I’ve posted this photo before, but I’ve never really talked about what it means to me.
In 2015 I decided that, since I had a cyclocross bike (which had spent most of its life with slick tyres on the road), I should enter a cyclocross race. So I entered the West Lothian Clarion‘s “Last Gasp” race for novice women, which takes place in January. The event included 90 minutes of coaching beforehand. I was literally scared of going round corners, convinced that I couldn’t lean the bike over and that if I did I would fall off and hurt myself.
One of the coaches at that event gave me what is probably the single best piece of advice I’ve ever been given about cycling, which was “look where you want to go.” The picture above, taken during the race that followed, clearly shows me leaning the bike. It was a revelation to me and the start of a slow-burning love of cross.
In November that year, I entered the Plean CX race, freaked out and went home after one lap. Once I had cleaned my bike and thawed myself out, I entered the Last Gasp again. At that event, in January 2016, I learned to do a proper cyclocross dismount, loved the race and was delighted to come 17th.
In 2017 I was back at Linlithgow, starting to learn how to do a cyclocross remount under the expert tutelage of guest coach and cycling legend Isla Rowntree. By the 2018 edition of the race, the slow-burn romance with cross had blossomed into quite a serious relationship. In the group of more experienced riders, I was coached by Matt and continued to improve my flying remounts.
I was 4th in 2018. My friend Beth told me “4th is good – it’ll keep you hungry.” They turned out to be wise words. I won my next race.
The Linlithgow event has played a huge part in developing my love of cross (Matchmaker? Relationship counsellor? Maybe I have reached the limits of this metaphor…). So it meant a very great deal to me to be invited to coach at the 2019 event. I was a shiny, newly-minted coach, having passed my final Level 2 assessment only the week before.
I had a fantastic group of women who had never raced cross before. I had an absolute ball coaching them and it was fantastic to see, just over the course of 90 minutes, everyone gaining confidence and progressing their skills in different ways. Several of them came up to me after the race to say how much they had enjoyed it.
So I’ll just finish by saying thank you. Thank you to Diane, Simon and the rest of the team at West Lothian Clarion. Thank you to all the other riders who have taken part each year and inspired me to improve more and more. And, especially, thank you to my group last weekend.