2015 the year of transition

2015 is here and there’s some seriously big challenges coming up in my life. Most self inflicted but some that aren’t so much. 2015 is going to be a year of changes. To be honest I don’t think I’ve challenged myself enough these last couple of years in general and everything started to feel a bit stale towards the end of April, particularly in cycling terms. I suppose if your asking the same questions of yourself there’s only so many answers you can get. To get away from that stale feeling I’m looking to travel a lot more this year. More trips abroad to see new places and get a feel for different cultures. The idea of travelling Europe is burning bright and possibility of setting out from my front door and taking the bike on a monumental journey around some of the less traveled routes gives me a feeling that I want that sense of adventure.

There is a big task I want to take on this year however in terms of tackling Paris-Brest-Paris in August. This is a cycling event with prestige, history, and a bumper load of cycling involved, around 1200km in no more than 90hrs. That’s not the only thing, you have to qualify with events of distances 200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k before the cut off date in June. This is the biggest task I have for the year and my major focus on the mile. Everything else is 2nd priority to this in cycling terms. The journey for this will be long and hard at points for I cannot wait for the sense of achievement upon completion.

I’m looking forward to this year and I’m hoping it’s going to offer the “shake-up” I think it will.

Beacon Fell pits

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The soul ride

I’ve been trying to get back to not only enjoying cycling but loving it again. This season has been a real tough one but I’m starting to get back to where I was. I’ve been finding new routes doing the odd things like taking my road bike on trails and generally mixing it up.

A Ted King article from bicycling.com got me thinking about the rides I enjoy the most and it’s the ones on roads I’ve rarely ridden for a long time now. I don’t think about my speed, where I’m going, or where I need to be later I just get my head up look around and enjoy the ride. Sometimes I feel we all just push on a bit and don’t just enjoy being out there and do what we started cycling from, riding the bike. It’s pretty much the reason why I started the sport. Don’t get me wrong, I love the speed and competition I train for but sometimes it can become more important in your head than it actually is.

The winter is a time to get back to the soul riding that brought me to the sport in the first place.

Winters over! Roll on spring

Well the club finished the cross season off in style. Going into the last two races of the season we had already won the team prizes in the seniors, Vets and womens’ categories, so that was pretty well wrapped up and the main job of the season was done. I still had my own targets to go at which was to finish better than the previous season. I only needed to stick in there and get top 10’s to do that, which I did with two 7th places. It was good to end the season off with a couple of good results on the bounce even though I wasn’t in my best form of the season.

Here’s a few pictures from the last race of the season at Beacon Fell is summer and mild conditions. Pretty boggy but a great race as always.

Pre-race in the pits. Me looking relaxed during the vets race helping out in the pits with the other Horwich CC riders.
Beacon Fell pits

A lot of focus was needed when descending. It was fairly grippy but you still needed to keep your wits about you.
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Trying my hardest to get away from the chasers behind after running up some pretty steep steps we were forced to ride along a very false flat.
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What we worked all season for. The team prize trophy finally back in the hands of Horwich CC. (from left to right: Craig Sefton, me, and Steve Bone). The lads rode well all season. It was great to have such great supporting team mates.
CC Team Prize

So what now? Well the road season has started as I’m writing this. I’m making an effort to get on the road and take road racing a bit more seriously this season. I’ve never really given it a proper go so this season I’ll be going for it with some serious training under my belt. We’ve just had our club training weekend in Wales which showed a lot of the clubs lads are in good condition for the summer season so it will be good to get out and race with them and learn the ropes a bit more.

Base training has been going really well though and my commute to and from work is giving me a great opportunity to get a lot of consistent training in throughout the week and saving a lot of money on fuel, plus it more enjoyable than sitting in the car for an hour when it takes about the same amount of time to ride in. As spring starts to show some warmer weather coming I’m looking forward to a dry few months (hopefully).

December Cross

After racing at Stadt Moers we had a significant break in the league until the next round of the league at Cockerham quarry. 3 weeks with no racing right in the middle of the season was a long time but gave me a good opportunity to get out and enjoy being on the bike. I decided not to race at national trophies or North of England champs this season largely because I wanted to break. I had to chance to get a bit of mountain biking in at Coed-y-Brenin for the first time in about 3 years. The place hasn’t changed one bit and is still one of my favourite places to ride. Training got much more intense after the last race as well. I worked my way through some seriously tough blocks on training with a view to hitting the final 5 races of the season full on.

