Monday, 3 November 2014

Progress........and a change of direction

I hadn't realised it had been so long since i'd written anything on here, so what have I been up to in the cycling world? I competed in my first road race, a nice hilly route in the Purbecks near Poole, I enjoyed myself, I was never going to worry the big boys but I had some fun, tried a breakaway and showed the roadies how its possible to corner on a road bike. I didn't ride my mountain bike for the whole of September, I wasn't feeling right in myself with other things that were going on and I had damaged my calf muscle from the effects of not recovering properly after Bontrager, I was ordered off the bike for 1 week, but this was really 2 weeks, but then I probably needed the rest having never really stopped riding in 3 years.
Road race debut

So i'm back in training now, I've had two races both ending with DNF's which is frustrating, first was unavoidable due to a crash caused by another racer, the second may have been avoidable but I don't want to dwell on it. Hopefully my run of bad luck is over and I get back to normal service!

My training has altered these last 3 weeks to include running and swimming.......since Bontrager I haven't felt I can apply myself to just cycling anymore, it was pretty much two years preparation and with it going so well I don't feel I need to repeat it anytime soon, so I've set myself a new challenge of trying some triathlons in 2015. This will take some work, my swimming is average at best and my running must progress slowly to avoid injuries, but I was crap at cycling to start with but now at least I'm fit and I can handle the training load and time constraints. I intend to carry on racing my mountain bike as it'll make a tri bike leg a doddle and it'll keep me sharp for Xterra in August, I don't think the lack of miles will hold me back too much, i'll just have to focus and suffer to a higher level when I do ride, instead of just going for a pootle. I'm feeling the most driven in months and looking forward to seeing what happens, but its not end of my mountain bike racing.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Post 24hr blues, Big Dog's and working out what comes next

It’s been a month now since winning Bontrager Twentyfour 12 24hr, initial recovery went well, I rode into work on the Tuesday after the race, but took the week easy, as my right foot was numb. The weekend after I rode a bit more, feet was numb, my heart would top out at 140bpm and calf wasn’t right. My calf got progressively worse, dull pins & needles was all I felt in my foot, another weekend past and my calf was still buggered, but I could pedal in circles again, ish. Went to the Physio, I had neural tension, which was stopping the nerve running across my calf properly, exercises prescribed, after a few days it felt a ton better. Good job, I had a Big Dog to race…..

I love Brighton Big Dog 6hr, it’s a great event, this was my 4th year in a row, and it was going to be dry again, yay! I was racing mixed pairs with Natasha Barry, a nice change for me, but involved riding FAST!. First lap was disappointing, some tape was missing, I had dropped off the front pack and missed a turn, we corrected our mistake only to get caught up in backmarker riders who were having a staggeringly good first lap……few minutes dropped, down to Natasha. We had a good few single laps, swapping between 3rd/4th, I did one double lap to get a buffer on 3rd, the fast laps were taking it out of me, but I wanted 3rd! I Rode our last lap, battling cramp but I’d past our 3rd place competition at the start of the lap, so we were home and dry. We got a few great prizes, and people stayed for the prize giving, which was nice.

I’ve not any big races booked for the rest of the year, I won’t be racing WEMBO 24hr World Champs, Bontrager took a lot out of me, both physically and mentally and I’m lacking the commitment needed to repeat the training required to do myself justice, and due to the high personal financial cost and my own race mentality I won’t race just to take part, it’s just not that kind of race.  

So what is next? I’m glad I scratched the 24hr itch and it went so well, I’m not sure yet whether I will commit to another any time soon. I had my second experience of triathlons recently, I wasn’t racing, just fussing, but I can see the appeal, especially Xterra, that looked a blast! But my swimming is woeful so I’m promising nothing. Next race for me is my road race debut, my form is iffy but I’ve a higher suffering threshold now, just need some legs back.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Bontrager Twentyfour12- 24hours solo

Ever since I got into endurance racing i've wanted to try a 24hour solo race, I've read enough blogs by the best in the business and it seemed to be the natural step up in my racing, i've done around ten 12hour solo racers, and I know i can cope with them well, how much harder can twice the length be!?

both bikes prepped with 1 x 11
My whole season has been working towards Bontrager Twentyfour12, i've purposely avoided racing too much, held back racing any other long races this year, instead I have spent my weekends and evenings building up to racing for 24 hours. Working with Francesca Bennett my coach we have added far more core workout and gym work, spending two lunchtimes a week specifically working on my core and leg strength, to help in those latter hours of the race.

