Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Bull Raid 2011

Forgot I started this post :)

So, I'll keep this short.  Myself and Oisin decided to have another crack at the Bull Raid.  Last year we were meant to do it but Oisin got sick so I went out and did the 12 hour solo instead.  This year the course was a little different, the field a bit bigger and a lot more organised so it was building up to be a fun day.

Oisin camped out the night before but I decided to travel up on the morning of the race... which was fun.  When I arrived there was enough time to get unpacked and prepared for the race.  We decided I would go first and then we would alternate for a couple of hours before doubling up around lunch time - same plan as in Bontrager.  The weather was great - overcast but dry which made it ideal for the racing.

The biggest competition was going to be Ray O'Shaughnessy and Aidan McDonald and it was always going to be a big ask to keep up with these guys for 1 lap, never mind 12 hours!  But you never know what can happen in racing so we had to push it all the way just in case.

Once the whistle blew we had to run to the bikes and then sprint off from there.  By the time we got to the first section of single track I was in 2nd position desperately trying to hold onto Ray's wheel.  Which I managed to do for about 3/4's of a lap.  I made it back about a minute behind Ray who continued on for another 3 laps which I pitted and let Oisin off.  And that was pretty much how the race played out.  We gradually lost time throughout the day on the lads finishing in 2nd place.  It was pretty uneventful in a good way - no accidents, knocks etc, so we were happy with the results.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bontrager Twentyfour12 2011

Myself and Oisin decided to give this another crack after getting second in the 12 hour pairs in 2010. Last years race was my first taste of endurance racing and I was hooked on the discipline and on this race in particular. The location, atmosphere, and a podium finish made it one I was always going to come back to.

This year with time being at a premium, and not wanted to repeat the 14 hour trip through England at rush hour on a Friday, we decided to fly to Bristol and hire a car for the 2ish hour trip down the A38 with Sean and Agata. Conor had got the lend of a van which carried the bulk of the bikes and kit.

We arrived on Friday evening and after doing a bit of work at the site, myself and Oisin went to the nearby B&B. Another lesson learned from last year was a good nights sleep before the race was essential and something we did not have in 2010. So after a sound sleep and a nice breakkie we popped down the site to give the KTM's the once over, decide on the race plan and relax in the summer sun.

Like last year, Oisin was to go first then we would alternate 1 lap on / 1 lap off until about lunchtime when we would do double laps so we had time to eat and (semi) digest a decent meal. So on the stroke of 12pm, the whistle blew and they were off. Oisin had got himself near the front before the start of the race, but his foot slipped off the pedal and a good few riders passed him. That was not a major problem in a 12 hour race! Apart from that his first lap went smoothly and I dropped down to the transition zone to wait for him to come in. Then I was off. the course was a little different to last year with some sections in reverse. so instead of lashing down the grassy descent at the end of the race, you were going up it at the start! A tough start to every lap was guaranteed.

The rest of the course was very familiar from last year, with some savage climbing mixed in with tricky technical sections and an awesome final descent which was guaranteed to put you in a good mood at the end of a lap. All in all, I think it was a better course than last year as it kept you alert and aware the whole way through.

We kept a steady pace the whole way through the race, alternating one lap on / off until lunchtime where we did 2 each, then back to one on / off. Unlike last year, I kept off the energy drink until the last few hours as I usually get bad cramps after too much of the stuff. I also tried to each as much real food as possible, but kept taking a steady supply of High 5 iso gels which were super.

About 6 hours in we did the dreaded position check... and it turned out we were in 2nd place. I was both relieved and disappointed at the same time. Relieved that we were not lower than last year, but disappointed we were not better! Though, when I remembered we still had 6 hours to go, I was a little more relieved.

So the hours rolled by and luckily for us there was no downpours or mud-fests. As we came into the final hour we were in a solid 2nd place, with the 1st place guys 30 mins ahead. Our only goal/motivation at the end was to stay on the winners lap which we tried but failed to achieve. Like last year, I was standing at the transition zone at 11:45pm hoping that Oisin would not make it back before the clock struck midnight and the end of the race. And he came up trumps again, coming in at 12:05 :)

And that was 2nd place wrapped up, for the 2nd year running. I really enjoyed the weekend - apart from the racing there's a great buzz around the place. My only regret was not being able to spend a bit more time before the race to chill out, but that's life.

So that was the race done. I enjoyed it, and felt a lot more organised due to last year. The whole operation ran with military efficiently thanks to Aine who once again was our key 3rd team member.

It was also a great weekend of the other members of our troop with Sean and Agata coming in 2nd in the mixed 12hr pairs and Mick coming in 3rd in the 24 hour solo race.

The official video below

TwentyFour12 2011 - Official Event Movie from on Vimeo.

Strava data below.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

2011 National XC champs

Right, lets get this one out of the way. This was a disaster weekend. It was a disaster even before the weekend!

