The Tosh run-up 2013 image Anth Robson

Wardell on ‘portage’

Rab Wardell opined on the technique of ‘portage’ – or carrying your bike, to the non-cyclocross aficionado – for the Dig In at the Dock 2014 race programme. With summer cross races now underway and thoughts moving towards the approaching season, I thought I’d revisit this with a new angle.

Portage – it is what separates cyclocross from all other disciplines of cycling. Lesser disciplines of cycling, one might argue. I’ve seldom heard a more eloquently phrased explanation of how this can inspire a lifelong love of ‘cross. I overheard one of our humble race organisers recalling a childhood memory to the Simon Burney. ‘Ah mind wotchin’ some ‘cross race on Grandstand, aboot 30 years ago! Ah wis just a lad and ah mind seein’ these guy fae Belgium an tha’ jumpin’ oer bits ae wid an’ tha’. The next day ah wis runnin’ roond the wids wi’ a road bike an’ ae’most got hypothermia. Quality likes! Thats the real deal…’

‘Yeah…’ Simon agreed.

I don’t think that anything in Scottish Cycling can compare to that moment you cross the burn at the ‘Tosh after 55 minutes, ready to shoulder your trusty steed and face that b*tch of a run-up one final time. Whether fighting for the victory, surviving the race, finishing for your first time or getting the better of your mate, one thing remains the same. As you try to slot your feet into the ankle deep, cold, muddy footholds. Digging your toe studs (if you’re lucky enough to have them) in the soil and push off, propelling your protesting, wheezing body and mud clogged, heavier-than-ever bike closer to the summit. It is incredibly painful. Horrific even.
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Team Bretagne Seche Environnement

Roadside for a TTT: Tour de France Stage 9 in Plumelec

On the Saturday evening after watching Stage 8, I returned to the house to find the appero being served and the barbecue being readied for cotes de boeuf, saucisses and pork chops. Drink was taken and I hatched a last-minute plan to watch the TTT with the one true cycling fan amongst the group.

We set off at 10am from our location in central Brittany to drive the hour towards the TTT course. I felt it was a bit early and wasn’t relishing nursing my groggy head for several hours at the roadside before the race came past. My companion was right to leave so early though, as we got through a few back roads and pretty close to the course at just the right moment before the verges became clogged with parked cars. We’re on the penultimate climb, about 5km from the finish line, and have a good view down the drag of the teams heading our way.

It’s already jam packed with fans and we see several teams doing an easy recce, as well as Oleg Tinkoff riding the stage – nobody seemed to recognise the Tinkoff-Saxo team owner, despite Contador being hugely popular in France.

The madness of the publicity caravan whizzes through, and there are some ugly scenes. It’s another cliche that can ring true – grown adults debase themselves for a commercial freebie, but that’s for another blog post.

Several riders in white and red, publicising Mecenat Chirurgie Cardiaque – a heart surgery charity. There are several Tour luminaries including Roger Legeay, former DS of Gan / Credit Agricole, Jean-Francois Pescheux, former race director, Bernard Hinault and Bernard Thevenet.


To the racing, and the teams come through in descending order of the highest-placed rider on GC. Orica are just surviving, as I overheard Matt White explaining to a journalist the previous day. They had come to win the TTT, and since it’s now impossible, with 3 riders retired and 1 rolling wounded, they will be taking it easy.

My friend and I try to start a stopwatch – I’m no timekeeper, so I focus on the photos and note-taking, while he aims to clock which teams are ‘up’ or ‘down’.
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Ups and downs following Stage 8

I was lucky enough to be in position to see the start and finale of Stage 8 of the 2015 Tour de France, which took in 181.5km from Rennes to Mûr-de-Bretagne.

I’m staying with my in-laws very close to the 50km mark at Saint-Méen-Le-Grand and had an ambitious plan to watch here as well as at the start and finish. Unsurprisingly this idea was a bit too much to ask, due to various factors.

Having enjoyed mooching about the start area in 2011 at Dinan I wanted to do this again, and wasn’t disappointed, getting close to team buses, managers, journalists doing their work and a few riders. It is much more interesting for me that the tacky publicity caravan, which wears pretty thin after having seen it once or twice.

As I waded through crowds and headed towards the paddock, a guy wearing a Festina cap caught my eye. The scandal of 1998 must be forgiven, I thought. I tried wearing a retro Festina jersey back home once and the slagging and banter became tedious – even 15 years on, the name is synonymous with heavy-duty endemic doping.

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Tour de France 2015 Stage 8: it’s Mûr, not The Mur

I’m really looking forward to this year’s Tour de France Stage 8, Rennes to Mûr-de-Bretagne. I’ve seen the uphill finish before, in 2011, and in 2015 the route is even more accessible for me, starting just 30km from where I will be staying, and making its way through an area I know well.

Mûr de Bretagne climb

The climb at the finish is steep and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s name means the ‘wall of Brittany’, in a similar fashion to the Flandrian bergs such as the Muur de Geraardsbergen. Fans are more likely to be confused give that the Mur de Huy is the uphill finish a few days earlier on Stage 4, in the French-speaking Walloon region of Belgium.
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2015 Davie Bell

Scottish Road Champs, and the last Davie Bell

I heard on the Cycling Podcast  this week that this weekend’s road champs will also be the final edition of the Davie Bell road race.

Pocast host Richard Moore has been invited in a VIP capacity as a former winner. It’s a monument of Scottish cycling with a roll call of greats including Robert Millar, David Millar (no not that one), Jason McIntyre and pretty much everyone else who has had any success professionally or at the top of the amateur ranks.

