Sunday, 31 May 2009
What a great night, bike racing in the heart of the city, balmy summer weather, drunken revelers, the heady scent of embrocation, very little not to like.
My first race since last years Mull cross, I figured the Folding Race would be a good fun way to ease myself back into a race frame of mind, yikes, I wasn't quite prepared for the fierce pace and brutality of the wee wheeled race. The lack of warm up lap left us all somewhat cold but when the gun was fired we were off, now I haven't had my Brompton long and I've never had to unfold in anything like a hurry which became apparent as I watched most of the field disappear in front of me but unfold I did. I launched my lardy ass over the saddle and wrestled with pedals to get he legs turning. First lap onto Victoria Street and I felt good quickly passing several riders on the cobbles and the front of the race was in sight but by the top of the climb the pointy end were already on Candlemaker Row and gone. Still I had Gary Tompsett in my sight so that was a carrot enough. Lap two and the climb was somewhat slower and hurt, I had slotted into a position which I guess was around mid pack, I ground it out but started to get a dry, iron taste in my mouth, my chest was ripping apart and the combined smell of beer and fast food was both intoxicating and nauseating. Lap three and Big Gary still dangled around 15 metres in front, I clawed it back to about five on the last ascent and then he took his ebay special onto Candlemakers Row and was gone. One last corner and a push for the line, I couldn't believe just how hard the whole thing was.
1. I don't ever want to do a Crit race
2. I love my Brompton
A great night out, my lungs still hurt this morning!
Fourth cat races are special, special things. The category covers everything from the rank amateur who corner like they're riding round a 50p to up and coming club racers that haven't won anything yet (apart from every club run sprint) to those returning to low level road racing after a break after nearly three years (waves!). And triathletes.
So it was with extreme trepidation that I rolled up to the start line on a scorching Edinburgh Saturday. Quick formation lap round the cobbled side of the Grassmarket, up cobbled Victoria Street, down George IV Bridge, onto Candlemaker Row and a scream down into the Grassmaket for a hairpin back onto the cobbles. Races underway with a bagpipe send off and someone right in front of me unclips and pushes me over towards the barriers. Slim hopes of holding onto the tail of the bunch up Victoria Street fade fast.
Spend the next few laps catching riders shelled out of the bunch, but crucially not the back of the bunch. This means one thing and one thing only.
I'm caught and therefore out. Five laps still to go. Crap-o.
The pointy end of the race comes down to a sprint, result TBC after a bit of lax commissairing seemed to allow a lapped rider to help his team-mate to a win.
I head for a quick change, thank the tifosi for their support and head to the Aussie bar on Candlemaker row for a Little Creatures. The LC is gone. Crap-o.
Back down to the Grassmarket to see Gary MacRae edge the 2/3 race.
Next up it's the folding bike race featuring Chris. Three laps of the course after a Le Mans Start and an unfolding. I'll let Chris tell it how it was , but the pace was hot. Damn hot.
Once those warriors had run their race, it was on to the elite race. And elite it was. Commonwealth, World and Olympic champions bristled on the front row. Two Garmin-Slipstream riders who'd dropped out of the Giro rode and they made short work of knocking the UK based riders to submission, with David Millar taking the win in fine style in his first race on Scottish soil.
A cracking evening out. Hope there's an Edinburgh Nocturne 2010.
Thanks to Moira, Sue and the various VCM tifosi for support. Neil for post-race refreshments. Andy G for the Maxxis Columbiere tyres. Chamois Butt'r for keeping my ass sparkling despite a fair bit of Unnecessary Chamois Time.
More photos here.
Next up for me. Pairs + something silly at Bristol Bike Fest, then the Cairngorm Classic Sportive. Anyone want to get their road on?
Thursday, 28 May 2009
We fly out to Lisbon early tomorrow morning and then join up with the rest of the riders to be transferred by coach to Braganca, the start point for the race.
For those who don’t know what the race is all about, it’s a solo, 8 day stage race which starts in Braganca in the north of Portugal and finishes, 1,000km later, in Sagres on the Algarve (yes, where the beer is). The race is a bit different to other stage races in that there are no course markings at all and we don’t know the exact route in advance. Instead, the route is downloaded onto GPS’s each evening and we follow our GPS each day. Throughout the day, we’re unsupported, so the GPS has water fountains and café’s marked on it so that we can refuel throughout the day, but we have to be sure to leave and return to the route at the same point (kind of like most other unsupported stage races).
