Velo Club Moulin

Monday, 17 December 2012

Scottish Cycling Cyclocross Championships

DSC_5888 by martysavalas
DSC_5888, a photo by martysavalas on Flickr.
The 2012 Scottish Cycling Cyclocross Championships have been rescheduled for 10th February 2013 after being cancelled due to dangerous, icy conditions in Strathclyde Park.

We're glad to say that Scottish Cycling have re-opened entry, so if you fancy some CX action in February, then get a entry in pronto and get your cross on before Valentines Day.  Entry open in all categories until January 27th 2013, hup hup.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Dudes of Hazzard This is Enduro Now Enduro

This is Enduro Now, so it was.

Mix up some mop-haired mountain bike shredders and the No Fuss Event team and smear liberally around a November weekend in Lochaber, sprinkle with some socialising by the ice climbing wall and serve with a pony petting zoo on the side.

You now know the ingredients for The Dudes of Hazzard "This is Enduro Now" Enduro.

It was wet, it snowed a bit, we had hail and a surprising amount of sunshine. The 'dampness' helped keep the dust down... nobody likes dust.

2 ride-up liaisons from Kinlochleven race centre at the Ice Factor past Mamore Lodge towards the lochs - about 800m all in. And back down against the clock to near sea level via three classic KLL trails - you know the sort - steep loose rocky and heaps of fun.

Moulineers Lyndsey and Grieg were joined by almost 300 riders from all over and from further away to make this a pretty special event - hopefully the Dudes and Dudessas will put this on again - the subtle grimness of November in Lochaber has appeal : )

Moving pictures from MTB Cut & Pinkbike...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

is it salad season yet?

Its been very quiet on here, I know you are out there racing and riding, epic, not so epic and just for the sheer joy of it. I can't say i have been leading by example, in fact on the contrary, 2012 will be remembered as the year of sporadic cycling, ironic really in light of it being one of the most memorable years in the history of the sport and who knows what other revelations will unfold before the end of the year. 

so here is a lovely little film about a summer we never had. 

Friday, 19 October 2012


Embarrassed to realise its the first cross race for ? two years ?


Recent rain, but dry and sunny. My baby girl playing with the leaves and puddles. Exactly what i aim to do.

Classic course, familiar faces. Nervously get ready after struggling with the light and my point and shoot for the vets and womens race.

No warm up, too unfit to benefit.

Gun goes off and a bunch redlines round the grassy field and into the barriers.

Form showing, some smooth, some stuttering. Slide around the roots and bomb holes much more than in years gone by.

Thick mud and the drop through the stream tricky.

(Lyndsey in fine form. Photo: from my flickr set here)

Never easy, the climb out is a task. Follow by a run up a greasy slope and slog through the mud before popping some air down a grass bank and pumping the big meat up.

Round the grass again completing the loop and a quick shimmy with some squared off corners gunning it out again.


Taste blood. Keep the pace high, thighs burning.

Half way through and digging very deep.

Near the end and a shout to a dancing Andy W as he cruises by, super relaxed. Apologies as my flailing leg catches and momentarily slows him. Reflect on his poetry in motion....sooo beautiful to see a fine rider showing me how it is done.

Finish after a couple more laps, smiling as Jammy calls out my fluoro green socks as 'trendy'.

Hey! i come correct.

Another call out from an old friend 'return of the mac...!'

Maybe, maybe not. So good to go out and hurt yourself on a cross bike.

Mark Morrison - Return of the Mack from Gilach on Vimeo.

North West CX League So Far...

It's been an improving picture through the first four rounds of the NW CX League.  It started pretty badly for me at the opening round in Preston and then got substantially better.  I'd only come back from that trip through the Pyreneese two and a half days earlier, so in hindsight I shouldn't have been expecting great things.  Over 700km of long, mountainous miles in the legs the week before certainly isn't the greatest prep for cross.  That and it was bloody cold and wet & I'd grown rather fond of nice hot weather.

We had a big strong turn out with it being a Cat A event at the start of the season.  Paul Oldham won and made everyone else look pedestrian on a pretty challenging course - very wet, with lots of off camber bits and loads of turns.  Far, far behind Paul my race was a bit crappy.  I started ok, but then drifted slowly backwards seeing the guys I know I should be competing with pull away from me.  I couldn't respond and found it hard to get into any ryhthmn.  I finished a slightly grumpy 22nd.

After that I made the mistake of panic training.  It took a couple of days for me to stop digging myself an even deeper hole and take it easy for a bit.  Had to remind myself that the first race is always the hardest and I was bound to get sharper with a couple of races under my belt.

That theory was proven the following weekend at round 2.  Another Cat A event, another big field of about 150 and another good course near Bolton.  I've enjoyed racing at this venue before and found myself getting stuck in at the pointier end of things from the off.  Feeling a lot more like I would have hoped for the first two thirds of the race, I was in a good position.  I did tire a bit towards the end but only dropped a couple of placings.  Nick Craig won this one.  I ended up 11th, which by my maths is twice as good as the first race.

There wasn't a race the next weekend, so I nipped out and won a little local hill climb up (the easier side of) Mow Cop.

Similar pattern for round three of the series: Cat A, 150ish starters, good course and a better result.  This one was held in a park around the back of the Manchester Velodrome, which I had no idea existed.  On the day the sun was out and the temperature was unseasonably warm, but during the previous week it'd rained loads leaving the course really muddy and slimy.  It was a very short lap, could have done with being twice as long, but I liked it.  Found it all rideable even the steeper, more techy sections that many were running.  My start wasn't great, but I soon worked my way up through the field and had clear sight of the course ahead by the start of the second lap.  Nick Craig was again the winner on the day, I was the last of the riders to finish on the same lap crossing the line 7th.  Later on it was pointed out to me that I was actually the first senior finisher (1-6 being either Vets or U23).  So I'll count that as a win!...  Of sorts.

Roll on to round 4 at the fantastically named Boggart Hole Clough.  I've always liked this course, always seems to suit those with a bit of MTB background - a good bit of up and down, plenty of roots and the like.  The place lived up to its name, being badly affected by the nasty wet summer and the downpours of the previous week.  On pre-riding it I thought it was horrid, all claggy and boggy and wet.  Once the whistle went and it was hit at race pace it came to life.  Loads of squirming all over the place and fighting to keep the bike going in roughly the direction that you had planned.

