Monday, 29 April 2013

British XC Round 2 Cornwall

Start line Torq gel :) 

Last week I just couldn't decide whether to race the UCI Marathon race in Spain or the British XC in Cornwall. We're heading off overseas again in a couple of days so in the end we decided to make the most of what Britain has to offer and we weren't disappointed. Fully Sussed hosted a great event and put on a fun course: fast pumpy, jumpy singletrails; steep loose descents; drops; loose power climbs; and what I heard some riders refer to as 'The Wall'. These sorts of courses really suit me and I loved it all.

It's funny how much seems to happen in such a short time in XC races; drama wasn't lacking throughout the one hour and 20 minutes of racing. A bad start from the gun meant that I had to work extra hard to get into the singletrack in a reasonably good position - fourth wasn't bad considering but it wasn't where I really wanted to be! After the first descent there was a short, sharp climb where I planned on gaining places but I had a mechanical issue and from then onwards I was stuck in my big 39T chainring. It wasn't until after the second descent that I was able to move up to the front and ahead of Lee Craigie (Cannondale Racing) and Jovana Crnogorac (Orange Monkey Pro Team).

Throughout the rest of the lap I tried adjusting my cable tension, but once I looked carefully I could see that the front mech was totally bent. My chain kept falling off onto the crank arm on the descents and at other times I had to take care to avoid chainsuck. A stop in the tech zone on the second lap confirmed my suspicion: I'd have to carry on in the big ring and treat the gears with kid gloves for the rest of the race.

At the start of the 3rd lap I'd built a good lead and this made it much easier to handle my gear issues without pressure from behind. My legs felt great and I'm feeling confident with my form going into my next marathon races. It's funny how people often ask me what it's like to race fast over short distances, but to be honest the pace isn't any slower in marathons, they're just longer!

It's been a really nice month racing british XC races and I'd like to thank everyone for all of the support that they've given me at the races. Hearing people cheer me on is really very motivating. Thank you! Now it's time for us to leave and take on the Euro marathon season. I'll keep you posted......

Happy training and racing!
Sal :)

Monday, 15 April 2013

Two weekends of XC

We've been back in the UK for nearly 3 weeks - the longest since November! We kind of expected to return to spring, but riding has been pretty cold and during the first week I turned out of the house wearing practically every item of cycling clothing I own! The cold and dry was actually quite nice, with the exception of face freeze and dribbling, but last week was cold and wet which was, well, pretty unpleasant. But I can't complain because I've been fortunate to miss most of the winter. And the weather forecast is predicting some balmy days towards the end of the week :)

Over the last 2 weekends I've been able to make the most of the local XC races: Gorrick XC and Southern XC. Both provided great opportunities for me to test out my new Canyon 29er on tight twisty single trails and muddy, rooty conditions. It took me a little while to get used to handling the big wheels through the tight trails, but now I find that I'm benefiting from the excellent grip in the corners, slippery climbs and off camber stuff.

Last weekend Gorrick hosted a great event on some really nice woodland single trails. Starting in the men's race meant that I could race the boys :) and do an extra lap - big thanks to the organisers for that! This weekend I raced in the ladies category at the first round of the Southern XC - and once again the organisers allowed me to do an extra lap at the end. Racing an extra lap is perfect training for my upcoming marathon races.

Thanks to Dave for providing team support!

Happy riding,
Sal :)

     For more photos see my fan page

Monday, 8 April 2013

Perfectly Proportioned: Grand Canyon CF SLX 29er size small

For the last month I've been testing a size small prototype Canyon 29er in racing and training on a mix of courses (Marathon and XC) and terrains (twisty forest singletrack to open trails and asphalt). An instant 'wow' factor for me was the noticeable grip on steep climbs - climbs which would have left the 26 struggling to find traction. After a few training rides with a friend who was on a road bike, I also noticed how the 29er builds speeds on descents; keeping up with roadies on fast descents is much easier than on the 26, and this momentum is also evident off road too.  

The one thing that I really love is the geometry. There are a lot of size small 29ers that look 'all wheels' - a tiny frame set between gigantic wheels. Canyon seem to have got the geometry spot on; aesthetically pleasing and ergonomically brilliant this bike is perfect for small women. Now I know that you could call me biased, but I do genuinely believe that this is a perfectly proportioned bike for smaller riders. A few ladies have commented that they feel a bit 'nose on the front wheel' on their 29ers, but I can honestly say that I made the transition without noticing anything different from a geometric point of view. I instantly felt 'right'. It could simply be that we got the set up mirrored perfectly from the 26 (i.e. reach to the handlebars, saddle fore and aft etc.) but I think there's more to it than that.

I had a choice again today: ride 26 or 29er. The 26 hasn't been out in a while.......