Wednesday, 24 July 2013

LVRC/MKCA Circuit Races Round 11

A pretty good nights racing last night. Conditions were good, little wind and numbers were pretty high. All the usual suspects were there including LBRCCs Andy, Dave and Vince. Though sadly due to the lack of marshals we were confined to in inner circuit for the whole race. Usually the opening of the gates to extend the circuit at the halfway mark is a game changer. Tonight it would be very hard to split the bunch.
Back in the bunch with Andy after a failed breakaway

For the first half hour the racing was pretty uneventful, a few too many changes of line and the odd rider getting out of the saddle were enough to keep you on your toes.
Then all of a sudden there's a touch of wheels, to my left riders go down - not sure how many, but there's a bike and red lycra coming my way. I hit the brakes and get ready to bunny hop my way out of trouble. I slide to a halt and survive, there's carnage behind and all I can see are the lime green shoulders of Vince flying through the air.
The bunch are up the road so I chase and get back on before the next incline. When we pass the accident site again Vince is lying down grasping his shoulder with medics in attendance.
We press on increasing the pace on the only incline, but only a few riders are getting dropped. We then up the pace and attack the incline, that strings it out and we lap the younger A/B race as a result.
Taking a breather with Andy

There then follows an almost neutralisation of the race as we let the E/F/Gs go. At this point I assume we are a complete bunch and make sure Andy and Dave are ahead of me and in sight at all times. As we approach the final laps I move to the front, too near the front in fact. I know I stand no chance as second wheel, but I can't drop back. I listen carefully for the tell tale noise of the bunch on the attack...nothing. I even think about going for it on my own, but it only takes a few yards in top flight to suffer and die. I sit and wait. I'm still second wheel when the bell goes, Then as we climb for the flag they go past. Five go clear including Dave and Andy gets me on the line for 6th leaving me 7th, the wheel I was on has dropped right off. When I look over my shoulder there's no one about, we had split. So overall a pretty good effort on a circuit were breaking away was always going to be difficult.
Vince (think the medication has kicked in)

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Where Red Kites Fly

This is 'the' classic XC ride, 32 miles in length, a good few 1000' climbs and all off road, and today's bonus - near thirty degree dry dusty trails. And joining me for the ride were an eclectic mix of friends on an equally eclectic mix of bikes. Sixty six year old Phil on a stunning and totally original Ridgeback fully rigid hardtail dating back to the early nineties. Phil is a tester and aficionado of dual carriageways, today would be a very different test for him!. Then we have Nick, purveyor of fine bicycles and the baby of the group. Nick was on the 'bike de jour' an early top spec Giant Trance, with it's maestro system the terrain would be smoothed into submission. And myself on a new fangled 29'er hardtail.
The route today started at Cowlease sculpture park which sits at about 1000' and the first part of the ride or job of the day is to immediately plummet off the top, down what seems like never ending double track and into the the Getty mansion grounds. When you get to the bottom you find yourself in XC heaven, blue skies full of Red Kites, swooping dusty trails, hills all about and the dust hasn't even settled from your high speed descent.
You just have time to catch your breath before the second hill or job of the day, that is to climb the near 1000' all over again. First though is a short sweet single/double track flat trail past 'Vicar of Dibly puddle' yes the actual hole.
Move it French...rider coming through
The climb is a peach with a deep V cut into it's centre, I've never failed on this one before, but today I was drawn into the gully and couldn't get out without dabbing. trying to fight my way out had me gasping at the top. We pass through Northend and follow a few miles of fast sweeping naturally bermed trail to Pishill and climb again to Russell's Water. From here the trail undulates wildly on top of dry chalk, flint hardpack and sapping loam all the way to Nettlebed. Here we cross the A4130 and have to hold Phil back from darting off for a quick PB. The next bit of trail is my favourite, I can't put my finger on the reason why, it's just so sweet, sadly the Rhododendrons aren't in flower, when they are the place is doubly stunning.
Rhododendron forest
We are spat out at Satwell and follow a very complicated trail through Kingwood Common. Next stop is Stoke Row. Actually this is going to be a proper stop. We've been riding this route for years now, and not once have we ever stopped at Stoke Rows famous store with it's bakery selling the legendary sausage rolls. This time though we're not serious 24 hour solo mountain bike athletes so a long overdue stop is on the cards. We get to the store, I see the bakery counter and almost demand my sausage roll.....tragedy, they've sold out, so the legendary sausage roll remains just that - a legend. We make do with sausage baguettes and sit on the village green soaking up the sun and scoffing our make do sausage rolls. After replenishing our drinks bottle we set off. The Baguettes are sitting like concrete on our stomachs when we set off, so we're fortunate that the next section is downhill. Not nice downhill, but a tyre ripping (a previous ride stopping tyre ripping sort of downhill) There is a 'chicken run' but we don't take it, we throw caution to the wind and take the direct route down. We survive. The next few miles to Nuffield are over  gently rising trails. We settle the pace to work of the food and enjoy some banter. I have time to reminisce about the days when these trails have been axle deep in mud, forcing you up into the trees alongside or had you grappling for the fence posts just to stay upright. My food has settled. We grab Phil as we once again cross the A4130 and set off towards the long descent near Park Corner. I signal a left turn that takes us to the top of what on the map looks like a four mile descent. I give Nick a moment so there's clear space between us as we drop, and then I go for it. This descent is just great, there aren't any definitive lines down this trail you just pick and choose. If you pick right you are rewarded with a moment of pure cycling pleasure, get it wrong it's still bloody great. My big wheels are closing in on Nick, he hears me and ups the anté. I close in again, but the trail starts to twist and turn and the clouds of dust that Nick kicks up are lit by the suns rays rendering me blind as to the way down, but I risk my bones and don't grab the levers. We spill out onto Ewelme Downs in tandem, Phil amazingly on his ancient fully rigid is just seconds behind.
Swans Way
We're now out on the downs and the sun is beating down on us, the trail is as open as it gets here, and the sun cream I put on at the start has long been supplemented with a thick layer of dust. Not sure if this has a SPF of any kind? We wave to the Alpacas and head onto the Swans Way part of the Ridgeway long distance path. The path has been forcibly closed to 4X4's now. In the past the way had been destroyed by 4X4's unable to police themselves and wrecking the way for every other user by using it when at it's wettest. It took mechanical intervention to rebuild this ancient way, and now for us it was a pleasure to use again. We're on the home straight now. As we ride in and out of woodland I catch glimpses of our final climb to the finish. The Ridgeway is in great condition, which is good because the finish is a another 1000' climb and no one want's tired legs leading up to that. In the past the trail in the picture above has been axle deep in mud, and on one occasion I've seen Nick disappear through ice! but today its all good.
We arrive at the base of the climb and set off to the top one by one. It's hot and it's going to be slow going and with the rides finish at the top I decide to ride helmetless, something I've not done in several decades, but I consider it safe. The only danger I could for see would be another mountain biker hooning down towards me. I twiddle the hill, which seems to have been a little sanitized the going is easier than I remembered. I recall when it was once full of gullies and you had to bunny hop from side to side to reach the top, we also used to climb it singlespeed.
I remember this when it was r'eet ard
The climb is done and we're back, that went quick and was one of the best days riding I've had in a long time. On the way back home I wonder if I have my priorities right, in a few days I'll be back training, then I'll be racing. Arghh this is hard, a proper 'Catch 22' without the training and racing would rides like these be so pleasurable? Part of me wants to race and part of me want's to sell up, buy a Mercian and just ride. I decide not to make any rash decisions. We get back to Nicks place and lounge in the garden with the Tour on the mac. Somehow I think a Lottery win is in order.
I'd just like to say that I've shamelessly pinched the title of this post from Russ Pinder who posted this great little route on Singletrackworld many years ago. Tragically Russ was paralysed in a mountain biking accident shortly afterwards. Thank you Russ for this classic.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Sub 3 100km at last.

