Monday, 31 May 2010

WC 3, BMBS 3, & Big Welsh Enduro

World Cup round 3 took place in Offenburg Germany over the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd of May. On journey to the race took 2 days, on Wednesday we stopped off at a B&B near Reims in France, before finishing the drive Thursday morning to arrive at our hillside apartment on the edge of the Black Forest. We were greeted by wet conditions but the surrounding mountainous terrain excited Ant and myself who were excited to get exploring the area. A few hours later we returned to the apartment caked in mud but with massive smiles having found some awesome trails.

On Friday we had the first taste of the world cup course which is renowned for its technically demanding nature in the dry, in the wet however it was insane! Drops with 90 degree corners at the bottom, rooty singletrack section, steep switchback descents, massive root gardens, and long dragging climbs all coated in greasy mud made for entertaining practise lap as every rider at least once found themselves on there bums sliding down the track. Luckily by Saturday the poor weather had disappeared and temperatures in the 20’s meant the track was drying out quickly, even higher temperatures on race day meant the track was completely dry.

From the start line I felt good and moved up some good place, however no sooner had I made this progress I began to tire in the heat. Maybe I went too fast at the start, maybe I didn’t drink enough, maybe I just hadn’t done enough training, either way I blew on the first lap and from that point on my time in the race would be limited. It annoyed me that I’d gone all that way to have such a rubbish race, and even more that we’d sat in that apartment for 4 days doing very little riding resting up for the Sundays race when we could have been doing some amazing rides in the Black Forest mountains. On the positive side we did get to eat lots of amazing cakes!

The following Saturday was British XC round 3 at Margam Park in Wales. The rainfall on Friday night ruined the track turning it into a slippery muddy mess. By lack of training in the mud was highlighted as I rode like a pansy and fell off the bike at every possible opportunity. On lap 2 I called it a day.

After my disastrous performance on Saturday the Big Welsh 75km Enduro offered me the perfect opportunity to rescue the weekend and to have some fun. I’d been looking forward to the enduro for some time, firstly because it offers an opportunity to race something slightly different to the top end body crushing effort of the normal cross country race, and secondly I’ve never really tested my diesel engine in a longer distance race. On the start line there were numerous names that I recognised and also teammates Tim Dunford and James Lister. I was a little nervous as didn’t know how the race would unfold, the plan was just to follow the pace of the leader if I could. James set the pace right from the start and on the first 15 minute climb he ripped the field apart leaving only a small group together. I then had a few digs on the flatter parts of the course and on the downhill’s in an attempt to reduce the size of the group. Team TORQ broke away during lap 1 from the rest of the field; however the pace on the climbs was just too fast for Tim at the start of the second lap and then me one lap later on the same climb leaving James to ride off into the distance to take a well deserved win. On the start line I thought the enduro would be a good practise run and learning opportunity for James and me who are participating in this years Transalps stage race, what I’ve learnt is that James is going to absolutely kill me on the climbs, time to invest in a tow rope! 2nd place for me was a good result and an enjoyable way to complete my late finishing spring campaign. It now time for some rest and recovery before my next big training block targeting British XC 4 and Transalps.

Monday, 10 May 2010

British XC Round 2, Wasing Estate, Reading

After racing the world cups the last couple of weeks I was confident that my race pace would have increased since the first round of the British XC series. I was excited about the race and hopeful of a good result.

From the start my legs felt pretty good jumping up the grid well into the top 10. After a bit of argy bargee where I probably wasn’t aggressive enough to hold my position a group of 5 riders quickly began to escape. Over the next few laps I caught and overtook riders who were beginning to suffer on this tough course which sapped all your energy. Going into the last couple of laps I was catching riders capable of winning a national quality race, I was in 6th place and just 20 seconds from the podium. Gareth Montgomerie was in 5th place and my target. On the last lap I got within about 5 seconds of him but wasn’t able to close the gap any further. It was a massive pleasure to ride over the finish line to collect 6th place, especially this early on in the season. My training has been going well but this result now gives me even greater motivation to break into the top 5 to reward the team and sponsors for the commitment they’ve shown. Bring on the next set of races!

Thanks to John Newport for the photos. See for more photos from this and other events.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

World Cup Round 2 in Houffalize, Belgium

This past weekend team TORQ Performance made the journey in the fun bus to Belgium for the second round of the World Cup series. On Thursday after a long journey we rolled off the motorway and into the town of Houffalize were preparation for the weekends festivities were in there final stages. Travelling out of town we soon reached our beautiful gite positioned in a small farming community of around 10 to 15 houses.

Friday and Saturday we practised the course which included several very steep climbs, a rock slap drop, some flowing singletrack, and a leg bursting start loop. All week the weather conditions were amazing with sunshine and temperature up to 27 degrees centigrade. This left the course loose with dust covering the bikes after each days riding. On Saturday evening it began to rain lightly, we hoped that the drizzle would purely dampen down the dusty conditions that had developed. However some harder rain during the morning and the thunder storm that moved over the venue 40 minutes before the start of our race meant conditions changed to slippery unpredictable mud.

A chaotic start with blockages on the singletrack meant the start loop took double the time that it had taken in practise. The leaders by the end of the start loop already had a 6 minute advantage over us riders further back in the field. After the first 2 laps where I rode a steady tempo I then began to push up the pace on lap 3. At this point I was catching riders and was racing with a couple of familiar faces from back home; teammate Andy Blair and friend Chris Minter. The mud by now had begun to dry and become sticky, this was causing all sorts of bike problems for the riders. I began to get issues with my bike causing the chain to fall off the chainset, unfortunately this meant I had to run the last climb on the 3rd lap loosing me 5 positions, I knew this may be the last lap I got to ride so was chasing hard on the descent but couldn’t find room to overtake. With the 80% rule always threatening and short lap times being produced by the top riders we could fall just 14 minutes behind before being pulled out of the race. On the 3rd lap of the race course I was pulled from the race finishing a disappointing 172nd, what was worse was that I still had fresh legs and felt I could have pushed on much harder, lessons learnt for World Cup round 3 in Offenburg, Germany. These World Cups though are all about the experience, racing at Houffalize was so special, especially with the thousands of fans lining the entire course. It was great having a large number of Brits travel over to watch the race, thanks for the support.


The main section of the course

One of the descents

Our amazing accommodation

One of the calves that entertained us for hours

Me during the race