SCX #4 Fife College + SCX #7 Camperdown Park

November 5th was Dunfermline round of SCX series – always a mudbath! The start was chaotic with people leaning on each other down the first few straights and corners. With early energy, I managed to power through lots of the deep mud sections on lap 1 – with enough speed you can kinda “stay on top” of the worst bits of mud. In the main field there were lots of fast turns which rewarded getting the right line and chucked you wide if you got it wrong – definitely worthwhile to be looking far ahead to figure this out. There was a downhill chicane section in the second field which was almost certainly faster to run, but I rode it each lap because I was enjoying trying to refine my lines. I ran tubeless at 26/27psi with no issues. The derailleur was seriously clogged towards the end, requiring care when changing gear and remembering to NEVER BACKPEDAL. (I backpedalled on the way back to the car after the race had ended, and my chain immediately fell off). I finished 29th out of 53 vet40 starters, which is 55th percentile – so that counts as a success.

I had wanted to do Castle Douglas but the logistics didn’t work out, and then I couldn’t make Knockburn Loch either due to work travel.

I did manage to get up to Dundee for Camperdown Park race today. The weather was just above zero, and the ground pretty hard and frozen. It was hard to judge how to dress. Normally I race in a merino base layer and long sleeve mtb top, but had thought I’d need something warmer. However, with no wind it actually didn’t feel very cold once you’d got going. So I stuck with my regular kit and long-fingered light mtb gloves and that was totally fine. I was gridded midfield but lost a bunch of places off the line when I couldn’t get clipped into the pedals (probably clogged with ice). During lap one, I made up a bunch of places with opportunistic passes and settled in behind rider 161 who was doing a fast steady pace which I thought was about the max I could manage for 40 minutes. Occasionally I’d pass him, then he’d repass. This carried on for several laps until annoyingly I had pedal trouble again and couldn’t get clipped in. I kept moving, but in the few seconds it took to sort out the problem, a whole train of four riders went past me. I spent the next lap trying to steadily bridge back onto the group, but once I got to the rearmost rider I didn’t have enough speed to make any progress. By the last lap, I was right with a group of two but again just didn’t have anything extra to actually pass them.

The course was pretty much a “power course”, albeit a grip limited one. Most of it was long radius turns where you’re trying to judge how much grip is available, then straights for the power guys. There was no real elevation change, and not gnarly technical sections. These kind of courses just aren’t my strong point, and so my finishing place of 30th out of 45 (66th percentile) was a bit better than I expected when I crossed the finish line.

Next weekend is final SCX round at Brechin, rescheduled after the downpour earlier in the year.

A cyclocross race day

Here’s what a typical cyclocross race day looks like for me. I’ll use the Kinneil race as an example.

The night before: get everything ready. I use mesh bags to vaguely organise my stuff: one bag for race clothes, one bag for bad weather gear (spare race clothes, coat/trousers, gloves, shoes covers), one bag for warm after-race clothes and a towel. I chuck all that plus helmet/gloves and food/drinks into a big sports bag to make it easy to carry out to the car. I also take a toolkit, but 99% of the time I’m just using chain oil, tyre pressure gauge, pliers for shoe studs and allen keys for thru-axle wheels.

In the morning, I’ll have a big bowl of porridge for breakfast and I’ll make a peanut butter + jam bagel to eat in the car (and a second one to eat post-race). I have a rule: stop eating solid food 3h before the race – I learned this the hard way! Then chuck everything in the car and put the bike on its bike rack and start driving.

I usually aim to get to the race maybe an hour before sign-on opens so I can see some of the earlier races and get an idea of what the course is like. Once sign-on opens, I’ll get my rider pack and head back to the car to pin on the number and keep drinking liquids. I’ll usually have an energy gel about 30mins before the race and then do a bit of ad hoc warming up and check tyre pressures. Usually a practise lap or two is enough to get warmed up.

