Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Set 2 Rise 2009

This season as racing goes has been a bit up in the air… I started my training plan back in October with a view to peak around about now for Wildboar 24 then later in the year when I naturally seem to go better.

When I heard that Wildboar 24 had been cancelled this was a bit of a blow as it effectively meant I would waste a good period of fitness and a lot of work would have gone to waste.. I did a few local events but nothing that was really my forte... to remedy this I needed to find a good honest endurance event to go test the legs.

There was nothing ‘local’ so the net was spread further a field and the only option seemed to be Set2Rise.. a night 12 hour endurance race with rave reviews on how good the course was last year but over 200 mile drive I had originally discounted this as just too far and too costly to get involved with.. with nothing else available I had no option but to go check it out.

Quickly texting fellow racers I found that I would at least know 2 other people there… fellow Genesis rider James Leavsley and the fast female Fi Spotswood... they had decided to race solo and mixed pair respectively.

The day of the race the weather was amazing… hot with clear skies… the drive down was nice and relaxed as the start time wasn’t till 6pm.. I arrived at 2.30pm.. tons of time to spare so got seat out car and began eating.. this race was the first trial of the ‘Paul West Diet For Champions’ feeding approach.. West has continuously chastised me for my bad eating habits and poor race feeding so I gave this one totally to him and followed his instructions to the letter.

James arrived sporting shorts and flip flops and looking decidedly like he had thrown his bike and kit into the car without much prep.. as it turned out he had thrown his bike and kit into the car without much prep, Still awaiting delivery of his team bike he was using an old hardtail which was held together by chance and luck I think… was great to have a few hours in the sun just chatting and eating before we had to do any prepping or racing…

The Solo pit area was gradually filling and it looked like a lot of people were riding singlespeed.. some really nice bikes around too with Tim Flooks sporting what looked like a ti Independent Fab … I put my bike together.. Decided that one light would be enough as I had the Light and Motion Seca Ultra so I donated my Stella 200L to James as a helmet mount.. I was gambling that the big battery and running a lower output would still give me plenty of light and mean I wouldn’t have to change.

Kitted and ready an effort at a warm up was made.. Circling a nearby tarmac area… then a roll to the start.. En route bumped into Fi .. She had done pre ridden the course and was raving about the quality of the singletrack and the harshness of a tarmac steep climb.. all in thought it sounded like a fantastic course.

The start was tarmac and slightly uphill and as the clock ticked over to 6pm we were off at a fast pace.. I was spinning out my gear and James was mis shifting just in front of me.. His bike was grumbling after 30 seconds.. It didn’t look good.
The course was amazing.. After the start we hit a grassy downhill.. Then into the woods on some wider tracks.. We then popped out onto field again then through a short wood to the first steep tarmac climb… once you had done this you were rewarded with a twisty singletrack downhill.. this eventually ended with the start of the long climb on the course.. it was up and down on a field before turning right and hitting a steeper section that went from grass to chalk to tarmac to wood and then back to tarmac.. I had to walk the chalk section every lap but I think it was the quicker option… the climb was long and the tarmac section steep but I seemed to have developed the ability to ride at a cadence of 10rpm on the singlespeed.
After this climb you hit a totally flat out grass downhill… this was purely blind faith as to get the most out of it you had to go with no brakes and point and go.. the level of faith on this increased as the darkness set in and you could only see a few metres in front of you… this left you with lots of wooded sections left and a slightly uphill grass climb upto a fantastic view ( when it wasn’t dark) of the surrounding countryside.. the singletrack was tight and i body rubbed the same tree every lap trying to squeeze extra sped and contort around it… even fully rigid this course was a total blast… somehow they have managed to coax all the trees to grow their roots at right angles to the trail so you can ride straight over them without them wiping your wheels out.

I started leading the singlespeed race but lost this position mid first lap… I figured myself back in 3rd by end of the lap so just settled into it… I had planned on a 12 lap race but laps seemed to be going by quickly and I had done 4 before it was really dark enough for lights… with lights on it was clear that my single light choice was more than adequate with the Light and Motions throwing out plenty of light even in the lowest setting.. My feeding plan was easy enough to follow.. Bottle every 2 laps and then a gel or energy bar every lap… I never felt hungry and energy levels never faltered.. I felt consistent as the laps went by.