First off there was the whole - S1 rider racing masters. Not going to go into this but an Elite I ain't and while some people seemed to think it was a case of trophy hunting, that was far from the truth. Anyway, it annoyed me a lot and did not help preparing for the race.

So the day of the race rolled up and we made it down to Kilruddery in plenty of time for getting setup and doing a lap of the course. And it was a great course - lots of swoopy, technical single track with a few little kickers thrown in. Also added in was the tombstone. More on that later. It was a course you could really enjoy riding or racing on. But not one that I could say I'd be strong on as there was a serious lack of climbing - fireroads or the techy type.

There was a new section put in to allow the feature dubbed Tombstone to be included. it was approximately a 5 foot slab of rock at an 80ish degree angle before it transitioned into the trail. It scared the shite out of me and Gene and standing there for 15 minutes looking at it and watching other riders take it comfortably did not help. So we decided to take the chicken run and then spin around that section to go at the drop at a race pace.

As the lads rolled off I decided at the last minute to give it a go. There was a line to take - start on the left and as you were on the rock slab, work the bike slightly across to the right. I started on the left and was down the rock section in a flash, but I made a couple of simple errors. The main one was my weight was centered in the middle of the bike, which meant once the fork hit the transition, I was going over the bars. The other mistake I made was with the fork, which I had been fiddling around with over the preceding few days. It was down a few PSI and it only aided my flight over the bars.

I landing head first into the ground with the top/back of my skull. That pushed my chin into my chest and stretch my neck further than its ever been stretched before. The crash was over in a flash, but I still had enough time to think about how far my neck would bend before it broke. Once I came to a standstill with the bike on top of me I wiggled all fingers/toes and was relived to feel them move as commanded!

The lads got the bike off me and I sat there for a minute trying to get myself together. The body was fine, but (in hindsight) I was concussed with serious pains in my neck. But I got back onto the bike and made it back to the car in one piece. I was chatting away to the lads and felt OK, but as the adrenaline faded, the splitting headache kicked in. To compound matters another fella ended headfirst into the ground at the same spot which held up the start of the race. The organisers also decided to remove Tombstone from the race... feckit, wish they decided that the day before!

Anyway, I went out for a warm up on the singletrack and I did not feel right. I was flying along on the technical stuff, but it seemed like my brain could not keep up with my legs in terms of processing where I was and what I should do next. In my delirious state I chose to just take the positive out of it (that is my legs felt good).

So we were called up to the start. I was on the second row on the outside which was a bit tricky as there was a sharp right, then left before a run down to the singletrack entrance. The whistle blew and we were off. The outside line did not work out too good at the start especially on the greasy grass section, but I tried to just keep it together until the straight open piece. I was probably in 10th place when we got into the singletrack and was rightly stuck. It was impossible to pass so all I could do was sit in and wait for a point to get through. And that was half way through the first lap on a short fireroad section.

By the time we came around to the start/finish I was 4th and feeling great (I think). Despite, Kev, Mark and James being miles ahead I thought it was a great challenge/nothing to lose type situation. That lasted about 200 metres into the singletrack when on a sharp left turn (I think), my foot came out of the pedal and into the front wheel! The wheel locked and I took my second trip of the day over the bars. This time landing on my shoulder/head. No damage done to me this time, but when I took a look at the bike I'd managed to break a spoke. At this point I just thought I was a danger to myself and the other riders on the course so called it a day! It was a miserable end to a pretty shite weekend all told. Well done to Kevin and Mark who had a great race on the day with Kev winning out. James came in 3rd.

The headaches lasted most of the following week which meant crappy sleep most nights. And 3 weeks later as I write this I still have pain at the base of my neck - but its getting better with plenty of stretching.

But I a lot of ways I feel lucky as it could have been a lot worse and with just 1 broken spoke on the bike to show for some pretty hairy racing I can't complain. Glad its over tho!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Detour Camper Vans

Non(ish) bike related but worth posting!

Met up with a mate of mine today and turns out he's setup a small business hiring out campervans. Not the smelly old kind, but brand spanking new ones with the standard essentials (fridges, cookers, chemical toilets) and bonus gadgets (secondary sound systems and USB ports for charging your laptops, ipods etc).

The company is called and have a fleet of converted Nissan Primastar vans which have room for 2 or 4 adults. The vans can be picked up at the airport or an agreed location around Dublin.

If you like to keep your holiday plans flexible without compromising on comfort, this is defo the way to go! Personally I'm ragin' as this would have been perfect for the trip to Bontrager... though might also be perfect for the Singlespeed world champs and/or Marathon Champs in Ballyhoura in a couple of months :)

Twitter: @detourcampervan


Assorted pics of the vans

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mondello Park Road race

Decided to head over to Mondello park for the Crit race hosted by Naas cycling club. I did the open race last year which was great fun and a lot of hard work. I raced A4 last year and we managed to hold of most if not all of the other cat riders. This year I was in A3 and we were racing the shorter club course as opposed to the international one.

