Wednesday, 21 February 2018


It's finally here. The final round of Super Quaich, held at Rouken Park, on the south side of Glasgow.

Saturday was spent with the Albannach crew building the course. First time I had been to the park, and it looked like an awesome venue, plenty of hills, lots of off camber stuff, muddy, and some singletrack. The perfect mix, and hopefully, ideal for a SS CX bike...

Saturday night was cold, so was slightly disappointed when I turned up to help at 7:30am to find most of the ground still frozen, I needn't have worried though, temperatures rose a bit and the mud came out to play.

The way the Super Quaich series works, is that it's split into "A" and "B" races, mixed ages, gender, but the general rule is that all riders in "B" should be a similar level. The top 5 from the B race then get promoted to A, and the the bottom 5 from A go into B. That all makes sense.

With just 2 races throughout the day it was a pretty relaxed atmosphere. I was down for marshal duties for the B race at 11am, and this offered a good opportunity to see how the course was riding, and what lines to take, or avoid...

The A race was at 1pm, so with a bit of time for a warm up/practice lap I headed down to the start line, which was basically a long uphill tarmac sprint, which turned into a gravel track before disappearing into the woods. I was gridded about 4 rows back from the front (4 on each row) so position wise, not too bad. I knew the start was going to be interesting, mainly due to running single speed (34:18) so couple that with a poor clip in attempt, it took a few turns to get upto speed. Probably about 20 riders back as we disappeared into the woods, and just a few minutes into the race I had kind of forgotten how high your HR goes so quickly. This is going to hurt.

Half a lap down and I had settled into an uncomfortable, but hopefully sustainable pace and seemed to be picking riders off. The course was so much fun to ride, a real credit to Jim and Euan's design ideas, the singletrack back to the start was a particular highlight. The first full lap was good, the off camber sections were not as bad (read, muddy mess) as I had thought they might be. I'm not sure anybody rode the hill after the start, I certainly didn't and ran as quick as I could, gaining another place on the hill. The SS still doing great, there didn't really appear to be any sections where I was wanting gears, apart from possibly the bottom section (bog) towards the start/gravel climb, that was a slog.

Fast forward, now 2 laps to go, and unlike most cross races I didn't actually want this to finish, such good fun. Best course I have ridden. Race was going well, I had moved upto 6th and was chasing Steve from Sunday Echappee, and Lewis from Albannach. However, looking at my lap times I was starting to slow, and with 1 lap to go I dropped to 7th, with 8th and 9th hot on my heel. The chase was off, and it was about maintaining my position now. Slight mechanical involving a branch (and probably my legs too) in the wooded section saw me drop to 10th with half a lap to go. Didn't really have the legs to get back onto 8th and 9th so rolled over the line in 10th. Maybe with gears the legs would have felt slightly fresher, and i'd have been able to chase and hold onto 6th. But then, racing SS is bloody awesome, almost nothing to go wrong and the bike weighs very little. 

Given my lack of high intensity riding, and riding in general since December I was pleased with the result. Maybe running is helping in a kind of weird way. Great to be riding for Albannach, such an awesome crew, and looking forward to getting out for some spring and summer miles with them... Anyway, only 6-ish months until the 2018/19 cross season starts...


Friday, 22 December 2017

2017 - A Year in Pictures

Simple Blog Post:

Regents Park, in winter and in the sun, is an awesome place. It’s full of cyclists and safe to ride. This was one of the colder mornings in January when the lakes had frozen over. You just have to stop for a minute, struggle to take your gloves off, struggle to take a photo, and then struggle to get your gloves back on. Worth it though. Maybe. Anyway, had to shoot, started my new job in January.

The month where I head North for a long weekend and go Skiing at Glencoe with Tom. However, 2016/17 winter wasn’t great for Scotland, with only 32 days of actual skiing, most of the snow arrived for a day or two, and then melted. We walked to the summit this time as no lifts were running. Managed a few sketchy runs, then up to Fort Bill to try and find some better snow. This was taken at the summit of Meall a’ Bhuiridh

Are we done with winter now? Certainly felt like it on a fairly warm ride out into the Chilterns. Still one of my favourite places to ride, and this climb upto Ivinghoe Beacon a true classic.  With this shot taken from the classic vantage point. If you’re in the Chilterns, head to Wendover, and check out the Lady Grey Tea Room. Best cake and coffee around, and welcome cyclists!

