Friday, September 28, 2007

Another picture from Coed Y Brenin

Cait took a few photos of the marathon race last weekend. I thought this one was pretty cool.

First lap

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

British Marathon Champtionships and BMBS XC Series

This weekend saw me take part in the penultimate weekend of racing for the year. I was heading over to Wales for both the final round of their National XC Series (BMBS) (UCI C2) and the final round of the Trek Marathon Series (100km) which was dual rolling as the British National Marathon Championships, so a lot of racing hours was going to be logged...

The race was being held in the Welsh MTB mecca that is, Coed Y Brenin. Getting their was easy, Richie Felle, our bikes and the Silver Bullet (my Peugeut 205) made our way to the Irish Ferries ferry from Dublin to Holyhead in Wales, once there, it was a relatively short rainy drive (about 1.5 hours) to our B&B that was about 10 miles to the race course. After checking in and having a quick nap we headed down for the preride. The course for the XC race and the marathon had been billed as being the most technical course of the year but upon finishing my first lap – it was anything but. The XC lap was 10.5km long and only about 1.5 to 2km of singletrack. Coed Y Brenin has TONS of amazing singletrack and yet it was almost completely on fireroad. I mean, it's one thing to do all the climbing on fireroad (a lot of the time that suits me) but a lot of the descending was on fireroad too! There were a couple of techy sections on the course and a really fun final 4 minutes but just way too much fireroad. It also didn't help that it rained the whole time and made everything very slushy. (One thing though, with the constant rain the course for both days held together well with it all being 100% ridable – the HUGE puddles and rivers we had to ride through meant that not too much got to clog up the drivetrain)

Race morning arrived but my legs didn't feel that up for it. They didn't feel bad, just not that good. After the warmup we were all ready to start. Not much really to add from the race... I didn't feel very quick, my legs feeling pretty dull but I did have a few good fights during the race. The last lap James Fraser Moodie and I had a great tussle (me losing out to him just before the line) exchanging positions throughout the final lap. I finished up coming in a respectable 17th. I wasn't overly happy with the ride but I had one more long day on the bike to look forward to the next day so I simply refocused on it. Results of the XC race can be found here and a report here.

On Sunday I got up to a very soggy, rainy morning – the type of morning that when I'm at home I would reschedule a spin to latter in the day... Not today as it was going to be 100km of a (mostly) unchanged XC course. The rain continued to pour down right up to and past the start of the race. It was actually my first off road race that I left arm warmers on for! The pace at the start wasn't too fast (probably because no one warmed up because of the weather) and I was able to stay with the leaders for most of the first lap. Three quarters of the way around, the people in the group I was with allowed a gap to open in the single track and unfortunately, I couldn't chase back once we hit the climbs again. The second lap started with me in a small 4 person chase group and something worrying started to happen. My front brake starting to lose power. Another few kilometres and I had no front brake. (I had checked the brake pads on the front the night before and they were fine – I replaced the rear ones) For the next 4 laps I only had my rear brake to stop me. Luckily the course was not too technical so good brakes was less critical then normal but I would say it still added a minute or two to each lap time. Mid way through my sixth lap, disaster struck – on a fast descent my rear brake lost all power. Now I'm flying down a hill with no brakes... Time for some old school foot on the front wheel braking... With the smell of burning rubber I was able to stop and check out the situation. Brake pads (and back plates) were completely gone on the front and rear brakes. A nice walk/run back over to the start meant that I lost a ton of time (it was about 4km...). Robin, who suffured double punctures in the race, was able put on a set of pads on my front brake but I was going to do my last two laps with only a front. (Well, I did 4.5 with only a rear, only a front should be faster...) Before I left, Robin mentioned that I was as high as 5th but had now dropped to 8th (I think). With this, I had my motivation set to go hard for the final 80 minutes or so. The last two laps were uneventful enough – I felt good throughout and was even able to push hard on my last lap. I finished up the race in 5 hours 30 minutes for a decent 7th place. Having looked at the details from my Garmin, I probably lost around 20-25 minutes due to my braking issues... I could have had a 4th or 5th... You live and learn. Results from the marathon can be found here, as well as a report here.

The race was a serious mudfest. Lots of photos here

Mud, mud, mud...

The huge puddles meant that the Epic stayed 'roughly' clean

In general, even with the disappointing course I had a great weekend of racing. Thanks to Richie, Geof and Paul for helping me out in the feed zone and Robin and the Pipedream crew for the brake pads!

On Saturday I'll be taking part in the Irish Marathon Championships. It's going to be the final race (don't know about the cross season yet) of the season for me. I'll have nice, new, bedded in brake pads for that...

