Friday, 21 September 2012

Oi Legs... Shut-it!!!

Montane Kielder 100, the only 100 mile (one lap) mountain bike race in the UK and I suspect could/should be lauded as one of the hardest MTB races in the world!?

Ok, I admit I'd been taking this one seriously, even taking a week off work to concentrate on getting a solid block of training in. So there had to be some objectives, beat 9hrs (which would mean taking 30mins off last year's time), and put-in a solid performance for the Team at Go Run and Ride who I was really chuffed to be riding for at this event.

Everything about this race is tough and lining up on a cold morning for a 6:30am start is I guess just part of the fun! The competition was as strong as ever with South African National Champion and World Cup racer Rourke Croeser, Giles Drake, Tim Dunford and Ben Thomas there to battle it out for the overall title. Meanwhile, the Vets Race would be fought out between Rich Rothwell, Ant White, Adrian Lawrence, Rhys Lodwick and me (it would seem).

A few miles behind the lead-out van had to suffice as a warm-up before the race kicked-off for real. Rich Rothwell set a strong pace at the front so it didn't take long for the lead group to thin-out to a few riders before hitting the first bit of singletrack after 2 or 3 miles.
I guess a combination of it being a bit cold and no real warm-up meant that after only 10 miles my legs started cramping. You know your in for a long day when you find yourself in a dark place 10 miles into a 100 mile race, but suffering is what I’m good at so best just get-on with it then!

Lee and Dave were manning the 1st Tech station and had a bottle for me, but I hadn't drunk enough to take it, another mistake! The cramp was getting worse, and there was a point when both Quads and Hamstrings had gone at the same time… That initiated a bout of shouting and maybe a wee bit of swearing!

Matt had some fresh bottles for me at the next tech station around 40miles and rightly gave me a good-old rollicking for not drinking enough...

This year, the introduction of the Kielder 50 presented another challenge. At 50 miles you’ve got the choice of straight-on for an early bath, tea and cake, or turn left for another 50 miles of err fun! I think that is the closest I've come to "packing"... But quitting isn't really me, so my legs were just going to have to shut-up. Rhys was back there somewhere motivated by a promise of free beer 'til Christmas if he beat me!

Actually, when my legs were working they were working quite well and the periods of cramp were getting further apart. Finally I hit a sweetspot around the 65 mile point, and the two lads that I'd been struggling to shed finally disappeared.

Lee and Dave sprung into action as I approached the final feed/tech station at 80miles and what a welcome sight they were! Bottles replaced, chain lubed and away quickly.

I did have a little plan to turn myself inside out for the last 10 but I'd being doing that from the start and there wasn't much left to give, the 9hour target wasn't going to happen this year.

The finish was a very welcome sight and great to see Lizzie, Matt and Rich Munro waiting there to cheer me in at 9hrs12mins and 4th Male Vet (23rd overall).

Tim Dunford took the overall title this year, with Giles 2nd and Rourke 3rd. The Vets Title was won for the 2nd year by Rich Rothwell with Adrian 2nd and Ant 3rd.

Full Results Here

A big thanks to Matt, Lee & Dave at Go Run and Ride for looking after me so well on the day, Lizzie for generally keeping me and my legs in decent shape (sorry love but you've got some damage to repair!) and to Rhys, who's always there to keep me honest… he looked as fresh as a daisy at the finish, annoying!

I should also say big thanks to Sarah & Paul and the team at SIP Events for putting on such a great and well organised event, it gets better every year and the course marking is the best, so good even I couldnt get lost!!

So there are only about 8 of us that have completed 4 out of 4 Kielder 100s... I guess i'm going to have to make it 5...

Photos courtesy of Joolze Dymond

Sunday, 11 March 2012


There is a school of thought that suggests the "science" behind the sort of bathroom scales that tell you how fat you are is fundamentally flawed, and such devices are therefore quite useless.

There is some logic to this, I mean I struggle to understand how a whacking electricity into the soles of your feet can differentiate between amounts of fat, muscle, bone and water with any meaningful accuracy.

