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:)