Monday, 13 December 2010

Cross at the Castle

This weekend was saw the final two races in the Scottish Cyclocross series at Glengorm Castle on the Isle of Mull.

We've had some pretty awful weather over the past few weeks, so we weren't sure how many folks would be able to make it, or if we'd be able to make it. After the Scottish Champs being cancelled the weekend before, and a race being cancelled the weekend before that, we'd lost a bit of momentum. However, we had a bit of a thaw on Thursday last week and decided that we'd try to get there.

Chris and I both managed to take a half day from work on Friday so managed to make the drive up to Oban in daylight. We didn't have to worry about the roads at all - there was no snow or ice on the roads at all (only small piles at the side of the road). By the time we got over to Mull it was dark, but there was no snow in sight - in fact, at 7 degrees, it felt almost like summer after the cold weather we've been having at home.

Saturday was an early start for us to get up to the race site, set up the timing system, help with sign on and course marking and then before I knew it, I had to run off and get changed to fit in a practice lap before my race.

The course on Saturday was probably the driest I've ever raced on Mull! Yes, there was quite a lot of mud and water, but not the hub deep stuff we usually have to race through. Although it was drizzling and a bit damp, it wasn't too cold and the views out over to Ardnamurchan were as breathtaking as ever.

Although there weren't huge numbers of riders, there was some really good racing in all categories. The series winners were already decided, but second, third and further down the field were up for grabs, so for some riders, there was everything to go for.

I've not had a great season, but being back on Mull, seeing the views at the front of the castle, got me going and somehow my legs did me proud. I wasn't top 3, but I had a very respectable ride and felt quietly pleased with how I'd done.

On Saturday night, most of the racers joined some of the Tobermory locals at the Christmas ceilidh at Aros Hall. Despite the hard racing during the day, there was plenty of ceilidh dancing (and a fair bit of beer too!).

Sunday morning came round a bit too quickly and Chris and I had to head back up to the castle early doors to help Davie set things up for Sunday's race - the final race in the series and the Santa Cross World Championships. To compete in the Santa Cross Champs, which forms part of the Scottish Cyclocross Series, you need to dress like Santa. Not all the riders wore Santa outfits for Sunday's race (and so didn't qualify for the champs), but about 80% of us did, so the race was on again!

Sunday's morning was very different to Saturday - it had got very cold overnight and the temperature was well below zero, leaving the ground was frozen hard. Even the muddy bits were mostly frozen. So the racing was much faster on Sunday and as we rode past Cow Belle Corner at the front of the castle, we were all cheered on with shouts of "Go Santa" or "Go Mrs Claus".

Again, my race seemed to come together and for the first time all season, I was able to keep up with the riders I've been desperate to catch all season and even managed to get past some of them. No podium, but the racing started to feel like it did a couple of years ago, so I'm quietly hoping that it's all coming back again.

So that's the Scottish Cross series over for another year. It's been a good one with lots of good racing, some new courses and more pretty bikes to check out. We've had a few disappointments too...2 cancelled races and a champs that's been postponed until January. But all in all, it's been another good season and there's been lots of smiles and fun along the way.

My cross bike's looking a bit sorry for itself now and is going to need a bit of TLC over the next few weeks to get it back in shape. One thing's for sure, the cross bug's back, so the bike won't be left to gather dust in the shed until next October! (Although if we get the bad weather they're forecasting for the end of this week, it might have to rest for a few more days.)

Monday, 6 December 2010

Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes...

...and my fingers and feet and lights and bell...

After a week of having to commute to work by bus and trudge several miles through the snow every day to catch the bus last week, I was fed up and desperate to get out on my bike (even if it was just to commute) so last night I decided that, no matter what, I was going to cycle to work today.

So I dug out my toastiest winter kit, packed up my pannier and went to bed happy in the knowledge that I wasn't going to have to sit on a bus in the morning. The weather forecast was for some light snow flurries, but generally just cold.

This morning I woke up and no more snow had fallen (none of the foot or so in the garden or in our street had gone either mind you), so got myself ready for riding to work. Then just as I was going out the front door at 7.20, it started to snow a bit.

Although it snowed most of the way to work it was quite light, so quite pleasant. The roads were pretty quiet too, so I smiled all the way in. Then just as I reached the gates at work, it got a bit heavier. Phew! I thought. Made it just in time.

Well, that's what I thought!

It just kept snowing and snowing! At 2 o'clock, we were all advised to start making our way home. All of the buses and trains in the Edinburgh area had been cancelled, the motorways were all grid locked because of snow, the Forth Road Bridge was closed and most of the local schools were closing again.

Most of my colleagues either had the prospect of a 2 or 3 hour walk home into Edinburgh or being completely stranded at work.

The roads were surprisingly quiet on the way back into the city, but because everyone was trying to get home at the same time, the roads out were at a standstill. I wasn't quite sure how my tyres would cope in the slushy / snowy icky stuff on the roads, but they coped better than most of the cars which were getting stuck at every set of traffic lights. Aside from a few exciting slides, the only problem I had was that my gears froze and my freewheel kept freezing.

All I can say is hurrah for winter boots (my new, un-holey ones arrived on Friday), amFib tights and bicycles!