Good Luck

If you wish to offer any encouragement please feel free to email me a few words or a wee picture at; coaltownvelocity@gmail.com

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As a football fan and someone motivated to represent the club well it’s great to say that I have had nothing but positive encouragement from Starks Park. Ray’s comment means a lot and I am grateful for his kind words.

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No point starting with a whimper so a message from a Double Olympic Gold medal winner is decent. We recently met fine cyclist and cracking person Laura Trott who was happy to chat and pass on her best.

 

 

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Do you know where hell is? Apparently it’s just off Hallbeath Road

imageSorry if the title offends just a play on the old Rovers song which is dragged out when Derby day duty calls. The sentiment of hellish suffering seemed to fit with many of the descriptions of cyclocross printed online.

On to the cycling, I am never shy of identifying myself as a mediocre cyclist, average in ability and in essence lacking in the drive to chase any significant change in my cycling profile. Given I don’t aspire to take on the human powered land speed record that’s kind of OK.

However, a winter’s morning trip to the Beverage Park Kirkcaldy to watch some cyclocross provided a moment of clarity and instead of my usual self-deprecation the reality struck home that what I have been doing by belittling my time on a bike is limiting the nonsense I can get involved in.

The event comprised of an A race and a B race each for up 50+ adult riders of every ability under the sun. I watched the B race before the biting wind and rain took away my companions will to remain outdoors and I left with a mission. If these folk can flog themselves round the track with everyone admiring their tenacity and no one caring a jot about their prowess then why can’t I. Why is my fear of coming in last in a race that I am allowed to be rubbish in stopping me from having a go!!

Cyclocross is….a sport where riders generally attack a course for 40 minutes to an hour using road style bikes modified for off road use. Throw in some hurdles, obstacles, hills and a mix of surfaces: tarmac, sand, gravel, grass, mud, mud then there’s mud and you have the basis of cyclocross.

I like the description of the sport as being akin to “a time trial with torturous intervals thrown in for good measure” It’s not for the faint hearted, it’s not easy and every definition I have found seems to reference the word brutal as if it’s a legal necessity.

So up until last week I thought it wasn’t for me…..

However my first act when I got home was something I never thought I would do: flip open the iPad, type in Cyclocross races Fife and immediately sign up for an event 7 days away in the neighbouring town of Dunfermline.
British Cycling- Valentines masCXacre
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So Saturday night and my bags packed: bottles, multi-tool, track pump, tubes, Garmin, heart rate strap, food, socks, gloves, arm warmers, helmet, glasses and CX shoes.

What kit to wear simple choice look in the cupboard and find the blackest gear I have- I did throw in the line from Spinal Tap about me having “none more black” kit but I just received a blank stare.

Bike had been tested out a couple of days before so was cleaned and lubed..titter..lubed!! So along with a spare set of wheels these were thrown in to the car and we were good to go.

It was a blast seeing the kids charge round their course as we arrived. In my real world job I have to face people who too often trot out the myth that kids are only interested in computer games. Sure these are a big draw but what about a word for these kids who were giving it laldy?

We have been to quite a few pro races and seen the big names sign in so it was a hoot for my kid to see her Dads name listed as I signed in. Even more hilarity ensued as I bagged my race licence for the day.

I had asked a steward what tthe protocol was when I arrived and aside from telling me where the start, pits and toilets were he just said “enjoy it” which seemed pertinent advice.

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I had a couple of practice laps in my legs and decided the tail end of the pack was the best starting point. Let’s not mess around with a corner by corner disection of the next 60 minutes. The truth is I had no idea what was about to hit me. Mud soup had replaced the grass from my arrival, off camber turns, switchbacks, single track wooded section, barriers of various sizes, sharp descents and a couple of stiff inclines where climb or carry the bike was the decision.

I was passed by way more people than I picked off (not bad when you start at the back!) but Ifinished in the mix with a few of the riders I had stated with. It was quite something to see the “talent” hurl past, I had been worried of causing a Headline grabbing incident by dealing a front placed rider but that was avoided by good verbals from all concerned.

