Thursday 30 December 2010

tough day at the office

I had a blinder of a race last weekend - everything came together. Fitness, technique, mindset and equipment all conspired to give me my best performance this season. And very happy I was too.

Cross is not always so kind though . Sometimes you just can't get a break - whether it be the weather, the course, equipment or some kind of of enduring voodoo curse. Helen Wyman has followed up some great results with a crashtastic period that has cost her in races somewhat, though she fights on, as ever. Nys must be wondering what deity or spirit he has offended recently, as for a month he has been suffering training crashes, errant pedals and chains and communication errors with his pit crew. When will he get a break? Who knows, but he must be considering some sort of sacrificial offering to appease whomever he has offended.

By way of illustration, here are some folks having a bad day at the office in Wednesday's Azencross from Loenhout. First up, a great Women's race in tough conditions...

And here is Sven - last lap, neck and neck with Niels Albert. Pre-arranged bike change onto one with harder tires for the sprint, but his pit crew is not where previously discussed, being nearer to the pit entrance than he expects. Cue one over eager mechanic of 15 years service, who simply pulls his dirty bike off him. Whilst he is attached to it by the left pedal..... Go figure the rest....

Here's to better luck for both of them in future races.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

getting evangelical about going green

Actually, all I want for Christmas is Green, not Glue.

(At this point a disclaimer is necessary: those of a non-geek disposition should look away now)

It may be coincidence, it may be a sign, a portent - this weekend past in the Kalmthout World Cup, a couple of top riders were seen sporting unusual tub wear. A departure from the norm, from the legions of Rhinos and Typhoons, identically lined up on the start line.

They were the iconic cross clincher from the early 90s - first incarnation with tan sidewalls then black and finally all green. Some dustier shades, some brighter and more fluorescent - all with the same killer tread. It was the tread that did it - ridden by Nick Craig to a National Cross Champs title at Abergevenny when no other tread could manage the slick off cambers, ridden by League stalwarts everywhere when the mud got thick and finally seized upon by imaginative Euros for conversion by Dugast for those courses where Typhoons couldn't cope. Subsequently, as FMB have entered the specialist tub market, Francois has seen brisk business converting Greens too. At least from me anyway..

It was those early Dugast conversions that gave birth to the Rhino - Richard from Dugast saw the market for a specialist mud tread fitted from scratch rather than through a labour intensive cutting and fettling process. And yet for many the Rhino simply hasn't managed to replace the green Michelin Mud as the ultimate mud tread.


Rhinos aren't as good. Fact. I've back to back to tested Rhinos and Greens on both Dugast and FMB carcasses, and on differing courses and conditions. Friends who are experienced riders have compared them too. The verdict is the same - the Greens outperform the Rhinos everywhere and on everything. Rhinos shine in slick, slightly sloppy mud on manicured grass surfaces - standard Euro course fare then. So do Greens, often with better lateral grip in sweeping turns. However as it gets thicker and rougher, the Rhinos continue to perform well but have a tendency to ball up a little and keep the mud a little longer on the tread, reducing grip and spreading more on the bike rather than the ground. The Greens keep on gripping, even better perhaps, but do a better job of shedding the mud quicker off the tread. This was clearly illustrated at a training session with recent Green convert Dave Haygarth (welcome Brother Dave) - his bike shod with Greens was appreciably less covered in surface material than my bike with its Rhinos. OK, we were on different bikes, but mine has arguably better clearances and would not be expected to clog any worse. Scientific? No. Based on years of riding cross and cross tubs? Yes.

So who were the zealous upholders of the faith this weekend? None other than Brother Nys, aided and assisted by former World Champ, Hanka Kupfernagel. Conditions at Kalmthout looked snowy but the course appeared largely mud based, with some frozen slush thrown in. Nys changed onto his Greens after a near wipeout on a tricky left hander that brought down a gaggle of riders the following lap. He changed again, presumably for cleaning purposes but went back onto Greens, upon which he finished the race. It should be pointed out though, that despite the miracle claims made in this post about the qualities of Greens, they may not improve your sprinting ability against a younger, feistier man.........

Cogniscenti have been collecting Green clinchers for a while now and I have a nice selection of old treads in varying states of wear. And here in lies the rub - discontinued for well over 10 years now, the worldwide stock of Green Mud clinchers is diminishing rapidly now, almost to the point of extinction. Rare relics like these reside in select cellars in the cross community, biding their time before the ultimate sacrifice - being cut up to be reborn in new and wondrous form as a Dugast or FMB tubular.


Addendum: No, Michelin Mud 2s do not cut it in anyway, any shape or any form. Period.

Monday 20 December 2010

all i want for christmas

All I want for Christmas is Glue.

I don't want a lot for Christmas
There's just one thing I need
I don't care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I just want some for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is...

I don't want a lot for Christmas
There's just one thing I need
I don't care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I don't want to hang my clinchers
There upon a rim
Santa Claus won't make me happy
With a tire on Christmas Day
I just want a sewup for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is Glue

All I want for Christmas is Glue... baby (repeat and fade)

With apologies to Mariah Carey. Not.

Friday 3 December 2010

petitesreines koksijde video

Koksijde - 3ème Manche de CDM cyclo cross 2010/2011 from Web Petitesreines on Vimeo.

