Friday, 30 January 2009

will the worlds go boom!

Or will the Cannibaal von Baal eat them for lunch........

I could go on for ages in a Sun/News of the World vein but won't. It is hard to tell whether this years World Cross Champs are wide open or whether they are actually a 2 horse race.

Certainly the 2 protaganists that occupy more column inches than most of the others put together are clearly on form - last weekends WC race in Milan turned into a sprint between Lars Boom and Sven Nys with the latter taking a perhaps surprising though deserved win. The fast race though had a large lead group in its closing stages and no one rider was able to break away from this group - more on this later.

Sven has had a history of croaking at the Worlds - either self-induced or with bad luck, as well as accusations that he is overtired by a hectic racing schedule by the time the end of Jan comes round. He is clearly hungry for another Worlds title and stung by the reticence of the Belgian public to class him with the greats at the moment because of his lack of rainbow success.

Lars Boom always set his sights on a World title, but he acheived it 1 year early in Treviso. This year (the year he originally wanted a title) is home turf year for extra motivation and he has not been quite as visible as Nys on the racing circuit, preferring to peak for certain races (Pijnacker, Niel etc). When doing so he has been untouchable and Hoggerheide will be no different.

Prince Niels Albert nearly took himself out of the game (for good) with a serious crash at Gavere and has been easing his way back in. He will be fresh for sure and has either been hiding in the pack just behind the front, getting the race training in, or simply struggling. He above all is the unknown quantity - good enough to win one dayfor sure, but good enough this year?

Bart Wellens has picked some good wins this year and lost some races that he perhaps should have won too - who knows how he will do?

Vervecken looked like he was doing his usual Xmas form finding exercise and won on his style of course at Roubaix but has not been consistent since Xmas - dont discount the old timer, though he may struggle when others are at the top of their game too.

Other possibles - Kevin Pauwels looks like the poor kid that got bullied at school but rides so elegantly (sehr elegant in Flemish!) and packs a mean sprint. He is also a superb bike handler - one of the best? Stybar has a riding style remiscent of an amphetamine enhanced 17 yr old at a hard house rave, but could do the business too? He was looking good at Milan. Vanthourenhout was also very active at Milan and clearly on form - would the other Belgians ride for him as he is Nys mate (a long involved stor for another post)? Klaas Vantornout has been sort of there all season, but not quite. Groenendaal is too old surely but on home turf and up there till the final selection recently in other races. His teammate Thys Al is getting better and better this season - he would have some national teammates to ride for him too.

Official Crossjunkie spies (Dave and Eric from the club) tell me the course was waterlogged last week and they were not allowed to ride on it by order of Adrie van der Poel himself so a muddy race is almost guaranteed. That will benefit Nys, Boom, Vervecken and Wellens in particular judging by the results from the earlier season mudbaths.

So, enough prevarication, what is the prediction that you've all been waiting for? No pressure here considering the 100% record of predictions so far from this source........

1 Ben Berden
2 Petr Dlask! ...............just kidding!
3

Sorry,

1 Boom
2 Pauwels
3 Vervecken

Bart will go out fighting but Boom looks like he will do the business, Pauwels is under-rated and threatening to break through big time (therefore my wild card result) and Vervecken can always get up there. Nys will be marked closely and may lose heart if he can't get away with Boom. He does not seem to have the power this season to ride away from the field like he used to, get a gap and keep it. Boom does though. The Belgians may not ride for him (Nys) like they would for Pauwels or Wellens due to past shenanigans with Groenendaal and Albert simply hasn't recovered enough (I think...).

The oracle has spoken. Whether it bears any relation to reality will remain to be seen.

Live coverage on Eurosport 2pm Sunday - I shall be there with a Duvel or 3 in hand to watch the showdown.

Update: Course conditions appear to be dry with minimal mud on the surface - forecast for frost but no heavy rain.

If conditions are faster then perhaps that throws it wider open??