During one of my midway laps I caught sight of James ahead of me and I had somehow managed to catch him up.. This was unnerving as he is a top class rider and riding gears so I shouldn’t have been this close to him.. as it turned out he was having a nonstop mechanical issue with his gears which eventually led to his total retirement from the race.

Everyone on course was friendly and clearly enjoying the course and conditions… on Lap 9 I noticed I was sliding further back on the saddle so got off to take a look and discovered that my saddle had worked loose.. I retightened it to ride a few meters before it happened again… balls…. I had to balance on the centre on the saddle and climb out of it.. as I got back to the start I tightened it again and went to check out my position in the singlespeed race.. 2nd!! .. no way I could stop riding so made do with my balancing act on the saddle for the remaining 5 hours of the race…

On my 12th or 13th lap I was caught again by the solo race leader Sam Humphrey (Charge Bikes) .. Luckily I was caught on a flat section so we got to have a chat.. He said he had a few dark moments during the night but was winning convincingly and looked strong

The final lap was always going to be the best… the race was nearly over.. I couldn’t be caught by third place and the sun was out and we were riding in daylight again…

I have to be honest in saying that I don’t enjoy every race I do… riding round in circles grinds you down… but this was a great event… the course was possibly the best I have ever ridden and well organised.

I eventually finished 2nd overall and I reckon I was about 15 minutes behind first place but as I hadn’t managed to catch him by 11.45 hours point I called it a day.. I am happy with my ride and my bike and although the talk at the end of the race was no more riding around in circles racing I can’t help but just have a little look and see what other races are out there…

Big thank you to James at Genesis for getting me a bike that works so well… Jim at Alpkit for my super warm and comfy pre/post ride clothing and Paul West for making me adopt his feeding strategy which although I hate to admit it worked flawlessly.

Pictures courtesy of Adam @ and some unknown facebook member.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Hope Series,Lee Quarry Rd3

No matter at what level of this sport you are at… the occasional racer or the professional cyclist you can never escape occasionally having a bad day on the bike..
It can be a combination of many things but the end result is always the same… a depressingly poor performance.
After riding the Colne Valley Challenge last weekend on the SS I was feeling pretty strong... I was able to drop most riders on the climbs and was descending well over the few bit of singletrack… I have to admit that the effort was felt in the legs on the Monday but Mark factored this into last weeks training.
Round 3 of the Lee Quarry racing was happening so thought another good chance to get out and give myself a confidence boost before next weekends drive down to the 12 hour Set2Rise race where I would like to do well.
Great thing about Lee Quarry is its close.. I mean only 40 minutes drive from my house so prep is minimal... the race was only 90 minutes plus a lap so food etc was very low key aswell.. in fact it was a good breakfast..a single bottle and a gel just in case.
I did the unusual thing of pre riding the course.. usually I don’t want to see what I will be lapping for 12 hours but as this was a short race and a short course and would be a good warm up I paid my entry got changed and went for a spin.. or more a slow grind.. the climbing was on the borderline of my gearing being rideable but only just with a few sections just I chose to save the effort and push up.. not so bad I thought … was a little harsh on the fully rigid but if I could get enough speed up I wouldn’t feel the full force of the rocky terrain..

The start… unluckily the start was on a hill… a hill which was on the borderline of my gearing.. I noticed another SS rider in the racer cat and he was both feet clipped in and hanging onto the fence down the right side of the start line.. good idea… I tried to angle my bike slightly to take away starting on the full slope but as the race set off I was left flailing and scooting trying to clip in and went from the first line to near the back and as I looked up I could see the other SS rider cresting one of the first climbs leading the race.. .

I muscled the bike the best I could but my legs didn’t have the strength they had the week before and I was getting a good muscle shake every time I was seated and trying to force the gear… on the flat and descents I struggled to get on top of my gear and pop over the rocky sections so I just got progressively more beat up.. although was good to get some good shouts of support from the marshalls and spectators with much respect being given for the foolish fully rigid SS choice..

