Sunday, 21 December 2008

Death of a Trail

Over the past few weeks since Helvellyn i've been getting back into the swing of a structured training plan.. working with Mark (Forgy) again for 2009... last year it worked really well with constant contact between the 2 of us we worked a really good programme and before my forced break i was in best biking shape of my life, unfortunately we didn't get to fully test the form but 2009 should be a good opportunity to see what i can do.

Weekdays are a mix trainer and gym sessions.. weekends are long slow base miles.. the weekend before last i was in Newcastle dealing with black ice... unfortunately not the AC DC album but the nasty stuff that drops you to the tarma hard withot warning... in just under 3 hours i took 2 heavy falls.. the first 10m from my front door.

Last weekend was a freezing 4 hours in the Manchester rain... testing the single speed mountain bike on the road an getting in some base miles... its just too undergeared on the road but a bigger gear would make the long and sometimes steep climbs here unbearable for zone 2 base miles.. so the bike is getting another build.. think it'll be version 5 and the finished product will be a 1x8 speed road mountain bike wih narrow range rear block and a thumb shifter operating the gears, well no one can accuse me of being run of the mill.
Unfortunately the rainy ride escalated an already sre throat to a full blown cold, even so training did not cease and think it aided recovery to do some sweating on trainers and do some good interval and single leg drills to ' The Flying Scotsman' film.. Obree is a living legend and the king of hard work and suffering.

This weekend was a classic peaks ride.. Ladybower figure of 8.. only managed to get one fellow rider to venture out, Dave from TSW cycles, good as haven't seen Dave much since moving to Manchester and good to have a chat and catch up while enjoying some nice muddy riding.

The weather was a little wet but unlike previous weeks wasn't unbearably cold... the first climb was touh going as grip was minimal although Dave looked to make lighter work of it than i did... felt like i had no grip and as i fin it difficult to spin up climbs i was frustrated at not being able to push a good gear and get normal low cadence going i prefer... later discovered this was due to me having very little grip and Dave using some nice mud tyres giving him a ton of grip.
The ride was going well... usual mix of muddy climbs and fast loose rocky descents, then we reached the last descent of the day... named by others as 'screaming mile' due to its flowing nature.. not as rocking as most but natural banks help the turns and keep the speeds high... that was until someone decided the trail needed sanatising:( this is unfortunately becoming more popular... basicalling involving cutting out natural and re instating sections with nice wide hardcore surfaces... although the sign indicated that the bridleway was closed at the top we thought we could pick our way down.. the top 200m metres remained unchanged.. then it became a 'motorway' style trail.. easily 4 times wider than it was then it became a ridiculous mud bath... you rolled when you could but if you had to dab your leg went in upto your knee:( The trail is now just memory in those that had previously ridden it an i am unsure as to what they can possible make of this muddy disaster.. time will tell but it won't be in the same league.

Well the forth coming week has fallen as both christmas and my first rest week... so Merry christmas to all.. don't over indulge and make sure the festivities don't get in the way of riding.. just think how quiet the trails will be with most users indoors watching tv eating mince pies.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Snow and Ice

With Grace away for the weekend and nobody around to play with i decided on a solo mission to the Lakes...

Helvellyn was the mountain of choice as the route i had ridden before so no navigational issues and i knew the descent down sticks pass was worth the 'hike and bike, to the top.. plus the chance to ride in snow is always fun and since we rarely see snow at low level these days the summit of Helvellyn at this time of year almost always has inches of the stuff.. its a given.

With an early start from home the first scare of the day was not on the bike but in the car.. turning from an A road into a minor road in the lakes i wasn't ready for ice and was taken by surprise as i turned the wheel left and the car was still going straight.. luckily i got traction back to steer away from oncoming stone wall.. low gear and driving with due care was the order of the day.

Getting ready in the car park it was cold.. i hate the cold... i have bad circulation so drop a degree or so and i can't feel my hands leading to much pain when they warm up.. to try and combat this i have invested in some thick ski like gloves.. i can't really change gear or brake properly but its a price worth paying to try and keep them warm.

The ride starts up a valley flanked either side by steep slopes... the first hour of the ride is fairly rideable, the hiking starts as you make towards grisedale tarn... alot of careful stepping up seriously icy rocks... didn't want to ruin my weekend before it had started so i took my time. When i got to the tarn it was spectacular... looked like glass surrounded with snowy hillside... amazing..

From the tarn you make towards dollywagon pike.. this is a bike on the back and slog up the step like stones that have been laid.. getting passed this section it was rideable as you pass the pike... a nice pole was used for a good photo moment..

From here you drop down a few rises climbing the other side with the summit almost in site..

at this point riding was in snow with the descending plenty fun sliding about in the snow... shoes and pedals had packed solid with snow so clipping in was difficult.

A brief lunch was had at the shelter near the summit of Helvellyn then off again.. the descending from the top to bottom of first rise is steep and twisting so saddle was lowered and one leg used to hang out there and steady on the turns.. leaving the front brake well alone and steering with the rear wheel... so much fun.

After another rise or so the start of the sticks pass descent began.. this descent is technical and in places way beyond my ability.. i may learn to descend one day but can't see it happening soon... i was hanging a foot for most of the descent in the snow.. there was a brief reprise as the trail levels to quite flat before the final tech section which i rolled into with confidence.. then realised i was on sheet ice..panicked.. and ejected over the bars running out and leaving the bike behind... first battle scar tot he Genesis Altitude.. scratch to the fox forks:(

After this section its fast switchbacks then full on speed all the way down to glenridding.

I made the ascent and descent in such good time i decided to lap Ullswater to finish... its a road ride to Pooley bridge then an off road climb.. with a few more ups and downs you get to the lakeside final 3-4 miles which are amazing singletrack.. very technical with great views when you dared take your eyes off the trail.

This finishes at Patterdale and back to the car and get changed.

I had decided to just camp as i was on my own it seemed the easiest option... campsite was only a few miles down the road and was reached just as it was getting dark... showers were plenty powerful enough and hot which was welcome.. food in pub was more than acceptable.

The nights camping can be summarised as being an acceptable temperature to eventually being really cold.. sleeping in all my clothes with blanket round my head made sleeping possible:)

Sunday, After such a big day saturday i wanted an easy ride so decided to go lap North Face trail at Grizedale forest... was a little concerned about the wooden board walk sections and the ice.. my concern was realised when i had to stop on a cambered icy bit of board walk.. i had a foot down then realised i had no grip on , my feet either, i tentatively reached down to hold the wood and steady myself and as i took hold my feet went from under me and i decided to call it a day at one lap... the rest of the trail was great.. other sections of wood were rideable... the rest of the trail was fast and flowy and the crisp air and great scenery made for a great short ride out...

Drive back to manchester and back to the reality of having to work tomorrow:(

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

WOR Events - Pedal Power Enduro

After missing out on an entry to the first round of the Thetford Winter Series, a series that has always been my winter highlight, i was looking for something else... enter a brand new race series based in Wales so not far from my new base of Manchester... Pedal Power Enduro 3hr.

WOR Events are experienced race organisers, all be it in the field of Off Road Motor Biking, so a well organised race was expected it was just the course that was gonna be the unknown.

The race categories weren't like a normal enduro.. more a mix of xc elite/expert cats and then the lower cats organised by age.. i optimistically entered the expert category.. with no elite entrants this became the top category.

The weather on race day was bleak at best... as me and Grace left Manchester the rain was hammering down and Wales isn't famed for its dry weather so it was only gonna get wetter or wetter and colder.. welcome to british winter racing.

As we got to the race venue... a forestry access road.. we were greeted by a well informed marshall, level of organisation was already obviously good... park up and sign on.

The weather was showers of cold rain.. temperature wasn't too bad so went for arm warmers and Endura gilet over a long sleeve to give me options if i got too hot during race ( what was i thinking but gave myself marks for optimism).
Rode a quick warm up the access road and after another chat with a marshall who described the course as 3 major tight wooded sections with alot of hard pack fire road i opted to raise my seat a little.

