Thursday, 27 August 2009

No going back

Earlier this year i sat down and thought about really achieving something notable with my cycling... in my eyes at least.

I'm a realist (well almost).. i'm never gona make a pro... i'm never gonna carve a living with my legs... but i enjoy my cycling... no matter how bad a mood i am in with life i know that a few pedal turns i'll be feeling back on top of the world.

This is pretty mch the only thing i have ever shown any promise in... i would like to think i am a better than average rider.. on a good day i can ride at the front in a race and usually see the top ten but the draw of the podium although desireable isn't what is motivating me at the moment.

Well anyway i came up with an off the cuff remark to Grace that i wanna ride the coldest, hottest and highest mountain bike races in the world... in the same year.. on a singlespeed.. and she agreed if thats what i wanted.

I live to a rule generally in life that came from my bmx days at university.. if you call something out you got to do it... i've called this now and my body is gonna have to endure the workload my brain has scheduled it.

So the first is the coldest...a bit of research showed that the Arrowhead 135 Ultra in Minnesota can see a trail temperature of -60 farenheit.. so i've entered and it looks like my entry on the basis of previous lunacy whilst in charge of a bike has been accepted.

No going back... i've called it... so now i got to man up and do it.. if i said i wasn't scared i'd be lying... if i said i was excited it would be an understatement.

Friday, 21 August 2009

SITS.. Awful.. Thetford.. Awesome..

In place of this blog post should have been a great write up of how I went to SITS race… I had a great ride and I took away a good result… there was no reason on my part why this shouldn’t have happened.. I was feeling great.. no bullshit I have been feeling strong and fit and not afraid to have the confidence to say this… after Europe and Selkirk I have really started to feel good on the bike... my bike was running well too… set up is now near perfect and I feel like I can ride this bike forever..a real credit to James at Genesis how great this bike has turned out.

The reality was the race started…. We ran a short 800m lap to our bikes.. my ankle was still dodgy so I took it easy on it.. start was good I climbed strongly passed a lot of people and held the wheel of some good riders relatively comfortably but after only 4 laps I was bored… really bored… there was nothing on this course which really tested.. no hint of a cheeky bombhole or fast flowing descent… there was a slippery short descent which was pot luck over skill to get down. At the start of the 5th lap I had to put my ipod on.. I usually reserve this treat for the night.. even with music the lap was draggy and horribly dull.. the weather was fantastic but this meant the usually muddy ground was now a spongy grassy field.

At the end of the 5th lap Leavsley was waiting for me and after a bit of banter about how awful the course was and the prospect of riding it for 24 hours the talk turned to the more serious note of actually calling it a day.. after a mid lap meeting on the top of the course we decided this was the way to go… if you are not enjoying what you are doing what is the point in doing it.. yes this is a hard format of racing but some enjoyment can usually be drawn from some element of the course where this course was soulless… race over at 6 laps a little over 5 hours in.
After this race I headed to south wales for a family holiday with Grace’s family… near milford haven I had a good few days of long walks.. taking lots of pics and generally relaxing.

A plan however had already been hatched to get the scent of SITS out of my nostrils and get back to a race I enjoyed… Thetford… I have always liked racing there in the winter and have had limited success but more importantly I knew the racing would be fast and the course challenging singletrack through trees.. luckily this year for the first time a summer series has been run.
A long drive from Wales to north London to stay with West… noodles were consumed and bikes set up.

Sunday, race day, weather was great… I opted for the first time ever to opt for a shorter distance than the maximum offer.. instead of the 6 hour I opted for the 4 hour to allow me to leave for the Genesis bikes photoshoot in the peak district late evening.

The start was fast… I was out the saddle and sprinting bmx style… straight up into 4th place… I was great through the fast singletrack until after a long drag we turned to an equally long slight downhill and they changed up gears and I spun out my singlespeed…

The rest of the race went well.. I kept what felt like a consistent pace… used the now tried and tested West nutrional plan which left me nothing to worry about other than the pedalling the bike.. I had planned on completing 8 laps which looked to be easily achievable … a 7.2mile lap which we were lapping in around 30 minutes…

At the end of the 7th lap they announced the rider I was catching in the start finish area as 3rd place.. I had passed him earlier in the lap and he had retook me on a long straight fast descent where again I spun my gear out.. with a podium within reach I gave it all.. he slowed in the feed zone to take a bottle and I opted that I had just enough to finish the lap so gunned it as hard as I could…

I wasn’t turning my usual smooth circles I was smashing the pedals into the ground.. swearing at myself when I went offline by an inch.. it looked like I had opened a gap and I began to think he may have been done but flowing through a section of singletrack I heard the sound of a flapping derailleur.. the sign of a rider closing on your back wheel… 2 hour riders were done..we were faster than the 6 hour riders so it must be him.. I took an uncharacteristic glance back and saw him 5m off my back wheel.. I pressed on harder but he had hooked up into my back wheel and I was gonna struggle to lose him…

Through the final sections of singletrack I smashed my body and bike through.. everything flexing horribly as I soaked up the rolling bumps and tried to smash the bike through as quick as I could… to no avail… this left a long straight… a tight turn.. then a long straight descent into the final bombhole and singletrack.. I knew if I wasn’t in the lead in the last section of singletrack I was done for as I knew I would spin out on the long descent… he made his move on the straight before the turn and I grabbed his wheel… he was riding full suspension.. me fully rigid and I must have been riding mm’s off his back wheel to get sucked along praying he wouldn’t ride straight over a rut or similar that would have snapped me in two.. at the tight turn I made my move down the inside and washed out!! On the floor I swore loudly.. immediately having to apologise to all near me… straight back on the bike I hammered again but to no avail I was 4th by 10 seconds.

