Monday, 31 December 2012

Last rides of 2012

345 miles in the Festive week, happy with that and a little surprised as I only had a few days off. Luckily the boss let us go half day and half days equal short afternoon rides.
My road legs had become non existent after four months of cyclo cross and midweek turbo sessions at the club house. So rather than try and force myself back in readiness for my first road race of 2013, I opted for daily 50 milers. The idea being I'd be good for a block of heavy training in late January?
So the rides. Thankfully the snow and ice stayed away, but in it's place came wind and rain, suits me; I don't do heat. Sundays ride, and my first club ride in ages was partly a disappointment. The cross had given me something, but it wasn't top end or endurance, however I did feel light and strong. I knew we had race specific coaching the following month, which I hoped would give me some top end, and it was up to me to put in the miles.
Next was a solo 62 miles on Christmas Eve doing Luton CCs reliability trial route in reverse. A gloomy day, but mild and still. 62 miles always seems a doddle on your own.
The Boxing day ride is always a bit of a social, and a chance for all abilities to have a ride together. We didn't put much thought into this years route. Instead we just followed our noses which in turn means all the classic spots. First is Ivinghoe Beacon, the classic route out of Leighton Buzzard, and up onto Ashridge, a popular mountain biking area. As we rode through I couldn't help notice how bad the trails were up here. And all the trail heads seemed to be occupied by mountain bikers busily altering their ride plans. Then it was off the ridge and down past the castle and onto the A41, along Berkhamsteds  mock pavé and into the beautiful horse country at Wiggington. From here we crept up onto Aston Hill for a round of coffees  in Wendover Woods, another popular as it was that day mountain bike area. After lashing out twenty six quid on coffee we hooned down Aston Hill to head for home. We said farewell to the majority of the group and three of us set off for a few more miles.
Thursday was a work day, and I had planned to take the 'retro' bike out in the afternoon, but I caved in and instead turbo'd away in my garage listening to Amy and planning races in my head for 2013.
Friday was an inter club ride with us LBRCC -Solgar, Twenty3c, Team Corley and Spirit racing. I was feeling a bit cheeky when we set out, but at 20 miles a club mate  had a series of punctures and a ruined tyre. After a very long wait the group set off, leaving myself and another club mate to escort the stricken rider home. I was a bit gutted to see all those different jerseys disappear up the road. Though we made up for it by just chilling on the way home.
Saturday was a group 1 ride with some of the new club members. These were the guys that had joined us to race for 2013 which is to be our first year with a sponsored race squad. I had no illusions of matching these guys being the most senior racer in the team, but I was happy to work and do my bit. However after a show of strength on Winchenden Hill the group split and confusion ensued. We turned off  in the stunning Eythrop Park and cycled  fast along the side of the flooded streams and rivers. The ride wasn't tough, but we couldn't escape the wind and rain no matter which way we turned. We took an extended loop home that would include some good hills before finally finding that tail wind. With that behind us we further extended the route just for the hell of it and soon came upon the fast boys. We joined up and set off home, I was now begining to feel something back in my legs.
For Sunday I decided to take it easy as I still had a cross race the coming weekend. So I did my chairman's bit and rode with a G2 intermediate group. I was a bit taken aback by the pace at first, but noticed everyone was pushing their big rings, which was okay until we hit inclines and it all slowed down. This is why I'm a big fan of standard chainsets, the 39 offers a great all day gear; who want's to ride in 34? Without wanting to sound patronising I thought everyone was doing well, and had certainly come a long way. The day was also very windy and I thought of the G1 guys out doing 100 miles, not the day for it I thought. With just ten miles remaining we had a series of punctures that started to extend the day. I was now starving, not tired just hungry after not having eaten for five hours. At fifty miles I stopped for food and said goodbye to the others. With no one at home I pointed my bike the other way and solo'd a few more miles.
New Years Eve. There were no plans for any club rides, so awake at 5.30am I got up, ate some porridge, fitted lights and set off for a final 100km's of 2012. It was okay but hellishly windy. And I'd run out of jollop so was riding on Robinsons Summer fruits and a few buscuits. No one was out, but after a while I found my mojo and began to enjoy the terrible conditions. Though my motivation was fully tested when I was about to hit Redbourn. I really really didn't fancy the stint through the housing estate, so I did a sharp left into the narrow lanes and fought the wind home
So that's it, a pretty good week. I'll be administering some TLC to the bikes today, take a good rest and look forward to the first ride of 2013. Which starts 8.30am New Years day.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Twickenham CC cyclo cross 2012