Staying warm during gridding is sometimes challenging. I’ll usually have my cycling jacket and maybe a hat in my pocket, and I’ll take a cheap drawstring bag so I can dump them at the side once the race is about to start. This also means I can grab them easily at the end of the race.

The race itself is always fun. I always want to go hard in the early laps, but know I’ll regret it later. I find it useful to divide up the course and decide which sections I can push hard on, and where I’ll recover. There’s a lot of psychology – it’s good to try and hang on to slightly faster riders as they pass you, but also know when to give up hanging on. It’s also worth being tactical – it’s worth pushing to get ahead before you enter a narrow technical section rather than being held up. In the first half of the race, the positions are still getting shaken out but in the second half it’s a much more gradual affair: you can see the guy just up the road who you might be able to reel in, and you know the group that’s just behind have you in their sights. Everyone pushes harder on the final lap – and there’s always places to be won and lost.

After my race, once I’ve regained my composure and gotten back up off the ground I’ll usually stick around to watch the senior/open race and consume some calories. Then it’s time to chuck the bike on the car and drive home. If it’s been a muddy race, I’ll power-wash the bike and my shoes outside and degrease the drivetrain (screwfix degreaser is awesome). If it’s been a REALLY muddy race I’ll chuck my race clothes in a bucket of water outside to remove some mud before they get near the washing machine. Then shower and eat more calories … and relax!

SCX #2: Irvine Beach

A glorious sunny day! A warm 18℃ day! Surely it can’t be cyclocross?

Irvine Beach was unseasonably warm – perhaps too warm for cx if it hadn’t been for a decent wind blowing in off the sea. The course was largely the same as previous years – the area around the finish line was simplified, and the high ridge on the second half of the lap had lots of awesome up-and-down off-camber sections. Fun in the dry, but would’ve been a nightmare in the wet.

The course is a good mix of fast+flat, sand sections, steep climbs and technical switchbacks. I had mentally divided the lap up based on the four climbs, figuring out which climbs had decent ‘recovery time’ afterwards and which ones didn’t. I nearly got snagged on the first lap with a rider crashing in front of me – I had to track-stand briefly, but then as I tried to go past on one side, the rider got up and moved to that side too. But aside from that minor delay, there weren’t any big incidents. I had decided to run/push up the steep hill following the sand pit; I can ride it, but I wasn’t convinced I could ride it lap after lap all race long. So better to run, since you can choose your pace more easily (plus, all that practise running up the Sheep Heid stairs paid off). I think that was the right choice, since it meant the other climbs were all fine to ride.

It’s a long course, and I ‘only’ did four and a half laps but there’s plenty to keep the mind engaged. The long sand run was good – just stick to the right side, keep the power on, and STAY ON THE RIGHT SIDE. Apart from lap one, I rode the whole length every lap. The off camber switchbacks were pretty straightforward so long as you pre-turned nice and early. Even the stiff breeze wasn’t too onerous. Up high on the first ridge it was stifling hot and I was super keen to get back down into the wind to cool down.

My pace was pretty steady. I could see I was pulling away from a gaggle of riders behind me over the first few laps. Then towards the end I could see Paul McInally (who I’d passed on lap one) was picking up speed, and he passed me as my legs started to tire. I always wonder if I should do the ‘start slow, pick up speed later’ tactic but once the whistle goes, it goes out the window. Davie Lines and Gary MacDonald flew past me on lap three, locked together – which meant that the last lap bell came a bit sooner than I expected (always a relief).

In the end, I finished 36th out of 56 vet40 starters, so 64th percentile. That’s somewhat better than the first power-dominated round at Kinneil (which was 77th percentile) perhaps reflecting that Irvine was a climb-heavy course. But with the weather being so good, it’s all still pretty power dominated.