Moving up through the field on the two start loops and then into the lap proper I felt good and strong.  I got into some of the boggiest sections before the bulk of the riders, had to do some running but at least I wasn't being held up.  I squeezed passed a couple more riders then realised I was up to third place.  Quite an unfamiliar place for me to be. Another technical section down and I'd managed to close in on Paul Bethell.  More rooty and slidey bits and I'd got a bit of a gap. I was in second spot with a little room.  I didn't know what had come over me!  Towards the end of lap one I even got up to the wheel of eventual winner Giles Drake.  That didn't last long though as he cruised off into the distance.  Paul caught me again by the end of the opening lap and I started to think I'd gone off waaay to hard and was going to drop back stone-like.  But I stayed with him for the next lap chopping and changing positions a few times.  Eventually he proved much stronger than me and pulled away.  Another strong looking guy passed me on the next lap.  Still 4th though and I was hanging in there.  Then I briefly dropped down to 5th as one of riders I've had a few close races with got infront of me.  This time I was able to respond and attacked straight away establishing a good gap again.  

Mid-race my bike was so heavy with mud and my gears with jumping all over the place being completely clogged.  But without the luxury of a spare bike/pit bitch I plugged on, grabbing handfuls of mud out of the bike whenever I was having to shoulder the bike.  With two laps to go I spotted the chap in 3rd spot on the side of the course trying to poke mud out of his bike with a stick.  Ha! Third again!  Every corner I checked over my shoulder for chasing riders, but every time there was just clear space.  Emptied the tank on the bell lap, nearly came a cropper on a number of ocassions, spending lots of time sideways or dragging my limbs through brambles in the undergrowth.  Stayed upright all the way though and secured 3rd place.  By far my best cross result to date.  Quite chuffed really :)

Monday, 8 October 2012

Big Day out in Yorkshire.

Three Peaks Cyclocross. September 30th 2012. What a fantastic event. Very (very) wet, windy and the sort of day I'd normally want to stay inside. Waking up at 6 am though, the last thing I wanted to do was stay in bed, I was itching to get out and have a good day on the bike. Long before getting to the start line I'd made up my mind this would be a fun day. 

For me the race was pretty uneventful, as is often the case when you have a good day, little went wrong and I just got on and pedaled/ ran/ stomped as hard as I could round the three hills. Part of this must be attributed to having a crack support team. It's more than possible to get round this event with a pack and some spares but having some helpers is invaluable and was particularly welcomed on such a foul day so cheers guys! Also thanks to James and Christine for the Chocolate Croissant pudding (double helpings on Sat night definitely paid dividends on Sun) and pictures in this post. 

There were some amazing performances at the 2012 Three Peaks but the biggest shout must go out to John Rawnsley and the many volunteers who made the race run faultlessly despite appalling conditions. Obviously it's been said many times but it cannot be underestimated the level of commitment these people put in. The race was organized by a man aged 75. One of the marshals on Ingleborough was a local lass of 83. The oldest competitor in the race was 77. More than enough evidence to prove that the people of Yorkshire are a different breed- properly hard. 

These two pictures sum the race up nicely. The second being a 'still' doesn't highlight the fact that within minutes of finishing I started shivering like a mad man- those orange bags really aren't overkill- I'm just glad I didn't need to stop out on the hill.

Long may the Three Peaks continue, I hope I'm still able to get round at 77!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Trans-Provence 2012

Waking in the darkness, usually before the alarm as the  incremental cacophony of sleeping bag and tent zips being un- and re-done triggered the first blush of consciousness.

Wriggle into todays riding clothes and bung on a jacket  grab tooth brush and shuffle off through the campsite to breakfast, past the some dark and some blue-glow tents with other racers getting up and at'em.

With Breakfast done and the first fingers of light replacing the head torches the daily miracle of herding the first wave of 35 or so mountain bikers from campsite to uplift drop off begins.  Timings are a little loose on some days but it always happens, and no one and no bikes are left behind. Not always the same happy outcome for timing tags or lunch baguettes...

Wave One - mainly the 'amateurs'- we get a brief briefing from Race Commander-in-Cheif Ash.  He usually points out any pertinent danger-of-death aspects of the day's liason or race stages and bids us bonne chance as we commence the bike or foot based climb to the first stage of the day.

Some days the first stage is a few short km away, and these can be difficult to hit cold [in all senses].  Some take the best part of 3 hours of portage and amazing remote, undulating alpine ridgeline riding before arriving at the first mountain balise [balise: a marker, or station in French and the name given the SportIdent dibber stations used to bracket the stage timing].

Despite the internal chats and pep-talks before a timed run to 'take it easy', conserve bike and body, The Beep! of the balise immediately triggered the red-mist and each rider sets off on an wild ride ITT for the next few kilometers [sub 2km was the shortest to the 8km+ of Donkey Darko]. It was a wild white-knuckle ride of red-line heart rate and gambling on what will be around the next corner [and whether you can brake in time or survive it if you decide to let it run]. All until you spy one of the mountain staff [Ed, Shaggy, Phil & Rich] who will put themselves in the way of a speeding mtb-er to try and get your tag registered on the Valley balise.

The riding was truly amazing - superb high speed, high quality, high intensity, high penalty, high reward singletrack. The Racing aspect make the rider attack the trails - sometimes the gamble did not pay off, especially on the last day when  a few folks succumbed to tiredness, treachery of the conditions or just bet all on red, when black won.

Oh, and there were switchbacks.  So, very many switchbacks.

All riders are different, and each enjoy different types of riding so some of the special stages polarise opinion like marmite, some stages drew universal praise [or fearful dislike]. For the 'amateur' riders it was heartening to hear that the Pro boys & girls sometimes found the same bits of trail just as challenging/fun/terrifying, even if they found them so at much higher speed...

To get a flavour of the trails check out all the videos.  To understand them you would need to get out there and ride them.

One thing that shone strong through the week was a true sense of camaraderie - from the riders, the mountain staff, the camp staff, masseurs and the glowing fuel-cell of the week - The Caterers. Not in the sense that it was a full on love in - there will always be little bumps, grumps, cliques and freaks at any gathering of humanity. Yet irrespective of any noise there was a relentless energy, a pervading sense of keep calm and carry on (fully pinned), and don't forget to bloody well enjoy it.

Life affirming.

The amount of work put in by all the race staff is immense and deserves special mention for keeping a very challenging show on the road and on track for the week.

Also, the tech support offered by the Mavic guys and by Paul & Amy at Fox Mojo was much appreciated and kept a lot of wheels rolling through the week. Oh, and Paul is a star for letting me have his lunch the day I left camp sans baguette...

This years edition had a couple of twists mainly provided by Mother Nature.  There were two days of monstrous, roaring, hariy-arsed thunder and lightening storms that were way more terrifying than most folks would care to experience.

Most of the Wave 1 riders narrowly missed a dowsing by the Day 2 storm by arriving at the lunch stop just as a two hour long horror-show kicked off. Minutes earlier we had barely wetted tires crossing a dry creek to dib out of the 2nd stage of the day at Shaggy's Valley Balaise.

Check the day 2 video for  what it looked like around an hour later...

