Monday, 22 April 2013

Some Time back Home

With my lectures and tutorials having finished at university, and a couple of weeks before my exams started, I was keen to head back home for the first time since New Year!

Trying to fit in training, university work and all the lifestyle things like cooking and shopping while being away in Edinburgh has really made me appreciate how easy everything was at home. The cupboards in the kitchen magically stocked themselves up and my dirty cycling kit would somehow clean itself ready for the next training ride. Yes I realise that my parents may have had something to do with that, but now that I have spent 6 months living away from home I have started to really enjoy living independently and having no option but to be organised. Combining my astrophysics course and training plan with this has been really difficult and this has meant that I probably haven't come into the season in as good shape as possible, but it has been a massive learning curve, one which I'm sure will benefit me in future years!

A massive plus side of coming back home to the highlands and living in the countryside, is that there is actually some decent mountain biking to be done! So one of the first things I did when I got back was head out on my new enduro bike and introduce it to some of the local trails.

Now I just have to get through these exams and I will be able to focus on training a bit more!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Finally Back to Some Mountain Bike Racing

SXC 1 Forfar

The good old Scottish cross country series, it’s safe to say everyone loves these races! And why wouldn’t you? It’s the perfect mix of a fun weekend, seeing loads of people you know, some brilliant mountain bike tracks and then there’s a wee bit of bike racing to cap it all off.
An SXC at Laggan back in 2009 was the first race I ever did, and since then I think I’ve only missed 3 rounds (for good reasons of course).

Well this was the first mountain bike race of the year, and I was excited to get going as I had taken delivery of my brand new race bike for the year- A Forme Winscar 29c (yup I’m on the wagon wheels now) – and what better way to test it than in a full on race!

The course at Forfar was really good fun to ride, lots of fast singletrack and some good steep climbs back to the top, ideal for me. And with there being a relatively small junior field we were being set of at the same time as the Elite riders which would make for some tough racing. The weather had taken a turn for the worse this weekend, really heavy rain and sleet meaning the grassy sections of the course was instantly turned to mud, and keeping warm before the race proved difficult.

Despite this we still had a race to do, and first the first time ever I was racing in pretty much winter cycling kit. When the whistle blew I had one of my usual terrible starts, losing quite a bit of ground to the guys at the front. However being used to this I kept calm and slowly picked off riders and attacked on the open climbs to bridge back up to the lead group of elite riders after roughly half a lap.

This was a really good situation for me as the group was made up of some really experienced riders, the best elite riders in Scotland, all of whom are hoping for commonwealth games selection.


As we got to the end of the first lap and had to negotiate the boggiest part of the track, Rob Friel (santa cruz/siempre) attacked from the group and I managed to go with him... for a bit. It was obvious at that moment that he was going strong, he simply powered through the mud as if he was riding on tarmac. I was now in 2nd place overall ( 1st junior) just 10 seconds or so behind Rob. I tried to catch him up but with the course being so muddy it proved difficult to gain any time back. I felt I was riding well however and loving the new bike!

For the rest of the race I was stuck in no man’s land in 2nd place keeping ahead of the chasers but not able to catch Rob, and that’s pretty much how it remained. Dave Henderson (GT racing) was coming back strong towards the end, but with my race being shorter than the Elite riders I celebrated being 1st junior and headed back to the car while they had to carry on for a bit longer!

So it was a really good first race of the year for me. The new bike was feeling amazing; nimble in the singletrack and really light on the climbs, plus I was battling it out with the top riders in Scotland.

A big thanks to Dryburgh Cycles and Forme bikes for helping me get a bike sorted for the year and to Ben Wyvis Cycling Club for the support.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Cutting About the Tarmac For a Bit

Bellahouston Spring Circuit Race - 10th March

Another weekend of not racing my mountain bike, instead doing some of that road racing stuff like you see on the Tour de France.. Well not quite, instead of racing up an alpine mountain we were racing on a small loop round a park in Glasgow for 45 minutes

Having not done much road racing in the past I was confined to doing the 4th category race (lowest ranked) as I had no points from past races, but with the women's race mixed in there were some very fast members of the women's commonwealth road team which would make it an interesting race. Doing the lower ranked race was probably a good thing however as I've never been the most tactically adapt rider when it comes to road racing, instead I always seem to ride as fast as I can while everybody shelters in my slipstream and out-sprints me at the end. This time I wouldn't make that mistake!

