It was a rather odd two weeks between rounds two and three. After the Irvine race, I literally could not walk for days and it was only through a lot of careful stretching and gentle exercise that I got back to a place where doing round 3 wasn’t insane. Happily, all went well in that regard and I managed the race at Dunfermline without any injury worries.
Dunfermline last year was a mudbath. This year, despite the sunny start to the day and short-sleeves weather, conditions underfoot were true to tradition meaning plenty of running, sideways drifting and horrible grindy noises from the chain.
I’ve switched to tubeless this year, which went well in the mud at round 1. For round 2, I switched back to faster tube’d tyres and when it came time to remount my tubeless mud tyres it was a really hassle getting them to seal. I didn’t understand it at the time, but subsequently I found that the rim tape was coming away near one of the offset spoke holes – ie. nothing to do with the bead at all. This was to play a part in my race day sadly!
Despite being at the course early, I elected to skip any sighting laps to keep my drivetrain clear of mud. This also meant I got to the grid nice and early and was something like 35th our of the 132 starters heading into the first few corners. The chaos corner was a 180 degree muddy offcamber. From watching the women’s race earlier, it was clear that the fastest way round was to dismount, flip the bike 180 degree, run the initial mud and then remount to ride the offcamber. Then you spilled out onto a short concrete section which was a nasty trap for the unwary – slick with mud and with a metal manhole cover just offline. The following field had a few tweaks since last year; instead of immediately going over barriers, the course followed some hardpack before switching back for the barrier – this has a good flow to it. Then off up to tree corner before grinding up the gradient back onto tarmac. Midsection through trees was a mixed bag – it felt like it ought to flow, but the grip was just a bit too sketchy. I lost my frontwheel on a tarmac transition midrace, managing to hop off before it hit the deck. The third quarter of the lap is zigzags through muddy fields which thankfully had Just Enough grip left to avoid the momentum sapping from last year. But the last part of the lap back to the start line was unrideable mud. Even the seniors were running it. Fortunately, despite never practising running, my long legs help me out and generally I recover ground whenever it turns into a running race.
The race was pretty steady, with me gradually losing a few places each lap. This is a good sign – it means I started at about the right place on the grid! I was in 38th/40th/41st over the line on laps 2-4, looking good for another top-third point finish. But just after that start of lap 5, with 2 to go, my rear wheel punctured. On any other course, this would’ve been a disaster. However, Dunfermline is so obligingly muddy and soft that I really wasn’t too much slower on the muddy sections. Thankfully the tyre stayed mostly attached to the wheel, so whilst I didn’t have any suspension I still had grip. I wasn’t relishing the idea of doing 2 laps in that state though. Thankfully the leaders were my salvation as they caught me just at the tail end of the lap. I lost four places during the lap, then another four in a group right at the end, to end up in 49th position. Miraculously still in the points!
It was a fun day, and I stuck around afterwards to watch the seniors with plenty of action and spills! Pretty happy with the race too, given the state I was in just a week prior. To finish in the points again despite 20% of my race being on a flat tyre was nice.
After a lot of futzing, I’ve found that the initial wrap of Stan’s rim tape wasn’t sticking down properly. My rims have offset spoke holes which make things fiddly. Need to try again with two layers and do a lot of brutal test rides before Round 4 at Lochore Meadows.