But when the same set of scales that told me in June I was a mere 10% bodyfat suddenly suggest that the effects of Christmas has turned a svelt cyclist into something more resemblent of a Darts Player at 20%!!! That's just offensive, even if it is wrong...

Well that was Christmas, now though the critical number is still wavering about the 18% mark and I'm starting to hear myself say things that are normally reserved for the local "Fat Fighter's" Clubs...

But all this is about to change! A recent visit to see those nice people at Torq Fitness has been a bit of a revelation, and I'm about to enter the Brave new world of Power to Weight ratios!

The expense is monstrous and unjustifiable but never the less it looks like a Powertap needs to added to the armoury!

Being the obsessive that I am, I doubt I'll be throwing away those dodgy scales, although I will try and be less concerned about the "fatness" percentage.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Montane Kielder 100

4:30am, never a good time to have an alarm ringing in your ear. Rain pattering on the roof of the tent had constantly filtered in and out of my sleep since I’d gone to bed making it even harder to leave my sleeping bag. The coffee pot on the stove was to be my only luxury that day.

I’d spent Friday evening as Cycleshack’s newest top salesman, well maybe if I’d spent less time chatting and more time selling, and had some ability with the most basic mental arithmetic (I get other people to do that for me these days…).

Dave at Infinity Cycles had done a tremendous job sourcing a new set of wheels for me and Rich and Sho, along with the rest of the Infinity Cycles Team, had very kindly collected my new race wheels and brought them over. All this meant that I had spent the whole evening on my feet and didn’t get the bike finally ready to race before 11pm, not the most restful evening, but good fun all the same.

Over the last couple of weeks Rhys had been quietly winding me up over the beating he dished-out last year. He sidled over and gently asked if I’d been seeded this year “err no”, to which he beautifully delivered his cous-de-gras “oh, I have” and wandered off… By 5:45am I had my place at the front… just behind the seeded riders (Grrrrrr).

The race started at 6:30 with the first couple of miles neutralised behind the marshall’s van. The strategy was simple, start at the front and stay there for as long as possible. As the van pulled over the pace instantly kicked hard and a group of about 15 quickly formed, I felt able to stick with the pace ok, the group was shedding riders pretty quickly. Then we started to climb and the pace kicked again and my heartrate shot well into the red, it was time to back-off and watch the “fast lads” gently ease away up the hill.

I was working on the basis of a Zipvit gel an hour, four Zipvit energy bars and grab a handful something at feed stations should be enough to keep me fuelled to the end. At the first feed, Rich Munro was manning the Tech Station so I took the opportunity to ditch my outer jacket, gambling on the conditions not getting any worse.

It was a truly horrid day, whilst it never rained hard, it was constant and the Kielder sandstone/grit was getting into everything. By 50 miles I was beginning to wonder if there’d be any of the bike left to ride! I’d been having a good battle with one of the guys from the Morvelo Team, finally getting the better of him when he stopped for a pee.

The Bloody Bush trail takes you to the Scottish Border, a great point in the race where you cross between two stone pillars on a Drovers road in the middle of nowhere. The lone piper and the singularly “Scottish” weather all making it feel particularly atmospheric!

A fast descent on gravel gave me a big moment, feeling quite at home on this surface after the Transalps I was pushing it and drifted a bit wide on a right hand bend, the front started to slide and at something getting on for 40mph I really didn’t want to come off. Luckily I somehow caught it and stayed upright, that had me spooked for a while!

Rolling into the final feed station at 78 miles intent on a quick pee and a bottle top-up, before I was even off the bike someone was already sorting my bottle, and whilst I was sorting myself out, the guys had set the bike in the right direction, put it in the right gear for the hill and gave me a mighty push off… outstanding service! I’d thrown a couple of handfuls of salted peanuts and a handful of jelly beans in my mouth, an interesting combo that your not likely to experience most days!

I would occasionally get a glimpse of the guy in front and that was just enough to keep my internal Terrier yapping and growling… not that I seemed to be bringing him back much.

