Monday, 24 May 2010

Time Trials, Road Races and Lakeland Hills

 Photo: James Ruskin

The last couple of weeks have contained some annoying distractions for me, meaning I couldn't ride my bike as much as I would have liked, exams I think they are called, and I wouldn't recommend them. However, I've still been riding a bit, so here is a little picture update of me riding in the sunshine. 










University 10 mile TT Champs
I travelled down to Cambridge to do the uni time trial champs, it was really sunny and warm and I had the loan of a disc wheel. I rode to the start line, got there ahead of time and heard the noise no one who has just drive for 5 hours to ride 10 miles wants to hear; my back tyre going flat. They let me start later on but I didn't get an official time. I was in no way frustrated. Moving on...

Ingliston Criteriums
There were five criteriums being run at the Royal Highland Show ground at Ingliston, which Maddy and I both took part in, they were a lot of fun, and provided a very welcome excuse to not revise.






Lakeland Sportif
On Saturday I rode the Lakeland Sportif, I really enjoyed it. The route was 65 miles long, and was kind of like the Fred Whitton Challenge with all the easy miles taken out. It went over Whinlatter, Newlands and Honister from both sides, in a figure of eight loop which my anti-sense of direction would on no account have allowed me to ride if there hadn't been signposts telling us where to go the whole way around. The route was pretty spectacular, I hadn't ridden in the Newlands valley before, and was really pleased this gave me the opportunity to do so without getting completely lost on the way there. My Polar tells me that the maximum gradient was 28% but I think you can see from the route profile below that some sections are quite clearly overhanging. 



I've also done a couple of road races, the Cheshire Classic in which my chain dropped off the first time up the hill, I rode around in a group of around 15 and got pulled out before the finish by the organiser. I also rode the first couple of stages of the Bedford 2 Day but got ill probably due to trying to revise in between pedal strokes. All fun and games. 

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Muir of ord Road Race


My first road race in 17 years. I was a bit nervous at the start not knowing what to expect. I haven't been on the bike for the last 3 weeks with a bit of man-flu, so form was not great going into this.


The distance was 50miles of 4 13 mile circuits finishing short on the last lap with a dirty little climb about 300 yard from the finish straight. Two boys went off the front quite early and stayed away for the rest of the race i think they had about a 3 and half minute lead at one stage, not sure what the final time was, but it was reduced .

My main plan was to stay in the bunch and see what happens. And thats what i did; the pace was highish, but when your sheltered at the back it was pretty easy, just watching out for water bottles flying over the road with the rough surface.


then 3/4 the way round on the 3rd lap i decided to move to the front and do some work it felt pretty good, i did about a minute stint, hoping so more people would work properly and try and reel in the two at the front, it didn't work so i moved back through the field where i was at home and save myself for the group sprint.


The last lap was a lot quicker with boys attacking, and l was struggling to get near the front again.I was boxed in most of the way round, until i seen an opening and a boy going through, i got on to his wheel, and got towed to front 5. About a another 5 or 6 boys came through and i got boxed in a bit. Then on the sprint my legs ran out of steam, and a couple more guys pasted me.


It was good fun, and lets hope its not another 17 years til the next one.

Monday, 17 May 2010

10 Under the Ben

So, by the sounds of it, the whole of Scotland was bathed in glorious sunshine on Saturday except for Fort William, where Maddy and I (and about 1000 other die hards!) slogged it out for 10 hours at 10 Under the Ben in the heavy rain.

Looking back, it felt like it pretty much bucketed down the entire time, with the odd dry spell here and there. Nonetheless, the testing course held up well and was really enjoyable to ride. And at least the rain kept the midges away!


The route was slightly different from last year's (so I'm told) with extra bits of singletrack cut in, keeping it interesting and not simply following the existing World Champs course. These singletrack sections proved to be quite challenging as the day wore on and the fresh roots became more and more exposed.