Little by little the shellshocked ghosts of the second wave of riders shlepped in and hid in the Mojo Fox van, under the Mavic Van canopy, or in the glamorous municipal bin-hut bringing with them tales of genuine terror from being on a bare 2000m+ hill top in the storm cloud with lightening sizzling and thunder booming around [whilst holding a big metal thing]. Last years winner was in such a rush to get off the hill he had a massive crash which ripped his trousers off. Really...

Day 7 started wet but but by midday turned sunny until most folks had beeped off the course at the last Valley balise manned by Mr Oxley [of Great Rock, and greater beard].  We also found out that the Monegasgue Polis had decided in their infinite wisdom that a bunch of grubby, bleeding, stinking and relatively low-net-worth ; ) mountain bikers were not welcome on their patch and would arrest anyone who dared cross the border. So we would drop down to Menton next town along the coast, and where the final campsite was, anyway.  As the assembled throng firstly removed race numbers from bars and started down the switchback trail to the road the heavens opened. Thunder rolled and roared around the hills, the temperature dropped, so very much  rain shot from the now steely grey sky and the lightening started zapping metal things on our ridgeline - like the power pylon about 30m away from where I was hunkered down trying to get my waterproof on.  There was an immense noise and white flash even with my eyes tight shut. A couple of other members of 'Team Scotland' were riding just below the pylon when it was zapped and commented later that it was 'quite exciting' or words to that effect.

The storm put paid to any ideas of a swim in the sea, too - there was a 5 foot swell smacking into a steeply shelving pebble beach that did not look too inviting.

Almost everyone made the finish in one shape or another , although one unlucky soul - Sven Martin - had to make use of the helicopter extraction feature of his insurance to get off the top of the last days first stage with concussion and a bad arm break - leading to slightly subdued feeling at the end of the day.

The last 100m of the final stage also claimed a couple of others - a bit of ankle twisting damage, a leg-brace and a pair of park-tool blue crutches for SRAM's Jon Cancellier and a likely fracture for Jac's scaphiod.

The rest of the week had been relatively incident free, much to the appreciation of the race doctors. A few riders had narrowly avoided a nasty eye gouging from a branch early on, and one of the Brits had an unfortunate tumble on a day two liason which he survived unscathed until his bike landed on him cracking a couple of ribs and ending his race.

All in all testament to the skills, strength and determination of all riders that stepped up to take part.

Again?  I am happy to have done it. I don't have any demons to slay with the race. At least once each day I felt like doing a Moitessier and removing the number from my bike and continuing the ride which, I think, was kind-of the point, anyway.  : )

Kit chat:

Bike was a Transition Bandit 29 - pretty much bang on for the job.  An upgrade to bigger disk rotors stopped me overshooting every switchback... Everything worked. Only breakages were a small cut in the back tyre and I  broke off the wee clutch lever thingy on my rear mech... and a few rim dings but no punctures.  All day comfortable and totally happy on the descents and climbs, and not too much of a burden on the portage sections. Reverb dropper post was a boon and blessing.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

720km, 20 Cols, 100hrs

Apologies, this is a long one...

As my tan fades, it seems an awfully long time ago now, but at the start of September I headed out on a flight to Biarritz to hook up with a group of 15 friends to have a crack at the Raid Pyrenees.  In brief, for those that don't know, it's a long standing challenge to make it from the Atlantic coast down to the Mediterranean coast across the mountains taking in most of the famous mountains the area has to offer in under 100 hours.

Day Zero.
All we had to do was get to the start in one piece.  Bike packed, I headed to the airport straight from work to meet a few of the guys.  Unnervingly smooth check in with no one even raising an eyebrow to our awkwardly large baggage regardless of the budget nature of the flight.  Quick coffee then time to board.

Now, I know nice children exist.  I've met a number of them.  Many of my friends have produced them.  Why is it then that none of the nice ones ever sit behind me on aeroplanes?  After a couple of hours of biting my lip we touch down, get the bags (bikes still in one piece) and grab a cab to get to the hotel and meet up with the rest of the group.  5 of us squeeze into a taxi made for 4 and were treated to one hell of a white knuckle ride.  Our driver was a bit over keen to get to his next fare, spanking along the motorway at 120mph and only marginally slower on the minor roads.  Getting to the hotel we necked a few calming beers and caught up with the rest of the guys before assembling the bikes.

Day One.
Breakfast was hearty to get fueled up for the first big day of the ride.  After some degree level faffing we finally got going up to the coast at Hendaye to ritually dip our wheels in the Atlantic and set the clock running.  At 8:38 we officially started the Raid.

In mileage terms this was going to be the longest day at 185km.  But as we were coming in from the coast the early cols were pretty minor.  We ticked off the Col de Saint Ignace and Col de Pinodieta barely noticing them.  Moving further inland the climbs started lasting longer making me ponder how the decided what makes a Col.  Some of the lumps we rode over were without a doubt longer and steeper than the initial two official Cols but didn't have a signpost in sight.  Regardless we moved towards the bigger climbs, the first of which was the Col d'Osquich.  Its only 500m or so above sealevel, but it was a good few km's long and the temperature had risen to the high 20's so a nice way to ease into the more substantial hills.

Our first coffee stop took longer than really needed.  We have a tendency to enjoy sitting about in the sun drinking coffee and chewing the fat a bit too much.  This meant we ended up missing lunch.  France had shut up shop by the time we needed to eat.  Plus it was getting hotter.  In desperation a stop into a shitty little local shop was all we could do to get something to eat.  Whilst I was keeping an eye on the bikes everyone else cleared the shop of the remaining limp sandwiches so all that was left for me was a packet of dried apricots.  Thanks guys.

With hunger at bay for a moment we ploughed onward and upward until we hit the first proper climb of the trip.  The Col de Marie-Blanque is, in my humble opinion, a bit of a swine.  It's only a Cat1, but in hindsight it was in many ways the toughest climb of the whole route.  It's not that long and it's not that steep, but it was definitely a swine.  Perhaps it was the heat, or missing lunch, or maybe because we'd already covered over 160km that day, doesn't matter - it was hard.  I stomped up the first half of the 10km climb with no bother at all in the 52t, but at halfway the gradient raise up to about 10%, then up to 13% for the last 2km, so I found sanctuary with the 36t ring.  I'd liken it to a doubly long UK climb ridden in an oven.  No switchbacks, just straight up unrelentingly.

After regrouping for the customary photos by the sign at the top of the climb, we dropped down the other side to find our next hotel, beers and food.

Day Two.
Didn't start too well.  I went to bed the night before setting my alarm on my phone.  Overnight said telephone decided to adjust itself to local time setting the alarm off an hour early.  My roommate for the night, Jase, was not impressed.

This did allow an early breakfast which was stuffed down to allow us some extra faffing time before cracking off (late) on a shortish mileage day.  Just the 115km to ride, but that included well over 3000m of genuine ascent.  A short warm up before we were on the lower slopes of the Col d'Aubisque.  It's been classed as both a Cat1 and an HC in Le Tour, but I reckon we must have done the Cat1 side.  Irrespective of category it was another brute, climbing up to 1709m.  By the top the morning mist had lifted and we were treated to blue skies and stunning views in every direction.

