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.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Remember Anja?

Well she hasn't hung up her Sidi's or her old skinsuit (I'll sort that for you next order;-))


NZ CX Championship



and pics here;


Anja McD



Hey Anja, tell us all about it?

John 'Shaggy' Ross

John "Shaggy" Ross has made the multi-email transfer to join VCM in time for the 2011/12 'Cyclo Cross season. A relatively local boy, hailing from Aberdeen, who, in preparation for a move to the professional circuit, moved away to the tropical environs of Bristol in the '80s. Having managed to get school and such formalities out of the way, he has begun racing his bike seriously. For a decade. Highlights are winning Strathpuffer Solo on a single speed, and setting the 3 Peaks Cyclocross single speed course record. He fills his recovery hours eating, collecting skinsuits, sleeping, icing his knees and designing commercial airliners.





If you follow mountainbike endurance racing in the UK, you will have stumbled across the beardy legend that is John 'Shaggy' Ross. One of the nicest blokes you will meet he is also a demon on a bike, big wheels, little wheels, and dumb wheels. I am so happy to have John join us just in time for cross season to bolster the south western crew, that's you Jez.




here he is racing at Peebles SCX a couple of years back. Pic by naegears

Alex 'Ag' McNicol

Introducing our new lanky all rounder, but don't let those svelte pins lure you into a false sense of security, this boy can ride a bike, fast, long and hard. I've known Alex for some time now, many years in fact and he seems to get faster with age, fortunately I'll be in the twighlight years of super vets by the time he gets there. 

so who is he?
Male, 30, thin & tired looking. NS, GSOH, owns own house & bicycles.
Enjoys latex sealant, sheds & time in cold, wet fields.  
Seeks like-minded people, for verbal abuse, waffles, gin & trombones.




"Had my first outing in VCM colours the other day too...

Picked up 9th at the Midlands XC in Hanchurch Woods, which was pleasantly surprising.
I've not really got round to racing this year.  Things just haven't fallen into place with one thing and another.  That's not to say I've not been riding though, just not racing much.  A while I got rid of my car so have been entirely dependent on my legs to get me to and from work.  The miles have racked up, I've done a lot for me.  The end result is that I'm not fast, just permanently knackered.  I look haggered.

However, Hanchurch is only 10 miles from home & is properly good.  The sort of place you can enjoy riding even when you're going slow - loads of tight woodland singletrack, steep little techy descents, jumpy bits & a massive bombhole type-doodah.  How could I not?

Without any points I lined up in a crappy grid position with a bike I'd cobbled together the day before.  The turn out was good & the course only had a short start straight before entering the first singletrack section, so I battled my way through the field, taking questionable lines & getting reacquainted with a heart rate I've not seen for a while.

On the first main climb I caught up with my buddy James, who has been racing pretty well & often this year.  We tussled for position for the next half a lap before I got away & pulled out a good gap.  A touch of confidence crept in my mind.  Perhaps riding your bike more does actually make you fitter after all.  The legs felt reasonably strong so I carried on moving through the field until the finish.  Quite happy with how it ended up really.  Followed it up by a far more impressive 2nd at the pub quiz that night too."
 

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Puffer Lite - longer version





Images© Paul Masson,

I wanted a chunky epic and Plan A had been set up as a suitable candidate - a solo double ascent/traverse/descent of the Ben Wyvis massif unridden by me and without much local beta on one of the descents.

The weather got in the way of Plan A. Cloud was forecast. Cloud biking is not my idea of fun. Munro bagging when 50% of the route is guaranteed in cloud is downright odd. I like views - it makes getting to the top worthwhile.

So other alternatives were presented but did not pass muster.

It dawned on me that Plan B was right there in front of me - Puffer Lite. I was going to be there anyway providing some half-assed pit crewing for Jac. If I did it solo with the same mindset that I would need to put to Plan A - i.e. no slacking, no sloping off for a beer and a snooze because I was a little weary. Put some effort in. Reap what I sow and all that...

So I made a pile of water bottles, nuun tabs, a fistful of Mule bars and gels, made sure my Maxx-D was charged and decided to make the most of this surprise re-plan. In fact I was quite liking the element of 'surprise' and the fact that I had about 2 days to prepare - which mainly involved going for a ride and not cleaning my bike afterwards.

Images© Paul Masson,

I felt quite liberated as I had no expectations as to how I would, or indeed, wanted to perform [for want of a better word]. As I was to ride sans Camelbak I thought I may as well go the whole hog and not bother with tools, tube or pump. I have ridden the Puffer course enough times that I know there there are few puncture opportunities, although I snuck in a extra couple of PSI just to make sure.

