10 weeks until the 3 Peaks Cyclocross

Shortish cyclocross ride last night. Quite a nice training loop actually, plenty of steps to run up, several “just about rideable” climbs and some fast tarmac sections. Despite there being a few events and races in between now and the 3 Peaks in September, I’ve decided that this race is going to be my main focus. Training-wise, that’s more running, more running uphill while shouldering the bike and lots and lots of riding the cx bike. Hopefully I’ll fit in a couple of local fell races and maybe a recce or two near the 3 Peaks themselves. The next 10 weeks are going to be ace.

 

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Darwen Real Ale Wobble

My bike\'s in there somewhere

Simon organises this every year. A load of cyclists meet at a pub, have a drink, ride to another pub, have a drink, ride to another pub….well you get the idea. The last pub visit normally involves chip butties. I met them a bit late at pub number 3 and downed a pint. After one pint of Flat Cap (a local brew) I started to feel drunk – clearly I’m a proper lightweight these days. A ride down some nice singletrack and some woods where a few crashes took place brought us to the next boozer. Another pint, then off to the next one. This part of the route was extremely wet and boggy and by now it was dark, there are about 17 riders snaking across the moor with only 5 lights between them and the lights aren’t that good either!

The last downhill to the final pub along the road was fun, especially watching Simon on the singlespeed, legs spinning like billy-o at about 300 rpm. Following the group at 30mph, one hand on the bars and the other holding the camera was probably a bit reckless but I’d had 4 pints by now so I was The Best Rider In The World and even if I’d crashed, I would come to no harm. Then we all wheeled our muddy bikes through the crowded pub! You’d not get away with that at Deansgate Locks.

Hold the bells

Another pint, some butties and I’m off back home again, 20 miles along the road – very slowly, feeling a bit sick and stopping every 5 minutes for a wee. At least there’s not much traffic at 1am.

 

 

Mountain Mayhem 2008

Even though I’ve done a few 24 hour solos in the past (with vastly varying degrees of success), I’d never solo’ed at Mountain Mayhem before. I knew what to expect – it would inevitably rain and the course would become slippery and some parts of it would become unrideable (for me anyway).
I was right. The rain started on Friday evening and it continued to be miserable, damp and drizzly all day Saturday. I started the race on the singlespeed – partly because I’d entered as a singlespeed rider and partly because it had mud tyres on it and I just couldn’t be bothered swapping tyres between bikes prior to the start. After 3 laps of that I swapped to the Global – gears and semi-slicks offered some welcome comfort after the full-on committed efforts of the singlespeed.

I continued to steadily complete the laps without incident, coming in every 2 or 3 for a fresh bottle and some gels until “PSSSSSSSSSTTTTTTFFFFFFF!!!” – the air cartridge in the USE fork went pop. I rode it for the remainder of that lap just on the coil spring – no rebound and pretty much 90% sag. After the lap I rode over to the USE stand to see if Chris could help me out. Within 20 minutes he stripped the internals from his fork and mine, swapped them over, reassembled mine and got me on my way. What a guy. I made sure Michael delivered him a bag of cake afterwards.
Eventually, after 10 hours or so I chatted to Rich on the course and he seemed surprised that I was still on the semi slick tyres in the ever-increasing mud. To be honest I hadn’t really thought about it until this point but that particular lap was exciting to say the least. I think I discovered some limitations of Kenda Small Block 8’s…

I continued through the night, now back on the SS due to the mud getting REALLY bad – I could do without my rear mech being torn off the geared bike. The night laps consisted of horizontal rain, mud like epoxy resin, bad tempered riders losing the plot and presumably lots of folk returning to their tents and staying there given that the course seemed to be pretty empty at times. I was just telling myself that each really bad bit was linked to the next really bad bit by a perfectly rideable and fast bit and that seemed to stop me getting “The Despair”.

At sunrise, the course started to get better, the sunlight gradually turning the sludge into firmer soil. I went in again and swapped back to the Global (that Michael had cleaned for me at 1am, bless his cotton socks) after swapping the front tyre for a gnarlier one I had in the van and off I went again.

