Friday, 16 May 2014

The day before the National Marathon Champs

Follow this link to read a little bit about what I do the day before a race….

Monday, 12 May 2014

Fifth National Marathon Championship Win

Last year the National Marathon Championships were on dry, dusty trails in hot, sunny Selkirk, Scotland. This year it was the same place, but different conditions! In some ways that was nice because it made it a new experience and more technically challenging. The trails were pretty slick and slippery and the Continental Race Kings were certainly pushed to - and at times beyond - their limit ;) On reflection perhaps the X King would have been a wiser choice! 

Thanks to zupix for the photos

Neutralised start through Selkirk High Street

Do not be deceived! This was the beginning of the race and before the mud!!

Steep, slippery singletrack descents, natural trails, man-made berms, rocks and roots, open moorland - the single loop 75km course has pretty much everything and challenges a range of skills making it a worthy course for the best of the British to battle it out for the National Title.

There are a few races rolled in to one, so while the elite race for the titles others can compete on the same course or on a shorter course (25km or 50km). We stayed in a lovely eco house - the Green House -in a village outside of Selkirk. A couple of friends and my nephew raced the 25km course, while Dave and my parents provided feed zone and technical support. My father pulled the short straw and had to cycle to the feed zone at the top of the last climb in the rain, but fortunately he could enjoy the final descent after I'd passed through! It was really nice for us to spend time with our friends and family at a race :) 

The National Championships is an important race, the National stripes identify riders as the best from their nation so I'm really happy to be wearing the jersey once again this year. Winning my fifth title is also pretty cool :) 

Yesterday we left Selkirk and headed north to the Cairngorms. Endless forests, mountains, rivers, lochs and quiet roads - I'm excited to explore this beautiful place over the next few days :) 

Pretty cool place to relax :) 

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Riva del Garda

Last Saturday began with a 5am breakfast ahead of a 7.30am race start: oats soaked in apple juice mixed with raisins, linseeds, chopped apple, banana and walnuts, and of course a strong coffee! In fact, breakfast always starts with strong coffee, which seems to be the first thing I think about when the alarm goes off!

Peace and quiet and stunning views :)

This was to be my first time racing on the new track at Riva so I spent some time riding the course - in the rain - during the week. It's tough and more challenging than the old course. The climbs are long and  often ramp up very steeply before the summit - just to make your legs scream a bit louder! - and some of the descents are rooty, rocky and slippery, especially when wet and muddy - and very wet and very muddy it was! The last descent on the Extrema course (the longest of the 4 courses to choose from) is the most technical with a muddy, slippery, steep switchback section followed by a long, gnarly old cart track which is even more tricky after 4-5 hours of racing! Fast and very fun on a long travel bike; slightly painful on an XC race bike  - my arms still ache now ;)

Team Mechanic Peter Felber working hard with the bikes!

Despite the technical trails I choose my Canyon Grand Canyon CF SLX - with 3800 metres of vertical ascent over 94km I wanted to use my light weight climbing machine! - using Continental Race King 2.2 Race Sport tyres, which give excellent grip on roots and rocks. Bearing in mind the steep ramps, I opted for a 30t front chain ring with Sram XX1 to help me keep a high cadence and try to save my legs!

The majority of the race went well, at the half way point - the highest point on the course - I was riding in a good position amongst the men. But I had a couple of problems from here onwards and some stops at the last 2 tech zones along with a puncture - at the very bottom of the old gnarly cart track - cost me more than 10 minutes. Naturally I was frustrated to lose time against the men I was racing, but fortunately I maintained my lead in the women's race :)

If you want a challenge that includes tough climbs and some technical trails then Riva is definitely worth entering. The ice cream and coffee are great, the scenery is stunning, and the biking atmosphere is awesome - it's crazy how many people and bikes descend on the area. Really, it's hard to believe until you see it. If you love bikes - riding as well as wandering around the expo looking at and talking about bikes - then you'll love the Riva Bike festival.

On Monday we had a day video shooting with Limar Helmets and on Tuesday I had a really nice training ride in Riva before flying back to London. Yesterday we drove from London to Scotland where we're now preparing for the National Marathon Championships on Saturday. It's wet here and I'm almost certain that it's going to be a tough, cold, muddy race! Very different from last year's dry dusty trails and 23 degrees centigrade!  

Solitude in Scotland :)

There'll be live tracking on Saturday, so follow me here starting at 10am (11am CET).

Friday, 2 May 2014

Training and racing in England :)

Over the last 3 weeks I've been training in the Peak District which is where my family - and cat - live. There are some some great road rides in the English countryside and the MTB is pretty good too, especially some of the trail centres including Cannock Chase and Coed Llandegla. The road riding is peaceful: quiet country lanes, tough climbs and quaint hamlets and villages especially around Goyt Valley. I really like it :)

Peace and quiet in the Peak District :)

Post ride re-fuel after fast laps at Llandegla 
Last weekend I raced a muddy course at the Midlands XCO and drove directly to Gatwick afterwards. Now we're in Italy at Bike Festival Riva del Garda. Tomorrow is the marathon (94km/3800m of climbing), it's going to be tough in the mud after all of the rain we've had this week, but the post race ice cream will taste great :) We're staying at a really cool bike hotel in Torbole and the restaurant has gluten free pasta cooked al dente - very unusual to find somewhere that doesn't over cook GF pasta!    

Muddy Midlands XC 
Beautiful Riva :)
On Tuesday we will leave Italy and travel to Scotland where I'll race the National Marathon Championships at Selkirk next weekend. Fingers crossed for sunshine and dry trails up there ;)