Also new for this year was the Le Mans style start, which, after agreeing that it would be unfair to expect Maddy to do (broken ankle at Christmas), I was totally dreading. However, the run was more like a 100yard dash across the carpark and I was just about capable of this!

Lap 1 went as expected with queues (?!) at most of the tech-y features with people either crashing or getting off and pushing. But by lap 2, it had all strung out well and Maddy and I found our flow. We decided to take turns doing 1 lap each, which I think was the fastest option for us, and we were sitting in 3rd place from the off (I think!).

Photo: Pete Morgan

We were completeing our laps in quite consistent times with no mishaps, until.....BANG!! Two thirds into my 4th lap I though one of the other competitors had resorted to underhand tactics and tried to take a shot at me. Turned out they hadn't and it was just my back tyre exploding! With no option but to leg it back the 4miles to the finish area carrying/pushing/swearing at my bike, it felt like I was on foot for hours and was convinced I had lost us our 3rd place. But it turned out it only cost us about 15-20mins and we were still safe.

In the end, Maddy & I completed 9 laps in 10hrs40mins and earned ourselves a respectable step on the podium.

The Walkers Cycling girls Alexis Barnes and Julie Nimmo took second, while the Craigie girls Kim and Lee took 1st with 10 laps.

Photo: Ross Black

We also took the opportunity to model the new kit at the race. The fists on the shorts seem a lot bigger when I'm wearing them though....

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Farewell Ride

Serendipity; left the music on random all afternoon and when I decided that I just had to go out for a few hours for a last ride on the trails-from-the-door, Beck was playing 'Farewell Ride'. He was being a bit melodramatic as I'm only moving five miles and will be able to ride these trails on my way home, but it still felt odd.

Gorgeous ride, trails were perfect, bluebells still out, creatures everywhere; more muntjacs than I've ever seen - at one point following two down a trail they parted, one to each side as I rode through like Tracey Island palm trees.

Refreshed and ready for new trails from the door...




























































Thursday, 13 May 2010

local trails and the log o doom

Didn't quite get the hopping dialled enough to take on the log o doom and didn't want to snap my Ibis Hakkalugi or stop with my face (as Marty so beautifully put it) in the process. Will keep practising those hops though - log o doom, you will be mine one day!

cobwebs be gone







Monday, 10 May 2010

Ae Avalanche Enduro.

This weekend was the Ae Avalanche Enduro. Format: friday and saturday course opens for practice. Basically it consists of select parts of the big loop and 'the shredder' one of the downhill runs there. You have a generous amount of time to make it between the timed sections where you race 2 up. Your compatriot is found by doing a seeding run on the saturday afternoon, after practice.



The timed sections are not long - about 3-6 mins....but some are pretty balls-out hard efforts. A lot of fuss is made of stage 4 (of 6) that includes a (gasp!) climb. But for me, stage 6 is the issue - the shredder. i can get down it, and indeed do the jumps on it courtesy of the new bike (well all except the road gap, but that is taken out of the race after a bloke rips half his face off) but i cannot descend it anywhere near in control at race pace.

Saturdays practice (which takes me 3 or so hours) is useful. I'm getting to know the Vertigo, and to be honest i'm pretty overwhelmed by what this bike can and will allow me to do. It is best on hard & fast mountain terrain, rather than table tops and ultra rough dh type terrain, but the limit is definitely the pilot. I crash in qualifying on one of the '7 stanes-typical no edge (tm) corners on loose stones', then again trying to take a poor line on a slimey fresh cut drop in - much to the baying crowds enjoyment.

In the end, i'm top hardtail (though there are precious few) in 74th. Top 25% is good for me. My friend Rob Hamilton Smith smashes into the top 20 and Nico Vouiloz is in 7th ( i think) after on-sighting the seeding run...yep. No practice...amazingly fluid rider....and fellow Moulineer Lyndsey is right up there in the dames (the race organisers term, not mine!).



