Harry takes Bronze in Scottish Cyclocross Series
It feels like it hasn’t stopped raining since October – probably because it hasn’t! But while our social ride calendar has taken a hit, conditions have been PERFECT for those riding cyclocross – where the more mud the merrier! One of our most regular Burners riding cross is young Harry McGarvie who despite being the youngest rider in the U16s category has just placed 3rd overall in the six-race series! Thanks to Harry for this blog:
The 2015/16 cyclocross season would be my very first as an Under 16. I understood the challenges which would come with the step up from racing in the under 14s – mostly having to race against much bigger guys than before. I didn’t want to view this as a setback though, and at the beginning the season I had a couple of main aims to complete. These included achieving a top ten at the first round of the Scottish Cyclocross series, at Callendar Park in Falkirk, getting a good result at the Scottish championships at Irvine Beach Park, finishing with a top ten in the overall Scottish series, and finishing high up in all of the 2016 races, most notably Ayr Burners’ own race, the Doonbank Trofee on 24 January.
Unfortunately, my first race of 2015, Callendar Park, did not go to plan, when, after a good start, which placed me around the top 5, as I was going down a slippery, rooty descent, my front wheel caught on a root, sending me and my bike hurtling into the air, before hitting the ground. I was very quickly helped off the track, and my Dad rushed over from the pits down below. One of the first things that my Dad said to me, while I was still on the ground, was that my helmet was totally smashed at the back. I was helped down the hill to the ambulance and cleaned up, and I luckily escaped with mere cuts and bruises. It was nice that David Lines, Scotland’s top cyclocross racer came over to check that I was ok after the crash.
The next race was Knockburn Loch near Banchory, a race which is held on a fantastic course, but that I have never done especially well at. In the end I finished somewhere just outside the top ten.
My third race of the season, round 3 of the SCX series, was Strathclyde Park. This is one of the only events in the Scottish series that I didn’t do last year, so I didn’t know what to expect. To put it bluntly, the weather was apocalyptic, making metal barriers fly everywhere and warming up on the rollers an issue in itself! Once again, I got a decent start after being on the front row of the grid, and managed to ride pretty well, fishing sixth in the end.
My next race was a smaller one as part of the Scottish Cycling South West series, in Castle Douglas. It was pouring with rain on the day, making the course an absolute mud bath. It turned out that we Under 16s were to race at the same time as the adults, meaning that I was actually up against my dad Lindsay, and JP Baxter! The shock of the day had to be Dad getting the ‘holeshot’, which is the name given to describe being the first off the start straight in the mass sprint, and round the corner onto the first off-road section. After the thirty minutes of racing, I ended up second.
One week later, I had my final race before the championships, the infamously muddy Lochore meadows, also known as ‘Meedies Madness’. This race is characterised by the fact that a large amount of it takes place on a large section of muddy track that goes round in circles to a mind boggling extent, and it is often the scene of a massacring of rear derailleurs, due to the mud. I can still remember when my Dad broke his rear mech here and had to run a whole lap of the reasonably long course. Thankfully, though, I finished with my bike in one piece, in seventh place. We now had a two week period before the championships, in which to train and rest up in preparation.
Bike all talc’d up, it was the day of championships, and it was once again raining, and I knew that this would make the Beach Park extremely muddy. Irvine has everything: long sections of sand, slippery descents, tough climbs and the longest run up in Scottish cyclcoross racing. For warming up beforehand, we had with us the new Ayr Burners gazebo, which thankfully shielded us from the rain and cold. At the start line, I was once again gridded on the front row, which would enable me to have a much better start. Cue the briefing from the commisaire, before ‘the racing will begin sometime in the next thirty seconds’. Now it is silent … and we’re off; now for the manic rush to the first corner. I was in an alright position for the first while, but two crashes, a bent saddle, and being sick near the finish meant that in the end I finished thirteenth.
And then, a week later, I had the final round of the SCX series, as well as the final race of 2015: Cross at the Castle on the island of Mull. I don’t think there is a more spectacular location to host a ‘cross race than under the beautiful Glengorm Castle. The course was mainly over very slippery grass, with multiple off camber sections, small sections of tarmac, a short steep run up, and an equally steep, ten times longer, and a lot muddier run up to the castle. As Mull is a lot harder to get to than all of the other Scottish cyclocross venues, the fields were naturally quite a bit smaller than previous races. I again had a good start, but I ended up unlucky, when I had a hard fall on a muddy section. This left my fingers freezing and my chain fell off. I therefore had to fumble around in the cold for a couple of minutes getting my chain back on, before remounting and riding on. My fingers, however, were so cold that I could barely change gear, and I couldn’t brake at all. This meant that I had a couple more falls, but, with a lot of encouragement from the spectators and my Dad, I managed to finish. Let’s just say, it was the coldest experience of my life, and it took at least fifteen minutes for me to regain any feeling in my fingers!!
In the end, I managed to finish third in the SCX series, my best finish yet, and I am really excited for 2016, and the rest of the ‘cross season. You can see the full series standings at scottishcx.org.uk
Editors Note: There are moments reading Harry’s blog when the conditions he describes sound a little like cruelty. Despite continued protests from both Harry’s family and JP Baxter to get him to rest, it has taken an enforced two week break to get Harry to put his feet up. Don’t be fooled by his nodding smiles, it turns out our Bronze medalist has a mighty stubborn streak!