Monday, 18 April 2011

British XC Round 2 Dalby Forest

My poor performance at the first national really knocked by confidence, I should have taken away some positive from that race having ridden within the top 10 UK riders for the first 4 laps but instead I’ve struggled to put that day behind me and the negatives are still fresh in my mind. Going into the season I set some pretty high targets and to see them disappear into the distance gave my moral a real kicking.

Normally after a bad race there’s time to bounce back by racking up some decent quality training miles but since Sherwood there’s been events each week meaning there’s not been the chance to do much riding. Leading into the second national the pain and disappointment I experienced at Sherwood was still fresh in my mind.

In a regional race where the competition isn’t so fierce and success is more likely there’s less chance of your mindset being tested. However 10 minutes into this past weekends race at Dalby Forest all those negatives came flooding back. I should have been able to just enjoy riding the awesome track but as my motivation to push the pedals at anywhere near racing speed disappeared so did the race.

On lap 4 I did finally start to have a little fun railing the banked corners on the first couple of descents, and sprinting up the early climb to the arena. Having easily dropped the group of riders who were sat behind me the chain dropped off the outside of my chainset. The chain had twisted possibly during an earlier fall, this was causing the gears to slip under load. As the riders I’d dropped rode back past me my race was over, I saw no point in continuing.

Racing isn’t just a battle of fitness but it’s a battle of mind. What I need to do now is resort back to having fun on the bike, start enjoying training, and then the success with come.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A few mid week thoughts

If you’ve never seen any footage from Paris Roubaix then I’m afraid you need educating! The classics season largely is ignored by the UK media and in this country the majority of people might only ever see a new article on each summer’s Tour de France. This is a shame because there’s something very special about these 1 day races where man and bike battles THE toughest and most demanding terrain that exist in Belgium and northern France. Viewing this amazing gallery looking for a new desktop I tried to select the very best of the images to make a final choice. In reality I struggled to find a single image I wouldn’t have as my desktop, it’s probably actually pretty difficult to get a bad image of this sensational day! The image eventually chosen shows the HTC rider Lars Bak suffering on one of the many cobbles sectors along the route of last Sundays 258km route. To see the true insanity check out the speed the rider are going on this sector of cobblestones

In my last blog I said a small amount about what a pleasure it was to ride the CRC MTB Marathon at the weekend in the same small group as Nick Craig. At the end of the race crossing the line I was ushered towards the commentator for an interview, however the commentator hasn’t realised I’d just finished first and when I told him the first thing he asked was “where’s Nick Craig”!!! Then once a few more riders had finished Nick and me where having a chat/ laugh about the event when a Chinese fan comes across and asks if he could have a photo with Nick! This chap is a true great, a legend even, and you couldn’t meet a nicer person.

That’s all for now, I’ll try to find time to write again before the weekend.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Chain Reaction Cycles MTB Marathon Round 1 Builth Wells

After a couple of fun days at TORQ HQ in Shropshire (which I’ll cover in another blog) it was time for this weekend’s Chain Reaction Cycles MTB Marathon at Builth Wells. There was a night race Saturday evening but I wimped out of that, my teammate James Lister however was a little crazy and raced around to 6th place having already done a hilly mtb ride that morning and then stood in the sun the rest of the day for the team photo shoot!

After a pleasant stay at a local bed & breakfast I was fresh and ready for the 75km distance and 2000+ metres of climbing that lay ahead. Racing short cross country races most weekends meant I was highly motivated to try out some marathon races. On the start line were a number of the very best UK endurance racers and some cross country racers looking to mix things up.

After 5 miles behind the pace car we were free to start racing, quickly gaps started to appear and groups began to form. After a few more miles things started to sort themselves out; up front were the lead group included the legend Nick Craig, Neil Crampton, Ian Leitch, James Lister, Matt Page, and myself. James picked up an early puncture not long after, losing crucial time and his chance of winning the race.

My plan before the race was to sit in and let the other do the work, however feeling strong I increasingly found myself on the front pulling the group along up the climbs. On the descents I saved energy, concentrated on taking on drinks and gels, and rode carefully to avoid taking risks that could result in a puncture or other mechanical.

