Thursday, 26 February 2009

vcm under lamplight



http://www.nocturneseries.com/edinburgh/

sorely tempted* by the support race. anyone else? same weekend as 10UTB...


B&W with colour bonnet
Originally uploaded by philipdiprose1974


* assuming redundancy arrives early enough to get some decent miles in.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

back on the bike

It's been a long time coming, the antibiotics seem to be doing their job which is good. This must have been one of my longest periods of time off the bike and mentally  it was having some pretty unsettling effects, that I don't really need to be sharing, let's just say grumpy.
Getting out on the road has coincided with a week of following the Tour of California and the Continentals pre-tour of California. Both I have found extremely inspiring and I now know I never want to ride a road race but do want to ride plenty more big road miles in new places. 

Spring was definitely in the air and I could taste it on my lips, a stern but not cold wind both assisted and conspired against me on this. Hopefully this will be the first of many recovery rides from this wretched lurgy. My lungs burned but not as much as expected, phlegm seemed to pour from my snout but slowly started to dry up as I found my rhythm. Gears hopped and skipped from lack of use and some roadside tinkering soon got things back into a semblance of functionality. 

I was riding my trusty old Bontrager CX which has been built us as a Gentleman's road bike, fitted with 28c tyres which add a degree of comfort without reducing rolling resistance too much. I had never ridden with such big road tyres and the added 'float' and comfort was pretty nice. The bike itself has became so much a part of me that even having not ridden it in around a year, a dozen turns of the cranks and it was like the only bike I owned. I had forgot how stress free a steel road bike can be, the combination of super skinny stays and the fat tyres made the whole experience a pleasure. Also getting an outing today was my first experience of Chamois Butt'r, Eurostyle, it was indeed a day of comfort. I even took some photos, which gave me chance to savour the great Tay Viaduct at Logierait.




it's good to be back





Cross at the Castle on the telly


Cyclocross from Mull is on the Adventure Show on BBC2 Scotland tonight, Sun 22 Feb, 18:05 -19:05.



Fantastique!


Folk south of the border can catch it on satellite tv at Freesat (channel 970) or Sky (990).

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

mangrunt


UPDATE: MANGRUNT CANCELLED
rematch soon.


this sunday.

start 10:00 at the big car park in balmaha.

probably 6 hours of riding with time for a pint and a sandwich at inversnaid.

andy and chops in so far. anyone else fancy it?

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

plod-ride-plod


Definitely more plodding than riding. Shaggy, Phil and myself headed out into the Mendips, near Bristol. We found some similar weather to Andy and although we probably did a little less pedaling, I think we had just as much fun.


Monday, 9 February 2009

ride-plod-ride


Day off today, but with my winter road bike still in shonky singlespeed mode ( I know, I know..) and some fresh snow overnight I decided to get out on my cross bike, instead of risking (a) a shonky singlespeed related mechanical far from home, (b) a distinct lack of rear brake related crash or (c) a slick tyre lack of traction on snow induced injury.
The Scottish Borders are ideal territory for longer cross bike rides thanks to a fantastic network of very quiet back roads, dirt tracks and well worn hill paths that aren't too technical.


So instead of doing my favourite 3 ish hour road ride from Peebles to Tweedsmuir, Talla and Megget reservoirs, St Marys Loch and back via the Gordon Arms and Traquair, I decided to cut out the first half of road by going straight over the hills from Manor Valley to Megget reservoir. I figured the snow would be quite deep over the top but well, it's all good exercise right?





A beautiful steady pedal to the head of Manor Valley with the sun out and not a sniff of wind was abruptly replaced with a steep uphill plod through the snow. At first maybe 4 or 5 inches but with a little height I was soon floundering through a good foot or so! Oh for a pair of snow shoes!










Still I was having fun and making progress albeit quite slowly. With this much snow around it was a little too easy to walk straight into 3 feet of snow drift. A while later I reached the top of the pass to be met by a herd of sheep looking distinctly unamused at my being there.


