Sunday, 26 February 2012

A day of three halves








































Maths was never my strong suit.

In December, my friend Jo suggested that willing parties might consider a 12 in 12 challenge; a century each month in 2012. Why not...?

January's was knocked of early one Saturday on a clear and icy day.

February arrived and then very quickly came close to passing (a combo of work and playing in the snow number among my feeble excuses for letting the month drift by).

Old friend Justin suggested I ride with his club (Henley) on their 56 mile reliability trial. A quick bit of Google maps scouting suggested that riding over and back would come to something a little over the required ton. Hmm...

Up before dawn (those who know me will know what an anomaly this is) and out at the first hint of light on the horizon. Recent warm weather had informed my kit choice, but of course, I had not considered the unfamiliar early start.

Shivering past frost-covered cars, I was treated to a colourful dawn and mist hanging over the Thames as I neared Henley.

After espresso and friendly chat we were set to leave. Obviously I'd made the optimistic choice of riding with the fast group of the the three on offer, after all I'd had a warm up ride hadn't I?

This being a reliability trial we had a set time to complete the loop (a mix of some of the longer Chiltern climbs in the area and some flatter Oxfordshire roads). We'd need to average over 20mph which is unknown territory for me, but with a large group there'd be plenty of wheels to follow.

After the initial blat up Pishill (yes you do pronounce it like that - something to do with horses stabled at the pub at the top I'm lead to believe) and descent from Stokenchurch some order was applied and a regimented pace line formed.

The rouleurs of the group (of which I was not one) kept us at a high pace as we rolled around the lanes of Oxfordshire at a not-entirely civilised pace. Passing Chalgrove with my eyes on stalks I glanced down to see 31mph - eep!

Discipline was abandoned as we approached the biggest climb from Watlington and one rider clipped a wheel to forward-flip into the verge. Fortunately he was fine, if a bit embarrassed and we dragged ourselves into the Chilterns and back down to the Thames for fine coffee and apple strudel at the rather lovely Chocolate Theatre cafe.

I still had 25 miles to pootle back and took the route past Stonor and on-looking deer in time for chocolate milk and soft-boiled eggs on well-buttered crumpets.

What's for dinner?

Sunday, 19 February 2012

British Fire Service Cyclo Cross Championships

Its a while ago now but I started my cross season waaay back in October, Not in Scotland but over the Border at the Fire Service Sports and Athletics Association National Cyclo Cross Championships which were hosted by Tyne and Wear Fire Service at Temple Park, South Shields. The Fire Service Champs were incorporated into round 4 of the North East CX league which was being held the day before the First National Trophy round. There was a massive field in the mens race with British Champ Paul Oldham and a host of Belgian and Dutch riders checking out the course for the Sunday. This made for super fast racing on an almost exclusively grassy course which was rather alien to me coming from a diet of technical Scottish race courses. The course wound it's way back and forth so it was easy to keep a check on where you were in relation to other riders throughout the race. VCM were represented by me and Local Paul Errington, I wasn't too fussed where i ended up in the race overall as my main goal was the Fire Service Champs.


Anyway after a frantic hour of racing(hanging on) I finished in 38th place overall with Paul taking 43rd overall. Most importantly for me though was that I had managed to finish 2nd firefighter to take the Silver medal. The Gold medal was won by an incredibly fast Alan Nixon(Durham FS) who placed a fantastic 8th overall.

2012

2012 has started already, hasn't it? Precious little 'cross under the belt for me, but some fine performances by an ever strengthening team.



I think i might have finally pushed the rock i have been hiding under aside.

It is time.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Dig In Around the Dock- Bo'ness

Scotlands crossers converged in Bo'ness on the Firth of Forth recently for the Dig In Around the Docks cross race which was organised by International cyclo cross legends Jon Mcomisky and David Hamill the team behind the successful Dig In series that documented this years Scottish cross series.



The course had been set out in parkland in and around the now empty docks, It was a relatively flat course with the addition of a bitingly cold East wind blowing in off the Forth. The course was quite traditional in feel with a set of hurdles, steps and a bonus cobbled section on the home stretch.

One hundred riders lined up for the start with six Moulineers making the start, Addy Pope, Chris Duncan, Davie Graham, Gordy Mackenzie, Maddy Robinson and Simon Muir. With the whole field starting at the same time it made for some exciting early moments until everyone sorted themselves into a rythm. I had decent start and first reeled in Addy, then Simon came past on a charge which he kept on right to the finish coming in first Moulineer, I eventually made up part of a trio which was a big help on the headwind sections of the course. Spectators were treated to some close racing and with almost three quarters of the course visible from the dock area they were kept well entertained. The crowd were fantastic cheering on every rider and with nearly everyone having a cowbell (thanks to VCM) to ring it was all the encouragement needed spur you on.


The first bike race in Bo'ness for fourty four years was a great sucsess with everyone having a tale to tell from the day and loads of muddy smiling faces at the finish, I'm still buzzing from it even now.






So how did the Moulineers do? Well we all finished all pretty muddy but in one piece. Maddy was the standout of the day taking second place in the ladyeez race. Simon showed the way to the boys on his new Ridley painted in VCM team colours no less. Me and the rest of the boys followed in closely bringing a great race and Scottish cross season to and end.





Now if every race could be like this...................................................................................................





Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Brrr !!!! Hit the North 2012


Hit the North is an event I will never miss .. ever .. I love the course and the atmosphere .. even the organisers are alright :)

The event is 2 hour long affair and is always a battle between cyclocross riders and mountain bikers or more importantly cross bikes and mountain bikes .... last year the event was muddy and a cyclocross bike was the weapon of choice .. this year I gambled on more mud so the cross bike was chose.

The trip down started at 5am with Cross Club riders Adam Cooke and Rob Walker also racing .. soon as we arrived the cold was evident.

Signing on there were alot of familiar faces .. always good to catch up with people that you really only see at races.

Getting ready and 'warming up' (unsuccessfully) I couldn't feel my fingers ... the start was for the first time right at the lowest part of the course leaving a longer climb ahead right from the gun .. on the start line I was on the front row ..



after a bit of shuffling around I found myself 6 or 7 rows back .. right behind Guy Martin of Isle of Man TT fame ... straight off from the gun the ducking and weaving started to try and get on ...



alot of people I think underestimated the climb and there was alot of people fading before we got to the singletrack.

The course was rock hard frozen .. cross bike getting a little bullied on the frozen ruts .. the descents were a little cheeky and I opted to run a few sections ..



what time I was loosing on the downs I felt that I was more than holding my own on the climbs ... the lower part of the course was fast flowing singletrack and a lovely descent with berms .. lots of fun !!!



I managed to get away relatively unscathed until on consecutive laps I slid over smashing my bottle cage and then the following lap shoulder charged a tree .. donated plenty of skin to the cause.

Towards the end of the race although I was still catching and passing the back markers there was a sizeable gap to the place in front and behind me so I got to ride at about 80% effort and enjoy the singletrack... I even managed to get through the time cut off and get another lap in.



I finally finished 21st ... not a fantastic result but what I took away from this event was so much more than a result ... I thoroughly enjoyed racing my bike ... I lost nothing on the flat or the climbs so my legs are good even if my bike handling needs some work ... I now just need to build this comfort and effort over 200 miles and at around 40 degrees hotter.

Bring on June and the Dirty Kanza 200

All pictures courtesy of Ed Rollason Photography