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

nw league final - crossjunkie strikes rich vein of form too late

I love going up the M6 to the Scorton Scramble - it's a slightly bizarre location within the imposing Wyresdale Hall grounds, the course is like some old school cross assault course and I always seem to go well there.



Unfortunately, many others didn't share my enthusiasm this time and the start line was populated with only 38 riders (I believe). A few more came to watch and pick up their prizes at the do afterwards, so at least there was a good amount of spectators to encourage us on what has to have been the toughest course all year, even above Dave Haygarth's snowbound Rossendale slog. Mind you, it had been a long season and enthusiasm had naturally waned by the time Scorton came back round, and the prospect of a cross-country race carrying a bike may have failed to excite a few non-running crossers.......

Nonetheless, those who had made it approached it with the same trepidation as usual and it was a slightly subdued group who took the boggy start. I had decided to go off hard and actually managed it into the first turn in second before slipping back a little onto the course proper. A few hiccups down the 4 wheel drive bog/track and we hit the run through the cow field. This was as grim as previous years though slightly more rideable nearer the top. Luckily I had the crack Vet Pits team of Dave Headon and Mick Style looking after my spare bike at the top and offering valuable washes and encouragement.

By the end of the first lap I was a surprising 6th and 1st Vet - the lower strength field was something to be taken advantage of, though to be fair (to me!) I was going better than in living memory. Rob Pugh, Matt Harwood and Lewis Burke had cleared off leaving Martin Kitchen, me and Kevin Walford to battle it out. Martin slipped back a little leaving me chasing Kevin in 5th. My running was a little stronger than Kevin's and I caught him to move into 4th. At this point I realised this was going to be long and painful race - the lap board after an eternity of racing still said 5 laps to go and I was going too fast to be lapped to reduce that tally. Riding on your own is never easy and after 2 laps to go Kevin had made a big effort and caught me with 1 to go. My racing instincts are still not really there (were they ever?) because when he bobbled in the slop section and slowed, I too slowed to let him get going again. 'After you, no after you I insist'. Doh. He was stronger than me anyway (my excuse...) and got away at the bottom of the climb leaving me to struggle in a shattered and blown wreck, only to lose 5th on the final running bend into the finish to someone I didn't even know was behind.


No matter, 6th and 1st Vet was what I had come for and Dave and Mick's support had made a tough race more bearable. Matthew Harwood grabbed his first win in a close finish with Rob Pugh - nice one Matt! Form has arrive for me at last, but just when the season has finished.......

I wasn't able to stay for the prize presentation but would like to congratulate all those who won their individual League category:

Newly sponsored Rob Pugh performed conistently all season and pipped a disappointed defending champion Dave Brailsford who struggled with bad luck and perhaps(?) the big changes to his family situation last year. Well done Rob - we'll look out for some good results on the road now.

Mick Style retained his Vets title for the second year running, with Dave Headon breathing down his neck most of the season. Dave had the better ride at the Nationals though after peaking perfectly.

Lewis Burke was untouchable as first Junior and finished 3rd overall in the League. Chapeau!

Sean Beswick and Ray Pugh were V45 and V50 champions, Eric Taylor V60 and the evergreen Ian Small V70.

Finally, Joe Allen was U-23 champion and the equally evergreen Carolyn Wright, the Ladies Champion.

Oh and my club, Horwich retained the Team title for the 8th year running - my dream of being in the winning 3 counters is still some way off, but I'm working on it..............

So ends a long and muddy season - I actually only finished 6 races (with 1 mechanical DNF). Not quite what I had intended really, but sometimes you fit in what you can. I certainly couldn't have managed to ride every race, but hopefully next year I can ride a few more, as when they fit in.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

dugast vs fmb tubulars


vs



Not quite in the same league as the PC vs Mac debate, or even Shimano vs Campag, this little teaser nonetheless has many similarities. Dugast are the industry leader in cyclocross tubulars, having been around in pole market position for years, but FMB offers a truly artisan, even quirky alternative for those who eschew the mainstream and wish to make a statement about their own taste and style.