I've been trying to get under the 3 hour mark for ages now. I say trying, more along the lines of if I'm feeling good I'll go for it. The strangest thing is no matter how hard I tried my times were no quicker than my winter reliability trial times? I also never opted to use my race bike, just the old faithful Airborne.
So today was one of those feel good days, and to cap it off it was warm and still. I felt strong as soon as I got going, everywhere from my house is a one mile climb. I concluded that the dreadful week of races I just had, were in a roundabout way and enforced rest. And I'd been working less with HR on the Turbos and more with resistance.
At about two hours in I had a casual glance of my watch, and straightaway I could tell I was ahead on the road. I'll go for it then. I decided to keep it in the 39 and spin away, after all I was getting along swiftly in it so far. Conditions were great, no headwinds anywhere. And to make sure I bagged it I whacked it into the 53 for the last two kilometres. Still it was close at 2 hours 56 minutes.
Okay I know a lot of guys do faster times day in day out, but I just wanted to record the moment, as I ain't getting any younger. I reckon my race bike would have returned a better time.
With the 100kms up I still had 1 1/2 of riding to do, and was was suddenly hit with a raging thirst and a dwindling water supply. It took my fuzzy head ages to work out where the nearest shop was, and by the time I found it I was sucking moist air out of my bottle. Bottle filled and another shoved in my pocket I completed the ride a happy man.
Aren't days off great.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Omloop Van Der Drie Dorpen

15th July 2013, LVRC road race the 'Omloop Van Der Drie Dorpen' Great roads and 'sectors' to race on.
My report from the peloton;
I came I saw I punctured! Put it this way, it takes longer to pronounce the name of the race than it did for me to ride it.
The race was originally scheduled for March, but snow drifts put paid to that. So the re run was this weekend, and conditions couldn't have been anymore different. The mud was hard baked and the small rocks that were once under the mud were now sitting there on the surface waiting to 'av ya'
When I punctured it set off a chain reaction with a further five riders puncturing in the same spot. When I retired only three riders in my age group were left standing.
At the race HQ you couldn't help but notice the eclectic mix of bikes; full carbon race machines, alloy, Ti and steel hacks and cyclo-crossers.As it turned out crossers were king, not so much because of the bike itself, but the large volume tyres.
The Arenberg is pussy compared to this little year....
not your average road race.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

