Tuesday, 15 April 2014
Tuesday, 1 April 2014
The theme: a sort of a mini Three Peaks set in the steep valleyed hillsides and moors around Calderdale, West Yorkshire. One of that new breed of events, a gathering of mates on bicycles, a sort of sportif for the cross obsessed and mountain bike curious. Lovers of inappropriate bikes apply here.
I was in no fit state to race (Strava tells me I'd ridden 200-odd kilometres this year, surprised it's that many!) so a 'ride around' was called for. Nevertheless you find yourself falling into wheel with people about your pace and start pushing on a little — not wanting to get dropped on the drags, getting giddy on the descents — so you start to try just a bit harder than you would if you really were just out for a ride.
We climbed, we climbed some more, we descended, we found mud, some of us punctured. We got caught doing the walk of shame by the SportsSunday photographer, we stopped for a banana. There was some road, we should gloss over that. It rewarded us with a headwind to drill home the inappropriate choice of surface. We got a little bit lost at the end and stopped to ask a policeman.
We found our way home and there were spot prizes, there was hog roast, considerate veggie options for the special people, fancy bikes from Felt.
Stats: 46.3km long, 1,154m high.
Observations: disc brakes on cross have jumped from a cold start to 'surprisingly popular'.
Many thanks to Emma from the Kinesis-Morvelo project and Ali from Mills Physio for getting off their asses and organising such a splendid, well-judged event so the rest of us have an excuse to meet up and have a bit of a crack on bicycles. It'll be back next year and I recommend it.
Monday, 31 March 2014
VeloCake representation took the form of my two - Saul (veteran, moving up into under-10s this year) and Ezra (keen after a year of "will he won't he" racing last year) - plus Flo Levell who was making her racing debut. Full family support teams were in evidence. Saul disappeared to show off his new bike (I fielded the first question about it before I'd got it off the car!) and Flo and Ezra tentatively tried out the course, best described as rolling grass with some isolated (and hopefully avoidable) mud pits. Pre-race jelly snakes were distributed and all te riders were called to the start area.
There was an impressive turnout so the under-8s were split into under-6s (five riders) and under-8s (lots of riders!). So Ezra and Flo lined up first. With the eldest racers being 50% older than the youngest two (that being Flo and Ezra) it was always going to string out a bit, but the surprise was that it didn't string out that much. Downhill to the first corner and Ezra was in last place as Flo's bigger wheels showed their advantage, but his habit of refusing all help on hills and bloody-mindedly grinding his way to the top unaided meant he got to the top of the first hill in third and held that to the line. Flo lost ground on the first hill but held her own finishing fifth, but not out of touch.
Both Ezra and Flo then started asking when they were racing again.. in "are we there yet?" style. This is actually a result. But there were a pile of races to get through before that, not least Saul's inaugural outing on the new little bike. There was a big field in the under-10s - over 15 riders - and considering it was his first race in the older category, and his first proper ride on a new bike, he did really well keeping in touch with the podium places before getting pipped for fourth on the line.
With three full races being run (rather than the usual race - sprint - race) the VC under-6s had to dig deep into the sweetie bags to see them through. Ezra picked up a fourth and another third, and Flo fifth and then showed supreme bike handing to bag a fourth in the last.
Saul was fading but kept digging deep - a sixth in the second race and then pipped at the last again to finish 8th in the final race.
A complicated under-6 prize giving made sure that everyone went away with something. Ezra picked up his bronze medal and went to bed with it last night, and took it to nursery with him this morning. Flo seemed very pleased with her bottle. These things really do matter when you're four!
We rounded it off with bacon butties from the caff and a play in the park as the sun came out. A cracking start to the racing year.
Monday, 10 March 2014
Yesterday saw the first official outing for any of the family's Belgian-flavoured VC jerseys as Saul got a slot on a Go-Ride BMX coaching session at the track in Manchester. We were piggy-backing on the club that organises the local kids MTB race series (Richardsons CC) who got the opportunity through valiantly running a few winter kids races. Manchester is a long way to go but the level of the facilities makes it so worthwhile. The BC coaches were fantastic too, and they probably needed to be as they let 30 or so kids loose on an Olympic standard BMX track. Only one ambulance needed... those lumps aren't small you know.
Needless to say Saul loved it and wants to do more, which will be tricky with nothing BMXy within 50 miles, but we'll sort something out. He did OK in the racing, but the age grouping and mix of experience meant he was consistently 4th in his races. There's probably some motivation for him there! As a venue it was outstanding and as an experience it will stick in his mind for a long time to come. Yeah... waste of public money these big sporting white elephant things.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014
The weather forecast was for rain showers and high winds, thankfully the rain didn't turn up but the wind was gusting to 40mph and the tall trees were bending right over as we arrived at the race HQ in the centre of Cannock Chase.
Cannock can be very muddy when the weather has been wet and it couldn’t have been much wetter here in the Midlands than it has been for the past few weeks but as Dan and I started our warm up and scouting lap it became evident that the organisers had done an amazing job at keeping deep mud to a minimum without sacrificing the technical nature of the course. Cannock trails are known for their narrowness through the trees and this route was no exception, there were sections that you can only get a 740mm handle bar through by wiggling it from side to side, a steep drop which had rocks on the left side and a smoother right side but this had the penalty of you being in the wrong place for the sharp right turn at the bottom of the drop. There were a few short sharp climbs, usually through trees with very tight turns and lethal exposed roots and there were two bomb holes one of which had a very steep exit which needed a lot of momentum to be gained to get over, but all your speed was lost at the entrance as it came just after a 90 degree turn exiting some narrow tree lined singletrack