Velo Club Moulin

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Spot the VCMer

Nice little video from one of the recent North West League rounds (if you can stomach the license free music).

Sunday, 20 November 2011

back cross racin' (about time lad)

It's been 4 weeks (4 flippin' weeks) since I last pinned a number on my back at Mugdock and that was a disaster which had me just about ready to give up 'cross racing afterwards...sorry Simon, Gordy and Maddy for my post race grumpiness! What I learnt from that was if you wake up on the morning of a race and are questioning whether to even bother packing the car and feel knackered/run down/mojo less, listen to your body and give yourself a break..

Fast forward to Sunday morning in Crosby, Liverpool at Ros's folks house and the good fortune of visiting on the very weekend the NW League have a race on a mere 25mins drive away at Stadt Moers Country Park.

A 2am turn in and slightly fuzzy alcohol induced head is perhaps not the best pre race prep, but coffee seemed to fix that. Signed on and kitted up, I spotted fellow VCMer and NW League regular Alex who has been ripping it up this season. Randomly both of us managed to ride through fresh 'brick orange' dog turd... pre riding the course. Non plussed.

Still the course was a good 'un, with a healthy mix of grass, tarmac, brick paving (!), rougher paths, trails and short, steep ups. All rideable in the big ring with no dismounts needed.

The start was a bit wild with Vets, Juniors, Women and Seniors all off together. Alex was off like a scalded cat near the front, my start was 'um rubbish. Never mind, the first few laps were fun working my way up the field a little. At race pace the whole course flowed really well with plenty of zip, a little slick and sticky in places but far from a mud fest.

Passing through the finish with what I thought was around 15 mins to go the laps to go board said FIVE! Cue (wry) smile and curse at the same time. Time to dig in princess! Dig I did, albeit with rapidly tying up legs.

Update: I finished up 13th, ~1hr 14 of racing! Happy with that given 4 weeks of hit and (mostly) miss training, poor start and rubbing rear brake...(oh the excuses)...but it was ace to get back racing again.

Monday, 14 November 2011


I did a cross race at the weekend and it was a lot of fun, made me wonder what I have been doing messing around riding on the road! It's been a while since I got on my cross bike, and a very long while since I did a cross race, but the Uni cross champs were a great reminder of how much I enjoy it. Riding my bike around the practice lap I felt as though the 'race' was going to be a bit of a joke, as I could barely ride around the corners without feeling as though I was going to fall off...pretty sure I didn't look all that pro. A friendly spectator saw me stopped looking down the off camber descent trying to decide whether to ride down or not, and told me which line to ride. I kind of had to ride down after that, as he was stood there watching, I was thankful for the push as it wasn't actually that bad!

I think there were around 20 women racing, which is a good sized field for a women's race. Despite protestations, the organiser decided to set the women off with the men, so it was difficult to tell where you were in the women's field when the race got going, with girls getting mixed up among the men's field. I had a lot of laughs while actually racing, with people wiping out on corners as the course got more and more slippery throughout the race, and just generally laughing at my own lack of bike handling skills. The broad north east accented commentary was also a point of amusement - hearing 'OOoooo, Ross Creber's come a cropper!' made me feel slightly better about my granny like cornering.

Anyway, I've got the bug and am now looking for more (un-technical) cross races to do! Oh dear...not sure the student loan can stretch to this!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

new rider

Welcome our latest recruit Addy Pope, who has recently moved back to Scotland after 10 years in exile (lets not ask, it sounds mysterious). A bit of an all rounder, this is his first proper season of cross so lets make him welcome, he plans to do as many of the SCX races as he can and head to the odd cross race in N England, beyond that, more road races, some mtb enduros and a couple of triathlons. 

Addy above the Skipton Alps

In his own words.
"Hi everyone, i nearly joined the VCM ranks a couple of years back but lost sight of what was important and fun.  But I have refocused and got myself sorted.  I met Andy W at uni many moons ago and marvelled at how clean his bike always was, this hasn't changed.  I rode with the EUCC boys while at uni and then moved south to South Wales to pursue my other love, Glaciers.  However, there don't seem to be any glaciers in Wales so I did a stint in the high Arctic.  Since then I have been working my way back to Scotland having lived in Skipton for a few years.  Somehow I never managed to get round to doing the 3 Peaks race, although I did support for a few people. 

