XC Mountainbiking

XC Mountainbiking

Spring Time On The Home Trail

Birdsong, Sun breaking through the trees, and the leaves growing again. Spring. My favourtie time of year.

Singlespeed racing

Breathing hard. My face hides how much I love racing even on one gear!

Downhill Mountainbiking

Downhill Mountainbiking

Tour de France

Sunflowers on the Tour

XC Racing

World Cup Racing where the best fight it out over some of the most demanding terrain


Taking the sport to extremes

No matter what or how you ride, enjoy the trails out there.

Sunday 6 October 2013

My Race Year in Pictures


British North East XC MTB League Champion 2013!!!!
It's been a cracking year and I'm already excited for next season.  With thanks to Dan Small for going along with my Single speed category idea this year and hopefully paving the way for future generations.  Thanks to those that have shouted support when I've most needed and my family for waiting patiently and spurring me on when I most needed.  Thanks to Paul for taking some cracking photos.
What's your favourite picture?

Saturday 17 August 2013

Successful Blogging - Oh and Following the Chainline is 2!

My little blog passed its second birthday without so much as a mention from me last month.  I have it seems been far to neglecting and should really get my head down and write the blog posts I've been meaning to write.

However, despite my lack of attention to my blog things have gone all a bit bizarre with the statistics.  I often wonder how much people pay attention to how many visitors they receive to their blogs, I know I for one will check in at least once every day to see what is viewed the most and see how many have viewed the blog for the day.  Its probably a little sad I know but a part of me wants this blog to be viewed and enjoyed by people.  I never set it up as a diary and I always admit my aim lies more in bringing fellow bloggers together, so seeing a few people drop by and leave comment makes my blog and to a greater extent myself feel loved.

So about the weird statistics.  No one really shares what or how many hits their blogs get each day.  I know I follow some who no doubt would laugh a my figures.  A few months a go a friend asked me how many hits I got per day.  I proudly said that I averaged around 100 per day.  I say proudly because last year it varied between 30 to 50 hits. However, last month things changed and my blog sky rocketed from this to about 600 reaching an amazing 800 odd hits.  My chart had gone nuts!  I was in the realms of 12,000 hits a month.

This month its now showing 30,000 hits, with an all time high of 1696 hits in a day.  I'm feeling the love. I'm now celebrating my blog reaching over its 100,000 mark!

So what's my secret?

There are a lot of excellent blogs out there who will give tips to help you get going. Everything from using certain wordings in your titles, presentation and advertising.  From a cycling point of view doing reviews on popular wanted products is a good way of getting visitors.  Use forum sites and refer them back to your blog.  I use my blog address in the bottom of comments and it does work in bringing people to your blog.  I've also tried adding my blog address to various websites to get some referral visitors.

All of this works, to some extent.  You will draw in some viewers here and there but I'm afraid to say not many.  So why my increase?

I read on one blog that the secret to blogging is to stick with it.  There are a huge amount of blogs that die a death after about 9 months.  BlogSpot is a graveyard of such unloved blogs.  Some promising ones too but whether through other commitments or a lack of gained love they are left.  I would say it has taken two years for my own blog to notice a significant gain and that is not through doing anything new or ground breaking.

So my big tip is stick with it, keep going.  Visit other blogs, leave comments and try and build friendships with fellow bloggers.  Try and put your blog out there.  Try some forum sites or something like Stumbleupon.  Well worded titles go a long way so give some thought to what you are about to put.

Enjoy your blogging people and remember to drop by from time to time and let me know what you think. Lastly, a big thank you to all those of you that have visited and taken time to comment. It always means a lot!

Friday 26 July 2013

Racing with the bit Between my Teeth - North East MTB XC League

Rd 4 - Darlington

If round three was a cold soggy, hilly affair and a disaster for me as a race, then Darlington was the complete opposite. As a course this was hard packed, low on technical sections, rolling and so promised to be exceptionally fast paced.  Every short lap was rewarded with finishing on the man made bmx track over the table tops and the swooping berms.

Summer had finally arrived and the week before the trails were drying out so by the time race day came the track was dusty.  Real dust!  A remark that deserves its exclamation remark as its been a good few years since it got this dry here.  As the pack set off from the start the dust was being kicked up and suddenly visibility became limited.  Well this was an all time first, although I realised it not only affected visibility but also my breathing.  Not that I'm going to blame this for my terrible start.  That fault went with me following a wheel that wasn't going anywhere fast and getting boxed in. The only other single speed racer had got ahead of me and with a group of people in front and a long single track section I had to bide my time.

It wasn't until half a mile into the lap that it widened enough for me to launch my first attack.  I passed five riders in quick succession finding a wheel further on and sticking to it.  Between myself and this guy from the veteran category we put in a fair gap from the chasing group behind.  Problem was we weren't catching the guys up ahead either.  And so there we remained for almost half the race, sitting in limbo only the fast guys coming to over lap us.  It wasn't until I made a bad mistake on a grassy off camber slope that left me doing a nice 180 degree spin, that I lost my racing partner.

I had to dig hard to get back, it took at least two more laps before I got him back in my sights.  He was trying to make the gap bigger (he told me so after) but I was still making ground.  Then on one of the grassy slopes he slipped allowing me to get right back on his wheel.  As the track switched back onto the climb his chain dropped and he had to stop.  I attacked the climb and made my gap.  He told me the last image was seeing the writing on my shorts 'derailleurs are for failures'.  Least he saw the funny side.  The race was uneventful after that, I finished as the first of the single speed racers but a little low down over all.  I was loosing out big time to all those with gears on the flats.  More importantly I'd got my mojo back and had really loved this race, which is just what I needed after round 3.

