Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Monday, 6 July 2015

Capital Trail 2015.

It has been a couple of weeks since Chris 'Marquis of Darkness' Marquis and I took on the Capital Trail 2015. You probably have heard of this event, organised by Markus Stitz and run alongside the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling.

It is difficult to know how this event is seen by Joe Cyclist. It doesn't have the back country cojones of, say, a Cairngorm Loop or a Highland Trail Race (which Markus receently completed, in good style), but it is still a fairly intense under taking: 238km of mostly off-road riding with 6000m of climbing.

After a discussion on where to aim our efforts, Chris and myself decided to travel fairly light, bivi near Peebles - around 150km into the loop - and after refuelling with a hot breakfast and coffee at Glentress after an early morning spin around the trail centre, head for home on the second day.

This is probably not aligned with a true race-head perspective and we were both entirely happy with that. We had no real idea how the first half of the loop would go, given then-recent unsettled weather, strong winds and our general lack of knowledge of the trails Markus was using. The second half of the loop was more of a known entity, Chris and myself both having cut our chops riding in Edinburgh as young bucks.

It was great to see a good number of 'Moulineers on the start line, some looked in better shape than others with illness taking its toll in some cases. I'll let them tell their tales, but Russell put in a fine effort on his Shand, outfitted with a fairly tall gear range for the climbing required! chapeau!

Otherwise, there was a range of intentions on display from fat bikes, hip flasks and happy banter to serious faces and chiselled legs.

The first few hours were a joy: we zipped along with barely a breath of wind and the warm air and dry trails were rewarding. Far from the dull drove road and canal path it might have been, these trails tested and engaged. After passing through Melrose, the energy levels began to become noticeable. Bikepacking, even lightly loaded, still means you are carrying considerably more weight than on a more usual ride. The steep climbs as we hit the Southern Upland Way were sobering.

One poor chap's bike snapped at what was likely the most isolated point of the loop: the 3 brethren near Selkirk. It would be a strenous way to end the evening dropping down to Innerleithan wheeling the bike, but he remained in good spirits.

The good spirits were also in abundance as we enjoyed the fare in the Traquair Arms pub, along with around half the riders from the grand depart - or so it seemed! This was a particularly timely stop for me as Chris had had a small mechanical with his bike, necessitating a MacGuyverism and due to my disaster style packing, I had fairly minimal warm kit. By the time we sat in the pub, I was in full blown shivers. Orders were large and we washed it down with some ale before leaving and making the long climb, back into the hills.

Fairly late in the planning stages, there was a change in the route. Markus removed the initial HAB up Dun Rig, which was welcome, but we still had to push the bikes a fairly long way up into the thickening clouds on the route between Innerleithan and Peebles. There was a good bivi spot prior to hitting the grassy slope at an old estate building, where quite a large number of riders decided to stay. We pushed on, getting the climb out of the way as we aimed towards Gypsy Glen, where we intended to overnight. Just as the dark began to set in, the rain became a little more of an issue and by 11 we were thoroughly wet, which was not ideal immediately before getting into a bivi sack, however a couple of cans of Dale's pale ale made up for it and we were soon relaxed and chatting over the highly enjoyable day. Later, a couple of sopping wet riders careered down the trail with lights illuminating the drizzle. We snuggled into our sleeping bags gladly as we sheltered in the woods.

Day 2 dawned not-so-early and both of us slept fairly well. As we packed and got moving hunger and a powerful need for coffee gnawed at us. We climbed on the Red route at Glentress trail centre before dropping down the Blue to arrive, like several other riders, not long after the cafe opened. Full Scottish was a given and sated, we rolled off into the mild dreich to finish the loop off.

Wet trail and repeated grassy climbs sapped energy, which was in short supply by the time we pushed from Nile Mile Burn, high into the Pentland hills. Nevertheless, the reward was a fine loop on well known trails and a grand view of Edinburgh, sun now out and beaming, with only a few miles to go.

