Cycling Cyclocross Racing

SCX 3: Return to the Spiral of Doom

Last Sunday was round 3 of the SCX series at Lochore Meadows in Fife. I knew it would be very different to the previous race at Callendar Park – the course is much less technical: fast and flat with no respite; and, of course, the infamous Spiral of Doom.

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Spot the Spiral of Doom

We vets were gridded behind the seniors. The start was on a wide, right-hand sweeping bend at the exit of the spiral. I was called up first and picked a spot on the left of the grid. My thinking was that I could power past the slower seniors in the first few hundred metres on the wide open outside of the bend. I know I’ve got a good start (usually) and I wanted to make the most of it. I started to doubt myself when Brenda, Beth, Ros, Jaime and most of my other canny friends and rivals took spots on the shorter, right-hand side of the grid.

When the whistle went I went off hard, diving through a gap in a very un-me-like manner and following my plan of getting on the left-hand side and powering past as many people as possible. And it paid off. I got past most of the seniors before we hit the first section of single track. I tried to keep tabs on Jaime and Ros in that first section and despite my strong start Ros made it into the single track just ahead of me.

I managed to get past Ros when the course opened out again and for a couple of laps I was aware of someone just behind me, and kept seeing a flash of red jersey out of the corner of my eye. I assumed it was Ros, but was surprised when Louise came past me – I had thought she was way ahead of me. So the race then turned into a battle on three fronts – to stick with Louise, to stay in the top 10 overall, and to stay ahead of the rest of the vets.

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Battling with Louise in the Spiral of Doom (Credit: Chris)

I was digging so deep I had very little idea of who was right behind me in the race! I was trying to keep an eye on where Jaime and Ros were, and I could hear Jammy calling out names as we crossed the finish line each lap, and I knew Amanda was close behind me, but I didn’t know if she was in my category or not!

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I had literally no idea who was behind me at this point (credit: Chris)

As the race progressed and my battle with Louise went on two things became apparent: that my cornering on hairpins has greatly improved (hat tip to Andy for his top secret cornering technique); and that Louise had got too much air in her tyres. She slid out a few times, letting me get past, but always reeled me back in again. I was right behind her going over the hurdles for the final time but just couldn’t get past her and she crossed the line ahead of me in a well-deserved 6th place, leaving me very happy with 7th overall and 1st vet.

It turned out that Amanda, who was not too far behind me, was in my category after all. Meanwhile Ros had battled with Ailsa for 3rd vet all the way round and had a nightmare race, losing several places when her chain came off in the last lap. Cyclocross is a brutal sport in more ways than one.

While the course challenged my riding skills much less than the previous race, and certainly wasn’t as…interesting as Davie and Franco’s fiendish Callendar Park masterpiece, it suited my strengths (powerful legs and an ability to suffer!). The organisers really managed to add some interest to a relatively featureless park – I liked the single track and steps, and the light rain had made the hairpins and the spiral really greasy which added to the challenge.

Sadly I can’t make next weekend’s National Trophy Race (I know I’ll be gutted when all the blogs and photos start appearing!) but I’m missing it for a good reason – my level 2 coaching course. I’m excited to take my knowledge and involvement in cycling to the next stage!

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