Upto the start line... we were strangely arranged diagonally in a line towards start.. hard to explain but we were told this was common fair in motorbike racing in case someone stalls the others can still get round.. unsure what the mtb equivalent of stalling is but we found it funny on the line... the expert class got to line up first on the start and although i didn't know any of the other guys in the class from previous races good race line banter was had.. i offered up that we ride out the 3 laps (11mile laps) that we expected to complete at a steady pace and race the last 10m which was received well but as it turned out no one went for it.

The start siren went and i found myself out the front sprinting up the fire road... i am useless at gauging a start so i gave it do or die effort... unfortunately we hit the first tech section before the field could properly string out.. the wooded sections were techie to say the least... really steep in places.. off camber.. muddy.. with roots cutting diagonally across the trails and you were always trying to traverse the slope. I dropped a few places in here as i struggled to get to grips with this stuff.

It was during this section we came across the first major obstacle.. a big moss covered boulder with a big drop on the back side... 3 of us got to it at once and all anchored on confused at how to tackle it... easy... ride round it:)

The first major climb my lack of training kicked in and the faster guys pulled away from me... order of the day was just to maintain a pace i could sustain for the 3 hours and get to grips with the technical downhill sections.

As the race progressed i spent most of my time alone... there was a steady long road climb at the mid point of the course and i would have loved lock out for my forks as i tried to get low and power up..

There was one climb in the race from which you could see who was chasing you down and i noticed a guy gaining on me lap 1 and 2 and by the mid point of the 3rd he had caught me and was leading the over 50's race.. normally i would have been disappointed to be caught but hey i was riding a fresh bike and with no base miles i was happy to still be upright.

The weather really got a bit chipper towards the end of the 3rd lap... just as i had used every spare calorie turning the pedals the temperature dropped and the horizontal sleet kicked in.. i was so cold.. luckily only a road downhill and fireroad climb remained as i couldn't feel my hands or feet.

As it turned out they changed the race to 3 laps rather than 3 hours although only the winner would have got out for a 4th... 33 miles completed.. think i finished top ten overall but enjoyed the good kicking i got and looking forward to coming back for more.

A really well organised race and a great course... congrats to WOR Events for this excellent race.

All pictures i have used in this race report were supplied by CETRA gallery and studio @

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Big Days Riding

Its the off season.. well as close to an off season as mountain bikers get, with the new popularity of winter enduros the racing season is now year round.

This doesn't leave much time for getting back to riding for ridings sake.. no agenda.. no intervals.. certainly no heart rate monitor.. just bikes, friends and big days out.

I have been keeping a low profile, swimming, turbo training, spin classes.. nothing too focussed just keeping the legs working before the real work starts.

With work now taking over a large part of my life i jump at the chance to warrant booking some time off to get away.. i am definately on the 'work to live' side of the fence and certainly never ' living to work' unless someone stumps up to pay me to ride my bike for whatever reason i don't care:)

The chance to take some time of came in the form of an invite from a fellow endurance racer, Richard Rothwell, to do some big days in the Lakes...

I won't pretend to know the routes we took as as Rich has spent a large amount of time in the Lakes he was the guide and i was the passenger... but the climbs were big, downhills were sizeable and bike handling skills were needed in plenty.

Day one started just outside of Ambleside...

(new bike but thats another story for the future)

The plan was to stay low and skirt the valley sides picking off all the choice sections and stringing them into a great days riding... we hit so many good spots with Rich wanting to show how good the riding is there without the need to head up a mountain.... weather was close to perfect.. just the right temperature and dry:)

I hav lost track of how many climbs and descents we took in that day... highlights being the badly timed 2 up timetrial we had to do to catch the ferry to get across windermere to take in the last descent which just so happened to be in the dark with no lights and Rich clling out which side of trail to be on and when the the stuff was coming up.. madness.

Day two..

This was all about height gain... starting in Coniston and heading up and over Walna scar.. the goign was ride and push but the descent on the other side was all rideable.. the top section has recently been resurfaced so was full on 30 plus mph descending then into the loose rocky section with some serious arm pump building up!!

Th pic shows the downhill cutting down the hillside...

Before we could get going furher we had to cross my worst nightmare.. wet stepping stones!!! My shoes are so worn they have zero traction.. i managed to get across without a soaking ( this time)..

The next section was a drag and a pull through boggy marsh.. followed by another choice downhill which dropped us at bottom of Wrynose pass.. luck was on my side and we wer turning left and away and not right and up.. i like the odd climb but 30% ers are another level.. We rode the road down the valley the turned to Boot and joined a bridleway onto another marshy climb.. when we crested this final climb we were 4 hours in.. nothing left now but to turn around and ride back:)

The return trip rode alot easier than the ride out and it was definately the prefered direction to be riding it.. highlights on the return trip were definately me and Rich getting bogged down literally in a bog.. the going went soft so we tried to gas it out only for Rich to end up to his waist and me to my knee in lovely cold water:)

As we got back tot he stepping stones it was dark so we lighted up.. i decided that as it wasn't that cold and i was wet anyway i wasn't gonna chance a fall so walked through the river:)

This just left Walna Scar to ride/push up in the dark... it definately seemed longer and tiredness set in... a lone wlker coming down that complained about our bright lights was lucky to get away unscathed as wind was now howling.. i was down to one overshoes as the other had fallen foul to the rocky walks.. and i was hungry but wanting to push it out till the top then wrap up for the descent..

On the descent Rich gave me a sound lesson in technical descending.. in the dark i was reduced to walking some sections but he destroyed them.. this is skill money can't buy and seems to belong to people that have spent large amounts of time riding the Lakes which is really the only place you can find these crazy long rock infested downs. End of the ride.. we got back and went for a well earned curry and beer.. off season race diet:)

Day three..

The last day of riding.. with back to back 8 hour days under our velts we decided to throw out a short one.. a route around Skiddaw was chosen.
This was a welcome change.. most the climbing was middle ring and the views were amazing..

The final descent was un typical of the lakes and more like the Peak district leafy steep flowy descending i can get involved with.. manual rolling.. jumps.. super fast.. it had it all.

All in an amazing few days riding.. big thanks to Richard Rothwell.. top rider and top lakeland guide:)

Hopefully i will update later with a more detailed route description.. or people could just ontact Rich directly for a first class lakeland kicking!!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Dusk Till Dawn 2008...

This is my favourite race... right at the end of the season.. well beyond the end of the season.

8pm till 8am .... nearly entirely in the dark with just the last hour or so in the light.

The first year i did it i was 22nd, last year i was 3rd... expectations after the ups and downs of this year were low so it was gonna just be a fun night on the bike. I chose to race the single speed.. fully rigid... try and keep a steady rythmn through the night.

The weekend started on friday night with a 3 hour drive to Enfield to home of the West.. Paul West.. Transportugal regular and a source of much help on bikes, training, kit and life when i need it so the chance to stay at his place friday night. kick back and relax was too good to pass up.
I arrived greeted by a massive dinner.. as Paul was my support for the race he had assumed his role as feeder 24hrs early... every other breath was an offer of food and i was never left hungry.
Saturday day was sorting of bikes and going to Asda to pick up food for the race.... here in lies a rather large error of judgement... eating some greatt noodles at a place Paul knew and watching Paul suffer during a turbo session in his garage:)

We got to the race for 6 ish ... weather wasn't too great.. very windy and occasional showers.. after sign on and race briefing we headed into solo pit area to scout out Matthew (Barton).. unfortunately due to our late arrival we had to mix it with the team guys but as it worked we were right on course without stupid solo pit lane... Matt was very cagey.. he has a ton of miles in his legs and his prep is always good so i was pretty confident that he would be beating me after my 5 month lay off the training.

By 7.30 i was kitted, bikes built, lights mounted and race ready.. i had brought the scott rc10 just in case but was still keen on finishing on single speed.
To the start line for just before 8pm... i managed to shuffle my way to about 15 rows from the back... i could just see Tom Owen (Edinburgh Uni CC... wildboar 24 winner) 5 or 6 rows further forward.. a very friendly guy that lives to ride.

