chin up lad

I’ve stopped being miserable after Mountain Mayhem. To be honest, I was surprised at how long I was grumpy and sad for after my pretty disastrous performance at that race. But for the past couple of weeks I’ve been looking forward again, despite my efforts on the bike being hampered somewhat by my still-niggling back injury (a result of the crash that put me out of the race in the first place) and a weird virus thing that I had last week that made me feel dizzy a lot and gave me a headache.

It helps that today, just two weeks later, I’m heading up to Fort William for 10 Under the Ben – a 10 hour race on a similar course to the excellent Relentless 24 hour event. Me and Dave are heading up there to each race solo and plan to “race straight out of the back of the van”. No frills. Smash-and-grab. Wayne’s coming with us to mend things that break and to keep us cheerful. It’s going to be brilliant and hopefully the ideal way to get right back into the swing of things.

A bit like the hillclimb I rolled up at last week. 3 quid on the line – a new experience for me and what’s more, I was the only person in the race (and perhaps of all time in the history of hillclimbs) to go the wrong way. I was going to make up some stuff about being abducted by aliens and I SWEAR the marshal that was guarding the junction that I took a wrong turn at was completely mute and therefore didn’t shout at me as I tore off up the wrong hill but then again I can’t really point fingers because nobody else got it wrong…..

As a result of that I came last, but who cares? It made the legs hurt and It was a laugh, especially when I turned up at the finish line just before search parties were deployed.

Dave didn’t get lost – in fact he did really well.

Soon, I’ll have a chance to ‘do it properly’ for 24 hours again at Twentyfour12 and before that I’m racing a fatbike again, riding a MTB marathon and I’ll be clocking up some serious training miles and laying off the pies.

After that I’ll be straight down to the chippy.

Mountain Mayhem 2013

Sometimes, in spite of months of planning and training, things just don’t work out the way you planned. I’d put a lot into Mountain Mayhem this time. I put a lot into it every time, but this time I’d trained HARD. I’d even flown south to foreign climes to train hard and in the days before the event I felt great. I’d probably have been able to bend steel if I could have been bothered or if there was a group of ladies I was trying to impress.

But anyway. The start of the race eventually arrived and I started just as well as I’d done in Italy last year – maybe even a bit better than that – and completed the first 7 or so mile long, very hilly lap at the front of the solo field. “First soloist!” people were shouting. So far so good, only 23 and a bit hours to go. The course was dry and in spite of the climbs, it was very, very fast and entirely rideable.


The Niner Air 9 was also hugely impressive. I’d not had much chance to get impressed by it as all I’d done was ride to work on it, but I was properly shifting.

It rained during lap 2 and the course got very slippery and immediately long sections of the course, especially the climbs, were covered in riders pushing bikes (this was in spite of claims that the course would cope with rain better than the previous venue, but we’ll not go too much into that here).

Bike now caked in heavy clumps of mud, I swapped to my second bike at the end of that lap.

The course was now very muddy and there were many people walking with mud-clogged bikes. I swapped once again to my emergency (third!) bike, a rigid singlespeed and as you can see in the pic, it didn’t have a race number on the (very wide) bars, so I spent the lap being shouted at by marshals and a British Cycling official….

It had proper mud tyres on it as though, so I enjoyed lap three because I could steer, brake and go faster without being catapulted into the bushes.

That was until I was catapulted into the bushes.

I didn’t see the small tree stump hidden in the grass at the side of the course, I’ve also no idea why I strayed onto the grass. But I hit the stump at full speed with my front wheel. The bike immediately came to a halt and I carried on in a spectacular over-the-bars manoeuvre, landing awkwardly on my shoulder and left ear.

I got going again after I’d picked the mud out of my ear and I’d let out a couple of girly whines. My shoulder was now pretty sore but I was still enjoying the fact that I was getting quicker despite only having one gear that wouldn’t allow me to ride up all of the steep, muddy climbs (the bike was running a 34:17 on 29er wheels, gear nerds) so I rode through the pit without stopping. This was to save time and to signal to the guys and gals in the Team JMC pit that I was feeling good again. Back on it. Rarrrrrrrr……


…..aaaaarrrrrrrrggggh. I crashed again about 30 seconds after I’d gone through the pit. The first mildly interesting part of the course was a steep, downhill slope through some trees that had multiple lines down it. Some rutted by the dragging rear tyres of novices, other lines were neater but steeper – the territory of rad and super-skilled riders like me*. There was also a large group of spectators here, no doubt the bloodthirsty types that love to see people getting hurt (and who doesn’t?).