More great film behind and in amongst the scenes of the Women's World Cup circuit. The finish line shots beautifully capture those feelings of pain and relief that only those who have given their all in a race will know.

Monday 29 November 2010

lessons learnt - part 2

It's fair to say I'm pretty cheesed off with myself after the Horwich CC Humdinger Cross yesterday in Bolton. Held on a beautiful but sub zero day, the course was the usual high standard that Leverhulme Park and the Horwich team offers.

It went something like this:

Warmed up, feeling good, opted for file treads as course was completely frozen and extremely fast. Kept nicely warm for the start.

Blinding start, snuck in behind the gridded front row, eyeing up Roy Hunt's wheel as a good one to follow.

It was, and I got the best start of all season, being much more aggressive after practising starts during the week.

Slotted in to the front file of riders as the course narrowed and kept on the wheels nicely through the technical sections. There was some aggressive overtaking at times by some riders, par for the course, the best (worst) one of which ended in a wild unsustianable dive up the inside by one guy, only to be brought to an abrupt halt by an unyielding bush. I almost laughed out loud...

Back into the race and I was flowing nicely, moving up to 13th and 3rd Vet as fast starters faded and one or two overcooked it on the slippy sections.

And so it was for the next few laps, not catching the group in front but not being caught either. Loving the fast and rutted nature of the course and feeling confident with tires and pressure.

And then after half distance I noticed the first slip from my file treads, just after lapping team mate Mark. Put it down to an overexuberant dive into the corner ahead of him. But it happened again and I began to notice little parts of the line and ground getting a sheen. Parts that I had ridden comfortably whilst others bobbled, caused me to bobble. A hundred riders, passing over the ground in minus 2 degrees were simply polishing the surface to a mirror like condition.

The black ice became more and more apparent, and I became more and more anxious. There had already been some heavy falls, including one nasty head injury, and all that flow and pressure to push on just began to evaporate. I tried to keep things smooth, and focus on maintaining momentum but just seemed to go slower and slower.

Riders I had passed started to appear behind and eventually all came past. It was the usual - once you lose your mojo in a cross race, it can be nigh on impossible to claim it back.

Result? A loss of ten places, and about 4 on the last lap.

Pissed off? How to snatch an average result from potentially my best of the season. Aargh.

Lessons learnt? Not sure really. I have no excuses, I don't think file tread was the wrong decision - ice is ice after all. I simply have to learn to relax more and be braver when courses are iced up.

Compensations? I stayed upright whilst many didn't and got to drive the kids home, in one piece and not bruised and battered.

And Dave Haygarth took some fab photos, above and below.

Monday 22 November 2010

belleville rendevous

I am clearly not cultured enough to have spotted this when it came out, but it is a simply beautiful piece of film making. With a cycling theme. Sort of.

Many thanks to Jim Speakman @cowspassage who pointed me in the right direction.

Monday 15 November 2010

sp hamme zogge - another tough race

Hamme Zogge always produces tough races - think Belgian Champs Jan 2008 or the Superprestige later that year:

Sundays Superprestige race was no different and topped off a trio of wins for Sven Nys in really tough conditions. Had there been a womens race then you would have been a brave person to bet against Helen Wyman getting a parellel 3rd win too.

Click on the playing vid for full screen.

The 8 and a 1/4 minute lap contained nearly 40% running (time wise) - that's about 25minutes of running. In a bike race. A cross race more specifically.

Just saying.

Friday 12 November 2010

niel jaarmarkt cross - oof

Another of those midweek Belgian horrorshows - storm + rain = monstrous mud conditions. And as it it is Belgium, thousands turned out on a Thursday in their wellies to watch some enthralling racing.

Sven got all Koppenberg on them again, but more importantly so did Helen Wyman:

Helen has clearly moved up a level this season, and is forging a reputation as nigh on unbeatable when the conditions get really bad.

Niels Albert battled hard and even with a pit mix up from Sven's crew, could not best the master of tough conditions. Click on the playing video to watch full screen - Tom Meusen gets blown off his feet coming into the pits carrying his bike at 0:57, and Sven takes a breather in the pits at 01:20. Epic stuff all round.

Pics used are by Kristof Ramon - superb.

Anybody still moaning that cross has gone soft with all the focus on fast UCI courses? I thought not - it's a winter sport with winter weather. More of the same please.

Monday 8 November 2010

lessons learnt

Sutton Manor - Lady of the Manor Cross.

Proof if ever I needed it that there is ALWAYS something to learn about cross. Not that I consider myself an expert, far from it but I have taken more than a passing interest in cross over the past few years, and during a misspent student youth too, and it is nice to feel that there is more to uncover.

It had started the day before actually, during Friday lunchtime intervals with Dave H. Generously as ever, not only did he act as the usual hare to my less rapid endo and exoskeleton (see definition of tortoise), but he passed on some of the nuggets learnt from Ed Oxley's mountain bike skills sessions.

I'm not going to let you know what they were that easily (you can suffer the pain like I have to with Dave), but let's say I learnt how to career brakeless but in control down banked turns that previously required copious amounts of brake. It just requires confidence. And some instruction. Nice to learn at 42 what I could have found out at 22, but nevermind.

