Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Pics all courtesy of Dave Haygarth - thanks!
There is a race report on http://www.nwcca.org.uk/ and on British Cylcing with some great photos - thanks to Dave Haygarth and his team/entire family for putting on the race in challenging conditions. And no I wasn't 28th as the draft results flatteringly indicated......
Friday, 5 December 2008
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Hot for this season, cross fashionistas, are TRP Euro X brakes in magnesium. As sported by Albert, Nys and co. Only £200 or so a pop. Horwich team mate Martin Jones showed me his a little while ago and I nearly wet myself - white Euro sex adjustable brakes with toe in. No sqeaky Froggslegs for him. Martin imports them along with very tasty Colnago frames so give him a shout if you fancy some Xmas bling
Whilst I missed out on all the fun of racing, NW stalwarts enjoyed some really testing conditions over the past few weekends races - from hypothermia inducing sleet at Stadt Moers to a frostbite risk at Leverhulme. Well done to all those that have kept their health, their motivation and their extremities over what has been some reasonably extreme conditions for cross. Ahh, nothing though like the legendary Beast of Bolsover race I did last December on a quick trip accross to the Notts and Derby League............. I shiver just at the thought of that grim experience.
Monday, 17 November 2008
Pendle 'Big End'
Soul cleansing stuff indeed, made all the more pleasurable by an afternoon ride with J on his new Birthday 24" wheeled 'proper cross' bike through the local woods. It's good to watch kids on bikes sometimes - no concerns of gearing, tire pressure, fitness and form or results. Just the pure, unadulterated pleasure of riding a bike outdoors in the mud.
Monday, 10 November 2008
Pignut Hill in a sunnier Sept 2006
The new gridding arrangements in the NW League have had the effect of sticking me way down the field compared to the people I am hoping to race against due to my pathetic number of events completed so far. All my targets started front row, whilst I was relegated to 3rd row. Inexplicably I got a good start, blasting around the outside of a wet and mud-spray hampered pack. Not even a flying fist sized clod of earth hitting me square in the forehead dented my progress and as we entered the course proper I was up in the top 15 and with my Vet colleagues in easy reach.
Friday, 7 November 2008
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
After an early showing from World Champion Lars Boom, young gun Niels Albert fought (literally at times) his way to the front and took off like a man possessed. Only Sven Nys (riding in the tricolour Belgian national champ jersey) was able to bridge up to him and the 2 rode the last few laps together, both on the rivet keeping a hard chasing group at bay.
The clip picks up at the beginning of the last lap, as both riders prepare for a showdown at the finish.
Friday, 31 October 2008
Neerpelt is the big season opener in Belgium (in early October) and is fast, technical and sandy. The speed of the opening lap in this clip is pretty impressive (though not as fast as the Kalmthout World Cup later in the month) and it doesn't let up for the rest of the race.
Compare that with this from Hamme Zogge (Belgian National Champs) in 2007......
Sunday, 26 October 2008
Friday, 24 October 2008
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
The start (with over 80) was a bit more dramatic than usual - a downhill off camber tarmac turn was an obvious hazard to the field coming after a couple of hundred yards or so, and was sensibly omitted by pulling the tape back. Unfortunately no one was aware of the 5ft drop off a grass bank that this course change left. The leading few riders must have had a fit when they had to launch off it into the air but landed (just) and carried on. Paul Wotty and Adam Palmer took flyers off the banking and didn't quite land it, crashing heavily though luckily on the grass. I for once had had a good start and was bearing down on Paul as he slid to a stop sitting on his bum and facing the wrong way up the course. Understandably he looked a little concerned as I bore down on him, but disaster was avoided although I believe others came down behind me. Paul went on to ride a great race and finish 2nd Vet and 13th overall. Adam didn't continue but I hear was OK.Surprisingly the good start left me in the top 10 and latching onto a good size group chasing the 1st 4 riders who had already broken clear. Interval sessions, the turbo, less booze and the previous 3 races conspired to produce actual racing legs in me and I hung in there for the whole race only giving way to a few faster riders who had not had such good starts. The usual mid race meeting and brief chat with Mick Style took longer to come than usual as he carved his way through the field to 1st Vet again. Mick must have the cross equivalent of an Ice Truckers turbo diesel engine - takes ages to rev up but when it does it just keeps on pulling and pulling. Even Chris Young doesn't start that slow before crushing the field! Mick, watch out for a crossjunkie coaching post soon on Starts....
