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

Haughcross



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.

http://jerryballoch.tumblr.com/ pics' capture the spirit of the event nicely, oh and a pretty shonky whisky grab by number 32...

cheers,

andy

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

Monday, 16 July 2012

A long, dark corridor...

I think i'm ready to open the door and step out...
..the road miles have been short and punishing. I need to run to the hills.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Race Reports 2 & 3. by Beate Kubitz



Race Report no.2Do not attempt Tod cobbles in 34 x 25. Even if it is your lowest gear.That is all.

Race Report no.3The learning curve of a cx novice (aged 40 and a bit years old) part the third

Armed with lower gears and a lighter bike and on a relatively easy course I made a good start. Chipps made sure I actually lined up near the front row rather than my usual lackadaisical 'anywhere will do' place. He may have regretted this generosity when I passed him on the first bend. The ground was close mown and not as soft as I had feared and I realised I was keeping up a fairly good pace and opening up a gap over the nearest girl. It wasn't a very technical race with only one steep uphill bank made more difficult to ride by a couple of small ruts near the top which caused me to stall if I didn't judge it completely correctly. I ploughed on, noting that I was gaining seconds every lap and feeling great. This was surely how it was supposed to feel?Just over half-way, however, chasing down a bloke who had just passed me, I followed him up the steep climb. Maybe stupidly, as I knew I was climbing more quickly than he was and the firm line on the track was pretty narrow. He skidded and slipped just ahead of me, somehow rolling backwards into my bike. As I tried to climb back onto my bike to make up the lost time, there were shrieks from the sidelines.'Don't, your rear mech is off'.Thankfully they reached my dazed brain before I could try and do anything that would ruin my wheels as well. I couldn't quite believe that the race was over. I waited for perhaps a minute for my nearest rival to pass. And cheered her on.

Then I turned to Chipps to cheer him up the hill (and woefully display his lovely bike, in bits). He stepped off the Kinesis he was riding and handed it to me. I would love to say that I repaid his chivalry by going on to chase down nearest rival, but I managed to get within 20 seconds of her before realising that I wouldn't catch her and settled to a more sedate pace. I had lost my momentum and besides was slightly unnerved by his DI2 gears. At least it was relatively easy to correct mistakes (once I had noticed that being in the big ring was making the going a bit tougher than necessary). But I finished - and I learned what a difference a good start could make. And also not to ride too close to other riders on tough hills. Tomorrow I will learn how much a rear mech hanger costs.

The worst race so far…. by Beate Kubitz

Firstly hello to new new teamster Beate and her first season of cross, I'll let her do the rest of the talking. chrisd
The worst race so far….
I didn't expect it to be the worst race. I have only done four others so I suppose that's not much to go on, and despite my inexperience I've done reasonably well. Not anywhere near last, at least. This 'success' led to Chipps' boast that VCM would get a top three from me every race (at least on the basis that there aren't that many women vets racing). Ho hum, maybe it's the pressure of expectation that led to my monumental lack of focus.
Just to put racing into context. I ride pretty much every day - a 12 mile commute  - on my Jake the Snake. Usually with a couple of extra miles thrown in to visit my sheep. Sometimes I take the off-road route of 5 miles over the tops from gorgeous Mankinholes, one of the hamlets under local landmark Stoodley Pike, to Hebden Bridge. This is the kind of route I love - mainly firm stony going with quite technical stretches, water bars and a fast-as-you-dare cobbled descent or two. Made more interesting by the fact that these cobbles were last maintained about a hundred years ago.
We're now into a (rather late) lambing season so every day is prefaced and ended by the lamb round up. To get to Keighley last night meant I had to leave my shop at 5.30pm exactly. Ride about 6 miles up to my sheep fields, ending in a steep valley floor to top climb, as fast as I can without getting too out of breath so that I don't build up lactic acid in advance of the race. Walk and run about a mile round the fields checking on the new arrivals (two lots of twins and a single since you ask). At which point Chipps collected me and bike in the car to dash to Keighley.
We reached the race with about 30 minutes to spare. Amazing how quickly it goes - just enough time to stumble round a practice lap and get to the start line right at the back whilst still removing non-essential clothing. This less than propitious start led to me being bang last out. Oops.
I hauled a few places in on the first straight (grass, a bit soft but not the end of the world) and then we hit the singletrack section. Which turned out to be 'make your own singletrack on our nasty, wet, slidy, hummocky, grass/bog'. Suddenly daunted, I got off my bike and jogged. For ages. Over the one obstacle, round another nasty slidy corner until there was a clear downhill bank. Back on, down and survived the steep off camber, off at the bottom ready to push back up. More slopping through mud. Another waddle along an off camber bank. Don't get back on too early - the flat bit at the top is actually a deceptive bike-stalling sand pit. Down again. Up and onto a fast concrete path. Totally grumpy by now at losing my early gains I cheered myself up with a perfect rolling dismount for the flight of steps. Little things. The next section was a swooping grassy downhill chicane and suddenly it was not quite so awful.
As I rinsed and repeated I began to realise that I actually could ride most of the nasty muddy sections and that I wasn't actually bang last. The downhill became fun and something to look forward to - I passed a few people on it which was immensely satisfying.
Then I tried a bit harder on one bit of mud and fell off. The one girl I was certain was still behind me crept closer. She caught up with me on one of the banking sections and passed. Disaster. I kept right behind her, realising that if she got ahead for the downhill I would be slowed to her pace so had to overtake before then.
Right at the top of the bank, carrying my bike, I turned tighter than she did, squeezing ahead. Put the bike down, rolling, ahead of me (and the nasty sandpit) and jumped on. A proper cross mount under pressure and it worked, I was ahead with a straight, narrow, section in front of me. Not something I've done before. The fact that it worked spurred me on to mount properly at every opportunity. I only learned to mount and dismount in January (thanks to the combined forces of Chipps and Nick Craig - it was my birthday treat!) and I knew the theory - it creates easy momentum and will save energy - but this was the first race where I could put it to the test.
After that I just had to keep ahead - easy on the downhill, I seemed to be pretty good at that, and by trying harder on the mud. I didn't come off again so kept my lead. By the end I was exhausted but well ahead.

It wasn't great being in a battle to not be last but I managed it. On the up side, a couple of the things I have been working on - the cross mounts and a bit more bravura on the downhills - came good. On the down side, being daunted by the course on the first lap really lost me time and places. I need to practice on mud so that I have a bit more confidence and do a bit more work on powering over the slushy stuff. Oh, and apparently my tyre pressure was all wrong.