Sunday, 24 October 2010

2010 Season Summary

The 2010 season has been a long one, beginning in March with the Cape Epic, South Africa, and finishing in October at the Roc D’Azur, France. The season didn’t quite go to plan and knee pain at the end of February meant that I had a shaky start. Although I managed to complete the Cape Epic with a third place finish together with team mate Nico Pfitzenmaier, I had to take the majority of April and May off the bike. This was really worrying and at the time I didn’t know if I would be able to race again in 2010.

Fortunately, I had excellent advice and help from a doctor who specialises in cycling related knee injuries. I followed his advice to the letter and after a few training rides at the end of May I decided to start the Trans Germany 4 day stage race. This marked my return to racing and at the beginning of August I finally started to feel strong again. This was a little too late for the European XCM Champs in July where I finished 7th, but it was perfect timing for the World XCM Champs in August. Some mechanical problems at the Worlds cost me time meaning that my 8th position didn’t reflect the finish that I feel I was capable of. However, I felt really encouraged by the strength that I had and it has helped me to start to believe in myself.

August through to October brought some great results: my third consecutive National XCM title; victory at the UCI Cat 1 Ischgl Ironbike in Austria; and a win at the Roc D’Azur marathon. During this time I also had a go at a couple of XCO races: First the Southern XC which I won and then the final round of the British XC Series which was a UCI Cat 1 event. To everyone’s surprise, including my own, I finished 3rd and 75 seconds behind the winner Gunn-Rita. Although I still passionately love marathon races, I can now understand the attraction of XCO racing and I will definitely take on the challenge of a few more next year……perhaps even a World Cup or two ;-)

For now however I am taking a few weeks off the bike. My knee still isn’t 100% and I want to use the next month or so to try and resolve the problem. This is a strange time of year for me. Towards the end of the season I look forward to time out of training, but once it arrives I struggle to stay away from my bike. Weird! Normally I would occupy myself by running, but given my knee this isn’t possible ☹ The swimming pool is calling……

I’m excited about next year, not least because I have taken a sabbatical from my lectureship at Bournemouth University where I research and lecture about Autism (a neuro-developmental disorder). My aim over the next year is to spend time working on MTB technical skills, something that has largely been sidelined until now due to time constraints. This is one aspect of my riding that needs improving and gains made here should, I hope, lead to better race results in the long term. It was a scary decision to take a year out of my academic career and I still wonder if it is the right one, but even if it isn’t then I believe that it is better to have tried than not to have tried at all.

As always I would like to thank everyone who has helped and supported me. My team Topeak-Ergon Racing Team are, in my opinion, simply the best team ever! A huge thanks goes to all of our sponsors for providing us with the best equipment for the job ☺ My boyfriend Dave never falters in the support that he gives and he’s also becoming a pretty handy mechanic thanks to excellent tuition from Jon and Andy at RideBike. Coach Matt Hart (Torq) knows exactly what I need to do to get strong and stop me from going off the rails! I would also like to thank James Towlson who played a monumental role in instigating my step up into International MTB’ing.

Bye for now,
Sally ☺

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Interview with

I had an interview with Richard Tyler from, which is a great new website dedicated to MTB marathon, click here to check it out.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Roc D'Azur, Frejus, France

The Roc D'Azur marks the end of the race season for many teams, including Topeak Ergon Racing Team. It's an awesome event that attracts thousands of riders. It's also usually blessed with great weather, which in October is hugely appreciated before the winter sets in ☺

Lars (Team Mechanic) taking care of the bikes while I take care of my legs :-)

We packed up the van and drove to Frejus in the South of France where we met up with the rest of the guys from the team. This year we all stayed in an amazing apartment complete with swimming pool. Late at night and after a long drive from Austria, Alban was the first to test it out. He'd clearly been eating too many pies in anticipation of the off-season because he managed to break the driving board! No diving action for the rest of the team. Uhmm.

Breakfast time at the Team apartment

There are many events to choose from, including the 83km marathon on the Friday and a women's elite XC race the following day. I decided to race the marathon and skip the XC in favour of sun bathing and ice cream. Whoops ;-)

Typically, marathons often start early and the Roc is no exception. At 5am I tucked into my (uncooked) oats while Alban informed me that oats are not the best pre-race meal. Now under normal circumstances this would make me nervous, but today I was as cool as ice. I had no expectations for the race and my only agenda was to have lots of fun. The riding in the area is awesome and the marathon course is filled with technical climbs and thrilling descents.

Early warm up with the mosquitoes before the marathon

Not long into the start I found myself riding with Gunn Rita up the first climb. Not too far ahead was Yvonne Kraft who had a great start and was off like a rocket. After the first feed zone I was in 2nd place and already 1 minute 20 behind Yvonne. I decided to chase her down and see if I could close the gap. This worked and as I past through the second feedzone Dirk (Team Manager) told me that I was 15 seconds behind Yvonne. This is pretty much how it stayed for the next few hours. Yvonne would pull out a small lead on the descents and I would close it on the climbs. I knew that if I could reach the final feedzone at 79km not too far behind Yvonne then I would have a good chance of pulling out a small lead on the flat bike path to the finish area.

The last 4 km of the course is always a challenge. It takes the riders across the beach, up steps, around a narrow coastal path, across a floating bridge, and then along a flat cycle path to the finish area, which includes some woodland trails and a bumpy field to the finish line.

As I grabbed my coke with 4km to go, Dirk told me that I had 15 seconds to Yvonnne. I recalled a conversation with Alban the day before when he told me that coke at the last feedzone in this race can give you a real boost, particularly if you are chasing or sprinting to the finish. Hmmmm, what a coincidence, just the position I had found myself in! With Dirk and Bjorn (AKA 'Twitty') yelling "FULL GAS!!!!!" and “GO SURFA!!!!!” I gulped my coke and the chase commenced!

The wind was blowing at least a force 5 and I could see Yvonne tuck in behind a guy in front. I found myself in a chasing group but only one of the guys would work at the front. As he tired I went to the front to try to close the gap to Yvonne. It worked and we were soon one group. I now had to keep close to Yvonne through the twisty woodland trails. I exited the trails and entered the field to the finish line just behind her. Now was my chance. I sprinted past her and didn't look back. Race won. Job done :-) Party time!!!!!!

Alban finished 6th, but he well and truly cleaned up in the men's elite XC on the Sunday when he out sprinted Burry Stander and Florian Vogel to take the victory. Wahoooo :-)

With the last race of the season successfully completed it was time for Topeak Ergon Racing Team to celebrate. Foods normally excluded from elite athletes diets were consumed plentifully :))))

Full results can be found here

1 Sally Bigham 4:23:08
2 Ivonne Kraft 0:00:32
3 Coralie Redelsperger 0:18:36