Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Science of Pitting

I feel the need to address a few issues I had today while being a pit bitch at a local cross race.
At world and national level cross races, a double pit (DP) is par for the course. For those of you not aware of how the DP works, it effectively enables two bike changes per lap by placing the pit area (PA) on a piece of ground where the riders pass at approximately 3rd lap distance.
Here's a basic scribble I did to illustrate.

This does away with the need for two separate pit areas. There are courses such as Koppenberg in Belgium where separate pits are set up, this is due to the topography of the course but we won't go into that.
Most local races have a single pit (SP) for very much the same reason as Koppenberg.

The PA has the following features;
- Entrances
- Exits
- Cleaning/Jet washing area
- Rider transition zones (RTZ)
- Safe zone (SZ)

Here's another scribble to illustrate that bit.
The solid line is the course, the dashed line is the RTZ and hatched area is the SZ.


Entrance and Exit speak for themselves, these are usually indicated by yellow flags and ALL bike transitions should be carried out between the yellow flags. Failure to do so could result in disqualification of the rider.
Cleaning and Jet washing areas are usually away from the SZ and the RTZ.
The RTZ is separated from the course by tape/barriers. Riders will signal their pit crew (PC) when approaching the PA and the spare bike can be readied and introduced to the RTZ in readiness for a swift transition. The dirty/broken bike is whisked away to be cleaned or repaired.
All the while the PC's are not carrying out transitions with their riders, they must remain within the SZ so as not to interfere with the other PC's going about their business.
Sometimes, there are fights.

Things I saw at the race today.
- 2 x Entrances
- 2 x Exits
(these two things indicate DP)
- 1 x RTZ
(this indicates SP)
- 1 x SZ
- A rider coming into the pit at the Entrance (good so far), riding some way along the RTZ, dismounting and handing his bike to his PC, then running backwards within the RTZ (dangerous) and collecting his spare bike from near the entrance, saddling up and rejoining the course via the exit.
- A rider coming into the pit at the entrance, again, this is correct procedure, dismounting and changing bike all by himself (no PC was present), then running back to the entrance and using it as an exit. This is not only a bit dangerous, but also silly as any time spent going backwards in a race is counter productive.
- Many people, including riders who had abandoned the race loitering in the RTZ and therefore hampering the riders trying to change bikes.
- Some bell end standing the wrong side of the bike whilst doing a transition. This resulted in the incoming rider needing to duck under the 'helpers' arm to grab the new bike - idiot!

Now this may seem like a moan and I imagine you're reading this thinking, "get a load of old know it all over there", but I do appreciate the efforts made by organizers and promoting clubs to give the racers the best possible courses and facilities, but, a little research and time would have done away with this near shambles.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Do you remember the first time?

I like getting muddy.  I like bikes.  I want to share my passion for cycling with my family.  Attending a Rapha SuperCross last year with my family I was struck by the something-for-everyone nature  - this was an event, not just a race.  So I bit the bullet, invoked the N+1 rule and ordered a ‘Cross bike.  And now I am here. 

I line up amongst the Juniors and Seniors, a novice amongst professionals and amateurs.  In an hour, Rob Partridge will wipe the floor with the rest of the field – I won’t care then and I don’t care now.  This race is personal.  This is man and bike versus grass and mud.  I will slip on a corner and come off.  I will hit a muddy bit and slow to a crawl, forgetting I am allowed to get off and run.  I will remember to get off and run, and I will lose my footing.  My lungs will burn, my legs will burn.  Every muscle will beg me to stop.  And even though I think there’s no more, I will find just a little bit extra for those handful of seconds every lap when my kids run alongside me screaming encouragement. 

Every lap of the race the course changes and evolves– the off-camber corner that catches me out on lap one, I better on lap 2, is treacherous on lap 3 and has deteriorated to swamp by lap 4, destroyed by the procession of wheels and boots.

By the last lap the bike weighs double than at the start, everywhere clogged with grass and mud and shit.  There is a slug on my crank, completely unphased by it’s transition from bush to bike.  I am caked, covered in bruises from instantly forgotton knocks.  My throat is dry, my heart pounds and I am desperately searching for the line.