My biggest ride of the year, the Dirty Reiver. I last visited Kielder in 2011 (I think) for the last ever Kielder 100 (100 mile MTB race) so was looking forward to returning. An absolutely superb weekend, with great friends, great weather, and great riding. I’ve entered again for 2018, so looking forward to heading back. Although if it rains…

Back in the Chilterns again, with Spring in bloom and the bluebells out in force. Another classic route visiting some of the southern Chiltern climbs. Always a testing day in the saddle, even if you do stop at Lady Grey Tea Room…

Another trip away, and this time off to Italy with Owen and John, to ride the Gran Fondo Stelvio, featuring of course the Stelvio, but more importantly Mortirolo. Well, that was steep… Anway, this was taken up Gavia, pretty fresh at the top.

Off to Skye this month with the top crew from dhb. As is often the case in Scotland, and in particular Skye we were blessed with perfect weather, 4 days of full sunshine and blue sky. Not really sure that’s what dhb wanted…

A pretty quiet month, only got married.

More marriage spam, honeymoon to Cyprus. Best. Holiday. Ever.

Not content with getting married it was time to quit of jobs and leave London and head north, we were heading for freedom and the sunny sights of Glasgow. See you later Muswell Hill, you’ll be missed.

Continuing the theory that it’s only ever nice weather on the West coast of Scotland this was taken the day after we moved, on a quite ride up Crow Road. A local hill.

Still no rain, just plenty of Snow. Making the most of condition here and running up Dumgoyne, a local hill just North of Glasgow.

As you can probably see, not much mention of racing… Infact I only managed 3 races, 1 at Hog Hill and 2 at Crystal Palace, I’ll probably regret that when I realise I have to travel 100 miles to my nearest race, maybe I wont, maybe I wont even bother racing anymore. Not sure really.

2017 has by far, been the best year of my life.

Next year there will be more blogs about running (unsubscribe (lol) if you wish now) more Landscapes, more “just riding your bike” possibly some track, and certainly some #scotlandspam.

Thanks as always.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Report: Dirty Reiver - A 200km Gravel Race

A 200km ride on fireroads. That sounds alright doesn't it? It probably would be if those fireroads and gravel tracks were around Sherwood Forest or somewhere else flat, but The Dirty Reiver is held in Kielder Forest, up on the Scottish Borders. It's hilly. 

I was last here in 2012 doing the Kielder 100, a similar event, but using mountain bikes, and as the name suggests, 100 miles. That took me 10 hours 12 minutes, I suffered from a series of bad mechanicals which meant I lost time. That was a hard day out. So with that in the back on my head I kind of knew what the expect from the Dirty Reiver, albeit no singletrack.

In true London Phoenix fashion, we had a good gang, 6 in total. In yet more LP fashion the day before saw new levels of faffing, levels that were higher even than the Ventoux trip (Owen...) as we all prepared our bikes, packed bags with stuff, fiddled with tyre pressure, and in some cases, made a small feast (Owen) The idea was to then ride our fully prepped bikes to Kielder Castle to register and make sure everything worked. Well I changed my entire setting, opting for the following kit:
2016 Eastway Balun C1 (standard)
Alpkit 5L* front bag with straps
Panaracer Gravel King 40c @ 45psi (using tubes)
*This held various items including: Tools, cable ties, chain quick link, brake pads, pump, 2 x tubes, down gilet, waterproof jacket, front and rear light, gels, jelly bunnies (easter init)
Before Set up

Gravel Kings. So good. 

Fuel & Victory Pie 

All ready now with front bag and Gravel Kings. 

Captain Faff.

I had originally been running WTB Nanos which seemed good, but based on a brief gravel trail we rode I felt they would be overkill in their amount of grip, so thankfully, as Mark won a pair of Gravel Kings, I borrowed those. I was also previously using a Medium Alpkit frame bag, a superb bit of kit, but it was perhaps a little too small, so the front bag was used instead.