With a final, odd tweak of trail on the side of Arthur's Seat (I suspect Markus originally planned for us to ride round the volcanic lump, but could not due to a scheduled running event) we dropped to the coast and wriggled through the sun-worshipping crowds on the esplanade back to the finish at 4.30pm or so.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable loop. The trails were excellent quality - nothing was too challenging and the lack of 'exposure' and proximity to escape routes means it could act as a fantatsic introduction to multi day bike rides for an inexperienced bikepacker. Indeed, with Peebles sitting as a major destination point for overnighjting and recharging, a credit card tour with a stop in a bunkhouse or B&B is an easy possibility.

Of course, those shooting for a ITT will go as long and as far as they can - as evidenced by David King, the 'winner' completing in 15 hours 15 minutes, but my view of this loop is that it lends itself to a slightly less intense pace and the calm, enjoyment of the environment that Southern Scotland can bring.

More details here:
Edinburgh Festival of Cycling
fearless and unique

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Equinox: using time wisely.

High pressure, stable weather and a yearning to ride all day long. A twangy lower back muscle after a bit of singlespeed induced hernia-popping climbing action notwithstanding, it was time to grab 'Maul and run to the hills.

Out through Mugdock, taking in some choice trials that haven't been dry in months. Pinballing around and loving every second of it.

Then down to business on the West Highland Way: missing the gates, considering my forward progress at Garadbhan.

The back was holding up and the legs were still going round in circles so I could cut north for Aberfoyle, then Callander but I could not think of a fun way back home. So: Mangrunt? Even sans Conic Hill, I had to have a chat with myself and see if I was up for this so early in my spring mileage build-up.

Nothing ventured….

Round the lochs through Queen Elizabeth forest park and then the terrain opens up as you approach the upper portion of Loch Lomond.

Lots of wildlife to be seen.

Some in worse shape than others...

Take the fun trails down the Lochside until Balmaha and ducking in and out of the woods, follow the West Highland way back home.

Seven hours, 75 ish miles. My body reminded me that this building up every year is always a battle, an act of perseverance, but oh, the places you'll go…

Friday, 20 March 2015


Today is the vernal equinox. Day and night in balance. For VCMers in the northern hemisphere days are now longer than nights and a long Spring, Summer and Autumn of bicycle riding awaits. What've you got planned?

I have a hankering for long rides in the hills. The eastern Cairngorms still have a fair few trails to hit and soon it'll be time to get high. 

Adventure awaits teamies. Get some. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

It's the off season so time to start preparing for next season

Last year I looked at my bikes after a hard season and realised that running two different, but kinda similar bikes made little sense so bit the bullet and ordered two beautiful Shand cycles bikes

Well this year I have gone for the slightly cheaper option of looking at nutrition to help with not only my day to day living but also for racing. Cue internet searches and the purchase of this beauty

To go with the hand grinder I also got some Cuban coffee beans from here

I use an aeropress to make my brew so had to resort to more internet searches to get instructions for the Porlex grinder as my Japanese is slightly rusty.... So three clicks from home and off we go, first cup was with the recommended 12g of coffee, about a palm full, was no where near enough so second go was fill the fecker to the brim

to the neck
I also slightly dropped the amount of water in the inverted aeropress and that was pretty much spot on for how I enjoy my coffee. I always let the water cool from the boil before adding it to the 'press and allow it to mix with the grounds for well over a minute before pressing

I got the mini grinder as it fits snugly into the aeropress and will be travelling with me to all the races now as part of my pre match routine as well as my pre out the door routine every day
snug as a bug
The grinder is beautifully made with the only downside being the handle isn't held on by anything but   gravity, so far this hasn't proven to be any problem. I can thoroughly recommend the aeropress for making good consistent coffee and the hand grinder just adds to my new beardyness, skinny jeans wearing fixie riding persona.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Three Races of Significance

Long overdue bloggerage but these three races really deserve some recognition.

Dig in at the Dock 2015.
There has has been plenty said about this event, be it about the cheeky chaps that organise it, the blustering wind that cuts in in two every year or the blessed drum troop that kept the beat for the entire race, so I will concentrate on what I saw of the racing. The race usually the last day of winter holidays before we all head back to the grind of our respective employment, is a great way to kick off the year and blow any remnants of the previous year right out yer skinsuit. It fills a category that previously hadn’t existed in that it is a mass start, every rider for themselves, battle charge for the line, this is good and bad but they get away with it.