8pm.. were off:)

The quad bike led out a slow starting loop to try and thin us out but when its a sell out event there isn't much thinning to be had.... when we came back to the start/finish it was game on... and game on it was... i felt great.. i quickly got ontop of the gearing on my bike and was spinning like a mad man.. overtaking at every opportunity, to coin a Craig Gordon phrase "felt like there was no chain on the bike" and i may aswell use another, i was "smashing it".
Felt so good and had a big smile flowing and jumping through all the singletrack sections... i caught up to Matthew after around 4 miles into the 12 mile lap and gave him a big shout of encouragement as i came past.
Towards the end of the lap i caught Jenn Hopkins with Fi Spotswood in pursuit.. sorry Fi for the overtaking manouvre down middle of you and another rider it was close but there was just enough room:)

The first 2 laps went by quickly... as i started the 3rd i swapped bottles.. Paul had missed my first passing and was confused to what lap i was on... my back had started to stiffen already with the well known 'Thetford Back'.... course is very rooty and undulating which stiffens your back up a treat, especially with no suspension at either end... no worry though as i was sure my back would loosen up.
Mid way through 3rd lap my head started to hurt a little.. the rain was coming down all the time we were riding and sections where traction was minimal had already started to appear.. crappy thing about single speed is the inability to gear down and spin your way through gloopy sections instead you got to soft pedal and try and keep traction.

End of 3rd lap.. swap battery on helmet light.

Midway through the 4th my head started to really hurt.. i tried drinking more but it was getting difficult to focus.. i had backed off a little from the first laps and was going alot steadier..
As Thetford is mainly singletrack i was finding it difficult to eat or drink and was paying the price... i don't like to have big stops to eat and like to take on everything on the bike..

During the 5th lap it all went wrong... head was hurting and was finding it difficult to even look at my own lights... i started to feel really empty.. classic riders knock... i stalled out coming out first bombhole and took a big knock to my knee.. i walked t off and got back riding only to come down on one of the faster open sections.. i was really spinning the gear as it was slightly downhill and the front wheel just turned in the rut i was in washing the bike from under me dropping me straight onto my chest, i heard a great crack as all my weight came down on my chest but surprisingly it felt okay. The lap didn't get any better and i felt weaker and weaker.. as i finished the lap and got back to Paul i sat down and took my helmet off and according to Paul was fairly incoherent and couldn't muster a response to his questioning as he tried to coax me back out for another lap with strange maths.. i was 6 hours in according to paul after the lap he was trying to get me to do i would nearly be finished:)

Game over...i just had nothing.. i have knocked before but never with this intensity.. tent came out the car and i climbed in.. i must have been gone as we were right next to a huge generator cranking away powering the lights but i was dead to the world.
I had managed 5 laps in 6 hours.. the winning 3 riders did 11 laps in the 12 hours. Matthew got a very respectful 10th place with 8 laps.. good work Matt.

In hindsight the problem lay with my diet during the funds are tight till i've done a good months work my race drink was asda smart price squash with a pinch of salt and race food was a mixture but i had only managed to down maybe 10 jaffa cakes in 6 hours:( So in reality i was managing to take on a measly 20 calories a lap.. it is a mystery as to how i managed to last 6 hours but the calorie deficit was definately large enough to finish me off in good style.

As my fitness is unknown its not possible to say how it would of went if i had eaten properly... we will have to wait another year to see.

Well done again to Matt, good job Fi (Spotswood, 2nd solo female) and another impressive ride by Matt Page showing that he is indeed on top form and should be the man to beat next year.

In short.. eat well.. race well:) eat bad.. die a death mid race:(

(Picture courtesy of David Birkin)

Sunday, 28 September 2008

The importance of preparation

Been a few weeks since i moved to Manchester now and what riding i have done has definitely firmed up my belief that i was meant to come here.

The peak district is on my door step now.. not to mention having a world class velodrome just down the road in case the urge to start track riding takes me( at the moment its just a spectator sport).

Last weekend i managed the first real ride out since i moved here.. hilly road ride, really hilly.. taking in some of the great climbs which i think will be featuring in this winters training... never had easy access to 20 minute plus long climbs:) The ride was with a local rider that also uses the XC RACER forum, James (Tottle). It was this ride which highlighted the importance of preparation, with a limited breakfast ( i hadn't been shopping) and heavy commuting tyres on my cross bike instead of road skinnies i was destined for a hard day from the start.

The first proper climb up to the 'brickworks' was tough but managed, James spinning and easy gear and it felt like i was running flat tyres... the climb aptly named 'Long Hill' started to signal the beginning of the end.. weather was now typically hot for this time of year ( who shifted summer to the last few weeks of September, i obviously didn't get the memo) and the big tyres weren't rolling too well... the stomach was feeling empty.
After managing to get over Long Hill and down into the bottom of the Goyt valley i had to grovel up the climb to the Cat and Fiddle pub... from here it was a lengthy downhill with some cheeky uphill sections to get you out the saddle and working... to cut this tale short i cracked on the final flattish 30 minutes of the ride.. i just had to sit up and take 5.. nothing left in the legs. It has been a while since i cracked but was happy to have been worked, always happy to know i have had a hard day.. sure its makes you stronger somehow.

This weekend i did the same ride again, slightly longer as i got a little confused with the route directions but took in all the climbs again.. this time with a proper breakfast and skinny tyres on the cross bikes... everything i grovelled up last week was a big ring climb this time around..made me happy.. weather was great again and views on the climbs fantastic.. not all is lost i can still rde and last weekend was just a slight hick up:)

Mid week between these 2 road rides i managed to get in the first night ride of the forthcoming winter... led by Charlie Wigfall, XC RACER team manager and also joining us riding James (Tottle)... venue was Macclesfield forest as a starting point and then a nice loop taking in some great rocky climbs and descents.
The AY UP lights allowed some crazy descending in the dark although the combination of big rocks and rigid forks gave me 2 pinch flats.. one fixed with a borrowed tube from Charlie after i discovered mine i was carrying was knackered and the second with a patch from James...

Great riding already and i have only been here 2 weeks... Dusk till Dawn next week on the singlespeed... and the search for some sponsorship for next year continues with my preference now being to race single speed all year:)

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Mission aborted

A combination of bank balance, a job interview and looking for a new place to live = no way i could justify racing and travelling this weekend.

Just Dusk till Dawn left to race this year... and a new desire to try my hand at log distance road time trialing:)

Monday, 1 September 2008

Torq 12 approaching....

Next race this coming weekend.. 12:12 TORQ in your SLEEP... 12 midday till midnight.

With moving to sheffield everything is up in air so preperation isn't gonna be great, might get some running in and a spin on bike but not much else.. Scott isn't finished yet so can't be test ridden so newly revamped singlespeed will be out to play.. hopefully conditions will be awful and the one gear riders will rule the day:)

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Wildboar 24

As previously promised the race report from wildboar 24;

The day started early with a 7am start from Newcastle picking up the first pit bitch on route, a good friend from Uni ( Thanks Rich).

The race start and camping was located and top racing fuel was sourced to kick of the day, sausage cob, Pretty sure that’s how Chris Eatough starts every race morning and who am I to argue.

As I had been informed by race manager, Charlie, the race started at 12 so I was ready and kit sorted to get going… only to find out it didn’t start till 2pm, thanks Charlie.

I wasn’t that keen on pre riding the course as I was sure I would see enough of it during the next 24 hours, and as many people know that race the first lap is generally a procession unless you’re very lucky to get a flyer off the start. We are used to trails changing from day to day and always looking for the quicker line so its adds spice to not know what’s round the next corner.. Well most of the time.

I occupied the extra time I had been gifted by the later start with my feet up, eating and drinking and listening to inspiring tracks on the mp3 player… still a little unsure of what I had let myself in for or how to approach the task in hand.

First little shocker of the day was the location of the solo pit lane and start/finish… over a mile from the campsite up a rocky bridleway! Not the best situation as everything we needed for 24 hours then needed to be carted up to the top.. Luckily wheelbase boys were shuttling the bikes and kit of solo riders up to the top. Downside is I had no bike to warm up on… so a lot of stretching was done.

1.50pm made my way to the start of the run to the bikes… a tradition on 24hour racing I still don’t understand… in this case it was over a mile long and up the aforementioned rocky bridleway… as I looked around the start line I saw 90% of the guys wearing trainers…. Me still in my mountain bike shoes… possible schoolboy error.

As the race was started the usual crazy running pace started, not for me I settle into a fast jog knowing that with 24 hours of riding ahead of me how much time would I lose over a mile of running… in reality very little. I made a few places on the run then made the most gains as people had to change into their race shoes. As I got to the top of the run I spotted Charlie grabbed my Superfly and got trucking.

