Wednesday 18 February 2009

tour of california photos from velodramatic

Photo taken from

The Tour of California is hotting up now, at least action wise if not weather wise.........

Michael from Velodramtic has posted this gallery of stunning images from Stage 2 as Levi Leipheimer stamped his authority on the race and took the Yellow Jersey:

Watch out for more AToC images and updates, and more importantly for a round up of the Euro Cross season after the final GVA Trophee at Oostemalle on Sunday.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

ride like you just don't care.....

Regardless of whether you buy into the Rapha branding thing, these little videos from the Rapha Continental riders documenting their riding of the entire Amgen Tour of California route simply cannot fail to inspire you to get out on a bike, any bike and ride.......

Rapha Rides The Tour of California from RAPHA on Vimeo.

Rapha Rides the TOC - Episode 2 from RAPHA on Vimeo.

Wednesday 11 February 2009

erwin vervecken faceplant

Even triple World Champions can get it wrong at times...........

From warm-up at Sunday's Super Prestige at Hoogstraten.

Sunday 8 February 2009

hit the north - winter sprinter style

Strains of 'On Ilkley Moor Bar t'hat' from the resident brass quartet floated across the start finish area has I heaved up the final climb into the clearing containing the lap scorers. By the next lap this had been replaced by 'Pinball Wizard' on the P.A system with a previous playing of'Chariots of Fire' to entertain and inspire whilst grinding out another tough lap.

This then was the diverse musical soundtrack to Hit the North 1.5 - Winter Sprinter, interspersed with gruff Northern shouts of encouragement on the long and varied course. Arriving in temperatures of -1.5 degrees, the scene had been set for a fast and furious race or ride, depending on your point of view and intention. Billed as mountainbikes vs crossers, the cultural differences between the 2 camps became clear fairly early on - me and Mark (and most of the other 6 crossers) went for warm up laps to scope lines whilst the mountainbikers mostly stood around chatting and relaxing. A total freehub failure (frozen up I think!) on my chosen bike whilst warming up had me diving back to the car for my second bike and worrying that deep dish carbons were perhaps not the most suitable for the frozen and rutted course. I need not have worried because the environmental impacts of 100 riders lap after lap on the frozen course had their own global warming effect, turning it into a real tough mud slog in places. The need to change bikes also meant I missed riding the second half of the lap which made for an interesting opening lap at racing speed!

It is fair to say I felt distinctly out of place on the start line in skinsuit and bare (though embrocated) legs - almost everyone else had full winter jackets, some camouflaged to protect against who knows what horrors that were out on the course, other full body cover and some hefty looking rucksacks too to boot. They were a well prepared lot for sure and it made me a bit nervous. Only Ady Lawrence and Dean Smith were similarly sparsely dressed, equiped like me and the tiny band of cross brothers and sisters with puny looking cross bikes against this armada of suspended and beefed up metalwork......

Starting hard in about 3rd or 4th place.....

No matter, with a blast from the resident brass band we were off and straight into a chaotic first lap with 2 hours of racing left to go. I got away fast expecting carnage into the first section of single track, latching onto Dean and Ady's wheel at first. It may have been carnage behind but luckily I was relatively clear and intent on creating my own version of chaos. Not known (ever) for my technical prowess, riding some technical sections blind made for some near misses with faster, and I may say, very polite mountain bikers. We got through unscathed, though apologies to the guy who I wacked in the head with my bike as I shouldered it at the precise moment he chose to ride past on a sketchy descent.

Carefully reading the course signs for a very steep drop off I found myself wondering why the rest of the race was not following me as I rode round some pretty ornamental and tarmacced gardens, with a distinct lack of drop off. Retracing my steps, I found the rest of the race in full flight in front of me, they having been somewhat more observant of the sharp right sign also placed there.

Getting into a rhythm, I settled into learning the course and best lines whilst trying to keep momentum going without overdoing it. This was a cross race (despite anything any of the mountain bikers say!) but it was double the normal length, making for some challenging pacing considerations. The course began melting fairly quickly in most places and new lines emerged along with new challenges as it mushed up into some fairly heavy mud in a lot of places.