We arrived in plymouth on friday lunchtime, meeting up with Scott Swalling and Nic, we rode a quick practice lap, I liked the course, it suited me, a few long climbs and enough single track to keep it fun, 7.7 miles and 700feet of climbing per lap

Saturday morning arrived, I was very nervous, we all knew it was going to be hot, so it was key in the morning to take on as much fluid as I could. I went through my usual pre race rituals, porridge, muller rice, milkshake & the toilet, several times. Dad went and waited on the start line with my bike, this gave me and extra 15minutes in the shade, still drinking!

The start was fine, I knew there was no point rushing! as Rob Lee used to tell me, you only have so many bullets, don't waste the magazine at the start. I settled into a good position within the top 10 of 24 solo, lapping steady, drinking a 750ml bottle of Torq Vanilla pod and one Torq gel a lap, making sure I took on enough units. My average heart rate was low and I was keeping cool, this was going well. Over the next few laps my lap times were consistent, within 30seconds. I caught Matt Jones who I had been worried about prior to the race, he had been struggling with the heat but had been lapping in front off me. I continued swapping positions with Russ from Traverse Bikes, but he slowly dropped back.

I swapped onto my chinese bike after 5 hours, not feeling confident in my Lefty fork, the first 8hours went quickly and It wasn't long before I was told to put on lights, I swapped helmets on my next lap, but still kept my light off, knowing the dusk is better with natural light.

Before long it was dark, but warm, I added merino arm warmers and kept tapping out the laps, I spoke to a few 12hour racers who were almost finished, but I was now leading, it was mine to lose, but I was going into my unknown now, I had never ridden a bike for this long before.
flying night stop
The night went surprising quickly, I kept occupied and consistent, I had a bottle of Torq recovery and a few caffeine gels, these helped but I still felt great.......

As the sun came up you would be forgiven for thinking the race was almost over, but there was  6 hours left, thats a long race in itself! I kept the pedals turning, I was over a lap clear now, having lapped Matt Jones during the night, but a bad lap and I could still loose the race. 
230miles and 23hrs15 later, WINNER
attack of the grey mist
Trophy from BeerBabe Upcycling
I had a bit of a wobble at 8am, after I'd ridden the previous lap thinking it was 10am, bugger! luckily it didn't effect me too badly. I met up with Martin Smith, he was going through a low point having raced the team 12hour before starting the torchbearer 12hour race, we rallied each other, but eventually he rode off. Luckily it was almost 2 hours to go, and  was going to win, the last 2 laps were hard, my feet had long since gone numb, and my hands were feeling sore due to the braking bumps on all the technical descents. I passed my pit for the last time, confident I had done enough to stay in front, even if matt took it right to the wire. I crossed the start line, so happy but broken, only my supporters knew I had won as it was only 11:10am, but I wasn't going round again for the sake of it!
amazing what a shower can do!
Well done to Matt and Alex

Now what am I doing? dabble in some road racing if my feet come back to life. Decide finally on whether to try and get to WEMBO 24hr World Champs in Fort William 

Monday, 14 July 2014

Ride report: Southdowns Way and the Pyrenees

I've been fairly quiet on here, if truth be told I haven't been racing much at all, I decided to put my xc racing on hold, I struggle to motivate myself to spend several hours sitting in the van for 1 hour and a bit of racing, so I've been training hard. 

May and June were both 1000+ mile months. One particular week saw me head back to the southdowns way for a fast one way attempt. I decided to leave Winchester early, I got there for 4:30am, rolling by 4:40am partly to beat the heat and partly to save my bike from the Friday afternoon commuter bikes on the train journey back to Winchester. I had a great ride, no mechanical issues and only minor navigation errors. I finished in 8hours 20 at the new finish at the seafront of Eastbourne, I know of a few times around 7.5hrs, I know I could have gone faster but happy with a trouble free ride.