What do I learn in my first ‘Cross race?  Tyres are everything.  Tread and pressure, pressure and tread.  Water is everything.  Beer is everything.  Frites are everything.  A clean T-Shirt is everything.  Taking my children to play in the discarded foam wall is everything.  And I do it all again next weekend.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Badass Three Peaks 2013

I love the Three Peaks. It becomes a bit of an annual obsession. The problem so far is that I've been mediocre at best, and last year ended in tears when I tombstoned off the bike is disgusting conditions descending from Whernside. 

After a summer of fannying about, I wasn't really sure what to expect from this year's Peaks. I knew I wanted to do well but it's difficult to replicate Yorkshire's fells in South East London. The steps of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel can only get you so far. 

The day was gorgeous - blue skies and sunshine - but the wind on the fells was terrible. Whernside was blowing a near vertical gale so much so that it blew me into a wall. However, that little scuffle (and managing to fall off the bike before even getting the start line) was the only real mishap of the whole race. 

It felt good to be ascending Pen Y Ghent in a quicker time than I have done previously - there were fewer riders so it was much easier to keep riding higher up the hill. I kept telling myself that it's not over til it's over so kept going hard up Pen Y Ghent and on the final road section back to Helwith Bridge. I was dangerously close to getting under 4 hours and really wanted that time to cap off the day...sadly I failed and made it in 4 hours 57 seconds. Got the win though so that's what matters. 

Big up to ex ViCiOUS Perry for being at the foot of every fell despite me not taking any food or water from him. 

Photos courtesy of Geoff Waugh and Andy Jones. 

Now for some 40 minute races around somewhat flatter courses...

Monday, September 9, 2013

New winners, Old winners

This weekend the cross season started and just like any decent punk band ViCiOUS VELO have gone off at full speed, the Ramones would be proud of us. On Saturday Badass went to Basildon and won the women's race at the Eastern Cross League. On Sunday we went down to Brighton where our newest member James won the Junior's race. Oh, and I won the veteran's race. Paul's still smashed up from Mountain Biking so he came down to take photos, check out his flickr page for photos from Stanmer Park.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Seasoned Ameteur

The weekend saw the final round of the British Cycling MTB National Points Series at Hadleigh Farm, the venue for the 2012 London Olympic MTB events.
A great chance to ride a course which saw thrilling racing over two memorable, hot and sunny days.
With the venue being only a stones throw away it was easy to get over and practice on the Saturday, something which seemed essential according to the reports coming back from those that had attended one of the coaching days at Hadleigh.
Steep, rocky and unforgiving descents were the dominating feature of the 5km loop with severe A-lines and supposedly easier B-line alternatives.
I arrived a little apprehensive but confident that my twenty odd years of mountain biking would stand me in good stead to make it around in one piece.
I'm not an overly confident or arrogant person, but the first descent, aptly named 'Triple Trouble' saw me freeze on the lip of the A-line drop, spin on my heals and retreat to the safety of the B-line, which was in itself a test of nerve with a one or two inch deviation from the gulley potentially sending me off balance and crashing to a painful halt.
That pattern of rock up to the triple arrow (extreme caution) warning sign, stop, assess the descent, retreat, take a run up and see what happens continued for the whole lap. The larger the group of riders gathered at the top of each section, the greater the challenge.
Two rock garden sections per lap would be enough to cause complete carnage, the first of which 'Deane's Drop' had an A-line section resembling a dried up river bed with a foot high drop off half way down. The B-line was a loose switch back section followed by a series of rocky steps and a table top to negotiate before rejoining the course.
The second Rock Garden would be the scene of my first wake up call. Having made it through the real tricky section, there was a rock berm with a gap jump midway. Queue this kind thing from me. Scuffed and bruised (body and pride) limped around the rest of the course having lost my bottle on the downhills and my ability to pull on the bars and push on the pedals on the ascents - not great preparation for race day.
Home - clean and dress wounds - eat - bed.
Sunday morning and I woke with less pain and stiffness than I imagined I would, determined to race and go someway to protect my high overall standing in the series, I made my way back over the river to have another early morning lap or two to calm my nerves. I only managed three quarters of a lap but negotiated all the tricky bits reasonably comfortably so was confident I could get a top ten finish come the afternoon.
A terrible start saw me way down the field and fumbling to locate foot on pedal, eventually clipped in I managed a sprint up the outside of the bunch to regain a top five position for the long haul up the steep, loose gravel climb to the high point of the course and the first potential bottle neck. Half way up said climb and the rider in front ground to a halt resulting in me crashing into the back of him and needing to dismount and run the second half of the climb - great!
Hop back on and try my best not to get caught up again, first descent done and dusted, nipped  past a few riders into Deane's Drop. First thing I see is three riders walking down the A-line, so have to take the B-line, loose switch backs sent me off line for the first rock steps. Looking back at it, if I was three or four inches either side of the line I was on I reckon the day would have had a different outcome, as it was, my day was to end in a head crunching, body breaking heap on the floor not five minutes after the whistle had blown to signal the start of the race.
My team mates who'd made the journey to heckle/support me never saw me again until I was covered in iodine and sporting stitches on my face.

