SCX2 this year returned to the 2015 Scottish Championships venue at Knockburn Loch, a race I was really excited about coming back to since my debut there in 2014 (and after missing last years event). By all accounts the 2015 champs course was a big improvement on the 2014 edition; an edition which I rated as one of my favourite courses in the land. Earlier this season, DTCC’s belter at Alford got my juices flowing and with tales of annual course improvement at Knockburn I was fit to burst.
Plans hatched within the SRA camp; Mr Moulson was to fire up the Mazda Bongo and we were going camping in Grampian, in November. It’s a good three hours driving from Glasgow to Knockburn and with our squad spread across a couple of races it made a lot of sense to head up the night before to save the driver sandbagging. A wee jolly up to the campsite in Peterculter [read: Petercooter] with Jambo, Chris and Colin we met up with Davie Hamill in the pub next door to smash out the cross trash talk over the Guinness and vegan friendly Millers til close.
A Dundee shower, some instant porage, freshly ground and pressed café and we were good to hit the road to Knockburn Loch. Arriving to a packed field early in the day, we got to see a few races as we caught up with friends by day, enemies by race-day. It’s great to see the 2015 debut for Tom Blakenstein too, another #unicrois out in the field today. [Great #unicrois numbers today with Caroline, Graeme, Colin, Jambo, Magsy, Tom & myself all out representing SRACX]
Today was to be the first outing of my brand new Albannach dCROIS. I’d not even ridden her around our local trails to dial in the setup; I was more interested in getting some slick photies before she was sullied in the garden of ‘cross. Some extremely hipster point and shoot later I was ready to suit up. Number pinned, belt on, suit up, embro applied and it was time to sneak a lap pre V40s. As with all ‘cross courses, most is familiar, nothing is the same. A good dose of rain had primed the parcours for some thick and slick sections. The first tricky bit was the wee off-camber in and out at the back of the loch. Me and Jambo had a few goes at that to try and carve out our favourite line; we both agreed, go to the bottom, carry your speed power out with the momentum off the descent in. Next up a steep wee kick up to the top of the course with a clever dead turn before you descend back down to the bridge. Convention would see you try and cut the corner for the shortest route here but infact we found it better to take the long and wide lines on the relatively harder ground. *This early arrival is paying off*. The last and tastiest of the challenges laid down by the Men of the Dee was back over the bridge, over the wee kick and then up the sand-gravel drag pit. There were lines all over this pit, all trying to avoid the white rock in the middle which seemed to call you to your doom like a fair siren of the parcours.
A few laps around the new crit track to keep warm against the cold winds rolling over the Grampian Tundra and then on to support and study the V40s. It came as no surprise that the lines we thought we had expertly deduced as the choice ones were infact the pundy lines. I’m going to say this was done to course evolution.
We line up and again to my surprise I get gridded, a few rows back but importantly on the same row as my biggest rivals (who also are my best pals and team-mates in the SCX scene) #theonlyracethatmatters. A wee bit of trash talk as Chris doesn’t meet the gridding criteria, it pays to finish. “The race will start in the next 30 seconds”, silence descends and *BANG*, off we go. Seconds later, I completely lose my shit. I hit the wrong lines off the tarmac into a long patch of deep sand and gravel and lose a lot of places and now way behind the rivals. I’m cursing not having done some starting chute recce. I catch onto Jambo’s wheel and we both try and get ourselves back in the race.
There’s a few long, straight, flat sections at Knockburn, perfect for tucking in and getting your breath back. The beauty of having a few team mates kicking about this year, even though we ultimately are looking to be the top Unicrois, is that we can work together for mutual gain. That’s pretty much how me an Jambo played it for most of the race. Knocking lumps out of each other, picking up places as we went along, taking turns at resting and attacking. It almost felt like we meant it..
About five laps in I’m feeling strong as we cross the bridge and approach the pits. I have a wee dig, I need to get myself to the front of our wee group before we hit the sand pit. We’d been hitting the sand together for the past few laps, too bunched up for me and I opted time and time again to run, the safe option. The problem with running, is that not only did it spike my heart rate but also the course sand clogged into my cleats and made it really difficult finding the pedal, losing me time and position. If I’ve come away with anything from the TCR it’s a drop of sit down power. I love these kind of thick mud/sand sections. If I could get to the front I was confident I could ride through and then shake our group. I smash it past the pits, roll through the single track, carry some speed off the wee bump and get my weight right back, arse just off the saddle to allow the bike to flow more wherever the sand takes it. I carve a path and glide through the sand, to the delight of the adoring fans. I smash on through the woods but I feel like my lungs are going to prolapse. I keep her lit til I get back over the bridge to the long straight tail wind and finally get my breath back. It was a massive effort that and even managed to snatch a few more places.
That was ultimately my downfall. An effort too far and I totally popped. When that energy goes, so does your focus and concentration on the lines, braking points, cornering speed; all of it goes out the window. What you might call the caprice of cross soon follows. You start to do things you’ve no idea why, you totally unravel. I start to brake on ascents, freewheel down, my lines through the muck go completely off-piste, culminating in stopping dead in the sand unnecessarily, losing balance to the opposite side you’ve clipped out of, legs and frame a’fankle, to the hilarity now of your adoring fans.
Despite feeling totally burst I manage to hold off the chase right until the last breath, though a long way off the charge of Chris, Euan and Magsy. Plenty of work to be done before the Super Quaich but lets face it come January Febraury I’ll still be mincing about mid-pack.
Thanks to Colin, Chris and Jambo for a awesome weekend up t’Loch. Well done to the Men of the Dee for another excellent event. Looking forward to next year and I hope some of you guys can make it down for SRACX hosting RGCX in January.
The super talented Chris Barr also smashed together a sweet wee video of the trip, it reeks of the awesome that is the Scottish ‘cross scene.
Results from SCX2 at Knockburn Loch