I had wanted to fit in a riding holiday for a few weeks before Bontrager 24:12. I chose the Pyrenees due to the classic cycling history and wide array of mountain passes. I was undecided which bike to take, i settled on taking my road bike, its titanium so very comfortable, although i use Non-compact style cranks, so i was concerned i'd be over geared. 

After a long drive down the first day was a gentle ride, enjoying the scenery, i had been awake for 20hours! the next day I was keen to ride the Tourmalet, it started 20km from our B + B which gave me a chance to stretch my legs. The official Strava segment was 10.7miles, just over 4000feet elevation change, as it stands i'm 64 out of 2496, which i was happy with as a first attempt! 

The next few days were spent exploring local Cols, including Col Du Soulor, Col d'Aspin, Horquetter and The Hautacam, on the last day I rode three Cols in a day, around 13,000feet of climbing, but I felt in my element, improving on my climbing and descending techniques. By the end of the week I had ridden 360miles with 50,000feet of climbing, happy and feeling strong.
it is less than two weeks until Bontrager 24:12 and my first 24hour solo, usual mad rush to get bikes finished and kit sorted.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Double header: Erlestoke 6hr and Dorset Gravel Dash 100

Back to my local endurance race, Erlestoke 12 has been blessed with awesome weather for as long as I can remember, unfortunately it wasn't to be this year. A wet week in the run up then torrential race just before the start meant it was going to be a tough day. Being a local i'd pre-empted the mud and set up my spare bike with awesome Maxxis Beaver mud tyres, they are grippy yet fast, just a great tyre, turned from my spare bike, to the bike I rode for the whole race!

I didn't get the best start, being held up, but I was top 10, George Budd, last years winner,  was riding his awesome Salsa Beargrease carbon fat bike, was gone, never to be seen again, but I expected this.

I made steady progress trying to conserve energy through the sections which were unrideable, I was around 5th or 6th, not great but it was a 6hr race, i had time to close them down. Each lap was taking around 50minutes which was reducing my time to catch people, luckily i was getting faster!

I was up to 3rd place with one lap to go, I knew I could catch 2nd, he is a good friend but a competitor, I caught him halfway through the lap, and made sure I kept my pace high. I finished 2nd which i was pleased with, a lap behind George on his fat bike of shame.

I'm glad I raced in the challenging conditions, it disappointments me when people bail because its muddy, running the right tyre make a huge difference.
I got back to my parents, had dinner then got back to Poole. The day after we headed to Swanage for Charlie the Bike Monger Gravel Dash 100, the inaugural 100mile gravel race. I was feeling ok, so i knew i just needed to eat lots and turn the pedals! I rode with my friends for a few hours then left them on the longest climb of the day, I spent the rest of the ride by myself, keen to get back to Swanage. The route was nice, great views and fun terrain, not much single track but it wasn't about that. In all it was 92miles and 6300feet of climbing, just under 8hrs. It given me lots of ideas for new routes and it was nice to hang out with a different type of racers. 14hours of racing and riding in 2 days, the bank holiday was useful for recovery! 
Vacant look after 14hrs of racing in 2day
Trusty chinese 29er, 2500miles old

Friday, 9 May 2014

Gorrick 100 - 7laps

Gorrick 100 is a classic race, it moved from the Swinley Forest to Deepcut barracks last year and to one of my favourite courses at Windmill Hill, but it still starts too early!

With the XC Nationals taking place on the same day a few top riders were missing, but enough fast riders remained! I got a good start off the front row, but I let the front 6 riders go, and was caught by another 2, but I was riding nowhere near my limit, Heart rate was low, knowing it was at least a 5hr race.
The course was great, last years loamey sections had been replaced with well ridden singletrack, which flowed together nicely, I was pedalling a lot, at least 80% of the lap was pedalling!!!

The first 3 laps went without issue, my housemate was also racing had stuck to my wheel, seeming to trust my pacing, at the beginning of the 4th lap I caught a glimpse of a rider in front, so I sped up to make the catch, and proceeded to gap him and my housemate. Later on I caught another rider, so I was upto 4th, feeling ok, with no back issues which everyone else seemed to complain about, maybe my gym sessions do help!?!

