At 12:55 on a sunny sunday afternoon, I found myself on the starting line of the support race at the Scottish CX championships. An hour before, I wasn't sure I would be here, but a pep talk from one of the cheerleaders sorted me out and I got my Cross Face on.
I had hopefully remedied most of my bike issues (though still wished for a 1.8" mud tire up front to match the rear), so it was all down to me. I chilled out before the race, chatting to some people and was lost in conversation when the gun went. Woops....
We were off and within a few metres running through the mire. Back on the bike then across the grass at the top of the hill, followed by a swooping set of turns on the hillside, with two steep descents and one harsh climb. The uphill was another carry but it was over quick.
Again, back on the bike, down the second steep section then big ring along the rivers edge, over the bridge then climbing up some singletrack.
As this was going on, I picked off a few riders, which was a good feeling after the hell of Dundee. Then we had barriers to jump and another carry up some stairs. Back on, big ring and a hammer round some grass then a long hardpack straight. Head down and go. More riders passed and I'm on the rear of a DCC rider. I let him set the pace for now and stick on his wheel but then a minor issue - we're stuck behind someone who, somehow, has got into the middle of the pack yet is riding remarkably slowly (and I *know* slow :-) ).
He eventually relents and lets us past and we hammer along more singletrack, a steep climb and double back on ourselves. Before we know it, we're back at the top of the hill.
We're then jumping more barriers then running through the mire. It's through the S-bends then the finish line.
I'm trying to stay on the wheel of the DCC rider but he edges ahead on one of the climbs (my uphill running skills are not brilliant) so I focus on staying ahead of others and trying to find another target to tail. Surprisingly the lap is pretty quiet and I don't see many other riders but, with the start of the third lap, the leader blazes past. No matter, I'm not exactly here to win. :-)
I keep going but start to feel it a little now. I down my gel and press on. I keep an eye out behind for other riders and I'm still ahead of my 'markers'. I also spot a new target ahead and get my head down. I gain on him on the straight but lose him on the grass climbs, a pattern repeated until the finish. I just can't close the gap enough, but on the bright side, there's another rider I'm using as a marker, the vague plan is to try and not be lapped by him and so far, I've not been.
Lap four is better and I seem to maintain my position head through the finish again. The announcer not only gets my name wrong, but also the team name. Oh well, Grant Doyle of Velo....Velo....Club(?) seems to be doing okay. After passing through the line, I hear the bell and know that it's time to try and reign that bloke in. I stay in the big ring and push harder. Up the singletrack climb (why have riders been pushing up this since lap one?), over the first barriers then hammer to the straight. I can't see the rider in yellow though and, as I go up the last singletrack climb, the leader passes me, followed closely by the second place rider.
It's not long to the finish now. I grit my teeth and get on with it. Marty passes me climbing the hill and I remount, pressing towards the last descent. Into the big ring and I hit it. I sense a rider coming up now and hammer it. The line is in sight and we both go for it..........seeming to cross the line together.
We laugh then start the cross coughing. We shake hands and I go off to find Jen back at the finish line.
I'm a bit brown, the bike is a mess (but I never had to stop to unclog anything this time) but I had a blast.