The plan was to ride the first 14 hours steady…. That went straight out the window as the racing red mist descended… I knew Tom Owen (Edinburgh UNI CC) a good 24hr rider with some tidy results already under his belt had gone off the front, I thought Richard Rothwell (Ironhorse Extreme) was also in front of me too… at that point of the race I was unsure who else to be looking out for.

During the first couple of laps I got to ride with Iain Payne, another solo rider, holding a great pace and looking super strong, he was a good bet to follow for a few hours. As it happens Richard was behind us and as he caught us up on a charge we tagged on for the ride until he pulled us to being insight of Tom Owen. At that point he rode away to Tom’s wheel and I reigned back not wanting to use any unnecessary energy.

Within a couple of minutes we passed Richard again punctured, we wouldn’t see him for another couple of laps.

Myself and Iain rode out the first 4 ish hours together until I stopped for the first hot feed... I thought I would have a nice sit down… no chance... the pit bitches were on my case with an eye on the clock and getting me back out as soon as possible.

The lap itself was a mix of fire road and singletrack sections… it seemed mostly uphill with a loose steep descent mid way which required attention and some rear wheel steering and then a rocky descent to the start finish … by 6 laps I knew the course well and knew exactly where to place the effort, where to recover and where to pay attention.

As the daylight ran out the boys attached the batteries to the Ay Up lights and we went towards darkness… I always say it after every night race but I love my Ay Up lights…. They are so light that you don’t notice the weight and the light they give is more than enough for flat out racing.

The hardest part of 24 hour racing I think is getting your head around the timescale involved… it sounds stupid but when you have been riding for 14 hours and you still have 10 to go things seem a little grim.. So I work on laps and I count them off… for some reason it seems easier to swallow than time.

As the night rolled on I resorted to the Mp3 player for company, with a large 10mile lap and not many racers things were quiet out there… I hadn’t seen Iain since my hot food stop and so there was no one out there at a similar pace to ride with.

Big thanks to Jeff Buckley, Jose Gonzalez and Ray Lamontagne... all on repeat to get me through the night.

As I was told the greatest part of a 24 hour race is the day break…. Riding into the daylight is a great feeling…. Really does feel like the worst is behind you and you get a massive lift... pedals definitely go round easier.

I don’t remember exactly what lap it happened on and I don’t remember being lapped but it happened… Tom and Richard were both on top form and going well…. I was feeling okay but the relentless intake of sugary calories and drinks were taking there toll on my stomach.

The laps were going by quickly and it seemed like there were more people on the course… in fact there actually was as the trails were still open to the public so it wasn’t uncommon to encounter large groups of the general public.. I remember on one of the loose long climbs not being able to catch quickly a women on a £100 bike wearing some joggers and trainers and laughing to myself that maybe it was time to hang up the wheels... or maybe it was just that this was her first time up this climb and it was my 18th hour of riding and probably my 15th time up the climb.

Eventually with 4 hours remaining I was caught by Iain in 3rd place, with a few more 24’s under his belt his strategy was a little more organised than mine and he took a lap.. Well at least now I had my riding partner back.

We rode the last 3 laps together…. After 2 last with some careful calculations it worked that he had a lap on me and I had 2 laps on 5th place so we only had to do a final lap and there was no way that any places would change… so we did the ‘granny ring’ lap, a whole lap in its entirety in the granny ring.. Which disturbingly was not that much slower than a normal lap...

So I ended up with 4th place, possibly the worst place to finish as its so close to the podium but not quite… another life experience under the belt... and I wasn’t short of finding people to tell that I would never do it again.

But this is the strange thing about racers... we say after every race no more, never again, last time… during every race we are planning to sell up and take up knitting or lawn bowls but less than a week later.. Sometimes even the same night we are looking for the next challenge...

All change...

So whats new?? EVERYTHING is the short answer....

The lull in posting on my blog was directly related to firstly an increase in university work then secondly to a more profound life change in that i became single again... decided i didn't want to race/train anymore.. drank some.. ate alot.. got slow.. lost my sponsor... then decided i want to ace again.

The few bad things that have happened in my life have more than equally been cancelled out by some really good things...

Firstly the being single thing.. well that lasted about 2 to 3 month before meeting a really great person and although i had vowed to stay single till i was 30 ( which was last week) some thing sin life are just too good to pass up the chance and Grace is definately one of those things:) We have been together for over 4 months now and it has been great, her love for travel is inspirational.

Well as this is a blog about my racing may aswell update that front.... although i haven't been formally training i had to do a 24hr solo that i was committed to, i will add a seperate post to detail the race, and i have also with my new found enthusiasm to train and race completed a 12hr solo about a month ago.. i may get round to writing this up.. in short as i now have no race bike with sponsors machine going back i raced my rigid single speed getting 9th place overall so either i am still fit or everyone else has got slower:)

Hopefully that briefly covers the past so many months and now its time to look forward.. i am MOTIVATED.. and i mean really motivated. Currently i am addressing the lack of race bike with the build of Paul West's Transportugal proven Scott RC10 frame and addressing the extra weight i have gained with some very careful dieting.

I am now living in Sheffield which is amazing as the riding is second to none and literally on my doorstep within 15 minutes ride i am in the peak district:)

Also have recently met some very cool riders and people that have attributed to my new found desire to go race again so big thanks to them... no need to mention any names you guys have big enough egos anyway:)

next on list is hopefully Torq 12 and then Dusk till Dawn:)

Monday, 21 April 2008

G2 Revolver Series - Nightrider 12

The G2 revolver series, the creation of Martyn Salt and Trek/Gary Fisher, a set of 3 races exploring all variations on the endurance race... all night, all day and some night and day.
The first round was to be hosted at Sherwood pines, only a short drive from my house in Nottingham, i knew that i would be riding this race as the race sponsor backs the Xc racer team, i even knew that i would be riding as part of a 4 man team as opposed to my usual solo efforts.. what i didn't know is that i would be designated course designer!!

After a short meeting with Martyn (Salt) and Chris Bray (forestry commission) i was armed with a map of the forest and Martyns input to the course design " i want it to start here, finish there and be about 11km'ish long" ... cheers Martyn, a first class introduction to course design.

Anybody that has ridden the pine will no doubt know that a map is of little use as the the area is littered with so many small tracks it was near impossible to sketch an outline, i had a few sections in my head that i wanted to use as they were fun and new but stitching the course together was a challenge. The great thing about Sherwood pines is the large number of singletrack trails of which i am still finding new ones, the bad thing is they all generally pop out onto the large fireroads that wind through the forest and they all look the same. After a few days up there of riding and much leaving of little markers by the side of the trails i managed to put together a route i could follow (almost) start to finish and i felt had a decent flow even on my rigid singlespeed.

Race Day....

After driving to Sherwood the night before to show the guys that were marking the course the finer point of the courses design, as the map i produced wasn't very clear, we put some finishing touches on race day itself taking out a section which would have been a little too interesting in the dark... on a side note must say how impressed i am at the bike/quad handling skills of the guys marking the course, anybody that rode the course will be amazed to hear that a motorbike got through all sections of the course that i thought were mountain bike tight...

Weather although already 'see your breath' cold was dry and the course was in good shape... not allot of mud anywhere and what there was didn't halt your progress much...
After setting a flying lap for the Gary Fisher boys Garmin fastest lap comp that would run alongside the race all there was to do was to set our teams pit area up.. which in fairness on my part had little involvement, thanks guys:)

The camp/start/finish area was excellent.. we were right next to the track and there was already a good atmosphere developing amongst racers ( even if i was a little nervous my course design skills would be brought into question).

Team tactics were discussed and decision made to do a single flying lap each to start with then settle into double laps... 8pm came around quick and Phil was lined up and the start and then on the move... QUICKLY..
I am always amazed at the starting speed of endurance events... what was more amazing was Ian Leitch's incredible start speed as a solo rider... making it obvious from the start he was going to be adopting the 'Craig Gordon' approach to endurance racing in riding every lap as if you only had one to do.