Mountain biking got a whole lot tougher that day and my respect got a whole lot bigger for those that completed the course damage free.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Jerseys for sale

We've got some jerseys to sell, just a few leftover ones that we don't need so rather than hang onto them we thought that some of you might want to have one. £59 inc free postage in the UK and to Europe.

Sorry, we've sold out now.

Monday, May 6, 2013


I'm in the US right now, doing stuff for Privateer magazine, and as part of that I've been lucky enough to get some racing in, in the dust and heat of Sacramento's mid-week Prairie City series.

In typical Vicious style, I led the race for the first half lap and even successfully showed off to the photographer before blowing up and dropping back to fourth place.

Noteable was how polite the yanks were when they passed me on the singletrack. None of the "Get the f*&k off out the way" you get at home, just a polite "passing left Vicious" which I promptly ignored and that didn't cause any arguments...

Good times!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stars of past, present & future

After the relative disappointment of ninth place at round one of the British XC series at Sherwood Pines, which bore more resemblance to a cyclocross event with snow, freezing mud and slow progress, round two in Redruth, Cornwall went a bit more according to plan.

Its a long journey, almost to the end of the land in fact, so anything other than success would be a bitter pill to swallow.
Car loaded up, the sun was shining and warm on my back - "good start" I thought.
Next stop was to collect Neon Velo's Rob Purcell, a long time friend as well as a pretty handy fat tyre racer too. Scarily, with over forty years experience between the two of us, we still go through the same 'helmet, shoes, shorts, jersey, socks' verbal reminder routine before a long journey.

So, we're loaded with kit, gas and snacks for the journey, just one last thing - "ROAD TRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIP"

Cruise control firmly engaged for a good ninety percent of the six hour drive is a nice feeling. Sun still shining we arrive at The Old Railway Yard B&B a little achy but in good spirits and eager to go and ride the course.
Its always good to see friendly faces at an event of this nature, and the familiar Team Scott UK duo of Greg Simcock and the omni-present, omni-smiley and omni-flipping good Nick Craig (star of past & present) were no exception, although Nick's advice of "knee pads would be good for this course" sent a few shivers down my spine.
Brave face on, we rode out onto the grassy top field which was host to the race village, start, finish and next door to the full up field allocated to the campers.
That was about the only 'easy' section of the 5km loop, the rest of it was in an old mining pit and was an absolute peach of a course with fast single track descents with numerous kickers and berms to keep the attention, then there were the steep bits, five in total I think which had alternitave 'chicken' runs, the severest of all with a switchback halfway down followed by a drop off which had the forks hitting the stops each lap.
The climbs were leg burners but nothing too long, the real killer though was the twenty foot high berm which required a full on sprint from a dead turn just to make it over the top.
A couple of laps done and feeling satisfied, we headed back for a good meal and some sleep.