It was a great course, part mud slog, part fast blast, and part single track technical fest. Loads to occupy the mind and the legs and I have to say totally absorbing. The steps were brutal though and I was glad of a light and mud free bike to shoulder. A slight lack of lap board led to a bit of internal confusion about how hard to go in the last 1/2 hour but a clear directive of 1 lap to go (20min+ laps for most of us) gave a target to aim for in the closing stages. Unfortunately my quads were not in the mood for obeying and twinges of cramp began setting in. They came to a head on the final climb up to the finish when in spectacular dying swan fashion I cramped solid in both legs simultaneously, fell of the bike in a shouting, cursing heap and writhed on the floor for a good 30 seconds before managing to bend them enough to enable an undignified hobble up the course. Running the last bit I risked a do or die mount onto the bike to roll over the finish line some 2 hrs and 18 mins after starting out. Thanks you to the lady riding past who showed genuine concern for my grovelling, writhing form. I was fine, honestly, thank you!

Mark on one of the less technical sections!

Definitely the hardest cross, I mean mountainbike race I have done, though I got 1st Vet (again) and 8th overall out of the 90 odd finishers. Out of the cross riders, my mate Mark impressed photographers, marshalls and mountainbikers alike with his kamikaze descending on his new Planet X cross bike (faster than the MTBs!), Ady Lawrence won easily and Joe Allen also impressed in 3rd. A special mention too for Amy Baron-Hall, Horwich CC's new signing, who cleaned up the first Female prize on a nice new Focus cross bike. It was a great event, with a great course, friendly laid back atmosphere, good food and good music.

Amy second wheel...

And most importantly, Honour was upheld, I believe by the crossers................

Thursday 5 February 2009

winter sprinter on sat 7 feb

Just when you thought the cross season was over, this little number comes up:

Billed as a Mancunian winter moutain bike race with 100 riders max (sold out in Dec), it promises a 2 hour bike race around Philips Park and Waterdale. There is no restriction on the type of bike as long as it has two wheels and one rider. The course has a bit of everything - 3 miles of fast hardpack, woodland single track, tarmac, raised decks, steps and quite a lot of mud. Or so the preview went.

And mountain bikers vs cross riders :)

In the blue corner for the cross riders are Ady Lawrence (Lune CC), Dean Smith (Liverpool Century), Mick Style (Mcr Wheelers) Joe Allen (Evans Cycles), my mate Mark and yours truly. And probably a few others I don't know so well.

In the red corner are a load of mountain bikers in baggy shorts who whilst short of race fitness will probably still put up a good fight. May the best bike win, not that I'm stoking up any sort of ultra competitive partisan conflict......................

The weather will be challenging to say the least - either cold/snowy and wet, cold/snowy and frozen, or cold/snowy, wet and frozen. Skinny cross tires at low pressures anyone?

Wednesday 4 February 2009

worlds pics

Having expensive brakes strangely set up (check the angle) and a wardrobe malfunction with legwarmers will from now on be known as 'doing a Compton'

Boom never really took off...............

Bart always manages to get his face dirty even when there is no mud. Unless those are flies he has been swallowing........

Tuesday 3 February 2009

some observations about the worlds.....

My prediction was as bad as it gets - 0 out of 3 to be precise. Ahem. Great win from Albert though, which was exciting in execution, though not so interesting to watch as a race.

In my defence:

the weather was cold and frosty rather than wet which made a big difference to the speed of the course and worked in favour of different riders to those I had picked. In came crit style racing out went good old fashioned mud plugging

the Belgians bizarrely worked together rather than against each other, confusing the Dutch whose plan went out of the window rapidly

Boom lost his marbles with only a half-arsed attempt by Thys Al to protect him, starting changing bikes in panic and generally had his worst race in years

Albert had clearly been hiding in races using them for training rather than than tiring himself out

Nys could have won for a change, but selflessly allowed Albert his moment (he took 30 secs out of Albert and Stybar in the last lap alone)


Jody Crawforth had a great ride - poor gridding obviously but posted quickest lap of any rider just at the end and got 31st. UCI points for gridding and some races abroad and he could be up with some well sponsored names.....

Apart from Jody, the Brits underperformed again (also excepting David Fletcher perhaps). Plenty of talent, just such a different scene and style of racing.

Eurosport was crap again - I Sky plussed it only to turn on and find it half way through the race. Quickly turned it off and waited for the Sporza coverage to come through on the internet later that night - excited, informed commentary even in a language where I understand only key phrases that come up again and again. Tochwel, ein richting finish. Heil szware cross. Or something like that.

Roll on next year in Tabor, though I suspect it could be more of the same - fast, frozen, with few natural obstacles to challenge, other than some elevation changes. Treviso, Hoogerheide, Tabor - three consecutive criterium cross courses for the Worlds. Maybe we need to put in a bid to host the Wolrds at Scorton or Boggart Hole Clough. Now that would really sort them out.............