Ian's start was shadowed though by the man Morris... Phil started in around 5th place off the start but by the time we could see him again after the first 200m he had a near 20m gap... much respect.
By the time Phil had done his lap we already had a 1.30 minute gap. Next up was Matt (lewis), then James (Hampshire) then myself. By the time the single lap rotation had finished we had around a 5 minute lead as our nearest rivals, SOUTHFORKRACING .CO.UK, had started with double laps.
By the time Phil had done his first Double lap stint we were up by nearly 10 minutes... he is a machine and i'm glad he's our machine:)

Gaps can quickly diminish in endurance racing as the sport is always open to outside influence.. in our case this influence was a thorn in Matt's tyre on the first lap of his first 2 lap turn, this puncture was fixed only to be followed by another one but luckily Matt managed to get back to start/finish on it and we swapped the wheel out for the freshly tubelessed wheel from Jame's (Hampshire)bike... look on Jame's face was priceless as we took fresh wheel from his shiny bike an left it disabled:)
With this minor mishap we lost a fair few minutes and the gap came down to 6 minute mark. Not one for leading a boring life Matt decided on his other lap to test a little used braking manoeuvre in hooking his bar end around a tree, effective in that i imagine it stopped him, well at least his bike, almost instantly but did mean he only had one bar end... until amazingly someone found it by falling off in exactly the same spot and discovering it.. only in mountain biking:)

In all the solo events i have done i have always been envious of the Team boys sitting around their lavish camp set ups socialising while i was out for the duration eating and drinking on the move, i have always thought what an easier life team racing is.. but in reality its just a different kind of torture... you race flat out for an hour to point of explosion then cool down to freezing waiting to do it all again, even if you wanted to sleep you can't as you may be called upon out of turn to race and generally solo racing you have very little concept of position in race or time gaps but as a team you know every second and so pressure is always on.

The rest of the 2 lap tints went uneventfully and we etched out a much larger lead to the point were once we had all done our second 2 lap turn we were 17 minutes up from 2nd place, SouthForkRacing, at this point we were at 6.30am and decided to round up with some single lap turns.. well at least 2 of us would have to do one.
Unlike other races that allow the laps finished after the 12 hours are up this race was made more interesting in that any lap completed after the 8am finish would not count so there was alot of maths going on as people gauged how many more laps they could get in and if it was worth trucking back out for another lap.

In the end this system played to our advantage and we gained our lap margin victory as even though it looked like the Southfork boys had switched back to an all out single laps effort time just wasn't on their side.

First win for the Team, and at our sponsors event it was a sweeter victory... was a pleasure to race with the rest of the 29ers team.

Was great to meet Jay and Maddie Horton for the first time and they had a real battle all night in the mixed pairs eventually taking a much deserved 2nd place.

Congratulations to Ian Leitch for a truly amazing piece of riding in the solo category, i shouted that you were 'killing it' as i passed you the first time.. and you were... any plans to put on any weight and get slower before Mayhem???

Such a good event.. i drove home with a big smile.. hopefully course was well received and people are fired to get to the next round in Brighton.. i know i am.

Fantastic work Martyn.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Midlands XC RD1 - Hanchurch Woods

I've never really had much success at XC racing in my short racing career.. it started out as my main aim but i quickly discovered that spreading my pain over many more hours of racing suited me better.

As the Midlands series is organised by a fellow 29ers Team mate, James Hampshire and rider Nadine Spearing it seemed a perfect opportunity to try out the new bike in a race, get more race preperation and tactics practice and also try my hand again at the shorter stuff.

My race's now start on a saturday with bike preperation, rather than risk a bad performance due to a mechanical on the sunday the whole of saturday morning is dedicated to checking over the bike, tightening, adjusting, lubing etc followed by a 30 minute ride to check everything is running as it should... all of this to be completed before midday to allow plenty of time to get to a bike shop if need be. As the bike is only 2 rides old everything was as it should be.

Sunday, Get out of bed and look out the window to clear blue skies.. gonna be a good day.
Sport race started at 2pm and as the race was relatively local it afforded me a more leisurely approach to the day... all bottles, food, kit and bike were ready the night before so up at 8am to breakfast and pack the van. On the road for 9am and at the race venue for just after 10am, car park was right next to the start/finish which is always a bonus not just for riders but for those faithful bottle handers and mid race gel providers. Sign on and a quick walk up the first climb, definately a big ring affair for the first lap.. lovely.

12pm, get kitted and roll out for a pre ride with some fellow racers, the course started with the afformentioned long climb, a short singletrack section, then into another climb, followed by a muddier climb.. so far was looking good. The ground was very soft in places but the 1.8 Bontrager Jones ACX 29er treads i will be using this year cut right to the chase and didn't clog, there were a few cheeky climbs which were borderline ride/run depending on how you were feeling and these climbs were balanced by some nice little sections of downhill with a few drops thrown in for good measure.

1pm, warm up, mp3 player on, used the start straight and did a good 40 minutes warm up.. i assumed with only 3 laps to complete no one would be hanging around at the start and good to be as warmed up as possible.

2pm, race start, with a shout of "you will be starting in the next 10 seconds" we were off... i had already decided that i was going to give it both barrels straight of the start and just see what happened, start was along a gently climbing section of fireroad before cutting left onto the course and the first climb. Got a good start and by the start of the climb was in 5th/6th place.. thhe Gary Fisher Superfly laps up straights like that, felt like i was on my road bike just flowing along nicely. By the top of the first climb i was in 3rd.
As we caught the tail of the Masters category i lost sight of 1st and 2nd place in the traffic... a third of the way into the lap i paid for my 'all or nothing' start and was caught up by another 2 riders, this time i managed to hold the wheels and take a little breather.. somehow always easier to folllow a rider than to set a pace yourself. Before the end of the lap i had gained a place back but couldn't stay with the other rider that had caught me, which turned out to be eventual race winner Carl Hulston - Numplumpz.
2nd lap and time to add fuel to the fire with a gel, was making good progress on the climbs but stalling through the tight stuff and slower on downhills... areas of personal weakness that i am always trying to address. This lap got caught early by another rider, but nearing the end of the lap saw the sorry sight of original race leader Chris Metcalfe - Matlock CC/Wards Shoe Shop, fixing a flat, as it turned out hhe had been riding with a slow flat for a while and decided to stop to change it out as he still had a lap to go but unfortunately ripped valve off the spare:( On this lap i could now see th original second place rider who was now in 3rd, Niall Frost - Team MK, got within passing distance on a number of occasions on the lap but alwasy dropped a little on the downhills.
3rd lap, still felt good on the climbs but obviously a little tired as tight stuff became more troublesome and battled with feet jumping out of pedal and soft deep mud, at top of course was caught by Dai Price - Pearce Cycles Race Team, he seemed to have a better flow through the top of the course and quickly gapped me. Rest of lap was fairly consistent, plenty of power on the ups and the flats and super sketchy on the downs... although still loving the drops. With the final 3rd of the lap remaining finally caught and passed Niall Frost and with some last ditch efforts made the gap which lasted till the finish.

4th place mens sport class, think 4th is the worst place to finish as its annoyingly close to a podium,maybe if the race was another 5 laps longer like my endurance events i would have faired a little better. Think now if time allows i'll be back fro the future rounds and see how they go, may even try a national XC race depending on how my Marathons are going.

Great day out, little dissapointed with the finish but it has definatelty fueled a sick fascination to see if i can be competitive over these shorter races.

Great Race for fellow XC Racer 29er Phil Morris, with a move to Elite for this year, on paper looking at the start sheet it loooked like a tough race and Phil assured me it was:) He still mixed it up with the big boys of XC racing and am sure that he'll get the measure of them with a few more races.. no pressure Phil:)

Congrats to everyone that helped put on this race, definately a move in the right direction for mountain bike racing and if you find a lung on course it'll be mine as at the moment i'm still trying to cough up the other one... shorter races should be easier shouldn't they???

Tuesday, 25 March 2008


I have now decided to give up trying to create content for my blog every week as at the moment until the race season properly starts then its train, train and train and i don't believe people spend their time waiting for the latest shoestring post...

Instead i will post when something of not happens.. wether that be a great ride or race.

This is definately a milestone post of blog worthy news, the first real ride of the new bike.

