Friday, March 27, 2009

Irish XC NPS Round 2

Mel and I missed the first round of the 2009 Irish XC NPS series but will be heading along to the second round held in Ballinastoe Forest on Sunday April 19th.

I don't know what the course will be like this year but last year it was very enjoyable with about 7 or 8 minutes of fireroad climbing per lap and the rest being natural and trail center type singletrack. Apart from a little kicker hill at the start there is nothing too technical or stressful so a great course to go out and try your first race!

My report from last year is available here.

More details available on the Irish XC website.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My prerace and preride nutrition

It seems that every few weeks I see a post from someone getting into racing/riding wanting to know what other people eat and drink before, during and after rides and races. I try to give some advice, always with the “this is what works for me, everyone is different” disclaimer – I think at this point I should write down something on the blog that I can refer to. Again with the disclaimer, I’m an Elite rider that has been doing this for a few years so what works for me will not work for everyone, also, I think I’m naturally able to eat a lot on the bike and make it available to my body – in longer races/events, this is very important.

Anyway, I’ll give a few examples of what I do.

3 hour ride with about 1.5 hour of it at a pretty high intensity (tempo/threshold), the rest at a steady endurance pace. About 2,500 cal ride.
  • Coffee + large bowl of porridge with 2 pieces of fruit and Soya milk
  • a large slices of wholemeal bread with jam
Ride (about 1.5 hours after breakfast):
  • 2 large bottles of ZipVit Energy Drink
  • 1 ZipVit energy bar and one other cereal bar. ZipVit bar about 1:20 into the ride, other bar around 2:10 in.

  • ZipVit Recovery(or chocolate milk, raisons, shake etc…) as soon as I get in.
Within 40 minutes:
  • A proper lunch, pretty low in fat, lots of clean carbohydrates, a bit of protein, lots of veg/fruit (and coffee). For example, a large breadroll with beans, homemade savory pancakes, stirfry with extra noodles... If I'm training hard or long, maybe a side of rice too.

2 hour XC race – say, a 5 lap race
9:00 Breakfast:
  • Same as normal – probably skip the bread though
  • Some bread/bagel/rice, maybe some protein with it – whatever I feel I can eat – maybe some fruit and/or an energy bar.
13:30 Race start
  • possibly a gel 15-30 minutes before hand.
  • Each lap (20-25 minutes), I would drink about 350ml of Energy Drink (depending on temperature etc…) and one gel. Not everyone can/should do that, maybe a gel every second lap – again, depending on how strong you made the drink.
After the finish back to ZipVit recovery. Some people can’t handle eating right after a race, just make sure you eat something – Mel likes Haribo after a hard race. Your body has various time windows for efficiency of food uptake. Getting the food in earlier will mean you feel better later in the day and the following days. If you are starving all the following day, you did something wrong. I try to ride a little after the race, take some extra drinks and food on the bike (fruit etc… whatever you can eat) and when I get back to the car again, try to eat some more carbohydrates, about 800 Cals worth, so a reasonable amount. From then on, I’m pretty snacky for the rest of the day – I try to keep it very healthy for the first few hours but later maybe treat myself :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

2009 Sunshine Cup Round 4 - UCI C1

It seemed like no time ago that Mel and I arrived in Cyprus for the Sunshine Cup, but Sunday was the final race in the 2009 series. On Thursday Mel and I traveled up to Oroklini to train on the course for the race. A very warm and sunny day greeted us on the course and pretty quickly we noticed the lack of shade – no problem, time to work on the tan :)
The course was probably the best of the series, a 7.5km mixture of fireroad, single track climbing, technical rocky climbing and, as usual for the Sunshine Cup, steep technical descending. This time though, the major descent was around two and a half minutes of white knuckle, stay off the breaks madness. Indeed, the first time around the lap I was wondering how I would ride it! Mostly, the initial apprehension was due to the sheer scale and length of the descents and from the second lap on, once you knew what to expect the descents were a blast.

For both of us, this trip was more about the training than the racing, our competition was a mixture of people peaking for these races and people training straight through them. To that end, last week both of us got a lot of good riding in and were both a little tired going into the race. Race morning arrived and I actually felt reasonably good – as I started my warmup, the rain clouds came in with a cold wind – the course was technical enough without the rain! As the 11am start time approached the 65 or so Elite Men congregated around the start area, the wind eased and the rain left us for the day – yes this IS the Sunshine Cup.

