Scottish cycling podcast 2: Irvine cyclocross champs and Tom Forbes

In this episode I speak to National commissaire Tom Forbes at the Scottish National Cyclocross championships. Unfortunately the windy coastal location has created some interference but there was some good discussion so I have posted the audio anyway.

If it’s unpleasant to listen to, read below for some of the points discussed.

Or listen in iTunes if you prefer.

In the background Tom discusses his background – watching World of Sport with Dickie Davies, joining the Wallacehill CC in Kilmarnock, who organised the The Girvan 3-day race, the Glasgow Ivy Cycling Club and VC Astar Anderside Cycling Club. He recalls how Gerry McDaid – British Cycling hall of fame inductee – got him in to the commissaire role.

Irvine was first run in 2008, as organiser Neil Walker (Scott Kerr in 2015) explained, and the sand section came into being in its first year due to a commissaire being unhappy with a particular descent. We have Tom to thank for that decision!

cycling, commissaires, scotland, cyclocross
Commissaires: left to right: Colin Chisholm, John McCracken, Guto Williams and Tom Forbes

Cyclocross’ early days in Scotland
Tom remembers racing cyclocross in the 1980s with races organised by Wallacehill CC, Glasgow Wheelers and Glasgow United. Back then there wasn’t a Scottish championship, and it took two or three attempts to get a national champs past the SC committee. There were only a few SC regulations with only 2-line starts. The courses were very varied, and most riders would run road bikes with a knobbly tyres, with only one or two running specialised cyclocross bikes with a single chainring and bar-end shifters.

Quality of courses

Scottish courses are improving but in the view of some English commissaires are ’20 years behind’ the courses down south. Callander Park is, in Tom’s opinion, the most modern cross course in Scotland with the way it flows and can accommodate racing between competitors on all areas of the circuit.

We talk about the influence that the rise of mountain biking in the 1990s had on cyclocross and that singletrack is a disadvantage on courses as it creates bottlenecks and hampers racing. 8-row start grids, 3m wide courses and fewer narrow sections are the most important factors in creating good courses that are conducive to good racing, and avoiding too much mudfest and slog.

As cyclocross isn’t an Olympic sport, it doesn’t get the same attention and resources from British Cycling and Scottish Cycling. Tom expressed concern about running races under TLI regulation where the regulations with regards course design aren’t the same.

I asked what’s involved in course design and Tom explained that the work starts several weeks before the event. He will go through a checklist with organisers for things such as parking spaces, first aid provision the start/finish area, double pits and other facilities.

Provision for a holding area, a call-up area and gridding area are important on the day, especially for a championship where various age categories are contested.

Commissaire’s job on the day
There are 4 commissaires on the day for a champs and the Chief Comm makes sure everything runs smoothly while the 3 others observe the start, the finish and the pits. The marshalls radio in for crashes, fix broken tape and aim to prevent the public impacting on the public and vice versa. At bigger national level events fines can be dished out for pit infringements, illegal bike changes and missing podium ceremonies.

Alan Quinn – a rider whose technique Tom admired
Favourite race – Koksijde
The Worlds 2016 2016 – Tom was right, it’s in Zolder (30-31 Jan)
Book – Paul Kimmage’s Rough Ride
Book- The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France, Tyler Hamilton
Cycling media – for race summaries