Round 5 - Errington

A different venue and a totally different race.  This was a course with good twisty and rooty trails, drop offs and a two lung busting leg burning climbs.  It had rained the night before and the roots were slimy the bike was not happy as it was flicked and pinged off line.  Not ideal for me and I was going to have to face facts that I was going to struggle with this race.  The race started at the bottom of the first climb which flattened out for a bit before going into the next climb.  Yep a leg killer.  This followed a fun bit of track that had some challenges in it covering the last two miles.

What was going to factor in this race was the climb and that people were either getting in your way on the single track or in my case holding them up.  There were 60 of us packed onto a narrow bit of track.   There were eight single speed riders which was a record attendance, so this promised to be fun. 

The start was good for me.  I climbed well pulling a big gap on the middle section of the field (the pro riders went off like whippets as usual)  Only one other single speed rider had got ahead of me.  But it was hot work.  The temperature in the woods had risen, and with the damp drying up its was like a sauna.  Not that that was an excuse for my lousy single track skills.  Mental note, I really should pre ride every course!  It wasn't long before I started making mistakes and getting passed by people.  Arrgghhh why am I so rubbish at single track?  By the time I got to the climb again it was starting to feel a bit lonely.  There were people behind...somewhere and some ahead.....in the distance.  I caught a few by a mammoth effort up the climb but all the effort was in vain as in the single track I started to loose more time and so found myself on my own again.

As much as I enjoyed the course I wasn't really enjoying the racing experience. I couldn't find a wheel to follow and the climb was now torture as my legs weakened from the grind of one gear.  I did a better single track run on my last lap but it was little to late.  I ended up well down on the field.  Also I was last but one in the single speed category.  I could climb better than the field but I just couldn't go with them on the twisty stuff.

I think looking back at this race its made me realise more than ever that I need technical training and guidance.  I just cant see how to get faster.  I don't mind about fitness as one gear is going to limit my speed anyway but if I can limit damage in the single track then I might place better.

Round 7 - Bedlington

I missed out on racing round six back at Ponteford and so with what felt like a long gap was really excited about this one.  I'd seen a video a couple of weeks before of the course and it looked hard with all the off camber slippy roots.  The North east had had a tropical delouse  the day the video was taken.  Race day couldn't have looked more different.  It was hot.  Damn hot and the trails were bone dry, all the roots were now grippy.  This promised to be a fast hard race and I was really up for this.  With two power climbs split up along the course it was well suited to one gear.  Apart from one bit.  There was a long tarmac section before the final climb to the finish which begged for some mashing in the big ring.  That's me in trouble then!

From the gun and up the first climb (this was actually the final climb but it was used to spread the group out) I was proving strong and passed quite a few riders.  I tried my upmost in the single track but was loosing some time, although not as much a I usually did.  The trouble is I couldn't find a wheel to hold onto.  Every time we got onto the tarmac whoever I was with suddenly got away and I'd have to give my all on the climb to reel them back in.  This was ok at first but I knew it wasn't going to last.  I passed one guy who like me was on a ridged bike and was being bounced off the roots wildly.  So much so he was flung into a hedge.  One way of gaining a place I guess.

The only real race came from a surprise attack in the form of a lass called Hannah.  In most of the rounds I'd not seen much of her often finishing minutes ahead.  But after some good training she was putting in a good effort and I was aware of her gaining on me.  I was also aware of how close our points were in the overall and so I had to react to this.  She told me after that I had become a target during the race and it had given motivation to chase, and it was working!  By the mid race she was only ten seconds from me.

I had to put some effort in now. Luckily the heat wasn't bothering me.  My motivation to dig deeper came when I was overlapped by the second place rider and overall series leader.  He'd got 20 yards on me on the tarmac before going into the climb up to the start/finish area.  By the top I'd got passed him!!  At least I know now that my climbing ability is strong.  I let him back pass as I knew he'd be miles quicker in the single track (he was!)  I kept a strong pace not daring to look back in case Hannah was still there.  By the time I reached the tarmac section I got a good look behind and she was nowhere to be seen.  As it was, she had faded in the last two laps, her motivation to chase gone and finished over minute behind by the end.  I can see me being the one chasing her next year!

I finished ok, but not great.  The small field contained some really strong racers so placement was never going to be good.  However, I knew I'd done enough to clinch the North East Single Speed Category Title.  Yep I'd won something.  Probably not for being particularly good but for getting the most points over the five rounds and in the end only two of us did that.  The other six riders did not complete enough rounds.  Still as they say, you have to be in it to win it!

The last race is not until September, so I'm going to enjoy the break.  I'm not expecting to do well in the last round anyway, for me it'll just be a chance to catch up with some great people and race for the love of it.


Monday 17 June 2013

Where Are They Now - Miguel Martinez

Miguel Martinez

In his prime Miguel Martinez "Little Mig" was the undisputed king of men's cross country racing, sealing his status with a strong win in the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney Australia.  The French cyclist who at the time rode for Sunn dominated the sport, but after 2005 his presence was no longer noticeable at XC races.

Early Years

Martinez was born on 17th January 1976 in Fourchambault, Nieve.  His father, Mariano, was a great cyclist before him having rode on Merckx's team and was considered at the time to be a great climber. He had in his time won the king of the Mountains title in the Tour de France.  Even from the age of six Martinez recollects not only his fathers influence on him with cycling but also his family which have a great tradition with cycling. At first he started with riding on the rode but by the age of ten he had started Mountain Biking.  As he matured and grew stronger he realised that he could do well with in the sport and along with cyclocross racing moved away from rode racing.