With the sun still out I plodded on trying to avoid the main track, complete with suspiciously deep looking snow. Finally the gradient started to point down proper and a little while later I was able to regain the track and start riding. Yippeee! - 10 of the funnest minutes of riding I have done in a while.





At the road I ummmd and aaarrd about taking a wee detour to the Glen cafe but lacking any lights decided instead to press on back to Peebles. Despite having eaten pretty well I started to get a little wobbly the last couple of miles back to town. Stopping at Forsyths i'm glad I only had a fiver on me as I could have eaten everything behind the counter! I settled on a lasagne pie which was bloody brilliant!
A top ride indeed that has left me hungry for more. 4.5hrs all in with around 2hrs of plodding. Anyone fancy a pedal somepoint?

Thursday, 5 February 2009


Waugh of the Worlds
(click the pic for mucho mas images)

Can you say epic? I knew you could. Epic is one way to describe our day trip to Hoogerheide for the 09 Cyclocross Worlds. Yeah, the forecast was for cold, and yeah, the weather reports had been saying something about snow in the UK, but you never believe those things do you. You do? Well so should we. Our day began at 3am, trying not walk into hard-edged things in the darkness and then loading the van for a rendezvous with our companions at predetermined point on the M20.
Everything went very smoothly; we even had time to get a Costa and a cake before rolling into the shiny metal tube that is the Eurotunnel train. On the other side the drive was its usual Continental smooth self and soon we were paying the toll to use the tunnel that eventually takes you to Breda and then Rotterdam.
We arrived at Hoogerheide and did what we always do at this stage which is to ask the marshalls where the accreditation is. And, spookily, they did exactly the same they always do too which is to direct us the wrong way or to shrug their shoulders and look to their colleagues for help. Eventually we found someone who could put us on the spot and with the golden pass in hand we were able to get the van a bit closer to the track. Even at that time in the morning - about 10.30am- the crowds were building and building. Groups of bears, and moose and other strangely dressed folk promenaded down the streets to the venue. To be fair the Belgian colours easily outnumbered those of the host country but all had found the beer very early on in the day by the looks of things..... The feeling was definitely more akin to going to a big game than a bike race. Particularly with all the colours on show.
Once we got inside I peeled off to recce the track and the others probably did the same but in the opposite direction! To be honest I hate, getting to any event unprepared and I didn't have time to get the lay of the land before the women's race was off and running. Negotiating the huge crowd encumbered by umpteen lenses is not easy and I apologise to each and every fan I bumped or knocked - if you even felt it through your beer-induced fug. First time I saw the women was at the end of the long tarmac start when they pulled off to the dirt by the imposing town church. I used this as a landmark to get back to places, since I could see the spire above the throng from anywhere! Leading the charge were the usual suspects, Compton, Kupfernagel, Vos and Van Den Brand and it turned out to be a three horse race as Compton was reeled in and Vos showed why she already wears the rainbows by trouncing them in the sprint.
Style Note: What's up with those USA uniforms? Plain is the only word I can find to describe them. Once seeing the Stars and Stripes in the pack looked powerful and cool , but these white and black affairs looked like they were waiting for someone to choose a nice colour.
On the last lap of the women's race I found the steep drop that featured on You Tube because of the carnage that occurred that one wet and muddy World Cup. Steep enough to give some mountain bikers the willies, I could see how in the wet slowing down to turn 90 degrees left and then around a hairpin bend would be tricky. Luckily the ground was iron hard and the surface on the face of the drop had become loamy and forgiving with the constant braking. I spotted a group of photogs in the best place to shoot this obstacle but by the time I had worked out how to get there I heard the sprint being called on the PA. Nevermind men still to come. Down in the 'bottom paddock' the throng was really thronging. A Jumbotron (love that word) was installed to keep the fans happy and with the VIP buildings opposite the screen it made for a natural gathering spot. The course spat the racers down towards this natural bowl twice and through a small copse and the one and only set of steps. (I know I am a retrogrouch but I like to see hurdles and runs up sin cyclocross - not metres of tarmac and no dismounts). For every tree there was a pissed fan sprinkling the soil with Holland's finest brew. The riders were being called up. Each time a Belgian rider was called a cheer went up, likewise a Dutchman. The Czechs got a look to considering their man Stybar was a hot tip. That and the Worlds are there next year. (booked up yet? )
The race was race and to be frank I have seen better racing. But it is the Worlds so we took it as it unfurled before us. The Belgian Blue Wave rolled around in sunny splendour as Neils Albert rode away and the rst of countrymen defended his lead. Unusual, but true. Stybar was in no mans land between the leader and the chasers and couldn;t bridge the gap. Sven broke away late on for the third podium step. And that was that. A truly fantastic event like nothing I have seen at a bike race. Addictive.
And we returned to Calais full of stories. Our train was delayed and then snow warnings began showing on the screens. Then we got out in England and the M20 was closed. We detoured through the worst of the snow and re-joined a couple of junctions later. Lorries didn't appear to be seeing the same driving conditions to us and thundered past at speed. If they didn't jacknife that is. Police lights flashed. Breakdown truck orange blinked. I rose at 3 am to see the Worlds and got home at 1.45. I was lucky, my travelling companion made it home at 5.45. Wouldn't have missed it though. Bring on 2010.