2023 SCX#1 Kinneil

The new cx season kicked off at Kinneil House near Bo’ness, with warmish and mostly dry weather. I got there early and had a chance to watch the vet50’s and womens’ races and suss out any tricky corners. By and large, it was similar course to last year. Woodland climb into pump track, the zigzags across and up/down a slope before long power drags on rutted bumpy grass, a little rootsy woodland section and one muddy corner. The tight hairpin and chicanes in the middle of the lap which I quite enjoyed had sadly vanished. Decent course with plenty of space, but definitely one that favours “power” roadies, rather than hill-climbing technical mtb’ers like me.

They gridded every rider based on last year’s performances – which is awesome, so much better than the mad scramble of yesteryear. I started maybe 60% down the field, and made up a fair few places in the melee off the start line and up the first hill climb. But once we got onto the flat power sections, I was way outclassed. There are just many riders who can do the ‘pushing the pedals hard’ thing better than me. My race settled into a pattern where I’d lose a place every lap to someone on the flat (suffering, suffering on the rutted grass sections) then catch up with them on the hill climb, before they pulled away for good on the flat. Rinse and repeat for five laps. I had a few front-wheel slides on hairpins, but recovered them all. On the final lap, a gaggle of 4 riders caught up and passed me. Most pulled away, but one rider made the cardinal sin of not gapping me quickly enough and so I chased them down on the final upslope and tried for a full-on sleath sprint to the line. Unfortunately, I wasn’t stealthy enough and the other rider also gave it maximum beans and he managed to keep his position. But a fun moment to end the race with! (though I did nearly lose the contents of my stomach afterwards .. truly a maximum effort sprint …).

Results-wise, I was 43rd out of 56 vet40 racers, so 77th percentile. That’s actually worse than last time at Kinneil (74th percentile) despite the fact that I did loads of volume/distance rides with Portovelo over the summer, and was pushing hard throughout the race. Strava claims that my average was 11mph this year vs 10mph last year so I’m taking that as some measure of progress.

Next up is Irvine Beach in a fortnight. I should practise running up steep hills beforehand!

Disc Brake Squeal vs Feeler Gauges and Shim Stock

Disc brakes are fickle things. They howl and squeal some times, they rub occasionally and are a pain when you swap between different wheels. I have had a lot of trouble with the brakes on my bike. They actually do the “stopping” bit quite well, but they’ve been noisy and fickle to adjust.

Finally, finally … I have them fixed and dialled in, but it took some Serious Engineering to get to this point.

Previously, I had just adjusted the callipers by the traditional method of squeezing the brakes whilst tightening up the calliper bolts. However, for some reason this was quite fickle on this bike (SRAM callipers). Sometimes the disc would still rub, and even when I got that to stop, the brakes would squeal .. really badly … in wet conditions.

Obvious things first: sand the pads, clean the rotors with isopropyl alcohol. Still squealing.

Next try new pads and lightly sanding the rotors AND cleaning them again with IPA. Then do a super careful bed-in process. Still squealing.

Take out the pads, pump the pistons in and give them a good clean with brake fluid, then work them in and out a few times to make sure they’re moving evenly and not being lopsided. Still squealing.

Next, try switching from sintered pads to organic pads. Small improvement, but still squealing.

What causes squealing? It’s when the pads stick-then-slip rapidly. In my case, at about 600Hz. And it turns out my spokes also resonate at about 600Hz, which makes things very loud. The pads shouldn’t really be stick-slipping. It can be caused by contamination. Or possibly by pads pressing at a slight angle?

I went back to align the callipers again. With the pads out, I aligned the centre-line of the calliper body with the rotor really carefully with a magnifying lens before tightening the bolt. Guess what – still squealing.