By 1994 Miguel Martinez was starting to dominate XC racing amongst the juniors and so won his first World Championships, this was as well as an impressive 3rd place at the Cyclocross Championships.  By the time Martinez had won his gold medal at Sydney in 2000 he had won two World Cup Series, Three World XC Championships as well as a Cyclocross Championship,  two European Champioships medals and a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics at Atlanta.

Year           Event                                                         Place                  Result
1995          World Championship XC                         Kirchzarten            2
1996          National Championships                                                          1
                  World Championships XC                        Cairns                     2
                  World Championships Cyclocross            Corva                     1
                  World Cup XC                                                                         3
                  Olympics                                                   Atlanta                   3
1997          World Championships XC                       Chateaux D'Oex     1
                  World Cup XC                                                                         1
1998          World Championships XC                       Mont Sainte-Anne  1
                  World Cup XC                                                                         2
1999          World Cup XC                                                                         2
                  European Championship XC                                                   1
2000          Olympics                                                 Sydney                     1
                  World Cup XC                                                                         1
                  European Championships XC                                                  1
2001          World Cup XC                                                                         3     

The Move To The Road

Martinez now looked towards Road racing and fresh targets after all he had now won all the major events in Mountain Biking, and felt that road racing would be more competitive. In truth his results had started to wain and so in 2002 he signed a three year deal with Mapei-Quickstep whilst at the same time raced some MTB XC events and Endurance events with Full Dynamix, a move his father had insisted on. on This team he was also to join another MTB legend and future Tour de France winner Cadel Evans who had been a big rival during the late 90s.

By 2003 Martinez had joined Phonak racing team but by the end of the year went into a semi retirement, racing irregularly but never really producing the form of old.  He was said to have become alluded to the amount of doping in road racing and not wanting to be part of it as reason for leaving. He returned in 2008 to the Italian team Amore e Vita, stating “I always rode to the best of my ability without doping it was made clear to me that I wasn’t operating in the way that was required. Today I really have the impression that things have changed. I’m convinced that cycling has moved in the right direction and I want a second chance to continue my career at the highest level.”

By 2009 Little Mig had made the decision to return back to his first love of MTBing and was set to race for Felt International Racing team but was sacked from the team 
A press statement from Felt reads – “We would like to inform you that the contract with Miguel Martinez has been cancelled due to unbridgeable differences.   The athlete behaved inexcusably and violated his contract. He is dismissed effective immediately.”
Martinez was given a four month suspended sentence for assaulting his wife by a French court.  He has been in mediation several times over the past two years for violent incidents.

Present Day

2013 is a fresh start for Martinez who has again returned to Mountain Biking but with Italian FRM Factory racing Team who produce high-level components and bikes.

"Now that I am free from all contractual ties” – the athlete has said – “I want to race with a team capable of offering me the necessary serenity along with a bicycle that I have dreamt of for years.

Mirko Pirazzoli, in his double role of Commercial Director of FRM and new Team mate to the French Champion says “Having Miguel with us is a great stimulus: competition is constantly increasing, Miguel has the motivation and the conditions to shoot back to the top, but for us it is sufficient that he has fun”.

This has proved a healthy approach for Martinez who surprised everyone with a strong win at the 2013 Sea Otter Classic.  Whilst he hasn't been the dominate rider he once was he recently got 14th at the third round of the World Cup, it remains to be seen whether the little Frenchman can find the form and find his way back on the podium a sight not many would begrudge him.

 Event  Discipline  Pos  Date  Season 
 Val di Sole  Men's Olympic Cross Country  14  15/06/2013   2013
 Val di Sole  Men's Olympic Cross Country - Eliminator - Qualification   12  13/06/2013   2013
 Val di Sole  Men's Olympic Cross Country - Eliminator  25  13/06/2013   2013
 Albstadt  Men's Olympic Cross Country  41  19/05/2013   2013
 UCI World Championships Mountain Bike Marathon  Men's Marathon Cross-country  35  05/07/2008   2008
 Manavgat / Antalya   Men's Marathon Cross-country  33  16/03/2008   2008
 L'Hexagonal  L'Hexagonal  4  19/08/2007   2007
 L'Hexagonal  L'Hexagonal - Stage 8  1 First 15/08/2006   2007
 L'Hexagonal  L'Hexagonal - Stage 6  1 First 13/08/2006   2007
 L'Hexagonal  L'Hexagonal - Stage 1  1 First 08/08/2006   2007
 Curacao  Men's Olympic Cross Country  41  01/04/2006   2006
 World Championships Mountainbike   Cross Country Men  20  04/09/2005   2005
 European Championships  Men's Olympic Cross Country  11  31/07/2005   2005
 L'Hexagonal  L'Hexagonal  4  19/06/2005   2005
 Houffalize  Cross Country Men  12  29/05/2005   2005
 Madrid  Cross Country Men  25  08/05/2005   2005
 Spa Francorchamps  Cross Country Men  9  24/04/2005   2005
 European Championships  Men's Olympic Cross Country  4  01/07/2004   2004
 L'Hexagonal  L'Hexagonal  1 First 18/06/2004   2004
 L'Hexagonal  L'Hexagonal - Stage 7  1 First 17/06/2004   2004
 L'Hexagonal  L'Hexagonal - Stage 5  1 First 15/06/2004   2004
 World Championships Mountainbike  Men's Olympic Cross Country  49  07/09/2003   2003
 UCI World Championships Mountain Bike Marathon  Men's Marathon Cross-country  21  31/08/2003   2003
 L'Hexagonal  L'Hexagonal  7  17/08/2003   2003
 L'Hexagonal  L'Hexagonal - Stage 7  1 First 16/08/2003   2003
 L'Hexagonal  L'Hexagonal - Stage 6  1 First 15/08/2003   2003
 L'Hexagonal  L'Hexagonal - Stage 1  1 First 10/08/2003   2003
 World Championships Mountainbike  Men's Olympic Cross Country  45  16/09/2001   2001
 European Championships  Men's Olympic Cross Country  12  2001   2001
 Olympic Games  Men's Olympic Cross Country  1 First 24/09/2000   2000
 World Championships Mountainbike  Men's Olympic Cross Country  1 First 10/06/2000   2000
 European Championships  Men's Olympic Cross Country  17  2000   2000
 World Championships Mountainbike  Men's Olympic Cross Country  2  19/09/1999   1999
 European Championships  Men's Olympic Cross Country  1 First 1999   1999
 Olympic Games  Men's Olympic Cross Country  3  30/07/1996   1996
 World Championships Mountainbike  Men's Olympic Cross Country  2  19/09/1995   1995

