Sunday, 30 November 2008

slush puppies and ice lollies

Today was my first cross race for a couple of weeks after being off the bike feeling a bit under the weather. I was really looking forward to it because it's a great course and I was feeling pretty strong after a bit of a rest.

When I looked out the window this morning, it was a wee bit chillier than I expected it to be, so I packed the extra few layers and tights rather than knee warmers. As Darkmarquis and I drove along the motorway from Edinburgh it just got colder and colder, until it reached -5 when we pulled into the car park at Plean Country Park. Ouch!

There was another big field today and a really good show of VCM riders (Anja, Andy, Chris, Mark, Doug and I) despite the very, very cold conditions. So we all huddled close together on the start line in the vain hope of getting a little bit of heat from the other riders after we'd all taken off our outer layers.

As usual, I placed myself pretty near the back of the pack on the start line. When the gun went, I found that I was working my way nearer the front and could see the first 3 lady riders. I was really pleased and was pretty confident that I could at least hold on to fourth place. Then it all started to go wrong. 3/4 of the way round the first lap, I slipped on some ice at the bottom of a decent and came off and slid right into the burn. Whilst I was trying to untangle myself from the undergrowth I watched most of the field go past (all asking if I was okay, which was very nice) and then saw Julie Nimmo do exactly the same thing just as I was trying to get back on the bike. Mental note for next lap - be more careful.

Up and going again, I felt pretty strong and was fairly sure that I was starting to make my way through some of the riders who'd passed me while I was on the ground. Then it happened again. 2nd lap, just hitting a corner in a little bit of singletrack, my back wheel slid out and I was on the ground, upside down again. This time it took a little bit longer to untangle myself and sort myself out because my hoods had turned themselves around so that they were facing each other. Grr!

Back on again and fairly happy that I was making up time again. Quick swig of my water bottle - It was like lemon and lime slush puppy. It was so cold my bottle was starting to freeze!

I was really enjoying the fast course, flying down the fast downhill sections, cheering support to Andy, Anja, Darkmarquis and Dr Jon whenever I saw them at the bits where the course met in the middle. Getting lots of support from Trina, Caroline and the other folks in the crowd. Lots of smiley faced riders despite the sketchy conditions.

Then I did it again! This time on a perfectly flat, straight bit of double track. I was getting a wee bit frustrated and pretty beat up feeling by this time because the ground was completely solid. Anyhow, back to it again and I was really happy with my riding, making up time again, then again, then again.

In all 5 crashes. I think I did 8 laps, so that made only 3 clean laps. I'm not sure where I came, but I'd guess that it was pretty far down the field. I definitely won the most chrashingest female rider today though.

The prize giving was a very chilly event with lots of people showing off the icickles in their hair and beards! We saw Anja win the female race again today and Paul McInally take the male race (after working hard so far all series to get a win). There was also a prize for best beard (no prizes for guessing who got that) and lantern rouge, Fiona Walker who put in another steady race.

Despite all the crashes, I still thought it was a top course and I felt that when I was upright, I was riding well, I just wasn't upright very much. Roll on Dundee next week. It's another good course and since it's the champs course this year, we should see a really good turnout of riders. All I need to do is practice staying on my bike this week.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

tv stars

i've finally been floored by one of the bugs flying around work and have had a couple of days worth of sleeping and mooching round the house. was having a look at cycling.tv earlier and found that they have short magazine programs on the first three rounds of the cx world cup - bit of background, some interviews and a bit of racing.

check it:
kalmthout
tabor
prijnacker

p.s. anyone got a promo code for them? thinking the quarterly uci package might be worth a wee look.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Davy Down Cyclocross

Thankfully a better ride this weekend than last! Round 8 of the Eastern League ‘Cross Series was held at Davy Down country park in deepest Essex. We left home in appalling conditions, lots of rain, a touch of snow and temperature hovering around 0°C. Nice. Driving down the M11 I thought seriously about turning round and going back to my warm bed. I resisted this temptation and by the time we arrived at the venue the sky had cleared and it was raining only lightly.

Just time for a quick practise lap and warm up- the course looked good. A start finish area on grass then a cheeky climb through some trees that was just about big-ring-able followed by a short descent through the trees then up a set of steps along past the sign on hut, down a steep chute, back past the start area, up another set of steps and out round a field then back into the finish. Both sets of steps felt just right, at a sprint you could nail them two at a time, come the race this gave me a bike length or two on those around me but it was a little sketchy and I very nearly had a couple of serious face plants when the legs got a bit tired.