Pushing on we dropped a little altitude on a steep descent before going back up 2km to the summit of the Col de Soulor (1474m) and then getting out teeth stuck into the long super fast descent back down to the valley.  Not wanting to make the same mistake as day one we stopped as soon as possible for food.  This time we made the opposite mistake and ate far too much, consuming absolutely massive pizzas.  We'd all soon be regretting that.

After lunch we didn't have all that far to ride.  Just a minor Col before the Tourmalet started looming ahead.  It's one of the most iconic HC climbs in the world, but it's not all that steep.  But what it is is long.  20km straight up at an average gradient in excess of 7%.  It also seemed longer as the temperature had crept up into the 30's.  It seemed longer still with the lingering taste of meaty pizza rising in my throat all the damn way.

The markers every kilometre were dead handy, giving the average gradient for the next km, plus how far to the summit.  A great tool for breaking the bugger down.  That being said I really enjoyed that climb.  I do like riding up hills anyway, but the views kept on getting more impressive the higher I rode.  Plus there was a great headwind.  Headwinds are usually kinda miserable things, but this one was ace.  Coming right down the valley keeping things a bit cooler (albeit slower).  The occasional switchback into the other direction suddenly became oppressively hot yet the tailwind eased the pedaling for a bit of a rest before turning back into the wind.

What also made that climb fun was some of the left over Tour graffiti on the road.  Every now and again something would make me smile.  Spotting things like "HTFU," "I wish I could use drugs," Box Hill's easy!" plus a few classic Voigt quotes.  Also there was a couple of hundred metres painted somewhat confusingly with massive err... tadpoles.  Yes, they were definitely tadpoles.  Massive ones.  Everywhere.

I spent a few minutes at the top enjoying the view, then noticed a few tourists enjoying the view of my bike!  After another regroup we made the most of the long descent off the mountain, dodging motorbikes, campervans, cattle and goats.  Stopping at the base and after popping ears we settled in a local bar waiting for the rest of the group and the broom wagon which had our bags.  We supped away on a few local cidres, which were very nice if very expensive.  They refused to sell them to us in bigger glasses.  It was 300ml or nothing.  4Euros per 300ml that is.   After 3 of those we made the financially driven decision to switch to beers.  A couple of grande bierres later everyone had made it down and on to the hotel where we were greeted by a hotelier who must have been Gordon Kaye's inspiration for Rene out of Alo Alo.  His hotel certainly hadn't been renovated since the war - the plastic sliding doors were simply charming.  Food, wine, sleep.

Day Three.
Back to the longer miles.  Another 100+ miles and 6 Cols.  The first of which was straight out of the door with the ascent up to the summit of the Col d'Aspin.  Another Cat1 climb to kick off with, easy in relation to the Tourmalet, but still pretty noticeable without a warm up and a belly full of breakfast,  it goes up 1489m over about 12km, topping out at 8%.  At the top we regrouped for the customary signpost photographs where an over friendly & massive cow lumbered down the hill to see what we were up to.  Rog was the most experience cow wrangler among us and so quite literally took it by the horns.  After a bit of steering it calmed down, but took particular interest in Andy's bars, wrapping its mighty tongue around his tape, enjoying the salty goodness I assume.  Oh how we chuckled, particularly Andy relishing the thought of descending a mountain gripping on to cow spit soaked tape.

Down the Aspin for a cracking descent before promptly turning back uphill to tackle the Col de Peyresourde, another lovely Cat1 back up to 1569m.  The following descent was amazingly good fun, really fast and swoopy.  By the time we'd got to the bottom the temperature had hit 36degrees.  A couple of smaller cols either side of a light lunch before chalking off yet another monumental climb - the Col du Portet de Aspet.  It's pretty long and reasonably steep, yet it's noteworthy as it's the scene of Fabio Carsatelli's fatal crash in the 1995 Tour.  We had a quick stop at the monument commemorating the '92 Olympic champion before getting back to business...  Smashing up to the summit and back down the other side and onto our next over night stop.

Arriving at the hotel we found that the only beer they had on draft was Leffe.  You can only imagine how disappointed I was.  A couple of cheeky Leffes were sunk before food, some nice local wine with it followed up with a reasonable slab of cake.  All good stuff.

Day Four.
Day four ended up being the most eventful day of the trip for me.  The inevitable morning faffing meant that I left the hotel after everyone else with just one other, Rob, for company.  Once again we ere on a major climb straight away.  This time it was 3 Cols squashed into one; the Col du Fort which merges into the Col des Caoughans, which goes straight into the Col de Port.

I thought that the others in the lead group were trying to get one over on me on a climb.  I thought I heard the sound of a gauntlet being cast to the ground, so stuck it in the big ring and rode like a manic spazz all the way up at race pace, counting everyone off as I passed them.  Only once I was at the summit of the 12.8km climb did it become apparent that I'd miscounted and had been chasing down a non-existent cyclist for the last 3km.  Balls.

Hey ho.  It was a great spot.  So nice I decided to stop early on the descent to take a few photos of the guys riding down and off into the distance.  I did this, but probably for a bit too long, getting separated from the fast end of the group.  Once off the mountain there was an open drag down a main road for 25km before the the next coffee/pain au chocolat/faff stop.  I thought it'd be clever to try and ride across to the fast group on my own.  I rode full gas again for seemingly ages, knowing full well that they'd all be working together whilst I was sat in the wind on my own.  Finally caught them after 20 joyless kilometres.

Once the next set of coffee/pain au chocolat/faff was complete we headed off in the wrong direction (just to get some extra climbing in) and then the right direction to deal with the HC Port de Pailheres.  It's certainly worthy of the HC rating.  It goes on for 18km, ramping up in gradient all the way to the top to the slightly dubious altitude of 2001m.  Once again we got some amazing views and even more amazing descents as a due reward.

The descent off the Pailheres was only short, but a laugh.  The next summit (Col de Trabesses) was less than a kilometre away and only 80m lower at the top.  Basically the two peaks sit right next to each other with a dip in between.  We thought it only right to see if we could freewheel down one and up to the summit of an official Col without pedaling.  Yes, it is entirely possible.  The descent off the Trabesses was excellent though, very tight switchbacks early on, then opening up into some full throttle open turns and straights lower down.