Tuesday 4 June 2013

When Races Go Wrong: Rd 3 North East XC MTB League - Hamsterley

I guess it was inevitable that I would come to this.  If you ask me about most of my short course XC races of a few years past I would say that something is never quite right.  It most cases its just been lack of race experience but with one thing or another I've been quick to write them off blame my lack of fitness or skill and then not bother again for the year.

This year my fitness isn't much to sing or dance about but my attitude and approach have no doubt got me further than before.  Much I credit to riding single speed which has made me take on the whatever will be will be attitude, and last year and this year enjoy racing so much more.  My first two races have been my best to date in terms of feel and results.  I was looking at the data from my last race and on the same course I was riding a minute a lap faster.  With the laps only being between 6 and 7 minutes long that's a hell of a difference and meant I finished up doing a lap extra.

So to round 3, and once again I was faced with a similar course from last year at Hamsterley.  I knew this was a tough race taking in one big climb followed by a fast decent full of berms, rutted and hard work on my rigid bike.  I know I'm not the fastest going down (trust me I am slow!) but I knew that the climbs would count for a lot.

As it happens the race was a short one for me.  As I climbed up the first climb I was struggling with its sheer length and just felt like I'd got nothing to give. The decent then did its best job to beat me up.  By the next lap the climb I was breathing out of my arse for very little gain, and coming down I was loosing my line too easily and it was a miracle that when I did come off the track I didn't crash or go over the bars.  The third lap saw me groveling up the climb and already negative thoughts of having to do this climb again was making me doubt my racing on further.  Coming down my back started to really hurt, something I attributed to fighting with my bike and not riding loose but also just feeling so trashed.  As I got to the line I pulled out.  There was no way I could go on like I was.

Photo with thanks to Paul @ Clarkson Photography Grass Root Sports UK

Looking at my lap times I was riding over a minute slower than the seven months before, so what had gone so wrong?

It's in this situation you have to be realistic about your failures.  I watched that same weekend the first World Cup XC of the year and watched Nino Schurter finish about 14th proving that even the best riders in the sport have off days.  This was my off day.

Firstly, in this situation its important to look at your training and look at what you were doing before each race and see if there was a difference. Often training can be to tough before races and there hasn't been enough recovery but in my case it was as much the opposite.  I hadn't ridden enough, and more to the point not ridden with quality in mind.  I had for the last month or so been putting in fast paced workouts, riding tempo mainly for nothing more than hour or about 10 miles.  What I seem to be lacking is stamina from good quality endurance.  Something I've been addressing ready for my next race.

Doing a proper warm up.  I'm probably the worst for this.  I guess I get caught up in the atmosphere, catching up with friends and then before I know it I'm off racing.  I didn't even pre ride the course let alone get my heart rate up which was foolish and just means everything is a bigger shock to the body.  I guess warming up is an easy one to dismiss as when I go out riding I don't warm up, I just go out and ride as I'm sure lots of others do to.  A good warm up should not just get the muscles loosened up but get the heart beating fast and lungs working.  The key is not to put much strain on the muscles so spinning on a turbo is ideal or just quick sprints in an easy gear following from a short tempo effort.

On line Arousal.  Stop giggling, I know it sounds daft but that's the term given to how you feel on the race line.  If you've got butterflies and are too tense this can have a negative effect.  Your heart race can be too high and muscles to tense. On the other end of the spectrum if you are too relaxed then your body just isn't fight or flight ready.  Somewhere in the middle is what you want or even aggressive attitude firing yourself up for the battle ahead.  I was way too passive, chatting away and not really thinking about the race ahead. (weirdly I used to be to tense)

So racing cold, chilling on the line doesn't make for a great racer but there is one other element.  Food.
Obviously, with short races of under an hour eating during the race isn't that important.  What you eat before almost certainly can be.  Ive often been given the formula of ensuring eating a meal three hours before a race with plenty of carbohydrates.  Then thirty minutes before something like a banana or energy bar.  Then a little bit more a few minutes before.  This may work for you but not for me.  I have to honestly say some of my best evening rides have been done on the back of a big meal that is high in protein and usually only an hour and half before I've ridden.  So I'd say to anyone, ignore usual wisdom and experiment to find whats best.  Most of time it'll come by mistake.  If you ride well, think about what you ate before and take that into consideration before you next race.

