Monday 31 October 2011

More from Petites Reines - Allez Christel!

If you have been calling in here for a while you will be familiar with the Petites Reines series of films, following women's racing and it's riders.

This film, kindly sent in my direction by Paul Goulden of Still Searching (@Ripoph) showcases French National Champion Christel Ferrier Bruneau preparing for this cross season, aided and abetted by her husband:

A peine la saison route terminée, il faut changer de discipline pour un exercice totalement différent dans la sphère du haut niveau.
Quelques jours de tournage au coté de la championne de France sur route 2011 Christel Ferrier Bruneau et de son mari entraîneur.
Préparation au calendrier cyclo-cross et recherche de partenaires/sponsors pour la saison à venir.
Portrait d'une cycliste dont la ténacité, la rigueur et le travail ont su la hisser au plus haut niveau.
Ce film documentaire essaye de montrer également les obstacles que doit franchir une athlète afin de pouvoir continuer sa passion dans les meilleures conditions possibles et avec un maximum de moyens permettant d'optimiser ses performances à venir.

Allez Christel! from Petitesreines on Vimeo.

Friday 28 October 2011

Women's World Cup Cross Rds 1 and 2 - Plzen and Tabor 2011

Here are the first two rounds from the Women's 2011 WC series.


Monday 17 October 2011

A big weekend

Photo: Cheryl King Images

Most people sensed it this weekend - the Rapha Super Cross Series is a game changer for the world of UK cyclocross. Rather than repeat what others have said more eloquently elsewhere, I direct you to Dave Haygarth's comment and analysis of what transpired on Saturday last, repeated in glorious Yorkshire sunshine the following day. Read it and see if you agree. I for one certainly do.

For London cross fans, you have a week to wait but something special is coming your way and you'll love it.

It's not that every race should be like this - absolutely it shouldn't as localised, grass roots racing is what keeps the sport accessible and fresh. However, throw in some ingenuity and corporate muscle from Rouleur and Rapha and suddenly the future of UK cross looks even more enticing than it already was.

Here are some shots of the weekend:

Photo: Cheryl King Images

Photo: Jo Allen

Thursday 13 October 2011

Down and dirty with the Disco

It's been a while since left of field UK manufacturer On -One made a cross bike. The last iteration was a classy titanium affair that was snapped up by those in the know and ridden at elite level and chipper level alike, as well as making a rather nice 3 Peaks bike too:

Fast forward to 2011 and On-One are back, not only with designer Brant Richards on board again, but with a brand new cross frame, a la mode in carbon and sporting discs - unofficially named the 'Dirty Disco'.

Some people's clouds are other people's silver lining - Dave Haygarth's recently broken collarbone and unnervingly long inside leg measurement meant that that the temporarily riderless Dirty Disco has found it's way to me. And so I've been enjoying some early season races and training rides on it, the first time for me on full carbon and on cross discs too.

This is a pre-production version of the Disco so I'm not sure what eventual kit it will end up with, suffice to say On-One's keen pricing and eye for value will mean no doubt that it will be a killer package.

The frame is full carbon, I'm not in possesion of the details as such, suffice to say it is light, very stiff and comfortable to carry. A huge chunky bottom bracket helps the stiff but comfortable ride whilst the chunky forks are particularly reassuring and direct in feel. Overall, the geometry appear race performance oriented but with perfectly adequate clearances for a modern cross frame. A potential mudfest at Brockholes, Windermere will test this properly, but the Disco passed the Horwich Humdinger slopfest test easily, lasting the whole muddy race with barely any buildup of mud, and arguably less than other canti equipped bikes around it.

This Disco is running Avid BB-7s (road) for its discs and they are stunning, even without the hydraulic assistance of other systems. Braking is of course powerful, and progressive, always with more on tap if needed. What really jumps out to this first time disc user is the sheer ease of use - the lack of effort in the execution of a braking manoeuvre.  With the braking taken care of so easily from a physical point of view, you can expend more energy and attention on riding fast. It also has SRAM Rival on it - another first for me but intuitive in its use, and reassuringly chunky in operation. Other kit includes an FSA Gossamer chainset with cross friendly rings on it, and Planet X post and stem. All sound stuff.

The On-One branded hubs, Chris King style and rims (clinchers) are, to my tubular-centric tastes, surprisingly good, with Schwalbe Smart Sam tires. These have been more than adequate for cross training and feel great on the road too. For racing I have been putting on some custom made Strada Handbuilt Major Tom tubular disc wheels with handmade FMB green Michelin tubs. The absolute business when things turn muddy.

Riding the Disco has been surprising. The phrase 'sum of all it's parts' is particularly apt here - no one attribute jumps out, the whole pacakage just gels. That is not to say that the Disco doesn't climb like a rocket - it does. Nor that it doesn't track in corners like it's on rails - it does. Nor even that it is vague and skittish in technical descents - because it is anything but. It just simply comes together in one complete package that lets you get on with the riding, fast or slow, dry or muddy and does not intrude in any way at all.

Racing it, I found I barely even thought about the bike and what it was doing - it just did it, calmy and with poise. At the Humdinger Cross last weekend, it railed slick muddy corners around dead turns, inspired much confidence down the fast descents into more tight corners and climbed its way up on the slop competently. I didn't really notice it in the sense I wasn't thinking about how it should have done this or that. It just got on with it.

Overall, it isn't as flamboyant as a white suited Travolta strutting his stuff - there are other more exotic bikes out there that can do that. It is however, no wallflower to the dance - it's just competant in a non-shouty way and that's probably why I like it. I've never been one for extroverts.... ahem.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Rapha Super Cross is upon us

After a last minute scare with impounded cowbells, final preparations are being made by the respective race organisers and the Rapha Super Cross team for a weekend unlike any other weekend of UK cross, kicking off on 15th October at Brockholes, Windermere.

Saturday's Brockholes is a NW League event, a firm favourite on the NW League calendar with the iconic Brockholes course providing contrasting course conditions over the past 2 years, from mudbath to frozen snowy waste, but looking good this year for another mudbath. Sunday's race is a dyed in the wool Yorkshire League event, at Huddersfield, on a windswept field-based course that is bound to be a real test.

Both will have the full Rapha Super Cross treatment - cowbells, beer, music, lots of spectators, a good dose of silliness and marshmallows.

And an elite race with some of the finest UK cross riders, in addition to the League faithful supporting races:


(Eight teams of five riders - field of 40)
• Hope Factory racing
• Charge Bikes
• Hargroves Cycles-Specialized-Trant-Next
• Rapha/GB Development
• Sigma Sport-Specialized
• Scott UK
• Team Wiggle
Guest teams:
Windemere – Wheelbase Cycles-Cannondale
My own involvement will be somewhat more low key, but exciting for me, having been invited to ride in the 2 Northern support races in the candy stripe colours of the US based Rapha-Focus cross team.

If you are within striking distance of either venue, I urge you to come along and watch - the UK hasn't seen anything as exciting since the World Cross Champs came to Leeds in 1992. It will be as near to a fusion US/Belgian cross as you can hope for. 

Racing starts at Windermere at 11am and Huddersfield at 10.30am. The headline elite races are 2.30pm at Windermere and 3.00pm at Huddersfield.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Rapha Super Cross build up - part 1

From Andy Waterman who covered the Ronde van Oost Lancashire earlier this year for Cycling Plus, a cheeky little teaser for the forthcoming Rapha Super Cross Series.

Expect more nuggets and a reveal of what I shall be wearing for said races...

Super Cross 2011 from Super Cross on Vimeo.