Thursday, 30 September 2010

Really Long Blog Post...

I think it would be fair to say that my upkeep of this blog has been pretty shabby. I've been pedalling a fair bit, and my cycling chi is doing spiffingly. I don't want the road season to be over! I've decided not to do cross this season, in the hope of saving some pennies for racing next season.


So, where to begin? I did the weekend of racing in Dumfries, which included a criterium on the Friday and a road race on the Sunday. The criterium was too fast for me, but got my legs going for the road race which I enjoyed. It seems odd looking back to those races and thinking they were at the start of this season, because I feel so much stronger now. After that I did a really hilly women's National Series race at Capernwray, which had a 1 mile climb we had to ride up six times. This was a slightly frustrating race as I was at the tail end of the bunch the first time up the climb and we were cut off from getting back into the lead group by people in cars over taking us and pulling in, the roads were too narrow and bendy to get back past. It is possible I shouted a few things at the car drivers. I don't remember what. 


I also did a 3/4 cat race near my home in Cumbria. I was a bit nervous, the last time I raced with men I found terrifying, the pace was too high and crashes seemed inevitable. This time though, I was really pleased. The pace was a lot lower than the Capernwray race, it was a lot easier to move up in the bunch. In my over excitement at not getting dropped immediately I went with a couple of attacks, sat in a bit, and really, really enjoyed it. 


I've also been doing a fair bit of time trialling, and was really pleased to beat my 10 mile pb and go under 24 minutes for the first time. I also travelled down to South Wales to do the BC National TT Champs, I wanted to get a bench mark time against the likes of Emma Pooley. It turned out to be a good bench mark to get, as she is now World Champion. I also got 3rd in the Espoir Category which was great, and had the advantage of not having to saw my bike into bits to meet the UCI regulations as a lot of competitors found themselves having to do. 


Another event I really enjoyed was the Erskine women's crit, the course was quite technical, but the race was great. If I get my points from this event (I think the electronic timing didn't work) then I will also have my 2nd cat licence. 


The Darley Moore Women's National Team Series race was another highlight of this year, because it is the first time I have felt on a par with the girls in those sort of races. It is a flat motor bike circuit, so the race is sort of like a big crit. I finished in the main bunch sprint, in the same race last year I was lapped.


A couple of weeks ago I did the Tour of the Campsies. I had never ridden the course before, so decided to take it easy-ish up the Crow Road in case the back section turned out to be really hard. I was 2nd up the hill by 10 seconds, and 2nd in the event by 2 minutes. My descending was horrendous, and the road surface really bad, but I enjoyed the event and was honestly pleased to finish with my bike in one piece after some of those pot holes. The cake at the end was beyond compare, definitely worth doing the TT for the cake (mm, and the sandwiches, I've just remembered the sandwhiches - ham, cheese AND mustard...in one sandwich!). 


Last but not least I went to Ireland to do the women's Ras na mBan. It was...awesome. Fast racing on terrible road surfaces with stunning views and a nice mix of terrible weather on the last day too (which I strangely really enjoyed). 


I was pretty tired before we started from carrying my bike bag around at the airport, I didn't have a pound coin so couldn't get a trolley, and had to pull my bag from the parking to the terminal. On the first day I was really frustrated as I thought I was last, I spent the first half of the race chasing attacks and being in attacks and then got dropped going over the top of the first big climb and trying to chase back on on my own. As I was coming up to the line I looked behind and saw two girls chasing me, I knew I would be really gutted if I got caught so I just put my head down and pedalled as hard as I could, but my legs had nothing left after the chasing I'd been doing. The girls were about 2cm from catching me on the line. It turned out I was not last, I was in the top half of the field (34th/69). 


The next day was a gravelly circuit with a long climb, I decided to try and conserve some energy and sit in a bit more to see if I could recover for the next days stage. I finished with a group of about 15 girls, and enjoyed the tactics of the sprint.


The time trial in the afternoon wasn't great for me, 2km down hill. I was something like 52nd compared to my 34th on GC, so moved down to 39th overall. 


The last stage was a 60mile road race with over 800 metres of ascent. I opened the curtains in the morning to see that it was raining sideways. I spent this stage really trying to concentrate on sitting in. I think I've been so excited to not get dropped I've been doing too much attacking, chasing attacks and sitting on the front. I tried to sit near girls I knew were unlikely to get dropped, and see that they really do just sit in the bunch as much as possible. There was a cat 1 climb which we had to climb over, ride down the other side and around a circuit and then back over the climb. I was dropped the first time over the climb, just near the top. I was then in some sort of crazy chase on the descent which I would rather my Mum didn't find out about. It was fast. I was so happy to get  back into the bunch as I wasn't expecting it. I sat in again until the next time up the climb where I was dropped again really near the top of the climb. I rode in on my own, and caught and passed a few other girls. I had no idea where I had finished, so was really pleased to see I was 35th on the day and had moved up to 36th on GC. Last year the racing was slower and I was a lot further down on GC, and moved even further down on the last stage, so I was really pleased to beat all the girls I was near in GC on that last stage.