I saw Twinklydave start his 14th lap (I’d overheard the conversation between him and his helper) so I was only 2 laps behind him at this point. I wasn’t deluded enough to think I would beat him or anything, but it was nice to know that I wasn’t too far behind a successful rider. He dropped me on the first climb 😉
I was doing the sums at this point. I knew that 15 laps was pretty much in the bag providing I didn’t have a major mishap. 16 could be possible as long as I fed properly and stepped on the gas wherever possible. I was feeling quite fresh and I was making sure I was taking no risks, the course had a number of really bad bits by now that needed great care – the anti dive fork was doing it’s thing and keeping me on the right side of the bars and I was glad I swapped that front tyre.
23:35 and I started my 16th and final lap. That felt good. I crossed the line for the last time in 12th place – pleased with that for now but I’ll be looking to get some order back into my training between now and next year’s race to improve on that result – the last few months have been chaotic and slightly frustrating (although this is only down to the fact that we’ve 2 youngsters to look after, so it’s worth it really).

The two lads I was there with, who were racing solo for the first time, did 10 laps apiece – a storming effort for a first go. If you’re planning to do something like this again then a tough race will always do you more good than harm (even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time!). Big up Budge and Andy 😉

Right. Hit the North is 4 weeks away. We’ve got some work to do to be ready for that, at the same time I’ve a team entry at Sleepless in Saddle and the 3 Peaks Cyclocross to prepare for. I’m really looking forward to the 3 Peaks now, not least because it gives me the excuse to ride the CX bike LOADS in the coming weeks.

lucky lad

Not much riding at the weekend, mainly because I’m saving my legs for next weekend so I finally got around to building up Michael’s Trailstar. All the parts were from his old bike apart from a rear Hope Mini brake that I got second hand and I did the whole build in the garden whilst the sun was shining, which was nice.

Being a caring type of bloke I figured that it would be unfair to expect him to ride it if I hadn’t ridden it myself. So….I did. One lap of the HTN course with Andrew, me riding a bike that by my reckoning is a good inch too short in length and a few inches short of a “suitable” saddle height. With the maximum amount of seatpost showing I still felt like my knees were up around my ears. I’m sure it will be fine for the lad though.

Riding a too-short bike has a number of disadvantages as you can probably imagine. It was awful on climbs. Too cramped and it just felt like it wanted to wheelie all the time. The flat pedals scared me. My feet were bouncing all over the place and if I’d scraped my already tenderised shin on the pedal I would have made up a few brand new words on the spot. Going downhill though was a different story. It’s ACE. He’s not seen it yet, in fact the first time he’ll get to ride it is when we get to Eastnor at the weekend. I might take some spare pedals and shoes and teach him how to ride SPD’s while we’re there. Then we might start to plan some proper rides again.

At some point this week I’ll finish the job by trimming the front brake hose and swapping the Deore chainset for a lovely Race Face one. If I had a bike like this when I was 14 I might not have descended into delinquency ;0)

Meanwhile, Debbie’s mum (who lives in leafy Cheshire) is in Italy at the moment with one of her friends. By chance, they got talking to another couple of ladies who apparently live down the road from us in Whitefield. So that was a coincidence. Then it turns out that one of the Whitefield ladies’ aunts used to live in Prestwich – in OUR HOUSE. In fact, her aunt is the same wizened old crone we bought the house off. It’s a small world, I tell thee.

 

mtfu

I had big plans for last night’s ride. It was the right time to do a “big” ride just prior to tapering for Mayhem so I had a route in mind, kids in bed on time and kit all ready to go.

5 minutes after setting off I got a flat, one of those instant loud-noise flats that had been caused by a piece of broken glass. There’s a slash in my rear tyre that needs a repair so I swapped the tube, pumped just enough air in it to get me home, back at the house I swapped lights over onto another bike and off I went again, cursing.

4 miles into the ride, I hit a gate post with my handlebar at full pelt and I’m sent down onto the dusty, grit-covered concrete, losing loads of skin from my knee and from my elbow and I thought I’d broken my shin on the top tube. At the point of impact with the ground a large fly decides to inspect the back of my throat. So I’m trying to cough this insect up whilst writhing around in a wood in agony, blood dripping from 2 of my limbs. I’ve not broken anything but I’m full of Nurofen in an attempt to get the swelling down.

I’ve torn my saddle and scuffed both brake levers (somehow).

Then it started to rain.

I went home.