To get to Sagres, we’ll be riding parallel to the Spanish border until day 7 when we hang a right and head towards the coast and then day 8 sees us ride down the coast to Cape Saint Vincent and round the corner to Sagres, finishing up on the beach. Our average day will be 125k with 2,500m of climbing (with one whopper of 160k and one “easy” day of 95k). So, it’s fair to say, it’s quite a big bike ride. On the plus side, the race organisers have organised nice hotel accommodation each night and our luggage will magically be transported into our hotel rooms each night.
I’ve had lots of great advice and tips from other more experienced endurance riders (Jenn Hopkins, Andy Wardman, Dan Darwood, Dom Perry, Stevie Lockhart, Jacqui Phelan and, of course, Andy Cathcart) on training, nutrition and mental preparation. So there’s not much more I can do now. So, on Sunday morning I’ll set off with a little ginger angel placed firmly on my shoulder to shout at me and tell me to keep riding whenever my legs and head start telling me to stop (and probably smiling and nodding knowingly whenever I ride the nice techy sections). I’m sure he’ll also remind me that it’s not really a race and to be sensible – of course the bully bangles will be there too to give me a kick in the pants whenever I get too girly!
So, now the bags and sun cream are packed, bikes all checked (and re-fixed after I managed to mangle my brand new chain and chainrings on Tuesday night!). There’s not really much more to do now except settle into a long journey tomorrow, avoiding getting too psyched out by the nervous chatter of other riders, then just hope that my legs remember what to do when I roll up to the start line at 08.10 on Sunday morning.
Jac and I are off tomorrow early doors EDI to LHR to LIS, then spending about 8 hours on a coach to get to Bragaca. Saturday will see us build up bikes and start psych-ing out* the other athletes for the ensuing eight days of the Trans Portgual Moontain Bike stage race.
If there is any public internoot access in any of the teeny wee villages we are staying in then we'll try and put some words on t'blog... otherwise check out www.supertravessia.com for daily updates.
*by pulling crap wheelies and doing skids in the carpark ; )
So, in the name of training i combined a trip to Bathgate, to take the trusty motor for its service and MOT, with a ride. Drop car off after a stiff hour of kettle bells in the am, and ride back to Glasgow - 30 miles or so - on the fixed.
Well it would have been if i hadn't taken a wrong turn and ended up in Uddingston.
Nevertheless, despite the strong headwind the legs were ticking over nicely. Seems that finally there is something under the bonnet. Oddest thing seen? Hairdressers in Harthill called 'Curl Up and Dye'.
(Picture from interweb, as it seems this is a pretty common name for hairdressers. Doesnt put me off at all....)
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Sunday, 24 May 2009
To cut a short story shorter, my first race back lasted all of 10 minutes. It took me 10 minutes of 'racing' (read sliding backwards through the field) to realise that I was in no condition to race.
Who in their right mind would enter a crit race hoping to be a protagonist and finish well up, against roadies who have been racing since March, with a cold in their chest, coming off 10 days of mountain biking which had run them down again, still with a throat infection and swollen glands..??
That would be me then..
I'm frustrated. Frustrated that I've not been able to shift this pesky virus for the last 6 months, frustrated that I've repeatedly run myself down yet carried on trying to train and frustrated that it's taken me entering this race for me to realise that I need to stop training, rest, go back to the doctors and get this thing sorted properly.
Finally the penny drops that the most effective thing I can do right now to be in any sort of shape for the cyclocross season is to stop training, rest and recuperate properly. That's a hard one to swallow, especially for someone with bicycle disease, but swallowed it finally has been.
Things were put sharply in perspective though on the way home from Dumfries. We passed by two separate motorcycle wrecks being dealt with by the emergency services on the Moffat to Broughton road. I hope the riders involved are ok. What it made me realise is having a bad race, missing some training and not getting to the level I wanted to be at this season with cyclocross, isn't such a big deal in the grand scheme of things..
Sorry for letting the VCM side down!
Thursday, 21 May 2009
24/05 - Super 6 Crit, Dumfries (3/4 cat)
30/05 - Edinburgh Nocturne Crit (4 cat)
10/06 - Eastern Promise RR (1-4 cat)
27/06 - Lothian Flyer RR (4 cat, fab wee hilly race near Peebles, throughly recommended!)
4-5/07 - Singletrack weekender (not entered yet but sounds fun, any other VCMers going??)
11/07 - 10 at Kirroughtree (pairs with Stevo hopefully)
16/08 - Super 6 Crit, Hawick (3/4 cat, if it's on..)
23/08 - Super 6 Crit, Irvine (3/4 cat)
5/09 - Super 6 RR, Lowthers (4 cat)
20/09 - Nat Trophy CX 1, Exeter (maybe..)
04/10 - Scottish Cyclocross Series Rd1
The crits are ace at simulating the efforts in a cross race and well 10 @ KT is just one of the funnest bike races i've ever done.