After the stage I had to scrub my legs to get the 'mud/oil lines' off. Who needs tan lines?


Good Lord, I've not even said anything about my riding in France...well, I went to France. I rode there. I won three races and was second in one. I rode Alp d'Huez in a pb time and beat a girl who races for Max Gear and got in the top ten for all women who have ridden the climb using the Timtoo timing system. Number 1 is Jeannie Longo. It was 42 degrees C in the Haut Jura and I went for a bike ride. I had to shelter under a tree, and thought 'man, I'm lame, I can't even cope with a little bit of heat'. Only when I got back did I see what the temperature had been. I SAW LANCE ARMSTRONG. I literally went weak at the knees. Kolobnev stared at me as he rode by...no, really. He actually LOOKED AT ME. 


Right. Wow. Sorry about that. That is a lot of writing. Here are some pictures. And yes, no matter what country I am in, it would appear I do race in those terrible green shorts.







Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Monday, 20 September 2010

Any VCM's fancy a trip to the 3peak

New team bus for the 3 peaks, helpers needed to cheer and hand out wheels,
any luck?
Report on Portland comin soon watch this space

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Did someone say, "Cross racing?"

A new 'cross racing season is in the offing. A new bike has arrived. Shakedown ride successfully negotiated (super-fun in the singletrack). It is time.
































Saturday, 11 September 2010

Kielder 100.

For the last few years i've managed to get over to the east coast of the states in order to do some of the 100 mile races in the National Ultra Endurance series. 100 miles is quite a long way to ride off road, but once you get your head in the right place its not too tough. The difficulty comes when you try to go *fast* for 100 miles. It requires great care in order to get the right amount of calories on board and stay hydrated without carrying too much weight. Last year, SIP events promoted the first 100 mile race in the UK. It fell on the same day as a 100 mile race i did in the states, so i couldnt attend. Despite being a new event, it garnered good reviews for both course and organisation so it seemed a good idea to give it a go this year.

Having the week off before was good. It meant i could try to shake the mild sore throat that had been bugging me for a few days and get lots of rest, do some stretching and get the bike sorted. My decision to race with gears (albeit only 5 of them!) was based around the course having a high quotient of rolling fire road. I just didnt want to apply the washing machine spin for that long.

Unfortunately, two days before the event i managed to develop an arse problem that rhymes with 'smile'. Not pleasant to discuss, but this race report might act as a warning tale for others.

I got down to the race centre in good time on friday, with the race due for kick off at 6.30 am on the saturday. I signed on and had my compulsory racer equipment checked with the help of steve makin, who was due to be racing but a back injury meant he was helping out instead. Next up, cook pasta, and pack the drop bags. Whilst i was doing this, the shady, river-side and wind shielded campsite came alive with midge. The warmth after the recent rains meant a bumper crop too, so eating was performed whilst walking around as i swatted and waved maniacally. The rider briefing was more of the same: some 550 racers all frantically trying to avoid being bitten too many times. I met fellow Moulineer Deano, Phil the horse racing for Morvelo and Gareth Jones racing for Singular cycles. Biff was also there, aiming to complete not just the 100 miles on saturday, but then do a very significant triathlon on the sunday.

An early night after a glass of red wine allowed me to spring into action at 5am when the first of my 4 alarms went off. I was taking no chances on missing the start and i was hopeful that i could get a bit more prep done without midge. No such luck! they were already up and about, although sluggish in the cold morning air. Despite significant cloud cover, it was meant to burn off through the day, so i kept clothing minimal and just used a gilet and arm warmers to keep warm before the start. The queue formed early, so i was happy to be at the front end and minimise any overtaking or over zealous mid packers.

The van lead out almost ended in tears when it stopped to reduce the riders getting strung out too much, then stalled on restarting. After 2 miles it pulled off and the game was on. Five gears isnt many, but the ratios were well picked and my legs were feeling good. I kept in a bunch near the pointy end for the first couple of hours, riding through low lying cloud and on very rolling trail and fire road. For the most part we were going to be on forestry roads, so it wasnt demanding riding. There was the odd section of connector trail which was tricky due to the amount of angled, de-barked branches lining the forestry machinery's deep rutted tracks, but it wasnt for long. Due to the cloud i had removed my glasses and i nearly freaked when i got one of the trail side conifer's branches in my eye early on. Fortunately it settled quickly and i got on with the job at hand.



As we approached the border between england and scotland we hit some man made trail. At first glance this was typical trail centre stuff, but after only a brief time it was apparent that the quality of workmanship and materials used was sorely lacking. It was basically just a prolonged pile of sharp mid sized stones filled in with sandy mud. The gradients and corners were poorly done and at times 'jumps' appeared to have just been dumped with little regard for flow. Nevertheless, before long we were back on forest road and approaching the half way mark. I was still feeling strong and was dead on for 9 hours, which was my personal goal.