I figured on a 6 lap race.. I did have a mid race peak when I could see I was making ground up on the other SS rider.. I could actually see him mid lap but at the end of the lap I did catch him.. but only as he had punctured and pulled over to replace the tube.. I went past and carried on.. most races I will feel awful until I hit an hour then the legs and the brain switch on and I’m away.. this time an hour came and I failed to rise to the occasion in fact I think I slowed down..

As I ended the 5th lap no bell… I was out on my 6th with the prospect of having to do a 7th… to make matter worse the other SS rider caught me on starting the 6th lap.. I am so bad for napping mid race.. I lose focus when there is nothing front of me and sub consciously slow down.. I stayed with him briefly then lost touch as a back marker got inbetween us..
Then the final blow was getting caught mid lap by the overall leader which effectively meant he was on his bell lap and stopped the race for me at end of my 6th lap putting me a lap down on a number of riders.. never great to finish a lap adrift.. well not in short course racing anyway..

This left me nothing but to clean bike and pack the car and reflect…
So I learned to;
- When starting a race on a hill on a SS get both feet clipped in
- Bad days happen to us all… learn from it and move on
- I am no short course racer.. 4 hours plus only from now on..

Lets hope Set2Rise goes more too plan

Pic courtesy of

Monday, 11 May 2009

Colne Valley Mountain Bike Challenge

With Wildboar 24 now cancelled my racing season started to look a little light… finances are preventing me from travelling big distances and my summer trip hangs in the balance with the destination slowly creeping closer to home to reduce the outlay..
With this bleak outlook I was desperate to get out and get a number on my bike again… quick flick through the usual forums turned up the Colne Valley Mountain Bike Challenge… strictly not a race in the true sense of the word as we would be partially on public roads but strap a number on a bike and put people on a start line together and you bet there will be some racing:)
Research into the event showed that it was a hilly devil... decided that I would have a crack on the singlespeed as all my upcoming events are singlespeed based so good place to give myself a hard time and work out any problems… the times from last year indicated that the 30 mile course would be conquered by the fastest in 2 hours 20ish .. I gave myself a 40 minute buffer as I imagined that singlespeed would see me spinning out on any flat or downhill so aimed for 3 hours..

..side note: people always believe that singlespeeder’s lose out on the climbs.. I don’t find that.. any climb you can’t muscle is nearly always just as quick to walk.. you go faster up the climbs as you have no option but to push the gear you have no matter what you feel like.. where I frustratingly lose time over the geared racers is on the flat and descending where you can’t make any time as you spin the gear out.. annoying but a small price to pay for consistent speed and effort:)

Start of 9am… always nice to get a race done with in enough time to allow you to get home unpack, clean and still enjoy some well earned feet up time being fed by loved ones..

The race started with 30m of slight downhill into a left hand bend then onto the climb from hell… not too long but cobbled and steep… every fully rigid singlespeeders nightmare.. from this a bit more climbing to the start of another cobbled climb but this time wooded and greasy which saw a lot of geared riders walking up it.

The rest of the course followed suit.. we saw a quarry, some boggy wet riding, rocky singletrack descents, road and off road long climbs… on the whole I stood my ground only losing out on the long road descents but being able to make ground up on the long steady climbs which were made for singlespeed riders.
I didn’t wear a watch and I don’t use a computer so just had to instinctively use the 2 gels I carried to see me through to the end.. I opted for a single water bottle and also drunk at 4 of the 5 water stations.. opting for a carrying as little gear as possible approach.

The weather held good with only a hint of rain and was good to chat to some riders as we did some of the climbs.. the course was as described sadistic… steep sharp climbing then quickly losing the gained height to start again.. great stuff and a good challenge as the race title suggested..

Eventually made it back to the finish in 2 hours 34minutes … unknown position.. suspect 20 something.. very happy at only giving away 24 minutes to the winner who was geared over 30 miles.. might come back next year with gears and see how close to 2 hours I can get:)

Image courtesy of