It all started of very civilized (unlike a mountain bike race); people got clipped into there pedals, slowly got up to speed and found there position in the group. I found myself somewhere in the middle of the group, a good place to be at this time and tried to gauge who were the fastest riders there. From what I've seen, the key to road racing is to always be aware of what everyone else is doing; who is trying to make their way to the front, who is riding strong and who should you keep an eye on! I went to the front a couple of times at the start of the race and got the legs going by closing any gaps that opened up if people tried to get away, and I could tell that my legs were feeling good, but I didn't want to spend too much time at the front early on!

Towards the middle of the race there was a prime lap, where the first person across the line at that point wins a prize. I tried going for this but mis-timed the effort and rolled across in third. But all of a sudden I realised that the increase in pace had caused  a lot of riders to drop off the back, and suddenly I was in a leading group of around 6 riders. This was an ideal situation as it was a big enough group to shelter from the wind in, but also big enough to keep the pace high and stay in front of everyone else.

I now started working really hard to keep the pace of this group going, doing some big turns on the front into the wind although it became quite hard work. Some of the other riders in the group seemed reluctant to take their turn at setting the pace on the front or wanting to close gaps. I found this pretty annoying but expected it to happen, so decided to bide my time for a bit and hope we didn't get caught first.

With 5 laps to go of the 1km circuit I went to the front and pushed on a bit, then heard Paul Newnham the Scottish mountain bike coach telling me to attack as everyone else was suffering. So I went for it! And spent the next few laps riding flat out by myself into some strong headwinds. I've always quite liked time trials so I was quite good  at this bit. It was really tough but I was determined to stay away as I had invested a lot of energy, and have never been very good at sprint finishes.

My legs felt good and I continued to increase my lead to the finish, taking 1st Junior and 1st overall!

Now with that result I have enough points to move up to 3rd cat. so can race with the fast guys in the future! A good confidence boost, for the start of the season. Afterwards we went and got a quick shot on the new Commonwealth Games course at Cathkin Braes.Big thanks to Paul Newnham for the lift to Glasgow and also for the good timed shout of "Go Go Go!" Another GOOD DAY!

Results and report found HERE

Enduro?! That's not what I normally do...

Innerleithen enduro #2 - 3rd March

Enduro is a rapidly growing, fairly new part of cycling, and having recently taken the almighty step of buying myself a “play” bike I was keen to get a shot at it.

The format is pretty much make your way to the top of the hill at whatever pace you want (as long as your inside the time limit!) then get timed on a fairly long, mostly downhill descent. Simple!

This particular round though was a “day and night” enduro meaning there was two different tracks, each raced once in the day and once at night. This was pretty cool as it added a whole new element to the racing. The tracks that we were racing on were so much fun! But having not done any downhill racing in the past I was having to learn fast and try to stick to the wheels of the more experienced riders.

My race runs went surprisingly well, probably due to the fact that I felt no pressure to do well, so was just having fun on the bike. With each run lasting around 10 minutes at full speed, it was almost impossible not to make any mistakes, but I got to the bottom feeling happy with my performance and most importantly having had so much fun! Even in the night stages where my lights weren’t very good, I was still loving it! I finished 6th in the Under-20 category which I was pleased with for my first proper enduro.

This is definitely a great form of racing as riding to the top of the hill is a good laugh as your just chatting away then the actual racing down is so exciting and fun to take part in! Pretty much the type of riding you would go out and do for fun, but you get to prove your faster on the descents that your mates! All in all a GOOD DAY!

Some photos of me from the race can be found HERE