Tuesday, 26 October 2010

CXNE Rd5 - Temple Park

Another week another Cross race..

As predicted this one did not dissapoint.. with no National Trophy race on and this event being a category A race so big points on offer the field was strong.

Dave (Ramsay) again was kind enough to support and this time friends Rich and Rob were racing too to sample the pain that is cross.

Pulling into the sports centre car park the Hope motorhome and Scott van gave a hint as to the quality of riders that were there.. the first rider we saw was Nick Craig.. a hard day was on the cards for sure.

The course was longer than the previous weeks but definately a more traditional cross feel to it.. alot of muddy grass with off camber stuff and necessary boards to dismount and jump.. not only that but the race was the full hour plus a lap.. a mere ten minutes more than I have been racing.

After the cold start to the day a few laps and I was down to short sleeves... first mistake of the day was leaving my waterbottle in the car so no mid race drinking for me:(

The start was gridded so there was already 2 lines of very fast riders in front of me before the usual scrabble for position... as the race started the rider in front of me managed to snap his chain on the first big push of the pedals meaning I was a little held up before I could start battling for position in the long sprint down the length of the main field before we dived onto the course.

The field was quite deep at around 90 riders... the first lap as always was a mess of ducking in and out of riders and fallers and making my way up the field... as the course looped around it was possible to see the lead riders come through after completing a short loop I was about to enter.. Paul Oldham (Hope Factory Team) had already after half a lap opened a sizeable gap.

The first lap saw a rider 4 or 5 places ahead of me slide out and putting down a hand promptly broke his wrist.. or I assume by the screaming that was the least he had done :(

This race was super tough.. as well as the wheel sucking grassy muddy sections there was towards the back of the course a horrendous headwind that made pedalling even downhill a big drain..

As always I was stuck in battle with a few riders and we swapped places as the race went on.. some riders were easier to drop than others... I saw Rich as he was riding in the opposite direction and he looked like he was enjoying himself as we exchanged encouragement.

Cyclocross is still very new to me so I am still getting to grips with bike set up and I was struggling on the off camber sections as my tyre pressure was way too high.. I had to pick a very careful line though these sections... I am getting better at handling the bike but I still have alot to learn.

The race unfortunately had lap boards so unlike usual I couldnt just bury myself till the last lap bell I actually new how many laps I had to ride.. with 2 laps to go I started to feel the pangs of hunger.. no energy drink and no food available there was no option to play a little safe and although I had was currently ahead of the 2 riders I had been battling with I had to leave it till the last straights before giving it all to secure the place.

I ended up with 20th .. the field was strong but I was still a little dissapointed.. I now realise the importance even in these short races of drinking and a gel before start.. bike set up needs to be spot on and my starting and handling needs alot of work.

I'm keen to progress in this discipline so will be working hard at it :)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

CXNE Rd 4 - Whickham Thorns

After enjoying the last round of the CXNE Cyclocross series I didn't need much persuading to attend the next round.

A local round this time at Whickham Thorns allowed us to enjoy a much more leisurely start to getting over there, as before Dave (Ramsay) was the means of transport and race support while I was there.

The course was great... another departure from the typical 'race around a field' style events I had come to associate with cyclocross.. a gravelly track took us to a sharp S bend into a few turns around some assault course obstacles then up and onto the bmx track.. fired off this into a field section with a few turns.. then an off camber slippy straight which saw you fishtailing your way down this... some steepish grassy descents.. a few flatout sections then the climb/run back to the top of the course.. tough but interesting enough.

The race start was temporarily delayed as the first and only casualty of the day.. an unlucky fall in practice... was scraped up off the bmx track and unfortunately sent to hospital... this led to a section of the track being removed but it didnt detratct from the appeal of the course.

The start was a typical flat our sprint down a field to a turn then back on ourselves before joining the course... I as before didn't get a great start and was back in the 20's by the time we entered the course.

I capitalised on every opportunity to jump a few places and snuck my way back up when any flat or climbing section allowed... Dave was doing well with the motivation and handing up my bottle everytime I needed it... makes a big difference.

One of the race favourites .. Steven Ward.. unluckily had snapped his lever on the first lap and I had seen him standing next to the track so it was a surprise when mid race he came barreling past me in full flight... really a league apart and showing me what I have to build to if I ever want to master this discipline.. He came past just as we got to where Dave was standing and although I was encouraged to hold Ward's wheel without the aid of a rope and grappling hook I had to let him go ( to eventually finish 3rd!!!).

I had settled nicely into the race and was involved in my own little battles... Dave letting me know I was holding good place and steadily creeping forward... Just as I though it must be nearly 50 minutes of racing I was caught by the race leader Tony Fawcett literally 20m before the line so although it then meant it was the bell/final lap and he had saved me an extra time round I really want to stay on the same lap as the leaders.

All in I managed to get a 10th place... a considerable improvement on the last outing and I know where I need to improve for the next.. the course was tough and saw 19 bikes retiring with snapped rear mechs/hangars.

Next is South Shields on Sunday with the promise that the Hope Factory team are turning up to school us should be an interesting day... I'm already eyeing up spare bikes and Dugast cross tubs.. Loving this Racing :)

More deatils on the results and the series are here CXNE

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

New Kit, New Bike and a New race series.

Racing for me this year has been pretty hit and miss... after a mad start to the year i've just kind of mooched around.. occasionally making a vague attempt at training.. even less frequently putting a number on my bike.

I hadn't fallen out of love with riding.. in fact the exact opposite.. I got back to just riding for ridings sake.. when the weather was good i'd just spin down the local woods.. when friends were free we'd pack up and go a bit further.

Well this time away from training has really given me a renewed enthusiasm to get back on it 100%.

This mindset has coincided with the start of the cyclocross season, delivery of a new bike and the arrival of some pretty fancy race kit from Ryan at AYUP Lights.

First of all lets deal with the kit...

Ay Up lights were the first 'real' lights I rode and raced on over 3 years ago now.. they are exceptionally light (no pun intended) and really well made... I am really happy that they are going to be supporting me for 2011 as its a product I love.. If you spot me at a race come say hello.

The bike... taking full advantage of the Cycle 2 Work scheme I decided to build myself somethinf for the winter.. a Kinesis Decade Tripster.. a cross bike/fast tourer I built it up as the former with a good mix of 105 and Hope, added bonus with this bike is the disc brakes which should fare alot better when the cross season really gets muddy..

It needs a few tweaks but has already been in action.

Sunday saw the 3rd round of the North East Cyclo Cross races.. and the start of my Cyclo cross season attempt. As a self proclaimed endurance racer Cyclocross racing is as far removed from what I do as possible.. the racing is over an hour at best.. the starts rival a road race sprint finish and the courses are super short and favour big power riders... what is great about it is its low key... you turn up, you chat, you race, you taste blood, you finish .. I love it.. and every week I hope to be putting on a number and creeping up to the top 10.

The best addition to my Kinesis so far is courtesy of Jason Mahokey and XXC mag and I think sums up cross racing in a simple sentence...

Busy week this week...

Been asked to look at a new challenge for next year so training is being modified, meeting the Bearded Man in the Lake District friday to scout a route for an event organiser, hill climb saturday and then another stab at cross racing sunday..