Cyclocross season is certainly in full swing with four rounds having already been contested up here in sunny Scotland (and yes every race so far has been dry!) As a relative newcomer to the discipline of cyclocross, I have been on a rather steep learning curve these few weeks, some lessons being learnt the hard way. Let me explain…

TUBS or TUBULARS:

Cyclocross races are full of interesting features to make racing that little bit more challenging such as log rollovers, roots, mud, grass, hurdles and the occasional dog! (as witnessed at one race where a stubborn dog walker refused to leash his dog even though he was putting his pride and joy in mortal danger). The chances of puncturing on these mtb like courses are pretty high so the answer is a set of tubs or tubulars. These are basically special tyres that are glued onto a specific rim creating a wheel which is generally lighter (no tubes involved), pinch flat resistant and can run at very low pressures, ensuring increased traction and speed through sandy or muddy parts of the course. If only I had a set on my bike for the first race in which a lack of co-ordination saw me smack my front wheel into a rather large brick step-up (the sound of the rim hitting concrete still gives me shivers….) resulting in a pinch flat. Lucky it happened on the last lap and close to the finish so it turned out ok, but its’ enough to get you thinking about the implications. So if you’re paranoid about flatting or just want better traction, a set of tubs is for you!

READING THE RULE BOOK!

Most people that race know there’s no greater feeling than having a good, hard, honest race, especially when its for a podium position. The race finishes on a high with hugs all round, slapping of backs and congratulations. Your feeling great when all of a sudden a commissaire looms up to you. Your mouth goes dry and he duly informs you that its with much regret that you have been relegated from fast to last…

“WHATTT!!! All that effort for last place?”

“Yes. We are going to have to relegate you to last for a feeding infringement. Sorry..”

Well, it was actually a drinking infringement. Now I like a beer, but this is ridiculous! Commisaire goes on.

“Rules say no Feeding..”

“But I didn’t know?…Since when have these rules been in place?..You could feed last year!..”

“It was said no feeding at the start!”..

“Well I wasn’t at the start because I didn’t know the race had started because it wasn’t announced (plus I was taking a quick wee!..) and even if I was to be at the start, you can’t hear the guy at the front anyway because there’s a million people in front of you!…..”

“Sorry. Rules are rules.”

“Man that’s ridiculous!…”

So, there. I went from fab to drab in about 2 minutes. Tail between my legs, I went home licking my wounds. Morals of the story:

1. READ THE RULE book. Rules change from year to year and even though it may be a Category C regional race, you can still be dealt a heavy hand for even minor infringements.

2. Cleary identify when and where the start and finish is. Its not always obvious.

3. Make sure you can hear any instructions at the start…..

4. And don’t over hydrate prior to a race!

STUDS: (and not the hunky type!)

Last race it occurred to me that I was overtaking guys only to be overtaken on the slippy uphill clambers because I couldn’t get good traction whilst running. Why? My shoes didn’t have studs. Those little pointing things that track athletes use to give them more traction, it only seems sensible that cyclists should use them when scrambling up mudding hillsides. Why didn’t I think of this earlier? Having a pair of shoes without the option of studs, I have just found the perfect excuse to buy a new set of mountain bike shoes. What woman can resist the lure of new shoes that come with the option of a stud or two! Now you’re talking!

So with my new mountain bike shoes on order and much more enlightened since having read the British cycling rule book on cyclocross, I look forward to the next round of racing up here in Scotland. The season so far in Scotland has been exceptional with large turnouts in all categories, fantastic courses, well-organised events and brilliant weather. Hopefully for me, I can continue to improve and learn from each race, especially now that I have my little drinking problem under control! If you’re thinking about cyclocrossing, have a go. It’s great fun!

Photos by Steven Turbitt / Glasgow United CC