A final bit of technical descent brought me to the finish in 9hrs 28mins, 5th in the Vets and 16th overall. I even had a sliver of brake pad left, rather miraculous when many people went through 3 or even 4 sets of pads to get to the end. Of the 600+ that started only 177 made it to the end with the last lunatic rolling in after 14 hours of misery, there’s nothing like a bit of misery from time to time!!!

So a seeded place for next year, a score settled and a new target set.... next year should be fun!

 Click HERE for Garmin Data

Photos courtesy of Joolze Dymond

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Stage 8 - Trento to Riva Del Garda - Team Zipvit Sport

Team Transviamala had 6mins on us, it was possible we could beat them. So part one of the plan was to bag a spot on the front row. An even earlier alarm at 5:30, breakfast and drive back into Trento, and a bit of European style queuing got our spot front and centre, perfect.

I was expecting today's start to be a bit manic and we had spotted a very tight left turn into a very steep and narrow lane, that was going to be a fair bottleneck. The gun went off at 9 precisely and the pack charged out of the square to chase down the leaders group that always gets a 10 Second head start on Block B.

Supposedly a neutralised start, it was still at top speed through the centre of Trento, using either side of roundabouts and traffic islands... Just like they do on The Tour de France!

We got to the bottleneck in good shape and pretty much got straight through, that was the start of todays longest climb. The pace more like a short XC race as everyone fights for final positions, we're no different pushing on as hard as we can.

At the 2nd feed station there was a horrid muddy push up a steep hill, Stevie's knee was giving him some grief... Didn't drug him up enough this morning, I grabbed his bike off him to push both up the hill and rather unsympathetically told him that he could or rather should destroy himself today, we had a whole week to rebuild him!

The final climb of the day took us up a road cut spectacularly into the edge of a cliff and at the top provided a stunning view down to lake Garda... But the finish was still a good 30Km away. Dropping quickly to the valley floor it was a fast run into Riva on tarmac and gravel cycle paths. We were with a small group of 6 that we soon rode off our wheel but then a fast moving group caught us and guess who was at the back... Transviamala!

We jumped on the back hoping to at least best them in a sprint for the line but fate had different cards to play for us... We overshot a badly signposted right hand turn and as I hit the brakes I realised there was no way of avoiding the Transviamala guy in front, plowing straight into him we both went down hard. Fortunately both ok but I'd shipped my chain and twisted the seat which allowed the group to get away from us.

Red mist... All we could do was hammer it back to the finish on the final few ks of road, head down, forearms on the bars, legs burning but there was no backing off, I knew we were dragging a few with us but didn't care. The SRAM Team went past but poor old Stevie's legs couldn't make the jump across to them.

We finished in 4hrs 8mins and took 24th place on the day. Not enough to move us any further up the GC so we stayed 31st overall.

Of the 220 teams in the masters category that started the race, only 120 made it to the finish.

Its been an awesome week, and a huge challenge that somehow we've got though. It would be easy if it were only about the racing, but its not, its about the team and not just the riders either!! I'm really proud of old "Bird Bones", he so easily could have given-up in his darkest moments but didn't and came out fighting everyday since.

Thanks to all that have helped and supported us through this, especially Lizzie and Gina for all your hours of feeding, massaging and generally putting up with a pair of prima-dona racers. Also a huge thanks to Zipvit Sport for your support and keeping us fuelled along the way.

Now for a week of rest, eating badly, drinking too much and sleeping... Oh and Piglet, just in case you think your life is about to get easier, better think again ! ;-)

Friday, 22 July 2011

Transalp Stage 7 - San Martino to Trento - Team Zipvit Sport

Everytime Stevie has a moan about the organisers and route setters being complete B*****ds, I've got to remind him that this race is one of the hardest races you can do and it doesn't earn a title like that for nothing!

Its fitting I guess that we should follow the 2nd hardest day with the longest, and slightly disappointingly cut a little short because of a 24hr public transport strike so the Police wouldn't allow us to race right into the centre of Trento. Our real finish line was a rather less spectacular layby off a road about 5km out of town. Although we did have to ride into the finish in the centre anyway, race-heads switched off!

