Thursday, 30 June 2011

Black Mountain 3 Day Preview.

Another couple of quiet weeks on the blog, sorry but things have been … um… a little disappointing. This weekend however it’s back to the fun marathon racing as the TORQ team take on the Black Mountain 3 Day stage race in the Brecon Beacons. I’ll definitely be posting twitter updates and possibly even blogs so keep checking here for updates.

The stage race kicks off tomorrow with a short timetrial.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

British XC Round 3 Wasing Estate

After a fun week of marathon racing in Europe it was back to the real job of cross country racing today for round 3 of the British Mountain Bike Series. The series up till today hadn’t gone to plan with round 1 ending in disaster as I faded from a possible top 10 position to outside the top 20 in the closing stages of the races, and round 2 was also a day to forget. However today’s Wasing Estate venue suits my strengths and I was hopeful of matching or improving last years 6th place result.

Rain Saturday evening and Sunday morning making the course greasy and further rain was expected during the race so I opted for the intermediate Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres, these tyres hook up well in the mud but roll almost as well as any dry tyre.

From the start I felt really strong sitting behind the front 5 riders through the first few sections of singletrack, a small mistake though created a gap which proved hard to close. Another rider jumped in front of me but I needed a clear view of the slippery singletrack to have the best chance of catching the leaders so didn’t wait long before making an overtake. At the end of first lap I was just 2 second behind the leading group.

Over the next lap the gap increased slightly but the riders ahead remained in sight, however on the early climbs I could already feel tiredness creeping in. With my current form perhaps I should have known the start pace was unsustainable but top 5 is the target so had to be chased. Paying for the early efforts riders behind began to catch me, each time I tried to hook onto the back of them but couldn’t hold the pace.

Half way through the race the rain clouds emptied upon Wasing turning the greasy top surface into a muddy mess. As further riders slid their way past me I’d moved into survival mode, heart rate levels had dropped and the mission became to salvage the best result I could.

Loosing another 2 places on the penultimate lap was a kick in the back as I dropped outside the top 10 but the end was near and I’d be happy to finish. Over the last 17 minute lap I kept my 12th position and crossed the line relieved to have survived the lovely British summer weather we’d be treated to!

There are no excuses for the poor results this year, I just haven’t found the form I had last year. Its time now to put in the hard work and I’m excited about putting together what will hopefully be a good 4 week block of training starting with a 4 hour recovery tomorrow!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

AlpenTour Trophy Stage 4

After yesterday’s time trial it was questionable whether the legs would ever work again, that combined with my aches and bruises from Friday’s crash meant an uncomfortable first few minutes on the bike. After another extended warm up ride both Josh and myself were as prepared as we could be for another battle with these European mountain goats. Stage 4 started with a neutralised start like stage 1, we were lead out to the early climb, having learnt how sketchy and erratic these starts can be I elected to follow several riders who were riding along the pavement which proved far safer.

The early hills which were small sprints compared to the mountains we’d ridden on the previous days suited both Josh and myself meaning we didn’t loose so many places early in the stage unlike previous days. The day also included some singletrack which was littered with roots, this played again to our advantage and we found it easy to make up places as other riders struggled down the tight singletrack.

Approaching the only mountain climb of the day I’d made my way into a strong looking group with 2 Rocky Roads Orbea Team riders and a UCI Cube Nutswerk MTB Team pro rider. Other riders tried attacking early on the climb but we set a solid tempo and caught many riders who’d blown nearer the top of the mountain. Josh and myself found as the days passed the maximum heart rate we could maintain became more and more restricted. The days high 30 degree temperature scorched us as we rode our way up to the Milka mountain top arch, the organisers as I’d predicted provided a lovely steep kicker right at the top of the mountain just to sap the final energy from our legs.