The race went well and from the gun I felt fairly strong. One rider broke away on the first lap and wasn’t to be seen again but two of us had a good scrap for second, Andrew Nichols just got me on the last lap, a stupid mistake on the entry to a grassy bend saw me loose the front end and he was away. Half way round the final lap I had almost made up the 15 seconds I’d lost but the legs screamed enough and I had to settle for second.

A good day out and a surprise trip to the podium, which was cool. Got to say a big thank you to Emma for even getting out of bed and coming with me let alone manning the pits and providing support. Looking forward to some more ‘cross racing very soon.

Monday, 24 November 2008

hopheads



jeremy powers and matt white make like bunnies (no, not like that). from www.jeremypowers.missingsaddle.com

Sweet, Sweet Mud


Well as with most of the country I woke up to snow on Sunday morning and possibly unlike alot of the country giggled out loud. I have no idea why I like racing in nasty conditions but the snow appealed and even when the temperature rose and it became rain racing still seemed the best thing to be doing on a Sunday morning.

And so it was that round ten of the London 'cross League hosted by Addiscombe cc came to be held at Penshurst offroad club (PORC) in Kent. After enjoying breakfast number two, plenty of coffee(cheers Raluca) and collecting my riding compatriot James from the joys of unpacking (they moved house the day before) we loaded up the van and set off.

Upon arrival we signed on and I had the treat of getting the number one plate we slipped back to the van to strap on the Lycra. Looking at the clock it appeared to be time to get a view of the course just before the race start. It was at this point we discovered the race start had been delayed by an hour. So back to the van we went to amuse ourselves until we could go and taste the mud. Despite the soggy condtions the course was fast with a treat of a loose fireroad descent a disproportionate amount of climbing in comparison to the downhill! and as expected more than a fair amount of mud which proved to have alot more grip than mud would be expected to provide.

The course and condtions proved to be hostile to a number of riders with more than a couple of people puncturing on the first straight. And the mud and climbs appearing to take thier toll on a few more. George Brent riding in the hosts colours made an impressive recovery from a front flat to earn himself 2nd place. Somehow i managed to escape the puncture demon mostly due to deciding on a firm 120psi in the tyres and the demon deciding not to pick on some of my more monster truck style riding moments on the descent!

Not alot else to say other than it was a top days racing and i cant wait for the next one!

Photo borrowed from londoncyclesport.com

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Earn those crumpets...





The predicted snow was scant and entirely washed out by freezing morning rain before an early afternoon start at Prospect Park, Reading for today's cyclocross fix.

The Ashes Series continued as I took on Aussie Sam Alison of Singular in the mid-pack battle for supremacy. Another friendly face appeared in the form of Nigel of Brighton Mitre; so committed is he to 'cross that he takes his own cow-bells with him, heckling while simultaneously riding into the distance - cheeky sod.

The course was in fact rather excellent if also hard work. Very wet mud and grass meant it was just as a 'cross course ought to be. Some short climbs which the bike needed shouldering on, three steep and hilarious descents, woodsy singletrack with off-camber fun added and mud. Lots and lots of lovely mud.

The start went well enough and Nigel and I traded places for while, giggling and sliding our way round until he gradually pulled away leaving me to fall back to the patient clutches of The Australian. As the race wore on, in surprising warmth given the start of the day, my battles become purely mental as Sam disappeared and the mud slowly began to stiffen and stick to everything, whisked by the many riders and warmed by the Winter sun.

Approaching the bell lap, I was shocked to see Nigel only 100m in front as I stumbled up the final greasy climb. Drawing level, we had a brief mud fight, clearing the slop from our bikes by flinging it at each other. The joy and invigorating elation that is riding every section for the last time was shortly over and the inevitable was confirmed - 0-2 down to the chirpy Antipodean.

A fine way to earn a fire, a big cup of tea and plate stacked high with over-buttered crumpets. I'll be weeping mud until at least tomorrow lunch time though...

A Grimace Behind a Smile



Today's cross race was a little different to last week's double header. Mostly due to the biting wind and freezing rain. Oh, and maybe the sand.

I started out warm enough, aided by an energetic pre-race skipping rope routine, but I found it so cold I couldn't maintain my temperature and finished with hands like swollen mallets, finding it difficult to shift gears. That might also have been due to the sand though...?

Anyhow, bits of it were great fun, bits of it were super tough and all the way round we were encouraged by some unreasonably enthusiastic marshals - How they maintained their sunny demeanor despite the baltic conditions, I do not know. One commented on the fact that I was still smiling. Several times in fact.