To win you need to be at the front as within minutes a race with 140(ish) riders committing for the holeshot only ever ends one way, for us great unwashed mid packers this means accepting you will loose sight of the race very early on, getting your head down and seeing what materialises. This year I left all my warming up to the turbo trainer and checked out the bikes of those who were ‘hot-lapping’ to determine what the race may or may not be like. It was looking from the bikes like it might get a bit mucky, it was also cold, the sun dropped minutes before the start and never returned.

once the gun fires, fuck the team

It’s easy to forget how social the Scottish cyclocross scene is, in fact very easy to forget, with the swell in numbers over the past couple of years and the amount of new faces around it can sometimes all seem a bit alien but within the belly of the beast lies a passionate group of folk with one common goal. But anyway I digress, my warm up consisted of half an hour turning cranks on the turbo and my preparation consisted of two weeks of winter holidays eating more cheese than one person should and generally being a bit lazy. It felt a bit uneasy squeezing into lycra, that’s all we need to say on this subject. So despite this warming period I managed to be very late getting to the start line by which point approximately 120 folk had already established their place and dug their little tight shoes in to not let a chancer like me sneak in, thems the breaks.

solid season for Ainsley, though she needs a better cap

Soon enough the race was underway and then some time later we moved such is the effect, I charged as best I could to get further up the field and then settled in. I love this course, it really does have a bit of everything only missing gradient but as someone not renowned for their climbing prowess I don’t mind that. Very quickly I was in a group containing riders I didn’t know (one of the goods or bads of a mass start race) wondering if they were going to explode or charge, I hung on. As it transpired I ended up for most of the race with a couple of guys from Pedal Power RT exchanging places and generally keeping each other going. By the end it had got really rather cold, in fact fucking freezing, the coldest I have been at a race this season.

this dude dared to pass me, so I threw down a hex and out he went

Thanks to the amazing electronic timing, results were available pretty much as you crossed the line, I will only mention this once but this alone has the ability to make or break a race, gone are the days of waiting till the next race to see how you did in the previous one, possibly the biggest advance in our races over the last couple of years.

So how did we all do?

6th Simon Fairful
9th Ian Dunlop
11th Steven Turbitt
13th Addy Pope
9th Davie Graham
9th Fraser Waters
13th Martin Steele
4th Chris Duncan
3rd Maddy Robinson
8th Ainsley Turbitt

All in all not such a bad day out but by fuck was it cold.

SCX 6. Cross At the Castle 2014

Cross at the Castle hopefully shouldn’t need any introduction to anyone familiar with Scottish Cyclocross. It is as legendary as it is opinion splitting, “a cross race on the edge of the world” is a fair starting point when trying to describe it. For those of you who haven’t been, you’re selling yourself short, yes it is a ball ache to get to, yes it is always blowing a hoolie, yes it does involve at least one ferry but what do get in return? Well a gut wrenchingly beautiful venue, a gut wrenchingly torturous course and gut wrenching good time. There are opponents to this race as part of the series and I have in the past made my feeling known on this too. But a return to the race this year reminded me of just how important this race is, both for Scottish Cyclocross and for the culture, heritage and friendships that our humble little scene has nurtured. Celebrate the old school.

The course takes place on a bucolic outcrop jutting out into the Atlantic on a piece of land that could have been landscaped specifically for the purpose of holding a cross race but alas this is nature, raw and unforgiving. This years lap was a shortened one from the last time I was there, a cavalry charge had us careering into the sloppy descent that led to all the fun grassy cambers and corners before sloggin our way back to the cafĂ© and into the ‘jungle’ portage and back into the wet stuff.

Marty gets his lean on

It wasn’t the weather for hanging around and when the pistol fired all the sprightly old blokes gave it their best and charged to be first into the technical section. I’m not so good on the all out cavalry charge starts so seemed to flounder a bit to find my pace but once on the grassy stuff I got into the swing of things. I loved all the tough corners at this one and hard to nail every lap I have to admit though my skills get flattered with the Challenge Limus tyres. As always happens the race quickly settles and you find yourself battling to get the guy in front and keep the guy behind at bay. In the end I got tantalizingly close to Rob Bloor but the laps stopped coming and he pipped me to the line. At the front Colin Shearer and Brendan Roe were having a right old ding dong with both of them being caught out by the unforgiving conditions, great rides from both of these gnarly stalwarts. Alongside us Maddy was having her own Battle Royale with Kerry McPhee, if anyone dares to think there are easy points to be had on Mull this battle for the series very quickly dispelled that theory. To the line the pair gave it everything and once more proved how close and fiercly competitive the womens series has became, brilliant to watch. Unluckily for Maddy, Kerry was the stronger on this day and took the series by just 2 points.

