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.