In addition to a bit of racing here's what an average week of training might look like in the build up to the cross season:
Weights (x2) squats and core stuff
Intervals (x2) raise power, fitness, efficiency etc
Cross drills (x1) guaranteed heckling from local youths down the park, but fun!
Endurance ride (x1 or 2) mtb, cross or road, shortish - 1.5 to 3hrs done v.steady.
Add in some weeks of heavier blocks of intervals (maybe 2 or 3 before cross season starts) and it all starts to look a little dull I know, but is quite effective and doesn't take up too much time when there's other stuff going on..
What's anyone else got planned??
Friday, 15 May 2009
Thursday, 14 May 2009
It has a history, too, as it was one the first places in NZ to be settled by early colonials, lured by the promise of gold, back in the 1800's. Nowadays, it's adrenaline junkies and wine enthusiasts who roam the streets in search of their next big hit (Central Otago is synonymous with fine Pinot Noirs and excellent Rieslings and Chardonnays!)
A couple of weeks ago two friends and I set out to ride Roaring Meg - one of the old pack tracks used by early settlers. It was a stunning ride, in open alpine tussock, over a ridge, into (and out of) a steep sided valley crossed with frigid alpine streams and down an eye-wateringly fast fire road to the Roaring Meg itself - a hydro electric dam built in 1931.
I'll let the pictures do the talking, but it was a big sky day, a bit cold on the tops, a bit warm in the valleys and 6 punctures were equally shared amongst the 3 of us.
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
For our first ride we headed to Selkirk for the legendary Tuesday nightride with Pete Laing and co. Selkirk is blessed with an extensive network of trails heading off in all directions, many fettled into shape by the guys and girls who ride.
Last night we did loop taking in the Eildon Hills near Melrose. A planned 2.5 hr ride morphed into a 4 and bit hr ride! We got back just after 11pm! The trails were awesome, the weather was awesome. The steep descent off the back of the Eildons is one of the funnest i've done anywhere and had me giggling like a loon at the bottom.
The ride last night reminded me how lucky we are in Scotland to have so many ace trails on our doorstep.
Greetings VCMers. I just thought you should see this upstanding gent racing the citizens cat at the World Cup in Houffalize. Woollen road jersey, Argyle knee socks and a tub around his neck (and V brakes). Fantastic. But I was more,erm, shocked to see the Fumic brothers racing in black knee length socks and yellow framed Ray Ban Wayfarers! Too cool for school.
Monday, 11 May 2009
The guys here know how to put on a slick race - They've been professional event organisers for about 7 years and are keen to step up. At the race briefing they made it clear that they'd had their hearts set on hosting a World Single Speed event. They went to the point of renaming the NZ race "Rest of the World", feeling a bit raw believing the Americans had it all stitched up for a 2nd event before the Napa kicked off. Ah well,boys. Maybe next year, eh?
Anyway, the event was ace. We rode out from the town centre at midday taking a meandering white pumice path past Sulphur Point (mmmmm, who farted?), a steaming geothermal peninsula covered in native Kanuka bushes. The race course and start was kept secret until all arrived at the Redwood forest, where the ragtag bunch of about 300 riders were directed to the start line.
The format was familiar - Le Mans start, spectators were invited to shuffle bikes while riders were off sorting out outfits and vying for pole position on the start line, 4 laps of an 8km course on insanely smooth, flowing, fun trails with one gradual gravel climb, a beer shortcut and a peppering of heckles. My major concern was the pending rain and my decision to ditch the VCM colours for the day and don an 80's inspired yellow leotard (dangerously thin and prone to transparency).
I managed a brilliant run down the rocky road in my cleated shoes to arrive at the bike in the first 10 people, but my start went downhill from there because my bike was so cunningly hidden. After every other entrant had collected their bike and left, I was ready to give up and admit I'd actually lost my bike. Then I spied it - nestled between the portaloos and a hilux ute in the far corner! "For f*cks sake!" I grabbed it and sprinted off, exectuing my best high speed cross mount and tore off up the road to play hurry-up-and-wait as the trail narrowed to singletrack.
So, I clawed my way up to 3rd female, (or 2nd Loser as my certificate claims), downed 3 beers (more practice needed) and threw up on myself once (not very dignified). Check out the photo evidence of the 'Rest of the World Single Speeds' here
Wednesday, 6 May 2009
The circuit is awesome with a hairily fast section back down into the Grassmarket from George IV bridge aswell as a cobbled climb up Victoria Street. This didn't feel as stiff as I remember but I doubt i'll be saying that after the 15th time of going up it flat out! If I make the start list.
