I love this race. It’s on a savage but scenic course, overlooking the Firth of Clyde  in Irvine. The riders have to cope with sand, mud, off camber grass banks and the infamous dune climb. As hard as it is, they seem to love it just as much as me!

Climbing sand dunes

The team at Walkers Cycling put on a fantastic day of racing, with four events covering kids to veterans. I arrived a bit later than planned, just in time to catch the start of race 3, for Veterans, Juniors and Women.

Vets Juniors and Women’s race

I had just got settled into the long grass by the sand sections as the race began. As the field came round the bend, onto the first sandy section it was pretty well strung out and seemed to go on forever. It’s great to see so many people racing!

After climbing the dreaded dune for the first time the first riders came into the second sandy section as others were still on the first. There was one section of really deep, soft sand which seemed to be catching a lot of people out. I don’t like photographing crashes, but did inadvertently catch one spill.

Soft landing

By the end of the second lap the field was so long I couldn’t really tell who was where placings wise so just took photos and enjoyed the spectacle. That said, it was obvious that the Leslie Bikes duo of Gary McCrae and John McCaffery were riding hard at what I assumed was the front.

Team Leslie Bike Shop – Right Move Windows

Trying to follow the women’s race was proving fairly difficult just because there weren’t many of them in a large field. The fact that everyone was covered in mud didn’t help either! Eileen Roe (Team Ibis Cycles) seemed to be fairly high up the field and Gen Whitson (Ronde) wasn’t too far behind, but after that it was almost impossible to keep track.

Eileen Roe on the dune climb

It was great to see Katie Archibald (City of Edinburgh RC), star of the recent Scottish Track Championships, getting stuck into a bit of ‘cross action as well, although I couldn’t really judge how she was going.

I wasn’t really paying too much attention to the race progress and managed to misjudge the end, only making it to the end after the winning vets had crossed the line, although I did manage to see Eileen Roe take the win in the women’s category from a distance.

The full results are available on the Scottish Cyclocross website.

All of my photos from this race are on Flickr. As always, if you see yourself or any mistakes, leave a comment or tweet @dmwmartin.

Senior Men’s race

After a tasty lunch (and a cup of tea to warm the hands) from the Grange Kitchen I headed back out to the far side of the course for the senior men’s race.

With a smaller field it was much easier to keep track of the race in this event, with a select group containing Rab Wardell, series leader Rob Friel, Gareth Montgomerie and Davie Lines hanging off the front even before the end of the first lap.

The pre-race favourites make a break

Behind the leaders there was an epic battle going on, with the sand having a huge impact on the race. Almost every lap somebody came off in the soft stuff and on one occasion I had to help a rider get unclipped while he was lying in the long grass under his bike, then almost caused a pileup because I miscounted the number of guys in a group and told him it was ok to get up – sorry about that!

There was a great variety in the race: some were on high end ‘cross racing machines, some on mountain bikes, even one unfortunate soul on a Surly Pugsley. I think he regretted it in the end!

Cyclocross is such an inclusive and welcoming sport, anyone with a sensible bike can turn up and give it a go. I had planned to race this year but being hit by cars kind of put paid to that. Next season I really want to try the Irvine course for myself.

As the race went on Gareth Montgomerie (GT Racing) started to pull away from Rab Wardell and eventually won by 16 seconds, which must feel like an eternity on this course. It was getting pretty dull/dark by the time the race finished, so even though I’d positioned myself perfectly in the bushes behind the finish line my camera failed me. So here’s a photo of Rab instead.

Flying through the sand

There are so many people to thank for events like these. From the volunteers who were laying out the course at 5am in the pissing rain to the riders who travel the length and breadth of the country to test themselves to their limits. Thank you for putting on another great event!

The rest of my photos from this race are also on Flickr:

[map]