Velo Club Moulin

Monday, 31 March 2014

Ronde Van Vlandaaren…

Cobbled climbs? Belgian beer? What's not to love? It's almost a 'cross race, just a bit longer. With a few roads thrown in.

And this year I have (amazingly) managed to win a bike and a bells and whistles trip with BMC to do the full 244km sportive. All for 150 words about my love of beer, cobbles and Belgium with 5 photos of me (all on off road bikes). Credit to BMC for putting faith in a cheery cx racing female 40 something as one of their six winners.

Cue a lot of frantic pedalling - what was a 'I quite fancy doing the full Ronde' turned rapidly into 'I need to finish, and smiling, to uphold BMC's faith'. 

Luckily, the bike is amazing. It's a BMC Granfondo GF01:

Carbon light, super speedy with (green-eyed-envy-inducing) Ultegra Di2 gears and designed for the cobbles of the Spring Classics.

Alone, though, not even the bike will get me 244km.  So, in my effort to live up to the fabulous bike, I've been training. More than just 'riding a bit extra' (which is what my actual CX race training has consisted of so far). I've done intervals twice a week. Ridden to work (a hilly 40 miles carrying a back pack between Todmorden and Buxton) and even back some days (I've blogged these separately).  

Cycle commute. It's not always that sunny.

I've dragged Chipps out on my first century ride. He's started proclaiming that 'if it's not 120km it's really not worth doing'. He stuck to this on our fortuitously booked holiday, in the last week of March. We rode a few stonking Spanish loops, taking us over the hundred mile mark again and also into the realm of bonk, reminding me that half the battle will be to keep myself fed.

Setting off on my first Century - Cheshire loop devised by Si
Hopefully this will prepare me for the Ronde. I've not managed to ride 150 miles in one go yet. Flanders will be my first time. But I have cobble practice under my belt, and a reasonable time in the saddle and a lot more climbing in my legs than I'll need on the day. I'm excited and nervous. But the forecast is good, fingers are crossed and I'll report back on how I do!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Dunkeld Enduro 2014

Hi Ya'll, very long time between post for me.

Turns out there are few of us (5 Mouliners thus far) doing the Perthshire, Dunkeld Enduro in May . As these are my local trails I'm hosting a training ride on most if not all of the Enduro trails that will be used for the race on Sunday morning 6th April. If you are thinking of entering or just fancy a razz around dunkelds steepest and most technical trails then come along. It should be a great laugh.
Get in touch via email for more details.

Keep it upright!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Start of the off-season?

With the cyclocross bike gathering dust and rust in the garage, thoughts turn to what was once considered "race season" but is now "cyclocross off season". The first round of the 2014 Scottish XC series headed to Forfar where a few tweaks to the 2013 layout saw the "arena" moved to a more central location, a few extra swoops, dips and grins added through the quarry section, and some of the muddier sections removed.

Although sunny, a group of shivering riders huddled together for shelter from the wind before the whistle tooted and we were off. Racing in Sport again for 2014, I was given a front row grid slot, with last year's top Sport rider having moved up to Expert, and a number of others not being present. With the holeshot secured from the gun, I fully expected to be caught soon. Right enough, fast charging Masters racer Sean Clark eased past (the Masters racers had been sent off at the same time as but just behind Sport). Knowing that I wasn't racing Sean and that I would be unlikely to match his pace for long, I held his wheel as long as I could, thankful for some brisk pacing. After losing Sean, another rider (Alex Dimitriou) came and went as I decided not to stick with his pace, and I eventually settled in to a good pace with a Dundee Thistle rider, Neil Scott. I assumed we were duking it out for 2nd with Alex having headed up the road, and thought my chances of a podium were slipping away as a Leslie Bikes rider joined us and tested the pace up each climb. I came within a muscle twinge of falling away from the two, just about holding on up a couple of the climbs before Neil eventually opened a small gap and I was forced to ride around the LBS rider and try to prevent the gap to Neil from opening further.

Going in to the 4th lap, Neil unfortunately punctured on the quarry section, robbing us of a chance to duke it out for one last lap. Feeling pretty good, (having necked half a gel on the 3rd), I kept the pace steady, extending the gap over the rider behind and finding enough energy left for a pointless sprint against myself over the line. 

Feeling that I had ridden a reasonable race, a brief chat with a few other riders suggested that Alex Dimitriou had actually been riding in Masters (winning the category after Sean punctured), and so much to my surprise, I was first Sport rider home. It also transpired that the testing pace from the Leslie Bikes rider was recently retired roadie Ben Greenwood, dipping a toe in the SXC scene and riding in the Masters category too. A comfortable win in the Sport category in the end then, but with some good close racing with Neil Scott before his puncture robbed him of a good finish.

Elsewhere, I see that Greig Walker opened his 2014 SXC points tally with a solid 8th in a strong Vet field.