I have biked pretty much my whole life, mainly mountain bikes but dabbled with the dark side of road bikes while in Yorkshire.  In a normal year I will try to get a couple of road sportives in, either the Fred Whitton or the Etap Du Dales and a few mtb marathons.  I also really enjoy 24hr races, but have yet to "go solo". Teams seem more fun and less painful. I try to head to the alps each year to ride, usually with Sam at BikeVillage and rode the TransProvence last year, an epic event but a bit prices (note - I was setting the course so saw none of the gourmet food and survived off pasta and sauce for a week sleeping in unheated caravans and carrying all our kit rather than having a cook, mechanic and porterage of all your clean clothes).  Arriving in Monaco in clothes that you had been riding in for 7 days was a bit of a shock for the locals..... Apparently we were not the kind of people they wanted lounging in the Casino gardens.
I have a wee blog(building it at present) and flickr site "

Monday, 31 October 2011

October in the North West

Time to ramble...
It's been a busy month of racing round these parts with 5 rounds of the North West CX League crammed into October. I'd missed the two opening rounds through being away in the equally exotic climes of Italy & Leeds, so rolling up to the start line at round 3 in Bolton I was shoe-ed towards the back of grid having amassed a sum total of bugger all series points. A reasonable start & a mass pile up meant I squeezed my way up into the top 30 by the first corner. It was absolutely lobbing it down making the going fully wet & slippery but not boggy. For a few laps I had a good tussle with Velocake's Tim 'tubs & turbo trainer' Kershaw, chasing each other down & picking our way through the field. Tim finally got a gap on one of the descents that I couldn't reel back in, staying just out of reach until the end. I just scraped my way into the top 20 (that'd be 19th) & got my first league points of the season on the board. Not overly blown away with my performance, but then it was my first cross race for a few weeks & having been doing loads of long steady rides I was expecting it to take a couple of weeks to get up to speed again.

Next stop was up to Winderemere for round 4, incorporated into the Rapha Super Cross. Good to see Rapha making a bit of positive input, giving people who aren't the begrudging other halves a reason to take a look at what was going on. A Superprestige it wasn't, but with hundreds of free cow bells handed out, Duvel being served by the pits & a commentator that seemed aware of what was going on in the race, it was certainly substantially more spectator friendly that usual.

On pre-riding I rather liked the course; there was a stiff little climb in there & some relatively techy bits. The one thing that did stand out was how short the lap was. That caused a bit of an issue at the start - impressively over 150 were on the line but with just 50metres of open field before a hairpin it got a bit sticky. I like a bit of good humored argy-bargy at the start of these things, but that many people manically trying to find a line just causes some to get a bit panicked & others get a bit too aggressive, shitty & plain rude. I can do without that, so decided to calmly pick my way through when the opportunities presented themselves.

All was going pretty well with that tactic for a few laps, eventually getting a pretty clear run at the course. Then two things went wrong.
1: It got claggy. It had been wet, then it was warm & dry. All those wheels churned the mud up pretty bad. As a one bike competitor I felt the effects. Wheels didn't go round very well. Then not at all. I ended up having to stop twice a lap to pull handfuls of clag out of my frame & forks, loosing places every time to those that were able to grab a clean bike from the pits.
2: My gears went all clunky. Just out of alignment enough that whenever I stood on the pedals the chain chunked about over two cogs. It was then that I realised that blundered into a schoolboy error, having built my one & only race bike without any barrel adjusters on the gears. I felt like a tit for that. Quite grumpily I finished a lowly 40th on the day.

Then a change of fortune :-) The following day was round 5 at the fantastically named Boggart Hole. It's properly ace there, one of my favourite courses with loads of off-camber rooty bits (for a cx course), singletrack & a long climb. I rode well there last year, so I was hoping to finally get the season up & running. Another big field started, but thankfully starting around a suitably big field before dropping into the woods. Still un-gridded I managed to razz my way round the inside corners to get into the first singletrack section towards the front of the pack. Stomping on nicely I had time to look up & gauge roughly where I was in the race - further up than I was expecting. Pushing on I was waiting for a stream of riders to come passed, but whenever I caught a glimpse behind no one seemed to be closing. Perhaps I was on for a good one. Eventually Roy 'still amazingly quick for an old fella' Hunt crept through, but that was it. I stayed strong & picked up 10th on the day. It was yet another strong turnout, so I was really chuffed with that particularly after the previous day's frustrations.

Roll on another week & it was back oop north to the home of Hope Technology, Barnoldswick for round 6. A new course to the league & one that rode ok, but when hit at race pace became great fun. A kind of classic British cross course with 5 dismounts a lap: 2 sets of boards, 1 set of steps & 2 slimey banks to run up. Plus a sandpit. And a barbecue, although that wasn't actually on the course.

Once again, missing those two opening rounds meant I was hidden in the bulk of riders on the start. Thankfully I was catching up with my old compadre Ian Wilkinson before the gun went & managed to jump on his wheel for the first couple of hundred metres, getting dragged passed many riders, escaping the inevitable bottleneck at the first corner. Needless to say that was the last I saw of Wilks' wheel as he buggered off to the front of the race. Once again I felt I was riding strongly, right in the mix with a few of the handy NW league riders, jostling for positions, putting in little digs where possible & picking up positions. I struggled a bit on one long off-camber bank, trying to ride it & failing, then trying to work out the best way to run it & failing. Yet I seemed to edge out the others on most other sections of the course managing to stay away & finish 13th. Another good result for the likes of me.