I know I was never smiling at the spot he was standing. I was actually grimacing and muttering curse words under my breath after fouling up a dismount, kicking my pedal, having my legs buckle under my weight and failing, once again, to haul my sand caked bike onto my shoulder. Instead I battered the step with my front wheel swore at my gracelessness.

Once home, it took half an hour in the shower to get the warmth back into my bones.
Please, oh please make next week less inclement, and maybe I'll have more reason for genuine smiles!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

accident prone??

This last week has been a strange 'un. I can't seem to stop having accidents...

Saturday - big crash at the cross race on the last lap attempting to pass 2 guys at the kerb into the off camber grass bit. A total mis time of a bunnyhop results in front wheel landing into curb and me passing the 2 chaps but in mid air and without my bike! 1 cracked helmet a bit of a stiff neck results!

Sunday - 2 crashes at Glenrothes. One just sliding out trying to go too quick round a corner. Grazed knee and bum. Second whilst in complete oxygen debt at the barriers, left foot catches on the barrier, I do a summasault with bike on shoulder, somehow managing to not injure myself or the bike. Gary McCrae is a complete gentleman and doesn't pass me/run over the top of me. Only a bit of a sore back.

Monday - Ros pokes me in the eye by accident..

Tuesday - in the dark walk straight into a metal road sign at work, again doing a full summersault over the front of it!! I get a sore right hip/pelvis bone for my efforts. Glad nobody spots me.

Thursday - cross practise down the park. All going well until practising dismount-bike straight onto shoulder by chucking it straight up on '1 handed' style. Crack my elbow hard on the top tube. Have to have a moment in the foetal (sp?) position. For some reason I keep going with the drills only to do exactly the same trick on the already sore elbow!! This time I stay down for longer, much to the bemusement of a passing dog walker...

Friday - front lights runs out on the pedal back from work. No accidents but a few sketchy moments attempting to ride along the pavement with pitch dark/fullbeam/pitch dark etc.. to contend with.

Hopefull my kharma bank is now restored to 0. Off to find some wood to tap....

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Glenrothes cross - pleasure, pain and pepperami

Last weekend we were treated to a double header - an SCX race on Saturday and Sunday. 2 hits of cross in 1 weekend is pretty special.


After feeling run down for a couple of weeks and a head full of cold the day before I was thinking about skipping Rd 5 on the Saturday. Glad I didn't as I had a good ride and thoroughly enjoyed the course and the chat.


Recovery drink woolfed down, warm down on the rollers, compression tights on (don't laugh!), lots of food, gentle spin on the rollers later on and some stretching and I was ready for Sunday.


I knew Sundays race at Glenrothes was going to hurt. Racing the previous day combined with a super intense, no let up, fast as hell type of course was always going to be painful.


Warming up (and falling off) on the rollers I knew I had to try and beat Iain N and Paul M in the race for the series overall. Legs were feeling pretty good considering. Across the way Dr Jon and Marty were warming up Rocky style - with a skipping rope. Ace.


Off the start I slotted into 3rd spot behind Kenta G and Iain with a small gap on the rest of the field. Coming round to start the laps proper I found myself at the front and feeling pretty frisky. Alas, mid way through lap 2 proper, taking the sharp left turn onto the bridge at the far end of the course I slid out, both wheels going with feet still clipped in. I didn't have the legs to bridge back up to the leading duo, but just rode as hard as I could.


The Pedal Power duo of James FM and Gary McCrae then started to close in. I had a bad patch here for a couple of laps, hurting like hell and lots of negative thoughts. They bridged up then dropped me. Crap.




Now I was down to 6th. But with maybe half of the race left I started to feel a little better. Add to this some fantastic encouragement from other VCMers and spectators, I was able to push harder and get back into a rhythm. Gradually I started to get closer to Gary, especially at the steps. A couple of laps later I caught up and after a second crash tripping arse over 'tit at the barriers (how I didn't hurt myself I don't know!), I was able to get away from him.


From here it was just go as hard as I could. James was around 20 secs ahead and Paul maybe another 20 in front of him. In these final laps I pushed myself harder than at any other point in the season so far. Alas I couldnt make it this time and rolled in around 15 secs back from James for 5th place.


This was for me the funnest race of the series so far. Even better was being handed a post race beer and pepperami, courtesy of Dr Jon. And better still was heading to Marty and Sues for post race food - top french onion soup and a spread to rival the legendary Tuesday night post nightride food at Pete Laings in Selkirk!


