ups and downs and yes lots of wind. Up until this point I had never fallen off my cross bike in a race, but the big dipper and sand were to be my enemy that day. I lost a good few minutes having to pick myself up off the ground and detangle my bike from my still clipped in feet.

The last race of the series was just this weekend and it was on Mull, but as we both work Saturdays we could not make it. The series consists of 6 races in total but only 5 count towards the final points tally and you drop the lowest score. I only completed 5 so no points dropped. For much of the series I was lying in second place but I had a race in hand on most of the other ladies who were in the top 5. All would be decided by the race at Mull, and so at the end of it all I was placed 4th only 60 points behind the winner. 

I was overjoyed with this result considering that in April when I got my bike I had not really cycled with clipped feet, and could not get on and off my bike very quickly, never mind ride tricky off cambers, deep mud, sand, hills, single track and jump planks.

There are a few more races in the New Year but hopefully with some training next year I could do even better. I never thought I would love a sport as much as I used to enjoy my climbing, but cyclocross has so many elements that I love. It can be as competitive as you want it to be, it is so friendly and has something for everyone no matter what age and stage of life. It is a must try for any bike orientated person.

Here is a list of all my results;

Haughcross - non series - 3rd womens race.

Beveridge park - non series - 6th womans race

Balloch Castle - non series - 2nd vet woman

Callendar Park - series round 1 - 6th vet woman

Knockhill - non series - 1st vet 40 woman

Knockburn Loch - series round 2 - 2nd vet woman

Strathclyde - series round 3 - 3rd vet woman.

Lochore Meadows - series round 4 - 4th vet woman

Plean - non series - 2nd vet woman

Irvine - series round 5 - Scottish Champs - 3rd vet 40 woman.

Not bad for a first season even if I do say so myself.

All this of course could not be done without great support from Alistair and our friends Matt and Elisa who have helped with some handy coaching trips and our great Tuesday night training.

Here are a few shots from some great photographers. The lovely Anthony Robson took a few of these and I'm afraid I can't recall the others, oops. 

Peace x


Alicia Hudelson said...

That is an amazing first season! Well done and bring on season two.

Unknown said...

Thanks Alicia, cannae wait.