The weather was great when I left the house, but by the time I got to Mondello there were very dark clouds blowing in and spitting rain. There was a good turn out across all the categories. The A4's headed off and the commissionaire gave them at least a minute, which seemed a lot considering how short the course was, but we headed off at a good pace. Of the 20 to 30 odd A3 riders I'd guess about half wanted to make a real effort to stay away and we pushed the pace on, but very quickly we could see the A1/A2 group catching us. I could tell plenty of riders just sat up at that stage as they probably felt that it was only a matter of time before the cruised up to us. I was optimistic (read, foolish) and continued to push on the front, wasting a lot of energy in the process.

Heavy rain started falling at this stage and despite the concern that the track would get treacherous, it remain surprisingly grippy on the corners and I don't think anyone took a tumble.

Then the A1/A2 group came through at (what I thought was) full pace. My fellow A3's all scrambled and grabbed the nearest wheel they could find and the enlarged group got completely strung out. Unfortunately for me I had pushed things a little too hard and could not grab a single wheel, and before I realised it the train had left the station without me on it! It was quite demoralising watching the group gradually move away from me down the main straight. I kept it going for a few more laps before realising there was no chance for catching them. I decided to pull in at that stage as all I was was going to catch was a cold!

But while it lasted the racing was good craic so I'll be back more determined in early August for the next race. Race data below:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

NPS Round 7 - Report

Very enjoyable race on Sunday - despite all that mother nature could throw at them, for the second year running IMBRC came up trumps with a great course and event in general.

I had no goals for this race as I'd been putting in some pretty dismal performances to date in the NPS. All I wanted was to put in as strong an effort as I could and just play it by ear after that.

Got the pre-ride of the lap done early and back to the car for some chill out time before a good warm up. It was the first time with the new bike so was a little nervous especially with the newly tubless tyres and also the headset, but everything held together nicely so was happy enough. Well until I was heading down to the start of the race when I noticed the front wheel deflating again... Luckily Conor had his hand pump with him so a minute or two of blasting it seem to do the trick.
Once the race started no one was full on sprinting up the fire road (well apart from Gareth Mckee), so it gave me time to think (bad idea) maybe I should blast off meself, but in the end I decided to hold off as it was a long climb up to the entrance of the single track. So I was happy to get in there in the middle of the pack, though in hindsight, blasting it up might have been the better option as a few of the guys ahead of me were struggling through the first half of Rabbit ride. I tried to pass a few in the singletrack but nothing stuck (ended up smacking a tree after a tussle with Matt Slattery - totally my fault). Those mistakes just made me want to push harder which in turn led to more mistakes. On lap 2 I took a nasty tumble on the rooty stuff in Rabbit Ride which cost me a couple of places. The air was blue around me after that one, but a little further on I found Oisin on the deck, so it was encouraging to see that everyone was having problems (sorry Oisin!).

And that was the pattern for the majority of the race. I'd pass guys, then crash/dab, they'd pass me, then I'd pass them again. At one point near the start of Rabbit Ride, I tried to pass someone on one of the steep climbs, choosing to ignore the wet roots crossing my path. So I hit the roots, and get sent off the trail. I was really pissed at this stage, so just pure anger kept me spinning the pedals and I managed to cycle over a tree stump and back on course cursing and spitting as I went - not sure that Evan Ryan made of it all as he was sitting right behind me. :) I did manage to make up on most of the mistakes by pushing hard on the fireroad sections and the last piece of singletrack before the start/finish line, but I'd love to have gotten one clean run through the course to see what kind of lap time I could have managed.

On the last lap, things had settled down. There was no one behind me in sight and only Mark ahead but I could only see him on the long fireroad sections so looked to be un-catchable. But I kept pushing on, knowing that anything can happen in a race. So, when I exited Chomper I noticed that Mark was just coming up to the entrance of the next section. That was enough for me and pushed it hard for the last section. Coming down towards the field I was right behind him and tried a couple of moves but could not squeeze past. It was clear at this stage it was going to be a sprint to the line, so I started to get into the right gear and once I got into the field I moved to the outside and pushed towards the line, and managed to get in ahead of Mark by half a wheel I'd say. I almost took down the IMBRC gantry but that was a chance I was willing to take! As it turned out Mark had a mechanical and was stuck in the granny ring for most of the last lap, so it was not such a glorious victory after all :)

After a bit of confusion it turned out that I'd came 4th in the race, which was surprising as I did think there were a few more riders ahead. I was nice to get a decent result finally (think it equals my best ever XC race finish) but there were plenty of better riders not out racing on the day and some of the guys who were out seemed to be not firing on all cylinders. But all you can do is race who's around you.

I felt pretty good through out the race. I was worried about not getting enough fluid and energy during the race, but I kept downing a high5 gel in per lap and drinking as much fluid as possible, so no cramping for any of the race which was great.