It was ace to see a good VCM contingent at Glenrothes. Anja rode another storming race to take her 6th straight win of the series. Awesome stuff. A report from the race is up on the British Cycling site


Next up - Irvine this Sunday. Sand, sea and an ice rink near by. Can't wait.
p.s. thanks to Sue Melrose for the pic - lots more fab ones at the scottishcyclocross pool

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Mallory Park Shocker.

The National Trophy Series visited Mallory Park in Lectershire last Sunday. The course was a tricky one; predominantly on grass with lots of off-camber turns linked by a short gravel climb and a start/ finish straight on tarmac. One practise lap told me all I needed to know- I was in for a tough race! The many off-camber turns were super tricky to get right and a real test of skill on the cross bike.

Come the race I was not confident at all and really struggled to get into any kind of rhythm. My aim was to not get lapped and see how well I could do at a National race. Unfortunately after 40mins the flying Nicholas Bazin cruised past me and I was out. A good experience none the less and riding this race gave me a real appreciation for the skill the top guys have, they make it look simply effortless. I thought the technical side of this race would not be an issue and my mtb skills would get me round nae bother- how wrong I was. So some serious practice required for the next round at Rutland. I am determined to at least finish the race without getting lapped!

It was pretty impressive to watch the last few laps of the Elite race and see the skill of riders such as Paul Oldham and Jody Crawforth. The Vets race was also good to watch, a real close one between Chris Young and Geoff Giddings with Young getting it on the last lap with a cracking pass on one of the tricky off-camber banks. All in all a good day out finished off with a roast dinner in the pub on the way home- braw. Next weekend I’ll have a shot at an Eastern league race so I’ll report back how that goes.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Just what the doctor ordered



It's been too long, but I'm back in my VCM lycra and back on the bike. A crash meant I've been off the bike for a month, so it was with trepidation and eagerness that I lined up for the Conham Cross race in Bristol on Sunday.

I was in the area for my Friend James' 30th birthday celebrations (he was racing too) and there was a big enough group of friends in attendance to mean there was encouragement from fellow racers and spectators alike. The lovely Mel did hand-ups and post-race refreshments of Limoncello and lemon cake while her husband-to-be, future Iditarod racer and all round good-guy, Shaggy showed how you can race at the sharp end on a singlespeed and a hangover.

It was surprisingly warm for mid-November and the damp ground had congealed to a clagging mass of mud, leaves and grass. I got away well enough, but found there was not a great deal in the tank and I drifted back through the mid-pack. My good friend Sam caught and passed me, but it was sadistically satisfying to find him at the finish vomiting into the shrubberies - clearly I need to try harder.

Still, it was great to be back out and riding with friends. It's the peculiar combination of camaraderie, rivalry and friendship that makes cyclocross fun for me. That and the mud.

There's a race nearer to home in Reading next weekend so that's next on the list.

(Top photo courtesy of David Hill.)

Sunday, 16 November 2008

cowdenbeath cx

What a blustery day for cyclo-cross, but what an awesome venue!

The course was a mixture of the usual school playing fields, a hint of tarmac and some super slippy singletrack, considering the weather we have had over the last wee while, it was remarkably clean, though the aforementioned singletrack created it's own set of unique challenges.
A good turnout for a Saturday, with around 60 I reckon on the start of the open race. More blistering rides from Andy and Anja, Andy picking up a 3rd place for his efforts more importantly in front of Nimmo, who unfortunately punctured. James Fraser-Moodie won again making the top of the open league very much alive. 
Anja, got off to a fine start and quickly started to move up the field, comfortably winning the womens race finishing not far behind DrJon who seems to have refound his anger and is rampaging his way ever closer to a top 10 place. I felt a lot better this week and had a pretty hard fought race with several riders which always makes it more interesting, disappointed on my climbing and a massive front slide moment on the singletrack descent, no idea where I finished but hopeful I may have snuck some points in the Vets category. Marty seemed to firing today also, maybe it was a Fife thing, playing for the home crowd? again final results not available at time of writing. Hard luck to Davie Graham who punctured at possibly the furthest away point, your day will come, great moustache too!
Great race and it would be good to see this one a regular for the series. 

