Tuesday, 15 April 2014

De Ronde and Lego

Greetings again everybody, my, it's been a while. Good job the rest have been filling in.
A little news from VCers lately.
The Andover branch have been busy in the merchandising department, firstly with personalized VC stem caps, and more impressively, a VeloCake  Lego man.

Tim Kershaw recently went over to Belgium with the Polocini cafe folks for the Ronde van Vlaanderen
and took in a few cobbled rides to boot.  Here he is at the bottom of the iconic hilligen  the Paterberg.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

ClifCross cobbles, mist and muddy cross capers

Clifcross: a cross ride, supported by Clif (the bars people). And great it was too.

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.

Thanks to SportsSunday and Dave Haygarth for the pics.

Monday, 31 March 2014

A Mini Team VeloCake outing

Sunday was Round 1 of the Richardsons CC Go-Ride MTB Summer Series. Filey has become the traditional opener, with the course perched on the cliff top at Filey Country Park. Previous years have seen an on-course wind chill factor that belied the relatively pleasant forecast, so it seeemed all competitors and support were sporting an array of cold-prophylactics - down, hats, fleeces, thermals... most of these would be discarded by lunchtime.

Team VeloCake
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.

Happy Flo

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.

Saul race 1

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.

Ezra (and Flo!) - race 2

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.

Saul - race 2 final lap Saul chewing the racing cud DS Tom and Flo Ezra - race 3 start line

Saul - race 3 corner Ezra flopping Prize giving brothers

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!

The under-6 podium!

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

We're not in Kansas now

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.

Gate 4

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

Cannock Chase Winter classic

After competing in the Cannock summer race Dan and I signed up for the winter version.This time we were going to compete in the geared fun category. I can't say we had done a lot of specific training, a lot of riding had been done but I don't think either of us is in tip top condition.
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

There was then a frankly soul destroying climb back into the start finish area via yet another bomb hole which was fully exposed to the raging wind. The start/finish line was packed with people and there was a foam shower on the line every lap!
The guys from Garage bikes were also racing and they gave us tremendous support, cheering,  offers of chocolate hand ups and the promise of cake at the finish.
The race started just after 11am and 81 of us sprinted into the first corner and basically the race was won and lost here, I really need to inprove the sharpness of my elbows!, actually it was a very friendly race and there were no ego’s on show, every person passing was polite and every person I overtook moved over after a shout of “left” or “right”. There were a few sprints to gain position on the fire road sections (they were quite short with no time to recover or take a drink) and I felt I was doing ok on the first lap, but in reality I had lost so many places queuing after the first corner it was always going to be tough to make up the places in a race that was only 3 laps of a 3 mile circuit. If the race had been longer I think I’d have picked more people off as they got tired, there were a lot of fast guys but as the last lap started I started passing those that had gone off too hard and were fading, I’m not a quick rider but I do have some stamina over longer distances, ah well, that’s my excuse and I’ll stick to it. I came back into the arena with the cheers of the garage bikes crew ringing out to a 52nd place out of 81, dan placed 39th a great result as he had a stinking cold.
The NWAlps branch of Velocake is supported by beerbabe products and Judy and Roy greeted us after we finished eager to know what the course was like as their Fatbike race (which Beerbabe sponsors) wasn’t far from starting, my F.R.O. (for racing only) pack worked a treat carrying tube, tool and levers.
After the euphoria of finishing diminished we joined the Garage bikes lot for some of the best cake I’ve ever seen and tasted, these guys know how to race!

Also as we left Beerbiker Roy took me to one side and handed me a beer, a beer only available from the Belgian trappist brewery and comes in a 10.2%, that made me feel like a winner! I decided not to crack it like champagne and save it for when I could appreciate it more.
I want to thank Judy and Roy for their support (and beer!) and the girls and guys from garage bikes for the fantastic support they gave both Dan and I, a shout must go out to the race organisers, it ran smoothly, the course was great and it really wasn’t their fault thet the coffee ran out and the vendor went home!
Next time top 50 for sure!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Watch out Vos

And for those wanting more here it is.

I learnt to ride in this back lane too.