My new bike - KTM Prestige XTR-2 is just a dream machine - simple as. Without doubt the best bike I've ever ridden.
Its super light (weighs less than the road bike I do the occasional race on!), the DT Swiss XRC100 carbon fork is amazing - very plush straight out of the box and very bling :) and the Tricon wheels are both super light and easy to get a tubless tyre onto (a regular bugbear of mine). Finished off with the 2X10 XTR drive train, its the XC hardtail race bike.

Again, IMBRC did an awesome job running another cracking race and its great to see all the other competitors on the day feeling the same way. Also big thanks to Aine for bottling duties and photography and too all the other photographers out on the day. Looking forward to seeing the video!

Next up is the National Champs in Killruddery. Should be an interesting one, but I'm not expecting much results-wise. But like the Slade race I will give it 100% on the day and see where that gets me.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

NPS Round 5 - Lady Dixon Park

Back up north again, this time to Belfast and Lady Dixon park. I really enjoyed this race last year. The course was a mix of singletrack and park land with nowhere to rest up. More of the same this year with a little more single track and parkland and definitely nowhere to catch your breath.

We arrived to a breezy but sunny park about 90 mins before the start of the race. After getting signed up we headed out for a pre-lap. there was the same start/finish straight with a sharp right and left into the singletrack. Then you gradually worked your way down through the forest on a twisty trail. You popped out into open parkland for a full on blast for a few minutes before diving back onto the trail which descended first and after a sharp left on a bridge you had a nice little climb. It was a little dryer than last year so no fear of pushing this time - or cycling into any trees :)

The singletrack continued on into a tricky benchcut section which had a couple of trick blind turns which tightened up so if you hit them with too much speed you were over the edge losing time. after that section you had a super swoopy descent out into the park before gradually working your way back up to the start/finish via some kickers and short descents. All-in-all I really enjoyed the course and the little changes from last year were an improvement.

The start of the race was delayed due to an accident on the course, so there was plenty of time for a good warm-up. About 30 minutes after the scheduled start we were called up for gridding. I was surprised to be called up on the 3rd row (which was essentially the 2nd last row). The race started and a savage sprint for the singletrack. I was second last leaving the start line, but made up a good few places on the left turn into the singletrack by staying out wide. After that it was just sitting in on the train through the singletrack. Everything was going fine until near the end of the second section of trail. There was a switchback which turned into a very steep kicker. I was still in the big ring and in a desperate attempt to drop to the middle ring and also down the gears I managed to drop the chain. There was no way to fix it and get back on the bike there, so that meant a run up to the top of the hill. By the time I was back on the bike I was paddy last with some of the S2's coming up fast. It was very frustrating, but no one to blame but myself.

But I was not going to give up and raced balls out for the next 2.5 laps. I made up a good few places and came up to about 12th place on lap 3. However, coming into the benchcut sections I was so eager to get past a slower rider I took pretty much all the corners too fast, ended up off the trail more than on it and ended up losing more time than I gained by passed her. By the time I got to the last lap I was out of steam and Mark McGauley passed by me. I was catching Rob Tobin, but I ran out of laps and ended up in 14th place.

Looking back on the race I only the 2 mistakes I mentioned above, but they cost me 4 places. Based on the last few races 8th, 9th, 10th is around about where I should be finishing if I make no mistakes. But thats not happened yet and in S1 any mistakes will cost you positions, much more so than last year in Masters. Still, despite that I really enjoyed the race and again had plenty of close tussles all the way through.

Now with the cancellation of round 6, we've only IMBRC's race in Slade left. I'm really looking forward to that race. The course is going to be a little different to last years, with some cracking new features thrown in to mix things up a little :)

More pics from Joanna M (Picasa) here

Friday, May 27, 2011


I've been trying out Strava for a couple of weeks now and I like! Ryan Sherlock has been using this for a while now and its huge in the US. While mainly a roadie website, but nothing to stop it being used off road too.

The idea behind it is simple - you upload your Garmin spin data (or a .gps file creating using an Android/iPhone App) and it does the usual stuff (displays route on google maps and usual data on distance metres climbed etc). But what makes it interesting is that you can create segments, which are basically sections of the route which you or other users have designated. So Strava will give you a time (and power data based on physics calculations) for that segment.

The fun bit is when someone else cycles along that segment on their spin and they upload the GPS data, Strava sees this and then figures out who was fastest on that section. This adds a bit more interest to the spins as you can target a route and look to post the fastest time up it.

This is an example of a segment that myself and Sean are duking it out on..


Yeah, its been a while Srivo...

