Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ed's November Race Round Up

Beautiful scenery, great cafes and no school. At the end of October I was lucky enough to spend a week in the lowlands of Scotland getting some good training rides in amongst some of the best scenery the UK has to offer. Although initially disappointed about taking road bikes instead of mountain bikes, being so close the trail heavens of Glentress and Innerleithen, the quiet, scenic passes soon made up for it. Ride after ride provided beautiful views, awesome descents and Alpine-esque climbs; I couldn't help but go out and ride. During the week I got in some good quality training and was looking forward to testing out my form at the Graves Park cyclocross, in  Sheffield, on the first weekend on November. I'd ridden there before, and still had a clear recollection of the steep, technical singletrack and almost vertical run up. For me, it was a course that ranked highly. I couldn't wait for it.

However, waking up on the day before the Graves Park race, reacclimatised to English weather (what felt like 10 degrees warmer), my body had different ideas about racing. My stomach felt like it had quartered in size, which forced me to hunch over, with the result of severe pain if I stood up straight. Much to my disappointment, the pain was still present come race day. I remember how much I wanted to race, but I knew that I probably wouldn't survive a lap if I did manage to actually start. It was frustrating that I couldn't give my legs a good beating and try out on such a good course; but after an eventual visit to the hospital, I was certain I'd made the right choice in not racing. All I could do was rest up and look forward to the next weekend's racing.

The following weekend I was back in Sheffield, making it three weekends in a row racing in and around the city. Future town of residence maybe? It at least seemed to be hinting at it. This weekend it was the final round of the British Mountainbike Orienteering Series, and I needed a good result to complete my counting number of races. However, my desire did not become reality and I had to settle for a below parr time and position after suffering a puncture early on in the race. It was a shame as I had quickly got myself into a rhythm and had negotiated the first 7 or so controls with no problems. After racing in Portugal less than a month previous, I had some new found experience with MTBO, and I could tell. Unfortunately, the puncture cost me over 5 minutes, which in the end considerably shoved me down the rankings. On the plus side though, I was able to finish the race and didn't have to settle for a DNF next to my name. The area used for the race was awesome; it provided technical navigation, amazing riding and some unusual features (one control was inside of an abandoned building). The race definitely put the MTB into MTBO; tight singletrack snaked all over the area, and it was choosing between these tracks and the slightly longer but less technical, wide paths that in the end decided the overall winner. It was just a shame I was not up there contesting that top spot.

After two weekends of racing and no good race results, I did finally get one pleasing result. I'm guessing lady luck thought it was only fair, with it being my birthday the previous Friday. On the third weekend in November, I competed at the annual Ilkley cyclocross race, deciding not to race at the national trophy in Durham due to a large amount of alcohol being consumed two days earlier for my 18th birthday. And, I have to say, I am very glad I did race at Ilkley; the course was immense! Joining the course, for my warm up lap, on the lower part, I got the impression that it was just your ordinary cyclocross course; lots of grass, lots of corners and some mud thrown in for good measure. It would have been an OK course with just this, but it was nothing special. However, the course eventually did swing off and into the neighbouring woods, getting a whole lot steeper in the process. After a few twists and turns taking the course higher, the gradient ramped up again, this time, making it unrideable. The run up was only just runnable; the mud had made it incredibly slippy and walking was very tempting. The gradient did subside a little, but it was still quicker to keep running rather than jump back on- the top way in sight. A hairpin bend saw the course rocket downwards, MTB style. Fast off camber corners littered the decent, and the roadies were to be put far out of their comfort zones. Near the bottom, the course turned 90 degrees and continued across the hillside, still in the woodland. This section had the deepest mud, which resulted in going over the bars if ridden (I tried by the way). After a quick woodland path and one more steep, slippy corner the course emerged from the trees onto the grassland. Following a short grassy drag and the finish line was in sight, which marked the end of the lap. Time to warm up and make my way to the start line.