Moving on to the following day, and the unexpected bonus of an unplanned cross race. Unplanned in the sense of a hard training week, intervals the day before and some Duvel and Grimbergen action the (late) night before. Still, a pass out is a pass out and cross was available, albeit at somewhat late notice.

Cue decision to treat it as a training race. Sensible enough, I would say. Keep legwarmers on, turn up last minute without facility to pre-ride, start easy and enjoy the whole affair.

Wrong. Well wrong in the sense that I found it incredibly hard to race 'steady'. What I mean is that cross requires a do or die effort really - not poking at with a limp stick. Starting easy and without stress actually was more stressful as I was making mistakes all over the (unfamiliar) course and generally making a hash of it. Apologies to those behind me. When I got fed up of riding like a numpty and attacked things, ta-dah - everything got smoother, faster, more efficient and generally business like. (Well, until I face planted in one particular bog.)

So much so that I began carving my way back from a stately 40th-odd to a more purposeful 20-something-odd. And enjoying myself much more. It was a toughie too with big bog sections that begged for big-ring grinding and much slippery track that required relaxing and flowing.

It all came to an abrupt end just after passing the pits with the inevitable rear wheel puncture. I say ineveitable, as I had not pre-ridden the course. Had I done so I would have noticed the numerous submerged and hidden half bricks that littered the racing line. Having clattered several of these not once but on consecutive laps, my lack of intelligence in remembering said bricks for subsequent avoidance finally caught up with me at about 2/3rd distance. Faced with a full lap of running, even my penchant for old skool cross courses couldnt quite motivate me for that little number and so I gracefully staggered off through the bogs and retired.

So kids - dont kid yourself that you can have an easy race and toddle round - you can't. And pre-ride if you are going to run less than 25psi in your tubs. You might not get away with it otherwise.

Thursday 4 November 2010

koppenbergcross photos

Geoff Waugh (super snapper) and Andy Waterman (feature writer for MBR mag) went to Oudenaarde on Monday.

They captured the atmosphere and frenzy that is the Koppenberg Cross. Get a coffee, sit back and imagine you were there in Flanders. Oh, how I wish.......

Geoff Waugh:

Koppenbergcross 2010 - Images by Geoff Waugh

Andy Waterman:

More pics and write up here

Sven Nys ist terug.

Wednesday 3 November 2010


Pictures owned by & courtesy of Helen Wyman

Continuing on the theme of Elite Women's cross racing......

Helen's done it! - as in landed a real big win. Following a gutsy second in the Zonhoven Superprestige, National Champion Helen Wyman blitzed the field in Mondays Koppenberg cross. Think rabid Belgian fans, in the heartland of Flanders, using the most famous stretch of Flandrian cobbles - this race doesn't have a World Cup or Superprestige billing being part of the Belgian based GVA Trophee, but it is one that any ambitious cross rider wants to win. Quite simply, it has its own special aura. And it is Helen's home race too.

Helen's probably been a little busy over the past couple of days, but this interview and video from Podium Cafe is well worth clicking on.

More please.

Oh and b*llocks to the (for now nameless) influential individual I know who said on Monday that women's racing was a waste of time. I'm not going to delve into a huge gender based sociological argument about that, suffice to say cross is cross and I'll happily watch anyone who is slogging their guts out to be as fast as they can be.

Friday 29 October 2010

women's world cup videos

Elite Women's cyclocross racing is usually fairly poorly covered - my dvd downloads from newsbin seldom contain more than a 4 minute synopsis. Shame, as the races look great. Only for the Worlds do we get the full race, and there have been some crackers too.

Hopefully this is changing and soon, and I am perhaps detecting a raising of profile for top flight Women's racing this season.

These videos from Web Petitesreines provide a great insight into top level cross, from the behind the scenes and racing point of view of the competitors in the Women's World Cup Series.

Watch and learn.

Aigle 2010 - 1ère manche de CDM cyclo-cross from Web Petitesreines on Vimeo.

Plzen 2010 - cyclo cross from Web Petitesreines on Vimeo.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

the path...

"The path of the tub loving man is beset on all sides by the vagaries of the track and the tyranny of fellow competitors. Blessed is he, who in the name of speed and good traction, shepherds his tubs through the singletrack and roots, for he is truly the master of low pressure and the finder of the best line. And I will strike down upon thee with great indignity and much muttering, those who would attempt to ridicule and disrespect my tubs. And you will know my name is crossjunkie when I glue my tubs on your wheels."

With certain, ahem, poetic licence to Mr Tarantino and co.

Friday 15 October 2010

tatyana storm gets cross

Class. Can't beat a Country and Western feel while Sven, Neils, Klaas and Stybee do their thing.

Click on the playing vid to get full screen.

Courtesy of UKCyclocross twitter feed

Monday 27 September 2010

it is what it is

As a fifteen year old boy I spent the night alone, high on Penyghent in a Gore-tex bivvy bag, living my dreams as a rough tough outdoor person. Well, that was the plan. In reality as it got dark I became more and more anxious - the beautiful summers evening gave way to murky dusk and I was acutely aware of every rustling of the vegetation, every sighing of the wind and every conceivable animal noise.