Jac and I arrive hungry. The Achilty Hotel bar is closed, they are only doing accommodation now. The Owner-Cook seemed much less odd, semi retirement must suit him. We snagged some random just add water products and small beers from the shop in contin and headed back to the van for a snooze.

After brief shut eye we were up and attem in a grumpy manner to find that he Red Poppy folks who were catering the event were not going to be serving pasta until after the event started! Gnnn.... Not impressed. A bag of chups and back to the van for some coffee and last minute faff.


Images© Paul Masson,

Paul Masson dropped by - explaining his plan for photographing the event - which sounded more of a marathon than riding it. He was hoping to capture the beauty of the area and the uniqueness of having an event in such an amazing landscape as well as some the details and stories of the race. A big thanks to Paul for all the photos!

All too soon it was final loo calls and the Le Mans mince to the bikes for the first lap.

Keep a lid on. Steady as she goes. Eat. Drink. Time manage. Enjoy the riding and remember to look at the views whenever possible!

The course was a hoot - pretty much all dry with only the occasional spot of mud - and around 5 to 10 minutes quicker than the winter edition. It is engaging enough to keep interest levels high and the fire road climb has enough steady sections on it to enable refuelling on the move. The final descent is always fun - a smooth fast swoop through the trees. Except half the trees were missing where the Contin side of the hill had been clear felled, opening up the views and making the descent feel much quicker. BRAAAP!! And returning to Race Central a shade under 30 minutes later if you are Alex Glasgow, while I was hovering around 40-45 minutes mark.

I was going ok, and enjoying things, trying to ignore the banality of riding around in circles, which was less of an issue here with the scenery and the last descent is easily worth another run just to see if I can get a fasterSmoother line...

Around about midnight my stomach decided that all was not well with the world and that I was not treating it with the respect that a stomach should get. I ended up doing a crawler lap as I could not eat or drink anything and I was retching each time the trail got a little bumpy [which is about half the course...]

Eventually I pulled in to the van to see if a cup of tea and a pot noodle would sort anything. The tea helped a little, but I could only look at the pot noodle. So I ate what small scraps I could, grabbed a fresh bottle of water only, in case the nuun was the culprit and headed out on another crawler. At the end of this one I was still nauseous and unable to eat or drink much. Unfortunately for Jac her race had ended prematurely when her back brake packed in, fortunately for me I now had Pit Crew!

I changed into dry kit and wrapped myself in a sleeping bag while slowing eating a just-add-water pot of macaroni cheese. It was an insipid version of a majestic dish, but it was just what I needed. After another cup of tea and a strictly enforced 10 minute snooze-ette I was back out on the bike to see what was going to happen.

Much to my surprise I felt ok, in fact I felt entirely refreshed and was enjoying it all again. This coincided with the dawn lap, which for almost all other overnight races is a monumental occasion and generally makes everything ok again [for a while at least]. Here, because there is only 3 hours of official dark the light never really leaves the sky to the North and it is a curiously low key experience.

5 hours remained on the clock and I was feeling reasonably strong and able to stick to a gel only diet so upped the tempo a little to see what happened. Each time I passed Gordy Mac's team horse truck I got a good boost of encouragement. Gordy and his other two musketeers romped home to take the trios win - I reckon it mush have been the turbo trainer sitting outside their van that beat the competition down as much as anything : )


Images© Paul Masson,

Again, the final descent drew me in and gave me the inspiration to get back up the top to go once more. Crossing the line 7am I was still lapping in around 47 mins, so I realised that I had another 2 laps! Ugh, I had hoped that I could stop but I drew some inspiration from a few sources - seeing how it is done properly by many folks at the Newcastleton 24/12 hours of Exposure and some of the stories from epic adventures [I'm currently enjoying some Tour Divide tales and Cass Gilbert's amazing things seen while out riding]. Oh, and that means 2 more runs on the descent - w00t!


Images© Paul Masson,

Laps done, I dib for the last time and then go sit down. Jac brings over a beer and some of that pasta from the catering truck... better late than never, I guess.

I was quite chuffed with how it had all gone - I actually had fun and managed to keep going despite some stomach gremlins. I still felt reasonably fresh, but my back was beginning to grumble and hands were starting to suffer on the last choppy section of descent. I was happy with the 12hour-ness of it all.

Apparently I had somehow snatched back 2 places over the last two laps and come 3rd in the Solo category and 18th overall. As I had not been following the results this was a nice wee surprise. Ace!

PufferLite - a fun wee event which could easily do with a few more folks at it - keep it in mind for next year!


p.s.

As the race is the officially unofficial Scottish Singlespeed Champs I was also crowned male Scottish Singlespeed Champ. I'm going to keep quiet about this as I'm not a huge believer in singlespeeds being a distinct category in a race - it is just a kit choice. Oh, and I think second place was a 12 year old... ; )