The one thing that I know works for me in quick races and that I didn't have in my last race was caffeine in my drink.  It I feel helps with my reactions and also gives that feeling that I can push harder towards the end of a race. 

Anyhow, my next race is this Friday so it's time to put some of this advice into practise.  As I stand in the league I'm actually doing quite well. Currently I'm 11th out of 75 overall.  4th out of 26 for my age group and 1st out of 4 for the single speed cats.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Racing against the Big Ring - Rd 2 North East MTB XC League - Ferryhill

Racing on your home ground is always exciting.  This race was a literal two minute ride to the start line and with the course unaltered from last year was promising to be just as fast and furious as last year.  I remember that hard chases from last year and had kept it in my pocket.  I knew about the sharp off camber bend the long fireroad straight and short but steep climb.  In fact I'd practised it for most of the winter.

This was not a course that suited my Single speed.  Fast courses never are, as you have to spin so hard to keep up and when your following a wheel and they shift up into the big ring there is little you can do to answer such speed. But, it was dry and not really technical which meant I wasn't going to loose time there.

Photo with thanks to Paul @ Clarkson Photography Grass Root Sports UK

46 of us started on the start line and we would be soon channelled into a narrowing track before hitting the single track.  It was bound to get messy as people jostled for position trying to make the holeshot, and I found myself blocked in by two riders not holding a very straight line.  Come an early banked corner and some riders were nearly crashing into each other causing me to have to dismount, loosing a couple of places in the process.  After that the lap was a fairly slow procession with little changing in places as the narrow singletrack kept us in position.  It proved to be the slowest lap.  As soon as we got to the fire road to the finish I pushed hard and took some places and tried to bridge the gap which had formed.

The race as it turns was fun but a hard one for me.  I kept a good pace but found it hard to pick and hold onto peoples wheels.  I'd go through the single track no problem even kept pace with the fast guys on the climb, but come the fireroad and the gaps would form.  A small group of us stayed in contact for a couple of laps until two crashed out just as they'd formed a gap on me.  One guy had got a good minute into me at one point and by the end it was down to ten seconds despite my mad effort to go all out in the last lap.  Still it also appeared I was being chased down but had managed to hold the guy off.  Not that I knew much about that at the time.

In the end I finished 25th, which wasn't quite as good as my last race but I figured that's the way it would be.  I was first place Single speed but then there were only two of us!

Photo with thanks to Paul @ Clarkson Photography Grass Root Sports UK

Overall in the series I'm now in 12th place with the aim of making it into the top ten and 4th in the seniors with the aim of making it in the top five.  Oh and I'm first place in the single speed category.

This video was shot of the junior and senior race from the done and gives a little idea of the action from the day. http://vimeo.com/66053010

Special thanks goes to Paul who was there photographing on the day and for letting me freely use the photos he took of me.  You can see more on is own web page by clicking on the link Clarkson Photogrphy

Sunday 12 May 2013

North East Single Speeds First Group Ride - Swaledale

Standing on the top of a hill surrounded by some beautiful countryside shrouded in mists a small group of cyclists stand huddled behind a wall to shelter from the howling wind and driving cold wind.  The climb had been steep and boggy and faces show sign of tiredness.  Yet as food and drink are consumed spirits remain high and there are still smiles.  Someone then pipes up "I thought you said it was going to be hot and sunny?"
L to R.  Mark, Dan, Matt and Mike taking shelter from the inhospitable weather
Hot and Sunny.  That is what the weather forecast was predicting for the long awaited first group ride for those members of the single speed group almost a week before hand.  People were getting excited about the prospect of finaly having some decent weather after what had seemed like an endless winter.  The Swaledale hills in Yorkshire near Reeth boasts some of the most beautiful natural trails in this country and a week before had been covered in feet of snow.

Three On-Ones lining up ready to go.  The first one has to many gears!
Weather forecasters it would appear are not very good at predicting weather a week in advance and as the days got closer suddenly it looked like strong winds were going to b the order of the day. Still some braved it out of there houses and we met up at the infamous Dales Bike Centre , a cracking little place with a small bike shop, cafe and accomadation run by a very friendly family.  There were only three of us on single speeds.  Matt, Mike and myself.  Dan (who incidentially got me into single speeds) was still making excuses as to not to change back from his gears, and Mark wasn't feeling up to the challenge of riding one gear up some of the demanding climbs.  I'm not sure I blamed them!

We set off on the lower valley riding by the dry stone walls that are found in abundance in this area, breaking up the farms land to form a patch work of rugged squares across the moorlands.  Of course this means lots of gates to negotiate.  The ground was still very wet and there was a good amount of pasty mud mixed in with the rocky ground.  We were heading into the wind but it was fairly flat with only the occasional hill to wake the legs up.  More to the point it wasn't raining. 

Its funny thing with cyclists.  Most of the guys out today didn't know each other and yet put together they share their love of cycling and chatter never ran short.  We rolled on until our u turn point and where crossing the valley the real climbing was about to begin.  The rain of course had begun.

We were faced with a brute of climb which on a good day would have been hard but with the mud we were finding it hard to get any traction.  All but one of us were forced to walk much of that climb.  Matt, the younger of us, is like a whippet and very strong even on one gear.  He ploughed up the climb with what seemed like little bother putting most of us to shame!  Once near the top we were truly exposed to the elements and felt the rain and wind drive hard at us.