Predictably I cracked as night fell, and scuttled off down the Penyghent track with my tail between my legs, stopping to make the embarassing call to my mum from the Crown pub in Horton to come and provide a rescue service back to Long Preston. I had been coming up to the area since I was born, staying at my Grandparents just outside Long Preston, and although I was a London kid, the Dales and in particular the 3 Peaks were in my blood from the start. Further escapades as a young teen involved walking/jogging the Peaks solo, extricating myself (just) from a bog near Penyghent, having seen only sheep all day on my mid week jaunt. I lived to be out and about in those hills - it was such a release from the urban suffocation that was my Wimbledon home.

Fast forward 27 years and the same boy finds himself high on Penyghent again, this time in daylight but equally in a state of anxiety - riddled with cramp in the back of my thighs and facing the unnerving descent back to asphalt at the bottom of the PyG lane. It isn't so bad really, that descent, but in a strung out state it can take on a significance beyond its actual difficulty. I got down of course, and in one piece and puncture free - my preparation these days is fairly meticulous and technical skill improving year on year. But the brief flirtation with danger and actually bodily harm magnified the experience all the more.

Each year I do the Peaks, I fall in love with it more and more. This year was no exception and lighter and fitter I PB'ed with ease, squeezing under the golden 4 hour time barrier. I've listed the technical and physical preparations for that attempt at an elusive 'float' ride elsewhere - what I hadn't bargained for was the emotional effect of what was a nigh on perfect Peaks ride. It wasn't just that I was 'racing' rather than surviving the event for the first time in years - I had produced a top ten finish nearly 20 years ago, but that was in an era when the field contained far less strength in depth and I was a student and therefore full-time athlete. For me this year, it was the resonance with the event as a whole. The atmosphere, the terrain, the weather which allowed stunning views all the time. As I have become older, and perhaps less blase about some things I have begun to acutely feel and not just know, how special the event really is.

Photo: Nic Betrand - who I am sure will be wanting to enter next year....

The descent down to the haven of the road was difficult as ever but interspersed with people shouting my name and encouragement. And not just spectators either but other riders enduring their own private hell just as I had done shortly before, but still drawing breath to shout encouragement. Often I was too absorbed to look up and recognise the callers but it was all most welcome. Earlier on the climb to Penyghent, at the dogleg right before the final summit ramp, I had been distracted by a chorus of shouts calling my name and urging me on. I looked over to see what looked like a family of about 5 or 6 - I have no idea who they were but their support was most welcome.

This year I got to stick around a little longer after the event, hitting the Helwith Bridge ale and meeting and re-meeting some of those that had made the trip to the event, either to ride or support. It was the perfect end to a perfect day, and the comedown post-event is all the bigger as a result....

Thursday 23 September 2010

peaks bikes set up

The Saturday before the Peaks is always a big day - last minute prep and eating and for most a little shakedown ride to ease into the race the following day. Sat here this Saturday evening, I am quietly confident - I have been healthy all summer, lost 10lbs on last years weight and feel measurably fitter. Training too has been really Peaks specific this year and will hopefully pay dividends.

For my own Saturday preparations, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Konrad Manning, peaks devotee and columnist, and a local Burnley lad in days gone by. Konrad is now exiled to London but was back in his old hometown for the race and kindly showed me some offroad parts of the town I had never found, even in nearly 10 years of riding around.

Easy, ride, easy chat - a great way to get into full Peaks mode. I spent the afternoon prepping the 2 bikes I will use, so here for the record is what I am using for 2010:

Bike 1

Planet X Oom Johan XL frame, carbon forks
46/36 chainset with 12-27 cassette
Xero XR-1 clinchers with Kenda Cross Supreme at 65psi
Double bar tape
Bottle cage on seat tube

This will do Ingleborough and Whernside before being swapped at Ribblehead. Though I normally use tubs in the Peaks, I've been training on the Kenda £10 tires all summer and haven't had issues with punctures. They are as tough as Landcruisers but with very good side knobs that work well in stickier conditions, similar to the ones we usually get on Ingleborough early in the morning. The descent to Cold Cotes can also be peaty in places and the extra grip over say Landcruisers doesnt go amiss for me.

46 x 12 is fine for the swoopy downhills to Chapel le Dale. The bottle cage doesn't affect my carrying on such a large frame and is sensibly positioned very low down to keep it out of the way.

Bike 2

Planet X Oom Johan XL frame, carbon forks with less clearance
48/34 chainset with 12-28 cassette
Pair Wolber Profil 20 tubulars, 36 hole and handbuilt by Alan Gornall, with 34mm FMB Grifo file tread tubs @65/psi
Double bar tape
Bottle cage on seat tube

This is the Penyghent bike - fatter tires, lower gears and double bar tape to aid tired and sore hands. The fat white Grifo file treads might seem like an odd choice but there is no appreciable mud on this section, they are surprisingly grippy in wet, even muddy conditions and have a soft compound for gripping on any wet sections of the rocky PYG descent. They roll almost like road tires on the road too despite their large volume. Comfort is armchair-like.

So nothing fancy, apart from the FMBs and all tried and tested. The forecast is good, with temperatures nice and cool and I suspect the terrain will have dried out quite a bit despite soakings about a week ago. Good luck to everyone - see you in the pub for a well earned pint.

Friday 17 September 2010

final prep

Bull Hill, Rossendale.

Final, for me at least, 3 Peaks specific session. Cross race tomorrow then rest up and stay healthy.