The roads rolled on for a while and our beautiful 30degree blue skies started to turn black.  Incidentally, this was the only day of the trip that I didn't check the forecast in the morning.  Getting a tad complacent with ace weather I didn't bother sticking a jacket in my pocket.  It started raining.  All I had extra to put on was a pair of arm warmers.  It started raining more - a full on mountain storm really.  Heads down we plugged on until we stumbled across a little boulangerie/patisserie in a small otherwise dead village.  We took refuge as the storm continued and the thunder & lightning got bigger.  Chomping down on bread based products and some rather fine cake we watched the rain bouncing off the road and eventually seem to ease.  Seeing our opportunity we headed back out.  Half a mile up the road the rain got really heavy again.  Sheltering under a tree on the side of the road I was starting to get really cold and shivering heavily.  The four of us decided to keep moving as a better way of staying warm.  The road was open and reasonably flat for a few km's so we could push on and keep the body temperature up, regardless of the depth of the standing water and the piles of hale stones on the side of the road.  We dropped Jase and so huddle under a building for a minute to wait and I got cold again straight away.  Soaked to the skin and having a low bodyfat percentage I was getting properly cold.  I would have probably warmed up again if it wasn't for the fact the road was about to go downhill for 20 miles.  Usually a 20mile long descent would be amazing, but on this occasion my skinny wet body didn't mix well with the now wintery temperatures and 40mph windchill.  Early on the descent I had to pull over as I was shaking so much that I couldn't hold the bike in a straight line.  One of the guys kindly gave me his jacket and I pulled back onto the road.  But the damage had been done and I was getting worse.  It was just stupid for me to try and ride in that state.  Into the next layby and I was in bits, shaking violently and hyperventilating.  Remarkably moments later a German couple pulled into the layby (nothing dodgy, there was a great viewing platform of the valley) and saw I was in trouble.  The chap gave up his jumper and jacket so I could get out of the wet kit and then sat me in his car with the heaters on full blast.  The others called for the broom wagon which took over half an hour to get to us.  All of that time I was seriously cold but slowly thawing out.  I've honestly never felt cold like it.  It was quite, quite horrible.  I can't thank those mysterious Germans enough.  Without them I reckon we might have needed an ambulance.

Once the Broom arrived I was still cold but back down to regular shivering and chucked on fresh dry kit.  Lots of it.  New base layer, jersey, a fleece, a windproof, a waterproof, a cap and a borrowed pair of winter gloves that someone far less optimistic of the weather had packed.  On a normal day this particular descent would have been breathtaking, but as I was having such difficultly hanging on to my breath it was simply a case of getting down in one piece.  The rain had stopped though and I could feel the air warming the further down we rode.  It was another half an hour before I felt back to normal.  Thankfully this coincided with us rolling up to a bar near that night's hotel, time to drink a few pints and eat chips.  More food and booze was consumed back at the hotel just to make sure I was back to normal.

Note to self:  Always check the forecast, dickhead.

Day Five.
After the many ups and downs of the previous four days it was pretty straight forward finish.  Just 100km, mainly downhill to the coast at Cebere to finish before our cutoff time of 12:38.  We kept the whole group of 15 together as best as possible, one of us dropping back to pull things back together if we up'd the pace a little too much and caused some gaps.  Plain sailing all the way, feeling good, no lasting effects of the previous afternoon's drama.  Once the sea was in sight and the roads were rolling nicely we started to up the pace, mess about and make the most of the last few km's of the trip.  Across the group there were a few crazy efforts and sprints for random signposts as we tore into Cebere.  A quick stop to get our accreditations stamped to confirm we'd made it in plenty of time and a cheesy group photo.  Officially finished at 11:33, could've had an extra hour in bed.  Then it was down to the beach to dip the wheels again so that we had genuinely made it from the Atlantic to the Med.  Me, being a fool, rode straight into the sea.  A great photo opportunity, but the salt water has now destroyed all the bearing in my bike.  Surprisingly beer, wine, nasty local brandy and food finished off the trip nicely.

Quick Stats...
Total ditance covered, 718km
Total ascent, 12,132m
Actual riding time, 29hrs 37mins.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Eastern League 1 2 3 and other notes

Right, Cross is on. Three Eastern League races plus the Thetford Cross Enduro and it's not even the end of September! All good so far, top courses, high level of organization, close racing- job's a good un.

A slightly different start to the cross season this year- the 3 hour Thetford Cyclocross Enduro. Pretty good fun really, nicely in the lead group of 5 till a flint ripped a big gash in my tubeless tyre- rubbish. A further puncture ended any chance of the podium but all in a nice day out and good to get in a solid 3 hour race effort ahead of the main job at the end of the month.

1st Eastern League was blazing hot, nice up and down course round a park in Basildon. A front row grid spot and 1st into the first bend was a nice bonus but the legs weren't quite there to keep on it for the full hour, happy enough with 6th at the line. 2nd round a bit steadier of the line and caught up in a few skirmishes meant the leaders were away but a nice race with Martin Carter for 6th spot was good fun. 3rd round; pretty nice and consistent throughout, again still not up with the leaders but a cracking course round Hoghill was great fun to ride and another solid top 10.

A big thank you to all involved with the Eastern League, the first three races have been great and I'd recommend the League to anyone who fancies some cross action in East Anglia.

Some other (random) thoughts:

The Cambridge CC chaingaing is fun and a good workout.

Tubeless tyres aren't great for cross. I was hopeful tubeless might be a good way forward but so far I'm not convinced- burping problems at 30psi suggest tubs are still the way to go. Looks like you can now get a Schwalbe Rocket Ron tubular, keen to try these, should be the business.

TRP CX 9.0 brakes are fantastic, if you want better brakes but don't want to change to discs get these, night and day better than cantilevers. Discs for cross? Could be a game changer, not so much for the braking power but for the ability to run one bike for a whole muddy race with no clogging issues. At a pro level this isn't such an issue (as these guys have multiple bikes and a pit crew) but for the amateur on a budget one nice super light disc equipped bike could be a viable alternative to needing two bikes and a pit crew- I'm tempted.

There are some awesome bikes around these days! Seriously tempted to get a shortish (100mm) travel 29er like the Specialized Camber or Santa Cruz Tall Boy, in one go you have a bike you can race competitively in xc and enduro events and ride fast on pretty much any trail in the UK- what more can you ask of an mtb?

Important things for cross season are: some good cd's for the car journey to the race; a slow cooker so you can get a tasty meal on the go before heading off to the race and have tea waiting when you get in- winner! Aims for the season are; to win a round of the Eastern League and get round a National Trophy without getting lapped!

Looks like plenty good cross races on over the next few months, hopefully see some VCM  folk at a race or two somewhere around the UK and with some luck up home at an SXC round- looks like it should be another strong season in Scotland- pedal hard!

Well, nearly time for the biggest, baddest cross race of them all. Come on weather do your worst, it's going to be EPIC!