End of the month was racing at a classic NW venue, Otterspool Park. Another course I enjoyed last season, usually really fast going with a good amount of woodland tracks, plus a cobbled climb that is permanently wet. Pre-ride went well & I was looking forward to getting stuck in after the performances I pulled out in the last two rounds. Then.... NIGHTMARE!... In the mad dash of the start loop a rider somehow managed to clip my rear QR. The wheel now loose in the dropouts was forced into the non-driveside chainstay where it wedged & stopped me from going anywhere fast. By the time I'd got off & sorted it all out the whole field of over 110 riders was in front of me. That wasn't the plan. For a moment I pondered sacking it off for the day, by instead I decided to HTFU & get on with it. I spent the next hour riding out of my skin. I ripped through the back makers now thinking that any league points were better than none. After a few laps I started spotting some of the usual suspect I end up racing with. That gave an extra bit of impetus to keep on top of the gears for the last few laps. I wound up moving from DFL to 13th rider home, just missing out on 12th in a sprint for the line. Mathematically not my best result, but definitely my best ride turning round a crappy bit of luck. I feel like I have now earned the right to don the new VCM skinsuit.

It's comforting to know that I didn't have the worst luck of the day... One guy forgot to charge the battery for his fancy-dan Di2 gears!


Irvine doesn't look so hard anymore.


Monday, 24 October 2011

Indian Summer in the city

This weekend had been ear-marked for a while. Two very different cyclocross events, both individually very exciting and both in London. It was also to be my first cross racing of the year.

First up was Muddy Hell in Herne Hill on Saturday night. Sponsored by Knog and run by the Rollapaluzza guys, this event already has a big reputation for being fun, tough and entertaining. Racing begins around dusk with a flood lit section in the middle of the track and riders wearing lights. It's runs on a unique course that featured a sand-trap, steep drop-ins and steep ups (one very dusty one requiring bike-shouldering) a little tarmac, the ubiquitous barrier, quite a lot of twisting singletrack, a hosed muddy corner (required what with London basking in hot and dry conditions and the course mostly throwing dust up into the riders lights). The most unusual features were a wooden wall-ride and a steep-sided bridge that led straight into a tabletop that the more skilled riders could get some impressive air from (step up friend of VCM, Phil Moore).

Having left entry a bit late, I ended up in the catch-all novice class, but the racing remained hard, hot and fast (especially as I was in a full-body skeleton skinsuit with mask that frequently obscured at least one eye, restricted breathing and kept getting caught on the saddle). Great fun to ride with my good friend Andrew Diprose in his Spidersuit, heckle Mr Blobby and soak up the atmosphere at what is a fantastic event. There was kids' face-painting, roller-racing on mountain bikes and plenty of beer. Make a note for next year. I ended up 18/75.

Sunday was to be treated a little more seriously. The third (and final round) of the Rapha Supercross series held at Alexandra Palace in North London. The weather was highly un-cross-worthy being sunny and very warm with views from the top of the course across all of London and beyond (there's a reason the BBC transmit from here). Ominously this also meant a fiercely climby course. I began to regret bringing the singlespeed as soon as we arrived.

Gareth raced in seniors and I raced vets (my inaugural year among the gnarled and grizzled). Only in Roubaix have I seen a better attended race (I'm sure the weather and views won't have done any harm) and a large group of friends were there to heckle us on our way.

The course was challenging, but fantastic fun, featuring very little flat and a lot of 'interest'; steep tarmac up, loose and fast singletrack, steep and sharp hair-pins, one corner littered with acorns like natures ball-bearings, proper tall barriers, a set of stairs and a looooong grassy climb that left me feeling like I had heat-stroke and T-rex arms.

Despite all of this the course was very compact and with the 'firm going' we did at least 10 laps (I lost count). The hurdle section at one point became almost a tunnel of heckling with friends screaming and cow-bells shaking - I had to smile despite the pain.

The singlespeed worked out for me, I think as the climb remained rideable and there was so little straight that there was little disadvantage to not having a taller gear.

Gareth shot past me first time up the climb and was not seen again, racing whippet that he is and the race passed in that odd way that cross races do feeling both interminably long and over in a flash all at once. Small battles ensued and the camaraderie of the battle-worn was shared at the finish as we saw our own pain reflected in the eyes of others.

Really tough and fantastic fun at the same time. Results aren't in as yet.

Plans are already afoot to do the full series next year.

In the City there's a thousand steps......

A small sample from a great day. I'm sure Gareth and Deano will have some more to say now they're recovered!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Friday, 21 October 2011

Plean: 16/10/11

This year's 'Cross racing has started in earnest now: a HUGE field of riders convened in the Country Park at Plean to fight for the win in the second round of the Scottish Cyclocross series. Conditions leading up to the race had been typical of Scotland in October - wet and windy. The clay soil and stretches of grass and roughly trimmed-back fern were always going to test when sprinkled with a dose of precipitation and on the day, despite dry weather, the battle royale was with the course not one's fellow competitors.