Got the mechanical voodoos out of the way with punctures and brake block failures for 3 out of 4 of us.

Feeling good. I hope.

Monday 13 September 2010

2 weeks to go

I blame twitter. Even facebook can't cop for flak on this one. This year, even more than last, there is a buzz around, soon to build to feverpitch.

#3peakscx and #3pcx are the culprits as various Peaks entrants hone their form and reach new heights of anticipation.

In amongst this, nay right up there in the thick of it, is myself, one of a merry little band. (Others include @tikahuna, @aviemoron, @twinklydave, @steverile, @PhilHaygarth and @Mr_Terrahawk.) @DaveHaygarth's preparations though are even better documented with public Peaks sessions to whip him into shape, expert as ever and given spice this year by a slightly tongue-in-cheek but still relevant weightloss blog.

Dave knows how to 'Peak' for this event like few others and will no doubt toe the line in top condition. As for myself, this could be the year, actually. By 'the year' I mean a good ride, sub 4 hours and hopefully without a grovelling crampfest. Well, at least not one from the base of the Whernside climb onwards anyway.....

More running, more running with the bike, more walking with the bike and even, dare I say it, more riding the bike full stop have pushed me into new territory weight wise (yes me too) and form wise. I'm still not going to threaten 3 and a half hours but for a domestically and genetically constrained 40something, I may just surpass myself.

I returned to the theme of my last post on Sunday morning. Nearly Saturday night actually given the 5.30am alarm call to get up and sorted to meet with the keen Wheelbase duo of Dave and Lewis Craven. 'Intervals on a 40min lap' Lewis called it. More sufferance then. Crawling up the steep uneven Simon Fell-like bank toward Whittle Cross/Scout Moor summit, I once again mused on what is required for the Peaks. The ability to shut out discomfort/pain for long periods, mechanical sensitivity to avoid breaking both bike and subseqently self, technical ability on skinny and unsuspended tires and a keen understanding of pacing, measuring of effort and intimate local knowledge. I love it for all these reasons and many more.

Meanwhile a Whernside that was beautifully dry less than 2 weeks ago (above) will have no doubt turned into a boggy washout with not much sign of another significant dry period coming at the moment. Darn, I knew I was tempting fate when I glued on those 34mm file treads for Ribblehead onwards.

Expect more ramblings over the next fortnight as I attempt to calm myself, cram last minute training in and stay healthy for the last weekend in September.

Friday 20 August 2010


Noun: sufferance - patient endurance especially of pain or distress

I sat about this Friday afternoon just gone, somewhat dazed and confused after ‘specialist’ 3 Peaks training with Dave Haygarth. It only lasted a scant hour but – ooof!

I say ‘specialist’ as it involved a warm up on a monster climb up onto the moor – a descent down a shattered river bed (under 6 inches of water) but posing as a track – a walk/scramble up a 45 degree slope easing off into water logged peat bog caressed by a howling gale – an attempt to shuffle into a run and summit up further steep slope onto Holcombe Moor – before an exhilerating career down the other side, wiping sweat from my eyes and trying not to crash before turning left to go down the shattered river bed again and repeat. And again if really strong.

This is the essence of 3 Peaks training then - specificity and mental torture. Oh, and a fair degree of pain too. It certainly was a shock to the system but a welcome one too. Being able to zone into the steady but multiple outputs of effort on foot and bike, interspersed with boneshaking and slightly nerve-wracking descents is a key ingredient for a successful Peaks. It's not fast and furious like normal cross - more a long concentrated effort where mental preparation can be key. Ease off and drift off in the Peaks and you lose minutes at a time. Not to mention, skin if you lose concentration on the descents.

Dave was, as ever generous with his advice and tips - I've ridden the Peaks a few times now but still have much to learn and as my powers wane with age, need every last trick to make up time.

Good things to salvage from the experience:

We did only 2 reps as it is early yet and we are fresh into this type of training….4 reps is the goal by mid Sept?

I could see Dave for a lot longer than last year on the descents before he disappeared… getting better at going down.

I could nearly match him on the walking climb bits and lost less time than normal on the running….strong legs at the moment.

Bad things:

I am still way off the pace of the top riders like Dave when it comes to descending….he has ordered me to get chicken levers. Or else.

My shoulder is killing and has instantly developed '3 Peaks bump'.

The mental torture of doing this is nearly as bad as the physical pain – seriously.

Still, I am definitely ahead fitness and technique wise compared to this point last year and hopefully will toughen up over the next few weeks.

An hours cross is going to feel like cheating compared to this nonsense.

All the photos are from 2004/2005 including evidence of my own near abortive attempt at a Peaks comeback in 2005, 13 years on from 10th place in the 1992 race.....

Thursday 12 August 2010

gluing cross tubs


Original post:

It's that time again. Gluing time. Tub devotees are either re-gluing old tubs or gluing up fresh ones. Helping friend and tub newcomer Stef the other night with his quartet of new Rhinos on handbuilt old school rims was a joy - passing on a skill that many baulk at for its mess and difficulty.

Well, we only got a little glue on ourselves and none on the sidewalls, so it was a pretty neat job really. I did the first and Stef got stuck in (sic) on the second and third. I sent him home, ready to fly solo on the last.

So to all of you thinking about it, or fretting about it, read on. I posted the following back in August 2008 but it is still relevant now. I have updated a few of points from then but the basis is still, and will continue to be the same.