Tour de Ben

No Fuss events Tour de Ben is billed as a 'must do' race. I will not go into too much detail about it as the details are on No Fuss' website. Let me just say that i was looking forward to a long loop race in challenging terrain: i've had enough of the 'multiple little loop' endurance races for a while. The concept is one big loop with 4 special stages that make up a points race within the overall. This adjusts the standings once it is all added up. So, after a cold night under canvas in the Glen Nevis campsite i popped various food products into assorted pockets and wee bags, not forgetting a tube or three, and set off for the start line.
I had signed on the evening before in the Nevis Centre which gave me the opportunity to chat to Greig and sort of compare notes. I know the area pretty well from a riding point of view, though i havent spent much time around the Mamores or Grey Corries for a couple of years. Essentially you drop south from Fort Bill, joining the West Highland Way and then take one of the choppy descents down to Kinlochleven before climbing back up towards Loch Eilde Mor and returning by climbing over and cutting west into Leanachan forest. The mystery for me was the reported hike-a-bike from the Abhainn Rath up and over into Lairig Leacach. At 10 am we were led through the high street by a posse of pipers before the hammer dropped. I hung around the first bunch and made good time on the tarmac climb up from town. It seemed from the chat that the pace was perhaps being pushed pretty high, pretty early, in comparison to years past, but you can't read too much into these things until the race establishes itself. Continuing in the top 10 group Greig and myself shared a few more words before we hit the rocky trail south to the old shielings on the WHW. Unfortunately, as i flew through a water bar i square edged a sharp rock and blew my front tyre out. This early in the race, that was a bit of a bummer: I had sort of expected the possibility of a puncture at some point, but not before we hit the rougher stuff. I knew my choice of a rigid bike was a little at odds to the smorgasbord of full bouncers around me and it would cost me on the techy descents, but i had hoped to offset this on the climbing. Hmmm!
A quick fix with extra psi added courtesy of a C02 canister got me going again and i overhauled a few of the folk who had courteously checked my well being as they passed before the descent to Kinlochleven. This was rougher than i remember and the lower section was essentially a stream. I knew i was losing time on this special stage, but as i passed Iain Nimmo battling with what looked like a shredded tyre and a couple of other riders with mechanicals, i was happy enough with my conservative approach. The next climb gave me the chance to catch a few other riders. It was amazing how swiftly some folk were ascending on their tiny stemmed/big travel bikes. On flat pedals even! However, i knew the fast guys were well away by now. The trail around Loch Eilde mor is quick and it takes you back into the heart of the mountains. The sun was still shining and despite some puddles, you could be forgiven for thinking it was summer. The last time i crossed the Abhainn Rath, i lost a sock in the fast flowing, cold waters that inspired a barefooted, yelping run down the river lest i be blistered and limping. This time, rather than removing my shoes, i just waded through and assumed the position for the hike-a-bike. It actually wasn't too bad. Certainly i've done more irritating portages. All too soon, it was time to tackle the trails down the Lairig Leacach. At first it was really rocky and broken. I was still pretty concerned with puncturing and i was getting a little beaten up on the rough, water damaged trails, but i made it down without losing too much time and as i entered Leanachan forest it was time to engage the afterburners. I had taken in calories well and 4 hours of riding meant i was pretty warmed up. Other than a boggy (ok, VERY boggy) section in the midle the dry smooth trails let me hunt down at least 5 fellow racers before the Blue crane descent and a short run in ended the race. I was relatively pleased to come in at 4.39 and some change, as 14th rider over the line. I knew that once the points were added up i would drop places due to my DH mincing, but i'll admit a smidge of disappointment to lose 7 places. Oh well, the message is clear - the DH counts on this one. I was also gutted to see Greig who came in a few places in front of me seemed to have missed a dibbing point on one of the special stages that had left him way down the standings - a most unfortunate situation that doesnt do justice to his very strong ride. Will i be back? maybe! it *is* a must do event and we need to have more like them. I would like to see it a bit longer though - not just because it plays to my (imagined?) strengths, but there are better trails that could be added in potentially if it could be pushed out to 100 or even 140km. As it stands, for the 400 or so entrants, this was a great race and a jewel in the crown of No Fuss for sure.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A long time coming.

Tour de Ben this weekend coming. I see some other VC M names on the start list.

It has been a year since i raced at least. i've been spending a little time out n the road bike and towing Daisy on the xtra cycle, so i'm not expecting implosion. The legs are not as strong as previous years, the resolve patchy like the weather, but prepping the bike and kit today lit a fire somewhere deep inside.

Yes i will give it everything i have. Looking forward to lining to follow.

Good luck to my team mates.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

cross is coming

ride tough
party tough

there will be winners 
there will be losers

bikes will be broken
bikes will be loved

curse again

Thursday, 6 September 2012


Three weekends and Three time trials.  I've never done so many time trials in my life before.  Anyway first off was the Black Isle grand prix.  This event is not your average tt with a distance of 38 miles involving four crossings over the spine of the Black Isle.  There was no gentle breaking in either as the start was straight into the climb up the Fairy glen taking riders to the furthest East point at Cromarty.  Next was Mount High and at over two miles distance this is a mean climb.  Third kick was a very short but steep Mount Eagle.  A well needed descent over the other side to Culbokie had me overtaking the commisaires car as he hadn't quite realised my speed on the descent!  The last climb over Knockbain had me cramping up which wasn't the best but thankfully I managed to get rid of it pretty quick.  All that was left was to gun it along a slightly uphill stretch to the finish in Fortrose.

This was my first time at the BIGP but it all seemed to fall into place for me on the day and I was good enough to take 8th place and a cheeky wee win in the handicap.
The following weekend was the Iain Longbotham Memorial 25 mile tt.  Iain was a Firefighter with me in Inverness and a very good time trialist. Sadly Iain passed away eight years ago with a rare form of cancer.  I've always said I should ride this race because of the link but I've never got round to it until this year.  Quite shocking but I'm no flat time trialist as I was about to find out.  Conditions on the morning were glorious with not a breath of wind on either leg which didn't make things easy.  I turned in a 1.05.15 for my first ever flat 25 which I suppose isn't too bad considering the other eighteen riders in front of me were all on tt bikes.  It's not my scene though,  Too painfull!

As is customary now is the presentation to the fastest Inverness Firefighter and this year I managed to take it by the very smallest of margins(only two seconds in it) from my old gaffer Ross Nixon who took great delight in presenting me with the Highland Firefighter polystyrene cup.
It was back to the Black Isle for my time trial farewell at the Munlochy two up.  I paired up with my usual time trial partner Donnie Macdonald.  We were pretty evenly matched after only seven seconds seperated us at the recent BIGP.  The course was two and a half laps around the Munlochy area giving a distance of 21 miles.  Again we were lucky with the weather it was cool with only light winds and this no doubt made for good going. 
We kept it steady to finish in 6th place behind winners and former Commonwealth games riders Kenny Riddle and James Millar and there was another bonus waiting for us in the second handicap prize.
It was good fun and hopefully good training for the upcoming cross season but I'm back to riding the dirt now and thankfully I've not experienced any withdrawal symptoms yet.
See you out on the trails...........