Race day started cloudy and potential for rain later on.
I was off in race two at midday. We got to the venue just in time to see local favorite and current National Marathon MTB champion Sally Bigham (star of present) take a convincing win in the women's elite race by over three minutes, and all in the big ring as it turns out due to a front mech failure - nuff respect!

The next somewhat familiar star of present and I imagine future to take to the course was Daniel Tulett, unbeaten this season and taking a convincing win by nearly two minutes.

Down to me then!

Gridded eighth meant I was on the front row & a good start was essential with such a short distance until the first section of potentially disastrous downhill.
That didn't happen! A fumbled pedal entry had me going backwards fast and I was 17th into the bottle neck at the top of the first descent - "Balls!"
I managed to claw back a fair few places on the first lap and reckon I was into the top ten first time through the finish. There seemed to be a lot of riders opting for the B-routes on the steepest sections and especially the massive berm which meant I could gain time on them in these sections.
Coming to the end of lap three and unbeknown to me I was up to third having just passed Nick Baxter of PMR@cing and I was feeling really good.
Gel done and drinking plenty courtesy of my pit bitch, there was no sign of the cramp which has blighted me in the past.
Lap four passed with no dramas and I even overheard spectators commenting "Wooah, nice kit" as I tackled the big drop off.
The start of the fifth and final lap and the Elite riders were beginning to catch me, first Kenta Gallagher, Grant Ferguson and Hamish Batchelor came past in a fast moving and very polite train, then Seb Batchelor & Rab Wardell, the latter giving me a heads up "oi, ViCiOUS punk" as he warned of his approach.
Half a lap to go then and staring to feel the burn in my legs on the sprint up to the mega-berm...... this doesn't feel great..... "uh oh", I stall at the top having clipped a pedal and lose all momentum, I tumble down the side unceremoniously and lose around 30-40 seconds, gather up my bike and get back onto the circuit
a bit shaken, a rider comes past me and I glance at his number - 434, "that's ok I think, he's an Expert"..... "hang on a minute"..... quick glance at my number - 438...... "SHIT!" 
And that is how I missed out on the podium by 20 seconds, I could've kicked myself, so so close.

Rob's turn next.

With three wins and a fourth place so far this season the form is definitely there, plus hes got one of those fancy new bikes with the big wheels too.
The gun goes and not the best of starts, but I know Rob always has a strong last lap or two under his belt so no panic just yet.
The two leaders are head and tales above the rest of the field and have around two minutes over the chasing pack by the end of lap two of six. The battle is on for the remaining podium spot.
Unseen by me, there's a third rider on his own with a gap back to Rob who had broken clear of the group on lap five, then caught and dropped what I thought was third by the finish line.
So, another fourth place, two in one day. This also moves Rob up to third in the overall standings.

An old familiar face and star of the past, Dave Hemming has been riding in the veterans category this year. A Junior World downhill Silver medalist in 1990 on, as I remember, a Chas Roberts with Pace forks up front with all of 1" travel - how times have changed.
Chatting to Dave after my race, he said he'd been discussing the current ViCiOUS kit and saying it "reminds me of the old Alpinestars days", I'll take that as a compliment for sure.

An absolutely brilliant weekend away and some decent results to boot. Next up, the Eastern Area Championships at Thetford Forest followed by Round three of the NPS in Shropshire.

A set of smashing pictures from the racing by Andy Whitehouse.

Ps, Cornwall got the Alpaca.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

ViCiOUS Caps are back

We've got some more caps to sell for all of those that have been asking. £8 + £1 postage.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


We're helping out with the first SERRL race of the summer series this Sunday. @Lidlchef has knocked up a ViCiOUS cake for the race winner. We've also got £100 for the winner tomorrow, and a load of twenty quid notes for primes. There's sod all for the rest of the losers.

There's still places left to EOL

Friday, February 8, 2013


= ????

Man, those Giro Air Attack helmets are crying out to be customised. That top one is by Ornamental Conifer in Hackney Wick. He does some sick stuff. Second one down, is a print from Death Spray Custom. Some combination of the four would be amazing.