Opinions on gluing cross tubs are as numerous as conspiracy theories for 9/11. I have had a few requests on how to do it, so thought it might be a timely point in the seasons preparation to put some thoughts down.

There is no hard and fast method that one has to use, though most of the accepted methods overlap in many areas. In the end it's best to use what works for you - if you have confidence in what you have done, it will save time on the course and avoid skin-threatening moments.

For a great insight from a Euro pro racer, Greg Raine, scroll down for post entitled Sticky Fingers

Stu Thornes' ( Belgian method – this is slightly more controversial as some people suggest that no Euro/Belgian mechanics are doing this. Either way it is fast and the tires seem to stay on very well (from personal experience)

My method is set out below and is adapted from Simon Burney’s book as well as advocated by Richard Niewhus who owns and makes Dugast:

1. Lightly sand new carbon rims/lightly sand and clean old rims

2. Put new tub on old tub rim , inflate and leave for a few days to stretch. DO NOT inflate above 50 psi or it may explode. I have heard horror stories about people using 90 psi and wondering why their new Dugasts went pop – they are not designed to run much over 50 psi! While stretching, apply Aquaseal or SeamGrip to proof and protect the sidewalls. DO NOT miss this out - yout tubs will rot and look tatty very quickly. It may not work so well on non Dugast and FMB eg Grifo with a different material for the sidewall to the tub.

3. 1 thinnish layer of glue on rim (Vittoria or Continental) – leave overnight

4. 1 more thinnish layer of glue – leave overnight. Ideally do 1 more layer as well to be sure – leave at least 8 hours to dry as always. That's 3 layers.

5. Put 1 layer of glue on base tape allowing it to soak in as much as poss. When dry after an hour or so put back on old rim to keep stretched. Leave 8 hours again to cure.

6. When you have done all this (phew) then you are ready to assemble – put a final layer on base tape (no more than 2 as it stiffens the tape too much) followed by a final layer (thickish) on rim. Be generous and concentrate on the edges. You glue the base layer first and let it tack up while you glue the rim, as it creates less mess handling the tub and is easier to center the tub on a wet glued rim. Leave no more than 5 mins max and put tire on rim.

Careful – check the tread direction on the back wheel BEFORE you put it on as you do not want to take off again. Place valve in valve hole, and pull either side of tire outwards before settling on rim. Dont put the bare sticky rim down on your floor or carpet - aside from any grief you might get about this, you can get dirt or fluff that will compromise the bond. Check valve is not twisted to side.

Continue to pull tire on rim trying not to get glue all over you and all over side wall. If it has been stretched enough and taken off rim at last minute then this should not be too much of a struggle. I use feet without shoes to hook toes over bottom of rim whilst pulling tire on at the opposite side. Centre tub gently and bit by bit, so base tape is evenly visible around the rim on both sides.

7.Now inflate to 40 psi or so and roll tire with weight across floor to help push tire onto rim. You can also roll the deflated tub gently along the length of a broom or mop handle. Take care not to squish the tire off centre. The edges are where the tire sticks, not so much the centre so always glue the edges well and pay them attention. Leave at least 24 hours before riding.

Done. It is not as bad as it sounds once you have done it a couple of times and got well organized. Time and patience are the key and I have not rolled tires that have been glued on with multiple layers over several days and with love and attention.

Reward yourself with a Duvel, Vedett, Chimay or similar Belgian brew. Always more fun with a Euro cross race playing on DVD in the background.

Note: I won't be taking responsibility if your lovingly glued tubs come off at any point. Check them yourself before riding each time.

Tuesday 10 August 2010


Found this lovely little vid on youtube........via Molly Cameron

My Flemish isn't up to scratch yet, but think lonely marshall post, black and white Flanders images and cobbles. Plenty enough I would say?

Click to open full screen in separate window.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

it's nearly time...

I'm sure self respecting and capable crossers all over the place have been preparing way in advance of 1 August but for me, this date always marks the start of the beginning of the new cross season. And it occupies a significance and resonance in the year calendar accordingly.

(And no, Hit the North at the beginning of July doesn't count as cross training as it was clearly insane trying to ride 8 hours on a cross bike on a mountain bike course. I live and learn.)

Those keener and more adventurous than I may have been riding crits, mountainbike races and other competitive pursuits. I usually content myself with social riding and the odd long sportive or ride. It probably shows come December time but to be honest I can't sustain that competitive urge all year, nor square it with my domestic situtation.

I like the rhythm, the solid predictability that the summer cross routine brings. Peaks entries have gone in at the beginning of July, confirmation is received (hopefully) by mid July but it's too early yet to go at it full gas - note to self: need to keep some powder dry for the long winter months. So July is hols, road rides and ignoring that slightly anxious feeling that Peaks preparation should be well underway. There's still a long way to go yet - even friend and obsessive Peaks guru Dave Haygarth doesn't let himself loose till mid August. Usually at least, as this year he proved me wrong by recceing Whernside on foot on 1 Aug, but by his own keen standards that is unusual.

But after 1 August - things have to happen. Now. I start taking every opportunity to ride the cross bike, ramp up the running (or start if really laid back), think about equipment choices (dream about emulating Dave's 3 bike strategy for the Peaks). Introduce more quality training.....

