SCX #5: Irvine Beach

Last weekend was my first time racing at Irvine Beach. I’ve been fascinated by it for a while with it’s sandy sea-side location, but schedules and illness have conspired to keep me away until now. The course did not disappoint – a climb leading into a lovely swoopy bowl section, then some zigzags before the main event: the big dipper. This is like riding a half-pipe .. a really big half pipe. You literally cannot see the bottom as you commit to your line, and the first time I went over it on my warmup lap was a life affirming moment! Still, the only thing that makes sense on stuff like that is to point in a straight line, look into the distance, stay away from the brakes and trust that all will be well (+ that noone else brakes!). From there, there was a couple of off cambers before a fast downhill to the main run-up. This was where I made up most ground – people would coast the last part before the runup, whereas I’d stay on the gas and then be able to run up the hill faster (long legs!). Final part of the course was on sand which, to be honest, was not a big deal because a compacted line quickly emerged on the left side which left only one section towards the end requiring a bit more technique. Finally, there was a bit of flat grassland. As ever, I made the mistake of thinking ‘phew, a bit of a rest’ on the flat and losing time then having to regain position on the uphills and more technical stuff later. Plenty of grip all around, so was on the Conti Cyclo-X King tyres at 35psi.

The race start was chaotic. I made sure I was at the start early, but in the post-gridding shuffle up I ended near the back and was 81st going over the line. Gary McRae, one of the top riders, had a mechanical immediately after the start, and there were several topple-over accidents in the first few corners. Fortunately, as we got to the climb there was a nice free lane up against the right tape for me to power past the crowd and I gained over 20 places on lap one. By the third lap, I got passed by (I think) Peter Ferrier and hung onto his wheel for most of the rest of the race. I’d lose out on the flat/power sections, and gain on the hills so it netted out equal. On the last lap, Martin Steele caught us up. We came out of the final sand section all together, but Peter and Martin powered away and pulled a gap so I sat up and watched them duke it out over the line. I finished 58th out of 108 (54%) which I’m pretty happy with, given that it was a fast/power course.

I checked on Strava to see where I lose most time versus the top guys. The basic answer is, of course, “everywhere”. But the biggest deficit is on the flat grassland (16mph vs 13mph). Climbs, twisty bits and even off-cambers are okay.

Next race is at Lochore Meadows – completely flat and traditionally a hanger-snapping mudbath. So, plan is to have a couple of days rest (at least until I have time to de-sand my bike) and then do more Trainer Road to work on sustained power.