Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Twentyfour12 2012

Severe weather warnings, torrential rain, road closures, and floods greeted riders on Friday evening as they made their way to Twentyfour12 in Plymouth this past weekend. A pre ride mid afternoon Friday presented a damp slippery track which included the very best of Newnham Park’s mountain bike trails. The weather that arrived that night would transform parts of the course from slippery but manageable to dangerous and unrideable. The whole event was put in danger by the rising water levels in the river which runs alongside the camp sight.

After a peaceful night’s stay in a nearby hotel team Mountain Trax arrived at the campsite Saturday ready for action. I’d be teamed up with Calum, Scott and Martin to race the 12 hour in a team of 4. Also racing from Mountain Trax was Kathy who was riding the 12 hour solo. Team Director John would be supporting us during the race. The decision was made that I would start and would therefore have the opportunity of going for first lap glory. There were some strong riders on the start line, including former teammates from TORQ. The wonderful British summer weather had improved after Friday’s heavy downpours but the course remained pretty waterlogged.

The race begun around a short start loop which returned us to the arena before we headed out on a full lap of the track. A quad bike led us around the start loop, as we exited the arena I leapt into the lead determined to force the pace and create a time gap to our rivals early on. After the 5 minute start loop I’d already created a 30 second lead and didn’t back off the power until I entered the trails. I knew after all the rain we’d had that the singletrack would be slippery and it would be easy to make a mistake leading to a crash. Being cautious on the trails and then pushing hard on the climbs or fireroad would be the strategy for the race. After slipping my way down the last descent into the arena I handed over to Calum with a lead of a few minutes. The organisers had done a good job of re-routing parts of the track following the rain we had on Friday night, leaving a track which was good fun and completely rideable.

On our third lap we lost the lead as Martin suffered a puncture on the rocky trail called Cottage Return, with the tyre not sealing he was forced to fit a tube. This cost us 15 minutes and the opportunity to chase TORQ and Southfork Racing as they rode past us fixing our mechanical. We weren’t going to give up easily though and over the next few hours we chased hard hoping our luck would change.

As the laps passed by the course conditions worsened, after my second lap the course was shortened as sections did become unrideable. Again later on in the evening the organisers did a good job of changing parts of the course to keep the race moving and riders happy.

Each rider from the team was riding consistent lap times keeping us in third position. Between laps there was plenty of laughter and fun at the big orange Mountain Trax eazy-up tent. We had a good position in the area where we could view both the last descent and also a jump through the campsite which caused many comedy moments. After the half way point the mud began to thicken which meant it stuck to bikes weighing them down, luckily we had John who was doing a fantastic job cleaning the bikes after every lap.

For the night time laps the team had a range of fantastic lights at its disposal from my sponsor Exposure Lights, the huge power of the Maxx D and Diablo lights illuminated the greasy rocks and roots. During my night laps I’d often pass riders thinking they were riding without light - such was the power of my Exposure LED’s!

Going into the latter stages of the race it became apparent that we would be tight on time for Scott to start his fourth lap before the 12 hours elapsed. Rules differ at different races but at Twentyfour12 riders can complete any lap they have begun before the 12 hour mark. Martin knew he had an hour to complete his last lap so that Scott could start his lap. Like a couple of cheeky school kids Calum and myself armed with horns and bells wandered over to the finish line to wait for Martin and to cheer on Scott. The minutes ticked by, then the seconds ticked by, it looked like Martin wouldn’t make it but then with 3 seconds to spare he sprinted over the line to pass the baton to Scott. In reality Scott didn’t have to go out on his fourth lap as the team behind us couldn’t have overtaken us but it was good fun and Scott wanted to do his second night lap.

After 16 completed laps the team finished a fine third place and Kathy finished a brilliant second place in the solo category. The podium presentations completed a fun packed weekend of racing. The organisers put on a fantastic event as always and successfully beat the weather which tried its best to ruin the race. Get yourself to Twentyfour12 next year, you won’t be disappointed, it might even be sunny!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Win at Southern XC Series Final

This past weekend the 2012 Southern XC Series came to a close with the fifth and final round at Frith Hill in Surrey. Having ridden three of the previous four rounds I stood a good chance of securing second place in the series but was yet to win a round this year, I was determined to make amends at this final round.

On Saturday I joined Calum and Scott from team Mountain Trax for a practise of the race track. The lap was a real power course and could be ridden entirely in the biggest chainring, just how I like it! There wasn’t anything too technical but the singletrack was great fun and there were plenty of tight twists which could easily catch riders out as they tired during their final race laps.

A little rain around midday Sunday created only a little mud on the first singletrack descent, the rest of the track remainder loamy and dusty. A combination of Kenda Karma front tyre and Small Block Eight rear was perfect for the course conditions.
My start sprint was good and put me just behind Ade Lansley into the first descent, entering the first climb we both sprinted for the lead which opened a gap to the riders behind. Ade was keen to stay ahead and blocked my progress. He couldn’t stop me though and as the trail opened back up on the second part of the climb I sprinted past into the next bit of singletrack and didn’t look back!

It was unexpected having trained so hard during the days leading into the race but my legs felt great and the gap to Ade began to open. I added time on each climb or open fireroad and took it steady on the singletrack making sure I hit my lines, saving energy, and looking after the bike.

A few days before the race Mountain Trax had very kindly fitted the new Sram X0 ten speed grip shifters to my bike. I was super keen to try these new shifters and they’re a great addition to the Sram XX groupset I have. The older triggers were good but these are even smoother and quicker to change through the gears, even letting you change multiple gears in one go. Despite only having one day riding with the new grip shifters before the race it was easy to adjust and I’m sure they helped me win the race.

By the end of the first lap I had a fifteen second lead, it wasn’t much and a small mistake would have put Ade straight back onto my wheel but I kept up the pace. My next three laps times were within three seconds gradually getting quicker each time around. This was enough to crack the opposition and open up a decent lead on the fourth lap. I was then out of sight but still felt good and was enjoying racing my bike around the fun trails the venue offers.

After just over one and a half hours I crossed the line with my arms aloft taking the win with a gap of nearly three minutes on second place Ade Lansley and a further minute to Ben Sumner in third! The points acquired from the win were enough for me to take second place in the series.

Last week was a big training week and the strength of my legs during the race was a little unexpected but a pleasant surprise with just three weeks to go until National XC Championships. With another two big weeks of training hopefully I can make further progress and collect a decent result at Champs.

This weekend I join team Mountain Trax for the team event TwentyFour12 at Newnham Park in Plymouth.