Since Davagh forest I've been doing a few bits and pieces. The familiar 'work' and 'home' interruptions have been playing havoc with training and just about everything else. But here's where its at:

IMBRC Club League
The league kicked of again last month up in Slade. I did a few races last year, but this time I wanted to take it a bit more seriously as its great training for races, plus its all done in 35 mins. The first race up there was a bit of a disaster. Well, I was happy with the laps, but as I was entering the final section of singletrack I came unstuck from the bike and landed head first into the group. Can't say exactly how it happen as it was so quick - one second I was hammering down the trail, and the next I was picking myself up off the ground. In the process I cracked my helmet and had a killer headache for about 3 days, but I also manage to feck up a rib. Just bruising I think but hurt a lot for about a week. The following couple of races up there went a lot smoother and were great craic. Missed this week, but plan on getting back out next Tuesday.

New 3Rock trails race
Now this looked like it could have been fun. To coincide with the opening of the new trails, Niall Davis had organised a race using the trails and fireroad. Fairly straightforward route - up the tarmac road, around the aerials and onto the new trails, then back up the fireroad to the aerials and down the new 2nd section of singletrack. Nice and simple. Lots of strong riders were out so it was going to be a hard race, but a good challenge. Very soon after the race started the field began to spread out and by the time we reached the first trail there were just 5 riders in the first group... and I was the 5th! I figured if I managed to keep it together I could get a good result here. Well, that was the plan, unfortunately as I was about halfway down the first section of singletrack I clipped a rock and ripped my front tyre to the extent that the the sealant could not do its job. Needless to say I was raging and had plenty of time to wonder 'what if..' on the long walk back to the start line.
NPS Round 4
Another NPS, another trip up north. This time to Tollymore. A lovely part of the world and my first time up there. The course was great - plenty of tricky singletrack - made all the more tricky due to a good soaking in the week leading up to the race. There was a couple of small climbs but nothing too hectic. The race started and I was quickly dropped down to the back. But started to make up time in the single track pretty fast. The biggest problem was trying to pass guys and make it stick. The first lap and a half was hard work doing that, but on the drop I made a mistake and 4 or 5 of the guys I had passed cruised by me, which was very frustrating and I ended up back at square 1 again.

me not crashing (Photo: Mike Armstrong)

The rest of the race was spent attempting to pass these guys again. There was some close racing and it was good craic, but finishing 15th was very dissapointing. To be honest, I think the best I could have done there was 10th, but that would have required me having a race with no mistakes... something thats not happened yet!

Monday, May 2, 2011

NPS Round 3 - Davagh Forest

Another 5 hour round trip to a race... but this time it was well worth it.

For round 3 we headed to Tyrone and Davagh Forest. It was my first time in that neck of the woods and I was mighty impressed with the scenery. Myself and Stuart left at 9 and pulled in about 11:30 - perfect to get signed on, setup and on the trail. I got back into my normal routine of showing up when the car-parks were already full so down the road a bit, shoved the Primera into a ditch and got unpacked.

I was cautiously optimistic when I saw a catering van in the car-park and when we got down tot he main start/finish I was well impressed as Carn Wheelers had laid on bouncy castles, and a couple of marquees with other bits and pieces. I got signed on with no hassles and picked up by chip before heading off pre-lap. The course was amazing. Lots of variation with single track, double track, rooty forest bits, narrow bridges and some kicker climbs thrown in too. The most fun was in the final kilometer where there was a narrow sandy sweepy trail that brought you back down to the river. It was a cracking course and poles apart from the last race in the Nagles.

For a change I started warming up 30 mins before the official start of the race. Its one thing I never do right and wanted to be ready to go from the whistle. Unfortunately the race start was held up for about 20 mins but I kept cycling about to keep warm.

I messed up the start line. I should have went to the front and then let the gridding happen, but I ended up down the back on the inside. This was a problem as shortly after the start there was a left turn onto a narrow bridge. So the whistle went and sure enough I ended up paddy last just after the bridge. We started climbing and I got myself back into the group. I was keen to push up further before the single track but the road was so narrow there was no chance. We took a left into the single track and again had to wait while everyone streamed in. Another lesson learnt - get into the singletrack first!

We came around for the first lap proper and I was already 30 seconds down on the leaders. Then I made my second and last mistake of the day. Coming over the finish line there was a sharp right turn up into a singletrack climb. As I came up to it I thought it could be cut and there was a chance to make up a few places. However when I got over the bank it dropped down into a ditch and I was stuck. Off the bike and running up the hill I was wondering how I get myself into this situations. Anyway, I was on a mission then and powered my way up the first section and managed to pass 3 or 4 of the S1 riders. Then it was full blast into the first lap proper. Until I got to the second section of single track where I was held up a bit by slower riders.