Personally, i saw 9 snapped rear hangers/derailleurs and there were surely many i did not see. A costly and frustrating mechanical which caused many riders to pull. For those who had spare bikes, good luck or (like myself) a singlespeed steed the main issues were pulling great wads of mud and vegetation from the wheels and frame several times per lap. At one point i was jettisoned over the bars as both wheels locked simultaneously.

Challenging conditions, yes. Frustrating yes. It might be said that the marshals could have removed the chicane before the timing tent in order to prevent the ignominy of having to repeatedly dismount and trudge over a 10 yard flat section of course needlessly. Yet it still managed to be a rewarding day in the saddle. Good power to weight ratio is always a winning combination and so it proved for Gareth Montgomerie who was head and shoulders from the rest of the senior men's field. Our own Colin May(this is a rumour. ed) and Andy 'huphup' Wardman put in a super solid effort to claim 3rd and 5th respectively and Greig Walker and Gordy Mac put pedal to the metal for 11th and 14th. I managed to huff and puff my way round for 32nd in my first race back after coming out of semi-retirement. Bitten again by the 'cross bug, i'll be hoping for a little more at Mugdock.

In the vets race, Davie and Simon 'miffae de' Muir slam dunked for 17th and 22nd - not without some incident in the tough conditions - including a catastrophically burping tyre from Simon. The win taken in fine style by Gary McRae by a whisker from John Mccaffery.

In the women's race Anne Murray took the top place despite having Square Wheels, with VC-M's Maddy Robinson taking the 3rd step on the podium and Lyndsey Carson in 10th.

Next stop is Mugdock and let it be known - we are ready to rock.
Thank you to trina for the pictures, and Daisy for not disowning her dad.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

What a difference a week can make.

Just about this time last week I was getting home after a long weekend of grade-A awsomeness in the Dolomites. A group of 17 of us popped out to Cortina for 4 days of riding up & down some of the best mountains in the world, in stunning scenery, fueled by fine wine, good food & banter.

Two relatively easy days sandwiched two of the best rides I've ever been on. First of which was the classic Maratona loop, taking in 7 major cols (plus a couple of smaller, yet still substantial ones too) including the Passo Falzarego, Pordoi & the Giau.

We followed that up with a ride out to Ovaro & then straight up Zoncolan. Now that thing is something else. Relentlessly tough & impressive in equal measures. I've never ridden anything like it. Thanks to the cheeky 11-32 cassette I managed to drag my arse up to the summit a good way ahead of the rest of our group to take our KOM competition :-)

This weekend, by stark contrast, I found myself racing around a wet field in Bolton.

...All good stuff mind.

Friday, 7 October 2011

scx irvine

The first race of the season is always a speculative affair, riders get to lay out their cards in front of their peers and old rivalries get the shake down and pick up the pieces from the previous seasons confrontations. Just like the battles, friendships are rekindled and the whole party begins for another couple of months.

Irvine is arguably the best cross course in Scotland added to Walkers Cycling usual high standard of organisation, it provides a win win way to kick off the calendar. If I only rode one race this year it was going to be Irvine. 

Me (thats not a smirk)

The Vets lined up on one of the biggest start lines seen in Scotland, 81 amassed, mostly vets with a few Women and a couple of Juniors. The start was furious and I found myself on a cheeky line up the inside and into a fairly fast group, by the top of the stairs I knew I was outta my depth and quickly shot backwards where I belonged and that is where I stayed for the next couple of laps until I punctured on the 3rd, very far from the pits. I rode and ran the rest of lap and lost a couple of minutes but picked up my trusty old Bontrager (now SS) and rejoined the race. With the pressure off I could really start to enjoy the course and the flow, in the end I finished 38th, pretty much smack in the middle of the race, not unhappy at all in light of the lost time. Next stop top 20. Elsewhere Simon was chasing the top 10 but the Vets field is so deep now he was always chasing, still 12th is a sterling start to the season. Iain Mellis plugged away for 50th, there's better to come, isn't there Iain?

Simon is trying

In the Womens race Maddie and Lyndsay threw down the hammer and Maddie had a good battle with Genevieve Whitson (Ronde) who eventually overcame her to take the win  but a great start for Maddie, a win is imminent. Lyndsay recovering from a cold stretched out her legs for a 6th place being squeezed by the locals from Walkers Cycling.

Maddie is focussed

Lyndsay is cruising

The senior race was an altogether frenzied affair. VCM's sole rep in this race was carried on the shoulders of Andy Wardman (where were you all?) fortunately he delivered, straight into the holeshot, Craig Hardie (Hardie Bikes) had other plans though and obviously had a clear game plan of, put in a massive effort to gap the field then hold them, which he did with great style, nice work. Behind Hardie though all hell was being unleashed, positions were changing fast and in the end there were some awesome rides, Andy finished 5th ahead of Ben Greenwood (Rapha Condor Sharp) for a great start to his season.