Actually that's crap because though produced in larger quantities, Dugast could hardly be described as mainstream in the cluttered world of cross tires, but you get my drift?

Having used or tried both types (in different specs), I feel I am vaguely qualified to comment on their relative merits and qualities and the following may make interesting reading for anyone thinking of splashing out their last credit crunch spends on some cotton, latex and rubber. Any comments on the performance of the tubs come with a health warning - I am not an elite rider, nor amongst the most technically gifted BUT I am an enthusiast and have been riding cross competitively at one level or another for a good few years now so hopefully my opinion is worth something.

Dugast used to reflect it's founder - Monsieur Andre Dugast's little company in a shed, known amongst the pro cogniscienti and not many others. Famous (amongst those in the knowat least)in Europe on both the road and the cross scene, the best riders would beat a path to his door for their handmade weapons of choice, a situation which remains unchanged even in todays sponsor obligated pro circuit. Brother Nys and his adversaries still pay for their own tubs, though probably at a discount as long as they do not upset 'Old Man' Richard Groenendaal who part owns the company now!

Andre Dugast in his workshop

The other owner, who bought the name and the moulds for the treads is Richard Nieuwhuis, one time and possibly still-time mechanic for the Dutch National Team and certainly Groenendaal's partner in crime on the Euro scene. The two Richards have modernised the business, keeping the look but upping the production numbers for a wider market. It seems to be widely acknowledged that the quality has gone down accordingly as production increased, but Dugast are still special and still a cut above anything out there. Except perhaps FMB.........

Richard Nieuwhuis

And what of the new kid on the block? Urban legend has it that Francois who owns FMB used to work for Monsieur Dugast when he was but a lad - a nice story though I have it on good authority that this isnt actually the case. He does however come from the era when Dugast was at it's height and is clearly familiar with the concept of beautifully supple handmade tubs. I first came across FMB from cross impressario John Holmes who met Francois touting his brand new products in the pits at the Hooglede World Champs in Jan 2007. I have 'spy' shots from the pits at that Champs showing Sven Vanthourenhout's bike with a new Dugast like tub but with a different tread pattern. John began importing the tubs alongside the Dugast range and I plumped for some in lieu of some Dugasts that were slow in coming in. More on that later.

FMB have grown much bigger now but Francois has positioned the brand as artisan made, the only truly artisan tub manufacturer left. His tubs, though of superb quality have yet to seriously challenge Dugast in terms of volume sales.


The ranges:

Dugast



Typhoon - the classic tread pattern also used by Grifos. Suitable for most mixed courses.



Pipistrello - white diamond pattern for sandy, frozen or very dry courses. Old model had side knobs, new does without.




Rhino - knkown as a specialist mud tire primarily, though they work well on most other surfaces. Reduced clogging and great grip due to aggressive side knobs.



Flying Doctor - in Typhoon or Pipistrello versions. Softer white tread (than a normal Typhoon) but with a stiffer casing to allow lower pressures but higher speeds. Best on faster courses with less mud.



FMB




SSC - all purpose tub. The tread is a combination of Typhoon centre and Rhino side lugs, more aggressive than a Typhoon but less so than a Rhino.



SSC Sprint - diamond tread with aggressive side knobs.



SuperPrestige - orange latex side wall, puncture resistent band under tread. In SSC or Sprint tread.

SSC Pro - thin super supple latex wall. Like the old Pink Dugasts from yesteryear.

World Cup - Limited Edition silk walled tub.

Special editions - send your tread to Francois. I did this with a green Michelin mud tread and the result is striking!


How do they compare?

I have ridden Dugast Typhoons and Rhinos, FMB SSC, FMB Superprestige Sprint and Superprestige SSC. I started my journey through the tub world with Tufos - the coloured Prestige and then Flexus (now Cubus). The Flexus was a revelation compared to clinchers and the other Tufos, in terms of its suppleness. On getting Typhoons, I realised there was a whole new world out there of low pressure and grip to be had as they were a quantum leap above in terms of suppleness.

