Published: 13th Oct 2023 Images: Scottish Cycling

Somewhere across the sea

We sat down with Orkney Cycling Club, to find out their plans to grow cyclocross in the north in the coming months.

The UCI Cycling World Championships came to Scotland last month and opened opportunities for clubs to showcase what they do every week and maybe do something a little bit different. To help clubs the Power of the Bike Fund was set up with the aim to create new or enhance existing activities that could give individuals the opportunity to experience different types of cycling in the club setting.

One of the last events to be held was ‘across the sea’ and hosted by Orkney Cycling Club. The club has been slowly evolving with increasing interest and participation in cycling and now has 80 members. In particular the club has been trying to raise awareness in cyclocross and is achieving a lot of success with increased participation over the last two years across all age groups. The club runs regular CX coach led races but with the island games arriving in Orkney in 2025 the club now has clear goals to get riders up to speed and win some medals. There will be 28 islands represented with an anticipate 2000 participants arriving on the Island, so it’s a big deal.

One of the first stages on the road to the games was to get some top-quality coaching and the Power of the Bike Fund allowed this to happen. The club already offers coach focused events but with the funding they wanted to do something a little bit different, so they asked Keith Stocker, a legend in cyclocross environments and a very enthusiastic motivating character, to come along and pass on some of his wisdom in a weekend of cyclocross activities.

Over 50 riders, from ages six to 60, turned up for the event on a variety of bikes. Cyclocross is not just for riders on drop bars and chunky tyres anyone on most bikes can come along participate and have a great time. With Keith’s enthusiasm and some excellent local venues, ultimately it was hoped that both new and existing riders would come along and develop their understanding of what is after all the most fun you can have on two wheels during the winter months. The weekend would also allow riders the opportunity to get invaluable coaching from introductory beginner sessions to the finer aspects of CX techniques via a cyclocross master class.

With the mixture of coach led sessions and mock races followed by a ‘race for real’ on the Sunday, all participants agreed that the weekend had been an outstanding success. All races were well attended with the Juniors performing particularly well in challenging weather conditions – always a facet of cycling in the northern isles. The rain and mud however didn’t dampen their spirits only seeming to enhance their smiles, with many asking for more by the end of the race. The adults race was full of excitement across a sweeping course of off cambers, grass descents, tight corners and woodland with the winner finally crossing the line after 34 minutes of racing.

A brilliant weekend and one that will be remembered for a long time on Orkney. Hopefully it will now create other potential CX riders from its’ 22,000 population – so be prepared to see a few Orkney CC jerseys this year during the 2023/24 SCX Series.

Cyclocross is starting to gather pace as well as Gravel in the North. It is hoped that an explosive North CX series will run next year with some events happening over this winter. Part of the potential series would be a “Dig in the Dock”-style race, that would be held at the local RAF bombing range. It is also used for other activities and not run when the bombs are flying about.