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Cockerham Sands was a new venue to cross so no one knew what to expect. We arrived to be greeted with gales and a wet muddy looking course. I had a feeling we had a bit of running to do on the course and I wasn’t disappointed. We started the race on a muddy looking field. I’d turned up to the start late with layers still on and had to line up on the less favourable side of the grid and I suffered for it. Coming off the field where I’d sunk into multiple puddles and bog patches I was near the back, possibly the worst start I’d had all season without a doubt. Going through the pits the first time after half a lap I heard the shout 17th! It was all still pretty tightly packed together so as always I didn’t panic and started to work up. in the next 2 laps I’d moved up to 7th and started to gradually claw away from the chasing pack and into clear ground. I felt pressure late on from some chasers but after a very clean lap managed to move away further. I was gifted an extra place late on as a rider punctured with 2 laps to go. So I finished 6th. Great result for the league and I was super happy with my fitness and the progression I’d made although I felt under raced compared to those who had continued to race.

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Roll on a week and the next round took place at Edgeside Park, Bacup. The park was located on the side of a hill so I expected it to be very hill. It didn’t disappoint. There was a lot of talk around how muddy it could potentially be after past experience from other riders, away it didn’t disappoint with that either. After a warm up of about half a lap the bike was completely clogged with mud and leaves (these are the moments when your glad you’ve got two bikes to use). I watched the vets race from the pits, well I say watched and what I really mean cleaned and acted as pit crew, it ended up being a good warm up to be honest and it was a good job because once we’d finished I had to sprint back to the car, pick my bike up and get back to the course. My ranking in the league has been pretty good this season, I was sat in 3rd overall at the start of the day so was promised a good place on the grid. As the Commissaire read out the call up sheet neither first or second were there and as a result I had the chance of choosing my position. It’s always a good feeling being first on the grid, I just try and enjoy it because it’s a luxury I’ve never had before. The choice of clothing was different to most, I decided to go for double base layer and regular attire whereas there where a lot with leg warmers and arm warmer. Something I don’t really like racing in even in those kinds of temperatures.

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I started really well, possibly the first time this season, I was up in 3 place from the start and comfortable where I was. I knew it would be a hard hour of racing so I tried to set my stall out early. My breathing wasn’t a free as I’d wished on the first 2 laps but it eased as I got into race. There were a few maverick moves from some riders attacking early on and getting away for a while. I slipped back to 5th thinking I would be racing for 4th place. However, the advantage of having a spare bike came into play. I didn’t envy anyone on one bike that day. I had a good team in the pit that day. In all honesty mechanical’s brought people back to me but I had others behind me that were still putting pressure on. The course was pretty much 1/4 riding 3/4 running, I’m a strong runner and benefited from that. I finished 3rd overall, my first ever podium finish in a cross race. I’d raced as hard as I could the whole race. Kept going when others had given up and I was rewarded with a good result. I’ve had a massive buzz about me all week and I’m hoping to go on and finish the season strong and get some more good results in the next 3 races. The good work and relentlessness in my racing seems to be paying off so I’m hoping that I will race well and be strong until mid January. It’s been a long season so far but this is where the results matter.

Mid-season and beyond

Posting on the cross season has been a bit more of a struggle this season. I’ve struggled for much free time between racing, training and working, plus the odd trip away. With a couple of weeks of a beat I think now is a good time to get back onto reporting on the season.

To be honest its been a fairly uneventful season so far. Races have been very dry and fast so there hasn’t been a slog fest anything like last season that I’ve ridden. I missed the only one so far at Boggart Hole Clough as I was working on the Track World Cup in Manchester (probably for the best by the sounds of the weather). I did go through a few races where I crashed on the first lap in every one. The worst being on the weekend when we had a double-header racing at Pignut Hill in Northwich where I ended up landing in a bramble bush. Obviously in my state of panic that I was losing places quickly I got out not thinking about where I was putting my hands or anything. I rode well that day falling back to about 18th and going through the field to finish 7th. great result considering but once I’d finished I found multiple thorns sticking out of a lot of places. Some of the worst where right in my sweet derriere which took a while to free!

The following day was the Rapha SuperCross taking place at Manchester’s Philips Park on a course which offered a very technical course. I’d found out the day before that we’d been racing for nearly an hour 10 minutes which took a lot out of me with chasing back to others in the race. I went into this race having no worries about a result and lined up waiting to be gridded. I was surprised to hear my name read out first for the grid which pretty much said I was the highest ranked rider in the race. A privilege I’d never had before but something that I wasn’t fazed by. Maybe a should have been as I was overtaken going into the first few corners of the technical sections. Now, I’m not for my starting but I use to be better than my starts this season. I’ve really struggled and had to work my way through the riders this season which is really not like me. I’m usually top 10 at the start and likely to keep that place for the whole race or fall back slightly. This season I’ve yo-yo’ed a bit more than usual and I’m not that happy with it so I think some sprint starts are needed. Anyway, I finished 10th in the race which after how I had to go the day prior was a good result for me. Especially as I crashed on the first lap when trying to cut under a tree and instead cut my head on the tree (not clever…).