Rhinos certainly set the benchmark in terms of mud tubs - they grip in anything and at any angle. Even with an average rider such as myself, I can tell a big difference in the grip levels compared to normal tubs let alone clinchers, as long as the pressure is low enough. The FMB carcasses are definitely as supple as a Dugast, the benchmark for such criteria and they are straight and well glued/sown together.

On balance I feel the FMBs are the better tubs. They are more durable (ie better made) than the Dugast, the standard SSC version is almost as grippy as a Rhino and the Sprints grip like the proverbial to a blanket even in quite slippy mud. In the orange latex SP version, they are simply superb as the walls are proofed against rotting and punctures and operate like a Dugast Flying Doctor Typhoon or Pipistrello allowing lower pressures without folding over.

So why this season did I use Rhinos for the bulk of the races I did? Simply because the Rhino tread is the best out there for NW mud (and probably any other mud come to think of it). This season has to have been the muddiest for a good few years(?). The ultimate tub then? It would have to be an FMB SP casing, 32mm with Rhino tread - special order from Francois.

I actually had a pair of these made up by Francois in green SP 34mm using the treads off my first pair of Dugast Rhinos. They are superb, though I messed up ordering them in 34 rather than the more appropriate 32 - the 34 front can feel a bit cumbersome in the mud, though better when it is rougher. They are still fantastic though and will see many years of service.

FMBs (and Dugasts) are best ordered through John Holmes of Cyclocross Imports who usually has stock in and is in regular contact with FMB. He also carries a delectable range of specialist cross gear from frames to zipped legwarmers - contact details on http://www.empella.co.uk/

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

wellens over the barriers at wc roubaix

1st lap, Bart is pushing hard to open up a gap. As he comes into the barriers, white hot, Joe Sales (photographer for CX Magazine) comments that “Bart was going so fast I was sure he would wipe out.”. The barriers were apparently 55cm and not regulation 40cm to add to the spectacle!

He didn't wipe out, just - for comparison Boom and Stybar are not far behind on the right, and Nys is further down the field in the all white of the World Cup Leader jersey. Boom and Stybar, 2 of the finest cross riders in the world, simply look slow in contrast. Enjoy the chaos in the pits afterwards.

Apologies for the watermark - having issues with the licence for the software.........

video


2nd lap, Bart is still out there giving it some.....


video

world cup @ roubaix

Last Sunday's (18 Jan) Wereldbekker Cross at Roubaix was a classic - close racing, monumental mud, a wild rollercoaster of a course that had the Elite men running down the steep and sketchy descents and an exciting finish. Those that were less cautious on the descents (including Radomir Simunek below) ended up like this!



I wont reveal the result for those that have yet to watch or get the DVD of me, but one thing stood out for me - Bart Wellens is simply light years quicker over the barriers and at remounting.

His style is pure kamikaze - entry speed a good 2 or 3 miles per hour faster than the others, blindingly quick leg speed and then a remount that literally snaps him back on the bike. As a lesson in how to get a gap on your opponents, it delivers every time. As a strategy to hurt yourself badly it also promises much. But he nails it each time and is clearly confident enough in his abilities to do it right, time and time again. Chapeau Bart, still one of the most exciting riders for me.

I'll edit the video and post a clip of what I am talking about in a bit, but until then.........



Monday, 19 January 2009

photos from pdxcross.com - stunning!

These are part of a beautiful set of black and white photos from a recent USGP race. Go check them out:

Friday, 16 January 2009

dutch and belgian national champs videos

Exclusive to crossjunkie (well courtesy of Ed Raket in the Netherlands - thanks Ed), highlights first of all, of the Netherlands Championships......

video

and now the Belgian Championships from Ruddervoorde.

video

Enjoy.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

a day out at the nationals part 2

It had warmed up during Saturday night. In fact it did more than that as a howling gale blew in and helped remove all trace of frost or frozen ground from the course by Sunday morning. We arrived bright and early for the kids races - J and E were wired and fired and ready to race.