This was racing though…. Great course… super fast… tyre to tyre chasing through tight singletrack.. podium or no podium my faith was restored and I am ready.. very ready for the next number to get tied to my bars.. Kielder 100… I can’t wait.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

One bike to rule them all

For what seems like the entire year to date I haven’t ridden a mountain bike with gears… this started as the racing that was initially available suited the singlespeed… then I invested a lot more time in it… then I took it everywhere I went and soon it has become pretty much the only bike I ride.

I love its simplicity.. I like the fact its quiet… I love how light it feels and how responsive it is.. and if the truth be known I love the way it looks!
After getting back from France I have been itching to ride another event… I had half considered the Merida event at Selkirk but wasn’t 100% into doing it although was somewhere I hadn’t ridden and had heard good things.. I was just taking a look over the site and saw that on the Saturday they had a sportive.. a non competitive road event for those not in the know, they had the usual distances but then had added an ‘Extreme’ distance of 120 miles.. when anything has a tagline like ‘extreme’ or ‘ultra’ I’ve got to take a look.. so I emailed James at Genesis to see what his thoughts were.. ride the Vapour on the Saturday and then the IO on Sunday in the long 85km off road distance event… he thought a good workout before SITS.. then I thought why take 2 bikes… I could gear IO low and get some slicks then it would be ‘One bike to rule them all’ .. or at least get the job done on both days..

A set of 1” Continental slicks for my IO were sent out to me from Madison and a 15t sprocket..i wanted a 14t but in hindsight it would have meant messing with shortening/lengthening of chains… I was gonna be very undergeared so would have to spin, spin, spin my way through it.

Grace decided to come for the weekend too as there was ample opportunity to catch up on reading and sleep.. we set off Friday night and after driving through some dubious scottish villages with drunks rolling into the streets.. we arrived at the campsite at midnight and again the pop up tent came into its own and I was tucked into the Alpkit sleeping bag within 15 minutes

In the morning I woke to another rainy event… getting a little tired of this bad weather that seems to come with me to every race… but being a road event I aimed to just wrap up and spin the legs for what I thought would take about 8 hours ish.
8am I started and soon got into the mix of riders who I assume were doing the shorter distance or weren’t holding anything back for the long ride… I had to jump wheel to wheel on the flat sections to draft and then ‘pulse’ bursts of what felt like 200rpm at the pedals to keep up.. when the climbs started I slowly pulled my way up and past people.. the riding was very rolling so what I would gain on the climbs I would lose on the descents…

I ended up with a riding partner for the day and unfortunately did not catch his name but we rode until he took the turn home for the 90 mile distance leaving me a final 30 to do on my own.. the day was spent as always debating the pro riding scene and its issues.. bike purchases.. places we had ridden etc.. all in a very pleasant day when the rain stopped and I rolled back through the start/finish a little shy of 8 hours… my knee very achy after a lot of spinning but not so much I would consider not riding the next day… that night I changed back to fat tyres and a 16t at the rear.

Sunday was really the main event for me… 85km of what looked to be good quality mountain biking… on the start there was not another singlespeeder in sight which nowadays surprises me… the start was a little too long on the tarmac and I had to spin like a mad man to keep moving up through the large field… life got easier when the first long climb started as it was of a gradient I could push the gear up and through people going slower… the climb was quite long and I was looking forward to the descent at the top but was only rewarded with some brief gravelly fast section before we descended over a rutted field which was hell on a fully rigid.. I couldn’t let the bike just go as it was too wet and the rigid bike wasn’t tracking the ground well enough to let me brake and gain control.. so it was an initial slow and jarring descent before I could get stuck into the next climb and get some time back.

In contrast to the day before the weather was glorious… I was drinking though my water bottles very quickly and the feed stations were only just close enough together to see me through… the riding on the whole was excellent.. the climb from Innerleithen was brutal and relentless...

The descending in parts was such good fun… a good mix of fast stuff and some very steep techy rooty drop ins… The climbs were going well and I felt nicely strong.. some sections were a push as although the gradient was manageable the ground was so soft under wheels it really dragged and sucked you in..

I had predicted a 6 hour ride but came in 5hrs 20mins roughly… happy that I had felt strong on the climbs but disappointed that in some sections I should have been quicker on descents…think maybe I will experiment going back to a suspension fork and see what the difference is.

Now I have a few days of recovery riding and eating before SITS and some fun in the mud and the dark