Dalby 100 MTB marathon

I’d been looking forward to a full weekend of cycling up at Dalby for a while – the Dalby 100K Mountain Marathon and cyclosportive were supposed to have been held on consecutive days, the plan was to do the 100K road event on Saturday, camp out that night then ride the 100K MTB Marathon on Sunday. Nice.

That was until the sportive was cancelled due to a small number of entries.

After a much better night’s sleep in my own bed rather than a tent, I drove up to Dalby Forest at a very early hour (but not so early that it could be called ‘daft’ – how times change), met up with Budge and Dave and waited for the start. Eventually, once the huge signing-on queue had been dealt with, we were off, immediately hurtling down a short stretch of twisty singletrack. Joining a fireroad, I expected that it wouldn’t be too long before the next section of swoopy singletrack was reached.

Mile after mile of fireroad was ridden at speed. The exciting singletrack never arrived. Taking turns at the front of a group of around 10 riders, me and Dave we got our heads down and hammered along. Occasionally glancing back to see how many other riders were managing to hang on, things eventually settled down  as we left the forest behind and reached the rough moorland climbs, our group now down to four or five riders.

The ‘theme’ of the route was taking shape and basically it went like this: Gain altitude on rough bridleway and/or fireroad. Descend down tarmac road. I was riding my Ragley TD:1 – a lightweight, fully-rigid 29er – and even I was feeling a bit ‘over-biked’. A cyclocross bike would have been ace.

Dave’s chain snapped. We stopped and fixed it as a few riders left behind earlier went past. We got going again and caught them up. We were hammering again, until we reached what appeared to be the edge of a cliff. This wasn’t right. We turned around and rode back across the rock-strewn path across Fylingdales Moor, meeting riders who were riding in the opposite direction.

Now in a large group again, we ventually arrived back at a junction and noted the fact that there were no signs at all, We rode down this alternative trail. It turned out to be the way we should have gone earlier L

We’d lost loads of time, so a big effort was needed now to keep things respectable.

That wasn’t to be either. My carbon crank had other ideas and decided that today was going to be the day that it was going to DIE. A large crack had appeared in the carbon fibre and my pedal was working loose. I didn’t want it to fall off completely as that would have meant walking so the only option was to put all the effort in with my left leg only – any effort with the right leg would have only made the crank arm fall apart faster.

….which started to hurt quite a bit as my 90/10 pedalling action screwed around with my biomechanics (or something) and also meant that our pace dropped dramatically.

So we had a nice leisurely ride to the finish, but we were still looking forward to the fabled ‘final flourish’, no doubt using some of the red-grade trails back at Dalby Forest.

That didn’t happen. The final 30 miles or so of the route was almost exclusively on roads and that’s exactly how it finished. The course designer had seemingly made a concerted effort to avoid anything remotely interesting and directed the route along A and B roads instead, which was a bit weird.

By now my pedal was almost falling off so perhaps the lame ending was a good thing anyway…


At least there was an ice cream van and the finish.



Polocini Over’tops

It’s July. Yes, I know this is the UK and it’s a green and pleasant land and green stuff needs plenty of water…blah blah blah, BUT IT’S JULY. One should not expect to be bombarded by 30mph horizontal hailstones,  rained on for hours and hours and left shivering by a relentless, howling northerly wind. IT’S JULY.

I took part in the Polocini ‘Over’tops’ sportive at the weekend as I knew the route would be hard and would probably show me a few minor roads and steep climbs that I didn’t know existed, I also knew it would be well-organised, the food would be lovely (and free) and it was only costing me 20 quid.

The 10 mile ride to the start in Oldham gave me fair warning (as if the doom-laden BBC weather forecast hadn’t done enough to put me off), as I rode away from the front door the heavens opened. The rain pelted down all the way to the start, where I signed in, ate some porridge and met up with Dave who’d done the sensible thing and drove.

As we huddled around his car, waiting for the start, the rain got progressively heavier until it was bouncing a foot off the ground. My ‘sensible bike’ – the Ragley Cragg Vale with full ‘guards would be doing little to keep my backside dry today.

Heading out of Oldham into the hills, the bad weather temporarily eased…that was, until it got really bad again and the rain started to bounce off the ground again. Over to the steep-sided valleys of Calderdale the climbing became tougher, including the silly-steep cobbles of the Shibden Wall, the rain continued to fall until the point at which we reached the summit of Cragg Vale…it was there that the heavens unleashed their full fury.

Yeah, I might be wearing a white coat - but does YOUR hat match your bike? No. I thought not.

A huge, gusting sidewind, that felt like it was headed straight for us from the surface of Jupiter, battered a surprise shower of hail into the side of our bodies – heads tilted at 90 degrees to the side to prevent our eyes being peppered by the bombardment of ice we tentatively made our way down the road towards Ripponden.

More steep climbs later and back into Lancashire, progress was slowed somewhat by the gusting wind, now blowing in the opposite direction the way we were headed. The long and gradual climb across Castleshaw Moor was a slow grovel but eventually we made it back to civilisation, a bit shell-shocked at the worst July weather I can remember and back to the finish line for a bowl of hot soup (more free food!).

Next weekend is the On-One Weekender – a road sportive on Saturday followed by an MTB marathon on Sunday. Can you guess what the weather forecast is?

City Race Series

pic: Ed Rollason

Normally it’s the middle of winter when the cyclocross season kicks off before I take part in any kind of hour-long cycle races that always seem to remind me how crap I am at that sort of thing. I keep telling myself it’s a result of spending the year endurance training and 24 hour racing…that’s my somewhat ropey theory anyway…

This year, I’m starting the humiliation early. British Cycling have been running a series of crits at the Manchester City stadium car park so it would have been a shame not to give it a go.

It all seemed to start ok – I was holding my position in the group and I was happy with the pace….for a while anyway.

Lacking that vital ‘snap’ out of hairpin turns was my downfall. Eventually dropping off the back of the pack, doomed to a lonely existence aside from occasional overtaking of other dropped riders, I went around and around the 2k circuit without the benefit of a wheel to grab onto. Eventually and somewhat inevitably I was lapped on the final lap – my kick in the head at my first crit now complete.

Good fun, kind of. Another one next week. Yay. Practice makes perfect and all that.

an afternoon wi’ lads

Dave, Wayne, me and Michael went to Lee Quarry on Saturday, each armed with a ‘fun’ bike. By ‘fun bike’ I mean a ‘not necessarily designed for getting from there to there in the fastest and most clinically-efficient manner possible in order to inflict as much pain and suffering on everyone else…bike’.

I took my new Ragley Piglet and due to me not having time to ride it before going to Lee Quarry (it was that new) I spent the first 30 minutes or so riding a bit…stop…tighten that bit up….ride a bit….stop….nip that bolt up a bit….’sorry lads, something’s come loose’…allen keys out again…

It was great though and such a welcome change from the stresses of racing. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE racing bikes and everything that goes with it but an afternoon playing out on bikes with mates is an all-too-rare treat.

In 2 or 3 hours we rode a total of around 3 or 3 miles, had a laugh, played on the pump track, marvelled at how heavy a bike can be and still be pedalled up a (short) hill and ate some sweets whilst the sun shone and the dust kicked up from our tyres.

Then we went to Manchester for a curry.