It was E's first cross race and she was impatient for the off. Lining up at the back of the grid, barriers stretching ahead down the road and the PA blaring it might have been a bit intimidating for a 4 yr old but she wasn't fazed and had a look of steely determination. After the gun, there were the usual near misses you get with a bunch of u10s riding in close proximity, but then she was into a rhythm with a steady hand in the back as 12 inch wheels, a fixed gear and stabilisers were not much help into the fierce wind down the home straight. She made it round the lap in style, being lapped close to the finish and thereby avoiding subjecting her puffing Dad to a second lap. It was a great kids course and there was a real atmosphere because of all the people, course furniture and PA - she loved it and is keen to go back for more. J rode well after being a little overawed by it all at the start and finished in the top 20.





Unfortunately we missed most of the women's race and left for home before the men's - those races are well documented on the British Cycling website. However, Carolyn Wright from Horwich got 5th Ladies Vet and I suspect at least a silver in the V50 category, and Dave Haygarth http://3pcx.blogspot.com from here in Lancs rode a great race to finish 24th, backing up a Wheelbase Team win with Lewis C and Jebby. Paul Oldham, another of Lancashire's favourites also showed real class to get a silver but overall honours went to a Southerner that a certain blog writer had tipped the week before for a win.

There was indeed an air of smugness in the crossjunkie household that evening, though we shall see if the promising tipster can get it right for the Worlds in a few weeks...................

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

a day out at the nationals part 1

The big freeze was having its final fling as I drove over to Bradford for the Saturday racing at the Nationals. The car display read -3 degrees through into Yorkshire over the moors and only warmed up on arrival at 10am to 0 degrees. The forecast was for a thaw though bringing interesting conditions for a Nationals.....

Meeting Dave H from the club I grabbed the opportunity to ride the Nationals course in the biting cold - fast, flowing, cambered and engrossing. The surface was solid but rutted in places where practice laps had previously taken place in warmer conditions in the preceeding days. A good day for file tread? But only if if the temps stayed that low otherwise Rhinos seemed a possible if unlikely choice as the subsurface stayed hard but a slick top surface developed....

I was pitting for Eric T in the Vet 60s and Dave in the Vets and it turned out to be the most relaxed days pitting I have had - no bike changes, no washing and certanly no dragging around pressure washers and barrels of water. Instead it was a question of standing around, shouting positions or time gaps and watching some great racing and performances.

Eric struggled with the cold a little and the blisteringly fast 50+race but finished well up there in 7th in his age category a couple of minutes off a bronze medal. Ian Wright demolished the field to win easily in the Vet 50s with an illness affected Roy Hunt only managing token resistence before pulling out.

The Vets race was a corker - made all the more so by Steff from the club joining us in the pits to support his mate Noel Clough who was one of the big favourites for the title (who had arrived somewhat late after ending up in Halifax). The conditions had thawed a little and with traffic the course was becoming slightly softer - it was noteworthy that Chris Young and Cloughy amongst others had opted for Rhinos. Chris got the fastest start I had ever seen him have and there was consternation in the Clough pit as he seemed a little off the pace in the opening lap. However he got going and me and Steff spent the rest of the race checking the gap which was pretty consistent at around 12 secs. Not even a late charge from Chris Young put Noel under pressure and he blazed around to a well deserved title.


Dave H also had a great race, benefiting from a Belgian extravaganza of racing over the New Year period, ending up 23rd, not far behind some classy riders from yesteryear and some good riders from the present.

NW local Johnny Mac had an unlucky race crashing twice in the U-23 as the conditions became really slick and simply couldn't get back on terms with David Fletcher. He was later rewarded though with a Worlds trip to Hoogerheide this month.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

molly cameron @ middlekerke


from embrocation.blogspot.com

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Revolution Cross at Todmorden

Photo: Jonathon Watson
This was 15 mins away for me so a no brainer, particularly as J could ride the under 12s and go home with mum and leave me to ride home after my race.