Glenrothes today for those who have it in their legs.
Photo credit to Grant Doig, plenty more here.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

racin in 4 days!

indeed, the saturday schedule has got me excited, it should be a good one, Sandy has been around long enough to know what constitutes a good cross course, so we are expecting a cracker!

but what of last weekend?
WELL
The big hitters were hitting hard once more, Anja scored another victory, despite some early race moments, proving she really is the one to beat in the womens race, but watch out, awesome to see Jac (jackie!) back and turning the pedals hard, a sweet 3rd place was her reward, best ride of the cross season  so far, respect, must be the pink bar tape?
Over in the blokes scene, young gun Andy shot off the start line like he had a two bob banger up his arse, awesome stuff, he had to settle for an eventual 4th spot, nice work. It keeps the league very much alive with Andy, Nimmo, McInally and Fraser-Moodie all in the running.
And the rest of us? Johnny admitted to a bad race, in my terms  I would be happy with Johnny's bad results but as is I limped in out of the points in the vets and Marty continued to gain on the rest of the field, his day will come!

Elsewhere, Kenta Gallagher, shaked the whole scene, rocking out some white lycra like he owned it, good man, though negative style points for the blue in the helmet and baggy shirt sleeves! Awesome riding though.

And the Doctor was as mental as ever, damn he is fast! Damn.

Cowdenbeath this SATURDAY!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Dougie In Action

Not only did Dougie pull a podium out the bag last weekend but I threw my weak editorial muscle around to get his photo in the Descent-World race report, nice!
Cheers to Tim for the photo.

mmmm....bacon


How very cool is this - bacon rolls post race at the prize giving from todays cross race at Peebles.

Thanks again for the roll!

Wrong, just wrong


The plan was to be a late 'surprise' entry to Marty's moostascher comp.
Alas, this very naughty attempt lasted from 10pm Saturday night to 8am Sunday morning.. Several factors led to its swift removal.....No the cat didn't lick it off, 'twas more a fear of facing anyone in public combined with the very real threat of heavy sanctions from my girlfriend Ros.
What was I thinking.....?

Friday, 7 November 2008

Winter training & racing.

It seems to be absolutely freezing in East Anglia and we’re only just into November- winter has arrived and caught me by surprise. Still need to sort out my winter kit and some decent lights for some night time road miles. I haven't raced my bike since the 3 peaks and to be honest I've been a bit unsure what to do race wise- keep going this season and do some cross or start preparing for xc racing next year? Winter training is a tricky one- do you follow the traditional approach of 'getting the miles in' or the more modern idea of 'quality over quantity'? Any views? The last few weeks I've mainly been enjoying a few spins on the road and the odd beer or two.

Last week I got all the motivation I needed to get some focus back- the dates were published for next years British Mountain Bike Series. The first race is in early April giving me 5 months to get in shape and ready to beast it. For me bike training is all about being focused and getting in a routine. In fact I find a routine is important for everything- take vitamin pills, if I get in the habit of taking them every morning then it’s no problem but once I forget a couple of mornings in a row that’s it, I stop for weeks. (Still not sure if they do anything but everyone in our office has the cold and I’m doing everything to avoid the inevitable) Having decided on some goals for next year I have a clear purpose and a good reason to drag my ass out of bed at 5.30am when it’s wet and cold! As for the winter training I think I’ll concentrate on getting ready for next year but the ‘cross is too much fun not to have a wee shot so I’ll do a few races and we’ll see how it goes. Got some particularly naughty Tufo Prestige tubs earlier in the week so once they’re glued on the ‘cross bike will be ready to roll- should be fun.

Good luck to everyone racing at Peebles this weekend. Wish I could have made my home race!

voting time


Ok folks, the season is still in full flight but soon it will end but at the end (officially the Isle of Mull cross weekend) and when it ends we must reward those riders who have proved themselves, which leads me nicely onto introducing the VCM Combatant Rider of the year trophy! The lovely folks at Pro Velo Support have donated us a fine trophy worthy of any true Combatant, which we in turn shall fill with Belgians finest on the day!
So team I call on each and every one of you to vote vote vote for that rider that has excelled in the cycle battlefield.
The ceremony will take place on Saturday 13th December in Mull.


There will be awards for other categories too, so any suggestions then contact me.


Wednesday, 5 November 2008

its a winter sport

and with it comes the perils of winter, the dreaded cold! 


Still it gives me time to trawl the net for worthy stories, like the latest entry in Barry Wicks journal over at Velo News. his blog occasionally gets an update too.

Big shout out to Dougy who after his misfortune at Mugdock, found himself getting VCM on the DH podium at the Vibe DH last weekend, no doubt he will tell you all about it but respect is due, now buy a cross bike Dougy.

Peebles this weekend, its going to be snotty.

Monday, 3 November 2008

speaking of fire....


What is any self respecting bike racer to do when there is no 'cross race on?
Do some gardening and have a fire! The barrel got so hot it was glowing red and starting to fall apart. Yikes.