Beginning of the 6 lap I just managed to miss the start of the 3 lap race, although I did get caught in their shoddy overtaking, I kept up with a few, but let the fast boys go. By the 7th lap I felt in my groove, the course was still fun and it was quiet. I finished in 5hours 44minutes, and 3rd place, chuffed! finally a good result at the Gorrick 100. My housemate had a good race finishing 6/48. Chapeau to Scott Swalling, 19th on a fat bike!!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

2014 Race bike Review-KTM Myroon 29er

Thought it was about time I wrote a review of my new race bike.

I bought it as frame only through my team. I ride a 19" which comes in about perfect for me, 6ft, but very long legs but I don't like a long reach, so the 608mm top tube suits me well, i'd say upto 6ft 2 would fit depending on leg length etc.

Frame weight is 1250grams, this is on par with most xc race hardtails, maybe 150grams over the lightest frames. The build quality is good, nice paint work, I heli taped most of frame from new to avoid any scuffs. The frame uses a 27.2mm post, this is useful for adding a bit of comfort, but makes dropper post choices limited, so far I've liked the thinner post, no slipping like my Chinese frames.

The frame uses full length cable outer, which runs through the frame, keeps any mud out and avoids the cable fouling in the frame.

Frame uses a 142 x 12 maxle axle, adds stiffness, no issues with this, apart from the supplied KTM one is a bit cheapy.

Overall I've been happy with the frame, a few issues frustrate me; the lack of rear mud clearance. I use Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.25" tyres which are a tight squeeze, I only use it for racing so I've yet to experience deep mud, but having had issues in races past with my frame clogging i'm not keen to repeat it, my Chinese frames have much more clearance, with similar seatstay lengths.
The frame uses a PF30 bottom bracket, they seem fragile by nature and SRAM versions are particularly poor, it makes the frame stiffer but I prefer the robustness of external BB's.
Another issue is the lack of SRAM compatibility, the frame comes as standard with a direct mount rear mech hanger which is only compatible with Shimano rear mechs, luckily a SRAM hanger can be ordered in. The frame uses a direct mount front mech, again it is not compatible with SRAM DM front mech's which fouls on the frame, how this is possible on a big brand frame is surprising and annoying.

I've had the bike built with 2 x 10 and 1 x 10 gearing, depending on the race. The built weight is approx. 21pounds built as 1 x 10, depending on tyre choice. Mixed of SRAM X0 drivetrain, Hope Race X2 Brakes, Lefty XLR 29er fork & Strada Carbon Wheels.

Overall the frame makes a good xc race hard tail, it feels more lively compared to my chinese frames, I can live with the frustrations, but i feel they could be improved upon.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Margam Madness 8hr solo

I've been quiet on racing and reports, knowing the time for long races was approaching, I had a small adventure across the south downs way at night, but this didn't go to plan so I didn't want to dwell.
Pre Race, bikes prepped

I believe Margam near Port Talbot in South wales is a classic venue for racing, and as we arrived early saturday morning i can understand why, rolling hills and nice woodlands. Margam Madness is now in its 3rd year, i've wanted to race here before, but it used to be later in the season, when motivation was dwindling and weather was unpredictable. luckily this year it was a fine spring day, if a tad windy, and it had been dry for a week or so, perfect.

After a quick catch up with friends I set off on a practice lap, keen to check if the rumours of a brutally hilly and technical course were true, they were! The course was made up of several climbs, some short and steep, others longer, then a mixture of fast flowing descent then three more technical black run descents, part of the new Margam trail centre, and two river crossings. The practice lap didn't help my nerves.

The race started without incident, I made sure I kept near the front to miss any traffic on the first descents, few minor hiccups with riders which clearly hadn't pre-ridden the course, then I made my own mistake. Knowing one of the descents was on the limits of my abilities I took the easier line so as not to hold up other riders, this was fine, until I missed a course marker, arriving at the top of the  hill after a long climb, bugger, I saw other riders who I knew would be near the front of the race and linked back up with the course, this rattled me, I completed the rest of the lap without error, I told the race organiser of my error. I continued onto my second lap but I was still annoyed with myself, this lap I rode the technical descent so as to not make any more mistakes!

