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!