Next I deployed the big guns. The gap in the calliper body which the rotor runs through is 4mm (measured using a 4mm hex key) and the rotor is 2mm thick (measured using callipers). So there should be a 1mm gap on each side of the rotor – at both the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ ends of the calliper. I took some feeler gauges, which are normally used for measuring valve clearances on motorbikes, and stacked them to get 1mm and used that to measure the gap either side the disc (with the pads out) to set the calliper position before tightening the bolts. What I found was that the calliper shifted slightly but forceably in one direction every time as I torqued up the bolts. This wasn’t very noticeable visually, but was obvious using the feeler gauges. After realising this, I loosened the bolts and readjusted until I managed to get the bolts torqued up with an almost exactly same 1mm gap on either side, at both “ends” of the calliper.

And the moment of truth: pads back in, and … the squeal has gone! I did a damp cyclocross race a few days later, no squealing at all. Result A victory for high-precision measurement.

Buoyed by this success, I also decided to tackle to problem of switching between wheelsets. Generally, the discs end up in slightly different positions on each wheel – so although front-wheel-A might run perfectly with no rubbing, front-wheel-B will rub. I’ve always just lived with this in the past when switching my one bike between road and cx wheels But I realised that I could shim behind the rotor on one of the wheels to get it to match exactly with the other wheel. Years ago, I had bought some plastic shim stock from RS, which is plastic of a precise/known thickness. With the ‘rubbing’ wheel in the frame, I cut small pieces of 0.5mm and 0.35mm plastic out to use as feeler gauges to measure the “gap” on the non-rubbing side of the rotor. The 0.5mm didn’t fit but the 0.35mm did, so I decided I needed to move the rotor by half of that, or about 0.2mm. The space behind disc rotors is a circle with id=34mm and od=38mm, so after a bit of time with a set of compasses and some scissors, I had a custom shim. Once reassembled, the previously rubbing rotor was running perfectly – and now I can flip between my cx wheels and road wheels without ever having to faff around with brakes.

SQ#1 Battle Of The Bing

A new year, a new cyclocross series to tackle!

First time doing the Broxburn “BoTB” course, so got there nice and early to get signed up, number pinned on and wee look at the course. However, when I rolled up it was clear that there was both a half hour delay in proceedings and a large and very wet storm cloud arriving. As the rain poured down and the wind blew hard, I tried my best to shelter under a tree, but trees have no leaves in winter and so all of the merry “B” race riders got well and truly soaked before placing a wheel upon the race course.

Eventually, a whistle was blown to signal that the course was open for practise. “Just one practise lap” cautioned the commissaire, which seemed more than generous. The course was a fine mix of rideable and non-rideable steep ups, muddy off cambers, a pump track and a rather committed steep descent. I’d seen videos of this descent on YouTube and had decided that surely the camera was making it look higher and steeper than it really was – most Scottish CX courses don’t have that Belgian-like technical features. But I was mistaken – it really is quite high and quite steep, and quite rutted and muddy for good measure. It was a case of dropping in with a bit of care to line up with the rut, then removing your fingers from the brake and letting gravity take over. Whoosh! I’ve never noticed marshalls with red flags at a CX race before, but there were some here – presumably anticipating muddy carnage.

The whole field was gridded, and I was maybe halfway down in this B race. The run up to the first corner was sketchy, with a guy on front of me braking and I had to kick my foot out to stay upright. As we reached the twisty off-camber a huge bottleneck formed as most riders dismounted to run. I kept riding more than most – you’re narrower on the bike and I found I could squeeze through wee gaps better whilst riding. We made it round past the finish line and headed towards the spiral. At this point, someone came out from the pits and meandered right across my bunch whilst look down at their pedals. I had to take avoiding action, and then he tangled with another rider in the spiral – a chaotic first lap.

The course then headed up a root-sy woodland bank – I rode this climb half of the time, but fluffed line choice or got blocked on the other laps and had to push. I really helps to preride these sections and decide on one line to aim for every lap, rather than blundering in a doing different things each time.

The rest of the lap had a pretty exhausting push-up, and my shoes felt very loose whilst running. Some folks were managing to ride this, but every time I tried my line was blocked by someone ahead. Then round through the pump track and onto the offcambers. These were rideable in the early laps, so long as you carried momentum into them. But as the race progressed, they got muddier and riding wasn’t much faster than running. By the last few laps, I was entirely running the mid section.

