With just over one week until we hit the sand pits at Irvine Beach [#joksijde] where this year Walkers CC host the Scottish Cyclocross Championships. I caught up with Neil Walker to get a wee bit of insight into easily my favourite race.
How many years have you guys been putting on the race? It’s been going I think as long as i’ve been racing (since 2009), is that right?
It was actually 2008 for our first series race, we used a different car park and start-finish, i think we had 60 riders in total! The sand dune was an accident – the commissare didn’t like the singletrack sand descent I had planned to use, so through the dune was the only option.
How are the preparations going, do we have any new secties to deal with compared to last year’s course?
This year I’ve handed over the main organising role to Scott Kerr, who is doing a fantastic job. I’ve just been in charge of making the course suitably evil! Another evolution of the course this year; longer, more (yes more) off-camber sections, less singletrack, more corners, but keeping in the key features of the big dipper, the run up and the sand dune. We’ve managed to find an extra sand section, quite different to the other two, short, but very deep! I’m just back from training there, trying to get a handle on likely lap times (around 8 minutes).
Money no object, if you could have any feature of any course out there what would it be?
It’d be great to get some scaffold sections in to allow the course to do a figure of eight – I did that for the Commonwealth Games MTB Test Event I organised – 30m long scaffold bridge, it was epic, but expensive! I’d have liked to have included what we call the “saving private ryan loop”, two up and over sand dunes, with epic sand descents and a section on the beach, but in reality it is just too hard physically for non-pros, and I’d need the money for personal protection!
Walkers CC clearly love their ‘cross, does it take much encouragement from you to get as many of your gang out to represent on the day or are they all drafted in for marshalling duties?
All the guys who are racing help out with the set up and take down on the day, and loads of the other club guys who ride road or MTB turnout to marshal on the day, it’s a great atmosphere, so its never a hassle to get a good gang out to support.
On the back of many years of experience at Irvine have you ever thought i’d like to find another venue to add to the SCX calendar? I know I find myself constantly scouting for potential.
Yeah, lots of potential in the area, but I think we want to concentrate on using the beachpark for as long as we can. We train in a number of local parks from small to huge, and most of them have potential to put on a really good course, but only really one has the infrastructure to support a race of the size of SCX.
Joksijde aside, what is your second favourite course; firstly for racing and secondly for spectating, in Scotland
That’s a tough one, I think Falkirk is probably the purest ‘cross course I’ve ridden – it has bits of everything you’d want in a cyclocross race – it’s pretty good for spectating too. Auchentoshan was always my favourite for spectating as it has a couple of real big features in its run ups that create a brilliant spectator atmosphere.
You’re having a great season yourself with a few podiums in the past few races, will you be out racing too? I bet you’ve already sussed out the best lines and probably even thrown in some shortcuts for the homegame advantage.
I’ll be racing, yes, I’ve got a good idea of the best lines, but ultimately Irvine is about how big your engine is, so good lines will only get you so far!
With all your years experience in the sand, what are your top tips for conquering the sand at Joksijde?
Tyre pressure as low as you dare. Get in a high enough gear that you can maintain your speed. Look well ahead to where you want to go and relax. Commit to the ruts on the exit of the dune. Also, talcum powder on your chain! Lube your chain, let the lube dry, then cover it in talc. The talc absorbs all the excess moisture, and the sand has nothing to stick to. It also makes your bike smell nice.
Who’s your money on for top V50, V40, Women’s and Men’s winner
V50 – Kenny Kently, V40 – Gary McRae, Women – Eileen Roe, Men – Davie Lines
And lastly, a top athlete like yourself understand the nuances of a healthy balanced diet, with that in mind what’s your (Walker’s) flavour?
Always salt and vinegar.
SCX5 & the Scottish Cyclocross Championships a week Sunday, 06.12.15