Race day after an early start: My fellow rider is Stuart Bond - a good bloke. A veteren of several Avalanche and mash up type events, he is really helpful keeping me right. We decide (as many other pairs do - due to the narrow tracks and lack of passing opportunities) to take it turn and about for leading into the sections. We have good banter and are pretty evenly matched, though i use the xc fitness and hardtail to my advantage on stage 4.



On stage 5, stuart has the lead. Unbeknownst to him, i launch off a steep transition on one of the table top jumps. These seem to be more bmx suited than mtb to my mind and many others, and they are pretty unpleasant if you dont soak them up. Needless to say i am skywards and over rotating before i touch down off course heading down a fortunately grassy slope over the course tape and into a small gully. Regaining the course gives me a lot of work to do, but i come in a second or 2 down on Stuart with only the Shredder to come. It is my turn to lead, but i gladly hand this over and Stuart dissappears off nto the distance. A poor line choice loses me more time and my nerves start to jangle as i hit some of the bumps too fast and ragged. Into the final drop on Omega man trail and there is a crowd. At some point i have picked up a puncture and the rear end is fishtailing as i try to soak up the drops. Onto the ladder trail with a last minute adrenalin kick as my completely flat rear tyre refuses to steer me off the end without a caveman effort to keep from flying face first into the brush.



I lost some time on that last stage (probably close to 30 seconds) but that was to be expected. Even so, i made it into 58th place - which i'm pretty pleased with. Next time i need some burlier tyres (stiffer sidewalls really) and some bigger cojones. Lyndsey did really well (i'm sure she will post something soon) and Rob punched it into 13th on a borrowed bike. Given the calibre of the field that is a pretty impressive result!.



Some guy called Nico won, and i'm sure he'll go onto great things.

Good fun indeed.

Spotted!



Jimmy at Mule Bar saw me sporting the Mule logo on my jersey at the Enduro Avalanche at Ae and blogged a photo of the VCM jersey (with me in it!) here.


Report of the race to follow soon ....

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Bealach Beag

You couldn't have asked for a better day in the West for the Bealach Beag Sportive on Saturday, Sheildaig was a picture postcard in the early morning sun.

Once all the pre ride faffing and numbers secured to bikes and riders was complete we set off for the start on the main street in Sheildaig.
Leaving Sheildaig there was enough time to warm up before Tornapress where the serious business of climbing the Bealach na Ba begins in earnest, Ascending 2408ft in just 6miles. Dropping down towards Applecross riders had to battle with a with a nasty crosswind and rather lumpy road surface leading to a few very hairy moments. An evil headwind conspired against the riders on the long stretch to Fearnmore, Seeking to be as aerodynamic as possible left precious little time to take in the glorious views of Skye and Raasay. Finally with the wind in our favour the sting in the tail was about to be unleashed with countless short sharp climbs evenly interspersed to weaken already tired legs in the run back to Sheildaig village.
Gordymac's Bealach Beag stats:
43 miles with 6500ft of ascent.
Climb time: 36 min 10 sec, 12th fastest.
Finish time: 2 hr 34 min, 17th place.


Saturday, 8 May 2010

Friday, 7 May 2010

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

out of the saddle sores

The romanticism of the 'epic' ride is something that still gnaws I am guessing at all of our hearts, I know it certainly does at mine. Recently the overuse of the word epic has turned it on its head and devalued those rides that are truly epic. If I put my hand on heart I can probably list my own epic rides over the last 5 years on one hand, it just doesn't work out that way. Family, time, work and time again conspire to eradicate any chance of 'epicdom' from my riding, something I both accept and reject equally. The problem is the further away from the big riding one becomes the harder it is to embrace it, the 2 hour rides I once took for granted become the pinnacle of my riding, it's all relative, I'm not complaining merely stating the facts.