Much to my surprise, my seat got dislodged halfway through the race and ended up at a jaunty angle pointing upwards. I stopped briefly to ineffectually hit it with my hand, but to no avail. It was barely rideable, since my weight was being tipped towards the rear wheel. I briefly considered giving up at that point, but decided to try for another lap and see if I could either stand the whole way or somehow adapt. In the end I managed to keep going, but the flat power sections were really difficult to put down any power.

By the last lap, I was part of a group of four. I managed to get in front via a good choice of where to ride and where to run on the off camber. On the penultimate straight, another rider overtook me (with my borked saddle) which wasn’t the end of the world since it meant I was following him into the final hairpin and could see him. On the drag to the line he had a little lead, but I decided this was the moment to spring a surprise volgas sprint. I think the other guy tried to respond, but his foot unclipped from the pedal (shades of MvdP) and I managed to squeak ahead with metres to go.

Timing shows I was in p23 on lap 1 and made up a place every lap to eventually finish in 18th out of 64 starter. My pace was pretty steady throughout – I tried hard to not over do it on lap 1 since I was starting cold. Tyres were fine – 28psi, tubeless. My hands were pretty cold with the rain and 4C temperature. I was wearing my thin MTB gloves, but should’ve put nitrile gloves on under (top tip for cold wet days – your hands get wet from sweat but at least they’re warm).

All in all, a fun first Battle of the Bing for me despite the terrible weather. Roll on SQ#2 at Linlithgow in a week’s time!

2022 SCX#8 Fife College

Sooo … the plan was to finish 2022 with one final cyclocross race. I was looking forward to Fife College, which is always a mudfest. I .. believed .. I had entered the race weeks ago at the same time as I entered the Battle of the Bing race. But when the race pack hadn’t arrived by Thursday, I checked my email and realised that I’d screwed up and just hadn’t entered the Fife College round at all! D’oh!

I emailed Paul (race organiser) to see if there was any possibility of a late entry (on-the-day entry used to be possible back in the day). But nowadays all the awesome computerised timing and pre-organised race-numbers-in-envelopes means there’s lots of logistics to set up ahead of time. So no race for me.

But since I’d already “booked” the day for cyclocross in my head, it seemed poor form to just sit on the sofa and be annoyed, so instead I volunteered to help marshal at the race. This turned out to be quite fun and interesting and I’m glad I did it.

Race day was freezing cold. I turned up early, found Paul Davies (race organiser) and he sent me and Paul Zarb off to talk to the race commissaires to find out what our job would be. We ended up doing the manual part of the race timing for the whole day. Although these races all use wonderful electronic timing, there’s also a backup manual timing process. In the event of a complete computer failure, this would be the fallback. But it’s also common for there to be problems with individual chips – whether hardware or just the rider forgetting to wear the chip.

I basically had a clipboard, and Paul Zarb would shout out the rider numbers as they passed the finish line and I’d write them down. Rinse, repeat for several laps. Then repeat again for several races. Although sometimes it’s hectic to write down 10 numbers quickly, it’s also kind of hypnotic and relaxing – a bit like playing bingo for hours. On the early laps, you can kinda guess which riders are likely to be appearing next, based on their lap 1 positions – usually riders cluster into little groups. But later in the race when the leaders start lapping the slower riders it gets harder to track, and once everything gets muddier it’s harder to read the rider numbers. By the last race, I’d sort of invented a way to track the mix of leaders and backmarkers lap-to-lap – I’m sure people who do this a lot have got this all figured out.

In the end, given the freezing temperatures I wasn’t too sad to not be racing. Given I was just standing still, I dressing in full winter set up – thermal leggings, trousers then snowboarding trousers. I was never warm, but I wasn’t cold either. The only bit of me that suffered was my feet. Thick woolly socks and welly boats weren’t enough – the welly boots on cold ground just seem to suck the heat out from your feet. I started dreaming of USB-powered heated wellies for a while ..