We exited the trail onto a long section of fireroad and I got a 1 or 2 more riders there. On the start of the 2nd lap I managed to pass Vinny and Dave from Team WORC and also passed James McCluskey (who shortly afterwards realised he was in a race :) and ended up in 4th place). I was feeling great during the mid-race and pushed on. I passed Ciaran from our club also but he looked like he was having back problems. Things were going fine until the start of the last lap, I was happy enough the way things were going on the 4th lap and slowed up a little (or so I felt). But when I looked back on the start of the last lap I saw riders coming up to me. First I thought I was being lapped but as they got closer it turned out to be Ciaran, Vinny and Dave! They had paced their way around the previous lap and were closing in on me. The 3 passed me about half way through the lap and all of a sudden the legs felt dead. But instead of trying to go balls out to get on their wheel I just upped the speed slightly and slowly worked my back.

In the last Kilometer Ciaran and Dave were out of sight, but Vinny was close, so I pushed hard enough to force him to up his pace, and as we came into the singletrack before the bridge Dave was also in sight. As he crossed the bridge he hit a wet patch and the bike went from under him. Vinny and I got by and I monstered the bike up the kickers onto the final piece of single track before the finish line, even managing to get into the biggest gear to see if I could make the last place up. Unfortunately it didn't happen and I came in 3 seconds behind Vinny.

Despite coming 9th out of 14 finishers I was happy - mainly cos' I managed to finish a race! But also that I got some close racing too. There was only 30ish seconds between me and 6th place and a podium was only 2.5 minutes away, so very happy with how it went and looking forward to the next race.

The KTM Myroon was running perfect today also. I've almost got the setup finished, just one more tweak and I'm happy. But I'm especially happy with the SID XX fork. I was never a huge fan of Rock shox forks, but once I got the SID dialed in I've found it amazing. The lockout was pretty handy too on the less technical sections.

Monday, April 18, 2011

NPS Rounds 1 and 2

NPS Round 1 - Belurgan
I did not want to be at this race. I picked up my new bike and goodies on the Tuesday but with work and other stuff only managed a cycle out on green in font of my house before the race day. On top of that I felt tired and run down and SLOW. I'd not managed to get out to do proper high intensity training and while I felt like I could get around the 5 laps at a steady pace, I'd not be setting any land speed records. All these things were weighing on me as I headed up with Gene and I was probably doomed from the start.

We arrived up and after getting signed on did a lap of the course. It was mostly the same single track that was used in the Bull Raid, but with a load of work done to weather-proof them and fair play to the Cuchulainn lads for the huge effort put in. There were some technical pieces added - the big ones being the drop which I did not manage to try before the race and the gap jump. Given my state neither were very appealing to me and I planned to avoid at any opportunity. Yeah, I know, I'm supposed to be a mountain biker, and the drop was handy but without trying them first I did not fancy my chances.

The race started with a long section in the field which allowed for the S1 group to break up before hitting the singletrack climb. Again I did got get a proper warm up in and once the race started I was struggling to keep up. I got into the singletrack and things settled down. I started to increase the pace and began to catch up with some of the S1 riders, however not taking the drops/jump lost me huge amounts of time and I struggled to catch up. This was really annoying me and took the fun out of the race totally.

After the first lap I felt warmed up properly and got into a good rhythm on the singletrack, however I slapped a tree stump with the front wheel which forced it one way and the bar another and that was the final straw for me. I'd not even managed to check all the bolts were tightened enough! I re-aligned everything as best I could and tootled off back to the start/finish area for a DNF. Now if I had the race head on I'd have just got back, grabbed an allen key and did a quick tightening up of everything before heading out and finishing the race, but I just needed any excuse to throw in the towel - the shame!

There is really not much to be said after that. It was a terrible race for me - mainly because of the attitude I had going into it and the lack of time I put into getting me and the bike setup. Only myself to blame, I made a conscious effort to get more hard riding in (on and off road) and get the bike fully prepped to for the next race.

NPS Round 2 - The Nagles
I seriously considered not doing this race as I had just traveled back from a Mayo after a weeks holidays and a 2.5 hour drive to Cork was not appealing. But I decided to go as wanted to get a to finish a race.... full stop - I did not care where I came, I just wanted to finish! There were various threads on MTB forums discussing the quality of the course and it sounded a bit extreme for XC. I was having a few problems getting my tyres setup for tubeless and in the end stuck a trusty Crossmark on the front. I had considered sticking one on the back also, but it was getting late on Saturday night and I needed sleep so decided to take a chance on it....

So Gene and I packed up and headed off at 9am down to Fermoy. We did'nt get lost and also managed to get the last parking spot close to the sign-in area so I thought things were on the up.

That was until we got on the course. The layout was a bit nutty with the start line down near the car park (OK), the finish line further up (fair enough), but the technical zone another 5 min cycle down a fireroad, which did not make sense to me. The loop itself was just a couple of fireroads linked together with rocky fireroads and a little bit of rocky singletrack.

The location of the technical zone messed me up a bit on the warm up as by the time I got back to the start line from dropping the bottles up they were calling us for the start! I was on the second row and once the whistle went I once again struggled to get up to speed due to the lack of a warm up, but despite this I managed to get into 5th or so before the left turn and up the hill. A few more guys passed me and actually got a little held up for the second half of the climb but I just wanted to get the first lap done without losing too much time so did not want to get off the decent line.