Andy is unleashing

 All photos By Steven and Ainsley Turbitt

The season is go.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

this is it

Cross racing at the pointy end captured brilliantly in 1min 3secs.

Stoemper Presents Ben Berden from Stoemper on Vimeo.

Am a big fan of Chris Millimans photography. Love this short video - makes me all twitchy and itchy to race!

Link spotted on mudandcowbells where they've also got some pics just up of the new Clement LAS tubulars.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Cross Racin'

Just got my entry in for the 1st round of the National Trophy at South Shields, Sun 9th Oct. Not too far to travel to get a taste of racin' with the big guns of UK 'cross! Was that racin' or a pastin'?

Any other VCMers fancy it?? Entries available online until this Thursday, 29th Sep.

Don't think i'll make it to any of the other Trophy rounds, maybe the National Champs at Ipswich on 8th Jan if all goes well and still feeling frisky.

Also going to head down to the Windermere round of the Rapha Supacross Series on Sat 15th Oct.

Right looking forward to SCX Rd 1 at Irvine this Sun, catch you there. Oh and just spotted The Tri Centre are putting on Hallocross at Craigmillar Park on Mon 31st Oct. Night time cross race on awesome course! Ace!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Tour de Ben Nevis

A composite team headed to NW Scotland last weekend for the Tour de Ben Nevis, a 72 km race round Scotland's most depressing mountain (oh, c'mon it is...).
1 x VCM (Me)
1 x Innerleithen MTB Racing (Dougie)
4 x McDougall's Dream Team (Colin, Dave, Dave & Niall)
Well, when I say team, any semblance of team work went out of the window as soon as Frazer from No Fuss sounded the hooter and we took off in pursuit of the pipe band along Fort William's High Street.
After the pipe band peeled off, it was up, up and up again out of town to meet the West Highland Way. As far as warm ups go, it was a bit of a brute and a number of athletes looked fair peched before we hit the rough stuff.

MJS_0629 by martysavalas

Although I'd ridden the old military road through the glen a number of times before, I'd forgotten how rough it was and it took a while to start to pick up some places after an early, er comfort, break. Elbows in on the fast, wide descents brought me to the first of the special stages, a plunge down into Kinlochleven. 250m or so of vertical loss down a waterbar filled, technical(ish) trail. Got a bit carried away at one point and took a wee dive into the bushes, but made it down to the tarmac safely without flatting  a tyre. Given that this was a timed stage, I was slightly surprised to see people fixing  punctures trailside within the stage as for most of them it'd have been quicker to tumble down the hill on foot and to fix the blowouts after dibbing out of the stage. See notes to self...

After a very brief respite on tarmac, it was up, up and up again on the tarmac climb past Mamore Lodge, the next special stage of the day. Having ridden up this recently, I knew it was a bit of a stinker and with the dibbing out point a fair way ahead and a long way up, it was time to grind it out. A quick stop to refuel and two stops to de-water (note to self: in the timed section, y'idiot) before dibbing out, and then it was another well kent trail along to the crossing of the Abhainn Rath by Luibeilt.

This was where the Real Scottish Mountain Biking© started - a 45 minute+ hike-a-bike section up and over the Lairaig Leachach on a largely an unrideable trail to the north. Push, carry, push, swear, push, carry, swear, repeat...

After a while it was back on an increasingly unhappy sounding bike for a super fast forest road descent before taking a left turn into Leanachan Forest. The next few km of trails and forest road saw me sink four Mule Bar Kicks in an effort to stave off an impending bonk (another note to self: eat early) as fatigue set in. Suitably fuelled, I finally hit the Ten under the Ben course and I knew I was on the home straight. With rabbits to chase, it was on to the Blue Crane trail and following a brief readjustment after the dibbing station (note to self: FFS!) it was a crampy carry down the tricky bit and back on the bike. Caught a dude that had been 100m in front or 100m behind all day and the impetus of not wanting to be caught carried me through pretty quickly to the penultimate dibbing point.

Little more trail (and Nessie) and it was onto the cycle path back into Fort William. With places meaning points it was worth the slightly dirty feeling of some late overtaking to finally dib out with the superfriendly marshals at the Ben Nevis Distillery.

After the final checkpoint, competitors had 20 minutes to make it along the cylepaths into town past the Jason McIntyre Memorial and one last comical drop (i.e. carry down) into the back of the High Street in 5 hrs 44,mins, 16 minutes up on my target.

A quick change and a gnawing hunger led us back into town for chips and a quick pint once Dave and Colin popped up.

My finish led to 58th place on the big lap and only dropped a couple of places on the times stages to finish 60th overall, which I was pretty pleased with. Improvement next year fo sho.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Return of the winter commute.

Return of the winter commute:
The realisation kicked in this morning, autumn commutes are back. Leaving a bit late I pedaled hard towards work:
LEDs blinking valiantly in the half light.
Needles of rain stinging my squinting face.
Fully laden bag on my back catching crosswinds & making any attempt at aerodynamics futile.
Gortex flapping like a cheap tent on a hill top.
Wary of gateways.
Wet arse.
Cold hands.
The thought of wet shoes for the ride home.

