SCX 2: Callendar Park

I’m going to try to blog a bit more often (we will see how long that resolution lasts…). I am also going to change the name of this blog as soon as I think of something appropriate – “Not dead, not last” was my tongue-in-cheek motto when it was entirely probable that I would be last (and I have been nearly last and DNF before). Now that I seem to have become, against all logic and expectation, reasonably good at cyclocross the title seems rather disrespectful to those who are nobly bringing up the rear of the race.

So watch this space – and suggestions for snappy blog names gratefully received.

Anyway, on to today’s race. It was the second round of the Scottish CX series, taking place at Callendar Park in Falkirk. Last year the weather was horrendous – torrential rain all day. It’s the only time I have ever ridden my entire warm-up in full waterproofs (including waterproof trousers, with a fetching snap band round my right ankle to stop them catching in my chain). Today the forecast was rain later, but apart from a few spots it was dry for the women’s race.

I had had a look at the course, which had changed quite a bit from last year, but hadn’t had the chance to ride all of it – particularly a long, fairly steep, scary-looking off-camber descent. As one might expect when the course designers include That David Lines, it was a tricky, technical course with very little respite.

We vets were gridded behind the seniors and all set off at once. There was a frantic sprint and lots of jostling for position. I was keeping an eye on Roslynn and Jaime, who  have been my main rivals in recent races!

And we’re off! Credit: Bryan Hutton

We reached the big descent, where there was quite a bottleneck, with riders having to slow down or stop and most people except the leaders forced to walk. Ros saw a gap and just dived through! I didn’t have the skill or nerve to follow her wheel and sort of hopped down the slope in an ungainly manner (dismounting and running would have been better!).

I knew right away I would never catch Ros – her bike handling skills leave mine in the dust and she’s strong besides. So the battle was on with Jaime! I was right on her wheel for a couple of laps but I made some mistakes. On the second lap I took the big descent way too slowly, snatched at the brakes and came off. I wasn’t hurt but it slowed me down. Then I got stuck behind a couple of slower riders on the hairpins. I thought I was catching her at one point but it was not to be. So I contented myself with hanging on for third vet 40. Juli and Caroline were not too far behind me so I couldn’t ease up.

Horrible off-camber descent, you say? Credit: Bryan Hutton

I felt a bit rubbish for the first few laps – whether it was not getting my heart rate up enough in my warm-up, or whether I still had the 3 Peaks in my legs I’m not sure. But as the race progressed I felt like I was riding better and better. I definitely improved on the big descent as the race went on, my off-camber riding was a million times better than last year and I think my cornering is getting better too.

I eventually got the hang of the off-camber descent. Credit: Simon Wootton.

I managed to finish 3rd V40, and 14th overall. Reasonably pleased with that, although I could have done better if I’d ridden with a little more confidence earlier in the race. The course didn’t play to my strengths, but I enjoyed the challenge and I definitely learned from it. My bike seems to have survived the 3 Peaks, and my new tyres were fantastic, barely ever losing grip even as the course became increasingly slidey in places.

What was fantastic to see was the large number of women racing – 56 riders on the start line today. And also the great turnout from Stirling Bike Club as well – I think we had riders in the under 12s, under 14s, under 16s, vet women, vet 50 men, and senior men’s races. Might be time to think about bringing the club gazebo along next time!

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