Shortly after 11 the race kicked off, a few missed pedals in front of me almost caused a pile up but the start loop was pretty well designed so we all settled into the race pretty quickly. Although not as bad as my last few races, I still wasn’t happy with my start. The first full lap went by in a blur with lots of jostling for position the whole way around - I mostly battled with guys from the German and Russian national teams. I seemed to be a lot stronger on the technical climbs (the full suspension S-Works Epic surely helped with that), descending roughly equal or better and then losing distance a bit on the flats/fireroads. Due to my lack of offroad riding over the winter, I thought the less technical end of things would be my stronger side, but I guess these guys did even less off road than me!

Halfway through my 3rd lap (Elite Men did 5 laps plus 1.5 start loops) I had the first of my two incidents. I had just passed two riders on a technical climb and was on a transitional fireroad section before the long descent when my front wheel unexpectedly washed out. With all the super technical descending, I fall on the freaking fireroad, it wasn’t even a fast section! Gashes on my elbow and knee pumped with pain and I contemplated calling it a day – I remounted and rode the descent, by the bottom I decided that there was no point calling it a day as the descents were too much fun and the cuts didn’t look too bad.

Climbing some singletrack

My next two laps were going well, I was catching up with the group that was fighting for 27th and felt pretty good. The punchy climbs had sapped a lot of my legs energy but I knew I could put in one more push to the finish. I rounded the top of the course with about 5 km to go, when disaster struck. Pshh, pshh, pshh – the front tire was slashed and Stan wasn’t up to the job. I started into the descent with about 10psi in the front tire but a few yards later it was obvious that things were not so good. I had a CO2 so I waited to a section where the wheel would be spinning well and inflated the tire in the hope that the whole would plug. No luck – damn. I rode/ran what I could on the way back but cursed as rider after rider nipped by. I lost 7 positions as I made my way back to the start/finish, and almost worse, lost out on the chance on riding those descents one last time.

Annoyed, I arrived back at the start finish – had I not had the puncture, I would have finished around 11 minutes down on the winner (about 10% off their speed).

Summing up, the course was great and the racing tough – the cuts meant I had a pretty sleepless night last night (there was one exact position I could lye) and the flat was a bit of a dampener, but I got great training and racing out here and at least I only had one race puncture, and it was on the last lap. I finished up 18th in GC for the Cup (the puncture cost my 3 places) but plan to return next year and make some improvements :)

Results for the race are available here and there is a report available here.

A special thanks to Fredrick from the Kalavasos bike station for helping us in so many ways over the last three weeks. Also, Cycleways, Specialized, KCNC and TorQ – for allowing us to ride on the best equipment available and keep our energy levels topped up. Thanks!

Sunday, March 15, 2009



Report for todays final race in the Shineshine Cup coming soon.
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Thursday, March 12, 2009

2009 Sunshine Cup Round 3 - UCI C1

Another weekend, another race – I could get used to this. Last weekend it was the third round of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup and we were competing just outside Limassol around the ancient ruins of Amathous. The course was a hilly affair with almost all of it on singletrack. Tough short climbs and technical descents where the name of the game – you always had to be very careful and focused, a few inches either side of the trail and you would easily washout or crash. Although not extreme, it was probably one of the more technical courses that I have ridden in that there were very few sections for you to relax on – falling on more pointy rocks was not on my todo list.

Due to the nature of the course, the orgainizing committee decided to split the men and women elite races with Mel starting at the ungodly hour of 9am. This did mean however that I would be able to take a few snaps of her race and visa versa (600 or so in total taken). I'll leave Mel to talk about her race. About 70 minutes before my race I started preparing for my warmup. We spend the 20 minutes before the race start being gridded (not like in Ireland where you roll up to the line 2 minutes before the start).

Dust rises as we descend the first singletrack section

At 12pm, the race hammered up the start loop – a short tarmac climb that quickly turns into fireroad, followed by horribly rutted fireroad and then single track for most of the rest of the race. As usual in this series, my start was terrible – I was gridded around 30th but slipped back into the 40s by the time I was half way around the first main lap and queuing to get into singletrack. This is something I am working on!

Emil Lindgren followed by Christoph Soukup

Climbing behind an ISD rider

I rode the course pretty well having no spills and enjoyed a few battles along the way. I actually enjoyed the race a lot which in some ways tells me that I wasn't pushing hard enough, which I knew – but still, a long while ago when I decided to come here for these races I had planned on 'training' through the races and using them as high intensity workout. That was my plan, but it's still tough not to be going faster when you are in the race. Still – a season from February to October is a long long season.

