SCX #1: Callendar Park

A beautiful sunny day to start the 2016/7 Scottish Cyclocross Season. The start line was in full sun, so the usual “trying to stay warm” problem was replaced temporarily with a “trying not to overheat” problem.

The Callendar Park course is fast and swoopy, with no long/steep climbs and very little in the way of severe “technical” stuff – so sustained power is the order of the day, not my strongest point. But with 2016 being the first year I’ve had a turbo trainer, I was hoping to see some improvement in power. I think I got that – my lap times were the most consistent I’ve every managed throughout a race. Overall, I wasn’t that much faster than last year but I gauged my effort better rather than going out too fast and blowing up later.

I got to the grid a bit late, after foolishly trying to squeezing in one extra practise lap whilst everyone else sensibly headed straight for the grid, thereby leaving me in maybe 110th place out of 140 starters. I spent the first two laps passing people (16 on first lap, 9 on second) and avoiding the midfield crashes and tangles. Then it was a case of head down, chase down the next rider, rinse and repeat. I tried to get some rest by drafting people on the straights, squinting to avoid the gravel spray from their wheels. No crashes, only a bit of elbow-to-elbow clashes on the steep climbs as people tried to make progress.

I started the last lap drafting another rider in green, with noone close behind us. I had enough in reserve to decide on my Cunning Plan to take the place. I pounced on the steep muddy climb and made the pass, but went a bit wide at the hairpin and lost it again. More drafting to save energy, and onto plan B which was to attack at the steep hill before the zigzags. I was alongside at the top of the hill, but on the outside line for the next corner and so had to drop back. Plan C was to draft him the rest of the lap and outsprint him. I accelerated past on the second last straight so I was in pole position going round the final hairpin. But as we started to sprint, I went to change into my big ring and .. disaster .. it wouldn’t go. I carried on up the gears in the small ring until I was spinning like a hamster wheel and tried again to change but by this time I’d lost a few metres and it was all over. A fun end to the race, and with hindsight I think I got out-race-crafted in the end.

This was the first race where I felt my effort was constant lap-to-lap. I had a little dip in energy midway through the second last lap, but by that point the end was in sight. I think I have the turbo trainer to thank for that. Since I don’t usually ride with others apart from at races, it’s not easy to gauge or maintain hard training efforts out on the road, so I’m finding the turbo trainer is good for race-simulation efforts – even virtual racing on Zwift (tried it once so far).

Final position was 63rd out of 146 starters, so 43rd percentile. I think that’s my best finish yet, relatively speaking. With the turbo trainer, I feel I’m in a better position to work regularly on improving power, which has always been my weak point (lacking a roadie background) and so high hopes for the rest of the season.


It’s that time of year again, cross is coming.

For me, it’s the usual conflict between structured organised training vs chaos of winter/autumn bugs and work travel. I managed to plan ahead this year, and did all required work travel by early September with the plan of having two clear weeks to train to peak. Unfortunately, I got off the plane and immediately caught a bug which mean zero training for over a week, sad times.

Before all that kicked off, in mid-summer I had decided to stop procrastinating and actually buy a turbo trainer. I’ve been considering getting one for years, and having had it for two months now I’m very happy with it. I’d expected that the main benefit was avoiding bad weather and darkness, but actually the quantified nature of indoor training has been very helpful for me too. My main weakness in cyclocross has always been in the road-y ability to deliver high watts for a long time, and so I’ve never done well at flat courses like Dig In. On the turbo trainer, it’s easy to do time-trial simulations, or over/under intervals, or stop-start sprints. All of which hopefully will pay dividends once the race season starts.

But, given that I’m still suffering somewhat from my autumn bug, I’m not sure if I’m going to make race #1 at Callendar Park right now. I cycled to work this morning for the first time in a while, and had to bail onto a shorter route. All this non-cycling has given me time to strip down, clean and rebuild my bike so it’s working better than new. But it would be very sad if I ended up with a shiny bike but lacking the health to race it. Lots of fruit, sleep and fingers crossed that the rest of the week goes better …