Things went OK for the first lap, but the final descent was nuts - you needed a long travel bike to go down it at any speed, and I was dreading the thoughts of doing that 4 more times. Oscar, who races S2 passed me on the descent, so I was not sure if he put in a savage fast lap or I was pig slow. Anyway, I was not too pushed as finishing the race was the plan.

I caught up with Oscar pretty quickly and half way up the first climb I spotted 2 WORC riders about 30 meters ahead. Now with my traditional first lap warm up out of the way I was feeling pretty damn good and put in an effort to bridge across to them before the Kern and first descent. Just as they were dropping down I tagged on and managed to hold the wheel on the descent so I knew it was only a matter of time before I passed them and worked my way onto the next rider. Well, that would have been the plan had I not punctured. I pulled the bike off the course and gave the rear a blast of air. It seemed to take so happy days. I set off like a man possessed... That got me about another 300 meters when I felt the rim hitting the rocks again. I got off again and upon closer inspection I had a nasty cut in the side wall, so race over. Needless to say I was beginning to regret not sticking on the other Crossmark...

Max also punctured at the same location and we started back in the rough direction of the start finish line. Along the way we collected Richie Felle and a Racing 795 rider. A friendly Marshall eventually found a more direct trail for us to get back to the start line (which by the way would have been a much better route for the race loop!!!)

I was disappointed that I did not finish the race as I was feeling better than I did in Belurgan (legs and head!) Can't totally blame MBCC - I'm sure if I put the Crossmark on the rear I'd have made it around and had a (semi) decent finish - mainly down to the DNF's :) . It was more annoying in terms of the cost of getting down to Cork, having to get new tyres and a whole day away from the family for 30 minutes of racing, but its done now.

Its another long haul for the next race, but I'm going to head up. It'll be a hard couple of weeks on the bikes but I know if I get to a finish line I'd expect it to be in the top 10.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Race 2011 - starts now!

Right, first real race of 2011 is this weekend. So, whats the story?

Well, the first this is I'll be riding for Team Cycle Inn / KTM in 2011. This team is Rob Tobin's and Mick Jordan's baby and I was delighted to be asked to join them. Super savages Oisin Boydell and Kevin Stanley will also be in the team colours. We will be riding KTM Myroon Prime X0's for the first half of the race season and then switching to the Myroon Prestige XTR-2's. Unfortunately for tomorrows first race I'll be on the trusty (and rusty and heavy!) old Cube Reaction as the X0 is on a container ship in the North Sea still. Should have it early next week tho - can't wait!

The Prime X0

The Prestige XTR2

On top of KTM, we have lots of other sponsors on board:
  • Catlike will be providing our Helmets and shades...
  • Continental will be providing now prototype Speedking tyres
  • High5 will be fueling us for the races
  • And after a mucky race day Piranha bike products will be used to clean up our bikes!
I'm really looking forward to racing with these bikes and products and hope I can do them justice!

And on that note, I've been training quite a bit, but over the past couple of weeks I've been feeling a little run down. Its been busy in work and I've a very active 18 month son who is intent on heading off down the road at any opportunity! So I've laid off the planned training and just been out enjoying biking on the road and off. Its not ideal preparation for race season, but my goals for the year are after June so I'm happy to use the NPS as training.

So what are the goals?

NPS - no goals here at all as I'll be racing the countries top riders and I ain't :). I guess I'll be using it as training and having a bit of craic.

I'd like to podium in the NPS champs. I got lucky last year getting 4th, so in some ways that result would be great again. Short course mountain bike racing is not my forte :)

Bontrager 24/12... myself and Oisin are doing the 12 hour pairs again and it would be amazing to go one better than last year and win it!

The Bull Raid, I won't be defending the 12 hour solo race title as me and Oisin will be racing the pairs. It'll be a tough one, but I'm hoping for the best here.

The Cooley Thriller - gutted I had the mechanical last year. This year I'll be racing it in S1 category (most likely) so a top 5(ish) would be nice.

The Marathon Champs - I'd be lying if I said I did not want to win this one again :)

There will be a few marathon races I'm still thinking of doing in the UK also, but I will see how I'm fixed time and funds wise. There's a couple of multi-stage mountain bike races in Ireland also this year I'm thinking about. Plus I'll stick in the very odd road race also if I get a chance.

So thats it - bring it on!!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Road races

As with last year, I've been trying to squeeze in a few road races before the Mountain biking takes over. This year I did the Cycleways Cup in Navan and the Newbridge GP.

Its good to do a few races where results are not that important as it gives you an opportunity to just get your head in race mode, its obviously also good for getting some seriously hard intervals in if you feel like it.