Of course this is always complicated, nay muddied, each year by the competing demands of the 3 Peaks and the 1 hour League races. Neither seem to fit neatly together. Of course, the base strength and fitnes for the Peaks will pay dividends later in the season, but going from a 4 hour slog fest to a 1 hour burnup in the space of a week is hard for the terminally talent and time limited, like myself.

A slightly whimsical twitter question the other day produced the responses I knew would come - train for the Peaks and the season will follow, stupid. Or something like that. No one wants to grovel around the Peaks, and my propensity for cramp seems unabating. But time is the killer here, so I set to thinking about how to prepare for both with the minimum of time, though not necessarily, effort.

Here are my own tenuous strategies and tips - I'll let you know in October whether they worked......

A few times a week, ride off road to work and back, instead of on the road (luckily I have the environment to do this). Need. Upper. Body. Conditioning. Plus the double training dose of Human Growth Hormone, or whatever my own legal and natural product is, won't go amiss.

Do longer off road intervals - 10, 15 and 20 minute efforts. Not flat out, but not hanging around either. Enough to build fitness but without being part of the long rides I should really be doing.

Brick sessions - a la triathlete. Off road ride or intervals followed immediately by fell run. Saves time, increases training load in a shorter time frame and is event specific.

In fact, do 30 mins hard off road, run 20 mins and then repeat. Again, if able. My cramping seems to happen when riding hard and then getting off and walking/running. It may be nutrition, or hydration or maybe just the shock to the system. Given that I can cramp going out of Ingleton on the road to Whernside, you may see my predicament and concern. It's a one way street from there I can tell you....

So, we shall see. A successful lunchtime foray around a local cross circuit doing 8 min reps followed by a calf crunching run straight up Rossendale's industrial fell side has left me suitably wasted. Onwards and upwards.

Monday 12 July 2010

kevin pauwels

The 2010 Tour is engrossing the cycling world with it's characteristic blend of high drama and intrigue. But not a million miles away now is a new cross season, at the opposite end of the spectrum to the heat and high mountains on offer now. 3 Peaks entries are in, calendar fixtures are coming through and I know my thoughts are turning to cross.

Not that they have ever really been elsewhere anyway. I long for wet, cold autumn and winter days doing intervals and technical drills. Those forays into the 'pain cave', rasping efforts and the endless conundrums of tire choice and pressure. This is what I dream about all year.

My punt for a breakthrough rider, for someone to challenge Sven and Niels?

Kevin Pauwels. You heard it here first.....

Tuesday 29 June 2010

pendleton's got it covered

Originally on trackosaurus rex

Here's a bit of fun courtesy of Ms Pendleton, Gatorade and I am assuming Danny MacAskill. Or some other loon who needs to get a proper bike and go out and get the miles in like we did in our day........

Tuesday 15 June 2010

majoring on the machismo

I love Big Ring Riding - "It's not just a chainring, it's a state of mind". Luminaries such as Merckx, Lapebie, Ullrich, Yates, Cipollini and VDB - they're all there in their macho glory. Big legs, big achievements and big egos. Not to mention big gears. And the machismo comes across unashamedly, even for the women featured! Outside of Bing Ring Riding and in a cosmopolitan peloton, Jens Voight is celebrated as the toughest of strongmen in the peloton, and compared in some circles to Chuck Norris.

I've posted before about this as well as such 'male' concepts as glory through suffering - it's not that women can't and don't take part and embrace them, just that the language, vocabulary and whole ethos seem particularly male to me. I am happy to be corrected on this, by the way, by anyone who wants to de-mythologise such constructs, being only able to view it clearly from my own, male perspective.

For me however, this macho, and mostly male led image that much of cycling likes to portray for itself, contrasts starkly with the reality of the visual images attached.

I'm talking men in lycra, men with shaved legs, above all men being acutely aware of tiny variations in style and body form. Is this really the macho element to the sport we all recognise or something that is glossed over?

"You shave your legs to go faster right?" Err, no. I mumble something about ease of massage and hygiene but I have no soigneur. No personal masseuse and I crash once in a blue moon as I race once in a blue moon.

So why the shaving? Such practical considerations? Emulation of my heroes (not heroines as they are mostly doing it anyway)? Or do I do it if I am honest, because it just feels nice, sensual, sexy even. Oh come on?! All you male leg shavers out there - are you telling me you have never looked admiringly down at your freshly shaven legs and liked what you saw? Liked what you felt. Or gone the whole hog and waxed like a nameless, but intrinsically more honest friend? Maybe that was a practical response to a practical problem but hey, only a tiny minority of men and mad bodybuilders wax, right? It just doesn't fit in with our preconceptions of manliness.

I possibly hear a groundswell of noise from many riders who deliberately cultivate the hirsuite look - but tell me that you have never considered shaving at some point, only to be dissuaded by societal pressure, your other half who married a 'real' man, not to mention the faff of getting it done? No??

Macho man indeed with your lycra, your svelte legs and your obsession with shape and weight.

Are cyclists fundamentally metrosexual then, breaking down barriers between what is male/female/other?

Metrosexual, a portmanteau of metropolitan and heterosexual, is a neologism of the 2000s, one definition of which is a man (especially one living in a post-industrial, capitalist culture) who has a strong concern for his appearance or a lifestyle that displays attributes stereotypically associated with homosexual men, although he is not homosexual.