We've made lots of friends in the peloton, and it this that makes you realise the truly international nature of this race. There's a couple of lads from Wisconsin, the Rocky Mountain mixed team that we see everyday, a couple of Spanish lads that we have a daily sign language conversation with. There are teams from Cuba, Peru, Venezuala, South Africa along with the inevitable smattering of Aussies and Kiwis etc.

Another hot day today although it was freezing on the start until the sun came round. I was a bit concerned about the early part of the race, hitting a fast section of downhill gravel I wanted to get through as much of the slower traffic as we could. It worked well and by the time we hit the gravel everyone was moving at a good pace.

Then we hit a great section of singletrack we'd been told about in the briefing, a cracking bit of narrow downhill through the trees with tight switchbacks "that you will have to walk your bike around"... Not if your from Cannock Chase!

One big climb today, not steep but steadily up for 20km with a rapid descent to the valley floor and 40km of flatish tarmac cycle track. Sadly my hopes of a good sized group to work with were just a bit too far out of reach leaving me to hammer myself to bits into the wind. We worked well for a bit with a couple of other lads but the accelerations out of some tight bends soon did for Stevie and we had to let them go (to be honest I was barely hanging on myself).

The final climb although short was hard and I've got to confess to reading the Garmin wrongly and convinced Steve the finish was at the top... Err but it wasn't, it was another 10km down the road (Doh!). Time for Steve to get the bit between his teeth, I'd virtually blown myself to bits getting us to that point.

We crossed the line in 5hrs 18mins which was good enough for 22nd place on the Stage. This has moved us up again in the GC to 31st overall, 6mins behind the team infront... I can sniff a top 30 finish if we can keep it nailed tomorrow.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Transalp Stage 6 - Alleghe to San Martino de Castrozza - Team Zipvit Sport

I've got to start this today with a huge thanks to everyone of all your messages of support last night, it did the trick and by the time Lizzie and I came back from the Pizzeria, I had my team mate back!

All your support and the mere mention that Rich Munro would likely be wanting an explanation galvanised Stevie into action... Rich we may have taken your name in vain but it was all in a good cause, thanks mate!

Several good feeds a couple of massages and an early night, coupled with clear skies this morning and spirits were much lighter in the van this morning.

I'm down to my last 6 Pro-plus tablets so I donated todays ration to keeping Stevie up and running... For those of you that know Steve well... Can you imagine what he was like on the start line drugged-up on Pro-Plus and Ibuprofen!

Today was the last of the big climbing days another 3100m to get up and over. The roll out was fast with 5km downhill before hitting the first climb, steep and long, and halfway up we went straight through the centre of a tiny hamlet and single file through a steep,narrow tunnel/walkway between the houses, with what seemed like all of the locals above and below cheering us through.

The riding then became very much more "British" short steep climbs on singletrack with roots and mud... Stevie happy with this... Much less like yer foreign riding!

We were going well at last, moving forward and riding with a bunch of people that we haven't seen since stage 1.

Each day we head out with a bottle full of Zipvit juice, a couple of energy bars and 3 or 4 Gels. Its the first time I've really had an opportunity to try the full suite of Zipvit stuff and tell-you-what it sure works, not having too much trouble stomaching it either. Liking the bars too!

The last feed station was set right at the bottom of a spectacular part of the Dolomites. The route climbed up and through the most awesome rock architecture before dropping off the back down to San Martino.

A few k's of fast gravel led to a road of perfect tarmac and twisting hairpins before diving off the road and dropping straight down to the town through the local bike park.
5hrs 21mins ride time has brought us our best result, 28th on the stage that has moved us up to 35th Overall.

The bike is with the Shimano guys getting some new cable and the gears set-up again, 20 Euros but I expect well spent!

Longest stage tomorrow at 122km, I'll be donating my last Pro-plus again... Hope the sun still shines!!!