Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Out of the freezer, into the fire: Southampton National Trophy

I had perhaps my best ever start in Southampton on Sunday. Starting from the fourth row, I somehow snuck my way through a whole heap of riders to find myself up in the top 20 at the end of the first lap. Unbelievable. Kevin was stood trackside yelling at me about how great the situation was, and I believed him. I was up with the strong guys, I just had to keep it going.
One lap later, things started to go pear shaped. I was getting knackered; I'd been punching above my weight, and I was starting to get hit back. Billy Whenman and Darren Barclay got across to me on the only real descent of the circuit, and as I tried to get round the hairpin at the bottom of the hill, I caught my STI on the course marking post and knocked myself off.
The group rode away as I untangled myself.
I sprinted off, but with the foresight that I needed to relax for a bit and recover if I wanted to avoid making mistakes. The errors kept coming though, and I crashed twice more on the next lap before I pulled my finger out and started riding well again. The whole race, I was up and down like a yo-yo — literally and figuratively.
I found myself riding round with Andrew Nichols, and together we caught Mike Cotty with about three laps to go. Things were looking good for a while and I took the lead. Nothing much happened from there on, except first, Cotty rode away — fair enough, he's a very good athlete — and then on the last lap, Nichols dropped me. He's a skinny little under 23 who goes up hills somewhat easier than me. Oh well. I came home in 31st, outside the points, so technically no better than a DNF. What a load of bollocks.
Realistically, it was quite a positive ride as I had an amazing start and I was mixing it with some good riders all race. Negatives were the lapses of concentration and the lack of strength in the final. Lessons learned — more miles needed, more skills required.
Two weeks till Bradford, scene of my first decent ride at this level when I came top 30 at the 2009 National Champs. At last year's Trophy however, I had a thoroughly shitty ride, so who knows how I'll go. One thing — my fingers are crossed that fewer than 10 Belgians turn up in Yorkshire. They're taking all the points scoring placings and ruining my ranking!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ipswich National Trophy Video

National Trophy Cyclo-Cross Round 2 - Ipswich from Kevin Knox on Vimeo.

That's what I'm talking about

FMB with Rhino tread, originally uploaded by Kevin Knox.

I sent off my rotten Dugast Rhino to FMB last week, and then this arrived by UPS this morning. Totally unexpected to get it so soon, and an amazing service as I was really expecting everything to be done on a French time scale. It wasn't cheap, in fact it would have been less costly to buy a new Dugast Rhino or new FMB by the time you've factored in postage costs and the bank charges for money transfer (they don't take credit cards on the FMB website). It's worth it though as the FMB comes with the carcass pre treated to prevent rotting so it should be more durable than the Dugast one. Money well spent I hope.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Skronglite Industries: New Product Thursdays: 2011 Skrong Tapes

Skronglite Industries: New Product Thursdays: 2011 Skrong Tapes: "It's 'cross season now, off-season training is coming up, and road season is just around the corner. You've got that 'really pretty nice..."

Vicious Dune Cross

What do you think? Isle of Sheppey, next autumn — are you riding or hiding?

Let's see if we can get the venue first eh. Looks like a decent place to put a course though.

Birthday Present - 2nd overall, 1st veteran

After a very sick beginning to the week and doing no training for the second part of the week I had low expectations for Sunday's London League at Gunpowder Park. It was a lowly Cat C race and my motivation was similarly low even though it was my birthday. To top things off Phil Roach, one of the top veterans in the country had turned up which was a real surprise. My arch rival in the London League Jon Lyons lined up next to me with his Rhinos on for the mud and wet so I reckoned that I was going to take a real battering in the vets race. But I had to pull something out of the bag as Andy couldn't race having ripped his rear mech off his only bike warming up, he was relegated to keeping Geoff company on the drums. Check out the posting below.

Things couldn't really have turned out more differently to my expectations. By the end of the first lap I was in second place just 10 seconds behind Darren Barclay whose wheel I couldn't hold when he accelerated on a draggy uphill section - that was the last we all saw of him as he soloed away to win race convincingly. But with such a good position this early on my confidence grew and I knew that I was in contention for a good placing as I was comfortably able to ride with the others in my group of Matt Holmes, Billy Jo Whenman and Phil Roach. Over the next few laps our group was whittled down to just myself and Phil but with three laps to go Gareth Montgomerie had bridged to us and then put some pressure on forcing Phil out the back. By now I was on for the podium but really wanted to get 2nd so rather than gamble on a sprint I attacked as we passed the bell ringing for the final lap. My attack failed as Gareth started pulling himself back, I decided to sit up and then hit him again before the line. The second time it worked and I held a gap of a few seconds as I passed Geoff on drums and into the final stretch to beat the Gareth to the line. It was my best overall league result this year and topped off my birthday nicely.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Winning a sprint (for 10th!)

A luckluster race at the National Trophy last weekend was saved by sneaking a sprint finish for tenth place, a small victory in and otherwise poor race for me. Although starting well from the front row of the grid and keeping it together through the first few turns I lost motivation in my legs, but more importantly in my head, and was unable to keep up with the leaders. By the end of the first lap any hope of another top 5 had vanished along with any fight that I had left in me.

All became clear on the long drive back south to London, I felt worse and worse during the journey and was barely able to unpack the car. By the evening I felt terrible and was sick all night. I've only just started to feel better two days later. At least I know that it wasn't my lack of race fitness causing me to feel so unmotivated and weak, when you get ill, that's it, nothing you can do but to sit it out. Bring on Southampton in a fortnight, I've got unfinished business.

Andy Jones's photo here on cycling weekly illustrates my mood after the race perfectly

On a more positive note I'm really excited about getting Vicious Velo off the ground for 2011 and hoping we can get the new kit sorted out in time for Nationals in January. We're bound to get noticed...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mallory Park National Trophy, Senior Race

National Trophy Cyclocross, Mallory Park
Mallory Park has an unenviable reputation as a venue that eats bikes, riders, and the enthusiasm of all who step over the threshold. I'm glad to say that I, my bikes and most of my enthusiasm for cyclocross are still intact, despite a completely mediocre result.
I ended up coming 28th yesterday, which on paper is my second best result at a National race, but I still feel a bit disappointed. I never really got going in the race — a lack of traction and enthusiasm being the main culprits. The Vittoria XM tubs I'm using have no central ridge to them, unlike the hallowed Dugast Rhinos I borrowed from Kevin to use in Ipswich, so I was finding that I had very little cornering grip on the greasy, flat grass corners and cambered straights that made up much of the Mallory course. That lack of confidence meant there were only a few places on the course where I was able to really push on the pedals without fear of crashing. Excuses excuses...
Next round is Southampton in two weeks time. I'm hoping for a return to the top 25.
Photos are all by Dave Haygarth, who came fifth in the vets. Loads more on his Flickr
National Trophy Cyclocross, Mallory Park
National Trophy Cyclocross, Mallory Park

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Vicious Media Empire swings into action

Here's a video from Vicious Enterprises. Filmed at the Rollapaluza Halloween CX race at Herne Hill the night before the National Trophy at Ipswich.