Arriving back in the arena I was told it had been sorted, I had been docked a few minutes, cool, I was third, cool, time to prove I should be third. The next few laps rolled round with incident, I was enjoying the course for all its lunacy and I was riding well. I stayed in third, the gap to second was around 15minutes, quite a gap!

After the 4hour race had finished the course was much quieter, I  knew which lines to take on descents, until the front end washed out on a black run descent! bugger! bars twisted, luckily I had allen keys so I straightened them, and carried on, but it did shake me up!

I swapped to my spare bike for the last two laps, nice to have working suspension and a fresh drivetrain! and I was also up to second! I felt good, the last two laps came without a fight, the last lap felt good, no major aches, good times! I finished second in 8hour solo 18-40 male, 3rd solo overall. 63miles, 7:30hrs, 9300feet of climbing. Chapeau to George Budd solo winner and the only person to do 11laps, beating the teams and pairs!!

Big thanks to the organisers to sorting my issues and putting on such a tough but rewarding course! thanks to my sister for pit help.

Thanks to Bike Photography for the photos

Monday, 17 March 2014

Sunny week in March!

Some time ago I was invited to a training weekend in the Brecons, Wales, by the Live2Ride road race team. I remember last March well, I did an XC race and it snowed!! Luckily it was the complete opposite this year.
Getting there on the saturday night, it was difficult to make out how good the road riding would be. 

Sunday was a perfect sunny day, the main climb of the day was the Gospel Pass, a picturesque climb, gaining 1500feet in 5miles, perfect! I love a grind! Making an early effort I left the roadies behind, but they were never too far away, 6/452 on Strava, i'll take that. Unfortunatley the descent wasn't quite as much fun. We stopped for a quick drink, as apparentley two bottles is only enough for 60miles. We made our way back to the Beacons where the group split, deciding to make the most of the day we strung a century out along a brilliant valley, until we had to turn around, I won't mention the puncture 0.8miles off 100! always take a pump kids!
Gospel Pass
The second and third days took in the Black mountain climbs in both directions, another great long grind, 25/1997 going north and 17/425 going south, maybe Non-compact cranks aren't too tough! I never realised there were so many great climbs in Wales. We finished the trip with a ride out of Crickhowell, taking in the Llangynidr Mountain, 1,300feet in 4 miles, and the Tumble, 1,260feet in 3miles. A great few days riding, 306miles and 29,000feet of climbing, Wales can compete with the Canaries! in the sun.

A few days of easy spins later and it was off to Wasing for the first round of the Southern XC series, I raced there last year, it isn't a favourite venue of mine due to the lack of long climbs, but it was a lovely sunny day, which made up for it. I was racing in expert category again. I got off to a good start, but struggled to find a way through the group, getting held up initially. I had a few good laps, getting caught by a few masters racers was dissapointing, but I managed to get a 10th, which i'll take, few places up on last year. It was a good end to a long week of riding, getting on for 20hours!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

"Spring" Update

It has been a few weeks since i've written anything on here, so whilst i'm taking a bit of time out to recover from overdoing it, and before I head off again for another riding break, here's a blog.

KTM team launch, I headed to Cwm Carn in Wales for a day of riding, chatting and photography, here is a few snaps courtesy of Oli Jepsom and Anthony Pease. It was a fun day, I've still a few reservations about riding in a team but i'm sure it'll work out.

