Thursday 20 August 2009

cross with running

It seems everyone is at it now - the blogosphere is awash with people preparing for the cross season, thinking about the cross season or simply preparing to think about the cross season. Here Come the Belgians, Molly Cameron, The Service Course - all have carried preparation related posts. Duncan's 'secret place...' resonated so clearly with myself in previous seasons, scrubbing away in lunch breaks and odd evenings, holed up in some woods somewhere, alone and immersed in the business of cross.

Having said that, I am getting nervous about a lack of off road riding at present – I just seem drawn to the road all the time, avoiding the issue probably. Time to get serious and get muddy, or at least dusty.

The turbo too is a draw, bizarrely enough. I guess it seems like a good way to get into gear. Come on, you know this is the future, right? The only way to get close to replicating the hurt box, pain cave thing that racing cross brings. It’s either this or that nasty road racing thing and we all know where that leads……… Remember to do some offroad riding too, or you’ll be a turbo terror - sprinting out the blocks only to wipe out as soon as the course bends or goes through any bumpy and nadgery bits.

But running, erm. Well, maybe. I come from a running background (as a kid at least). Hell, I even had ambitions to do a Bob Graham Round (a loony 24 hour fell running challenge in the Lake District) in a previous life. But age, whilst it brings wisdom, also brings a diminishing ability to cope with the rigours of life on foot. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike like running - it merely likes me even less. Without the 3 Peaks looming I suspect I would pay it as much attention as my garden - I acknowledge it's role and usefulness but fail to cultivate it with any great enthusiasm. But it is there in any cyclocross training schedule for a reason - occasionally, we have to get off and run. At high(ish) speed and without looking like we sh*t our pants. Running is a means to an end - the transition from bike to foot and back again is where you really gain or lose, but that depends on being able to maintain that speed in the first place.

So I urge you, go for a run - not a long loping perambulation through woods and over hills (unless you are doing the Peaks of course), but a short jumpy, sprinting type affair. Preferably up a steep bank, with an irregular surface and slick with mud. That's what it'll be like come race time and your legs will thank you if they have some advance warning of the whole affair.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

sonnet to the tub

With a little licence from good old Bill........

Shall I compare thee to a roughshod clincher?
Thou art more silky and more smooth.
Rough roads do shake oe’r darling Lancashire,
And summer’s lease do ease to cross season.
Sometime too hard the rim doth hit,
And often his oath be ‘shit’;
And every fair cotton sidewall doth decline,
By chance, or nature’s changing course at Boggart.
But thy eternal grandeur shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair rolling resistance;

Nor shall death brag when thou roll’st thine tub,
When down in A and E thou fester,
So long as men (and women) can breathe or eyes can see,
So long live the tub, and so say me.

Sunday 9 August 2009

inside an fmb superprestige tub

OK, disclaimers out the way first - this one is about as nerdy as it gets. However, there is a chance that there is even 1 person out there that is as geeky as myself, so in the public interest, here is the inside scoop on the internal workings of one of Francois' finest creations, the Super Prestige cyclo-cross tubular:

En version SSC ou SSC Sprint; le ring en latex de 0,8mm d'épaisseur est spécialement conçu pour absorber les chocs et maintenir un contact maximum avec le terrain. De plus la résistance naturelle à la perforation du latex diminue les risques de crevaisons.

I have argued over the relative merits of FMB and Dugast in a previous post. I got a pair of these SPs some time ago, when John Holmes from Cyclocross Imports offered to ask Francois to make a pair of custom Dugast Rhino treaded Superprestige as an experiment. The result that came back from this 'one-off' was spectacular. With Bentley Racing Green sidewalls in latex, and the standard Rhino tread fixed on to the 34mm FMB carcass, the high quality was evident. The latex bonded on to the standard cotton sidewall has the effect of stiffening the wall, as well as protecting it leading to an impossibly plush and supple ride.

There were murmurs too about the SP being puncture proofed - my basic French discerned that there was a thin strip inside the tub but I wasn't sure whether that meant the sidewalls or under the tread. The untimely demise of one those green specials presented an ideal opportunity to check. Peeling off the Rhino tread for re-use on another casing, I thought I'd have a little look inside.

The blue strip under the tread clearly worked well at puncture proofing them because on peeling off the Rhino tread, there were a couple of nice little thorns that had lodged in the tread, but not got through to the tube.

The latex walls mean that you don't have to bother Aquaseal-ing or Seam Grip-ing the side walls and hence the life of the tire is prolonged. The downside is that they are fairly pricey even in the rarified price point bracket of handmade cross tubs. However, you save on sealant, they definitely last longer than Dugast as they are better made in my opinion, and you are less likely to pay for pucnture repairs. With the increased range of tread choices that FMB offer including the new Fango mud tread there are plenty of options to keep crossistas happy. Take your pick from the range on offer.

