Slip Slidin' Away

2016 Mudfest Continues at Kirkcaldy

words and pics: Anthony Robson

In September last year Beverage Park in Kirkcaldy, Fife hosted one of the fastest running 'cross races in recent memory. The sun shone, the crowds turned up, the riders flew. February was always destined to be a more 'cross-like excursion.

Half an hour before the 'B' Race of the 3rd round of the Super Quaich and the forecast billowing, squally wind, accompanied by intermittent, but heavy, showers swept in across the lush green course. Even on the practice laps the main parts of the course had turned to seething sludge, but grooves cut into it that threatened to snap wheels out of line. The inclines, for many, were immediately converted into run-ups. The off-camber would lead to tripod riding. The 180 degree turns demanding close attention. In short, this was cyclocross.

Both the 'B' and the 'A' races rather miraculously avoided the worst of the rain, though the wind ripping across the course made some sections interesting in the extreme, with tape whipped into the mud, and poles that had been holding it in place snapped at the stem. But underneath the mud you didn’t go far before finding a solid-ish layer, though as the race went on this sunk further, and running became preferable for many in certain sections.

The beauty of the Quaich format is that it ignores the rather fallacious divisions based on age and sex, instead focusing on sheer ability, and every rider, no matter how fast, slow, old, young, will find themselves in a race. Watching the 'B' race unfold from inside, on my way to 59th place, battling with two others till the very end, demonstrated the achievement of the egalitarian aim perfectly. And that flowed right through the field, with the all-important top 5 positions for the men going to David Murdoch (Albannach), ahead of Kevin Pugh (Walkers Cycling), Martin Steele (VC Moulin), Chris Allan (Haddington CC) and Peter Houston. For the woman the impressive Erika Allen (VCM) lapped me on the tarmac just as it swept right, her call of "on the right" as pro as her riding. Lindsay Branston (RCCK), Mireille Captieux (Albannach), the ever-stripy Caroline Harvey, and Marion Kennedy rounded out the 5.

With the course suitably churned in preparation for the 'A' race, there was an intriguing spectacle on offer. We’re used to seeing Davie Lines (Espresso Cycle Coaching) effortlessly floating around a course at ridiculous speed, but he was surrounded for much of the first half by 3 riders who represent optimism for the future of Scottish 'cross. Cameron Mason (Team LBS/BB) was once again impressive, leading for the first lap, before dropping back to finish in 5th. Gary MacDonald (Hope Factory Racing) broke up the young guard, while ahead of him Struan Pryde (Deeside Thistle) put in an astonishing, gloveless, ride, considering he’d been at Beveridge early, with the rest of the Deeside crew, helping setup the course. He couldn’t quite reel in Sean Flynn (Edinburgh RC), and so had to settle for third, with the equally youthful Flynn taking a 2nd place that promises much for Dig In at the Dock, given this was winner Davie Lines’ last race of the season. And this wasn’t a weakened field, with the likes of Stevie Jackson and Ian Dunlop toiling behind the kids.

The women’s race had a familiar winner as well, Anne Ewing (WV Breda) overcoming the drawback of having glasses that really didn’t match the rest of her kit, to roll in first, ahead of Elizabeth Adam (Glasgow Green CC), Katie Carmichael (Hervelo) (who had the honour of being the very last rider across the finish line to wrap up the day), and Gillian Pratt (Team LBS/BB).

Kirkcaldy had once again proven itself as a class cross venue, despite organiser John McComisky’s repeated wishes afterwards that the weather had been better. Social media was still buzzing for hours afterwards, and personally the excitement for me ran into the next day. This felt like a ‘proper cross’ day. Battling riders, and the elements, and learning to flow with the course rather than fighting against it.

The Super Quaich has one more round, after which a champion will be crowned, and it’s still actually all to play for with only points from three rounds counting at the end. Come along, cheer on all the 'B' and the 'A' racers, and let’s see out the 2015/2016 series in style.

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