On the descent I was stuck with a rider who was pretty slow so I lead the way down the slippery gravel fireroad, he insisted though on cutting me up on each corner, if he’d been English he would have received some choice selection of words! This spurred me on to take a few risks and gap the chasing riders, this gap only increased entered the next technical rooty singletrack section.

Up the final sprint climb riders were struggling and this presented the perfect opportunity to make up some final places before the last downhill. After a brief hike a bike section we entered the Schladming World Cup Downhill circuit again. The Fox Terralogic forks had worked perfectly all week but down over the huge braking bumps both Josh and myself suffered with huge arm pump. I was pretty nervous entering the last part of the descent where I’d crashed hard a few days earlier so took things steady.

Today’s stage was the most fun of the race but it felt odd to be finished in under 3 hours, the race was over but I wasn’t quite ready for it to finish. A time of 2 hours 33 meant I couldn’t quite match my start board number in the general classification but successfully beat many pro riders. Josh completed the day a short time later and successfully matched his start number in the GC.

Alexey Medvedev from Russia and Katrin Leumann from Switzerland took the overall general classification wins, the UCI points, and the prize money but at the finish line it was obvious that all the finishers were thrilled to have ridden this year’s event.

Photos from todays stage and previous days can be found here, make sure you check out photos of day 2 Once back in the UK we’ll be uploading some video and photos.

We look forward to returning to the 2012 AlpenTour Trophy.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

AlpenTour Trophy Stage 3

Today the organiser rewarded us with a shorter stage after yesterday’s mammoth day; it meant we could have an extra hour in bed because we didn’t have to be at the start until 11.30. The shorter stage wasn’t really a reward though; it was a mountain top finish time trial, in just 16kms we were to ride up 1100 metres! It was like doing a cross country world cup race after doing 2 of the hardest days riding I’ve ever done! Riders were set off every 30 seconds in reverse GC order so instead of suffering the pain along with other competitors you got to experience racing up a steep mountain route all alone.

Hopefully having read that you’ll have started to understand just how painful today was. 40 minutes of warm up I hoped would be enough to prepare my tired legs for the climb which started immediately from the line. Josh opted for a shorter warm up with the idea of increasing the pace on the climb rather than going flat out from the start.

Having completed the first 3 miles along the riverside there were riders ahead of me I was catching already, had I started too fast? After some fireroad climbing we entered a bumpy slow soggy section through a field, this was tough going and required a second energy gel.

Two thirds of the way through the climb we entered a flatter (sub 10% gradient) section which could be ridden in the big ring. I kept a good eye on the Garmin as it counted up the miles and felt good as the final kilometre countdown signs began. I increased the pace over the final steep section which entered a small flat section which I rode flat out thinking the finish was at the end of the road.

Rounding the corner with 300 meters to go the course kicked up, I had nothing left in the tank and this last section was a painful 25% gradient. I slumped over the bars and turned the pedals, those final meters seemed like miles. Crossing the line I muttered to Josh “that was the worst thing I’ve ever done”!

Josh elected to ride zone 4, apparently saving himself for tomorrows final stage where he’s going to fire his way up the general classification. Josh’s time was 1 hour 4, and I finished in 59 minutes.

Let the eating commence, hopefully the legs can survive one last stage. Oh, the bakery was closed when we got to town!

Friday, 3 June 2011

AlpenTour Trophy Stage 2

What an incredible day stage 2 of the AlpenTour Trophy had in store for us, in just 56km’s there would be 2400 metres of totally insane climbing. After just 2 minutes of neutralised rollout the gun went as we hit the start of first climb, an hour later the gradient hadn’t relented, eventually we peaked out at 1900 metres. Once again the European’s pace uphill was truly insane, Josh settled into his endurance pace, whilst I tried my best but mostly failed to chase down groups which had formed. The Australian U23 and Junior development team are here and it was good to see Euro Marathon Champs and XC fast guy Ralph Naef stop to help one of them fix a snapped chain midway up the first climb. By the top of the climb I’d focused on chasing down Mike Brodwick, another top World Cup rider.

