Squirrel Cross: Preparing for my first ever bike race

Do what you love, love what you do?

When I started working in cycling I thought I kind of new what cycling was – I mean I learned to ride a bike when I was about three.

Credit: Cameron King

Turns out I didn’t and in the past two years I have learned all about the different disciplines, bikes, technical regulations for racing, what colour of socks you should wear…the list goes on.

I have tried road cycling, mountain biking, track cycling and BMX. I have changed my bike several times from a mountain bike, to a road bike, to a cyclo-cross and back to a mountain bike (but a ‘proper’ one this time.) Oh…and I am obsessed with Strava.

However, there is one thing I have never actually done – and that is race!

So, after talking about it for a very long time I decided (with a push – well, a SHOVE, from my better half Cameron) to enter the Squirrel Cross. Yup, the Cyclo-cross race which is now in just over a weeks time in Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline.

Cyclo-cross, although pretty fast paced, seemed like the perfect discipline to do my first race in – it is a short loop that riders race round for a time limit, 40 minutes in my case, which means that once the winner crosses the line everybody stops. It also means that even if (when) I am overtaken, I won’t feel like I am on my own out the back as the leaders will start lapping me shortly after!

The course is also in a park, with grass, tarmac and woodland surfaces – mixing it up a bit, making it a bit more technical – but not as technical as mountain biking or as terrifyingly fast as a road race would be.

In true Gillian style, I entered with only three weeks to go until the event – so some super speedy training has been in order.

Although I’m not incredibly unfit and can go out on a road ride for several hours – or cover a couple of laps of Cathkin Braes on my mountain bike before my legs tire – I still needed to get some Cyclo-cross skills in.

Being able to push yourself for as hard as possible for as long as possible isn’t something I am used to, also being able to jump on and off my bike without really stopping is also something I have never had to do.

Therefore I used some contacts (by which I mean, the guy who sits opposite me in the Scottish Cycling office, who happens to be the Coach and Education Manager) to get some training tips.

30-30-30 he said! 30 seconds flat out, 30 seconds easier pace, 30 seconds carrying your bike on your shoulder – and repeat (for 10 times…)

Easy peasy! Not…

Credit: Cameron King

I went down to Glasgow Green with my bike to give it a go and find out that riding on grass is not as easy as I remembered. After about four attempts I was lying flat out on my back on the grass!

Just to add to this dramatic fail, the words “Do you want to be a winner…or a quitter?!” were being shouted in my ear (nice coaching…Cameron.)

Cycling for as hard as you can is doable, cycling a bit less hard is also easy – but being able to jump off, lift the bike up and run, put it down, and then jump back on is not. GCN have a good video showing you how to do this cheeky maneuver to keep your bike moving, but the problem is, they make it look so easy – in reality I was falling all over the place.

Credit: Cameron King

With one week to go the practice is on…if I survive, I will write another blog to let you know how it went.

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