crossjunkie cruises(!) the main climb
Pic from British Cycling website courtesy of Ian McVety
After a consistent race, no crashes and with steady riding, I ended up 19th and 5th Vet - result! Even mrs crossjunkie seemed vaguely impressed and was kind enough to offer up a shout and a bottle each lap that I politely declined. It was nice to race with 2 internationals, Ian Bibby and Johnny McEvoy who took the top 2 spots respectively. It's what I like about cross - a grassroots sport where you can rub shoulders (literally) with riders at the top of the sport. Rob Pugh was the best of the rest and is having a consistently good season. Dave Brailsford was challenging but was unlucky this time, puncturing and then having a mechanical on his spare bike and failing to finish. Martin Woffindin took 1st junior and Sue Clark rode strongly for 1st woman - apologies to her if she felt I was a little too slow at conceding the racing line as she came past half way through. Misunderstandings between riders seemed to be a theme of the race as I overheard a few slightly heated interactions between people - I was guilty of not giving as clear instructions as I should have done a couple of times, but we can all race together without too much friction I am sure, particularly given fields are getting larger this year compared to last.
Pics and report on: http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/web/site/BC/cyx/EventReports2008/20081019_NW_Cross_League.asp
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Monday, 13 October 2008
Race reports are over on the British Cycling website http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/web/site/BC/bchome/home.asp
UPDATE: Congrats to Rob Pugh who knocked out a win at Boggart Hole Clough against some classy opposition following a 3rd the day before to Scott Thwaites and Richard Wilkinson. Must be nice to have youthful legs that recover overnight to race the next day. I can but dream.........
Rapha cross kit - it was almost inevitable that I would succumb, despite complaining about the concept http://crossjunkie.blogspot.com/2008/09/rapha-cross-kit.html
I can report back that the 3/4 bibs that confusingly they call shorts are really rather nice. Plush thermo-roubaix cossets and supports your thigh, they are a sensible length and the insert 'chammy' pad from Cytech feels even better than Assos (at least for my anatomy). Acid test of any short is the 'forgot I had on new shorts' moment which arrived several times during the first couple of road rides. The only downside is that they feel remarkably slippy on the saddle, which can be slightly unnerving offroad and when jumping on, but is great for road rides. I think I'll just use them on the road to avoid testing the durability issue.............
They have also produced Belgian Knee Warmers knee warmers over at Rapha. The blog is already legendary but is now franchising it's own products. Cool. Any offers for crossjunkie clothing perhaps - maybe a fetching cardigan or cloth cap?
Talking of Rapha, I came across Velo Dramatic - a beautifully artworked blog with an eye for expensive kit among other things. Check out this post http://www.velodramatic.com/archives/78
How anyone can spend $40,000 on bikes and kit in 2 years is beyond even me but I am willing to give it a go!
Part 2 of Flanders soon - call back for the gritty climax.
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Rooted in the complication of Western society, our daily lives lack the now of our ancestors. Days pass into weeks of restrained existence; days spent where our most definitive stroke may be command-S. Tens of thousands of years of descent with modification in our sapient brains tell us this isn’t what life is meant to be. So we go on vacation. And what do we do? We look for the defining moment. Something to restore life to our life.
And so I found myself in Ghent last April with a couple of friends (Winkie and Gary), a bike and a dream that had been hatched some years before almost as soon as I got back into cycling after a 12 year break. Lacking the pioneering spirit of my youth, I had plumped for a package tour to ride and watch the Tour of Flanders, cosseted by organised travel and accommodation arrangements. It was also a good excuse to celebrate my fast approaching Vet status and the official beginning of middle age (not my official definition!) with my 40th Birthday.