As with any event I had been watching the weather for the past month. The Borders are notorious for their weather, and last year it was apparently freezing cold, snow, rain, cloud. Basically a miserable day out. Not quite sure how i'd have coped, so I was hoping for a bit of warmth and even dare I say it, sun.

Well, we woke on Saturday morning to clear skies and sunshine. It was what i'd call fresh at about 2 degrees, but was due to warm up throughout the day to around 11, or otherwise known as perfect conditions. A short drive to the start from our accommodation for the 6:45am rider briefing, with first riders off at 7am. Owen, Mark and me had kind of planned on riding the whole thing together, and were sat maybe mid pack waiting to be set of in waves. It was cold, I had a nice cardigan on, there was plenty of nervous chat about tyre pressures... Standard.

7:07am and we were off. A small 1km neutral section along the road until we hit the gravel trails and the timing mats. First section was a climb, followed by another climb, but apart from that, and the final 30km I hadn't really paid much attention to the route. I knew it would be lumpy, and that's all I really needed to know.

The first climb was quite busy, lots of riders and quite a narrow fireroad, We picked our way through the riders until we got to the first climb, long day out after all so didn't want to push it too hard straight away. First descent was probably one of the roughest of the day, there was people stopped at the side of the trail ever 50 yards changing punctures, needless to say I took it pretty steady as the last thing I wanted at this stage was a bloody puncture (especially as I couldn't feel my hands, so god knows how i'd have changed it) I had mentally broke the event down in 50km sections, which was handy, as there was a feed stop every 50km... with the plan to briefly stop at every feed for a bottle refill and refuel. What quickly became apparent over the first 50km is that there were loads of really small climbs, quite steep that really sapped the energy from your legs, as well as the much more sustained efforts of a longer climb. The descents were not exactly a breeze either as you had to constantly stay alert for punctures or off camber sections. 40km in and we had taken it fairly steady upto this point, regrouped a few times at hills and stopped for a piss stop, ow yeah, and a puncture. 
At around 30km in we were joined by a mate from cyclocross, Graham, this spurred the pace on a little and were were flying down a long descent when I didn't see a pot hole. Instant snake bite. Annoying, but a quick 5 min change and we were on our way again as a group (Mark, Owen, Graham and me)

The 50km feed stop (actually 55km) was good, they had cheese scones, what more do you need eh. I exchanged my flatted tube, and after 5 minutes of faffing were were on our way again, this time joined by Tam, and further up the road the two Andys and a few more faces. Looking back this was probably the easiest 50km (main because it was 40km) there were a few climbs, but a huge descent (which was really rough and good fun) across the moors and onto a lovely singletrack TARMAC road. This was a welcome rest from the previous descent, where our bikes and bodies had taken a bit of a battering. At this point it was just Mark and myself, Graham had pushed on at the 50km feedstop, and Owen was letting us get ahead on the climbs, so he could have a clear run and hammer the descents. 

The 100km feedstop was a welcome sight, I had almost run out of water, and needed something that wasn't a jelly rabbit, gel, or flapjack. Crisps were needed. Owen rolled in a few minutes after and we all refuelled and ate. I overheard a few people saying the next 50km wasn't too bad, which was promising... Mark, Graham and I set off again, straight up a long climb, this didn't seem easy, and Graham confirmed the next 50km wasn't easy, bloody great. We dropped down a great rolling descent, and could see riders coming up the other side of the stream, on the Scottish side of the border. We got onto this path, and we're met by a truly horrible service and a slight up hill. I don't think the 3 of us spoke, apart from a few expletives, for the next 15 minutes. It was easily the worse bit of the ride. 

Other riders were becoming fewer and fewer now, we pushed on past the 200km and 130km split, staying on the 200 route... We were getting close to Kielder Castle now, and in a cruel move the route then went past the car and where we started. The next climb was hard, back was hurting, legs were hurting and I needed water. Thankfully the 150km feed stop was at the bottom of a big hill, so we rolled down, and was met by the Pannier CC crew who were manning this feedstation, all I'll say is new potatoes never tasted so good! Stuff of dreams and I must have necked about 10... Thanks guys.  Just a quick stop here as we basically wanted to finish, after all the final 50km was easy... It wasn't. long hill after long hill followed, they probably weren't too bad but I could tell we were all feeling it a little, at each crest we expected to see Kielder Water, but nothing, where is this bloody lake! 