I have had my Gary Fisher Superfly for a few weeks already but had been holding out for some extra parts to arrive so i could go riding with my set up and position 100% to do the bike justice.
Just so happened that the completion of my bike coincided with me and rach going to the Lake District for the easter break, its become a bit of a traditon of us to head to the Lakes whenever there is a bank holiday, we stay at the same place every time, Yew Tree House B&B.. Great place.. Rob there is super helpful, a mountain biker and always happy to accomodate fellow riders.. its always a treat to get a few days there to relax and enjoy the area.
As it happens the Lake district is the venue for 2 of my races this year.. both being held at Grizedale Forest, a NPS Marathon race and the North Face Wild Boar 24 race so sunday i decided to go riding and check the place out aswell as try out the new bike. Woke up sunday morning to a good covering of snow everywhere but the weather was surprisingly mild, got to Grizedale and arm warmers and Gilet were the order of the day instread of usual winter jacket ( a good sign that we are nearly into some good weather).
The North Face trail is 10 miles long and an unequal balanace mostly singletrack over the fire road climbs, there is also a healthy selection of wooden board walks.. typicallly lake district under tyre of rock strewn dirt with a selection of roots.
The trail starts with a nice fire road climb before the climbing takes a more singletrack affair and traverses up the slope, the bike climbs so well, technical climbs are a breeze with the larger tyres rolling over everything.
Wooden Board Walks + Snow = some cautious riding, i managed to stay on board for most sections of wood and only superman'd off the bike on one off camber section when the front wheel washed out and i launched bike off to side of another off camber section to avoid a similar off.

The downhilll sections felt super smooth on the new bike, i am not a good downhill rider but the 29er is like viagra for riders that can't perform on the down's:) The big wheels just allow you to roll through so much more than you would get away with on a 26 inch wheel.

Am i looking forward to racing this year??? I'm climbing the walls wanting to get out and race this bike:)

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The Good and the Bad

The Good

- new bike has arrived, she's built and almost ready to go with just a few set up touches to add. Feel's superlight.. nearly put box throug bike shop ceiling when i went to pick it up with more effort than required. Dave at TSW CYCLES did his usual great work and go her up and running. Spent some quiet time just me and the bike on sunday explaining what we had to do this year, she gets the idea and is ready:)

- I've finished the last of my lectures, all that is left now is to complete all coursework and my dissertation meaning i can structure that work around my training for the time being.

- I'm in my last phase of Base, just this and 2 more weeks before i get to start sweating and building.

- Racing season is almost upon us, i know the season technically never ends but the National Point Series and the big endurance events are nearly here not to mention the road racing season.. i am very motivated to race at the moment.. it can't come soon enough.

- Mayhem competitor list is up and its gonna be a great race, alot of people there i have been looking forward to racing as they are at the top of the game in the UK.

Pretty sure that this list is longer than the items i have mentioned but nothing else springs to mind at the moment, in general i'm in a good positive mood except for;

the bad

- Drivers that have to abuse you for slowing their journey by a few seconds, nothing turns my head quicker than a car horn directed at me... uncontrollable rage takes over.. i hope that i never catch up to one of these idiots as it won't be a pretty site. I think we deserve a little more respect as while most the population it seems are heading to weight related early graves we are out in all conditions doing what we love.

- the weather, i won't complain that its cold or wet or windy but i will complain about our weathers inconsistency. Training is easier to plan when you know what you are dealing with but at the moment i seem to wake up to howling wind and rain, get to uni a few hours later and its glorious sunshine, to come home at night to storm like conditions. make your mind up.

- University deadlines, pretty sure all lecturers get together to synchronise deadlines.. i got so much work this week then nothing for weeks after:(

Hmmm pretty short bad list which again just reflects all the good things that are hppening at the moment, hard to believe that i have been cycling for little over 2 years now and what i have achieved after just one seasons racing... pretty excited about what this year will bring but i am 100% sure that i am going to enjoy every moment of it.

First XC Racer 29ers team ride on sunday, all being well the bike will get its first outing and i will give a report on how it goes.. i predict very quickly:)

Saturday, 1 March 2008

The things i do for cycling

At what point does cycling stop being your hobby and start being your life?? What defining moment determines this thin line??

For me i don't remember what the defining moment was or when it occured but i have definately crossed the line... so much so that an action a normal person would question i perform without hesitation in the pursuit of being a better rider.

Today saw one of those actions.. what normal person in their right mind would ride a bike for 7 hours closely followed by a cold bath!!

The 7 hour ride was meant to be a 6 hour ride but unfortunately some minor miscalculations left me with a 2 hour headwind at the end of the ride and after 5 hours going was tough.. coupled with me trying to hold a heart rate approximating something close to zone 2 going was slow at best.
This extra hours riding also mean't i was in some serious calorie deficite was addressed imediately upon entering the house with half a packet of jaffa cakes:)
The cold bath was a new introduction by Mark (Forgy), the man i am entrusting my whole season to.. as the training hours go up i need to be able to recover quickly to give each training session the intensity it deserves.. cold baths = less sore legs after long rides. The cold bath i my legs could handle but my feet protested painfully so i came up with the above solution... getting out of the bath and getting my overshoes back on and getting back in.. job done.

The rest of the training as always is going well... i am at the end of my 3 weeks on now so next week is a rest week.

I have also heard that my race bike for this year, Gary Fisher Superfly, is on its way:) very much looking forward to next week and getting out for a ride on it.

On the Gary Fisher front our XC Racer 29ers team boss Charlie Wigfall forwarded me an article from the latest Trek Magazine.. i managed to make in in with some dodgy 'go fast' bike posture:)

On a non cycling front ( well sort of) i have secured employment for when i have finished my Msc.. i will be working for a local consultancy only 13 miles from my house with good access to the peak district:) Only downside and it is a large one is that i cannot take more than 10 days holiday at a time which messes with my Crocodile Trophy plans as although i physically could fit the race into the time scale it would leave me only a few days prior to the race to get over the long flight and adjust to both the time zone and heat.. i don't think i would competitive enough to warrant the estimated £5k it is realistically costs to do it.. so unless a major sponsor offers to pay for the croc in full and i can barter with my new employment offering to take holiday unpaid i am switching to plan b and the only other race of note i could find at that time of year.. LA RUTA.

Heard alot of things about La Ruta, nearly all saying how tough this race is which is really why i want to go... if someone tells you how to an extreme something is human nature dictates that you want to experience it for yourself and especially as a seperate sub species to normal people cyclists just love to suffer and i'm no exception. Barton ( Matthew) is already entered and paid up so at least there will be one friendly face there.. well a face anyway:)

Hopefully the next post will be the Superfly's arrival and subsequent test ride.. already have a few products in mind i want for it:)

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Riding with the 'Fish'

Training and life are going well....

Mr Forgy is keeping the training varied and upping the hours steadily every week which means that i never know what the next week will bring and i'm always super motivated to get the job done.

We've been having a freak spell of really decent weather, pretty cold in the mornings but clear blue skies and warming up as the day goes on... its really inspired me on all fronts as its like having a brief taste of the summer to come.


Rather than waffle on about what i have been doing every day i'll cut to the chase and get to the good stuff:)

Sunday 17th Feb... Riding with the big man himself, Mr Gary Fisher:)

Got an invite from Trek to go down to their head office and do some riding on their local trails at Woburn woods while at the same time test riding some 29ers from the GF range.
Met Charlie (Wigfall) en route and we rolled up to Trek with plenty of time and helped get the demo fleet, as it happened there was a Superfly for me to ride.... life is good!!!
First impression of the bike i will race for the forthoming season.... Rocket Ship.. if you can't go fast on this bike you'll never go fast.. i am itching to get some saddle time in already have an idea what i wanna do first on it.. Barton if you are reading this i think its time we revisited Lord of the Loops:)
What i didn't know was that the day was set up get some still and video of the bikes in action for some promo work, it meant alot of re riding the same trail but it was a fun trail and cool to ride in a train with 7 other guys... except when we had to ride a section individually for still shots and i kept cutting off line as it was faster, what do people expect i'm a racer if its not taped off its fair game:)

After the work as done it was back to the Trek/Fisher Support van for lunch...

The guys from Trek are super cool and its gonna be great hanging out at races this year, and Mr Fisher.. a real laid back guy still super motivated to keep on pushing the scene.. definately a once in a lifetime chance taken and appreciated.

