Thursday, 28 June 2012

Fun in Austria

So things didn't entirely go to plan: I wasn't able to race at Mountain Mayhem 24 hour event in the UK.  An injury became infected and it wasn't possible for me to ride :( It was a hard decision to make not to go, not least because I didn't want to let the Ergon 24 riders down, but in the end I made the right decision. Sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture: continuing to ride would have meant more time off the bike in the long run.

Days were spent swimming in mountain lakes instead of riding and, although I'd like to have been biking, a forced rest was probably a good thing. It's a long season and some days resting are not a bad thing even though it sometimes feels it at the time. It's hard for me to rest when I'm surrounded by beautiful mountains.

Yesterday I was able to race in the Hill Climb at Brixen im Thale, which is part of the Kitzalp Bike Festival  More than 300 riders set off at 18.30 along the 6km track up 500 metres to Filzalmsee. It was good training and much more fun to do a 20 minute interval session with other people - and I won :)

1. Sally Bigham (Topeak Ergon Racing Team) 22:09.4
2. Janka Stevkova (CK Epic Dohnany) 23:47.0
3. Maria Osl (RV Team Tonis Proshop) 24:51.5

Today we had a downhill day: gondola up the mountain and bike down. Although I love to climb, it's also fun to spend a day being purely gravity assisted :)

Tomorrow is an easy day, followed by the Kitzalp Bike Marathon on Saturday. The Ultra marathon is a toughie: 95km with 4400m of vertical ascent....good job I like to climb ;)

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Race Report: European Marathon Championships

A race report is now on

I've been back in Austria enjoying amazing weather and fun trails since leaving Czech, but tomorrow we fly to Manchester and head off to Mountain Mayhem where I will be a guest rider on the Ergon 24 team. I've heard it's been raining - a lot-  in the UK. Contiental Mud King 1.8 at the ready........

It doesn't look steep, but it's actually not so easy riding up a ski run ;)

Sunday, 17 June 2012

European Marathon Champs: Silver medal

Brief update, more to follow: Today I finished 1 second behind Pia Sundstedt (Finland) in the European Champs. It was a tactical race, which was fun. I felt really strong and I'm happy with a silver medal.

Congrats to team mate Alban Lakata on his bronze medal. Another great day for Topeak Ergon Racing Team :D

Friday, 15 June 2012

Preparing for the Euros in Czech

After the Alpen Tour Trophy we were able to stay in our apartment for another week of training on the fun trails around Schladming. Having ridden so many of the trails during the race we knew exactly where to go, which is much better than stopping to read a map, though I'm not sure Dave would agree ;)

Lovely biking around Schladming
Post ride relaxing :) 
Last Sunday we headed off to Jablonne, Czech Republic, which is situated in the north and lies really close to the German and Polish boarders. We're staying in a nice hotel in a small village called Jitrava, which is surrounded by beautiful, peaceful forests that are home to lots of wildlife including lots of birds and deer, as well as bears (but unfortunately I haven't seen any bears. Yet). There is also some amazing geology in this region; huge rock formations litter the forests - it's really spectacular.

This rock looks a little like Dave!
We've had a few days to recce the Malevil Cup course and I now feel fairly familiar with it. It's an A to B race starting in the town of Jablonne and finishing at the Malevil golf course. The course has a mix of short sharp power climbs (some a little rocky and technical; others just steep), rooty single trails, slippery rocky descents (though these are drying out quickly in the sunshine) and a lot of forest trails. It's a power course and I like it. There isn't a lot of climbing - 2000 metres - but the accumulation of lots of small climbs throughout the course will take its toll. The men will cover a slightly longer (100km) course starting at 8.30am and the women will race over 95km starting at 8.45am.

Tomorrow I will ride for 1.5 hours once more on the course and then I'll put up my feet ready for the start on Sunday morning. I'm feeling in really good shape at the moment and I'm looking forward to a hard, fast race :) Fingers crossed for good luck and fun.......     

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Racing the Alpen Tour Trophy

In previous years I’ve raced the Trans Germany, but this year we decided to start the Alpen Tour in Schladming, Austria. On the one hand I wanted to return to the TG because I’ve never taken the victory there; on the other I was tempted by the mountainous trails of the Alpen Tour. The mountains won and we loaded the van and set off on our drive to Austria.

My mountain climbing machine ;)

We had a couple of days to settle in to our hillside apartment in a small village just outside of Schladming. What a nice feeling to be back in the mountains looking up at snow capped peaks and forest covered hills.

One of the good things about the Alpen Tour is that each of the four stages start from Schladming; staying in the same place rather than relocating each day is less of an adventure but it’s far more relaxing and less logistically complicated! Each stage took the riders up to one of four different peaks surrounding Schladming:

Stage 1: Hochwurzen (69KM/2900m)
Stage 2: Planai (16KM/1100m). Hill climb time trial
Stage 3: Dachstein (73KM/2800m)
Stage 4: Hauser Kaibling (56KM/2000m)

The weather forecast wasn’t looking great so I was mentally preparing for some wet, cold racing. However, we were really lucky and despite rain in the night and mornings, the rain abated before the start and we generally had warm, sunny race conditions. In fact, on the first day the temperature reached more than 25 degrees and I was able to top up my fading tan lines! The warm, humid conditions meant that some riders fell victim to cramp but fortunately I’d added Elete electrolytes to my bottles so I remained hydrated and strong throughout. I also added Elete to my water before and after each stage to help recovery and to top up my reserves ready for the following day’s stage.

The Alpen Tour really is a nice stage race incorporating a variety of different natural and manmade trails, some of which are pretty technical, with very little asphalt. Even the uphill time trail included a rooty singletrail section that was pretty tricky in the wet. Everyday we enjoyed the steep berms of the Flowline downhill trail back to the stadium. 

The race went really well for me. I felt strong and I was able to set a good pace on the climbs each day. I took the lead early on during Stage 1 and I held on to the leader jersey over the remaining three days. I was looking forward to Stage 2 - an uphill time trial – taking confidence from my performance in the time trial that I won in Lanzarote earlier this year; however I was aware that I’d have some strong competition in the form of Vera Andreeva (Russian National XCO champion). I set off last meaning that I was able to chase down the ladies ahead of me; chasing is much nicer than being chased! I took care to make sure that I had plenty of fuel for such an intense effort and during the hour long climb I had 750ml of Torq vanilla energy drink and 3 Torq caffeine gels, which worked perfectly and I felt strong from start to finish. I won with a lead of 1 minute and 17 seconds J The next days went really well, no mechanicals and good legs. The third stage was particularly spectacular taking us high up into the Dachstein mountains. I always find it amazing to find myself running or riding through snow at the summits and I always make sure that I take some time to look at the views – this provides me with the motivation to dig even deeper.

Winning all four stages meant that it was a perfect race for me J Alban Lakata finished second overall and my friend and training partner Simon Willats ( finished 4th overall master in his first Alpine race. Many thanks to our excellent team support: Peter Felber (mechanic), Werner Faust (Physio) and Dave Padfield.

Now we have some time to explore and enjoy the trails in the mountains around Schladming J

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Alpen Tour: brief update

Over the last 4 days I've raced the Alpen Tour Trophy in Schladming, Austria. It was a spectacular race - I'll write more in the next couple of days - and to win it, including all 4 stages, made it a perfect 4 days :) Team mate Alban Lakata finished 2nd overall, so it was a great race for Topeak Ergon Racing Team!

Overall leader jerseys

Each stage finished on the downhill course :)