After some pretty rough descents, and few sketchy not concentrating moments we dropped onto the ow so smooth lake trail which went around the lake and to the finish. It was of course "mainly flat" but at this stage any small rise felt like a HC climb. Compared to the rest of the route this felt quite good fun, so nice twisty trails, that said with about 10km to go I was ready to be done. A sharp ride up a tough track to the road saw me loose Mark & Graham's wheel as they chased some bloke on a mountain bike. I got to the road and spun, accepting that for the final 5km I'd be on my own. Thankfully though they waited, never did a few km take so long but we crossed the line and that was it. Done! 

Time was 8:59:21 overall (35th/800) Moving time of 8:29.00. Got to say, pretty pleased with that, I was aiming for sub 10 hours given my previous effort at Kielder 100. Winning time was a rather fast 7:31... 

Looking back over the ride and on Strava the last 100km were alot harder than the first 100km. Cruel. 

Will I do it again? Well yeah probably although I bet it will rain.
Would I change the set up? No, reckon the bike was great, apart from maybe a lighter set of tubeless wheels to avoid snake bites.

Victory meal 

Huge thanks to the organisers, marshals and feed stop people. Excellent event and one that I certainly recommend!

Thanks for reading

Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Cyclocross Diaries: January

Well there we go. It's over. The cyclocross season seems like quite a few months ago now doesn't it? So here is my diary on the final 3 rounds at the Central League.

Round 13 - Corby
It was raining, it was pretty cold, and it was bloody miles away (around 2 hours North) but I had to do it right? First thing you see from the carpark is a tasty off camber uphill section towards the pits, nobody was riding, it was instead a running and carrying your bike race. Cool. That said, I quite like these races, so was looking forward to getting going and surviving.
The start was pretty funny really. The whistle went, and we slowly moved off, in a sea of mud and rear wheel spin, I had a pretty bad start, loosing quite a few places, but once upto speed (eventually) I managed to pass quite a few. The field as always was quickly split, and I settled into chase mode at around 10th. If this was dry, it would have been very fast and great fun. Instead it was hilariously muddy and slippy. Just coming onto my second lap, having made a few more places I reach he section furthest away from the pits, crunch, my mech is in my wheel... Nothing for it but to run now. This was rather miserable, but thankfully I had a spare bike, so after loosing a few places I got my old Felt. 30c tyres meant I had more grip, and was riding quite well. I say that, but I hit the gravel section and crunch. ANOTHER snapped mech. FFS. Race over, having ridden around 5km. Guess that's cyclocross isn't it? Bloody stupid sport.

Round 14 - MK Bowl
Another round at MK bowl, it's a good venue, easy to get to and often quite a challenging course. As is often the case this course was slightly different to the others there. Perhaps more climbing/running this time, which I didn't really mind.
Given last week's race and the broken mechs I was on the mountain bike (2.3 conti mountain kings good cx tyres?) and having managed to bodge my Felt back together with an old 10 speed mech (I run 9 speed on that) and a bent chain, I wasn't feeling that confident...
I actually had quite a good start, the mud was, as is often the case here, pretty bad, but the mountain bike seemed to be coping well, and offered plenty of grip, but just not plenty of clearance thanks to the tyres... End of lap 1 I had an off, bent the bars and lost a place having previously been in around 6th... then the bloody chain got stuck between the frame and chainring! No amount of pulling would release it, so it was a run to the pits, and loosing a few more place. I felt like sacking the whole thing off at this point, couldn't be bothered, but I got on the Felt and push on, encouraged by Lucinda shouting at me, telling me not to quit. Long and short of it is I got around, the bike was running, well, awfully, gears hardly worked and the chain slipped. Managing 9th without another mechanical was quite an achievement!

