A beautiful sunny day to start the 2016/7 Scottish Cyclocross Season. The start line was in full sun, so the usual “trying to stay warm” problem was replaced temporarily with a “trying not to overheat” problem.
The Callendar Park course is fast and swoopy, with no long/steep climbs and very little in the way of severe “technical” stuff – so sustained power is the order of the day, not my strongest point. But with 2016 being the first year I’ve had a turbo trainer, I was hoping to see some improvement in power. I think I got that – my lap times were the most consistent I’ve every managed throughout a race. Overall, I wasn’t that much faster than last year but I gauged my effort better rather than going out too fast and blowing up later.
I got to the grid a bit late, after foolishly trying to squeezing in one extra practise lap whilst everyone else sensibly headed straight for the grid, thereby leaving me in maybe 110th place out of 140 starters. I spent the first two laps passing people (16 on first lap, 9 on second) and avoiding the midfield crashes and tangles. Then it was a case of head down, chase down the next rider, rinse and repeat. I tried to get some rest by drafting people on the straights, squinting to avoid the gravel spray from their wheels. No crashes, only a bit of elbow-to-elbow clashes on the steep climbs as people tried to make progress.
I started the last lap drafting another rider in green, with noone close behind us. I had enough in reserve to decide on my Cunning Plan to take the place. I pounced on the steep muddy climb and made the pass, but went a bit wide at the hairpin and lost it again. More drafting to save energy, and onto plan B which was to attack at the steep hill before the zigzags. I was alongside at the top of the hill, but on the outside line for the next corner and so had to drop back. Plan C was to draft him the rest of the lap and outsprint him. I accelerated past on the second last straight so I was in pole position going round the final hairpin. But as we started to sprint, I went to change into my big ring and .. disaster .. it wouldn’t go. I carried on up the gears in the small ring until I was spinning like a hamster wheel and tried again to change but by this time I’d lost a few metres and it was all over. A fun end to the race, and with hindsight I think I got out-race-crafted in the end.
This was the first race where I felt my effort was constant lap-to-lap. I had a little dip in energy midway through the second last lap, but by that point the end was in sight. I think I have the turbo trainer to thank for that. Since I don’t usually ride with others apart from at races, it’s not easy to gauge or maintain hard training efforts out on the road, so I’m finding the turbo trainer is good for race-simulation efforts – even virtual racing on Zwift (tried it once so far).
Final position was 63rd out of 146 starters, so 43rd percentile. I think that’s my best finish yet, relatively speaking. With the turbo trainer, I feel I’m in a better position to work regularly on improving power, which has always been my weak point (lacking a roadie background) and so high hopes for the rest of the season.