After maybe 15 miles Ian was suffering and popped off the back of the group struggling to keep the pace on the long climbs. Matt had also disappeared after suffering a mechanical. Over the next 5 miles Nick, Neil and me shared the work but a group had formed behind and was working well to close up the gap to us. Nick was next to puncture on some barb wire fencing after we veered slightly off course. Whilst Nick fixed his wheel Neil and me were left to hike up what felt like a near vertical climb to the trail above where the chasing group was passing us by.

After that comedy we chased back to that group which now led the race. After a short rest I dropped the hammer and with 16 miles remaining I hit the front of the race, my effort was only meant to test Neil but I got a gap almost immediately, this gap stayed the same until we reached an undulating tarmac road which I nailed. Unknown to me though this road led to the largest climb of the day, luckily the legs held out and produced enough power to launch myself over the climb and open up a few minutes lead which I held to the end to finish 1st.

It would have been nice to have ridden with James for longer as I’m sure he would have been a contender at the end of the race, he eventually finished 5th or 6th. Loosing Nick from the group was a loss as well as he was managing the pace well, creating some good chit chat, and again it would have been nice to have had a clean race to the end with him.

The new Kona Kula Watt was awesome; the new frame is so much stiffer and more responsive. The Terralogic Fox forks are fantastic at saving energy on the ups as they automatically lock out and only unlock when they hit a bump, they were also super plush and stiff on the downhills. The Shimano groupset is great and I’m particularly enjoying using the XTR brakes.

Hopefully I’ll find some time in the schedule to fit another CRC mtb marathon this year. Next weekend the TORQ Performance team will be racing round 2 of the British XC Series at Dalby Forest.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Southern XC Round 1 Checkendon

After last weekend’s poor result at the national I decided to have a recovery week from training; mostly I think I needed it mentally. Having been so focused on that 1 event and for it to go so wrong was pretty demoralising. The decision to race the Southern XC this weekend was not made until Thursday evening, for a few days my mind was shot and it was until Thursday evening when chatting with good mate Stefano that my motivation returned, thanks mate!

Waking up Sunday morning to clear skies and the sun peaked through the curtains, what a perfect day for bike racing. A pre ride of the course revealed a testing track with routes, stumps, loose tight corners, windy open farm tracks, sketchy descents, and steep climbs. What an awesome track; returning to the arena I was excited about racing having loved my pre ride. The track could easily replace any of the National XC venues, well done to the Southern XC organisers.

Having done very few Southern events over the last few years I was gridded on row 2 of 2 and off the start had to burn a few matches to close the gap that quickly opened as Ade Lansley and Steve James rode away to take the lead. Having caught the front 2 I tried to stay second wheel and take advantage of some drafting through the windy open sections. Mid way through lap 3 Ade was starting to drop off the back of the group, Steve James was still leading setting a solid tempo, and I remained on his wheel.

As we reached one of the singletrack climbs the electric Shimano Di2 gears on my borrowed bike started to jump, for some reason still unknown they’d shifted out of index. The bike was almost unrideable in gears 1 to 4 which were really needed on the 3 steep climbs. I stopped to see if there was anything obvious wrong, and this stop dropped me down to 6th place.

I chased back up to second place trying to pass the other riders as fast as possible so they couldn’t get a tow around the track as my chase to Steve began. Chris Minter jumped onto my wheel and it was soon obvious the gap to Steve was too big to close. With my gears slipping and a cleat coming loose it was better to make sure the bike made it to the finish line so I tucked in behind Chris until the start of lap 6 when he fell on a corner.

Simon Ernest wasn’t too far behind so I tried to ride smoothly and keep the gap at the same distance. Every corner or bump I thought the bike would fail or the cleat would fall off, it was a relief to the reach the finish line to take second place on the podium.

After such a fun race I’m looking forward to a big week of training. Next weekend TORQ have a team meeting and photo shoot in Shropshire on Friday and Saturday, and then I’m really excited to be racing the Chain Reaction Cycles Marathon on the Sunday - hopefully aboard my new 2011 Kona race bike!

Thanks once again to Chris White from Mountain Trax for the loan bike.