Round 15 - Miserton
Talk about saving the best till last. This was an awesome venue, a technical but fast, and more importantly, fairly dry circuit on grass and in woods on singletrack. It was such good fun. Perhaps made even more fun by the fact I had the new 2017 Eastway Balun, it's had some significant changes over the 2016 model, lighter frame, thru axles, 1x SRAM Force and lighter Bontrager wheels. It rode like an absolute beauty.
After the tragic death of Charlie Craig there was a minutes silence on the grid. A touching tribute indeed, and well done to the BC comms  and organisers on this.
Another up hill start, pretty difficult, and yet again, didn't get a great start, maybe going into the first singletrack section 12th. It was pretty narrow, so difficult to overtake, but thankfully opening again on a hill, so made some progress there, and distanced myself from a few riders. The front group were gone, so I was chasing Graham Knight and a few others for top 6/7/8 places. I was gaining and generally feeling great and with 4 laps to go passed Graham and moved upto 6th. We had a good battle for a lap or 2 and then I managed to pull away. No sign of the guys in front so settled into trying to maintain 6th. Well, that didn't happen. A crash with 2 to go saw me lose time, and 6th to Graham. Not sure what happened but after that I couldn't put any power down, felt in quite a bit of pain. I just managed to hold of 8th, through gritted teeth, and finished 7th.

Final Standing
With your best 8 races counting for the overall league position I had managed to finish 5th Senior. The original goal was 3rd overall, but quickly learnt after a few races that the field had not only got better, but bigger as well. So yeah, 5th, i'll take that.
Full top 10 below:
1 Joe Peake CC London
2 Neil Ellison WDMBC/Specialized Ruislip
3 Jonathan Dennis Kibosh SMA
4 Gavin Howell Team Milton Keynes
5 Will Beresford London Phoenix CC
6 Graham Knight Equipe Velo
7 Joshua Jones
8 James Norris SD Racing Team
9 Leigh Smith Equipe Velo
10 Paul Elcock G.S. Henley
Huge thanks to Wiggle and Eastway for their support this season. Both Balun's have been amazing and I can't wait to continue riding them, and look forward to more developments for next season.
Thanks also to Keith Perry and all the organisers at Central CX. Such a great series of races and superbly organised.

Looking forward to 2017/18 already.
Thanks for reading.

Monday, 2 January 2017

The Cyclocross Diaries: December

Typically, cyclocross leagues in December don't have many races, the organisers have a much needed and well earned rest before the Christmas break and new year push to the end of the season. The Central League is similar in that respect, with just two races. Which to be honest, I'm kind of pleased about. It's been a long old year of first road racing and then cyclocross.

Round 11 - Hillingdon
If you know, you know. Hillingdon was a shocker last year. I'd hazard a guess more people lost/snapped mechs than didn't, myself included. Not only was the mud bad, but the course went over freshly cut bushes and plants, meaning you end up carrying a bike a half a thatched cottage roof around on your lap. Truly painful.

This year however it was dry, it was sunny, and although a little bit of mud, the bikes didn't even need cleaning after the race (a true win) I've been getting better and better at starts, and this week was no exception, still not quite upto James Norris levels of self propulsion, but never the less better. First lap and I settled into things around 7th, picking a few riders off over the next few laps till I was 4th, and closing down on Graham Knight, over the next few laps I got close, but Graham clearly found something extra and managed to pull away again on the final two laps. Nothing much else really happened to be honest, no other battles, no close calls and no snapped mechs. I push right until the end, because you just never know and crossed the line 3rd. I had thought I was 4th fr the whole race but 2nd place had punctured and pulled out. Happy days (sorry) another podium, and night and day to last year here!

Round 12 - Berkhamstead
The week leading upto round 12 Lovello (the organising club) and the Central League had been doing a lot tweets/FB posts about a bridge, and other general festive fun. Well, they were right, there was indeed a huge bloody bridge on the course, made out of scaffolding and two way, and to be honest, pretty bloody steep...

It was also wet, cold and generally not nice. However the course (inc the bridge) was fun, a sandpit, some hill reps, some singletrack. It had it all, and had it have been dry (i know) it would have been very fast indeed.