So we hit the road, got lost and eventually found Navan Rugby Club. I signed up for A3 and got myself changed and a final checkover of my bike (Giant TCR Alliance). The bike is nothing special, but I upgraded the wheels to Braccianos Pro-Lites this year and stuck on some Continental GP 4000 tyres (also a 2011 sponsor... more on that later).

It was a cold starting off with a little rain. The road to the loop was wide and rolling so it was a good time to get reacquainted with cycling in a large bunch. Once we got onto the loop and on the first climb Darragh Mortimer broke away. As usual I was struggling to stay close to the front but once I saw Morty so I decided it was a good time to see how I felt at maximum effort. 4 minutes later I eventually caught up with Morty, but I was in no shape to work with him to continue with the break, so just waited for the group to pick me up.

I hid in the group to recover for an hour or so when Darragh came up beside me and said another break was going to form in about 10 minutes! Sure enough I started to see a few riders stream off the front of the group on a slight climb, so I decided to have another go, as the alternative would be to just sit in the group to the finish. Soon enough we had 6 riders clear of the main group and it was looking good initially with everyone pushing on. We were away for about 20 minutes before it began to fall apart as a couple of guys did not come through for their turn on the front. After that the rest of the guys just sat up and the main group came back to us quite quickly.

And that was the race for me. I just rolled on to the finish, keeping clear of the bunch sprint. I was happy with the effort I put in, but would like to actually win a race!

The following week things got messy. I was very busy in work and also felt a little run down. It pretty much scuppered any training plans I had and I fancied the idea of a rest anyway. But things played out and I ended up doing the Newbridge GP (grudgingly). I got to the signon and it was bloody freezing with cold rain blowing in. I did not fancy the idea of racing in that weather at all and almost got back into the car to go home. I tried to warm up, but just got colder! So back into the car and I waited until we were called to the race.

It was a big A3 race - about 150 riders. I headed off in the middle of the group. It was 4 laps of a lumpy course which I like. The pace was very fast on the flat and I struggled to hold onto the last wheel of the group, but once we got to the climbs I managed to work my way up to the front. After 2 laps I felt a little better and on the second climb I went to the front to push the pace on, then I fell back into the group on the flat again. On the last lap I pushed to the front again on the last climb (with about 2km to go), but my descending leaves a lot to be desired and I was passed by a lot of riders who then dropped the pace and spread across the road getting ready for the brunch sprint, so race over for me. I was happy again with how I climbed and felt good after the big efforts I put in, despite the drop off in training.

No more road races planned, but if I've a quite weekend with no mountain biking I'll be out again, it is good fun and with no pressure, you can just head out and give it socks without worrying about the consequences. But it ain't mountain biking :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Almost race season!

So on top of the NPS and national champs, the plan this year is:
  • Road races - 2 in March planned. The Dublin wheelers race in Dunboyne and the Newbridge GP. The plan is to try to keep up with the A3's. Will try to get 1 road race a month in if I can.
  • The Bull Raid - going to do the 12 hour pairs with Oisin this year
  • Bontrager 24/12 - to be confirmed, but the plan is to race the 12 hour pairs with Oisin.
  • Also looking at a couple of 100km marathon races in the UK during the summer for the craic, but will play those by ear.
  • There are also a couple of multi-stage mountain bike races I might attend also, but will see how that goes

Friday, February 11, 2011

I'm training!

Yes! Getting back into it now. Most of January was spent on the road bike just getting back the fitness I lost between October and December. I didn't even do the work commute during that time so the base miles had to be put in. I was happy with the amount of effort put in during January - it was the most I've ever put in at the start of a year and almost a record in terms of KM's traveled and hours in the saddle, so that's good. Mind you, all of it was slow and steady.

Then I went to the Biking Blitz last weekend... which was a painful reminder of (a) the anaerobic effort required for Xc racing and (b) technical skills needed (not that I ever had much on that front, but over 4 months off the mountain bike had them in a pretty shocking state).

I was late arriving and after a bit of pleading with the person at the registration tent, I got my number and legged it up to the start line. I got to near the front of of the starting grid, but I was sitting there wet and cold with no warm up. At that point I decided the first few Km's would be my warm up and go from there afterwards. The race started at 12 and a few of the savage boys pegged off up the hill. I tried keeping up, but at the same not trying to kill myself. Eventually I caught up with the lads on the climb and got ahead before the final piece of climbing singletrack. Things went pair shaped after that on the techie singletrack where I struggled to get any flow going at all. Oisin and Simon just cruised up behind me and passed, either on the singletrack or the next section of fireroad. After that I just did the best I could and finished the race about 12th. I was happy with that considering the lack of mountain biking I've been doing and no having any warm up. I went out and did another lap straight after and planned to do a final one, but the weather was so bad, I called it a day and went home.

Since then I've been doing some shorter road spins and some easy intervals - will start doing the hard ones next month. I've also to sort out a race bike for this year... but thats in hand and I'll have more info on it next week :)