For the penultimate round of the Central League cross, racing returned to the popular Hillingdon circuit. Today my only team mate was not that JT. Jools had picked Hillingdon to loose his cross virginity. A wise choice as it's always well organised and 'usually' a rideable circuit.
We arrived in good time to face pretty mild conditions. We registered early and set off for a recce lap. The course was extremely tight and the tarmac runway section was taped off and the race took it's leafy verge instead. A warm up lap really was a warm up lap. It required some very good bike handling and several 'pick it up and run' sections. Including a total of five railway sleepers. We rode back to the race HQ and promptly removed thermals as we were sweating buckets. Once changed we went out to start the race. The commissaire kindly let us dwell in the sun as he called up riders by name to the start line. It was a good job Stuart wasn't there as he seemed to miss a page as neither he or myself were called up, but Rob and Craig were?
I ushered Jools up and we huddled in with the Trisport lads. We were to set off with all the ungridded riders. We get thirty seconds, then boom we're off. We tear down the one lap only tarmac and push to gain places before it goes off road. Keith, my nemesis is blocked by a slower starter and I'm forced in front of him. Good you say, but after last week I want to peg him rather than worry about him tearing past. At the first switchback I see that Jools is okay and sitting in not far behind. I need to beat Keith and I didn't want the new boy to beat the chairman on his first outing so I felt a little pressure.
For the first two laps I'm ahead, but can feel them both bearing down on me and I start to cock up the corners. Halfway through lap three I slip on an uphill turn and struggle to keep my balance. I loose my mojo after this and barge my way around the rest of the lap. The pair of them close right in. I remember this is a race and know I have to do something. There is a Trisports rider up ahead. He overtook me early on but hadn't made much ground. I decide to peg him until we hit the next flat section. When we do I gear down and push past him. I push hard round the next corner and along the return straight. It goes well and I create space. Now I can see Jools coming up. I can't let the interloper beat me. The gap I have shouldn't be breached, but I've never raced with Jools. I concentrate hard to complete the penultimate lap, then I get the bell.
Pain on the last lap is always bearable, so I dig in, I should be able to hold this. I look over my shoulder and see that I've made ground on Jools, but looking over my shoulder nearly cost me as I lost control and took a painful detour through the shrubbery. Then on the out and back section I could see I had the gap made, and only needed to clean the lap to stay ahead. I get round and get my flag. A marshal ushers me under the tape and I brake to a stop to await Jools and my Trisport foes.
Jools rocking the look
Chairman looking for rocks
We're all in and it's handshakes all round. We agree to meet next year for the final round.
I get some good news when the results are published. As I've moved up to best placed overall LBRCC rider just ahead of Stuart in both overall league points, and points from the six counting rounds. Also the best placed club vet. And in with a chance of making it into the top three V50 overall riders with just one race remaining. This I put down to being very ill for my first three races as I've earned twice as many points in my last three races. The guy I've been having a race with all season is on exactly the same amount of points as me it's that close. The final round will be a real ding dong.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Didcot Pheonix cyclo - cross 2012

Steeper than it looks
Last Sunday I was the only LBRCC riding the eighth round of the central League cross. And it was a fair old jaunt to the venue at Sonning Common, so I was hoping for good things.
I wasn't sure what to make of the day. The morning had brought icy conditions, but the sun was shining? I guess deep down I knew it would be a tough one.
I arrived early to find the course windswept and freezing. For the first time this year I went out for practice in full leggings and waterproof jacket. A reccé was essential. The drag out of the start was a layer of wet mud on a solid ice base, just one way to ride that - hard. Then the three left turn uphills, these were rideable last year but this year it was different and not a single rider rode all three. After the climbs comes the drag, slightly uphill and the length of two pitches. This section is my Achillies heel no mater how much I bury myself along here I get passed. Then into the twist n turns where I can make up ground, though not enough to get back my lost places. Then off the claggy grass and into the woodland bomb holes. I love this bit, the slipping the tight turns and the wheelie you have to commit to if you want to clear the massive root blocking your way. Out of the wood land and a few slippery turns to the hurdles, always a treat. And then head down and blast to the line. That's the practice lap. I did another just to get the markers and went off course to get ready.
After a muddle with gridding we were off. I buried myself getting past riders that had been incorrectly gridded and settled down to work. I thought I was doing well until a whole bunch of riders passed me on the straight, there was nothing I could do to match them. Lap one went well, I had it sussed and barring mechanicals I'd be okay.
Got the mark of this one
Into the start of lap two I noticed my nemesis Keith from Trisports closing down on me. I made a note of where he was so I could measure any progress next time around. I soon settled into my own race and overtook a few riders, though not as many as had overtaken me on the long straight. A few more laps later I noticed that keith was closing down on me. I went into a bit of a flap - twiddle or push. Then on the final lap, on the dreaded straight he went past. I tried to peg him but a few elites passed me and filled the gap. I could only watch him disappear into the woods. There was still a good bit of the lap to do, so I pushed hard, jumped the hurdles and got into the drops to head for the line. I was sending mud airborne as I sprinted to the finish. I crossed the line but Keith was already over the barrier tape.
I don't know what it was about today, but the camaraderie was great. There was healthy respect for everyone.
I'll av ya
I knew I had done my best, but there was no getting over the fact I'd been passed by a good number of riders. I'd ridden hard, I'd got the techy stuff right. Was it fitness or set up? We'll see at Hillingdon for round nine.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Chairman's choice - December