After all the racing was over, I helped out tearing down the course – pulling out stakes and winding up miles of tape. As a racer, I knew there was lots of race logistics for the organisers to deal with but I hadn’t fully appreciated just how much work goes into the course setup.

All in all, it was a fun – but very different – day out. The volunteers who put on these races do a huge amount of work to make them happen. The race officials who travel around to all the different races are super stars. I realised that the “execution” of the race itself is primarily under the control of the commisaires, rather than the race organiser himself. For example, the race organiser was busy doing podium presentations for the previous race whilst the next race was being gridded. But even the little details fascinated me – someone has to sit down and prepare three separate prizes for each of five races, and store them in a neat order so they can be found at the right moment. Someone has to go to the shops to buy an appropriate number of chocolate selection boxes to give as part of the race prizes. Someone has to acquire a suitable waterproofed PA system and mics and battery (and spare generator, as it happened!). I’ve organised music gigs and night clubs before, but these race events start with an empty fields and everything else has to be brought in. It really was a slick operation, with responsibility for different aspects of the event being delegated to separate groups.

So unexpectedly, SCX#8 Fife College was a great day of racing, even though I didn’t do any pedalling at all!

2022 SCX#7 Kinneil X

November 27th cyclocross race was my first time at Kinneil, just outside of Bo’ness. In addition to its cyclocross palmares, it’s also the location where James Watt worked on his steam engines – pretty cool!

A quick sighting lap revealed a nice mixture of twisty muddy hilly turns near the start, some long power sections in the middle, and an awesome woodland up-and-down incorporating a pump track. The default tyres which came on my new race bike weren’t handling the muddy bits, so I opted to change tyres to the Limus (tubed) set I got years ago at put them at 36PSI. This was slightly stressful given lack of time and the muddy state of everything, but the new tyres gave much more grip. I even ended up deliberately pushing the front harder and harder into the chicane turns to see where the limit was – they were that grippy.

I was gridded about 2/3rd of the way down. Off we shot around the first few turns onto the straight. On my warmup lap, I’d scouted out if the far left and far right of the track was rideable (it was) and so when everyone else bottlenecked for the next corner, I changed off the main line and passed about 10 people in one move.

The rest of the race was spent being steadily repassed by these 10 riders, who turned out to be fitter and faster than me in the long run. But it was a fun track, and on the technical sections and grip-limited sections I’d pull ahead – although eventually I’d lose out on the long power drags. I found that pedalling throughout the corners helped me judge the grip level and despite a few “drifting” moments I remained upright throughout.

By the last lap, I’d found my steady position in the race. I could see the guy chasing me, but knew that if I pushed a bit I’d maintain the gap and hold onto my position. Overall, I felt pretty good throughout the race and was able to push a steady pace and turn on the power for the climb each lap. So it was slightly disappointing to only finish 40th out of 54 (74%) given how good I’d felt.

Takeaways? Once again, it’s mainly the flat/power sections that I lose out most. I realised that perhaps all the fun zwift races I’d been doing weren’t the best kind of training. I ought to be focusing on more structured training – over/under intervals and threshold work, rather than the typical “medium pace then crazy pace” that most zwift races are.

Anyhow, thumbs up for Kinneil CX – great course and enjoyed the race!

2022 SCX#4 Irvine Beach

Today was round 4 of SCX series at Irvine Beach. The course is all about elevation changes and sand. I enjoy the climbs and descents, but hadn’t done sand since Irvine in 2018 (the horizontal snow race).

The course is symmetric. On each side, there’s a steep up, fast down, steep up then some twisty offcamber stuff. In the middle there’s flat windswept plains punctuated with sand. Repeat four or five times and you have a race.