I've not been racing that much, with a long season ahead i'd rather hit the ground running with my long races, rather than loose weekends racing non-important xc races. I did race the 6th round of the Off Camber series, managing a respectable 3rd place despite an 85mile road ride the day before and my rear brake going pop half way through. I will be at the first round of the Southern XC series

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Club Lasanta 4 day Stage Race-Lanzarote

I have been wanting to race abroad for a few years, but the shear cost and planning has always seen me taking the easy option. Luckily after my training camp in Gran Canaria went well last year, I knew it could be fairly simple.  I had seen a few posts about the 'Club Lasanta' 4 day stage race, and I’d quizzed endurance legend Ant White about  it, it looked a good option; warm weather, all out of one location, good flight options, cheap local accommodation, a week away from the British winter.
So I recruited a friend, found accommodation and tried to get in shape.
Travelling was relatively smooth, the bikes survived the flight, and the accommodation I found online actually existed. But wind!! Jesus Christ the wind!
The first, short 30mile ride left me totally shattered, battling into a 25mph block headwind, but the riding showed promise, fun trails and sufficient climbing.
KTM Myroon 29er ready for battle
The first stage was a 38km blast! The Fast and furious start saw my heart bouncing of its relatively low limit, but I was well paced and attacking the hills well, made my first stage racing mistake, volunteering to lead the group may seem a good idea, but I was only making my life hard. The stage went quickly, the descents were fun , but had to be ridden with caution due to the loose nature of the terrain. 1:33hr and I was done, a strong ride, 26th out of 38 elites, and as I wouldn’t class myself as “elite” at these distances I was happy.
Ant White, Me, Adam Hunneyball

Stage 2 saw a less frantic start, a longer 58km stage lay ahead. The gradient was gradual and I was staying clear of leading the pack! After an hour of racing we hit the lava field, a 3mile section of tennis ball sized lava rocks split the pack up, I just wanted to get through without a puncture! The next section was a long drag uphill, this suited me well and I made up lots of places. I found a similar speed rider and we worked well off each other for the  next few miles. 30miles complete and I wanted to shake him off, but every time I attacked he caught me on the next open section where my 1 x 10, 34 tooth gearing lacked top end speed. Eventually I dropped him as we approached Lasanta. 2hrs 37mins, 23rd elite, 42nd male overall, moving me up to 24th elite. 

Stage 3 was a 20km hill climb, from the beach to an observatory 594m above. Sally Bigham had told us it took her 1:04 last year, so I had this time to aim at. I got off to a good start, legs felt ok, but a bit cool after the ride over to the start. I kept an eye on my heart rate and cleared the first section of the climb with my minute man in sight, a short technical descent then a wide open stretch, I’d opted for a smaller 32tooth front chainring, I slightly regretted this as I span out, but it gave me plenty of gear options. The last few miles was a long fireroad drag to the summit, I caught and passed my 2 minute man, then just before the end my 1 minute man. I was happy with my ride, only 40 seconds behind Sally, with a time of 1hr 2mins 43seconds, enough for 37thoverall on the day, 23rd elite overall.

Stage 4 was the biggy! a 78km blast, with a 7.5km climb after 37km. I got off to a good start, riders were playing it cool with pacing, which allowed well paced groups to form, I tucked in with a few riders from the UK, the pace increased but had no choice other than to go with it, I tried to keep to my Torq gel and drink intake, but then my GPS ran out of battery! I’m not used to running on instinct but I made the most of feed stations, grabbing gels and bottles of coke. The long climb came and it was my chance to attack, a few off us broke away from the group, climbing well together, I could see Ant white in the distance but it took us the whole climb to catch him! The descent from the peak was loose and fast, I always air on the side of caution, preferring to chase back on, instead of coming off the trail! Me and Ant worked together, catching and gapping a few riders until the final road section where I pulled away, the final section was fun and I felt good, I recognised a few sections of trails and knew it wasn’t much further. I arrived back in Club Lasanta after 3hrs 34, quicker than I had anticipated, finishing 31st Overall, 21st Elite.
Aero jersey for the windy last stage

Overall I finished 22nd elite, 37th out of 101 overall, happy with the result for my first stage race, and now I know the format, I think I can improve, but to put things into perspective Sally Bigham beat me comfortably in every stage, James Angus Ouchterlony Heathcote, in the 40+ category was 8th overall…..

The last two days were spent spinning the legs, we had a nice 50mile group ride, taking in some of the larger road climbs, then before catching our flight home we re-rode some of the second stage.

It was a great test of the new bike, it suits me well, and fitted in with the euro whips well. My Strada wheels were great! confidence inspiring through the super rough lava fields and came back unscathed and true.