Footnote: I saw many great scarves, but you cannot buy trinkets and souvies at these events mores the pity. But I am going to Belgium again soon and will scout the sport shops for it is there, I was told, that I can fill my boots. Nay, our boots.

Further Footnotage: Just bought a Yeti cross frame. Yay!!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Heckle of the North






















(Image courtesy James Hill)

Firstly, an apology; I have a backlog of stories to tell, so here's the first...

Who doesn't love beer, cyclocross, moules, pavé and good friends? I was lucky enough to enjoy a healthy mix of all those things a few weeks back on a stag do in Lille.

On Saturday we headed out of town under grey skies on a rag-tag mix of bikes; carbon road, 'cross and singlespeed flat-bar commuters were all present as was enough filth on the wet roads to leave us looking like the Paris-Roubaix veterans we were distinctly not, before a light lunch (ahem) and our first section of the famous pavé. Which happened to be the so-called Trench of Wallers-Arenberg. I was expecting it to be tough, but even on a cross bike with fat tyres and thick bar-tape I could barely hold my bottle after the 2.4km stretch of cobbly-nastiness. The weather had improved so the surface wasn't the mud-slicked nightmare that it often is in the race, but it was none-the-less very testing. I have even greater respect now for those that race in a pack over this stuff. Heroic (and a bit mad). Chapeau.










































We arrived in time to see the women's race start in the historic velodrome. Katie Compton of the US took a convincing win from the World Champion Hanka Kupfernagel (although she has since lost this position to Marianne Vos finishing 2nd in last week's World Champs in front of Compton in third).

The course was a brutal combination of flat-out velodrome, sloppy, off-camber turns, steep and rutted descents, deep sand, steep (up) steps and the ubiquitous barriers (taken with such finesse by these racers that they would appear to be at the point of crashing into them before dismounting gracefully and leaping across the two barriers at much the same speed that they were riding at only moments before).

Beer was drunk, giant franks eaten and the sun gave a gloss to the trail-gravy just as the men's race got under way.

By now the course was lined several people deep, especially at the entertaining sections (we'd waited for ages at the top of a very steep chute in order to maximise our heckling) and you could hear the riders coming before seeing them as the roar followed them around the course amid the flags of Flanders and giant supporters hats (often customised with their favourite riders names). A party atmosphere was in sway.

Most of the lead riders decided to run down the slope we'd pitched ourselves above, but we heckled them to ride it anyway and those that did either gained a place on the exit or crashed, filthily - either was perfect by us. One particular Czech rider, Zdenek Stybar was the only rider in the front group to ride it and eventually finished a close second to winner, Erwin Vervecken (fortunately he might just have understood our enthusiasm as Sam can speak fluent Czech and was shouting louder than most). Chapeau.