However, it was becoming clear that with any serious effort at pedalling or gradient, my pile was beginning to take on the qualities of a red hot poker. Often, i would have to stand up, coast and relax in order to settle things down before going tentatively back to it. There was nothing i could do: i was just going to have to grin and bear it.

By the time we got near Newcastleton and the beautiful trails around there the sun had burnt off the last of the cloud and as i stocked up on a little water and had my 'passport' stamped for getting back into england, i was enjoying the warmth. Unfortunately the long section of fire road from Newcastleton at mile 65 to the last aid at mile 80 was into a head wind and by 10 miles in my arse was so sore i could have screamed. Ironic, given the absolutely amazing Endura pro inserts comfort. I had to stop for a few minutes at one point and just lie down. Then on again and finally i dropped down to the check point, where i met phil, who had pulled earlier and was helping out instead. His encouragement was great and i knew i was still doing pretty well at that point, but stupidly failed to pick up any extra calories from my drop bag. So far i had been using my feed bag (kind of like a climber's chalk bag attached to the handlebars) filled with peanut m&m's and skittles and honey roasted nuts with a little top off of mule bars and heed perpetuum in the bottles alternated with nuun tabs from my drop bags at the aid stations.



The next climb out of the aid station brought me to my knees as all available energy drained from my legs. Cursing my stupidity i scraped the last of the food from the feed bag and nodded as gareth jones pumped the big meat past me up the fire road. By the top i had regained some composure and, despite it looking very unlikely i would break 9 hours, i tried to keep it rolling steadily.

More fire road climbs and searing arse pain followed and a further section of appalling man made trail before we started the final ascents leading to the top of the (again poorly finished) man made trail down to the finish. Pain meant i walked some of the uphills and i could feel time trickling away. Racers were coming by thick and fast and I knew i was hitting the wall as well: i had nothing with any calories and several miles to go.

It was a pretty low ebb for me at that point. My vision was gone and it took all i had to pilot the bike into the finish area at 9 hours 54minutes. Disappointing, but i was done. 50th place.

Packing with very wobbly legs whilst trying to eat hurriedly cooked hot dogs and avoid midge was the order of the day and i sped off home after dropping in my timing chip. As good as it would have been to have chilled out after the race, i just couldnt cope with the plague of midge.

The race itself was *fantastically* organised with many, many volunteers making it easy for the racers to give their best. The course had some great views and was generally good for a long distance ride, save for the horrid man made stuff. I think the forestry need to admit that trying to get more for less doesnt make for great trail.

Next year? maybe. For now i am enjoying - guilt free - a significant chunk of gorgeous Smoked Ardrahan from the Mellis's cheese emporium and taking a week or two off the bike to try and get my arse settled down. One thing is for sure, i wouldnt recommend racing any distance if you develop a pile. Really....

Pics are both from Joolze Dymond.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Ronnie Macdonald Memorial TT

I turned out on Saturday afternoon as VCM photgrapher to catch Johnymac in action at the Ronnie Macdonald memorial 10 mile time trial. Hosted by Ross-Shire Roads CC on a sunny afternoon riders experienced a healthy tailwind to the turn and a not so healthy headwind for the last 5 miles. Despite the headwind there were some good times recorded, John posted a time of 23:48.

Johnymac getting up close and personal. Pic Gordymac

Monday, 6 September 2010

Testing



It was the last weekend of gondola uplift at the Nevis Range at the weekend there, so I decided to test ride my new DH bike and my new VCM t-shirt.
Result: both passed!


Now I need to get my CX head on....

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Kielder 100.



Lets get ready to rumble.

I've started so I'll finish

Ok, so I get the notion to try a midweek cross race while I'm down south, how hard can it be, the weather has been glorious, I've been squeezing short but higher tempo rides in where I can, it'll be good for my legs, yeah?
How wrong can one man be? 
As the sky in the photo will testify it was glorious evening for round 1 of the Rugby Floodlit cross series. The course is set around some rugby fields and uses every little section of gradient there is, on practise it was a big ring blast, something that didn't translate well to the actual race.
A big field lined up, I'm guessing maybe 70 riders spread out in a line and aiming for the far end of the field to make a 90 degree turn and onto the course, the whistle blew and the brutality started, I made it round the corner in the middle of the bunch and onto the course to watch what felt like the entire field pass me up the long drag to the far corner, there was nothing in the tank, so early too, shit. I gritted the teeth and tried my best to hang onto the end of the bunch which was spreading faster than hot butter, all I could hope for was to feel better as the race went on. 
Well I didn't, the leading youth riders quickly caught us and started ploughing through the field, I still had contact with the end of the bunch and from what I could see there was maybe 8 or 9 riders behind me. 
The 3 laps to go sign was like a kick in the balls, my throat was dry my legs refused to do anything, breathing laboured and sweating like a pig. I ground it out, insisting to myself it would do me some good. 
By the end I was broken. 
I need to find some speed from somewhere.

Welcome to Cross season
n'n'n'n'n'n'nineteen