Pushing up but there are still smiles....or grimaces

Yes I was the one who had promised a hot sunny day.

Still at least we were heading back and that involved some downhill with a good wind on our backs.  Mike got blown off as we set off from the top, which shows how strong the wind was.  I was fighting to hold my lines down the damp moor land track.  As we went down the weather had improved and the skies had cleared, but it didn't stop us getting lost and having to negotiating a steep hill side on foot.  The final decent down was a narrow rocky one between the hedges which was doing its best impression of a stream as the water overflowed from the snow capped fells.  There was still the occasional couple foot of snow across the path too!

A puncture is always a good excuse to rest and chat

Getting back to the Dales bike centre we were able to shower the muck off ourselves and bikes before warming ourselves in the cafe with a nice cuppa and some very tasty cake. The worst of the rain then began so in someways we were lucky! It was a good ride out with some awesome people and hopefully the start of more ride outs together and good friendships.

Sunday 28 April 2013

Let the Racing Begin : Rd 1 North East MTB XC League 2013

Rd 1 North East MTB XC League - Ponteland

It was with a bit of anticipation I entered this round, after all its hard to have high expectations of yourself when training plans have fallen by the wayside and the mileage just hasn't added up.  I was, to say the least,not even riding fit let alone race fit.  Still, on arrival after recognising some familiar faces and chatting to friends, race nerves were put aside and I was able to enjoy the friendly atmosphere which made me enjoy this series so much last year.

The course was newly dug and was said to be about a mile in length with which we would commit to an hour of hard racing.  The ground was dry for the first time in nearly a year and promised to be a fast paced race.  I took the choice not to pre ride the course as time was getting tight and to avoid panicking myself. (I have been known to pre ride a course and not make back in time for the start!).  With the sun beating down on us and mild breeze across the field a large bunch of us lined up.  Mixed abilities were all combined including a few juniors and a large number of veterans. There were only three of us riding single speed.  I'd set myself back as I didn't think my chances in the first part were very good and planned to find a wheel early and pace it.

The course firstly went across a couple of dry packed field with a slight downward direction giving plenty of time to string the field out before hitting the woods and the single track.  The single track was on dry peaty ground which went twisted up and down the side of the hill.  One of the climbs had tight switch backs in them, while the other was a straight steep slog up.  The track had a nice flow to it, with out it being overly technical or slippery.  After coming out of the wood its was back onto the fields heading slightly up and into the headwind before a fast decent leading to a steep climb with a near impossible top part due to some wet mud.  More single track on the field followed before a small piece of wooded single track looping back onto the finishing straight.

From the off I held back for a few seconds and realised I was not the only one being hesitant on the line whilst the more experienced riders shot off fast.  I found myself putting in some speed spinning my gear fast and passing a fair few riders down the field into the single track.  Its always at this point you have little idea where you are, but at this point I was confident I was in the top half of the riders.  Not much changed during the lap I lost a place in the single track but the large group of riders behind me stayed there.  I was racing at full tilt, breathing hard.  Probably too hard as the first few climbs I had no more to give and was dismounting early to make it to the top.

Coming onto the second lap I had six riders close behind me who I'd held off until now.  But with the slight downhill from the start, big rings were being engaged and I was passed by all of them.  I lost a few more places on that lap as I tried to regain a more reasonable pace.  It proved to be my slowest lap and likely the result of such a fast start.

By the end of the lap I was sitting in a no-mans land with no one really close behind me or in front of me, and was now finding a comfortable pace.  My nearest rivals were as follows:

Lap 3
DODDS, J          +  :22
ME                     + 1:45
CARR, J            + 2:03

Dodds dangled in front of me for that lap, I could neither gain on him or could he get away.  My pace was remaining fairly even.  Laps 3,4,5 were all set within the a few seconds of each other.  Near the end of Lap 4 Carr had caught me and passed making a few meters on me.  It had seemed It was another place lost but he didn't seem to be making any ground on me.

Lap 4
DODDS, J           +  :21
CARR, J              +  :57
ME                      +1:00

During the penultimate lap I hung onto Carrs wheel, neither making any attempt to over take or loose him.  He became my focal point to keep going.  To be honest I had nothing to give that time to get ahead of him and was worried going in front I'd over cook it and fade.  The guy was similar to me technically and in the climbs so he was easy to stay with.  By the end of lap five we had pulled in a tiring Dodds.

Lap 5
DODDS, J          + 1:06
CARR, J            + 1:07
ME                     +1:09

With the bell ringing for a last lap I felt I could stick with this pace and perhaps take it to the line, but on the field decent before the single track, Carr slowed a bit and I made not just a pass but an attack.  I've never done this before.  I went hard with the aim of dropping him but also catching and passing Dodds.  I succeeded in dropping Carr but Dodds fought back and pulled back in front just before the single track.  Damn it.  I was now breathing out of my arse and a silly mistake on one of the climbs meant Dodds was pulling away.  I was burying myself to stay with him but the gap wouldn't shift.  The last climb I'd gained a little and as we dismounted to climb the top Dodds got off and walked while I ran.  I got passed him and pedalled for all I had to hold him off.

Finally I finished my lap time proving only a bit slower than my first lap and it took a while for me to catch my breath back.  I'd finished mid pack.  22 out of 44 proving my best result to date.  On the final lap the times were

Lap 6
SCHEREZER , F   59:28
ME                        +  :19
DODDS, J             + :28
CARR, J               + 1:06

So that's my first race in the bag, and a very enjoyable one.  My new bike was brilliant and well suited to the course, now I'm looking forward to racing on home turf and seeing if I can better myself on trails I know well.  I might even put some training in........