The thin bodies of cyclists aren't designed to cope well with the excesses of a stag weekend in cold Northern France, so we insulated ourselves with pastries, pizza and raspberry beer, entirely in the interests of health (of course).

A fantastic trip and inspiring for the final 'cross race of the season...

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Training...

Working with Andy Cathcart. Power. Speed. Glossy muscles moving with ease against resistance.

As was sung by Manowar....
"We belong to the world we belong to the wind
We are the spirit of the competition's end
Turning hours into days burning muscles feel the pain
The heart and soul of discipline my friends
We are sending you a challenge it's very clear
We came to win that is why we are here
Demanding to be tested, tested by the best
Not to be forgotten like all the rest."

Monday, 2 February 2009

Hoogerheide Worlds 2009

We were in search of the Holy Grail of Cyclocross. And we found it...

Or at least that's what this guy thought. Yet another devout Sven Nys fan.

The place was absolutely heaving hours before the beginning of the Mens event. The warm up race was the ladies race. And although it didn't quite incite the same zealous intensity in the crowd, it certainly didn't disappoint. The whole race dominated by a chasing duo of Hanka Kupfernagel (Germany) and Marianne Vos (Netherlands), who were being led the entire way by a fearsomely strong Katie Compton (USA). Unfortunately, the Euros let Katie play right into their hands and they both took her on the last lap. Katie finished just 2 seconds back in 3rd, achingly close to the victory she looked like she had all sewen up. GB had 3 riders in - Nikki Harris (14th), Helen Wymen (16th) and Gabby Day (24th). They were all caught up in a crash on the first corner and all had to fight back for their positions, showing their prowess on a brutally fast and battering course which was frozen hard in the frigid temperatures.
Gabby Day

Now, I would like to say I saw a lot of the Men's race, but I'd be lying. I saw almost none of it. The reason being, the Dutch are a tall race. And, although I'm half Dutch, it seems my dad's Scottishness won the game of genetic roulette , and I inherited his less lofty proportions. i couldn't see a thing what with all these tall folk and their oversized super-fan-hats. But, I can say i did see Albert Niels win an the most convincing fashion. He was so much faster than anyone else out there.

At this point I must confess that I had him confused for Sven Nys. Niels and Nys sound very much the same when they're being shouted by 20something thousand Belgies, they're both in the same kit and you could be forgiven thinking that Sven Nys was the only Belgie racing, judging by all the fan clubs and banners about. Sven did in fact finish in third spot, 38 seconds down, just behind the Check rider, Zdenek Styber.
British riders Jody Crawforth, Ian field and Paul Oldham finished 31st, 39th and 48th respectively out of the 64 strong field.
Just like a Euro rave but with more unfashionable hats and painful, tinny discotech beats!

Fort William World Cup

XC is not on the cards for this years MTB World Cup at Fort William however a bastard love child of XC and Cyclocross is on the cards, the fact that Cyclocross was involved in the metaphorical love making that spawned the event automatically makes it more interesting than the current days World Cup XC events.
Short 1km track, 25 minutes plus 2 laps, sounds fun. Not sure where entries are for those that are interested though I would imagine the event website is a good start!


VCM Dh starts the year how it hopes to end

Dougy Cameron pulled an inspired 4th yesterday in the first round of the Winter DH series at Inners.

Dougie was sitting pretty in second with two riders left to come down the hill so was bitting his nails with the thought of a proper podium finish as this would mean he would have to propose to his long term partener of 14 years Eileen. I reckoned he stopped half way down to get out of it.

Well done Dougy for another top performance.

Mark

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Tap - tap - tap.


So, this thing is on? Looks like Chris has taken pity on me and will allow me to join the caballeros of vc moulin. 2009 is here, and there's some ass that needs kicked.