The steepest ‘up’ was something I could’ve ridden with clean tyres and fresh legs, but had to run it in the race. I realised this was the case during my sighting lap, and then also realised I had forgot to put studs on my shoes. So I abandoned the lap and sprinted back to the car to install studs, and got back in time for gridding.

The other ups were rideable, and recent Glentress trips were good mental training for keeping on pushing even when legs are tired. The offcamber and twisty bits were all pretty tame – despite the morning rain the course was grippy everywhere.

The long sand section was a lot of fun. The first few laps were sketchy (I fell once or twice) but later in the race a nice initial rut formed, and with great encouragement from a marshall (“keep pushing the pedals, you’ve got this”) I made it through the whole thing on the last two laps.

I totally failed the fast downhill then right on the section after the rollercoaster. I kept target fixating on the outside barrier and drifting wide. After an ‘exciting’ moment on lap 3 where I lost the rear end but manage to hold the slide, I fixed my error on the last lap by simply looking further up the course.

Final result was 30th out of 43 starters in vet40, or 70th percentile – so better than 78pc last time out. I could not have pushed any harder – in the red on the ups and recovering on the owns. I was closing in on the rider ahead of me on the final lap, and even tried a stealth sprint but was still a few seconds adrift at the finish line. Still some way to go to get up to the 50pc I managed pre pandemic.

Tyres today were still the default ones that came with the bike, and ran 35/35psi (with tubes) since it was a smooth course. No punctures, and grip was fine. I’ve punctured at 33/33psi in the Pentlands before (at end of Green Cleugh) so wary of going lower. I have yet to rebuild my tubeless rear wheel, so that’s a job for some dark winter evening, but they’re much better for properly muddy courses.

2022 SCX#2 Lochore Meadows

Not the most auspicious start to my resumption of cyclocross racing – I snapped the chainstay on my race bike less than two weeks ahead of the first race. I initially looked at just replacing the frame like-for-like but the equivalent frame now has through-axles not quick-release, so piling on the cost of new wheels meant that it made more sense to get a new bike. Thankfully PlanetX put it together quickly and I had it a few days ahead of the race. My test ride revealed I hadn’t tightened up the seat clamps enough. That would’ve been exciting to discover during a race!

Lochore Meadows is flat and often muddy. Rain fell on Friday and Saturday but the sun was shining on race day and the surface held up quite well. No real mud, just ‘brown grass’ on the spiral. I decided to stick to the vanilla tyres that came with the bike rather than switch to mud. There was a fair amount of hardpack and tarmac outside of the spiral to clear tyres. And in fact it wasn’t a very grip-limited course.

Everyone was gridded (first time I’ve been in a race where that happened), and the bottleneck going into the woods for the first time was less of a bottleneck than usual. I made up a few places as people slid out or fluffed gear changes, but quickly settled down to my own pace.

I had a few back+forths with people who’d pass me on the spiral but then be slow through the more technical bits – barriers and steps. Taking a few extra running steps after the stairs and barriers was good idea, let the bike stabilise after you’ve put it on the ground.

On the final spiral (although I didn’t know it was final time) I got fed up towing people, so I slowed to encourage one to pass, 2nd person also slowed, then 3rd person sprinted and I then had to chase their wheel. Unfortunately for me, they were just faster than me and I couldn’t stick. I guess that confirms that they were just sitting on my wheel saving energy waiting to race away at the end.

Was flat out all race, pushing on to close up on a wheel in the spiral, or to pass someone before a narrow section.

Finished 43rd out of 55 starters, 78th percentile. But back racing at last! I couldn’t have went any faster in the race – it was a power course and I lack power. What would’ve made a difference? Just stronger legs – the fast guys are x% faster than me on all sections of the course. I’ve mostly been doing zwift races, Arthurs Seat laps and Glentress to regain fitness. Probably doing some structure intervals would be a good idea (but I much prefer doing zwift races in my practise time).

Next race will be SCX#4 at Irvine.