I sourced some one-off 34mm SP Fangos in blue from John over the summer which should be absolutely superb for the rocky 3 Peaks Cyclocross as well as any bumpier races this season. Report to follow post gluing......

Thursday 6 August 2009

molly @ tervuren

Internationale Cyclocross Tervuren from j. dunn on Vimeo.

Jeremy Dunn can be relied upon to produce some great stuff and this vid is no exception. It first appeared a while back but recently resurfaced on Embrocation blogspot. Chapeau to Molly for getting out there and taking the fight to the Euros. Love the fan cards too!

I watched the full race on DVD last night and the speed with which Neils Albert set about demolishing the oposition was frightening. He won the Worlds in similar frozen conditions a few weeks later.................

being a bike rider

I missed my 7am assignation with the turbo trainer this morning. It was an ambitious plan anyway as I have trained/raced for the last 4 days - an unusual state of affairs in my time and energy deficient world. Even more ambitious was the plan to run home over the moors later today after said turbo session. That would have really tipped the balance toward the dedicated obsessive.........there's still time and energy yet for that particular session though.

This resurgent activity has been prompted by the rapidly approaching 3 Peaks Cyclocross, looming large on my mental horizon, part torture, part anticipated treat. Wholely unique. The Peaks has consumed many a seemingly sane person with its blend of the sublime and the ridiculous - it has an aura about it both on the calendar and on the day. It drives me and scares me like no other race.

Yet underlying all of this extra activity through Yorkshire intimidation is what Molly Cameron recently called 'the secret trap of cycling':

Because I am convinced I can progress. Is that the secret trap of cycling? You can always get better, get fitter right?

There is always a new cross season coming, a re-tilt at familiar sportive challenges - a chance to test out that theory. My own plans laid in the Spring around long sportives came, mostly, to fruition. A nod at laying down base miles before moving into more specific cross training as the summer progresses. An attempted devotion to diet (on and off), more 'on' when a goal looms large. Further attempts to get a bit more sleep, to do that stretching routine more than once in a week. All of which are designed to get me to the start of the season in slightly better shape than last year (or at least in the same shape allowing for the ravages of increasing age....).

Being a bike rider is about doing that little extra, that concession to the abnormal that marks us out. Sure we go about our daily lives looking for all the world like fine, upstanding members of the community - jobs, family, wider responsibilities all get our attention but in our minds we are thinking about improving on the next training ride, the next race, the next experience, and if only we could just go that little bit faster or make it feel that little bit easier next time...........

Being (a) PRO simply takes that to even greater heights but without the pressures of earning a living outside of the bike to complicate things. To those that manage an outwardly normal existence (outside of the PRO ranks) but combine this with elite level results - chapeau! For that is surely the ultimate that any bike rider can aspire to?

Monday 3 August 2009

simple pleasures

The trouble about committing to writing a blog is that there comes a growing pressure to perform, to write something erudite and insightful on a regular basis. I read with envy and respect some of the offerings out there from many of the blogs listed on the right hand side of this page. Writers who are far more informed, opinionated and talented than I can hope for.

However, there is still merit in the first hand account, the occasional flash of inspiration, the documentation of the seemingly humdrum as I would argue that this is where the true human condition lies.

In this vein I can report that this Sunday gone, I dragged Duncan Here Come the Belgians up to Lancastershiretonside (again) for an offroad reunion in honour of the impending season. Part skills session, part 3 Peaks training and (large) part natter about future plans, we sampled some of the offroad surroundings of the Ronde route.

We pondered the recently finished Tour, it's Astana-led machinations, Contador's startling ease in the mountains, Brad's triumph (I'm still wearing black socks in honour) and plenty more.

After a weeks holiday riding on the fen-like landscape of Pevensey, East Sussex it was nice to be back in more vertically challenging terrain. Don't get me wrong, the drained marshes between Eastbourne and Hastings were a super place to ride and a refreshing change - as was the hot sunny weather that the rest of the country appeared to miss.

However, back in the mud was where I was itching to be and it was a joy to be out on fat tires again. Its only 5 weeks now till the NW cross season starts and the Tour seems a distant memory already.

Just before I finish, Duncan has also applied his recently much-in-demand talents to a crossjunkie logo/banner. Whilst juggling his day-job graphic responsibilities with requests from stateside blogs and magazines, he has combined mud splatters and diamond treads to bring to life the crossjunkie marque. Cheers Dunc - much appreciated.