SXC R5 – Blairadam

Thanks to ©LS Photography for the pic

Thanks to ©LS Photography for the pic

Technique as much as fitness

After a Season that felt like to took ages to get started, the races seem to be coming thick and fast. After the British Nationals at Cathkin I headed off for a couple of weeks in Spain with the family, but took the road bike to get some miles in and attempt to maintain some fitness knowing I’d be heading straight back to Round 5 of the SXC series.

I was looking forward to checking out the new course at Blairadam. Lochore is a particular favourite track of mine so was looking forward to seeing what the Meedies Bike Club team were going to come up with. I needn’t have been disappointed, they managed to create a cracker, probably the closest other course I could liken it to was the 2015 nationals course in Aviemore. A lot of rooty singletrack and short sharp climbs meant it was a day for technique and handling as much as fitness. Rain the previous day added to the challenge with a lot of the exposed roots stripped of their bark and slippy as hell.

I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to this sort of terrain, as there just isn’t that much of it around me, and would mean travelling a little further afield to find some. I do think I can attribute some of the time I lost to a lack of confidence and experience on the terrain to my overall race time.

Onto the race. As the gun went off, Gary McCrae had a slight mishap which saw him miss his pedal and cut across some of the other riders, I managed from my third row slot to squeeze past and had myself up in a decent 7th place. It didn’t take long for Gary to rectify the situation and blast past at the top of the first fire road into the woods.

It was impossible to ride the first singletrack section through the trees with the close proximity of the riders, so everyone was off and running. Something else to add to this winter’s training, as the time we were back on the fire road climb, my legs had tied up from the running and took a few seconds to loosen off as I ground up the climb.

As the lap went on I struggled to hold the wheels of the guys in front but also knew there were a few guys behind me, and also picking off the odd sport category rider in front gave me a bit of confidence. By lap two I was finding myself riding more and more of the singletrack anticipating lines and knowing a little better what was under my wheels, in fact other than a couple of issues with traction on the short climbs I rode the entire lap.

Lap three was a lonely affair with not much in sight ahead and not much catching me from behind. Except the comedy moment Gary Macdonald came through leading the Expert/Elite class and me making so much of an effort to avoid interfering with their race I ended up on my back like a prize knob. We both had a decent laugh about it. During and after the race.! (which Gary went on to win, and with it take his first SXC Race win! Nice one fella!)

Lap 4 of 5 turned out to be my last, as Gary McCrae and Crawford Carrick Anderson passed my mid lap on one of the forestry road climbs, I’ve noticed before from a speed differential the difference is so slight, perhaps 1 or 2 mph difference, that I’m losing as much time on descents and technical sections as I am on the climbs. All good for seeing where I need to keep improving.

Crossing the line I still felt strong and would have been OK to do another lap, but equally glad the pain was over. I finished 19th, not great from a position/or points perspective, but considering where I was at the end of April I’ve got to take some positives from it. Studying the results later on MyLaps also highlighted that only 6 mins from my position to 14th over the course of an hour and a half means there are some realistic gains to be made thought the winter months.

Only a couple of weeks until Balloch Castle and the first Cyclocross race of the season before the final Round of the Series and the National Championships in Forfar at the end of September.

Til then #noshortcuts

©LS Photography

©LS Photography

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