Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Bontrager 24/12, Newnham Park, Plymouth, UK

Last weekend I joined Team Ergon 24 at Newnham Park for Bontrager 24/12. It’s a fun event where you have the choice of racing over 12 hours or 24 hours either as a soloist or in teams of up to 8. We entered the 12 hour race which started at midday on Saturday and finished at midnight. Our team comprised of Kim Tofaute (GER), Benny Brochhagen (GER), Trevor Allen (UK) and me.

Me and the guys :)
The course was really good fun and incorporated some of the classic singletrack, such as Cottage Return, as well as some that I’ve never ridden before. Rain in the days leading up to the event made the conditions a little slippery, so it was the perfect opportunity for me to test the new Continental X King on my front wheel. The tyre was perfect for the job. It was fast rolling but gave me a little extra grip when needed.

Our team tactics were simple: take it in turns to ride one lap each as fast as possible for 12 hours :) Trevor took to the start line first and after one lap handed over to me, I handed over to Benny who handed over to Kim and so on. After we'd completed 3 laps each the weather took a turn for the worse. We had a clear lead over second place so we decided to double up (i.e. do two back to back laps each). This would be slower but it had the added advantage of meaning that we would all only need to go out and get wet and muddy one more time.

When my turn came around it was dark and the rain really started to set in. The course was still 100% rideable and fun, but there was much less grip so extra caution was needed. This meant that the lap times slowed considerable. Fortunately for Benny and Kim it also meant that they would now only need to do one lap each before midnight. Haha! I wished I'd never suggested doubling up ;)

12 hour mixed team podium

It was great to welcome Kim and Benny to the UK race scene and to race in a team with the guys - something I've never done before, but look forward to doing again soon :) As always a massive thanks to Dave for supporting in every way that he could. You're the best.

Results

1st Ergon 24 12:04:42 18 laps
2nd Torq development 12:20:44 17 laps
3rd AQuickRelease.com 11:50:12 16 laps

Monday, 19 July 2010

National XC Champs

Last Monday evening we flew back from Italy following the Dolomiti Superbike. I'd had a great race and was feeling positive about my growing strength. Alas, on Tuesday morning I woke up with a sore throat and aches. I was hopeful that I'd be able to shake it off in time for my XC debut at the National XC Champs at Pippingford Estate on Sunday. I skipped all of my training sessions, slept lots, and ate bags of oranges. Eventually the sore throat and aches gave way to a head cold after a couple of days.

Pippingford isn't far from where we live so on Saturday I decided to go along and test ride the course, which was really good fun :) However, I still wasn't feeling that great and when I tried to get my heart rate up I felt rubbish. There were still 24 hours to go until the start and I was hopeful that I'd wake up on Sunday morning feeling OK. However it wasn't meant to be. I spent the whole night sniffing olbas oil and in the morning I still couldn't breathe out of my nose. I decided not to start :(

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Dolomiti Superbike, Italy

Last Sunday I raced the Dolomiti Superbike in Villabassa, Italy. This was the host of the 2008 World Marathon Championships - my first ever international race. It's such an amazing place and race that I couldn't wait to go back. I absolutely love to be in the mountains: the air, the buildings, the cows (and bells), the lakes, the climbs, the spectators........ I love it all. This is one of the nicest mountain regions I have ever been to and I highly recommend it.

Two of my great loves: Mountains and my bike

It was a great view from our hotel

The race is certainly a challenge. It covers 120km and 3822 metres of climbing. It's mainly fire road or asphalt, but there are a few nice single track sections and the final descent to the finish line is a lot of fun :-) :-)

Click the image to enlarge

The day before the race I met up with Liz Scalia (2007 British National Marathon Champion). We rode the final 20km of the course together and then went for pre-race food and coffee :-)

Coffee with Liz Scalia (Mongibello CHIX)

The race started at 7.30am which meant a 5am start for me and a more respectable 6am start for Dave. I made the mistake of warming up behind the start line. This meant that I had to find my way around the queue of 3600 riders to the front starting grid. What an amazing sight! The elite male riders were called up first and then the elite women.

I had a really good start and found myself riding the first climb in the lead with Birgit Söllner. Around half way up the climb I picked up the pace and I managed to gain a small lead over Birgit. With about 200 metres to go Erica Dicht passed me. She took 1st place for the mountain prize and I passed through in 2nd place. I managed to catch and pass her again at the bottom of the long descent. The course followed the river for about 15 km until the next climb and I was able to build a small lead over Erica. However, not long into the next climb Erica passed me again. She is like a rocket up hill! Once again Erica took 1st place and I took 2nd for the second mountain prize.

On the next long climb I looked back and saw that Pia Sundtedt was closing in on me, and at 60km she passed me. She reached the top of the climb about 100 metres ahead of me which meant I took 3rd place for the final mountain prize. At the bottom of the long descent I could see that Pia wasn't too far ahead, but she gradually picked up the pace and I didn't see her again.

