SXC R3 – Cathkin Braes


© Alan Draffan

Time to kick start the season!

After what I can only describe as a lazy last few months (all of my own doing might I add!) it was great to be back racing again! After picking up a nasty cold at the end of January after Rouken Glen, the winter training just didn’t happen. Yes the illness didn’t help but the motivation just wasn’t there.

People who know me know I’m generally a very positive person so this was my first experience into the mental mind games of being an athlete with goals and targets and to be honest I didn’t handle it very well at all.

After finding every excuse under the sun to not go out through Feb and March, – “I’m too busy at work” – “The weather is crap”  etc etc. It all boiled down to a bowl of soup and a coffee with my coach James McCallum where he gave me the pretty brutal kick up the arse I needed to kick start the season!

I learned a lot in those weeks, and I’ve learned a lot in the six weeks since then being back on the bike. You have to put the time in on the bike, that’s a given. the hardest bit is the decisions that lead you to sitting on the bike and pedalling. (or in my case the two months not doing that)

There are days when it’s easy to jump on the bike, that’s when everyone’s out and putting in the miles. It’s the other times, after a hard day at work, or when the weather’s shitty, those are the challenges and the times when the commitment drops and the excuses kick in. If that goes on for long enough then the doubts arrive and you are on the downward spiral and it gets harder and harder to stop the rot.

Having never been in that situation before, I didn’t recognise the signs and it all snowballed a bit. but hopefully the next time it rears it’s ugly head I’ll recognise it coming and deal with it accordingly.

In the words of Jimmy Mac – Winter in Scotland is about surviving, We sadly don’t have the luxury of heading off to sunnier climates for winter training so we have to man up and get on with it…

Anyway, back to racing. After missing the first two rounds due to everything I’ve mentioned above, my season started at Cathkin Braes on the Commonwealth games course and also in July this year the British National Championships. It’s a course I love and I was looking forward to just enjoying the race with no expectations and goals. It would be the benchmark for me to see where my fitness was at and build from there.

The weather was superb, and with a tailwind up the final climb to the finish, the conditions couldn’t be better. A big field of 36 riders took the start and the pace was high (the standard this year has taken another huge leap forward) with Gary McCrae taking up his usual spot at the head of the field early on but being challenged hard by Paul Sharp.

Having missed the first two rounds I was put at the back of the grid, and would have to battle to get anything from the race. The first lap left me floating around at the back, and only on the first climb did I reel in and pass a couple of guys. My legs felt heavy and sluggish.

Lap 2 was a completely different, now properly warmed up, I set about hauling back some more places. I was climbing well and the strength was good. My descending was a bit rusty and clearly an area I need to focus a bit more time on.

As the gaps got wider, it became quite a solitary next couple of laps, just sticking at the job in hand, pacing myself at the start really helped me mentally, I wasn’t dying and hanging on, I was in control each lap and could deliver the power when I needed too. definitely an approach I’ll try and carry with me through the rest of the year.

As I approached the end of lap 4 to start my last lap, Gary powered past me to take the win, I was honestly disappointed not to complete the final lap as I think I had something left in the legs, and the extra miles at race pace wouldn’t have been a bad thing.

So a 20th place finish was positionally higher than I expected, and with lap times on a par with last years race my fitness, although not developed much from last year, was no worse, and a good basis for building the second half of the year and into the Cyclocross season.

I left the day in a really positive frame of mind and I’m really looking forward to the next couple of months of training and The next round of the SXC in Dalbeattie.

Thanks for reading!!


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