I know i've been saying my starts have been getting better, well not today they weren't. 2nd row gridding for a start, but more importantly I missed the whistle, meaning that I, well, was engulfed at the start and into the first corner. Sitting now maybe 20th. Ow dear. I picked my way through the riders and over the course of the next few laps moved up to maybe top 10. I was starting to feel the burn, and seemed to be loosing time to some of the riders in front, not that it mattered, as the next minute I had a puncture. As with before I tried to ride it for a bit, but resigned myself to another half lap run. Thankfully this time I had my second bike, and was onto the Felt for the final few laps. I was pretty annoyed with myself, wasn't my fault I knew that, but couldn't help it. I pushed on for the next few laps just wanting to be done, had a few good battles along the way, picked up a few more places and crossed the line a slightly annoyed 13th.

As i've already done 8 races, it's now only the best 8 that count, so really need to find a few top 5 finishes over the next races to make an impact and keep my position in the league, which, for now, is 2nd...

The Cyclocross Diaries: November

Perhaps the main thing to note about November is that it really hasn't been that muddy. So far, we've got away with some fairly tame conditions. It's been cold, but the mud and the need to swap bikes every lap has not yet arrived. Kind of a shame, although i'm sure it will arrive, and i'm sure i'll look back at this relatively dry period wishing for it to return.
Anyway, onto the races.

Round 7 - Suttleworth
This was a superb setting within the grounds of Shuttleworth Collage. The course looked fun, with a long climb to start with, followed by a series of sweeping corners and descents back into the start area. Unfortunately no barriers, so no requirement for me to put my new skillz to the test.
By the time the Senior race was on (2:15pm) the temperature had dropped, and the freeing rain had started. I've never wanted a race to start so much as I had sitting on the start line. After what felt like forever (not 30 seconds) we were off. A very long starting straight, into a nice S bend, with a hill to follow. A good start and I was around 8th onto the climb, passed a few by the top and got into a good group of 3 (4th/5th/6th/7th) We all stayed together for most of the race until the last few laps. 4th manage to get a gap and the group just managed to drop 8th. Last lap and it was 5th (Josh Jones) and myself, He kicked and I just couldn't quite stay with him, managed to hold of 7th and crossed the line 6th.

Round 8 - Henley 
Onto round 8 at Dinton Pastures near Reading. Good weather, dry course apart from one section that was a total mud bath (ie, get off and run) Loads of different sections on this course with plenty of off camber bits, sand pits, twisty sections. It was looking set to be the best course of the season so far.
As is coming a bit of a tradition Joe set off at an alarming pace, meaning the rest of the field was battling for 2nd place... I spent the first 2 laps chasing Gavin & Neil who were in 2nd & 3rd, they were working well together, but I was feeling great and managed to get across. feeling on a bit of a roll I didn't rest, but carried on. Neil and myself managed to drop Gavin and spent the rest of the race battling it out. I'd do a lap, Neil would do a lap, that kind of thing, we both kept on trying to drop each other, but neither succeed in doing so. I was quicker on some sections, but perhaps more importantly Neil was quicker in the final S bend section just before the finish... Last lap and I was on the front, rather be here than try and make the pass, coming into the S bends, and it was proper elbow to elbow stuff, but Neil made the pass, and in the process I also took out 2 lapped riders. Neil was now leading, but I was still just on his wheel. Final corner and sprint for the line, I just missed out by maybe half a wheel to come 3rd. Absolutely brilliant race, great fun and a proper battle. Great ride by Neil.

Round 9 - Kettering
Now I did this course last year. It was the final race of the season and I think there were around 12 senior riders, it was freezing and conditions were grim. I snapped my mech and then punctured on Lucinda's bike. Wasn't great.
This time round it was a fair bit dryer, probably a bit colder and on a similar course to the previous year, bar a 15ft high bank to ride up and over (or run). It's a really fun course actually, plenty of off camber sections, some twisty bits and a nice long steady mud/grass climb... However, didn't all go to plan really. Lucinda got a puncture on her warm up lap, so borrowed Joe's bike for half a lap, got the puncture fixed, and then got another puncture so had to go out on my bike. Thankfully it wasn't really muddy enough to require a wash...
A fairly good start saw me settle into a battle for 6th/7th/8th place with Graham Knight and Gavin Howell. I was feeling pretty strong, and fancied my chances in this group. 2nd lap in and I made the pass into 6th place with Graham and Gavin on my wheel, I think I was pulling away (slightly) when I felt my front wheel, it was flat. At least the pits were close, ow wait, they weren't... I tried to ride it for a while, that didn't really work, so I ran probably best part of 1.5k to the pits. No spare bike, so I tried a wheel, rim brake only! Offered another bike, time pedals, finally (after having a strop) a chap offered my his Crux, slightly too small, but i'll take it! (huge thanks!) Now I don't know how many riders passed me, maybe 15? but I was pretty annoyed. As I left the pits somebody shouted, ride angry,so with that in mind, I did. Despite not being used to this bike I have to say I rode pretty well, nothing to loose I guess, so didn't hold anything back. Was feeling good still when on the last lap I could see Josh Jones, now he sits 3rd on the league, to my 2nd. I had to pass him. 500 or so meters from the finish I did, and managed to come back to an overall 9th position. Given the circumstances, i'm pretty pleased with that!