I finished up the race midpack passing 4 riders on my last lap (last lap was the same time as my first – hmmm, that should not be happening) and felt that I could keep on riding at the same pace. Guess that says my endurance is good but the high end is not there yet.

Anyway, this weekend is the final round in Voroklini – Mel and I rode the course today and I'm excited.

Full results are available here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Photos from 2009 Sunshine Cup Round 3

As Mel and I were not racing at the same time, we were able to take some photos of each others race - when I get back to a fast connection I'll put more of them up (we took almost 600), but for now - here are a few I like.

They were taken with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 18-200 lens both of which I'm very very happy with.

My report for the race (and some more photos) will be up tomorrow. Mel's is already up here.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

2009 Sunshine Cup Round 2 - UCI S1

Well, it's almost time for me to take part in the third round of the Sunshine Cup so I had better write about last weekends adventure - round two of the Sunshine Cup which just so happened to be a UCI S1 Mountain Bike Stage Race!

The format was a time trial on a 7.8km off road course on the Friday, a 42km point to point race on the Saturday and then a lapped cross country race on the Sunday on the course used for the time trial. Two main things built up the time trial loop – fireroad climbing and steep technical singletrack descending. To finish it all off though, there was a beast of a climb right at the very end – very steep and loose so you had to be really careful with how you pedalled – the hardest part of the lap.

On the preride the course was tough but enjoyable. The descents were a challenge and there was not much letup – you were either on the edge climbing or holding on for dear life descending.

In the starting hut for the time trial

The morning of the time trial arrived with a LOT of rain – the course was now completely saturated and what was steep technical descending was now steep treacherous descending. I started my time trial after a reasonable warmup (it was cold and wet and it was hard to get motivated!). My legs felt bad and I felt like I was simply rolling around the course – worse still, at the start of the lap I crashed badly hurting my knee and getting my bike stuck in a tree – it took me a while to get free and my motivation was now even lower. I finished up the lap 25 minutes after I started (the day before in the dry I did a practice lap in about 22 minutes) well down in 44th position (84 starters). Off to the ambulance to sort out my knee and after a brief scare (they thought I needed stitches), I got bandaged up, cleaned up and went home.

I think I cut my knee :(

This weekend was the Carnival weekend in Cyprus which due to a double booking meant that Mel and I had to pack up our apartment and move to another place an additional 30 minutes from the race venue (now a 1.5 hour drive each way). With this and my knee which was getting very stiff, it was less than perfect recovery.

Bikes ready before the point to point

Saturday started to brighter skies – my leg was sore but I knew it would be okay when I started riding. With only one incident (a flat tire on the car), we arrived at the venue and warmed up. The Point to Point course was about 40-50 minutes riding up and down fireroads (boring – it is sad – but I need to practice my fireroad descending skills) followed by the best bit, a 50 minute climb, almost all on amazing singletrack followed by a roller coaster of a singletrack descent back to the start. The climb gained us 900 meters of altitude and 600 of those were used up on single track descending. My race started like the course – for the first 50 minutes I was riding backwards – I wanted to quit. I felt terrible and had no power – however, once the long climb started my legs turned on and I started to feel great. Over the climb, I zipped (and I actually do mean zipped, I was that bad at the start and that good at the end) past 20-30 riders and transitioned into the long descent nipping in front of another 3. After a slight mishap at the start, I rode pretty well back to the start making up another few positions finishing up 28th. More bandaging on my leg and waiting for Mel for HOURS in doping control didn't help recovery and we only got home around 8pm (my race started shortly after 1pm and lasted 2 hours!)

By Sunday, Mel and I had gotten into a good racing rhythm. The race course had finally dried out and was riding really well. The course was so much more enjoyable than the one we met in the time trial – even my slowest lap from the race was 2 minutes faster than my time trial. Again, the race started at a frantic pace and it really was a sprint for every piece of singletrack. One of the sucky things about riding with 80 in your race is sometimes you get held up, but the great thing is that you are always fighting tooth and nail throughout the race for every position. You have a tussle for a lap with someone and finally drop them, and there is another person, 3-4 seconds ahead to go for – great fun. But, you take it easy for a few pedal strokes, and some guy just buzzes past you. My legs never felt good in the race but I was enjoying myself so I finished up with a smile on my face getting an overall GC position of 28th. It really is great to be riding against so many great riders – it feels like a similar step to when I went to the UK for my first 'big' race in 2007, A UCI C1 in Sherwood Pines (we are going there in a few weeks).

Anyway, with all that I think I should end the post, put my legs up and relax before tomorrows race.

Results for the race are available here. Mel beat me to it and has her report up here.