LVRC/MKCA Circuit Races Round 9

After not finishing in the Nationals three days before, and after a long hot hundred miler plus two days before, I swore that I'd stay in the bunch tonight. I won't do the work on the front and I wont chase all the breaks.
So once underway I went after the first break from ex team mate Andy. Then closed a few more, chased a few more further breaks before doing two laps on the front. Less than ten percent were willing to work at all.
As usual I felt okay when we got the shout that the gates were about to open. Opening of 'the gates' doubles the circuit size. And transforms it from a tarmac hilly velodrome to a twisty technical circuit.
The opening of 'the gates' also has the magical effect of splitting the field and once again I was in the front group. However just like all the previous rounds the effort of the first half of the racing and all that chasing had a detrimental effect and just like Saturdays Nationals I was hanging off the back of the fast boys. And to add to my woes my knee was 'twanging' on the start of each climb, until it went twang big time and I had to pull.
Not a good week. The next day I had a power session on the Turbos and all was fine. And the day after that a few hours off road, and it still seems fine. I'm hoping This Sundays road race will go a little better?
The Bowl, with the extra loop to the lower right

2013 National Road race Championships

On July 7th I nipped up the road to compete with my fellow age group racers in the  LVRC National Road race Championships, I say nipped because for 2013 the Nats were on my doorstep. Arriving at the race HQ in Cottisloe school I was a little taken aback if not actually gobsmacked. There before me were well organised rows of official cars, ambulances, out riders and team vehicles. As well as race jerseys representing all corners of the country. Well I guess it was the Nationals.
My race day nerves started to settle after talking to Tim and Graham, both of whom were off in the A race that would leave three minutes before us. The LBRCC was doing a sterling effort of keeping all the other wheels moving, and Wayne was in Waynes World. And Tom from Twenty3c took a hand up for me.
We got the call up and moved into our grids, I only knew two other riders Carl from Corleys and Russell from Spirit, I was on my own in the biggest vets race on the calender.
Tim and Graham set off in the A's, my heart started to pound. Wayne was counting us down. In three minutes I'd be off. 3-2-1 and we're off, I'm clipped in and rolling happy for the Union jack to stay out as long as possible, but all to soon we're out of the neutral zone and we're racing.
I feel okay, but pissed off at all the riders crossing the white lines and cutting in front when the commissaire bibs them. Technically it's cheating, we've been told not to and it's bloody dangerous. I won't cross the lines even if it means being last in the bunch, which I soon am.
I hang on for the left turn into the long climb, pick a line and spin past some guys mashing. I get to the top well in the bunch. I'm still okay, but get even more pissed off as all the guys I passed cruise by on the wrong side of the road. The commissaires horn is going full tilt, but they get away with it. So I'm at the back again FFS!
I won't cheat or break the rules.
We're told that we are one minute on the A's, I read that as we're going fucking fast, but on with the job in hand.
I'm faced with one hell of a sprint through Stewkley, it's so fast the field is in single file, but I hang on. The bunch slows so I edge forward. We go up Wing Hill which feels soooo easy in the bunch, through Wing and towards Stewkley. As soon as the road straightens the usual suspects race up the other carriageway and I'm on the back again after being squeezed out. I make amends on the long climb again and slip well into the bunch, it slows and I can rest. Then, yes you've guessed it the 'law breakers' pass and cut in, but I'm still okay for the single file speed fest through Stewkley....until. The rider in white didn't see the give way island and careers across my path. Skidding sideways just before the fastest section of the course isn't what you want to be doing. I chase, but I'm off the back. I chase all through Stewkley I'm still off. I chase towards Wing I'm almost back on, I give it a final burst but my legs die before I can get a wheel. The race slips away. I keep pressing on in case the bunch slows but it doesn't, so I finally wave the commissaire past me. The fact that the commissaire was still behind me during my chase was very encouraging, but in the end I didn't have the legs.
I rolled into Wing and turned off to assist Vince with marshaling....and to watch the race.
I have to mention Tim and Grahams efforts in the A race, they were both in the mix at all times, and I think Tim took a top twenty, and remember it's Nationals not regional or Mickey Mouse circuit racing, so well done guys.
After the race I'm faced with a dilemma, I was outclassed. What do I do, stay put and carry on doing okay in the regional's or step it up to make the grade and take on all the extra work that entails? I went out on a lone 110 mile road ride the next day to mull it over, but the answer didn't come. I need a break to sort it, I'll see how I go over the next few weeks.

Monday, 8 July 2013

LVRC/MKCA Circuit Races Round 8

Round 8 to cut a long story short went much the same was as round 7. With the exception being that I was extremely tired from the MTB enduro a few days earlier.
And so it went. Ride the inner circuit feeling fine.
Go up the road to bring back the break.
Catch said break, only to see thirteen riders make the jump.
Hang onto the break.
Look over shoulder to find main bunch nowhere to be seen.
Finally drop off lead group.
Solo for ages.
Catch a few stragglers and a dropped A/B rider.
Solo to finish in about 9th/10th.
Not chasing the breaks in round 9, to see how I get on with fresher legs.
Far left in the safety of the bunch