I didn’t follow much of the seniors and V40 as I was trying to stay warm, take photos and heckle hard. Chris Marquis again looked deceptively strong and Addy and Stevie T took advantage of the reduced senior field to get some much overdue top ten time.

Cross At The Castle is ten this year (something that came as a shock to me as someone who was at the first one!), something of a landmark for both the organiser, landowners and hardy racers who make the pilgrimage every year to race. It is looking like it will be the oldest event on the calendar for 2015, may I suggest you embrace it, forget everything you thought you knew, leave your prejudice at home and race/party hard in one of the most stunning parts of the world. You wont regret it.

We did this.

3rd Addy Pope
4th Steven Turbitt
V 40
9th Chris Marquis
17th Martin Steele
V 50
2nd Colin Shearer
8th Chris Duncan
3rd Maddy Robinson
9th Ainsley Turbitt

Knockburn Loch Scottish Cyclocross Championship

 “In sport, a championship is a competition in which the aim is to decide which individual or team is the champion.”

Knockburn Loch was the venue for the 2014 SCX champs, snugly nestled way up north a hefty stonesthrow from Banchory. Organising club Deeside Thistle have had a few races up here now and have proven both the venue and their organising skills to be right up there with the best that the Scottish Cyclocross community has to offer. A good solid mix of surfaces, relentlessly pedally and (god forbid) some singletrack, its fast and torturous.
Having spent the previous night in Aboyne with Mr Steele, we managed to pitch up good and early and got to soak up all the early action.

pic by Marty

I should now go on to talk about Shearer getting the holeshot, Addy messing the holeshot, Maddy missing the podium. I should really go on more about my good start about watching the sun rise and dip behind the mountains and the torturous drive home over Glenshee, I should but events took a bit of a turn for the worse.  Cycling legend and commentator extraordinaire (Jammy) took a bit of a bad turn and panic and confusion ensued while medics attended to him and an ambulance got him to the right place in good time. A sense of community followed as riders from the senior and V40 races held back any sense of frustration they may have had and respectfully did as they were told. Plenty has been written about Jammy and it was great to see him back recently but what it did remind us for a brief moment was, this is only bike racing, nobodies life depends on it, most of us are well fed (and if we aren’t its through choice) we have families, we have lovers, we are alive. Jammy, in a twisted kinda of a way thankyou for reminding us of this.
I’m not sure I mentioned this but I love this course.
No real surprises on the national champion front, which proves at least it works and the right people got the medals.

Senior. Rab Wardell
Senior Women. Isla Short
V 40. Gary McCrae
V 40 Women. Sian Tovey
V 50. Brendan Roe
Junior. Mark McGuire

its over

What we did.

Colin Shearer 4th
Chris Duncan 10th

Fraser Waters 27th
Martin Steele 38th
Davie Graham 41st

Maddy Robinson 4th
Ainsley Turbitt 10th

Addy Pope 11th
Simon Fairfull 13th
Chris Marquis 22nd

So there we have it another season bites the mud and yet again it was another good one, controversy, all out war, laughter and tears in abundance. But one thing that we tend to overlook about our little race scene is how each race has a character of its own that gives us a little portal into the environment its taking place and also into the minds of the respective organisers, they say that variety is the spice of life, well, lets go hard on the seasoning then. This year really has had it all.
All that remains is to say that on behalf of Velo Club Moulin, thanks to each and every one of the organisers and your army of helpers. Enjoy the off season and charge your batteries for 2015. Thanks to The Press Room for the Dig In pics

Friday, 23 January 2015

Rouken Glen CX

Buried south of the River Clyde is a park defined by fine, tall trees, rhododendron, the waterfalls on the Auldhouse Burn and old, Edwardian buildings. A gem in the heart of this gritty city, Glasgow. 