Cracking start to the season - great to be competing in new VCM kit (I'm sure the psychological effects of new team kit is worth a few seconds a lap), on my new Kinesis 29er and on dry, fast trails again. There was a great buzz around the event - well organised, good banter with a few of the usual faces and great commentary from Morven Brown on MC duties. The committee certainly seem to be doing something right and if the rest of the series is as good as Round 1 it will be a cracker - I'd urge everyone to try a round or two this year. I'm looking forward to Cathkin Braes already - sure to be a good test of the legs with a bigger field. There's work to do before then though. Maybe it's not the off-season after all?

Thanks to Craig Beattie for the photo. He has a great gallery of photos from the afternoon race.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Border Reiver

My last race was at the John Muir Winter Festival in February and to be honest it was a race too far for me at the end of a long season.  I had been feeling pretty run down at the end of the regular cross season and as a result hadn't done anything other than 'just riding around' since Mull.  I had a fair idea what to expect but I was still disappointed by my poor performance on the day.

I had decided not to race the Crit on the Campus as I felt it was too early in the season and I wasn't ready to start training properly yet.  A few weeks later someone mentioned a new race on the calendar to me, the Reiver Road Race, which was being organised by Berwick Wheelers.  The course looked right up my street being reasonably hilly and finishing on a climb.  For several weeks I procrastinated about entering despite knowing deep down that I almost certainly would.  I knew that once I put an entry in I'd need to get on with the hard work of trying to get in shape for it.  I finally entered at 11pm on the night the entries closed.

I had managed to get a reasonable number of miles in at the start of the year and after couple of good hard Sunday runs and a few sessions on some local hills I started to feel a bit better.  At the back of my mind there was a bit of a fear that I would have another bad day and get blown out of the back early on.  This was amplified because there are no longer any cat 4 only road races and over half the field were cat 3.

The day of the race was sunny and the roads were dry but there was a strong south westerly.  The 18 mile course was dominated by a stiff climb in the first couple of miles and lots of sections exposed to crosswinds.

After a briefing where it was stressed  that crossing the white line would lead to instant disqualification a full field of 60 riders rolled out from the idyllic village of Etal.  As soon as the flag dropped half the field seemed to cross the white line and fight to get to the front.  My half decent position in the bunch suddenly disappeared and I found myself towards the rear.

The effect of having so many stronger riders in the field was immediately obvious when we hit the first hill.  The pace was furious.  Fortunately there were a few gaps in the bunch and I managed to start making my way up on the steepest lower section.  A split started to form about 10 riders ahead of me and I had just enough in the tank to bridge across to the front group.  Almost immediately 9 riders jumped off the front to form the winning group.  At points we were speeding uphill at over 30mph thanks to the strong tailwind.

A few miles later we turned left into a strong crosswind and all hell broke loose.  I was towards the back of the second group as it split and over the next few miles 4 or 5 of us tried to ride back across.  I got to within 10m of the group before I blew.

A group of around 6-7 formed and at first we worked fairly well together although it became harder after a couple of riders dropped off.  Our progress wasn't helped by the fact that every time one of our number came through it felt like an attack.  After sprinting down the line he would pull a 3m gap on the front man before rapidly slowing. 

By the time we hit the top of the climb on the second lap we were down to 4 riders.  By the time we reached the crosswind section two of us were pretty cooked.  Luckily for us Peter Ward of VC Edinburgh who was easily the strongest rider in our group was going like a train.  Unluckily for him we weren't in any position to help him.  On the few occasions I managed to come through I'm sure I just slowed him down.  I spent the last half lap clinging onto his wheel hoping not to get dropped.  If I had I'm pretty sure I would have lost a lot of time.

As we approached the line our numbers grew as we picked up stragglers from the group ahead.  Fortunately for me the finish was on a climb rather than a sprint into a headwind.  I managed to put in a half decent finish to come in 25th and 9th 4th cat home.

One thing that was obvious is that is going to be difficult to pick up BC points this year.  Only 3 4th cats scored points with top 15 finishes.  The character of this race was quite different to the 4th cat only races I did last year.  Instead of the pack getting whittled down through attrition this race was dominated by strong riders who split the race at the first opportunity.

Thanks to Berwick Wheelers for putting on a great race on a safe well marshalled course.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Saturday, 22 March 2014


You know those days? The ones where you really can't be bothered to go out? The ones where any excuse will do? Weather, wrong clothes, dog ate my homework,  no recovery drink to come home to. I was having one of them. No motivation, no lead in my pencil, just nowt.
The bike on the rollers was just taunting me, laughing because it knew I was already down and the thought of a roller session was even worse than going out.
Suddenly before I knew what had really happened I was at the back door, heart rate strap on, fully togged up and out into the rain.
This was supposed to be a structured training ride but it just wasn't going to happen that way. I grabbed the single speed and set off quickly realising that I had forgotten my garmin and just as quickly realised that I was glad. This ride was about, just that, a ride. No heart rate zones, seated accelerations or distance. I just needed to get out to remember how quickly your head clears and your spirits lift when you go out. I got thoroughly soaked, driven back by the wind and had to really strain to get up the hills; but it was easily the best ride of the year.
It was a ride.
All the guff about ss was true, the simplicity was exactly what I needed at that time. I remembered what I enjoyed about cycling again. 
Don't fight yourself,  fight your demons and use the weapon of choice, a bicycle.