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.