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What did I learn? Dismount and remount are key, I had done no learning and it showed as I was dropped in a moment by those who had this skill, fighting back to see this happen time and time again was noted. Ride the mud, this stuff does not compare to anything I’ve ridden before, my front wheel rim was not visible for many of the sections of the course. I had no experience of this from towpath rides or local parks. Ride slow fall over, it’s counter intuitive but if you feel like your going over then you best speed up. Train cross to ride cross would seem to be the theme from the people who shared wisdom. Steady winter pace road riding doesn’t help with what’s needed for a guts out hour.

Finally I learned that the comments relating to “Just enjoy it” were actually true. I have joined football teams, social clubs, cycle rides and even workplace activities where people believe they are inclusive and welcoming. This in my opinion hasn’t always been the case. Maybe I was too nieve to see the cliques today but I don’t think that was the case.

It was a riot and I am certain that when the next season starts towards the end of the year then I will be up for some more action; better prepared, more aware and maybe even in possession of some proper bike skills.

A great day out, a step into the unknown and a chance to show the kids that sometimes even old guys get rewards if they are willing to step out of their comfort zones.

Dunfermline Cycling Club, Bravo

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Claude Anelka and the third force…

“Gizza job, c’mon Gizza job…I can do that” In a case of life imitating art there is more of a parallel from this scene from Alan  Bleasdales “Boys from the Blackstuff” than we in Kirkcaldy would wish to acknowledge.

The British film institute described the TV programme as a “seminal drama series….a warm, humerous but ultimately tragic look at the way economics affect ordinary people..” the only part of that description which isn’t relevant to Claude’s tenure in Kirkcaldy would be the use of the word funny!

Its the stuff of urban legend, sporting myth and bonkers fiasco that a man can contact a professional football club  and set in motion a course of events which lead to a job….

Well not just any job within the club. THE JOB!

Call the post Technical Director, Director of Football, Manager, Coach or omnipotent overlord. It doesn’t matter to a great degree in this story as the point is that a man (Claude Anelka) was able to use his; influence, connections, social standing and the currency of his family name to embark upon a sporting odyssey which belies belief. Claude was to be quickly portrayed as a man who would be defined by his grandiose statements (who can forget that we were to be the third force of Scottish football!!)

If Claude will ultimately be remembered as a character akin to Aardman animations Wallace then the people of Kirkcaldy had to take on the role of the characters sceptical canine grommet as we strapped ourselves into the sidecar for a ride which the AA route finder would simply describe as “destination unknown”

It did indeed end in tears and tantrums, but hey it’s Raith Rovers we don’t mind marching to a very different beat to the path treaded by others. The stats tell the story in fairly graphic terms and I would point the interested or mystified to Shaughan McGuigans article on his blog “Tell him he’s Pelé” for a neat synopsis of the full gory details including the view of Turnbull Hutton who held the Chairmanship at that point in time.

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What came next? well, financial meltdown leant heavily on the shoulders of Raith Rovers as the club sought to reinvent and regenerate itself. It was my own involvement in the “Reclaim the Rovers” campaign of 2005 which followed which forced me to take a decision as to how I would interact with the club into the future if indeed Raith Rovers actually had a future.

Note the campaign had the remit of succeed or see Starks Park sold for housing development…crisis nobody does it quite as good as us!!

The campaign forced upon me a simple question- Remain on the outside shouting inwards, fuelled by a sense of entitlement or roll up my sleeves give my time and whatever skill base I had of value to assist the club. I chose the latter.

It was through that process that important friendships were formed and the section on the Treatment Table radio show gives some note of the level of creativity which was prevalent at that time. So when an email address belonging to Claude Anelka came my way I had a simple thought: why not contact Claude and give him the chance to share his thoughts first hand.

The email was quickly responded to and within a day calls from the Langtoun to Florida established a window of opportunity where Claude would be in the UK and if we wished he would sit down and chat, on mic for us to use on the Rovers radio show.

I floated the idea and to his credit Tom Phillips stepped up to the plate. My side kick when presenting the radio show Tom made a simple comment which can be paraphrased along the lines of “life is just a barrel and you can either fill it with interesting experiences or just sit back and watch” Hence we set about organising a trip to London and more specifically the Hilton Hotel Paddington where we recorded the following interview.

I’m not too sure how well it stands the test of time but it is an interesting curio which is worth a listen. It’s something I’m glad we done, I also think it’s something Claude needed. The preamble to the interview shares where our heads were at in that moment and I stand by most of what is said.