..oh and i have a job offer:) student life is hopefully soon to come to a close:)

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Feels like summer.

Yet again its been a fair few days since i have updated the blog. Not entirely me being lazy just very little to report.

Last weekend was the usual fair of a long road ride ( this time just under 5 hours) on the saturday and a mountain bike ride on the sunday.
Saturday ride was with Stu (Pryce), all credit as he was on his fixed wheel a non stop pedalling effort for him, a little windy but all in nothing compared to the gales i had endured in Newcastle the previous week.
Sunday was riding with Lee and Andy at Sherwood pines, 2 hours of exploring the trails and enjoying the seemingly endless amount of singletrack trails.

Sorry for lack of detail but it was over a week ago.

This week has been a rest week so very little in the way of quantity to report on, i have been at home all week making the most of not having any uni work for the first time in 4 months. I have done a little swimming, walking and some one leg drills.

The weekend was a little more interesting.

Yesterday (Saturday) i took myself to Sherwood Pines for some mountain biking, people give this area a hard time as they can't look past the very sanitised trails that are there for the general public to enjoy some cycling, but look left or right when riding any of the sanitised trails and you will see a whole heap of tight singletrack... they have held 2 national points series races here for a reason:)
Managed 2 hours of light riding just thrashing the singletrack, i was dressed for winter riding and when sun came out i was breaking a serious sweat... it felt like summer.....

This place really does ride well most weather, nice sandy soils drain quickly...

The only downside to my days riding was a really slow fall in some deep mud that knocked the wind out of me and even now i can't easily breath deeply:(

Saturday night, Nottingham Clarion CC club dinner.. Great night out for me and rach, very rarely get to see most of the guys together all at once. Food was brilliant. There was also a display of club members bikes and i got to see my Trek again.. very upsetting, such a nice bike:(
The evening was a credit to Jenny Harwood's hard work, organising the venue, selling the tickets etc.... looking forward to next years already.

Sunday, i had been instructed to set a benchmark for future testing. I chose to ride the Nottingham Clarion 10 course.. a shameful display of riding saw me go round in a time i can't even bring myself to type.. i am blaming my sore chest and heavy winter bike but those excuses won't be credible come summer when the 10 series begins. Upside to today was the summery weather again... got to wear just arm warmers and gilet instead of winter jacket.. Bonus. I hope this good weather continues nationwide, if i drive to Newcastle tonight and weather has been crappy there i'm turning round and coming straight home:)

Thursday, 31 January 2008

I'm still here.. just..

I've been a little slack with the blog recently... been a little busy lately revising for exams, taking the exams then starting the next lot of lectures... then of course training.. alot.

Training has been very much along the same lines for the past week or so... concentrating heavily on zone 2, well trying my hardest too anyway ( Honest Mark i am really really trying now).
There has been some new additions to the training routing, namely hill efforts and spin ups. Opposite ends of the cadence spectrum but both having there respective benefits.

I have found myself a nice hill, not really as long as i would like but its slim pickings in Newcastle without a serious ride, even the one i have found is a 45 minute ride from my house.. but still its 2.30min to climb in the big ring... cadence at 50-60.. then a few more minutes to spin round the block and back to the start again.

Swimming has gone from 40 minutes to an hour.. getting used to it now but very difficult to maintain concentration for an hour with nothing much to look at but the sides of a pool.. you can really feel like you've been worked after an hour of continuous swimming.

As the car i use at the weekends was out of order i was resigned to a weekend in Newcastle, after the dissapointment of not getting back to Nottingham i rearranged my training for the weekend.

Saturday was a blast from the past going out with Gosforth RC, i used to ride out with them when i was 15, even some of the same guys still riding out on a saturday morning... was a really windy day so wasn't holding out much hope but as i passed the meeting place there was a few guys there so stopped to tag along, save me figuring out a route and help me stay in zone 2 and not get carried away.
As it happened i spent most of time on the front as i was feeling great and then when the fun and games started on the road to Belsay i couldn't resist ( sorry Mark.. i promise zone 2 all the way now), i attacked then eased up, then attacked then eased up and kept doing it till there was only 3 of us left.... the guy leading the ride on his slick tyred mtb and another regular... as the Belsay sign approached the regular that had lead us out for 400m gave up leaving me and the remaining other guy to jump him for sign.. as it happened we went either side of him, not good road safety and not good riding practice but the sprint for the sign before the cafe is probably as hotly contested by riders in cycling clubs worldwide as any grand tour stage, i won in the end but its not a true victory as other guy was slicked mtb:)
Passed on the cafe stop and had a very quick ride home with the wind on my back.

Sunday was a 2 hour road ride, nothing exciting to report here.. just a strong headwind out and a great tailwind home.

Wind at the moment is insane, a little dicey at times, i have perfected riding crouched right down out of the wind and at times with a 45 degree lean to the side trying to compensate cross winds:)

Debating at the moment wether to try and get an entry for final round of Thetford, as it as turned out with a crash out and a singlespeed race i think i have lost the opportunity to podium in the overall series, maybe a race win would put me there:) We'll see....

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Thetford Winter Series Round 3

The first race of 2008.

This was always going to be a bit of an experimental race, only 4 weeks into the new training programme so a bit of a yard stick for measuring progress so far.
I know 4 weeks is a very short time but the change of routine has been so great and the new workouts introduced i was sure that i would notice some difference.

The second experimental part of this race was my first time racing a singlespeed. This wasn't particularly through choice just filling the gap between selling the old bike and receiving the new and to be fair alot of people race singlespeeds and i certainly love riding mine so i was just a little curious to see how i would get on.

The third new element to my racing was better preparation, anybody that races will know that as you go to more and more races you get that bit more prepared and organised each time, you pick up little tricks from other riders in what they bring and how they prepare and eventually ( i assume) you get to a stage where like clockwork everything runs smoothly.

Saturday was a day spent just cleaning the bike down and checking for wear, replacing the parts that need replacing and then taking it out for a spin for an hour just to double check all the work.
After looking at my tyres, conti cross country 1.5's, i had decided that swapping them over would be a good idea as my bike is mainly a commuter and the rear tyre was looking a little worse for wear. I tracked down some Maxxis 2.1's in the back of the garage that looked to be in good condition and stuck them on, also the extra cushion of air would be nice with the bike being fully rigid.
Last thing Saturday was to prep all food and bottles, bike rack and bike on car and car fully loaded.

Sunday, race day...

Got up at 6.00am, already had my clothes laid out ready to go so getting ready and eating was a straight forward quick affair. Big bowl of cereal for breakfast and a bottle of Allsports Winter Training Fuel int he car door to drink on the way there.

Got to race venue for 9.00am, unheard of that i get to a race with a decent amount of time to spare as I'm usually getting changed as I'm signing on whilst fixing my number to my bike and filling my pockets with food:).

First person i see there is Paul West, Transportugal 2007 fellow competitor and all round teller of some very amusing tales:) After a leg stretching walk and a chat back to the car and get kitted.
Still 45 minutes to go till start, excellent.
All kitted bike off car i stuck on the ipod and found a quiet corner of the field we were parking in, mixed it up with some general riding and some race efforts to get nice and warm whilst listening to some motivational music.. mainly thrashy metal, no eye of the tiger here:)

Back to the car and final check of food and tube/inflator etc... ride over to starting area in time for another 10 minutes ride before entering the 4 hour starting pen.
I was nicely positioned just behind the front row but just behind some familiar faces from previous rounds.
With 2-3 minutes to go i got to meet Charlie Wigfall for the first time, my team manager for next year, nice to meet him finally after so many emails and a few calls... looking forward greatly to this year and having some great support.
With one ear on Charlie and the other on the starter came a big shock when the horn sounded, everyone in pen instantly jumped for there bike to then realise it was the start of the women's 4 hour:) false alarm

After longest minute in history start sounded and we were off, well everyone else seemed to be off as i spun like crazy on the singlespeed... people were passing me left and right and the first section of fire road seemed to go on forever till we dived into the first section of singletrack and i could start to work my way back up.
Course on the first lap was pretty awful, it was a dry day but the previous week of rain had created some epic mud... tyres were not doing there job well clogging up and leaving me sliding around.. the thing with singlespeeding is it relies on a good amount of traction at all times as it is possible to turn big gears but only when your tyre can grip the surface and actually move your forward.
I think it was on the first lap that i could see the back of Luke Smith (Whyte Racing) and a faint hope that i was catching up to a well positioned group as Luke is no slouch and always resides in at the top of field.. unfortunately it was Luke Smith but it looked like he was having a bad day and well off the pace... saw him for the rest of the race in the feedzone obviously supporting the Billy Jo Whenham (Marin), how much support Billy Jo needs is debatable as the guy is an absolute machine.