*The reality though is that I’m not super skilled and just to illustrate this, I fell off.

Not only did I fall off but I fell off quite spectacularly, leaving the bike to bounce down the trail in one direction while I rag-dolled in another. I landed with my back bent the wrong way with another tree stump jabbing into my arse. My multitool was jabbing my spine from my jersey pocket.

All I could hear was the gathered throng of thrill-seeking spectators laughing and cheering at my misfortune while one of them attempted to release my leg from the course marking tape.

Covered in mud, I stood up and got back on the bike and cursed at the pain in my lower back.

Eventually I arrived back at the pit without even wanting to know what my last lap time was. It wasn’t brilliant and Deb knew that there had been a problem. I got off the bike, painfully sat down and took some ibuprofen.

As my next lap progressed the pain in my lower back reached the stage where it was getting more and more difficult to put down any meaningful amount of power and I watched as a couple of other soloists that I recognised caught me up and rode away.

I thought about how I’d planned and looked forward to this race and compared it to the reality of what was actually happening right then. I can’t remember speaking to anyone during my fifth lap, I don’t think I even noticed anyone else on the course once it was clear that I was going to have to retire after just a few hours. It was like a nightmare. I just wanted to be somewhere else.

In a few days’ time I’ll have forgotten about the disappointment, feelings that I’ve let a load of people down will have disappeared, I’ll pull my shit together and I will have moved on from Mountain Mayhem. Instead, my plans for the next race will occupy my thoughts. I’ll appreciate the fact that I’m not going to spend the next few weeks recovering, that I can take my hard-earned fitness to 10 Under the Ben in two weeks and in five weeks I’ll be 24 hour solo racing again at Bontrager 24/12.

For now though, I’m still thinking about what might have been.

Mountain Mayhem preview

It’s less than a week until Mountain Mayhem. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve ridden this 24 hour race solo, but the sheer size of the event and the fact that seemingly the whole bike world turns up means that it’s always an exciting race and it’s still one of very few races that goes on the list first when I’m planning the year ahead.

It’s a new venue this time (we’re riding in Princess Anne’s back garden, basically) so there are even more questions and uncertainties than usual. Will there be enough space? What will the weather be like? How hilly will the course be? Will it turn into a quagmire if/when it rains? What tyres? What bike? What shoes? (ok, maybe not everyone is asking that last question).

Whatever happens, I think I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. My training in the past few weeks has been ok (it’s been at worst “regular stuff that I just about manage to fit in around daily life” and at best it’s been “Canary Island Awesome”), those supporting me have done this many times before, there are two  Team JMC teams taking part too so I should be ok for getting any bike issues sorted and the bikes that I’m taking are brilliant – probably the best race bikes I’ve ever been lucky enough to take to any race before in fact so hopefully I’ll do them justice.

I’ve only just built the new Niner Air9 that Jungle have lent me and I’ve subsequently “tested” it in the time-honoured fashion by riding it to work and back a couple of times. Fortunately my commute contains some man-made mountain bike trails so I’ve been able to do a bit more than ride it down the main road and back.

I’ll get another couple of rides on it this week to get it set up a bit better. It’s been built with some super-lightweight parts from Mount Zoom so hopefully the course will have plenty of climbs so that I can feel the benefit. First impressions, not surprisingly for a crazy-light carbon bike, are that I think I can make it go very fast indeed. It’s also very, very, very orange, so that’s good too.


The other bike is quite different but just as ace (I’ve won races on it in fact) – a rigid Ti 29er, also built with Mount Zoom parts and some lovely Rolf Prima Ralos wheels that are lightweight, look great and also survived the Component Hell™ of the Strathpuffer without any lasting damage.

