Friday, May 28, 2010

NPS round 5 - Killaloe, Co. Clare

Preview video - looks like this could be a fun loop for the race...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NPS Round 4 review and training plans

Myself and Gene headed off from Naas at about 8.30 and made good time getting to Magheramorne at 11am. It was a long drive but the motorways and great weather made up for it.

After getting signed up, we headed out for a pre-lap. Starting the entrance of the quarry there was a left turn into the open area across a sandy, dusty area before the first drop. At the bottom there was a 90 degree right turn across a very dusty section. Before entering grassy singletrack. Again, another 90 degree turn and a tricky little kicker (which in the wet would not have been ridable).

The course then consisted of sections of open singletrack with short draggy climbs, tight singletrack with swoopy turns, and plenty of big swoopy drops. You then crossed over the Larne road and into the quarry proper, dropping down to the lake and crossing through a water feature before climbing gradually back out and following a red, dusty trail back to the start/finish. On the pre-lap, the course seemed very long and that was confirmed by one of the lads who clocked it at 7kms. Still, as there were not many long, steep climbs, it was going to be fast.

We lined up for the start and I had managed to get up just behind the first line of top riders (about 5 of them). So I thought it was looking good for getting a good start and trying to stick with the lads. However, I had another disaster of a start and before the first drop a good 10 to 15 riders had passed me. I’ve not got the foggiest why I can’t get away from the line quickly, but I will have to work on it before the next race. A bad start puts you at an huge disadvantage as you spend the first lap at least attempting to past riders. So that’s what I ended up doing – chasing and passing riders when I got a chance. There was plenty of spots for overtaking so you were never held up that long in the Singletrack.

After the first lap I didn't have any head-to-head's with fellow masters riders. The race basically became a time-trail - pushing as hard as possible. I did pass people but I was never sure what categories they were racing in, and just assumed they were not masters and scooted past as soon as I got the chance.

About half way through the 3rd lap I spotted a MAD rider ahead with a WORCie following, as I got closer I realised it was Oisin and the WORCie was a vet. This gave me the extra kick and I pushed on for the rest of the lap. I had closed to about 100 meters but about halfway into the last lap Oisin looked around, saw me and switched on the afterburners. As I entered the last section of singletrack I thought I had a chance of catching him before we crossed over the road, but when I exited the trail, Oisin was nowhere to be seen! I probably should have kept the hammer down but lost the motivation when he was out of sight so sat up and spun the last 3rd of the lap.

So I ended the race in 4th place, 41 seconds behind Oisin and just shy of 3 minutes behind the winner Kevin Stanley. I'm really happy with that - I know a few lads had mechanicals, and there were plenty of punctures, but I've not felt that good in a race since early last year. Hopefully it was not a once off and I can keep it going for the last 3 races of the season.

Monday, I decided to cycle into work. Should have had a rest as the legs were sore after racing, but the weather was so nice it would have been criminal not to. Did take it handy tho, and a great tail wind had be home in record time.
Tuesday, IMBRC club league. Was great craic. I set off 1 minute before Mark McGauley so the pressure was on! Legs were still sore but after a few minutes of riding I didn't feel a thing - apart from the pasta and meatballs I ate and hour earlier trying to get back out. Mental note - don't eat your dinner an hour before balls to the wall racing. In the end Mark caught me in the last 50 meters and it was a sprint finish between us and Ben Marchant. I won that but was tough. Great racing and organisation. Looking forward to next Tuesday all ready!
Wednesday, Ok, knackered today, but again with the weather so nice I cycled in - very slowly. And another nice tail wind to look forward too on the way home.

Planning on cycling in via Slade tomorrow and if I'm not on the road bike on Friday I'll be out in Slade or Glending with Gene. I'm busy over the weekend, but hope to get out for a couple of hours on the Road bike on Saturday morning or Sunday evening.

And then the following Monday will be spin to work and IMBRC club league on Tuesday. Yes, I've planned out the next 6 days and its fairly crammed with different types of biking, but I'm keen to make the most of the coming week before kicking up the heels from next Wednesday

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Weekly update

Monday - after the Hammond race I wanted to keep things up, so cycled into work, and left early to get a nice 60km spin home around the Blessington lakes. It was a perfect day for cycling - pity I had the backpack on tho.
Tuesday - finally made it out to the IMBRC club race. Its held up up in Slade with the start on the Kildare side of the hill. The its a 10ish minute loop that you do 3 times and takes in just one section of the NPS course - the rabbit ride. There was a good turn out - 20 plus - despite the not ideal conditions. Its run in the same way as the Epic club league in that its a handicapped race, so you just go hell for leather from the start and try to pass as many people as possible. My handicap was 17 minutes and my understanding of the course was a little hazy so I followed on the of guys who knew it for the first lap, after that I passed him and pushed on. I finished in 6th place just as the rain really kicked off. I was happy enough with that considering it was my first time doing the race and am really looking forward to next weeks.

And thats it! Since then I've not done anything apart from an hour on the road bike this morning which ended up with a puncture on the way home. I probably should have done something handy on Wednesday, but the previous few days had taken a bit out of me so decided to rest up.