Once owned by the Crown, the park was given to the people in 1904, and the RGCX team took the natural contours and beauty of the park, applied considerable skill, and created a hard fought, icy cyclocross race of the highest caliber. 

Split into an A and B race the vibe was relaxed, but no less competitive. With sub-zero temperatures for a week before the race, the ground was hard and snow lay several inches deep in places.

VC Moulin was represented well in all classes: it was good to stretch out the gammons with my homies for only my second 'cross race this year.

I was slotted into the B race, along with Fraser, Ainsley and Maddy. There was some of the usual, nervous banter before the start, at the bottom of an access track. A quick warm up was not enough to keep the cold from our bones but then the hooter signaled the off - 55 minutes plus a lap to go.

I was fortunate enough to have some appreciation of music from 'the man' for this round and Gibby Haynes laconically worked his way through 'Dancing Queen' as we climbed back up to the course, getting the sluggish blood moving through cold limbs. It seemed appropriate, as the legs wound up the climb: "you can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life".

Joining the course, it was clear it would take no prisoners. Off camber into the soft mud under a canopy of trees, then a sharp drop and climb to skirt the top of the course and the race MC. (Iron Maiden, 'Hallowed be thy name').

After the lap finish line, a grassy bank acted as a kicker to jump if you wanted, before another off camber traverse into a run up and then a rolling section before a series of chicanes and a steep climb - rideable with the application of some sausage - into a section routed around copses of trees, a double barrier hop then back to the top of the course. AC/DC, 'Sink the Pink' - the beat helped with the pedal stroke. With welcomed recovery sections allowing me to come down from red line after pumping the big meat up the climbs, the course and me were making friends, fast.

A few laps in, I was lying in third place to Fraser. I knew Maddy was close behind and a charging Matthew Smith was sitting just ahead - so close that I could hear his breath at every turn. The pace for the first 30 minutes was blistering - The Bronx, 'Young Bloods' suited the high heart rate and physical exertion. There came a point where the traffic thinned enough that I could clear the longer, steep climb by going hard right and I knew I could use this to pass Matthew, who was shouldering the bike.

True enough, I forced the pass with a hernia popping effort. Faith No More's classic 'Epic' and a smattering of Clutch fed the fire and my legs felt strong and willing. My new tubeless set up allowed me to get ragged around the corners, adding to my traction and I was truly enjoying myself. Idly, I began to wonder if I had it in me to challenge Fraser, who was still out in front, but serious consideration gave me clarity. Barring a mechanical issue or implosion from him, our positions were set.

Matthew kept battling, coming back at every opportunity. There was no way to stretch and break our elastic bond: several laps from the end, just as I began to feel a little comfortable, I nearly opened the door for him to drop me for good. A poorly judged jump into the off camber corner before the run up, led to a squirrelly landing and I dropped my chain. AC/DC - "Thunderstruck". No doubt!

I had to pull the rear wheel out of the frame to get the chain back on. As I began to tighten the qr again, Matthew came flying past and I could see him exert his will on the cranks. This was going to be tight.

He tore off into the distance, aiming for the chicanes. I gave chase but tried to stay calm. No need to red line straight away - assess the moves and situation. Still feeling good, I tackled the steep climb on the pedals after the chicane and gained some ground. Memory fails me but I think I may have even slipped past here. We were so close - it was no suprise as he took me again just on the top section of the course before the finish. I hung on and gasped for air. With one or two laps to go this was going to go to the wire. Another hard effort on the steep climb while Matthew dismounted and ran gave me just enough to stay away - ragged breathing, the taste of blood with every respiration. I dug deep to make the pass and could only hope it was the definitive move of my race. Rob Zombie, 'Superbeast' - it couldn't have been a better tune.

So it was. I rolled home extremely happy with my second place, a firm hand shake and mutual respect with Matthew and happy for both Fraser with the win and Maddy in 5th overall, first women home.

I'll let someone else tell the story of the A race, but congratulations must go to the organisers for a fantastic race. Strongly competitive but with a relaxed and welcoming vibe. Sweet as! Looking forward to next year already.