Personally I think cross made a triumphant return to Tod, and even my return to racing had a vague sense of Hurrah to it! Chipps Chippendale (I kid ye not) had organised a tight race with a good course and the field of 108 showed the crossing public's approval. J came with 2 friends and they all rode the under 10 race, and friend Mark came to ride his first bike race in at least 15 years.

Kitting up in the car park beforehand there was a bang like a Chinese Mega-Firework followed by a sheepish Paul Warrener (Rossendale RC) looking for a spare front wheel. I had one free (as ever) and happily handed it to him. After 30 seccs or so, my brain computed a possible problem with this and I quickly checked with Paul how much pressure he had been trying to put in his tire.

The answer of 80psi came as a bit of shock, mostly because I had just handed him a handmade FMB Superprestige tub that would cope with say 50 at most. Hurried assurances were sought from Paul that he would not re-attempt the inflation process at his normal levels with my tub. Danger averted, I took to musing about how on earth he managed to ride anywhere in the mud with 80psi. Anyway, as his own admission of being a roadie showed, it takes all sorts.................


Photo: Jonathon Watson

Back to the racing and after a fast start I found myself well up the field containing lots of Yorkshire riders and some other big names warming up for the Nationals. Up and onto the cobbled climb and a slight problem emerged. I had ridden this in warm up OK as I had a large cassette on in anticipation (I remembered it from racing there years ago). However with the full field on it, riding was impossible. Unfortunately so was walking as the cobbles were as slippery as ice in my shoes! Having removed studs from the shoes to make them easier to walk in, I then wanted them back in to try and hook the edges of the cobbles and get purchase.




The course was flowing, mostly fast up or down and with some fab sweeping, slippy bends. Mick Style came by after 10 or 15 mins - nice to reinstigate our mid race meetings once again. He pressed on and after a couple of laps I couldn't see him ahead anymore. Ian Bibby came through to lap me, riding a steep, muddy climb that no one else seemed able to ride. Chapeau. Few other riders seemed to pass me and I was happy to finish up 34th out of the monster 103 finishers. Mick rode well for 22nd, Anthony Morris back on form with 15th, Rob Pugh in 12th and Dave Haygarth a cheerful 8th behind the hotshots and the Wheelbase crew. Chris Young beat Noel Clough - a sign of things to come in the Vets race at the Nationals?

crossjunkie returns - in time for the Nationals

Apologies for the break in transmission recently. The three part teeter totter didn't come off for me during November and in the run up to Christmas and I took a break from all things cross to recharge the batteries.

However, this is an exciting time of year for cross with National Champs everywhere this weekend and the build up to the Worlds weekend straddling Jan and Feb so I couldnt stay away for too long.

I even managed a return to racing after not riding a race competitively since the end of Oct! Crikey where did all my plans for a good season go?

As for our own National Champs, I am going to get into the prediction game briefly and go with Helen Wyman for the Womens (not too much risk there as she podiumed recently in Belgium over Christmas) and stick my neck out for the following Mens result:

1 Crawforth
2 Hammond
3 Bibby

Jody Crawforth has been racking up some very good results on the quiet over in Euroland during the Christmas break - if he can do that there with all the faffing it entails then he can produce it back here. He is a class act who can break through I suspect and besides, I have bought a Race X Lite tub wheel off him in the past which was a bargain - nice guy.

Hammond is always a threat but has, as ever done very little except in recent weeks. You can't rule him out for another win though.

I watched Bibby walk the race at Todmorden and he was going well at Macc I hear over Christmas - apparently he looked significantly fresher than some big names last Sunday as he won the Revolution Cross. Food for thought?

I'll probably be hopelessly wrong but will be there in Bradford to see how wrong I really am.