Tomorrow is round 4 of the NPS series and its going to be pretty hot - the racing and the weather. The only drawback is the 6 hour round trip...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hammond Memorial race

Quick post about this one.

It was a 40km, 2 lap race starting in Roundwood, Wicklow. It was a challenging course - tricky, very fast descent followed by some draggy sections, and a tough climb back up.

I had planned on making a proper effort at this race, but had not done the usual preparation I would for an XC race. The legs were a little tired from the week and I was hoping to sit back a bit in this one and try to do something later in the race.

However once the lead car tooted it horn to notify that the race had started the speed went well up. We quickly reached the descent and everyone was well spaced out. I hit 65kph with people passing me.
About 15 to 20 regrouped after descent and 3 or 4 guys kept the pace going. As we got to the climb proper the pace pushed up another notch and on the climb the 4 guys just cycled away. It was the type of climb I enjoy doing but I found it hard going today. On the second (and last) lap after the descent, about 4 of us got organised and we attempted to bridge back to the leaders who were about a minute ahead. But despite our best efforts we did not get them before the climb. And at this point my legs gave up. I lost contact with the chasing group - they were never more than 20 second ahead of me, but it might well have been an hour - I wasn't going to get back to them.
So I rolled in a minute or 2 behind the winners. The race was only a little over 1 hour in duration, but it was hard, probably the hardest one this year - there was absolutely no letup. Can't complain about the result, but I am a little disappointed I got dropped out of the chase group. There are plenty of road races left this year and I will make a proper effort for one of them!

Monday, May 10, 2010

NPS Round 3 - Lady Dixon Park, Belfast

Sunday the 9th of May had myself and Gene head up to Belfast for the 3rd round of the Irish NPS series. It was a 2 hour drive to the race venue, and the venue was easy to find thanks to some good sign posting by XMTB - the hosting club.

After signon we head out for a pre-ride of the course. The race was held in a typical city park - rolling, grassy hills in the middle (with the odd rose garden) and a tree lined perimeter. Not exactly the first place you'd think of holding a mountain bike cross country race, but in fairness to XMTB, they made use of every scrap of the park to make a challenging course.

25 meters after crossing the start/finsh, you had a 90 degree right turn which then switched quickly to a left hander and into the forest / single track section. The single track doubled back on itself quite a bit, so there was plenty of hard braking and accelerating. There was also plenty of options for the odd suicide manoeuvre into a corner. We had a laugh at the thoughts of the moves being made during the first lap in the singletrack section... little did I know later on I wouldn't be laughing...

You left the forest and got into the rolling grassy hills. This was pure CX territory. There was no time to take a breather here as time could be made and people overtaken before the next singletrack section. This bit was a bit more tricky as you had some tricky off camber rooty corners which even though it was a dry course were still a challenge.

After a couple of kickers and swoopy drops/climbs you were out of the trees again and up a kicker which transitioned into a draggy climb. But before you knew it you were diving down into a little hollow and then climbing, before a taking a roller coaster of a drop which - if you got enough pace, allowed you to free wheel up the other side.

After that you had a long grassy climb back up towards the start finish. But before you got there, a final single track section had to be tackled... then feed zone and start finish.
We lined up for the race. I was expected the top riders in the series to be called to the front, but it didn't happen, so with that and the fact it was a nice wide starting area, I found myself up towards the front of the field. The race was started and I had a decent enough start, probably in about 10th heading into the single track. It became a bit of a procession then and things were going ok, apart from some numpty shouting "who's losing the wheel?!!?". I hoped he was having a laugh. Anyway, we started in the second singletrack section, climbing up a narrow trail section. I had two riders in my sights who where slowing up after the initial high pace and decided to over take them off the single track... in other words a suicide move. I managed to pass them but I was slowing up too and lost control of the bike and headed towards the low lying branches of a tree. I rolled over them hoping I could power my way out - I couldn't and came to a standstill. So as riders passed I got myself together and ran up the hill till I could find a spot to remount and get moving again.

It was a silly mistake that cost me time and plenty of places. So it set the tone for the rest of the race - chasing. I started passed riders where I could in the next 2 laps. Then I came up to a Team WORC rider. He was not the fastest in the single track but could climb like Contrador, so I caught him in the forest section and tried to hang on for dear life outside it. Looking back at the lap times over the course of the laps he was holding me up, so in hindsight I should have passed him straight away. But for some reason I decided that chasing this guy would be my little race. Everything was going well until the 4th lap when a mistake on off camber turn had be off the bike and the competitor pedaling away. I got my head down and chased on - getting within a few bike lengths, but it was not to be and he crossed the finish line ahead of me.

I got 9th position, which is fair enough, but I really think my rush of blood on the first lap cost me a good 3 or maybe 4 positions. The course lent itself to close racing - there was about a minute between me and Mark in 6th place. While you could have run a CX race on exactly the same course, I think even the hardened XC'er enjoyed the racing. Still was nice to break into the top 10.

The Pronghorn was well suited to the conditions - the lightness allowed for quick acceleration and the xtr brakes stopped me in plenty of time before I could do any real damage to myself :) Oisin, the other Pronghorn rider came in a great 4th place after some close racing with another Team WORC rider.