The first descent started with some nasty slippery gravel fireroad, 2 Europeans sped past me so I jumped on their wheel and followed lines, as usual though once the singletrack started the same riders struggled to stay in control. Once onto the flat transition section to the next mountain we caught Mike who’d be dangling off the front of the group for some time.

Now the next climb was truly spectacular reaching over 2000 meters, along the way we climbed on fireroad which turned through hairpin after hairpin for maybe 30 minutes. Following this we hit a section with gradients ranging from no less that 20% to about 30%, this lasted for maybe 15 minutes before we hit the snow line where we were forced to walk through the sludge (rather disappointingly this made a mess of my white overshoes!) Through deep breathing Mike said something along the lines of “this is crazy”. Today we needed XTR chainset’s with a 26 tooth inner ring and a 36 tooth cassette and we didn’t have either so there was no choice but to grind our way up the steep sections, will have been an excellent muscle tension workout though!

Once we’d negotiated the following steep rocky descent which was basically just a huge boulder field we plummeted to 800 metres before one last much smaller climb which both Josh and me smashed our way up overtaking many riders who were suffering from their previous efforts. I pushed the pace pretty hard to the top of the World Cup course and was making up some good time until a mistake lead to a silly crash. It doesn’t look like I’ll be bringing back any prize money or UCI points but there are some good bruises to show off now! Luckily the shiny Kona which is attracting many fond looks remains intact and ready for tomorrow’s uphill time trial. Josh made good use of his excellent technical skills and chased down riders on the tough descent to the finish line.

After today’s stage the plan was to hit the local bakery but we’re both far too knackered so that’ll have to wait until tomorrow!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Alpen Tour Trophy Stage 1

Stage 1 started with a 2km neutralised start which turned out to be pretty dicey as riders jockeyed for position banging horns (bar ends and elbows) until the car pulled off and the pace went ballistic! With the first monster climb starting immediately the riders spread out pretty quickly with one of the Milka Trek riders jumping off the front almost immediately. Both Josh and myself took a little while to adjust to the insane pace and settled in around the top 70 and top 40 respectively.

The weather in the Austrian mountains is as expected pretty unpredictable, a small amount of rain last night and a heavy shower just as we were due to leave the apartment dampened the dusty trails at lower levels but left the trails at higher altitude a little muddy, an extra bit of resistance training having climbed for almost a thousand meters though wasn’t too much of an effort in the grand scheme of things!

The first descent was a little disappointing and several tough short sharp climbs caused some pain too already tired legs. About 35km’s in we’d dropped from the King of the Mountains at 1700 metres to 1100 metres, over the next 10km’s I went through a mid race lull. Josh on the other hand had found his rhythm on the descent and pushed the pace on the following smaller climbs.

On the Garmin the route looked to fall off a cliff at 55km’s and it wasn’t far from that, both us TORQ riders found riding the descent which reached 30% gradients easy enough but dodging the Europeans rolling around on the floor or walking was a much harder task! The next climb also seemed like a cliff face but my legs had now woken and I smashed it past many riders including many who’d blown after the fast start. The TORQ gels and isotonic drink were all we used throughout today’s stage and really gave us an energy boost for the climbs.

By the top of the final climb which we’d both made up a good number of places. Josh got a clean run down Schladaming’s Downhill World Cup track, unfortunately a riders jumped ahead of me entering the descent. After buzzing his back tyre for a few minutes I saw a gap and took the inside line on one of the bermed corners and nailed the remainder of the descent back to the finish line. Results are yet to be confirmed but we think my time was about 3 hours 30 and Josh took 3 hours 45.

Back at the apartment Josh’s obsession with food has only worsened, I can’t understand where all that food fits but I guess having burnt around 4000 calories today and probably the same tomorrow it’s necessary. Foolishly we forgot to buy any cake or puddings, following tomorrow’s stage our mission is to find the local bakery!