At 90km the last big climb of the day started. It was here that Birgit rejoined me. We climbed together for about 5km until I was finally able to pull away for the remaining 5kms of the climb. However, with 20 km to go she was able to make up ground and give me company once again. Yikes! I knew that I had to dig really deep to hold her off and hang on to 3rd place. I put the power down and tried not to look back! As I approached the final corner to the finish line I looked over my shoulder. I couldn't see her. Phew.

Women's flower ceremony

A HUGE thanks to Dave (my amazingly supportive boyfriend) for competing in the feedzone race. He made it to all 5 feed zones with time to spare :-)

Women's prize giving
Results

1 Erika Dicht (Swi) Wheeler IXS Swiss Team 5:44:05
2 Pia Sundstedt (Fin) Craft Rocky Mountain 0:05:25
3 Sally Bigham (GBr) Topeak Ergon Racing Team 0:11:39
4 Birgit Söllner (Ger) Team Firebike-Drössiger 0:13:50
5 Barbara Kaltenhauser (Ger) Team Radsport-Oberland-Stevens 0:18:25
6 Katrin Schwing (Ger) Trek 0:28:20
7 Michela Benzoni (Ita) Lissone MTB 0:34:37
8 Elena Giacomuzzi (Ita) Team Caprivesi 0:34:44
9 Barbora Radova (Cze) Studio 2001 0:37:35
10 Carol Rasmussen (Den) Spurtstark 0:53:53

European Championships, Montebelluna, Italy

I'm really behind in updating my blog. The last few weeks have been really hectic but I finally have a couple of hours to catch up with things, including the housework (however that can wait a bit longer.....).

A couple of weeks ago we flew out to Venice and drove to Montebelluna to prepare for the European Marathon Championships. I wasn't sure whether or not to go because I was only just able to get back into training following the problems with my knee. Ideally I needed a good block of hard training to try and get some form back. I decided to go, but to use it as another training race and not to taper for it. How could I miss out on a trip to Italy!?

click on the image to enlarge

The race was combined with the annual Gunn Rita Marathon and for the women it covered 98.5km (but unscheduled changes increased it to about 120km) and 2290 metres of climbing. We arrived a couple of days before the start so I pre-rode most of the course beforehand. On the first day I rode the classic route which included lots of fun singletrack. I was really glad I'd gone :-) :-) The next day I rode another third of the course which wasn't as much fun! It included more fire road and some long linking sections around the river. Nevertheless, the food was great, the sun was shining, my knee was OK, and I was happy.

The women's race started at 10.30am which meant a relatively leisurely start to the day - unlike the 5am starts that I've been getting used to. The downside of this was the temperature. The previous days had been really hot (30+ degrees) and race day wasn't going to be an exception. During the warm up I was already sweating. Lots.

Warming up (even more) before the start

The start through the town was slow and even on the first climb it wasn't as fast as I had expected. As we approached the first off road section I knew I needed to get to the first singletrack descent with the lead group. A rider in front of me over shot a gravel corner and lost grip causing her stop and unclip. I lost a few seconds and before I knew it I'd lost the front group and lots of other riders entered the descent before me. As we turned back up the next short climb the lead group were out of sight :-(

I rode with a group of 4 girls for a while and when we reached a long flat section I knew we all needed to work hard as a group to try to close the ground to a couple of riders ahead - Nina Gassler (Germany) and Laura Turpijn (Netherlands). Kristine Norgaard (Denmark), Arielle Van Meurs (Netherlands) and I all took it in turns (while a couple of other girls declined) and we were able to close the gap at the bottom of the next climb. We stayed as a group of 6 for the next few hours. It was a lot of fun to be riding with just girls for a change and all but two girls (not named) took their turn at the front.

During the last 30km our group of 6 became a group of two: Laura and I rode alone for the rest of the race. It was really nice to have her for company! As we were approaching the finish I had a déjà vu moment. Exactly the same thing happened in the 2009 EU champs in Estonia. On the long road section to the finish line neither of us wanted to take the lead. Laura sat on my back wheel so I eased off. We must have lost at least a couple of minutes as we gently rolled down the road. As we turned the corner to the finish line I looked over my shoulder to see where she was, the moment she pulled to the side of me I started to put the power down but alas it wasn't enough! She crossed the line a second ahead of me. We finished in 6th and 7th place. Exactly the same positions as last year. Weird! I have a score to settle in 2011 ;0)

Results

1 Esther Süss (Swi) Wheeler iXS Pro Team 4:53:17
2 Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Nor) Team Multivan Merida 0:01:07
3 Pia Sunsdedt (Fin) Rocky Mountain 0:02:07
4 Blaza Klemencic (Slo) Felt Otztal X-Bionic 0:06:13
5 Jane Nuessli (GBr) Credo-Bikes.com 0:06:58
6 Laura Turpijn (Ned) 0:11:15
7 Sally Bigham (GBr) Topeak Ergon Racing Team 0:11:16
8 Nina Gässler (Ned) Rabo Giant Off-Road Team 0:12:30
9 Roberta Gasparini (Ita) Pedali Di Marca Team 0:12:56
10 Noergaard Kristine (Den) Rothaus-Cube MTB Team 0:13:32