I’m even taking the racy singlespeed just in case the weather gets REALLY bad and the course falls to bits…

As usual I’ll be burning the retinas of all the marshals with lights from Exposure and I’ll be keeping the legs turning with the aid of fuel from Clif Bar. If you see me and I’m really chatty then I’ve probably just had a Turbo Double Expresso gel….

I’m also being helped out this time by SportPursuit who will have been helping me to recover from long training rides with some nice Nike compression clothing. The nice thing about this stuff is that it’s fairly thin and lightweight so I’ve been able to wear them in bed, even in Tenerife, all night without getting all sweaty. Pretty sexy image huh?

The Nike gear will be especially handy after Mountain Mayhem when I’ve got a couple of weeks to get ready for 10 Under the Ben, a couple of local midweek XC races, a couple of local summer cyclocross races, the Bowland Badass Sportive and  only 5 weeks to recover and race another 24 hour solo at Bontrager 24/12. Sounds hectic, and it is; but you only live once don’t you? (I’m having a week’s holiday after all that).

Hopefully Princess Anne will have remembered to bring her washing in before we start at the weekend.

Dave and Jase do a Canary

After months of rain, sleet, darkness and wind (not to mention the UK’s seemingly unique and special brand of aggressive motorists) a change of scenery was long overdue. We’d been planning our trip to Tenerife for months – the basic plan was that Dave and I would fly over there with our bikes in week one for some quality training and in week two our wives, girlfriends and kids would fly over and we’d have a week’s holiday (with some early morning cycling shoehorned in).

In the weeks before the trip, emails were sent back and forth with links to photos of wiggly mountain roads, articles about Tenerife being pretty much perfect for training (if it’s good enough for Wiggo…) and details of routes that included some very big hills indeed. It was going to be ace, we thought.

And it was. Better than that in fact. It was completely and utterly off-the-scale fantastic.


Our routine for the best part of a week consisted of breakfast, ride all day, eat, sleep, repeat. Our routes were pretty straightforward, “Up Teide and down the other side” or “the Masca loop that looks nice on the Internet” (it wasn’t – it was a tortuous, steep horror but the views were good) or “Let’s do a really big ride that climbs Teide twice and includes some other massive hills as well”. We made the most of it, in other words.


We did have a recovery ride on one day but as we found out, ‘recovery rides’ aren’t that possible when every single road seems to go up, down, up, down constantly – that ride to a café and back packed in 900 metres of climbing…..Tenerife – it’s no place for the weak and feeble.

Those few days – free from distractions and the stresses of everyday life so that every minute could be devoted to cycling (ok, we did watch football on the telly a couple of times) were arguably the hardest but probably the most enjoyable few days of cycling I’ve ever done.


The scenery was incredible. The climbs were long and punishing. The descents were amazing (including one road in particular that has to be one of the best roads to ride a bike down in the world). I pushed myself harder than I’ve done for a long time, if not ever – I had to; there simply aren’t any easy options anywhere on the island. I felt like I wasn’t being given a thorough kicking, rather I was enjoying the suffering knowing that it was going to yield fitness gains at a key time of the year. I’m sure Dave feels the same.


Our kit also never missed a beat. The bikes were impeccably reliable throughout the many hundreds of miles we covered. Not even a puncture between us! Our POC gloves that we’ve been using were used on every single ride, despite us both taking several pairs of ‘other brand’ gloves. Honestly, they’re that good (but smell a bit bad now) and the tons of Clif gels and Shot Bloks that we took were as good as ever, in fact they’re even easier to eat when the temperature reaches 25 degrees 😉


Once Deb, Angela, Michael and the girls joined us the weekend after, we were both pretty much ready to relax and enjoy a holiday. The sun came out properly and we had a good laugh, a trip to the zoo, a boat ride and Dave even hired a crap car to whisk Angela up the mountain roads the easy way. There was some cycling too – but more of the shorter (if you can call 4 hours short), early morning (5am! On holiday!)  but no less hilly kind of rides that keeps things ticking over and makes sure that we’re both back by breakfast with the day’s training all done and a smug grin on our faces.


Already planning the next trip…..