Round 10 - Welwyn
What a beautiful day, the kind of day that as a cyclist, you tend to spend all day in the saddle, admiring the countryside, enjoying a long coffee stop. Or, racing around a field for an hour. Just as much fun i'm sure?
This was going to be hard, lots of hill repeats, a big field and pretty dry meant a grass crit. Usually I tend to do quite well as these, so we'll see. Straight away a 4/5 riders managed to get away and I couldn't quite match the pace, I was in a second group of around 5 riders, of which this seemed to stay together for a lap or two. Over the next few laps the group fragmented a bit, and I found myself chasing down two riders (7th & 8th) I was really starting to feel it though, not really sure what was up with me but I couldn't catch them, and riders behind seemed to be closing down. Thankfully this happened towards the end and I managed to cross the line 9th. Given the field, a good result I think. Should have done better, but then that's racing I guess.

Monday, 14 November 2016

The Cyclocross Diaries: October

Nobody really wants to a read a race report after every single cross race, it's a bit too much, so over the next few months i'll try and cover off my races a month at a time, as well as anything else i've been working on, like remembered how to bloody bunny hop!

This year i'll be riding in the Central League. I'll perhaps also do a few other races and trips over winter. They'll be plenty of mud though (I hope)

I've also got the support of Eastway Bikes & Wiggle this season, who have provided me with their top end Balun C1, a properly brilliant bit of kit, full 105 drivetrain and hydo discs, lightweight & super stiff Alu frame, Mavic Aksium wheels, it's a dream to ride.

Infact the Balun's first ride was actually 3 Peaks, and that was the start of my cross season, you can red my blog post on that here:

So, what happened in October?

Rd 2 - Milton Keynes
Because of 3 Peaks I missed round 1, so this was my first race in the league. I'd ridden MK last year, the day before teh National Trophy actually. It was freezing that day, snow on the ground, and as a result very difficult conditions, especially given the majority of this course is either going up, down or along off camber sections.

This year there were a few new riders in the league (now over 600 in all categories!) but alot of the regulars from last season as well. I had my eye on a few of them, namely Gavin Howell of team MK who I had a good battle with and beat me here last year.

As the day progressed conditions were getting better and the first 2 laps were good, the mud was drying and it was getting better under tyre.... Into lap 3 and it rained. Not just a light shower, but a full on heavy storm, for about 10 minutes. After that conditions were less than easy, and every off camber section was a leg out tripod affair, especially that steep off camber down hill, if you were there, or have seen th pictures, then you'll know... Now with 4 laps to go I had moved up to 6th or 7th and had a good battle with a couple of rider. Got the better of one, and was dropped by the other. Last 2 laps and I was in 5th, a few sketchy off camber sections with the words of Rob Warner watching Danny Hart's WC winning DH run in my head "stay on your bike" and some extra concentration I crossed the line in 5th.

First race of the season, tricky conditions on a hard course, i'll take that.

Rd 3 - Hemel Hempstead
I'd not done this course before, it looks pretty good though, with the course taped out onto the side of a hill, so a bit like MK you were either going up or down, and from the practice lap it was quite twisty with 2 hurdles to run/jump.

