Friday, 30 September 2011

British XC Round 5 Plymouth

Away from the national series this year race results have been consistently good but at the nationals bad luck and poor form have demolished the target of podium finishes. However after a huge block of training through August, and race wins at the Kielder 100 and Eastern XC I was excited about the British XC final.

Plymouth is a familiar venue by now but the organisers always do a fantastic job of finding new trails to mix things up. This year was no exception with the inclusion of a couple of new downhill sections which required some extra attention in practice. Unfortunately most UK XC course can be ridden cleanly first time without any previous sightings of the track. However on the rare occasion there is a technical section groups of people tend to gather on practice day, it’s always amusing to ride clean through that section and know everyone is watching what line you’re taking. After my first sighting lap where I stopped at the top of a few sections before riding them I rode the first of 2 technical sections another 2 times and then retired for a TORQ recovery drink.

Image from Vermont Images

After a quick blast in the Team Relay Championship (where TORQ took 2nd place) my legs were ready for the XC the following day. I slept well in our privately rented cottage that night, the weekends preparation couldn’t have gone much better. Was a podium finish possible?

Bang the gun went but I had a slow delayed start with the rider in front struggling to clip into his pedals, this put me amongst the mid pack action. Two riders collided in front hitting the barrier, I was the next person to hit them flying over the bars, the charging riders behind hit my bike and tangled onto the floor. Jumping back onto the bike Calum Chamberlain very kindly gave me a helping push as I clipped in and tried to engage a gear. My mech hanger was bent and the gears were jumping all over the place. Just my luck I thought!

This was the last race of the season though, it couldn’t end like that. The next few laps was spent negotiating through the elite field, on the technical section I lost huge amounts of time as riders in front struggled to ride the slippery rocky descents. On the climbs however where passing was possible I was flying, catching riders with ease and riding straight past attacking to the very top.

Image from Vermont Images

11th place was the furthest I got before running out of laps. April 2012 will be my next opportunity for a national level podium finish. For now its time to retire for the winter.

Thanks to Ali, Hilary, and Connie for the support during the race, was glad you could make it! Thanks to John Newport at Vermont Images for the photos, check out the website for race photos

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Kielder/ Lake District/ France/ Italy/ Essex!

Here’s an update on what’s been happening since my win at the Kielder 100. On Sunday after the race Tim and myself went for a spin around Kielder forest to explore the trails and enjoy the sunshine which had arrived typically the day after when we really needed it! My legs were pretty shot after the previous day’s efforts so after a couple of hours I was more than happy to retire to the cafĂ© for some very rewarding cake. Tim however being the machine that he is didn’t return to the log cabins for another few hours, what a nutter clocking up 80 miles on a recovery ride!

On Monday after a short car journey we rode another 5 hours around the Lake District. Tim had been raving about the trails here for some time and having only ridden at Grizedale mountain bike centre once I was keen to revisit. After a quick visit to the bike shop for some repairs we hit the hills around Ambleside before heading over to High Wray, Hawkshead, and Grizedale. We then rode back via a spectacular climb and descent to Rydal Water to conclude the best mtb ride I’ve done all year.

After a few days recovery I was back on another flight to Geneva having been invited back to work another week with GPM10. This time we were guiding from Chamonix to Nice over 4 days. This time I drove the van for half days which meant the riding wasn’t so tiring, driving also gave me the opportunity to drive on ahead and complete some interval sessions up the mountains before meeting with the group.

Before returning to England I picked up a bug and felt pretty aweful on Tuesday which spoilt the day which should have been a good relaxing day in Nice. After flying home I still felt ill for a few days and had developed a head cold. I was meant to be racing the ChainReactionCycles Marathon weekend in north Wales but hadn’t recovered so decided to rest and see how I felt by Sunday when there was a Eastern XC race happening in Essex.

After a chilled out Saturday I was feeling much better and decided I would race hoping there wouldn’t be much competition and I could just ride around! On arrival however several top elite riders had thought this would be a good tester before next week’s final national. Today was also a good opportunity to preview a new course they will be using in next years national series. Off the start a lead group formed including Stephen James, Ade Lansley, Steven James and myself. For the first half of the race I didn’t feel fantastic and my throat still felt tight; however as the race continued the pace felt pretty steady. I followed wheels for the first 5 laps before being forced to the front where I rode for the last 2 laps; I didn’t force the pace and tried to bluff on the climbs.

Steven James had a mechanical after 3 laps and had to stop to sort that removing him out of contention. Ade Lansley dropped off the group on lap 5 perhaps paying for all the work he’d done on the front. On the last lap I decided I’d either wait for Stephen to attack and then hopefully counter attack if I could to get a gap or attack on the very last climb half a minute from the finish line, risky perhaps but I hoped I’d be strong enough to pull it off. In the end we both had the same idea and attacked hard on the final climb, Stephen was really strong today but I just had enough energy to kick for a second time and edged out a small gap into the arena. The circuit will make for a really tough national race next year and I look forward to racing there again.

Today was my third top step finish in a row, when will it end!?

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Kielder 100

After a little break from racing I’d finally had time to take a rest and rebuild some fitness for what was a huge focus, the Kielder 100. TORQ In Your Sleep a week ago was a good tester and showed some promising lap times even beating the times of our teams full time professional guest rider which was surprising as I’d not been doing much high end speed work, instead I’d concentrated on long base miles and tempo speed work more specific to the 100 mile marathon epic I’d be racing.

My motivation was sky high having completed the hard training and even loosing some unnecessary body weight. The determination reminded me of how I’d felt after training hard for last years National Champs where I won the silver medal; no compromise, no fear.

Unusually for such a big race I felt no nervousness at the start, I was relaxed and ready, even the horrible weather couldn’t distract me from the race ahead. From the moment the lead car pulled off my focus never waivered. Mike Blewitt pulled some good turns on the front of the group along with 2 other racers and myself who reduced the number of lead riders. Throughout the race no one really attacked, instead the weather and steady tempo pace detached racer after racer until there were just 2 of us. I eventually rode the final 35 miles alone to the finish line to take the win in 8 hour 50 seconds.

My post race interview with tells the story

The £1000 sub 7 hour prize fund still stands for next year and I’ll be back hopefully in drier conditions ready to take on the challenge.

Many thanks to Tim Dunford and Steven James for organising the weekend and also well done to them both for achieving their race results.

Video and post Kielder recovery ride blog soon!