“How come I didn’t know about this?!” I wailed. Chris Johnson did great publicity for the race in previous years, especially when the gravel sectors were included and when there was an appetite to step up to National A or even Premier status.

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Grass track cycling keeps you young

Grass track season starts in May, which reminded me of Hugh Johnstone, who took part in the retro exhibition race, a few days shy of his 80th birthday, at the Scottish circuit  championships held in Stirling last August.

Hugh Johnstone

His frame was built in the 1953 by George Elrick, a frame builder who was based in Lower Bridge Street in Stirling up until the 70s –  a steel single speed frame with extra tyre clearance and a higher bottom bracket. Continue reading

Hat tip to Robbie Hassan

Robbie Hassan announced recently, on his blog, that he was hanging up his racing wheels.

Robbie was a Braveheart funded U23 rider who moved to Spain to race full time and have a real go at making it as a pro bike rider. He is someone who I have followed since getting into road cycling in 2008 and starting this blog so I wanted to tip my hat to his career, even if it has ended before he reached the goals he would have wanted.

The impact of a 12-week knee injury on top of struggles against health an allergy setbacks have led to the decision to call it a day.

As I followed the local racing scene in 2009 and 2010, Endura were dominating with a strong squad of all the best Scottish riders including Oliphant, Hand, McCallum, Lines and Creber. I celebrated any club rider who could get a result against them and got myself into trouble once or twice trying to stir up light-hearted banter on twitter that got taken badly.

Robbie Hassan
Disappointed with 5th in the Scottish champs 2010 behind 4 Enduras  Continue reading


Davie Lines – The (fire)man who would be king

Orinally published in the Dig In At The Dock 2014 programme in January, this piece, by David Hamill, looks back on Davie Lines’ 2013 cyclocross season and celebrates his choice as honorary reigning Scottish series champion.

Bike racing is a cruel sport. Most people who race bikes never win and those who do win will more often lose. Losing (or not winning) is something even the best bike racers need to get used to. It’s part of the sport. The history books don’t provide a great deal of discussion about who came second, third or fourth. If they did Davie Lines might be a bit of a legend.

Davie Lines works as a firefighter in Edinburgh and also races bikes for Starley Primal. If you were to assign Davie a specialism in bike racing it would probably be criterium road racing. As a past Scottish champ he’s got plenty of results to back this up. But to badge Davie a crit rider is to do him a disservice. He competes on the road, on the track and in cyclocross and he does this all at a very high level.  Continue reading

Dig Deep Coaching – cyclocross race tips

Dig Deep Coaching logo

Dig Deep Coaching comprises former pro riders Stephen Gallagher and Dan Fleeman, with Mandy Collie providing business expertise to the team.

The company works closely with National cyclocross champion Ian Field, who was up in Fife recently for a two-day training camp organised by some of the Team Leslie Bike Shop / Bikers Boutique people.

Ian Field & Eddy van IJzendoorn

Dan and Ian released a webinar entitled ‘Cyclocross Season – Time To Get Ready‘. The 1-hour presentation comprises audio and slides covering a vast array of tips to get more out of your cyclocross racing, including equipment choices, skills drills and training sessions.

I have always enjoyed absorbing as much of this sort of information I can during the past 5 years racing. While it’s always enjoyable and sociable to just go out and ride with clubmates, I found that doing working on my own (to heart rate, although power is better) with specific training sessions, and focusing on structured high intensity interval sessions allowed me to get the best race fitness while juggling the finely balanced work/family/cycling equation.

Tips from the Two Johns Podcast, Coach Joe Beer Podcast and Joe Friel’s website added to my knowledge over that time and I highly recommend the webinar above. If you want to take things further, Dig Deep Coaching offer 6 and 12 week training plans for cyclocross.

A friend of mine, based in rural Aberdeenshire, found that his connection speed was too low to run the webinar, so for his benefit and that of others, I’ve summarised the key points below. Continue reading

Talking cyclocross with Sporza’s Renaat Schotte

Renaat Schotte works for Sporza on Belgian TV and is often found reporting from the motorbike during one day classics and grand tours, or from the pits during ‘cross races. Fellow blogger Andrew Rafferty managed to catch up with him for a piece for the Dig In At The Dock race programme last January.

AR: I asked him why cyclocross is so popular in Belgium.
RS: ‘There has been a continual process of professionalising and modernising. More so than other countries who were also traditionally strong at cross, like Spain and Switzerland. And as popularity increased and crowds grew, the races got bigger and riders became more successful, which increased the popularity and so on. A virtuous cycle.’

Is it fair to say that it’s a not a Belgian thing, but a Flemish thing?
‘Yeah, it’s not an exaggeration to say that. The races held this year in Walloonia (the French speaking part of Belgium) are actually organized by Flemish! And all other races organized by Walloons in the past have been cancelled.

Cyclocross is part of Flemish life, like speed skating in Holland or Skijumping in Germany.’
Or bagpipe playing in Scotland?

‘Exactly, ha ha.
Look at how things have changed on the TV. In the early 90s you could watch maybe six races a year. Now its three or four times that, with bpost, superprestige, World Cup and National and World Championships. Plus numerous standalone races. It’s getting bigger.

BK Veldrijden 2013 Mol

We see the same thing here in Scotland, albeit on a smaller scale as the number of races, participants and spectators grow. And many people watch Sporza broadcasts online. Can you give your Scottish viewers some key words to listen out for?

Greppel (chreppel) means ditch and Beek (bake) means burn or stream. You should hear them in most races. Zandstrook (zandstroke) means sand section like at Koksijde.

(Or Irvine!) Continue reading