With the year drawing to an end I thought it was time to introduce a cycling club tradition, the 'Boxing Day club run'
Traditionally  a steady affair with all members taking part and ridden so that all abilities can enjoy the ride.
So the distance would be something like 35/40 miles. Giving you enough time to get back and carve up that Ham and cold Turkey. Oh and no fancy pants gels and energy bars. It's Christmas cake wrapped up in tin foil. If your missus has made too much, then bring some for us.
For the 'Stavanistas' there's a chance to up the miles for your 'Festive 500' challenge. For the rest of us a chance to blow out some of those mince pies.
Look out for Chairman's choice - January.
See you out there.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Beds Road cyclo cross 2012

Lap 1 and sorting it out
Well I'd been asking for mud for months now, and finally it came and it came in bucket fulls. Despite nationwide flooding the Beds Road Club cyclo cross went ahead on the 25th November. Myself Rob and Stuart were racing this time, and as soon as we arrived we got an idea of what lay ahead. First of all we were greeted by mud splattered youngsters just finishing their race. Then after signing on I walked out to the circuit and noticed a major change to last years circuit. The dreaded long 'out and back' section wasn't there,  and I mean it really wasn't there. The lake at Box End had swollen and submerged a huge section of last years course.
After adding more layers and stocking up the pits we set off for a reccé.  It soon became evident that this round might be more of a war of attrition rather than pure racing? The switchbacks were so deep in mud that you almost came to a standstill. The hilly sections were a real test of skill and your bikes traction and the lake side straight was a test of balance, get it wrong and you were swimming.
After two practice laps I decided that some sections would be quicker if they were ran.
Just prior to the 1pm start the commissaire began the griding which in the wet and cold was a surprisingly good humoured affair especially the boo'ing of those choosing mountain bikes to tackle the race.
We get the 30 seconds to go and the bang we're off. Within yards I'm floored by a muppet that decides to sweep across the entire width of the circuit. I mutter some profanities I carry on, passing him on pure adrenalin. As usual Stuart has got off to a good start and I see his green shoulders disappear over the first hill. Rob though is right with me and we stay together for the first lap. We yo-yo along and run the quagmire on the longest hilly section. Then when it gets firmer Rob puts the power down and moves off.
I soon find my sweet spot on the course, a long flattish very wet section where I could drop some gears and press on. I used it to over take knowing that getting past later on would take herculean efforts.
I managed each lap very well, staying upright unlike many others. I was also learning the circuit and getting my timings right for all the technical sections. As I was settling in I started to wonder what had happened to Stuart and Rob as I'd not seen them since the first few laps. I wondered if they were even still in the race? Then halfway through my final lap I saw Stuart on one of the switchback sections, he was going well. So I assumed Rob must be up ahead and just not in view. I had also closed down on a friend from the Archer RC and was behind him on my favourite section so I tried to get past, but he was stubbornly strong and it was proving hard. So I threw it down a gear, gripped the drops and pushed back into the saddle and pressed. It worked, the speed built up and I went past and took another rider as a bonus.
So it was over and I rolled down the finish chute a happy man, unlike Rob. It was clear right away that there was something wrong. Gashed leggings,  a clean top and white trainers! He had come off early on and his STI's had taken the brunt of the fall and were not operating, so game over.
Stuart then came home a lap up.
Stuart on a mission
This had been a very different race to the previous six rounds, a real old school cross race and not the fast power circuit that's becoming so popular. Cross is after all a winter sport, not Summer at Wimbledon!