Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Ullapool Mor 130mile Sportive

Hey people!

Been quite a while since my last post, mainly because I just wanted to take a break away from all things cycling, as I tend to do at the end of my racing season. I find it is good for both a mental and physical break to take some time off the bike. Currently, I've just been chilling out with some mates, doing a bit of cross training (running/hill walking) and weights to break out of the "cycle" as it were ;-) I'll be getting back into my routine at the beginning of November, so already looking forward and planning for that.

As promised, here is the wee write up on the Ullapool Sportive event by the guys at Hands on Events which I did a few weeks ago. Really enjoyed this - despite the awful weather of wind and heavy rain, it was a real nice wind down to the season. I've stolen a pic from someone else's site (hope they don't mind!!) so here is me in all my low-intensity glory en-route!

Myself and fellow Hebridean CC rider, Roddy Murray left our B+B and rolled up at 7am to the Sign in Station at Ullapool Village Hall. I also managed to get myself interviewed by the BBC so you might yet see me on the BBC adventure show next screening! (Blatant plug)

We rolled off the start together at around 7.30am, with daylight just approaching. Initially, the roads were dry, but that didn't last for long, as once the rain hit, it didn't stop until I rolled over the finish 130miles later! Given 12000ft of climbing, I decided to pace this one out on my own, so rolled away from Roddy and found a nice rhythm. At around the 20mile point, a bunch of around 20 riders caught me so I jumped onto the back and decided to see how things would go. Up one of the first major climbs, and over the top, the lads at the front were setting a fair tempo. It wasn't exactly Lactate Threshold but pretty firm given the distance! I decided to follow anyway and see how things would pan out. To my surprise, I looked around at about the 50 mile point and realised I was one of only 4 riders left at the front! Everyone must have been dropped on the big climb.

After that, I decided i'd had enough of "racing" for the year and wanted to fully enjoy the event so dropped back and settled into my own pace again. After a few miles, I could see I was gaining slowly on another rider up front. "Ideal" I thought, someone to pace with. I caught the other rider, and we worked together, sharing the headwind and chatted away through the endless winding roads and climbs. We didn't see another rider for quite some time, so I was fairly confident we were near the head of the group, bar the 3 riders i'd let go up front. Eventually, we caught another 2 riders, who decided that they would make use of our rhythm. One of the guys (on a Cervelo) came across a bit arrogant, and wouldn't work with us, but the other decided to help out, great! Not long later, the ratty guy on the Cervelo got dropped (no loss there!), and we were down to three.

I got chatting with the new guy as we battled past the second last feed station, who turned out to be a school teacher. Not long after our water stop, my initial pace mate waved us on as he had decided the pace was too much. I looked down at my odometer, and it read 40miles to go. That was a long 40 miles, let me tell you. It felt as if we were climbing for all of it, although it was probably just heavy legs. As we approached the finish, I was beginning to feel a sense of achievement, as we passed lots of riders come home on the smaller 65mile route who had well and truly hit the wall. Hitting the peak of the last climb, my friend and I (can't recall his name!) shook hands and hammered the descent to the finish. As suspected, my mate tried to hammer away but it appeared I had more left than he thought as I was still on his wheel. On the last run-in to the finish, I went for the sprint and won! A nice sporting finish to a great day on the bike (all 7 hours of it!) - and in plenty time to make the 5.15pm ferry back to Stornoway.

As it turns out, I actually crossed the line in 6th place, which wasn't too bad considering I didn't even race! Perhaps next year I will go for it and try and take the win. My friend Roddy did real well, coming in an hour later than me, and also a great effort from other Hebridean CC riders, Gavin Earons and Steve Liddle who completed the 65mile Route in respectable times. I might mention that Gavin beat Steve to the finish too, not bad for a Grand Vet! :-D

Anyhow, that's enough writing for the evening. I'll keep you all posted on my winter progress, so check back soon. 1deg C today with hail and high winds on the Isle of Lewis - the winter is definately here - oh dear :-(

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

SXC Round 7 UCI C2

Afternoon people. Thought it was time for an update on recent happenings in the life of the only Hebridean XC racer! Haven't posted sooner purely due to the fact i've been completely fried for the last couple of weeks. My body is going to welcome the off-season break!

Anyhow - I made it to the last round of the Scottish XC series at Glentress the other weekend. Not to be making any excuses, but I hadn't been feeling myself all week. My dad had come down with a throat/chest virus thing and although I wasn't sick, I felt that I was trying to fight something off - energy levels just not at their usual, and the legs weren't feeling up to scratch on the bike.

The same was evident on the pre-ride of the Glentress course. I went out the day before with Dave Henderson to check it out - the course suited my abilities perfectly. A long, tough climb followed by a muddy, rooty technical descent and some rooty singletrack. However, after one lap of the course, I could tell something just wasn't right. Next to no power in the legs, and a general feeling of low-motivation. Oh dear. I did another lap on my own to try and regain some focus - it helped a bit.

Come race day, the weather was looking good, and with a strong field I didn't feel under too much pressure to look for the win. Gareth Montgomerie and Rob Seymour were both present, so it would no doubt be a hard-act to follow. The pace off the start was fairly brutal, I held on easy enough but didn't feel on usual form. I climbed my way into 4th position which I held for about 1 lap. The same empty legs feeling was still present from the day before but I tried to hold on as best I could. James Fraser Moodie then closed and passed me - I couldn't respond at all. For the next few laps I could see Iain Nimmo closing as well. Oh dear I thought - here goes 5th. He came past me like I was standing still. Fortunately for me, he cracked bigtime on the next climb and I claimed 5th spot back at the rather poor tempo I was setting! Meanwhile, there was no sign of Andrew Barlow - perhaps he was having an even worse day than me? Coming into the last lap, I thought I had 5th in the bag, not too bad I thought. Then on the technical descent, my chain popped off the cassette and jammed between the frame. I realised this at a moment where I went to apply drive to clear a large hole in the trail which sent me careering over the bars. Ouch! Back on my feet - trying to keep calm and fix the bike, the Torq/Kona Elite rider passed me. I got back on and passed him on the way down - he was poor at descending. Unfortunately I was pretty gone on the climb up to the finish, and he passed me again so I had to settle for 6th, a few seconds back. Happy enough with that!

So that brings the end of my MTB racing season. It has been some year, and I have learned a lot from it. Also got some fantastic results. I'm already planning my off-season training out in my head - eager to come back even stronger next season. A quick tally of the points showed myself and Andrew Barlow were tied for 1st place with 143 points for the Scottish Elite Series! He takes the overall though, as he gained 1 more win than me... bummer! I think he deserves that though, after being 2nd for 2 years running, and i'm just "the new guy" on the scene after all. We certainly had plenty to discuss after a great season of racing over a few beers in Edinburgh that night! (the next morning I had remembered why I decided to cut out alcohol this season too)

I'll shortly be putting up my report on the 130mile Road Sportive event I did in Ullapool last weekend so keep posted.

Happy Off-season