Sunday, 18 July 2010

National Cross Country Championships 2010

My national mountain bike champs weekend.

I’m just taking a break from the unpacking/ repacking that’s going on here at the moment. Tomorrow I direct the car north in the direction of Shropshire where TORQ HQ is located for lactic and power testing; comparisons to my results in November will be very interesting. I'm unpacking from today’s National MTB Championships where cyclists battled for their category’s stripy champion’s jersey and title of being the best in the UK. For all serious racers this is a huge yearly goal, massive amounts of preparation are put into being at their best for this event.

The weekend began on Friday with a video shoot with the BBC London news, the report was about the national champs and future stars that had a chance of winning a title at the race today. Steven James and myself met with the BBC and Henry Turgoose from the race organisation for an interview session out on the trails. The results of a few hours work were broadcast to about a million views during the 6.30 bulletin.

On Saturday I did 2 slow laps of the Pippingford track and 1 tempo lap. The 4.6 mile course was hard work and a real power rider’s course. There was a large amount of singletrack which required constant concentration. It was also really bumpy on the hardtail bike. After a bit of pre race bike maintenance I was off home to watch the tour de france whilst relaxing on the sofa. I was super confident going into the race and although I knew there was a clear favourite I planned to be in a position where I could grab first place should David Fletcher make a mistake.

Off the start line on Sunday I failed to get into the top 3 of David Fletcher, Billy Joe Whenman and Seb Batchelor, this trio quickly created a gap over us chasers, I knew I had to react fast and therefore attacked on the first fireroad climb. By half way round the lap I was with the top 3, however just after I bridged the gap David Fletcher made his race winning move which I couldn’t follow. Going onto the 2nd lap he had already opened a decent gap, Seb had dropped off the back unable to handle the pace. Billy was suffering as well and unable to make any contribution to the pace, I steadily upped the speed until he couldn’t keep up any longer.

On the 3rd lap David had some kind of mechanical allowing me to take the lead, I was unaware of this until he chased me down and then attacked away from me on the same climb he’d used to escape on lap 1. The race was really tough and on the 4th lap I was suffering, John Pybus got pretty close to me going onto the last lap but I quickly put the throttle down and edged out a more comfortable gap.

By the finish I was completely ruined and rolled across the finish line to take the silver medal behind Fletcher who took the gold, and Pybus who took the Bronze. 2nd place in the race is a satisfactory result, Fletcher was on superb form today and could have got a medal in the senior race. Looking at the lap times if I could have held on for another lap I could have taken a top 5 finish in the seniors. As well as collecting the silver medal the result comes with a nifty 60 UCI world ranking points which will hopefully fire me well up the world standings into the top 300.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

BikeRadar Live

The bicycle industry flocked to Brands Hatch this past weekend for Bike Radar Live where a huge expo area was created next door to the famous race circuit and the newly crafted cross country dirt crit course, the dirt jumps, and the dual slalom track. TORQ had a large stand within the expo area showing off and selling its products. The race team were in attendance to take part in the weekend’s Dirt Crit race which took place around a purpose built 1.5km loop incorporating sketchy loose gravel fireroad corners, tons of tight twisty singletrack, dual lines where you could save time if, for example, you rode the obstacle such as the northshore or the log jumps, a small climb, and a pump section back into the start area. It was going to be a furiously fast race with the circuit taking riders around three and a half minutes per lap; in total we would do just 12 laps. Nearly every top elite rider had been invited to take part in the competition and on the grid it could well have been a national race.

Andy Blair, Anthony and Sion O’boyle, and myself lined up excited about the prospect of racing the thrilling concept. Andy had an amazing start jumping from near the back of the grid right up to the front of the race, from there I sat on his wheel for a short while. Unfortunately at this time a group of 4 or 5 riders rode away as Andy suffered after his fast start.