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Trophee de l'Oisan

This summer I once again ventured to the Alps to ride the Trophee de l'Oisan. My winters training had mainly been focused on shorter events (by which I mean it was really cold so I only rode my bike for short periods of time), so I wasn't sure how I was going to fair, but things went pretty well. First event was La Vaujany, 109 miles with 4000 metres of climbing. For me, it was an awesome day. It was just one of those days where everything turns out right. I felt great all day, with only one black spot climbing across the front of Villard Reculus. It was a wet, cloudy day - and I loved it (no pollen when it's raining, so I could breathe!). The first climb felt good, going up through the cloud, you couldn't see 10 metres in front of you, riders appeared out of the mist, and those coming past disappeared quickly. My descending felt great, I was able to ride with groups rather than just having people go past me all day, and on the flat/rolling sections I was in groups riding a good pace, and was able to come through and pull equal turns to keep the group moving. 

Ali panicked because he forgot he was cameraman and Jim was bottle holder man, and this picture was the result. 
 Riding over the top of the Sarenne (above Alpe d'Huez), I was told by the officials that I was premier femme, after that I was just riding along thinking 'don't puncture, don't puncture, don't puncture, stop thinking about puncturing, don't puncture, why do you keep thinking about puncturing??' Got to the bottom of the final climb up to La Vaujany, where Ali was reclining peacefully in the back of the car waiting for me to come past, probably having finished the race himself about 5 hours previously (slight exaggeration, but honestly, I think if you can ride La Marmotte in 6 hours, it can't actually be that hard a ride can it?). Anyway, I yelled at him to follow me up the climb as I was paranoid about getting a puncture and losing my lead. I got to the top, and was indeed premier femme. Prize was a stay in a chalet in Vaujany for four people this winter, so if anyone has a penchant for skiing/cycling in snow and wants to buy it off me let me know as I'm going to be in hell (fourth year uni=in lab) so can't go. 
Recovery position. 

 I was staying with Ali and a really nice guy from New Zealand who Ali coaches called Ryan, and Ryan's friend Jim. We were in a chalet in Bourg, it definitely had character...the day after Vaujany we all slept in until 12pm, which was awesome. Not even the dredging pump in the bathroom which pumped water from a the river next to the chalet for our taps/shower/toilet could wake us up. I felt a touch of a sore throat, but decided not to talk about it as I didn't want to be made to sleep outside, or admit to myself I might be getting ill. Tuesday, definitely had a sore throat, gargled with lots of bacteria-killing things and ate lots of fruit. Wednesday, Prix des Rousses, time for damage limitation as my throat was burning and I felt like crap. Managed to come 4th, and first out of people who had done Vaujany. 

Thursday, Friday, still feeling bad but managing to keep full blown cold at bay. Saturday, La Marmotte - perfect illness cure. This was not an awesome day. Well, it was, but it wasn't in terms of performance, or how I generally felt about being alive. Serious damage limitation mode (DLM), or at least trying to. Was still faster than last year, but not by anything like the amount I was in La Vaujany. I was 11th in my category, and 2nd out of people doing the whole Trophee. Didn't have internet so couldn't check exactly where I was in the overall standings. 

Next day, definitely had a cold! Raced up Alpe d'Huez. Horrible. Felt sick and horrible beforehand, and during. By this point for me the worst part is forcing yourself to eat, my body was repelling food and the mere thought of porridge was giving me waves of queasiness. Managed to ride up and beat closest overall rival by 5 minutes, but I wasn't sure how much she'd put into me during La Marmotte, and whether I was leading overall. 

Standing waiting for results felt like the worst kind of waiting to get exam results, but obviously a lot more important than those! My main emotion when I found out I had won (just before getting on the podium) was just relief. 

All done, waiting for results. Jim on right.
Warm up and breakfast in one go before final race. 
 The week after this Ali and I went to stay in a fully catered hotel I'd won a 7 night stay in during this event last year. It was amazing. I was ill, and Ali had had a slight run in with a cliff after a rear wheel blow out on the second bend of the descent of the Glandon during the Marmotte*, meaning he had a knee which didn't like bending, so we just chilled out, ate lots of really nice food, sat by the pool looking at the mountains, watched the Tour on TV every afternoon and on one particularly strenuous day went to the Col d'Madeliene to watch the Tour go by in person. 
Recovery food. 
Currently I am at my Mum's place in Cumbria. The car I normally use to get to transport myself has died, but I needed to see the physio in Edinburgh about my shoulder (which I dislocated the week after the stay in the hotel, another story, with one lesson: don't dislocate your shoulder, it really hurts. Lesson could also be translated as: you know those shoulder stability exercises the physio told you to do four years ago? Actually do them). So, I decided to ride up to Edinburgh, it was awesome, 120 miles of fun. Yesterday I came back via a different route, through Innerleithen, then down the B709 (I think), through to Langholm. The road is awesome, despite the constant head wind I was fortunate enough to encounter, and I got to make friends with a toad which I moved off the road. 

In Langholm I stopped for a coke, as I came out of the shop a friendly local guy asked me if I was riding far, as people are want to do. I told him where I had come from and where I was going, and his kindly smile soon turned into a look of anguish, he said 'you'll never make it there tonight though...', I was like, 'hmm, I think I'll be fine', he reiterated that I was never going to make it, I thanked him for his positivity and said I'd be fine, to which he said 'well, all the very best to you, and take care', in a way which clearly showed he thought I was definitely going to die that day, but there wasn't anything he could do about it, which made him a bit sad. I was cackling quite a bit about this as I rode the next few miles home, which I'm sure didn't help in my bid to convince people that cycling 120 miles with a bag on your back to visit the physio is perfectly sane. 

*Without making it any more dramatic than it actually was, he crashed off the road due to a rear wheel puncture in the middle of a hair pin, his leg got caught on a wall which stopped him going any further over the cliff, but bent his knee the wrong way. The ambulance people put an inflatable cast on him, he made them hide his bike so that when I rode past the ambulance I wouldn't see it and stop racing. I actually saw the ambulance, looked to see if his bike was outside it but it wasn't so I carried on without a care in the world (apart from finishing La Marmotte, and not running over the guy who crashed right in front of me in one of the tunnels, and trying to disguise my sobs of self pity at how horrible I felt as intimidating heavy breathing). They took Ali to the hospital, wouldn't let him go, so he escaped and hitched a lift to Alpe D'Huez so he'd be there when I finished so that I wouldn't worry about him. He had to leave his bike because they wouldn't give it to him, but luckily it turned up in Alpe d'Huez the next day and was returned to him unscathed(ish).

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Velo Club Moullorca

I've been going to Mallorca on and off for the best part of thirty years now and when this years holidays were being organised I made sure I had a bike booked on the flight along with me and the Family.  On my last trip to the Balearic Island five years ago I had travelled with my mountain bike and although it was good this time I couldn't resist taking the road bike to take advantage of the endless kilometers of smooth tarmac.

