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?