Somehow, I don't see cyclists leading the way for a re-classification of sexuality and gender through the use of 2 wheels - they are far too obsessed with their own little corner of the world and watts, tire pressure and gearing will always trump more arcane theories of social order and sexuality.

For me though, I am secure enough in my own construct of masculinity to carry on camping it up with shaved limbs and body hugging lycra, tastefully done of course. Why even today a gay colleague asked curiously whether I shaved or used Veet. The answer came easily without any trace of embarrassment or hesitation on my part. My transformation to cyclosexual is complete.......


It appears that Cycling Weekly have pinched my idea and run a feature this week about leg shaving..... You heard it all first though. Plagiarists.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

'Gary' Roubaix

I rode the Flanders sportive 2 years ago with Gary (far left) - he's one of those lithe, lean effortless type riders packing a climber's genetics and the technique to match. Honed as a semi-pro mountain biker in a previous Century and a different continent, he made mince-meat of the Flandrian bergs and cleaned the Koppenberg while all around him skidded to a halt and fell off in a heap, blocking the way. He must have moonlighted as a cycle courier too at some point as he found gaps that didn't exist as he swerved and dodged the carnage to the top of that legendary climb. He hurt me on every climb after that too, and on the crazy blast for home from the top of the Bosberg.

Fast forward to last Sunday and a trip to the Hell of the North and its bi-annual Sportive. He did invite me to complete our Classics double but I was unable to go, much to my chagrin.

Here are some of his random recollections, preceeded by the text I got on Sunday night after he finished:

Oh. My. God. Words can't describe how hard that was. Torrential rain, blazing sun, had it all.

- Seeing Rob's quick release open after a particularly bad section of pave. Scary.

- Riding all of 100 yards on Saturday and wondering whether I'd be able to finish that section never mind the whole thing.

- The detritus of bottles, tubes, pumps at the start of the Inchy pave.

- Researching who Jean Stablinski was/is.

- Looking back at the Arenberg trench and getting shivers down my spine. That was mainly the cold, but it was exciting too.

- Seriously considering the possibilities of dying in the thunder and lightning in a northern French industrial estate.

- Thinking that the pave couldn't get any worse and then hitting the l'Arbre section and almost ceasing any forward motion.


- That moment of turning into the velodrome and onto the track... was possibly the greatest cycling moment I've ever experienced. The only slight scare was when I went way high on the track and for one second thought I might go skidding down the banking after hitting one of those ads.

I didn't. It was f*cking ace.

Chapeau. We shall call you Flahute.

Monday 24 May 2010

mask - what mask?

Courtesy of cycling news

The mask - a staple of pro cyclists everywhere. Think Armstrong, Mayo and Ullrich - trading blows during various Tours all the while remaining impassive. Only an impending 'crack' would shift that blank look that says - 'I am completely in control here'.

So imagine my surprise when this turned up.......

Rage and pain – quite a new look from one who used to look like a meek and mild Vatican choirboy while he mullered the peloton on the climbs in the 2008 Giro when he was juiced up (allegedly).

Still, redemption is a staple of the Catholic Church and somehow I have to grudgingly give him credit for fighting that beast of a mountain the way he did on Sunday.

However, none fought it and the wall of pain more than Cadel – that man knows how to seriously suffer as well as suffer seriously. He looks like he aged 10 years on that climb alone and if I can take away even a fraction of that ability to suffer and apply it to my little corner of cycledom then I will consider it more than inspiring……

Sunday 16 May 2010

Romiley Floubaix

Duncan had been planning this for weeks. A collection of snatched walks with the dog, forays on motorbike and then some pioneering efforts by bike.....

Floubaix? Well, take the short sharp cobbled climbs of Flanders, add in some classic Cheshire lanes and gravel tracks (including strada bianchi) and sprinkle liberally with some ancient Roubaix-esque pave. There you have it - Floubaix.

Romiley Floubaix

Map your trip with EveryTrail

Update: here comes the link

I think we all needed a bit of soul riding this weekend - coffee, chat and chilling round this great area. Dunc led myself and Mark round the route that, despite my previous and considerable knowledge of the area, yielded some absolute gems for the connoisieur. He found us a petit Arenberg, so rough that it has claimed several of Dunc's bottle cages on recce and a full blown, arrow straight grand Arenberg that is the closest thing to Northern France's finest you will ever find in this country. Riding on Dunc's wheel down these 16th Century cobbles, seeking out the centre ridge, for a moment I glimpsed what must the nerve shredding intensity of Roubaix, dodging the holes from missing cobbles, fighting to keep the bike straight, trying to relax amongst it all.

Like my Ronde, though only around 40 miles in length, this route wears you down with cobble, gravel and lots of up and down. No big climbs, but a hard parcours nonetheless. It flows beautifully, assuming you know where you are going, making great use of the small features as well as the overall landscape. We finished with latte and carrot cake in a great cafe in Marple Bridge, watching the elegant young ladies of well-heeled Cheshire going about their ritual Saturday shopping.

Oh, and if you like checking out how the other 2% live, then there are properties all over the shop that redefine the word 'mansion'.

PS Take some fat tires with you - your bike and bum will thank you.