Here's a few spy shots:
Repaved section in the grassmarket - super smooth!
Bit of a tight squeeze through here onto the Victoria St climb. Good positioning key me thinks.
Half way up Victoria St and the pave becomes a little rougher. Gaps big enough to swallow a folding bike wheel whole!! ; )
Right turn onto Candlemakers Row could be tricky in the wet! From here a very rapid descent back to the Grassmarket. And repeat.
The Herring Road - "a centuries old route running south from Dunbar to Lauder originally used by fish cadgers and borderfolk bringing stock of salted herring for winter use."
Not sure what a fish cadger exactly did but they must have been hardy buggers to carry their wares over these beautifully desolate hills. A beast of a headwind made for steady progress and some uncomfortableness as Jac and I climbed our way south from Dunbar towards Whiteadder reservoir on Bank Holiday Monday. Add in some light rain and general gloom ahead and I think we definately made the right decision to cut things short at the road back to Gifford.
It had all the potential to turn into a 9 - 10 hr epic if we'd have pressed on over the hills for Lauder. Which on a better day would have been fine. Instead we zipped (tailwind assisted) back to Gifford on a fantastic section of tarmac road, then Haddington, before spinning along the cycle path to Longniddry and the train back to Ed.
Two things struck me about the train ride home. First how scarily fast the high speed trains travel through Longniddry station on the east coast main line. Eeek! Second, what an excellent job First Scotrail have done with bike provision on their local service trains - 8 bike spaces in one carriage, complete with tyre mounts and seat belts! Bravo! Add in a friendly attendant and it made for one enjoyable train journey home!
A very enjoyable 4hrs ride on trails that have excellent potential for a Scottish 3 peaks type event. And great to be on the cross bike again - it just felt right. Thanks Jac!
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
This photo taken by Lisa, all others by Joolze Dymond
A full showing of the Southern VCM were out to fly the flag for this year's Gorrick Enduro (Phil, Gareth, Lisa and me). The event is a great way to get a long race under the belt relatively early in the year, but unusually, also gives entrants plenty of options to ride shorter distances too. While the course changes subtly each year, the format remains much the same; a 10 mile course around Swinley Forest on the southern edge of Bracknell in Berkshire featuring a fun mix of singletrack, short, sharp ups (and downs), some fireroad to get your breath back and the type of riding that you'll be coming to ride just for fun all year round. Choices run to opting for 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7 laps.
The weather had been kind leading up to the event, leaving the trails dry and dusty and the day was looking like that perfect mix of being warm, but not hot, with some broken cloud, but enough sun to give the thick, pine forest a gorgeous dappling just when you needed distracting from an achy back or crampy quad.
Now, some more specifics on those trails; as mentioned, this is an ace place to ride and the Gorrick organisers always manage to put together a seriously fun course whether for this event or the shorter XC events that they run. Chatting afterwards about what our favourite parts of the course were found that we didn't all agree; mine was a section of Thetford-ish rollers that lead into a fast-as-you-dare descent while others preferred another descent with linked berms and table-tops. The myriad of exposed roots gave plenty of small drops and a choice of line and some well-crafted trail armouring in the shape of the so-called 'ginger-trails' (due to the content of orangey sand) gave miles of distracting singletrack. Also worthy of mention is The Tank Run; a narrow gulley with a swooping trail curving from one side to the other for a few hundred yards in the manner of a toboggan run.
Chat and banter on the start line left those VCMers who were 7 lapping accidentally at the front along with eventual winner Ian Leitch (who has recently been beating the likes of Tinker Juarez in the US at enduro events) and friend of VCM, Steve Webb of Singular, who has been smoking the Masters category in the Gorrick Spring series.
In a field of 82 riders, and a day when nearly 600 riders would hit the trails it was odd to find yourself with just one or two other riders or entirely alone for long stretches - the benefit of a fairly long lap, I guess. I can only speak for myself, but I felt that I couldn't have pushed much harder; stops were kept to little more than a bottle change and snatched gel and distracted glances through those afore-mentioned sun-dappled woods kept the spirits up when legs started going a little wibbly. The advantage of doing all those laps is that you get to know the course and it all starts to flow better as tiredness begins to seep into the limbs. Not that this helped Gareth who wandered off-course mid-race and lost a chunk of time before finding his way back! It didn't stop him from finishing in a strong 4th place though, right behind Phil in 3rd. I was happy with 14th and Lisa pulled in a magnificent 3rd in the 3 lap race. Other friends filled podium spots across the categories; all-in-all a fun and successful day!
It was especially nice to put the bike away with it's coating of dust and globs of gel on the toptube from hastily mis-aimed refuelings. More please!