Friday 12 April 2013

Looking Back at the UCI MTB XCO World Cup 2012

Come May 8th 2013 the World XC action will be back with us again.  Its a race race series that I've found hard in the past to watch but the Internet has become better for me to view it and now I can see it through Extreme channel.  It was a good year with the Swiss rider Nino Schurter being a formidable force to contend with.  It is of course the last year in which we got to see Burry Stander race and even win one of the world cup rounds before his untimely and sad death.  I was going to write a report on each of the races but never got around to it.  Instead I thought I'd let you see for yourself. 

So for your pleasure I've compiled as many of the Mens races from last year as I could find into one area to save you the search. All the races are in full length. Sadly, I cant get access to the Olympic race or the final seventh round at Val d' Isere yet.  Enjoy!

Elite Men - Pietermaritzburg, South Africa - 17.03.2012

Elite Men - Houffalize, Belgium - 15.04.2012

Elite Men - Nov Mesto, Czech Republic - 13.05.2012

Elite Men - La Bresse, France - 20.05.2012

Elite Men - Mont Sainte Anne, Canada - 23.06.2012

Elite Men - Windham, U.S.A - 30.06.2012

Elite Men - World Championships -  Saalfelden Leogang, Austria - 08.09.2012

Overall Winner of World Cup
  1. SCHURTER Nino
  2. STANDER Burry
  3. KULHAVY Jaroslav
  4. FONTANA Marco Aurelio
  5. HERMIDA RAMOS Jose Antonio
  6. VOGEL Florian
  7. FUMIC Manuel
  9. GIGER Fabien
  10. FLUCKIGER Lukas

Monday 1 April 2013

Where are they now? Missy Giove

As a new piece to my blog I'd thought about delving into our past and finding out what has happened to bike stars from yester-year.  The years when Mountain Biking started coming of age and the good old Grundig World Cups. There have been many champions to the sport of both downhill and XC but there have been some that stood out more than others and so I'll be delving as deep as I dare and finding out what really happened to them after racing.

Missy Giove

Melissa "Missy" Giove (born 1972) is a former professional downhill mountain biker. Also know as the Missile , Giove was one of mountain-bike racing's first mainstream female superstars with an impressive reseme of achievements as well as her in your face, full on attitude that lit up the womens downhill scene.


She is the American all-time leader in NORBA downhill wins with 14, and is second on the World Cup list with 11. Giove's other accomplishments include three overall NORBA downhill crowns, two World Cup overalls, and the 1994 world championship title. Prior to cycling, Missy was also a nationally ranked downhill skier.

Early in her career, Missy raced for the highly respected boutique Yeti Racing team along with other top downhill racing stars such as Myles Rockwell, Jimmy Deaton, John Tomac, and Johnny O under the management of industry veteran and former owner of Yeti Cycles, John Parker. After establishing herself as the top US women's downhill talent, Missy moved to the larger corporate financed team of Volvo-Cannondale USA cycling team. Together Missy Giove and Myles Rockwell dominated many of the US downhill races under the Cannondale badge in the early 90's. Missy was always known for being colorful and fast talking, and noted for wearing the desiccated body of her deceased pet piranha Gonzo on a necklace when racing, and her dead dogs ashes in her bra.

During her career she raced hard and full on taking on the ethos of riding: "I went fast for maybe 50 yards and then crashed. Then I went 100 yards and crashed. Finally one day I made it across the finish line without crashing. I never got faster, I just made it down farther." This riding was to lead to many hard crashes.  One shattered her Pelvis in six places.  An injury that Doctors had told her she would not fully recover from.  Later while racing she also broke both her legs as well as getting a brain haemorage.

*World Cup Results At Bottom of Page*

What Happened After Racing

She announced her retirement from full-time racing in August 2003, and in March 2004, she appeared in an episode of the cartoon Rocket Power titled "Missile Crisis" (the title referring to her nickname), giving one of the characters a compliment. After retirement she helped finance the travel and fees for several up and coming downhill cyclists.

She retired in 2003. That same year she landed on the cover of Girlfriends magazine for a story promoting the publication’s lesbian athlete hall of fame. On April 25th she will celebrate her 4th wedding anniversary to Kristen Hofheimer Giove.

In June 2009 Giove was arrested in upstate Wilton, New York on charges of conspiring to possess and distribute over 400 pounds of marijuana. Giove has pleaded guilty to the charges and was facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years, a maximum penalty of 40 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $2 million.

On November 23rd, 2011 she was sentenced to the time served, six months of home detention and five years of supervised release. She was reported saying:

"I am extremely sorry and remorseful," Giove said. "I realize I was a role model to certain people. I'm really sorry for making the wrong decisions. I just want to move forward." Giove's attorney, Tim Austin, said head injures both forced his client to retire and sapped her financially, contributing to her decision to traffic marijuana. "Missy's involvement in this does not define who she is," Austin said. "She does not need prison to be rehabilitated."

Back in 2004, Giove was interviewed by competitive cycling journal VeloNews. She was asked what she thought would be her legacy:

I just always wanted to inspire people not to live their life in fear,” Giove said. “You know what, you’re only here once and that’s it. You better live it up.”