Feeling strong after a few laps I bridged the gap to Billy Joe Whenman and Steve James. Some of the riders who had been ahead had punctured which meant the 3 of us were now in contention for the final podium place. Steve made a mistake on some double track crashing and putting him out of the race. With just 2 of us left the pace wasn’t maintained high enough which allowed Andy to start closing the gap on us.

Going into the penultimate lap I slipped out on the slippery gravel start road, Billy Joe got a small gap by the time I was back on the bike, and Andy had just got ahead of me. I chased hard but as I began the final climb I punctured on the sharp flints.

After 41 minutes of racing I finished a disappointing 6th place, however I was happy in the knowledge that my legs felt excellent. The Bike Radar Live surpassed the expectation of the TORQ team and hopefully we’ll return again next year to race another fantastic Dirt Crit.

Monday, 5 July 2010

British XC Round 4 Dalby Forest

The purpose built Dalby Forest race course this past weekend hosted the 4th round of our National XC Series. My Australian team mate Andy Blair and I arrived on Thursday early afternoon planning on gaining a small advantage from being better practised and rested than our opposition. The last time we’d been at the arena was World Cup race day earlier on in the year, with the events organiser only just arriving before us the events field looked dramatically different to the circus we’d be part of last time.

Were we really still waiting for the circus or had it just arrived!

On Thursday the course was in great condition with dust covering parts of the track, rain that night would dampen the dust and create a few puddles but did no real damage. The tracks main features Worry Gill, the new bus stop drop, Medusas drop, the horrible rocky climb and the Rabbit Run were all included. The technical and demanding nature of Dalby meant lots of accidents during Friday practise with ambulances and even air ambulances making a regular appearance scooping up the injured and transporting them away to hospital. It’s a shame so many people got injured and hopefully it doesn’t mean the course gets diluted next year for the national, chicken runs exist for a reason.

Andy on the steep climb up to Medusa's drop

The racing was greeted by sunny skies Saturday morning and when we arrived on site the camping ground and car park were nearly full. After a decent warm up on the rollers it was time for gridding and a TORQ gel. From the start I was quickly up into the top 10 around the arena field, however as the race literally jumped onto the first singletrack section I was swarmed by flying elbows and lost a few too many places leaving me with work to do. Having been practising my lines I felt confident on the descents but was unable to push on properly because of the traffic until the second lap. Groups had begun to form but the top 10 was a little distance ahead, my training has clearly worked though and it allowed me to make up lots of places on the climbs. My heart rate was comfortable and my legs were great.

By the penultimate lap I was in a group of 3 with Rourke Croeser from South Africa, I allowed the 2 other riders to set the pace and perhaps relaxed too much. I attacked from this group on the descent of Medusas Drop and the final long steep climb shortly after. By the top I see Lee Williams ahead, along the Rabbit Run I sprinted as fast as my legs would allow, coming into the arena there was only a few seconds in it, however Lee had enough energy left to hold that small gap and deny me the top 10 I was after.

Post race I was happy with my performance and last year I would have been really pleased. There was a quality field with all the UK’s top elites and some quality overseas riders in attendance. However having now analysed the results I can’t help but think what might have been had I not messed up the start, 11th place will have to do though. Hopefully I can improve on that at the final round in September and maybe achieve my series goal.

Post race to finish of a quality day we watched some of the other races, then retired to the nearby b&b to watch the Tour de France opening prologue, and finally went to Pickering for a curry with Paul Hopkins, Andy Parsons, Dean Frost, and Simon Allard. Then on Sunday we joined the same four friends for a couple of loops of the marathon course, then the superb red route, and some monkeying around on the black route northshore. A reminder on how much fun a race weekend can be.

Up next for me is some fruit picking tomorrow (strawberries, raspberries, gooseberry’s etc = yum yum!!) which I’m pretty excited about and lots of TV time watching the Tour De France. Oh and some training. Also Bike Radar Live Dirt Crit is next weekend followed by the all importance National Championships in 2 weeks.