After a few laps the course had packed down in alot of places due to the volume of riders but there was definitely not the usual flow to the course that Thetford usually as and i was relying on having only one gear.. i think i touched my brakes once a lap to make turn into bombhole and the rest of the time if you stopped pedalling you just ground to a halt.
There was one particular section that after 4 laps i just opted to get off the bike and run the 100m or so as it was quicker than the slow motion grind that i had adopted to try and gain some traction through the mud.

On lap 5 i saw that friend Matt (Barton) and Paul (West) were catching me up.. working together no doubt:) and on lap 6 Matt with my scent in his nostrils went for the kill and got up to me bringing Paul with him.
I managed to ride with them for a short while till we got to my running section and then i could just see them for the remainder of what turned out to be the final lap.

Just as i was in the final 300m i got caught my another competitor and although i jumped onto his wheel so i could nip back my place on the line i had to watch him simply changed up a gear and put a few metres into me leaving me spinning helplessly:)

6 laps of the 7.1mile circuit completed in just over 4 hours, Paul (West) just nipped inside the 4 hour deadline and could have done another lap but opted against it as gains would have been nil for the extra 45minute effort.

All in one of the hardest races i have done to date... put alot of my training to good use though and bought me some valuable experience.

A 10th place finish, more than happy with this result and looking forward to getting back to geared racing.

Pictures can be seen a Joolze Dymond's site listed on my blog.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Leaving my mark.

Back to basics, as the end of the week was a race this week which was down as a base week was reformatted by Mark (Forgy) so as to leave me feeling fairly fresh at weekend.
Amongst new workouts including a particularly good pyramid interval session on the trainer was a low speed skills session.
I'll be the first to admit that my bike handling is sketchy at best but i aim to work on this weakness and hopefully by time the big races come i will have some ninja like skills on the trails:)
The picture shows the many passes i did up and down a field pushing the limit of how far i could lean Forward, Backward, Left and the right.. just a real confidence builder to see how far you can shift your weight and still stay in control. After about 30 minutes of these skill exercises i moved onto a trickier set..
Setting 2 water bottles out 5m apart.. ride along and first of all aim to knock them down with your hand.. no cheating by using 750ml bottles.. only 500ml bottles:)
Alternate left and right hand.
When you have the hang of this then try and pick them up..
Set myself the task of picking them up first left then right hand and vice versa and i couldn't go home till i did it.. really puts to the test your low speed bike handling...
So after cutting up the local football pitch it was 20 minute warm down ride and head home.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Big Opportunity on Big Wheels...

Big news in the world of Shoestring Racing..

not sure i can even call the blog shoestring racing after this..

In my search for supportive companies to help my progression in the world of racing i put in an application to ride for the XC team way back in November.

I got in!!!

I think helped to a degree by my ramblings on this blog as i will be expected to come up with inspiring race reports from some of my outing this year.

The team is backed by the website who have put together a great deal using Gary Fisher Bikes this year.. full details are on the site along with a great forum full of like minded racers.

The team is officially title 29ers and as you can guess from the name we are the first and only UK race team to be exclusively using 29ers this year.

No bad thing when you take a look at the teams weapon of choice.. Gary Fisher Super Fly, expect to see alot of these about.. or at least as Gary Fisher can make as demand at the moment is so high its out stripped supply.. not surprising when you consider that this is the lightest frame bar none that Fisher has ever made and the lucky guys in the States that have recieved their bikes have already with some sensible part swaps brought weight of the bike down to 20lbs!!!!! Big wheel bonuses without any weight penalties.

I'm so excited about getting this bike.... i just know that its going to be one of those bikes you jump on board and it makes you feel super fast.. i feel quicker just looking at the pic:) no way the machine could be blamed for anything this year.

At the moment the bike has not been delivered but as soon as i have my grubby little mitts on it be rest assured it will be tested as soon as humanly possible...

A big thanks to Xc Racer and Gary Fisher, let the racing begin.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Bike and Hike... then Bike somemore.

Over a week now since my last blog post, time has been spent travelling and training.

The new year was seen in with a trip to the Lake District with Rachel, we had this booked for a long time and as always stayed at our favourite B&B in Keswick.. Yew Tree House.. run by some great people who really go out of there way to make sure that your stay is as good as it can be. They never seem to mind storing my bike as Robert there is a rider himself and he never minds my unusual start times in the mornings to squeeze the most out of the time spent there.

New years eve was an early morning trip to the pool.. followed by a drive to the Lakes, a mooch around the shops then a quiet meal in the evening with Rach.

New years day we met up with a friend from my Uni course who was there with his girlfriend and we made our way to Glenridding to tackle Helvellyn...

A great bit of walking to be had here, for the first time i wasn't going up with a bike so got to do the proper route up striding edge and down swirral edge. Striding edge is a good bit of scrambling and with promise of snow on top we made our way up..

Once on top visibility was not good... pretty foggy so no spectacular views to be had here... plenty of snow though..

After making the top we descended via swirral edge.. got back to the car after 5 hours of walking.. excellent day in the greatest part of England ( in my humble opinion).. pictures courtesy of my good friend Richard Holland.. together with his girlfriend Shona i think all had a good day out.

January 2nd, 2.5hr mtb ride.

I managed to pick up a route from the local bike shop.. Borrowdale circuit... about 27km apparently with some downhill sections detailed as deadly.
I got away at 8am as first light was breaking.. something extra special about riding at this time when everything is a little quieter and stiller.
I took my fully rigid single speed to the lakes and had left the conti 1.5" tyres, big mistake, every heard the saying 'never bring a knife to a gun fight'? this was totally applicable as i tried in vane to pick my way down some sections that would have made a fully armoured downhill rider whince.. alot of sections had to be walked as its way too early in the year to suffer a major injury:)
As it turned out i made a few navigational errors but deinately got a good feel of this route and will be revisiting it when i get chance.

January 3rd, one leg drills

as always one leg drill for 2 minutes a leg.. thought last week that these were getting easier must have been having a good day.. ouch. fell like they do some good though.

January 4th, 4.5hr steady road ride

Used a very similar circuit to that i did with Darren out towards oakham, this time was riding with another rising star Blake (Cowley) from Nottingham Clarion club.
We mixed it up a little with a variation on the route but still managed a solid 70+ miles... weather was foggy but not the biting cold it has been so was comfortable.. really enjoy this run out and i think it'll get some use over the next few months.

January 5th, back to Newcastle. Bikes and all packed up and back at the parents awaiting first lot of exams... managed a good 45 minutes walk on the beach with my brothers dog libby:)

January 6th, 3.20hr mtb ride

Good thing about being back in Newcastle is that i can ride out to trails from my doorstep.. although it take sover an hour to ride here its a good route along the banks of the tyne.

Another early start just as it was getting light... rode with ipod for first time in a year and it made a refreshing change to have a soundtrack.
Wasn't in Chopwell woods for 2 minutes before i had a comedy fall... traction was low and hill was steep so couldn't get up a slippy climb.. stopped.. tried to start again slipping the pedal and not being able to unclip other foot hit the floor, possibly in front of the only other guy in the woods at that time... what can you do but laugh at yourself:)
Weather was good.. not cold at all.. enjoyed the long climb all the way to the top to a rooted section of singletrack/downhill which i always stall badly on seeking the perfect line as the trees are staggered on the trail making you make some left to right turns while negotiating roots..
Todays experiment was the effect of music on riding:) first run at it was with the beatnuts for some hop hop flow.. not bad, second run was with Deftones for some out and out thrash.. nailed it, definately fastest i've got through the section.
Nice ride home with wind on my back..

This is my recovery week so i don't think there will be much of note happening this week but we'll see