I got a reasonable start and was up in the top 5 going into the first section of corners. Before entering the woodland I was up in third and decided to make one final move to get into second before the run up- it didn't end well. The course narrowed as it entered the woodland, and both me and second place tried to pass through the fenced narrow section at once. This resulted in a large bottle neck and my chain coming off. I got my bike working as quickly as I possibly could, but it made me slip back around 5 places and I was only just inside of the top 10. Thankfully, my anger and annoyance gave me a surge of adrenaline and I set straight to work picking back the places. I took full use of my running strength and was back up in third by the top of the climb. I was barely conscious and I was certainly in oxygen debt now, but it was downhill from there, I could recover. A few mistakes were made on the descent; my efforts had obviously taken their toll. But when back on flat land and out into the open again, I put on the pressure and moved up into second, setting my eyes on first place.

Lap after lap, I could see I was advancing on Tom Seaman, the current leader. A few seconds were gained here and there for about 3 laps, that was until I made the junction with him. Here the race became man against man and survival of the fittest (and most technically competent). From here until the end of the race, both me and Tom made numerous mistakes and attempts to break from each other, but going into the final lap, we were still together. At this point, I was suffering; having to make those efforts early on to regain contention had really hit me, plus I'm sure the two night out previous to the race, celebrating my birthday, did not help! We entered the woods together, with Tom leading, but that was the last I saw of him. Ascending the run up, I realised I had nothing more to give and couldn't keep on the back foot of Tom. I continued to push hard, but Tom had a clean ride to the finish and, in the end, took the win.

I was pretty pleased with my result; I could feel the results of the training I had put in and bearing in mind my birthday antics, it was a better placing than I was expecting. Anyway, onto the next and final race of the month.

Beverley was host for the penultimate round of the Yorkshire points cyclocross league; it was a new course and was a pretty good one, also. It had a mixture of short sharp climbs, longs drags and tight off camber corner, plus a bunny-hoppable set of hurdles (well at least for some). It had most things you'd expect from a cross course, which was pretty good for a new venue. All I needed to do was tear it up and have a good race!

My start wasn't great; I missed my pedal and I was sat in about 7th come the first corner. But I didn't fret and kept calm. For the first lap I picked off the places, with no over the top efforts and I soon found myself right up in the top three. Paul Cox was leading at this point, but was a long way ahead of the field. The fight for second place was very heated though. A group of about three or four, including me, stayed together for the first lap; each of us were testing the water and trying to splinter the group, but the elastic did not snap. However, coming into the hurdles on the second lap, Bruce Dalton came down, bringing me with him. I managed to get back up and ride away quickly, but Bruce lost quite a bit of time and our small group had splintered. After digging deep, I managed to get onto the wheel of Ben Cooper, and we stayed as a pair for most of the third lap. But that was when disaster struck, about two thirds around the third lap I came down hard, washing out on one of the hairpin bends. Running up the following bank, I heard a load metallic noise coming from my bike- my rear wheel was not spinning properly. I quickly mounted the bike on my shoulder and set off for the pits. At the time I did not know what the problem was; I assumed a broken spoke or something similar. I found out later that I had landed on my rear mech and it had bent into my wheel. For the rest of the race I was on my spare bike, which wasn't too much of an issue, except for the time lost running to the pits to swap for it. With the crash, I had lost about 15 places, which I would have usually made up the majority of. But the crash had also affected my back, which was now hurt a lot. I ploughed on, keeping in roughly the same position. Lap after lap, I considered pulling out, but something in my head hated the idea of a DNF and I managed to complete the race, finishing in 16th position.

So there we are, a month of racing with only one good result to take from it; on the surface, very annoying, but experience was gained and glimpses of some form were there. I would like to thank my taxi driver and pit monkey, my dad, for helping me in November and also to for their kit and support. Here's a link to their website ( if you want to check them out. They have all the latest kit reviews, training tips and cyclocross news. If you like what you see you can subscribe to their quarterly magazine, which has even more news, reviews and info to satisfy your cyclocross appetite.

In November, the team acquired another sponsor, which is Silicone Tidds. They create small rubber stops to replace unused bolts on your frame, which look good and save weight at the same time. If your interested, head to

My next race is the North of England Championships, this coming weekend in York. I'm looking forward to see if I can have a trouble free race this time! Until then, happy riding.

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