Opening the Account:
On the bright side I opened my racing account for the cx season the other day at the first round of the Notts & Derby league. I finally got round to setting up a single ring set up on my bike the morning of the race. My bike is now a couple of pounds lighter than it was last year & I'm a couple of kilos lighter than last year. However, I was still expecting the same slightly above average results. As it turned out it went pretty good. I rocked up to find I was lining up with over 170 starters in the main race. It turns out that the competition is much stiffer than at my usual North West League events. Brutally hard as you'd expect, with some good elbows out fun & games on a really ace course with some good techy bits, big step up dismounts & a bit of a motocross track thrown in for good measure. Feeling a little way off race sharp it took a while to get re-accustomed with that old familiar feeling of lungs trying to force their way out of my chest, but all went well with me finishing 36th, on the same lap as the winner.

Next stop... the Dolomites to ride up & down big hills :-)

Monday, 19 September 2011

new rubber

Some FMB Super Muds and Gripos just landed through my door. Excited! The Super Mud is a new tread from FMB to take on the mighty Dugast Rhino.

John Holmes at Cyclocross Imports got these in for us.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Putting the miles in

Ventoux, Alpe D'Huez, Galibier, Col de la Croix de Fer, Glandon. Beer, friends, grimaces, smiles. Can't. Wait.

Friday, 9 September 2011

tis the season to get get muddy

With 3 weeks until the SCX kicks off, it's important to remember that this series rocks. 
The best reward race organisers can get is racers. 
Lets go race.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

It felt like a summer holiday...

"Saturday 20th August. Essentially from dawn until dusk. Basel (CH) -> Freiburg im Breisgau (D), so through the Southwestern (most hilly!) bit of the Black Forest. Offroad."

It was one of those random internet offers that occasionally appear - originally pitched as an unofficial 'race' but eventually morphing into an excuse to gather some disparate folks in a lovely location to go ride bikes [and bask in the Swiss Summer Sunshine™].

The offer came from Ash, honch of the Trans Provence and Trailfinder-in-cheif of trailaddiction who happens to stay in the area.

A busy week at work meant packing a few hours before flying out - not a great time to find out that my bike needs lots of bits unbolted so it fits in a bike bag, still it went in and managed to come out the other side in one piece.

After Dan and I made the super plush [and suitably spendy] Jugendherberge Basel St. Alban a bit less sleek by building bikes outside we wandered off to Ash's to get some info on a local ride. Heading up to one of the bridges across the Rhine we met a slightly puggled Jenn carrying her bike down the hill to the Hostel. Did I mention it was hot and sunny?

Some bread, cheese and cooling shade at Ash's was complimented by some detailed beta on a local ride which we suffered on in the afternoon sun. Dust! Oh and there were highland cows over the border in Germany, too...

After a bbq and some beers on the bonny banks of the Rhine with Dan's friend Cannondale Chris we retired early to our post modern penthouse youth hostel preparing for an early start tomorrow.

I think I may have slightly overestimated how early Dan I were likely to be in the morning but this allowed Jenn to apparently have time for two coffees before we shambled into view.

A short pedal later we mustered at the German train station, the group twelve strong: various Brits, some really quite quick locals [especially the Alpha Females], a trio of Swedes. Once some supplies for the day had been procured from market in the station we were off!

And goddam we were off at pretty much race pace... it was nice and cool and as we were following a canal for the first 10km or so out to the hills. By the time the hills had gained a bit of steepness and the sun was beginning to warm up it was around 3 hours in and I had pretty much bonked already. Riding a squidgy lump of a bike did not help... Nurse! The Gels...!

So there were trees and hills, hills and trees and there was the Zick-ZackWeg, I'm sure you can figure it out. There was also some sweet ribbons of cheeky singletrack. I'm not sure exactly what the rules are on bikes on walking trails, but there did not seem to be much love from the walkers we met - maybe the quick girls and boys at the front forgot to say hello... Either way I was happy to play the Scottish Card...

A lunchtime lull of apple tart and alcohol-free weiss bier fed us into the maw of the days big climb - a 400m grind to the top of Belchen amongst the tourist throng congregating atop the fourth highest peak in the Black Forest.

Some cheek off the top of the hill [along with a small bit of walker grump] highlighted a change in the terrain with more rocks around. There was also the incident with electric assist bike that Chris had brought along on the ride - a minor tumble snapped a control cable which he expertly re-spliced and insulated the lot with insulating tape. Good to know that MTB 2.0 can be trail bodged.

Ash was kind to us and allowed a contouring option for the next 20km to the next peak, instead of a 450m descent and 700m climb... That really would have hurt, and the Alpha Females would have become even more twitchy about missing their train home.

Schauinsland topped out with 35m of bonus climbing up the impressive Eugen-Keidel observation tower. A lattice structure with 3 massive single tree trunk verticals.