World Cup & World Championships Results

Date             Race                                Venue                   Cat  Sponser                Place  Entr %   Best    
13th Jul 20032003 Tissot World Cup #4Grouse MountainElite
8th Sep 20022002 Tissot World Cup #6Les GetsEliteGLOBAL RACING-400%
1st Sep 2002UCI - World Champs '02KaprunElite
14th Jul 20022002 Tissot World Cup #5Telluride, COEliteGLOBAL RACING4th2788%2:22.80
30th Jun '022002 Tissot World Cup #3Mont-Sainte-AnneEliteGLOBAL RACING12th2758%6:31.93
9th Jun 20022002 Tissot World Cup #2MariborEliteGLOBAL RACING26th3731%4:07.41
2nd Jun 20022002 Tissot World Cup #1Fort WilliamEliteGLOBAL RACING5th3588%6:00.17
16th Sep '01UCI - World Champs '01VailElite
26th Aug '012001 Tissot World Cup #8Mont-Sainte-AnneEliteGLOBAL RACING4th3491%5:47.85
12th Aug '012001 Tissot World Cup #7KaprunEliteGLOBAL RACING5th4591%7:20.20
5th Aug 20012001 Tissot World Cup #6LeysinEliteGLOBAL RACING6th3585%6:54.18
29th Jul 20012001 Tissot World Cup #5Arai MountainEliteGLOBAL RACING2nd1994%4:54.34
15th Jul 20012001 Tissot World Cup #4DurangoEliteGLOBAL RACING3rd2592%4:07.55
8th Jul 20012001 Tissot World Cup #3Grouse MountainEliteGLOBAL RACING2nd3797%2:09.75
17th Jun '012001 Tissot World Cup #2VarsEliteGLOBAL RACING3rd3895%3:51.95
10th Jun '012001 Tissot World Cup #1MariborEliteGLOBAL RACING3rd4295%3:23.55
27th Aug '002000 Tissot World Cup #8LeysinEliteAzonic / Foes4th3391%8:12.41
13th Aug '002000 Tissot World Cup #7KaprunEliteAzonic / Foes2nd3897%6:23.47
23rd Jul 20002000 Tissot World Cup #6Arai MountainEliteAzonic / Foes2nd1693%5:45.42
16th Jul 20002000 Tissot World Cup #5VailEliteAzonic / Foes2nd2696%5:00.48
2nd Jul 20002000 Tissot World Cup #4Mont-Sainte-AnneEliteAzonic / Foes1st30100%5:27.99
11th Jun '00UCI - World Champs '00Sierra NevadaElite
3rd Jun 20002000 Tissot World Cup #3MariborEliteAzonic / FOCUS3rd3694%4:34.62
28th May '002000 Tissot World Cup #2Cortina d'AmpezzoEliteAzonic / FOCUS2nd4298%3:41.57
21st May '002000 Tissot World Cup #1Les GetsEliteAzonic / FOCUS3rd3093%3:16.19
18th Sep '99UCI - World Champs '99ÅreElite
15th Aug '991999 Diesel World Cup #8KaprunEliteAzonic / Foes9th2971%7:55.10
8th Aug 19991999 Diesel World Cup #7BromontElite
1st Aug 19991999 Diesel World Cup #6Mont-Sainte-AnneElite
11th Jul 19991999 Diesel World Cup #5Squaw Valley, CAElite
27th Jun '991999 Diesel World Cup #4Big Bear Lake, CAElite
6th Jun 19991999 Diesel World Cup #3NevegalEliteAzonic / Foes2nd3097%5:00.35
30th May '991999 Diesel World Cup #2MariborEliteAzonic / Foes10th3069%5:22.09
23rd May '991999 Diesel World Cup #1Les GetsEliteAzonic / Foes2nd3097%8:17.97
20th Sep '98UCI - World Champs '98Mont-Sainte-AnneElite
30th Aug '981998 Grundig World Cup #8Arai MountainElite
16th Aug '981998 Grundig World Cup #7KaprunEliteCannondale / VOLVO3rd2592%5:26.70
9th Aug '981998 Grundig World Cup #6Sierra NevadaEliteCannondale / VOLVO16th2538%5:30.66
28th Jul 19981998 Grundig World Cup #5Snoqualmie PassElite
21st Jun 19981998 Grundig World Cup #4Big Bear LakeElite
31st May '981998 Grundig World Cup #3Les GetsEliteCannondale / VOLVO3rd2592%6:50.25
24th May '981998 Grundig World Cup #2NevegalEliteCannondale / VOLVO3rd2592%6:42.47
5th Apr 19981998 Grundig World Cup #1StellenboschElite
21st Sep 1997UCI - World Champs '97Château d'OexEliteCannondale/VOLVO43rd4913%9:38.87
15th Aug '971997 Grundig World Cup #6KaprunEliteCannondale / VOLVO1st25100%4:37.22
6th Jul 19971997 Grundig World Cup #5Massanutten, VAEliteCannondale / VOLVO3rd2592%5:07.20
29th Jun 19971997 Grundig World Cup #4Mont-Sainte-AnneEliteCannondale / VOLVO1st25100%6:09.20
1st Jun 19971997 Grundig World Cup #3Sierra NevadaEliteCannondale / VOLVO2nd2596%4:51.42
25th May 19971997 Grundig World Cup #2NevegalEliteCannondale / VOLVO3rd2592%6:29.52
18th May 19971997 Grundig World Cup #1Stellenbosch, RSAEliteCannondale / VOLVO2nd1894%5:30.37
22nd Sep 1996UCI - World Championships '96CairnsEliteVolvo-Cannondale3rd2089%5:31.37
23rd Sep 1995UCI - World Championships '95KirchzartenElite