Can you introduce yourself and let our readers know a little bit about you?
I'm Dave Hamill, I ride with www.pedalpower.org.uk and am probably better known for my antics with a camera than for my (lack of) abilities as a bike racer. I organise Dig in at the Dock which takes place in Feb 21st this time around.
How long have you been involved in cyclocross?
I think this will be my 5th season maybe the 6th.
What got you into the sport in the first place?
I was helping my mate Grant Thomson (a.k.a Professor Foof) with his race in Plean. I was running the sign on for the senior race and before I knew it I'd put my name on the start sheet. I had my mountain bike with me. Within 2 weeks from then I'd cobbled together a cross bike. It was so ludicrous that I loved it right away.
Can you remember the first CX race you went to, and how did it go?
The race in Plean. If I'm honest I had thought I'd do a lot better. I was racing on the road at the time and I've since seen rather a lot of road racers go through the same realisation process as I did that year. I can just remember wanting it to end as soon as possible only to find that when it did end I was talking about how ace it was. This hasn't changed since. I'm grumpy at the best of times but at the very start of a race I need to keep myself in check because I feel really miserable. Am I selling cyclocross to you all here?
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen at a cross race?
Pants man. The chap who owns the Tourmalet pub in Edinburgh did the first Haughcross in just his pants. He still beat my misses (sorry Denise!)
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done at a race, on or off the bike?
I once spent 2 seasons filming myself and John McComisky as we pretended to be good at cyclocross. What was I thinking?
Do you have a favourite course, either to ride, or to spectate?
We're talking courses here so I'll refrain from saying Bo'ness. Irvine is probably my favourite course but it's hard to single it out. I enjoy Falkirk but my pathetic cornering leads to me always having a rotten result there. I always enjoy it though. Knockburn Loch is great course also. All three of these course have been well thought out.
It's very easy to make a course hard and people often fall into the trap of thinking that by simply making the course hard that this will make the race good. But that's not the case. If the course has tough sections followed by periods where you can catch a breath, then you'll make it good for racing. People want to feel like they are racing rather than simply surviving the race and plodding round. The courses in Scotland have come a long way since I first started. I think they all have something to offer. People criticise the likes of Loch Ore for being boring. OK so you wouldn't want every course to be like that but the variety in courses is what makes it so interesting. I do think however that we as organisers need to try to set out courses that limit the impact of the equipment arms race. There are thousands of pounds worth of bikes sitting in the pits these days which is a little crazy at this level.
Are there any riders you particularly admire?
Loads. This section could get a bit long if I pointed them all out. I need to point out Davie Lines. I'll rip the piss out of him any chance I get but he's like the Steve McQueen of Scottish bike racing, racing bikes is in his blood. There are other riders who can beat him but they usually have to quit their jobs to do the necessary training. He'll race no matter what shape he's in. His ego doesn't get in the way as he's not afraid of taking a pumping when he's out of shape. There are plenty of riders out there whose only reason for not racing anymore is that they used to be better than they are now and only a gargantuan effort on their part could get them back to the form they once had. So they never come back to bike racing. Instead you see them chasing Strava segments or ripping up sportives. I can't see Davie ever stopping. He will come back from a holiday in Vegas with shitty form, and if time allows for him to get from the airport to the race course then he'll be there. He'll get pumped but he'll still race.
On the world stage however it's hard to see past Helen Wyman as a role model, not only to women but to everyone who races a bike. If I had one quality to assign to her (she has many) its the respect she has for everyone , no matter what their level. I've seen some riders go from being pretty average to be quite good at a Scottish level. The next thing you know they have a Facebook athlete page and they think they are a pro. This includes looking down their nose at slower riders in order to self-agrandise. But Helen is the model of a professional that everyone should aspire to in my opinion. The irony is she probably receives the least support from British Cycling than any other cycling role model in the country. Yet she's head and shoulders above them all. I also would like to shout out for Roger Campbell-Crawford for always having a smile on his face and just quickly Brenda Callendar for being a super-mum-come-bike-racer. I don't say more than a polite hello when I see her but I have bags of respect for her. She appears to be the kind of parent I aspire to.
Any particular highlights from last season?
The Scottish Champs was a highlight for a number of reasons. Firstly seeing how well everyone handled things when Jammy took ill. Many people are saying that the growing popularity of cyclocross is diluting the community spirit but that was an example of how it is still very evident. I had been aiming for a top 20 position that day which I didn't get but it was my own fault. I hadn't properly sorted an issue with my brakes from the race before and my brakes were slwoing me down massively. But I kept calm and got some help to at least relieve the situation in the pits. I lost a lot of time but then rode my own race. I was pretty happy with the progress I made from there. My lasting memory of that race is riding through the gritty sand to overtake a stuttering Dan Whitehead who had to get off and run. Simon Kirkness was on my left and let out a big shout "Yeaahh!!". Dan overtook me again on the next corner without much fuss but nobody saw that bit. I'll remember that race for a long time despite missing my target by one position. My lap times were looking good after I'd sorted the brakes. The brake issue came back again at Bo'ness so I obviously didn't learn my lesson.
Finally, what are you looking forward to most this season?
Having the Scottish Champs at Irvine is perfect for me. Again I'll be aiming for a top 20 depending on how things go this season. I'll need to get some weight off if I'm going to manage that. So I'm looking forward to that race.
I'm also looking forward to seeing meaningful races in January and February this time around and watching what will happen a the front of the A races in non-series races. These will be the most competitive races of the cyclocross season in Scotland which is a little ironic. Having seen the racing at Haughcross has pretty much confirmed what many of us knew, age categorisation is all good and well for your ego regardless what age you are, but if you want to lots of people around you in a race then A/B races are the way to go. Dig in at the Dock will have an A/B format this season. The plan is to stick the men's B race behind the grid for the womens race. You'll need to sandbag for the entire season to get in the men's B race because Mark Young is going to help select the field based solely on ability. The aim is to have the female winner cross the line at the head of the race rather than among a bunch of men. Again we'll have the same podium prizes for the women as the men. Perhaps with it happening later in the year Helen Wyman can fulfill her promise that she'd come along one year.