Time to head down, to get the train, but first 10km and about 750m of descent on fast swoopy trails. Hero dirt for heros. Obviously people were having too much fun as the puncture fairy unleashed merry hell on the group.

I think there were six in total in the space of a few km. I may have had two.

I may also have forgotten to bring spare tubes. Umm... Thanks Dave360 and Jenn for the bailouts... Oh, the Puncture shame.

Still it was a nice day to be out.

Train back to Basel, beer, kebab, river - continue until dark.

Most excellent... thanks to all concerned.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Cromarty Queen

Patiently waiting for the Cromarty- Nigg ferry, £5 opens up the quiet roads of the Black Isle for a healthy 100km circuit of the Cromarty Firth.

How about a Northern Monument ride in 2012?

Monday, 29 August 2011

Race of Truth

Sunday morning dawned wet and conditions didn't improve any by the time I started the Muir of Ord 2up 25 mile time trial with my time trial partner in crime Donnie Macdonald. Set over two laps around Muir of Ord the course includes a long drag up over Brahn and a few other wee kickers to really take it out of your legs, We battled on through Blustery wind, more rain, road spray and pot holed roads to post a time of 1:08:51 for fifth place and third placed handicap time, Not too shabby considering all the teams ahead of us were on time trial bikes.

Picture: Donny Mackay(MFCC)

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Moulin 200

MJS_9677 by martysavalas
The third of VCM's Monument rides served up a monster ride on a perfect day in Highland Perthshire. The plan - 200km with some beefy climbs including Glen Quaich and the infamous Ben Lawyers road over to Glen Lyon. The reality - around 170km including the big climbs, but missing out on the Braes of Foss and the extra kms.

Great roads, great weather and great company. Many thanks to those that nursed me along when I was swinging off the back. Hope you enjoyed the rest at the top of the climbs...

What's next?

Thursday, 4 August 2011


Beautiful musettes made by IL Soigneur fully lined heavyweight waterproof canvas with a black ripstop liner. A little wider than a regular musette, they make a great pit bag for cross, it'll take a light jacket, bottle, multi tool no problem. I've squeezed a 13" Macbook in mine too, though I wouldn't endorse this sort of behaviour, rather use it for all that prize money you will be winning in a couple of months time. 
Price includes postage in the UK.

Go ahead treat yourself.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

there's a thin line between love and hate

£29.40. That's what it cost to pre enter the last round of the SXC series at Kinnoull Hill, sixty pence shy of thirty bangers. That's a lot of money and it was with some trepidation I set off for my first Cross Country race since I can't remember when? Now there was a time that come the end of March I would be travelling every second weekend to some far flung corner of the UK to race XC, they were simple times turn up for the weekend pitch the tent have a beer and some camp stove food, get up the next day race for around 2.5 hours and drive home. That was my way of life for the summer. As one series failed after another and the rise of team participation and endurance events took hold, XC stopped being a way of life and was reduced to racing in Scotland only but it was a friendly local scene where everybody knew each other and the courses were diverse and on the whole it made for a good day of racing. Somewhere in the late 90's that started to change though, as races got shorter and I got older. I drifted away from the sport dabbled in endurance and generally stopped racing.

This race was always going to be a shock to my system, I was under no illusions of that, XC is a hard sport and I knew it was going to be a slog especially as my bike isn't exactly suited to racing but in my mind I still visualised that turn up and have a go mindset of years gone by. So the day before I fitted some fast tyres gave the bike a fairly good looking over and packed my bag, I was looking forward to it. 
On arriving, running a bit late I hastily signed on and had a few blethers with folks I hadn't seen in some time and others I had. Set off to explore the start of the course in a vague hope of shaking some weekend out of my legs before lining up to start. The start line was the usual nervous banter and familiar faces, bizarrely 5 categories were racing together and starting separately and before long we were off.

Downhill starts are always nervous affairs and having been warned by the commissaire as a crash in the mornings race had occurred, the wise old men of Vets set off. Riding SS into a downhill fire road only works for a short period of time, quickly I was running out of pedal and watching the field spread out in front of me, then boom, straight into a singletrack climb that bottle necked immediately and left me dismounted and running at the tail of the race to try and hold onto the remnants of the field. From here on the course went on a series of climbs and descents of varying steepness, narrowness and fun. I accepted I wasn't going to win and focussed on a least not being last, which was hard enough. 
The laps ticked by and thankfully I was lapped close to the end of the third lap meaning i didn't have to put myself through another lap of degradation. Back to the car and a quick wash down and tidy up and I was off feeling a bit miffed a little achy and in need of some savoury food.

