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............
Thursday 25 September 2008
Wednesday 24 September 2008
This wasn't quite the scene in crossjunkie towers last night, but I did do my first ever turbo interval session, albiet without the sexist 80s styled model lounging in the foreground (I asked mrs crossjunkie but got a short and painful reply.....).
Actually it was suprisingly good fun. A hectic day of delivering work related workshops, domestic chores, homework help and ferrying J to and from his athletic session meant I did not stop until 9pm. No matter, armed with a Simon Burney interval session, a high def DVD of the World Cup cross race from Tabor last year and my shiny new CycleOps, I ventured into the murky world of pain and sweat for the next 40 mins or so.
And sweaty it was too, but strangely satisfying. Perhaps it was the notion of a training session stolen from the jaws of apathy, or the thought that I might become some kind of uber-cross hero with unlimited power (unlikely), but I enjoyed it a little too much.
There was even some kind of bizarre connection thing going on with the DVD too - everytime Nys or Wellens layed down a blazing attack in the race, I could feel their pain. Well, actually my pain which was reasonably acute. It's not right though, sitting in a room, sweating like you're going to get heat stroke and hammering yourself into semi-consciousness. I am told it is effective by those in the know. They better had know, because if I get any slower having gone through all that I am going to come looking for them and stick a Rhino where the sun don't shine...........
Monday 22 September 2008
Leverhulme Park was balmy. Correction, hot - 22 degrees in fact. Any prospect of real mud had evaporated over the course of Friday, Saturday and then on race day. There was still some residual softness in the ground, that resulted in slowing down the speed of the course a little rather than any mud that stuck to tires or bike. There may have been some softness, but the course was still brutally fast - big ring all the way which is unusual for pack fodder like me in a North West race.
With a Trophy race in Wales, there were fewer big hitters present. It was a good field of stalwart North West regulars on the start line as well as a fair few irregulars and newcomers. A fast start leading into single track was always going to cause a bottleneck at some point, and a botched pedal hook up left me well down. I've been practicing that recently to the point of nailing it every time, except when it counts obviously!
The crash came later than expected and it was 2 riders in front of me. Sorry Mick S, about the Rhino tire tread on your backside, inflicted as I squeezed past on foot! It didn't hold me up too much but left enough of a gap to the next group to need some chasing. This went well and after a couple of laps I was on the back of a reasonable size group with most of the other leading vets in sight. A few slower starters came past after being held up in the crash, including Mick who went on to produce his usual Chris Young type effort and rode through the field with aplomb.
It was then, at about 25 mins in that the Investigators came to call. I was found guilty as charged - of having dwindling power, strength and general smoothness. Cross is all about momentum, and on a fast, largely untechnical course, smoothness through individual sections and bends is paramount. My technical abilities are suspect at the best of times, but as the feebleness set in, I was losing a couple of seconds here and there on riders in front through every turn. The loss of strength was compounded by an almost complete inability to get out of breath toward the end and make any kind of hard effort.
The net result was a tragic descent through the field from 15th to an eventual 27th. Excuses? I have a barrel full, but the only one that counts was that I was simply not prepared for the intensity that a cross race imposes on your system. A crashing sore throat and cold came on later in the day and overnight, and this may not have helped the earlier race effort, but I was cruelly exposed on the day in the way that only cross can. Some work to be done then............
Keith Murray won, for the record, with his White Sex file tread Dugast and White Sex gloves. Very stylish.
PS Thanks to everyone who came up and mentioned that they read the blog. Keep in touch!
Thursday 18 September 2008
It seemed far fetched at the time of reading, and to be fair I haven't the energy or sufficient access to the washing machine to get 3 sessions done. But 2 are doable, and need be no more than a 15 min run before breakfast, followed by a 45 min interval session on or off road during a lunch break. Two good sessions done, and minimal disruption to other responsibilities like kids, partner or even work!
The downside - I never get much distance or base work in, either before the season, let alone during it. However the literature is full of research on junk miles vs sweetspot training and the like. Rule of thumb to be gleaned? Ride/run either dead easy or dead hard. Coast along or blast out some intervals. It is possible that I struggle to hang on in the last 15 mins of a cross race as my base fitness fails to support my overall pace, but I usually get away with it.
This morning was a case in point. Faced with a day of work based training followed by an evening birthday present shopping, the only solution was an 8.30am rendezvous with the local football fieldsnear to work. A 10 min warm up, stretching, dismount/mount drills, 5 practice starts with 45 sec flat out efforts with 2 min rests, and finally more start and dismount drills gave me a 35 min session that incorporated both technical work and inerval efforts. A 15 min run would top it off nicely this evening...........