So thats the 3rd race already finished - the season is almost half over! Next race is up North again next Sunday, but I planning on a road race this Sunday as I'm keen to try one where I actually go out to try and win it as opposed to using them for training/having a laugh.

The week since the xc race has been tough. Works been very busy and the little fella is teething - STILL! This means tough days in work and sleepless nights. Still, I managed a few commutes into work, but no off road which is annoying, but you've got to make the most of the time you have!

Thanks to Uberdog and racing795 for the pics!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

XC NPS Round 2 and other things

Killarney CC hosted round 2 of the 2010 NPS series on a whole new course just outside the town. My plan was to tie this race in with a family break in west Cork and on the map they did not look too far apart. I did not realise how much of an impact the mountain range (or 2) would have on the time needed to get there. What I thought was a 1 hour trip turned into 2 each way... ah well, lesson learned.

I got there with plenty of time to get organised and squeeze a couple of pre-laps in. The course was set overlooking a lake and rugged valley - definitely the best backdrop for an NPS course I've ever ridden on. The course itself started with a double track flat section before a steep 4ish minute climb before hanging a left - still climbing, but not as steep, onto a boggy singletrack. Then you took a left into a mucky drop, which, if you watch the video below, you'll get an idea of how tricky it was for everyone. I tried it a few times in the pre-ride and failed miserably on every attempt. Then it was through a couple of fields with plenty of surprise drops, rock gardens and single track before coming back to the finish line.

I got up towards the front for the start, but was still about 20th when we got moving. Once we hit the climb I started to make up ground, but despite it being an old lane / double track, overtaking was still tricky and I ended up getting into the line for the descent. Oddly enough I stayed upright for it (and for every lap) as I found a line way out to the right which had decent grip. Over the course of the first 2 laps I pushed on hard and was about 6th or 7th before my problems arrived. In the final wooded single track some of the marking tape had come loose and it got wrapped up around the non-drive side of the bike. I did not mind too much but hopped off the bike to get it cleared which took a minute. I was back on the bike and pushing again to make up for lost time/positions. However on the next lap, after the descent, I had another encounter with marking tape. This time it was on the drive side. I saw it wrap up around the crank and cassette but decided to chance cycling on. I did not get far before the whole drive train seized up. It was everywhere - on the cranks, the chain and cassette. So again I hopped off and started the job of unraveling the mess.

Luckily Phil was not far and while I worked on the cranks he cleared out the cassette. Another couple of minutes lost. As a plus I did get a breather, but a good 5 to 10 riders passed me so once I was cleared of the striped menace I pushed on again.

I started making good inroads again on the remainder of the 3rd and 4th lap and made up a fair few positions, but on the 5th, with no master riders ahead of me or behind, I eased off and coasted to the finish in 13th position.

While the final position was nothing to write home about, I felt great throughout the race. The rest helped a lot - my average HR during the race was 172 whereas in the first round in Slade is was 158. So I'm thinking I was over doing the cycling or I was just a bit run down / sick. Also, if it was not for my problems with the marking tape I'd be fairly confident I would have finished comfortably in the top 10, so happy enough overall. Well done to Killarney CC who put on a great show. It was another well organised race and I'm already looking forward to heading back down again next year.

Another 2 hour drive and I was back in West Cork. The plan was to have a nice relaxing week with some good cycling. Unfortunately my 9 month old son had other plans and was in considerable pain teething. That meant 3/4 hours sleep a night for us and days wondering around like zombies... ah well. Needless to say there was not much cycling. I did manage a 2 hour road spin, but that was about it.

We were glad to get back home the following Saturday and just relaxed for the weekend. Monday was a public holiday so I decided to make amends for the week of eating and no cycling and went on a 4.5 hour road spin. I really fancied a spin with a lot of climbing but more importantly one that I would be in considerable pain afterwards! Starting in Naas, I went through south Dublin, Enniskerry, and up by Djouce woods and Ballinastoe. After that I hung a right and climbed up over Luggala and up to the Sally Gap. From there I took a left and worked by way across to Laragh. I met up with another rider and together we climbed the Wicklow Gap, picking up an Usher lad also. After that it was a dash across to Holywood and the last tough climb of the day. Then a very easy spin back to Naas. Was I in pain afterwards? I was in considerable pain by the time I made it over the Wicklow Gap! My legs were in such a state that if I stopped pedaling in order to rest them, I would get horrible aches building up in my quads immediately, so I had no option but to keep cycling!

I was really happy to have done the spin as it was the route I had planned on doing and although there were many escape points/short cuts home, I did the whole lot - chuffed with that.

The following day I cycled into work, but I was feeling what I thought was a head cold coming on. It turned out to be my sinuses acting up again and they have been getting gradually worse as the week has gone by. Belfast is looking very doubtful which is a bummer, but there's not much you can do when you get sick. So its the Xyzal for me and hopefully I'll get back on track during the week as there is a road race next weekend in Wicklow I'm keen on competing in.

What else has gone wrong this week??? Oh yeah, my beloved Fox fork on the Cube are trashed - a full rebuild of the uppers is needed - arrrragh!