Post race, showered fed and watered i reflected on the day. Had I got what I wanted out of the experience? Trying to stack up the pro's and cons I reached some mixed conclusions. The course was good, hard and fast, it would have been a different deal n the wet but  fortunately it was mostly dry. However it was shabbily marked out, no direction arrows, no warning signs for both rider and public that I saw, which is in my opinion the bare minimum, I'm surprised these things weren't picked up on by the race official during pre ride. The venue itself despite being great for laying out a course has shortcoming in parking, most of us were parked up a fireroad which dissolved any sense of 'village' as folks mostly hung around their cars before the race. 
So will I be back? Well one thing for sure I need a more appropriate bike but bike aside laying down £29.40 for 90 minutes of racing is a bitter pill to swallow and for me certainly I would have to think long and hard before doing so. Is XC dead? No, but SS most certainly is for this old man.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

guess where I am?

Guess where I am?

                                                               Second wheel, best place to be.
                                                  Strung out in the cross wind, when will. the elastic snap?
                  I was in there somewhere...not nice seeing the leaders go round that corner and being miles back!
                                                                                    I did a TT.
                                                                       Bloody Scotland. Bloody pollen.

                                                            Day after the Marmotte, race up Alpe d'Huez.
                                                     Suffering on the Galibier. Look so much better than I felt.
                                                                              Bloody cobbles.

I, thanks to the help of the Dave Rayner Fund, have been spending the season in Belgium. Flat roads, death ridges, bike paths, cobbles and cross winds. Mostly I get spat out the back rather unceremoniously, but every now and again I manage to hang in there until the end. Hay fever has played a bit too much of a part in my season than I'd have liked. Once, the day after it rained (so no pollen/wheezing/nose bleeds) I attacked and was away on my own for a whole lap. Don't really know what I was thinking. Grace Verbeke came flying past me in the tale wind and I was back in the bunch. I've been flying the Moulin flag as much as I can, but team jersey in most races.

I also went to France to do the Trophee de l'Oisan. Wow. It was an amazing week of suffering, after which I had post-Oisan induced blues which I'm not sure I'm over yet. Ali and I were camping, which most other people doing the event seemed to think was insanity. We started thinking that mid-week, but hey, better than not being there at all which the costs of a hotel would have meant.

We met some really cool people out there. The racing was awesome, so hard. Grown men admitted to crying on the Galibier, during the Marmotte. Ali was in the lead group but still got beaten by a girl in La Vaujany. My front brake came loose and was wobbling around during the Vaujnay, including descent of the Sarenne, a goat track down the side of a mountain they had us race down. My gear cable got mangled and was poking out of my lever so for the whole Marmotte I thought I was on limited gear changes as it was going to unattach from the mangle-age at some point, and it was stabbling me in the hand. Ali was in the lead group in the Marmotte, and on the descent of the Lauteret, a massive fat guy in black stealth kit came bombing past them to sit on the front of the group and towed them all the way down. I rode a faster time in the Grimpee de l'Alpe the day after the Marmotte this year than I did two years ago when I hadn't done the Marmotte the day before. All of this = awesome.

Oh, and I was about to publish without saying - I won the freaking Trophee de l'Oisan! How cool is that? I was pretty psyched, almost wet myself when I found out. I was in third place after the second event, hadn't seen the results until after the last event. It was crazy because the girl who came second was less than a minute faster than me in the Marmotte. Less than a minute. Over 110 miles with over 5000 metres of climbing. Mental. Then I beat her by 3 minutes over 8 miles the next day. My bunch of flowers came with a free massive green catepillar, the almost see through kind. Bonus. As we were riding down the Alpe after all events were finished Ali said to me 'You just won the f****** Trophee de Oisan!!', and some guy riding up the other side shouted 'Congratulations!'. It's things like that that make it.

The entire event had 12400 metres of climbing, over four events within a week. There were 400 women doing the Marmotte. 7450 starters overall, out of whom I was 2000 and something-th. I was 19th female. My aim was to finish, which I was proud of myself for doing.

One of my favourite parts was riding  back down Alpe d'Huez after the Marmotte, just riding slowly and yelling at all the people riding up, 'Bon Courage! Welld done! Keep going! Venga, venga! Allez!'. I just thought they were all so awesome for being there. I didn't want anyone to be feeling rubbish because they weren't fast enough/whatever. They had just ridden the Marmotte! That's so crazy. Some of them looked like they were suffering so much, I just wanted to do anything to give them a bit more of a push, get them to the top. I felt so proud of them all! It was so nice to get a smile out of some of the people. I saw one guy riding next to his girlfriend pushing her...pushing her up Alpe D'Huez.

It is horrible, yet what it is all about, that during that moment of suffering you are completely on your own. No one can help you, because to succeed you have to keep riding to the finish, and until you cross that line you are in a world of your own. No one can say anything or do anything to alleviate the pain. You've got to do it for yourself. Giving up is not an option, because all it means is an eternity of knowing you quit.

Do these people look at the Tour de France champions and wonder how they do it? It's no different. They suffered just as much, if not more, during the Marmotte. Those pros are just people sitting on bikes, pushing at the pedals, they've just been doing it longer so they can push them harder. It's just the same thing.