Having raced at Lochore in August in the MTB series it was nice to be …
The SCX circus descended on Fife college for round 4 of the SXC series. We’d been relatively well looked after weather wise so far this season, but that was about to end spectacularly as the rain fell pretty consistently throughout the day.
Paul Davis and the crew at Dunfermline Cycle Club resurrected the same course that was used for the Valentine’s day massacre back in Feb, which is a great course with lots of switchbacks and is a real spectators course with a few points allowing you to see the riders 3 or 4 times a lap.
OK as you may have deduced from the pictures… it was muddy. And although not thick enough to clog up bikes particularly, combined with the rain made it a phenomenally slippy course. The off camber first corner after the start was probably the challenge of the day. As I watched the V50s and Ladies first lap with Stevie Crowther and Gary Macdonald we thought it was potentially ridable if you took an outside line. Roll on 40 mins later it was very clear running would be the only way.
I didn’t do a huge warmup as that had served me well over the last couple of races, and lined up behind the gridded riders on row 4 feeling ready. I was excited about the conditions as the have served me well in the past and play to some of my mountain biking experience.
The whistle went and we were off, after about 5 pedal revolutions on the gravel we sank into the soupy mud that ground the field to and extremely slow pace, with two or three pedal revolutions replacing the single revolution you’d expect to make any progress in normal circumstances. Around the first corner safely taking a wide line worked, I’m delighted I’ve been doing some running training this year as it definitely paid off in this race.
Remount for a few hundred feet then over the hurdles into the field lap, where the ground underfoot held up pretty well and finally some grip and the ability to put down some power. Back up towards the college before a hard left into the trees and some rooty single track. After that a great section of switchbacks in a great little arena around the start finish line before heading back into the trees, past the “Jump for Trump” boys who couldn’t fail to put a smile on my face every lap and get persuaded into attempting air every lap.
Another short loop of a bottom grass section and more switchbacks before crossing the finish line and back up a short sharp rise (rideable in the junior race but no longer a possibility by the time our race came around) onto the start loop towards the pits and strength sapping mud. It was apparent after one lap this was going to be a war of attrition, but my training recently has been focused on power so this should now start to pay some dividends.
The nature of the long loop from the start was brutally strength sapping each lap it got harder and harder, then the close proximity of the hurdles meant you were back off your bike before you’d had a chance to recover.
Rinse and repeat for what turned out to be six laps, jockeying for position but never really gaining or losing many places. I didn’t feel as good in this race as I had at Callendar and Strathy (turns out I’m now full of the cold which may have been lingering for a few days) but pleased to have stayed on the lead lap for every race so far this year which is a progress on last year and a measure of the improvement I’ve made. That said it was a pretty close call this time around with Gary McCrae winning a mere 20 or so seconds after I crossed the line.
Finishing 35th wasn’t as high as I’d have liked, but I ran too much pressure in my tyres so my handling was a little sketchy and I was erring on the side of caution in the corners. But good experience and will take that forward to Lochore which will no doubt be another mudfest.
All in all a brilliant course, but incredibly brutal in the muddy conditions, hats off to Paul and the team from Dunfermline CC for putting on a fantastic event. Hopefully the damage to the grounds doesn’t affect the opportunity to use the venue again as it’s superb.
Next race for me is Plean if I can shift this cold!