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
A new course greeted riders at Sutton Manor - fast, gravel based with a couple of muddy but rideable stretches and 3 hard climbs. Comparisons with the Treviso World Champs course from last January were perhaps a little far fetched, but it was clear that this would be a hard, fast course suiting those with superior fitness and power rather than technical ability. That was me out on both counts then.........
After a couple of laps, the crossjunkie tire pressure formula (see below) was beginning to show its limitations - what tire pressure can rail mud and smooth gravel track, as well as dealing with stray rocks and bricks on the surface? I plumped for 34mm Rhino tread and hoped the puncture gods would be appeased by running at 45psi!
An interesting(!?) start, narrow and with a wooden bench and marshall in the middle led straight into the first climb which luckily had the effect of stringing the field out before the dicey plunge down the gravel into a mini and muddy bombhole. One of the good things about cross racing at this grassroots level is that other riders are almost exclusively respectful and easygoing with their fellow competitors and everyone seemed to negotiate the potential bottleneck in one piece. As an ageing family man, I was most appreciative of this....
My race went surprisingly well - a brief flurry with the group containing the top 3 vets, before a graceful and considerably less tragic (than previous) slide down the field. Only 3 came past in the last 20 mins so that has to be considered a result compared to the last race! You see, one has to take whatever positive one can in these situations. I ended up 22nd at the end and 8th Vet, having suffered to lighter and more nimble riders on the 3 steep climbs each lap. But, I was racing rather than surviving, and beginning to get used to the gut-wrenching effort over the hour. Those turbo sessions must be paying off, and a brief break in my relationship with alcohol based substances in the few days before helped too. Some work to be done still though.
Keith Murray lost out in a sprint to a Wilkinson from SIS (Ian or Richard??) with Rob Pugh in third. Back to the glory days of cross when 'amateur' roadies rode the Saturday races and disappeared on Sundays to leave the specialists to nurse their egos? The Horwich boys and girls were well placed overall but a challenger has appeared in the woods for the team prize ........... It is going to be long and hard fought season for overall team honours I suspect. None of which I will be able to influence directly, but one can live in hope.
Sorry no photos or links are available yet.
Wednesday, 1 October 2008
I've been working on this for a while now, and I believe I have come up with the definitive answer to that thorny problem that taxes crossers everywhere - what pressure to run your tires at?
Pressure P = √ y(m/s) x δm ± NA/¥
y = wind speed in m/s
δ = electrical conductivity of mud in S m-1
NA represents Avogadros constant (6.022±0.00000030)x 1023 mol -1
¥ = the amount of Belgian beer drunk in the previous week
Unfortunately this relationship does not hold true for those running clinchers, but I am working on a different formula for those not yet fully surrendered to the dark art of tubs.
Actually it is amazing to see (or rather feel) the difference in pressures in evidence at a local cross race. From the 'I run'em at 50psi all year round' group to the obsessives striving to geek out even further with a reduction from 28psi to 27psi (just me then), there are lots of contrasting approaches to the same problem - get through the terrain as fast as possible. Without puncturing.
Euro PROs like Nys, Wellens and co, reputedly start recce laps at 27/28psi and reduce as they learn the course and conditions, going down to as low as 24psi in some cases. A hand held pressure gauge and pump allows variations of 1psi. Younger, but awesomely talented riders like Lars Boom and Niels Albert have gone on record to say that they do not have the experience yet to run that kind of pressure, but presumably they are working on it. Check out the flat front tires of the riders in particular Vantornout (on the far right) going up the climb on the Koppennberg Cross, a course with a lot of muddy off camber and sweeping descents.
Monday, 29 September 2008
Friday, 26 September 2008
A duff gridding position and a heavy crash put paid to a higher position but the media attention on the race threatens to catapult cross Stateside into the consciousness of the sporting public, at least till the adverts come on anyway.
However, not to be picky or anything, but the Armstrongator needs to get his bike set up tweaked a little. He may be strong but 53-39 surely is best left for the road, and given his wealth, I would have thought he could have got some Dugast or FMBs rather than Tufo training tubs............