Friday, 24 June 2011

BMBS Rd3, Wasing

As a Bristol student, prior to becoming a fair-weather biker I would ride in all conditions. As such I gained a pretty sound education in the quirks of muddy, rooty singletrack. This served me well at a stinking Margam last year where I was on course for my best Expert result (until I fell off on the flat - see below :)

With all the races having been dry this year I was actually looking forward to a wet Wasing. As forecast, it did rain, (un)fortunately the real heavy rain didn't fall until the end of the Elite race. Therefore I would like to blame the consistency of the mud on my woeful performance - had it been real greasy then maybe I would have done, I don't know, 10% better and finished in the top 30 instead of 33rd. Not a good performance but like I say it's the mud's fault, not mine.

Next up is my home race in Margam, a much loved old-school course with grassy drags and big climbs. Why people love these old courses I'm not sure. In fairness there were a few tricky sections last year, not least the flat part on the approach to the arena where I managed the impossible and fell off on a straight section and ended up with the handlebar in my groin and the feeling of having had a new ass ripped open...

Gang Pants: CHECK

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Bristol Bikefest

Turn up the BASS

Here's one for you fact fans… the inaugural Bikefest celebrated Timberland's sponsorship of Ashton Court's trails whilst this, the tenth edition, marked the first phase of the SW1 funded (re-)re-development of our trails. If the new look Quarry section is anything to go by then the once niggly rooty trails will soon be replaced by beautifully flowing singletrack.

I recall the very first Bikefest was won by 'Volvo Canondale'. Hmmm. I have since entered every one, sometimes in a team, sometimes on a singlespeed and sometimes on my own. In that time some things have remained constant: the fine weather, the laid back atmosphere, the cheery Cadets, suicide dog walkers and the inane PA ramblings.

This year I drew the short straw for the Le Mans style running start. Basically I can't run. I am slow, it hurts my legs and it makes me look silly. Once onboard the Ghost Lector 9000 :) a mighty shove from housemate Matt got me on my way and I had a clear run (bar the dog walkers and joggers) for the entire lap.

Through the early stages we built up an overall lead of a few minutes which was never quite comfortable enough to allow for a mechanical. During the evening our lead was very slowly whittled away by Cycle Coaching Wales, a real handy team comprising a few national standard boyos. With Robby feeling the miles in his legs from his recent Gran Fondo in Tuscany we re-shuffled our order to try and hold off second place. It seems they did the same and on the penultimate lap they took the lead. Unlike Mountain Mayhem the rules of Bikefest are that no laps completed after the cut off count. So, after a mammoth tussle Roadie Rob came in at approx 8.38, just behind one of the Cycle Coaching Wales strong boys which meant that in order to win we not only had to re-take the lead but put in the fastest lap of the day so as to beat the cut off. That we did thanks to lots of caffeine, our vociferous support, Ghost, Gaerne shoes and Mart from Hotlines. High fives to the rest of the Psyclewerx team: Robby, Rob and Scott Easter.

WELSH CHAMPS, Builth Wells

A very pretty Fforest Fields played host to the 2011 Welsh Champs mid-May. Set on a wooded hillside resplendent with all its bluebells, the full extent of the course could be seen from the arena snaking up, down and across the hill. It was real nice and understated and could have been a real pig in the wet due to all the off camber rooted sections.

There's not massive strength in depth in Wales and with our only regular World Cup rider present, first was a formality for Lee WIlliams. Without Matt Page or any crossover roadies I figured a podium was a possibility should any of the other contenders puncture or catch a root. Poor Ant O'Boyle (Torq) had a host of problems which saw him DNF from a guaranteed second and bumped me up to 4th for most of the race. Towards the end the unrelenting climbs took their toll and a tenacious Ed Roberts passed me going in to the final lap. Still, 5th in my first national (regional? sub-national? state?) champs is alright.

WeeDub Lupo

BMBS Rd2, Dalby

Not since the heyday of XC racing in the nineties has England hosted a round of the World Cup. It's fair to say that in comparison to the staid Newnham Park venue of old (come on, the Pipeline descent?!), Dalby well represents the evolution of XC courses – technical descents, technical climbs and, at the UCI's behest, a clover leaf format which allows the appreciative crowds not one but TWO glimpses of their boys in lycra.

The night before the race - when I figure healthy eating makes no odds to your prospects - comprised Tapas in nearby Pickering followed by a boys night in: Ben and Jerrys, Mrs Crimble's coconut macaroons and an awful Rene Zellweger film. Woop.

Come race day conditions were perfectly dry and not too hot, so no need for a last minute tyre change from the trusty Aspens (also used by star attraction for the day, race winner and past World Cup winner, Geoff Kabush of Canada). Following my 46th position from round one I was gridded towards the back so the aim was not only to avoid being lapped but also to improve on 46th so that I'd benefit from a better ranking for round three.

Fifty odd riders isn't much compared to the heady days of '90s XC but on a singletrack-heavy course like this a poor start means being strung a long way from the leaders. The expected bottleneck came at the first sign of a rocky feature where the courteous mugs like me waited for the congestion to ease whilst the heated racesnakes bypassed us on their cheeky little detours. Through the middle part of the race I found myself yo-yoing with George Budd (Salsa Racing), with Matt Page (recently crowned UK and European 24hr Champ) never far behind. Racing high point of the weekend was clearing the climb for the first time in ~14 attempts and two years of trying. Unfortunately the time gained over the chicken run (who'd have thought, uphill chicken runs) was soon lost as the adrenaline ebbed away! Towards the end the strength of George and Matt showed as they steadily pulled away, reminding me of another area of training that needs addressing. Still, 31st in a foreign flavoured field isn't all bad.

Thanks again to Hotlines and Ghost and also Barry Camel for his weekend edit (below).