Monday, September 17, 2007

2007 National Road Hill Climb Championships

Last weekend (I've been busy since so no updates) I took part in both the National Hill Climb Championships and the National 'B' Road Race, both of which, as I mentioned earlier, where in my home town of Monaghan.

Saturday's hill climb had a really late (for me at least) start of 3pm so I spent most of the day before hand just wondering around Monaghan. I even ended up being the first person to sign on for the race. There was a little confusion over the starting order etc... and it ended up that I was going to be the first off – not really what I wanted as I would have no 'rabbit's to chase... Also, finding out so close to the start about the starting order meant that I had a pretty terrible warm up... For a 6 minute event, the warm up should have been crucial!

Anyway – with an anchor for a rear wheel (was using my training wheels as my light wheels were still being serviced) I waited for the countdown... 50 seconds I was told.... I back pedaled a little and the chain dropped on the lower, 39tooth ring (the climb, as it was so short at 2.7km and only 150m of climb was a big ring only climb)... I thought I had lots of time – so I told myself, don't panic, I'll get it on... 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.... The guy said 50 seconds when he meant to stay 10!!! Crap, I flaffed about with my gears as I started up the hill loosing a bit of time. The climb was very short with several down hill bits so it was never really going to suit me – I would have much rathered a nice long 15-20 minute (or longer) sufferfest. I crossed the line in 6:25 which, when everyone had ran was enough for a 7th place. I was happy enough considering the mistakes that I made (warm-up, gears, wheels etc...) but I believe I should have easily been another 15 seconds faster. (Also, the last heavy week of training wouldn't have helped!) Not enough to touch the overall winner, David McCann though! Fellow mountain bike, James McCluskey finished a few seconds behind me.

Sunday morning was the turn of the road race. The course was a 13km loop with about 175m of climb per lap (yeah!). We were going to be doing 9 laps so around 3 hours of racing. My plan for the race was to conserve as much as I could during the first half and then be ready to work really really hard for the last 30k or so. (Simple, I know – but I'm not that experienced in road races!)

The first few laps went by pretty easily – high/low pace takes a bit of getting used to but I was actually really enjoying the race. There were a couple of nice descents that really seemed to flow on the road bike. Half way through the race, I ended up bridging (with 2 others) a 20 second gap to a break that I thought was going to stick. A while later the peloton caught us again :( Early in the 7th lap, the break of the day got away and unfortunately I missed it. They didn't get too much ahead but by the time we started the 8th lap it was 1:30. The peloton flexed a bit (of the 50 or so riders remaining in the peloton, about 6-7 were working) we brought it down to about 30 seconds... Enough so that we could see the break. At this point I felt very strong but the others that were working with me seemed to have had enough and were happy with letting the break win. After another 10 minutes of trying to urge the peloton on I gave up with that and with about 10-12 minutes of racing left I decided to really test my legs and see if I can catch the break which had a 40 second lead at this point. I worked hard up the hills (and unfortunately, into the wind for a chunk of it) and actually caught 4 or 5 of the break but not enough for me to be pulled up to the top ten. (I finished 12th in the end) I was disappointed about missing the break and not getting a better result but I was happy with how my body and my legs felt for the second half of the race... What I lacked in this race most of all was experience. As a training exercise, it beat going out on a solo ride for a few hours :)

The official results from the weekend are here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Chasing Cows...

I'm in Monaghan (my home town) for the weekend as the National Hill Climb Champtionships are on here this weekend. I prerode the course today and something funny happened - there were stray cows everywhere, feckin pooing all over the lovely road :( Also, each one of them thought that they could take me on the climbs so they ran with me each time. I had no problems dropping them ;)

The course is actually really short (less then 4k) and not very steep. It is actually an undulating climb with not much elevation change. A track sprinter could do well tomorrow. Not really my type of climb. It climbs 150 meters and descends 40 meters.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Dry trails gone? Back to the road bike...

I think the dry trails are gone - you should be able to see Three Rock...

It should be like this...

Finally some dry (ish) weather...

The last week has been reasonably dry which has been great for making the trails fast again. I had almost forgotten how to ride fast on dry trails as we have had to deal with so much slomp this year. With the dry trails I've mostly been riding the mountain biking and getting ready for the British races and the Irish Marathon championhips at the end of September.

I'm also probably going to give the National Road Hill Climb Championships a go next weekend. They are actually being held in Monaghan (Irish capital of drumlins - not mountains) on a climb that's not very big or long. I'm not sure of the climb it will be on but I know the mountain and it's only about 250m high so the race will probably be a 10 minute effort... I still have to find a nice light set of wheels to use for it? Anyone got a spare set for Saturday? Sub 1.4kg?

The view from the Hell Fire Club (believe me, this was a 'nice' day!)

Mel and I cycled home from Joe's BBQ on Saturday night, this is Mel in a good tuck on one of the descents on her commuter bike...