As any of you that have been to Mallorca with a bike will know there are plenty of hills and mountains to climb in the North of the Island giving more than enough roads to keep you interested.  As always we were based in Pollensa which gave me great access to the roads heading West towards Lluc and Soller. 

My favorite climb during the two weeks was from Inca up over the Coll De Sa Batalla(576m) towards Lluc.  I did this route from both sides with the Coll de Femenia(515m) side being slightly shorter but feeling slightly steeper.  The experience of climbing for 10 km on beautifully smooth tarmac is one not to be repeated in this country that is for sure!

One of my rides took me out to the lighthouse at Cap Formentor, the most Northerly point on the Island. One of the challenges in getting to and from the Cap was safely negotiating the tunnel on route.  The road out here is very well used and as such felt like riding at home apart from the fact that every car that passed gave you plenty of room.

Having endured the persistent Scottish rain throughout June and the start of July it was a delight being able to ride in dry warm conditions without having to worry about what extra layers and jackets that may be required.  I didn't really get fed up of cycling in blistering heat and I don't think I ever would.

But as ever all good things must come to an end and so it was back to the Scottish wind and rain.  It hasn't been easy coming back and having to plan rides around the weather again but at least I have the miles in my legs now and the memories of some great cycling.

My count for the two weeks stood at 220 miles which for a family holiday wasn't too shabby at all.  So if you are planning heading away make sure to pack a bike!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Gas Gasp Hill Climb

Over a year since my last post, not very good really. All the usual excuses- work etc etc! Mainly though the lack of postings is the result of a lack of anything positive to report. A good winters training had me fired up for a season of XC racing, this lasted 3 races till frustration at lack of results made me jack it in for the year. A sad but familiar pattern from the last few seasons- some changes needed! Perhaps I need to reign in my ambitions a bit. Anyway, a good few months off the bike and my mind made up that I DO want to keep riding bicycles got me checking the listings for a race to enter. The Gas Gasp hill climb took my fancy. A hill climb on a summers evening in the nice wee city of Norwich, sounded good and not too serious.

Not sure what brought that face on- a friend commented he hadn't seen that side of me before.

A cracking event, made better by the sun being out. Britain's cities need more events like this, not particularly big or fancy but a packed crowd and a great atmosphere, bikers and non-bikers all enjoying an ace little event.

So with my head screwed back on it's time to TTFU and get on with some training in time for the 50th 3 Peaks- it's going to be a belter! Anyone else in? Updates on training to follow over the next couple of months- there's going to be some pain involved.

Keep on it. Stevo.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

XC Season in Short

I've been out & about a bit over the last few months racing bicycles.  I should have been more diligent at scribbling things down about them more regularly to give a more lucid & interesting account of what’s been going on, but I haven’t so instead here’s a summary of what I’ve been up…

March – Kicked off with the Midlands XC at CannockDecidedly rusty on the skills side of things meant it took a lap of mincing and a spot of inadvertent tree hugging before I started to remember what to do and get into the swing of things regaining a modicum of riding ability.  Good to open the legs and lungs up fully, eventually finishing 9th.  Then lined up at the back of 70-odd Masters (due to no national ranking from last year) for the opening round of the Nationals at Sherwood.  Once I got through the traffic it was ok.  Getting 24th was not an amazing result, but I felt competative, so it’ll be filed under ‘satisfactory’.

April – Things went well in April.  6th on an ace course for the next Midlands round – long grassy climbs rewarded with lovely natural woodland descents with the odd jump & drop thrown in for good measure.  Then picked up 9th at the Nationals held at Dalby Forest.  Really horrid wet conditions made it nasty to wait around in but great fun to ride.

May – May however was less good.  At the final round of the Midlands I started well, then faded, then faded some more, then crawled my sorry ass round to the finish.  Shame, as Hanchurch is a killer place to ride.  The disappointing theme carried over to the 3rd round of the Nationals at Hopton.  A classic 1 massive hard climb, followed by 1 long downhill kind of course.  The climbing was fine, but for some reason I was doubly rubbish at descending on the day.  In a nutshell, I was 4th at the top of the first climb & finished 18th.

June - Thankfully things were back in order for the next Nationals at Kirroughtree.  Again there was some hard climbing & thanks to all the persistent rain some nicely squirmy, techy descents.  This one went more to plan, really enjoyed the course & finished top 10 again.

July - And finally, on to the National Champs to finish off my xc season.  A highly competitive field turned out, as you’d expect, to contest the champs.  Finally the rain had stopped & we were treated to glorious sunshine & a super-fast course.  Nothing particularly technical, but loads of corners & lots of roots which were tricky enough when ridden at pace.  Pretty happy with how it went, good consistent laps and winning a long sprint at the end for 13th place.

Now, time to start thinking about getting a new cross bike together.  Any suggestions?

Monday, 23 July 2012


Raced at Haughcross on Sunday eve, a summer cyclocross race put on by the good folk at Ronde as part of the Aberdour Festival.  Bringing a bike race to a mini festival with live music, beer tent and non cyclists made for a great atmosphere and event - a stroke of genius i'd say.

Heavy legs most of the week following a few big days of trail work (excuses!) had me expecting the race to be a grim, painful affair.  A few laps of the course before the vets/womens/juniors race though had me smiling as I pedalled - the course was a belter - short and compact with lots of turns, flow and rhythm.  A well though out euro-esque circuit with sections to go hard on but also sections to recover, oh and lots of turns of all types, plus 3 sets of uphill barriers a lap.  And a whisky short cut.  

Turns out the course was set out by Helen and Stef Wyman, up supporting the event and having run a successful cross clinic earlier in the day.  Just before the open race start I also had a lovely wee chat about bikes with Roger Hammond. Roger flippin' Hammond!  Almost had to pinch myself!  

A 5-4-3-2-1 start caught me napping a little as the front row jumped on about 2!  Far too gentlemanly into the first turn I ended up quite far back.  I was able to move up though and a few laps in got into a great wee battle with James McCallum, he stronger on the straights, me a little quicker through the turns.  For several laps I resisted the whisky shot short cut, but with Jamesy gaining a good 10secs a lap through here I bit the bullet and got stuck in.. with varying results.  

A while later thanks to more whisky short cutting, good advice from Davy Graham through the muddy bit, careful metering out of effort, surprisingly good legs and some slip sliding through the turns, I was up into 3rd spot!  Not sure quite how this happened but here I stayed 'till the finish.  Craig Hardie took the win with Dave Lines in 2nd.

Thanks to everyone who helped put on the event, it was super.  Ace to see so many VCMers out racing too. pics' capture the spirit of the event nicely, oh and a pretty shonky whisky grab by number 32...



Something's brewing........