Chris & Neil were commisaires today, so i was gridded number 1, in addition to this, Steve thought I could win, and on top of all of this it was the National trophy weekend, so some of the ususal top riders were not here... No pressure there then. Conditions wise it was bone dry and pretty warm, meaning that lap times were going to consistantly less than 6 minutes. A real grass crit.

Annoyingly didn't get a great start, maybe top 10 into the first corner into the long hill, no matter, i'd work my way up hopefully. Well, I would have done had I not taken a subsequent corner too wide, handele bars under the tap, and faceplanted at quite a speed. I watched as 5/6 riders went past, I picked myself up and pushed on, frantically trying to regain some places. Safe to say the top spot was off the cards today, but over the next few laps I managed to move back up to around 7th, and with 4 laps to go had a great battly with 5th & 6th. Problem was they were bunny hopping the barrier, including a fast one on a descent. I wasn't. So was loosing quite a bit of time here, and although i'd generally cach them on the hill climb, on the descents I was lost again. Very annoying. 1 lap to go and I knew I couldn't match 5th or 6th, so rolled over the line in 7th. Not too bad I guess.

What did I learn from this? Well relearn how to bunny hop!! Ow, and get a good start...

Rd 4 - Leighton Buzzard
It was a wet old morning this Sunday, heavy rain, but fairly mild temperatures meant I opted for a set of 30c mud tyres (CX Pros), however by the time we arrived the sun was out and the course was drying out quite nicely (well quite annoying actually) I didn't have any other tyres, so just hoped they wouldn't make much different, or that it would rain.

On the practice lap the course looked fun, fairly tight and twisty, but pan flat, a couple of barriers to jump as well... I was gridded front row again, but yet again I managed to get quite a poor start, and again, maybe 12th into the first corner. Right from lap 1 I didn't feel like I was riding as well as I should, and over the course of the next 3/4 laps, riders that I would usually catch seemed to be pulling away. I'd lost count of my position now, probably just outside the top 10, I was getting annoyed at myself, so making silly mistakes, sliding out etc... 2 laps to go and I was still pushing on, heart rate sitting fairly high and around 175bpm, but legs felt empty. Last lap and a bit of a battle with a few other riders meant I crossed the line in 13th.

Think i'll file this race under: Should have done better.

After this race I went away, built some barriers in Ally Pally and practiced. Whilst I know I could do it I seemed to have "the fear" so spending 45 mins jumping over logs was just what I needed, and allowed me to get my confidence back! Now just put put this into practice...

Rd 6 - Kempton
Having a cyclocross race in the middle of a racecourse is a pretty good idea, however, what this did mean is that you have a course with zero elevation, and zero natural technical elements (off camber, roots, singletrack etc...) That said, it was actually a pretty fun course, and at least there was some barriers for me to try out my new skillz... Being a fairly central race, and easily accessible, there was quite a large field, thankfully I was still gridded on the front row, and managed to get a great start. A long tarmac sprint, followed by a fast and wide right hand bend saw me in around 9th position, not too bad.

Over the next two laps the front group actually managed to stay together, consisting of around 7 riders. Third lap in and Joe & Jon managed to get a gap, and we couldn't quite close it. The group had also been split further and I was now in a chasing group of 3. It was actually really good fun to have a proper race, rather than ride around in TT mode on your own. Over the next few laps we all exchanged places various times, I moved up to 3rd and we managed to drop 5th. 2 laps to go and somehow 5th got back on. I was pretty cooked at this point, so couldn't quite react when 3rd attacked and managed to drop me and 5th. Last lap now and 5th attacked and passed me, I annoyingly just didn't have the legs to catch him and rolled over the line in 5th.

I was pretty pleased to be honest after the previous weeks race, and really needed this to get some confidence back. Bunny Hopping the barriers certainly helped me here, and I gained time on both of the riders I was with as they ran over them.

So 4 races done, a bit of a mixed bag in terms of results, technique has improved, weather hasn't been that bad, the Eastway has been awesome, and i'm looking forward to some serious mud (apart from Hillingdon...)

Thanks for reading as always. Massive thanks to Eastway Bikes and Wiggle for the support this season, Keith Perry for the photos and Neil, Chris, Steven, Damian & Mark all of London Phoenix for the shouting, support, tips and comms duties.