There were two trips to Otterspool in the calendar as well. Two completely different courses and different results. I’ve never had a good time at Otterspool in the past and I always struggled for a good result. My best result for 2012 was 18th which I saw as pretty poor as I was in 12th leading into the last 2 laps and crashed. The first race of the season at Otterspool I struggled for momentum completely couldn’t pick lines and slid out everywhere and in general lacked throughout and ended up 19th. The following race was much less technical and gave the bigger guys a better chance. I went ok, getting caught on the last lap by league rivals but finished 14th overall. Luckily we’d had a few “out of towners” ride so I received league points for 7th which gave me a bit more of a buzz than the result.
otterspool
The last couple of races gave me some good results on courses which again didn’t really favour the bigger rider (pretty much like most races in the UK, but it wasn’t hard it wouldn’t be fun!). I managed another 7th on a dry hilly Clayton Vale Course and 12th at Stadt Moers where I just generally struggled with the course for no particular reason. Well I think I do know but I’m not going to tell you the training I’m doing on am I?

I’ve given myself I while to work on certain things now, not entering any national trophy or regional championships. I like doing the big races but I’m trying to get my first full season in so I see my objectives as that as a priority. The next race up is on 15th December on a new track at Cockerham Sands just north of Preston so I’ve not a while till the next race yet. It’s exciting that I’ve not done any of the races that are coming up in the next few months. 5-6 races left in the calendar for me, it’s gonna be a packed Christmas!

Early Season Cross 2013

The season is well underway and we are 3 races into the North West league. We had a lot of rain in the first race of the season. It was one of those days where you might have been drier if you’d of just jumped in the shower with all your kit on. Luckily it wasn’t too cold and added to the long circuit that was set out. I finished 14th in the senior race. Wasn’t too disappointed with the result as I knew it was early season and I wasn’t as ‘hot’ as I was going into last season but with all the weddings and long time off the bike I wasn’t expecting much so I thought it was a good baseline to move from.

heaton park cross9

We then went into a 3 week break which involved the 3 peaks which I decided once again not to ride and instead chose to ride in the club 25 mile time trial championships. I FINALLY went under the hour on a day which didn’t look anything like a PB day with a time of 59min 17secs. It was a major milestone for me not only with the time but also being one of eight riders from the 85+ starters who went under the hour. I finished 7th overall beating a few guys with their disc wheels along the way as well. To be honest it was a monkey off my back as I’ve been looking promising to go well under the hour so many times only for it to be a windy day or traffic to slow me down so I feel it’s one of my biggest achievements so far this year.

Moving back on to the cross, the leagues 2nd race took place at Heaton Park on the outskirts of Manchester on a dry course. It was generally fairly flat with the odd kick every so often which made it into a hard race. I finished 12th in the seniors. From the first 2 races I was surprised how quick everyone was in the seniors. “I don’t remember it being like this last season” were my regular thoughts throughout the race which once again featured no bike change unless you had mechanical. I had struggled with training through the week before the race so knew I needed to up it significantly which I did.

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Last weekends race at Waddow Hall near Clitheroe was new to me completely. I hadn’t raced at the venue previously but had heard about the mud-bath of a course it was which resulted in most people running the majority of it in 2012. This wasn’t to case for this course. It had been dry running up to the race and with no major rain forecast it promised to be another dry race. The course featured a long climb which resulted in a very fast steep and slightly bumpy descent (which resulted in me finishing the race with the worst blisters I have ever had on my hands). I started the race on the 2nd row after gridding and upon completion of the first lap was 8th overall and I was comfortable where I was. Unfortunately I ended up on the floor after overcooking a corner which resulted in me not only losing about 4 places but also in the quick release on my shoe coming undone. I ended up going back to about 18th-20th place after all the messing about. I managed to claw my way back to 14th by the finish getting rid of a few league competitors along the way. It wasn’t a course that suited me too well but it was one I felt I was going to do well on. Shame I managed to crash out but I could tell the form was starting to come after 3 very strong laps at the end, unfortunately it wasn’t enough to get anymore places but was good for morale.

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Next up is a double weekend with the Sunday being the much anticipated Rapha Supercross at Manchester Philips Park right at the back of Manchester Velodrome. Looking forward to the weekend.

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