And so I found myself with 5 days to ride with fellow Endura workmates, Matt, Dave and Kev, good guys all juggling their lives in a similar vein to myself, good riders and good fun the hang with. Accommodation had been booked, a cottage just south of Kyle of Lochalsh with the aim to do some riding, regardless of distance or speed, one thing we had planned though was an assault on the Bealach na Ba, that most infamous of passes. It is an account of this ride that follows.

We had ridden the previous day, nothing ferocious however a very frisky 45 miles (my biggest ride of the year!) that night I felt pretty beat up, not ideal prep for the next days undertaking. The plan to set off at 9am very quickly deteriorated and it was closer to 11 than 10 by the time we eventually got rolling, from the off it was straight into the first of many climbs, feeling good as I warmed though, it was a welcome surprise. The first big descent and into a nice tuck and whoargh, the computer was quickly rising through the numbers when bang around about 50kph the front end started to wobble, I gingerly feathered the brakes, nothing, I started hauling on the back brake and fumbled trying to get a foot out of my pedals in preparation for the worst. By this point the front end was oscillating wildly, I was nothing short of shitting myself. Somehow I got the bike under control and stopped at the side of the road to watch a timber truck come thundering by, I was shaken. I set off again this time a lot more steady, rounding the corner and there was Matt in a layby looking in a state of shock. He too had experienced a massive wobble and had managed to guide his bike to an ungainly stop, the conversation that followed was along the lines of "what the fuck?" Unsure what had caused it we tightened everything, skewers, headsets, stem, handlebars, we set off.

For the next miles we laughed, farted and swore;

"The vocabulary of the Peloton is a masculine one. . In fact, the vocabulary can suddenly become offensive and violent because it is resolutely macho and phallocentric."
Jean Bobet, "Tomorrow We Ride"



A coffee stop at Loch Carron quickly passed and all too soon we were at the start of the Bealach. I had ridden this before in fitter better prepared days, my memory served me pretty well, it was a slow climb that had a violent pitch towards the hairpins near the top, this was the crux. Matt and Kev set a brisk pace flaunting their compact chainsets while Dave and myself set about an altogether more controlled pace. The weather had continued to niggle with classic Scotch Mist conditions and a hoolie of a wind blowing over the pass, slowly and steadily the hairpins are reached offering a little respite before the final push over the top. By this time it was in fact raining and cold, any thoughts of photos, views or a blistering descent were quickly replaced with survival, I just wanted out of this wretched place. Tired, cold and hungry the road dropped us down to Applecross where tired, cold and hungry we hit the pub for food. The weather set in and the pub sapped our energy until the inevitable moment when we had to set off once more.

The road north is lumpy one, I remember hating it the last time I rode it and very quickly I was loathing it once more.

Shieldaig appeared and marked the turn around point as we headed back for Loch Carron. This stretch wasn't so bad, gentle climbs and fast rolling tarmac, in fact our first dry tarmac of the day, though not for long.

For the next miles we farted and swore.


Loch Carron was reached we knew the end was close but some big climbs were still ahead, a final coffee and cake stop and off we went, the fast rolling flat road out of town was welcome and allowed me at least to get my legs spinning, I was very wary of the climbs to come though and tried not to let myself get sucked into any heroics.

For the next few miles I farted and swore.

When the going gets tough, it's everyman for himself and that was the way the final 20 miles panned out, I couldn't see anyone in front or behind me, grind grind grind, it will be over soon. Finally I recognised the road where my wobble incident of earlier had occurred, this was the final climb, steady and relentlessly it rose until the gradient dropped and gears upped, hello big ring it's been a while and over the top I went, a brutal headwind mated to constant rain and a rough road were less than ideal for the final descent but it was the last of the day, reaching the main road I set into a more sprightly pace, still no one in front or behind, grind grind grind. One last turning and the cottage was in sight, on reaching the front door, climbing off the bike, I swore.

96 miles
10310 ft climbing.
2 double espresso
1 bowl lentil soup
1 plate of Spaghetti Bolognase
1 Fruit Slice
1 Mule Bar
1 PowerBar