But this is the beauty of cross - 1 hour of gut wrenching effort that can be trained for in a finite amount of time, requiring lots of rest after races and between hard off road sessions. The ulitmate form of cycle racing for those walking the 3 part teeter totter of family/bike/work and this is why I love it.
Wednesday 17 September 2008
Fab stuff from this ever reliable blog.
Also from the colourful http://www.mollycameron.com/
A great tip for eliminating fluffs getting into the pedals cleanly everytime. Gluing old tubular or clincher tread to the middle part of the bottom of your often smooth cross shoe soles. Sounds wacky? - take a look.
Tuesday 16 September 2008
Photo courtesy of Photopress.be.
105 shifters and Ultegra mechs - consensus seems to be that new 10 speed 105 is as good as Dura Ace from a few years ago. Good enough for cross then.
Frogglegs brakes - utlitarian, effective enough to slow you down rather than stop you dead. Cross is about keeping momentum so you don't want brakes that are too good!
Mostly Planet X stems and seatposts, light Cinelli bars too. Compact chainsets - 46 and 48/36 with an Ultregra 25 cassette on both. Shimano pedals - long lasting and dont clog too easily.
Wheels and tubs - where I have spent my cash and treated myself:
2x aluminium - 1 set GP4 with 32mm FMB Orange SP and 1 set Race X Lite with specially made FMB Green SP with Dugast Rhino tread 34mm.
2x carbon with Dugast Rhino 32mm on front and 34mm on rear - better grip due to larger footprint.
I have a couple of old green Michelin muds on FMB and Dugast carcasses too for occasions as yet unspecified or for when I can find even more wheel sets!
Those wheel choices cover all the bases - mud, grass, rough track, fast and slow courses. Francois at FMB makes the most incredible tubs - top quality, true every time and with high performing tread and longevity. Dugast are great too but perhaps not as robust as FMB though the Rhino tread is hard to beat in North West conditions.
There are tons of items out there that are lighter, flashier and more bling-tastic. However, the stuff I use works time and time again, doesn't let me down in races, requires minimal maintenance and doesn't break the bank.
Monday 15 September 2008
J rode his first under 12 race of the season too and coped admirably with conditions so heavy that he could not physically push his (mountain) bike through the clag and maintain forward momentum in some places. A cross bike would seem in order for his birthday.......
My own race..........urm, well it didn't materialise as a gamble with the domestic arrangements for the race saw J unwilling to hang out in a field with a bunch of strangers while his dad rode round for an hour becoming increasingly unrecognisable as the race wore on. Seeing him sat on his own behind the start/finish tent looking totally lost and lonely was too much for even a cross obsessed Dad to bear and the only course of action was to bail out before even taking the start. Gutted, though at least his medal for top U-8 finisher made his and my day. That three part teeter totter (family/bike racing/work) that Greg Kellor http://www.mudandcowbells.blogspot.com/ talks about just didn't come off for me today. At least there is next week to come......
Wednesday 10 September 2008
Course design, for the uninitiated (ie me) is a fascinating area of cross to be involved in. What looks good visually is not necessarily good to ride and vica versa. What feels good at warm up pace doesn't always work at race pace. The overall flow of a course can only be experienced at speed and over multiple laps. What the course starts out as will never resemble what it looks like after 100 riders have ridden practice laps and the first few laps of the race. The guys had already been busy building a challenging course that avoided out and out mud plugging through bog but was not so tricksy as to frustrate. Last night was an exercise in tuning. And avoiding dog crap.
It was tempting to try and influence the course to one's own strengths or to reduce one's own weak areas. My own bete noir, tight turns, would have been ruthlessly pruned or at least opened up, but actually a good course needs a balance of tight, open, and flowing bends where maintaining speed is to be achieved a variety of ways. Nor can it contain endless running, though some would be appreciated!
Balancing topographical constraints, environmental hazards (mainly saturated grassy bog at present) as well as health and safety is not as easy as it looks. Next time you moan about a course, spare a thought for the organiser/designer. What might you have done different and would that have upset somebody else instead? If your club is putting on a race, get involved . If not, why not start your own race! Just don't design the course to suit you and you only..........
Klaas Vantornout won from Sven Vanthourenhout, both riding for Sunweb Projob, but there were only 3 pros competing so it doesnt tell us too much about form this season, other than Klaas can run a bit. Well, a lot. Reminds me of that Colemanball from years ago about Alberto Juantorena - 'Vantornout opened his legs and showed us his Klaas' .......... Full report on www.cyclingnews.com
Tuesday 9 September 2008
The route covers Winter Hill twice and Peel Tower, Ramsbottom and was led by 25 times Peaks finisher Eric Taylor. Good training was had by all (so I hear) and serious Peaks devotees hopefully found their running/walking legs in time for the end of the month. Photo Mark Leyland.