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, 23 December 2012

Names On Frames - Personalised Decals Review

There is a trend increasing within the cycling world to make what you ride and what you wear more unique than ever.  More options than ever are open to us the cyclist.  Recently, I got some home designed cycle jerseys and I also talked in my Want It Wednesday about your own coloured saddle from Charge.  No you can design your own helmet or even get shoes made in special colour as well.

All great stuff, but a couple of weeks ago I came across this little gem from Names On Frames on twitter.  I've often loved looking at Pro cyclists bikes and loved knowing which is there bike parked up by the team bus.  The little name tag on the frame giving away who they are and in my soul I've harboured a little desire to have something similar.  I've always meant to find a company that would help me achieve this little dream without being stupidly priced.  Names On Frames, @NamesOnFrames just fits the bill perfectly and they are so easy to use.

Via their website you just fill in the drop down boxes with the kind of flag, script and colouring you want and your done.  Very easy.  Prices start from a happy on your wallet £5.95 for four stickers.

So to the review itself, and over all I am very happy with the services of Name On Frames.  Granted there was a technical hic-cup and my details of what I wanted hadn't work right for some reason or other either on my behalf or theirs.  However, I was contacted swiftly by David via E-Mail and when I didn't respond straight away he even tried me on Twitter too which in my mind is great customer service.  Once everything was ironed out the stickers came in the post within a few days so the wait really isn't long either.

The stickers are of good quality and easy to apply and have found a happy home on my helmet and frame.  Being white, they obviously don't stand out on my frame but all my decals are white as I'm after a subtle look.  Obviously others may want to purchase theirs in black script.  Still, you can see the stickers better on my helmet in the image below.

Overall, I would happily use Name On Frames again and if you want something similar then I see no reason to look elsewhere.

Subtle in White but goes well with the rest of my Decals

Feeling like a Pro

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Planning for the 2013 season - Keider 100, Three Peaks and C2C

My original plans of doing the UK 24hr solo championships were sadly put to a halt this year when I discovered that the venue had been moved from its usual hilly all weather surface to something quite the oposite.  It had been moved I think to make it more accessable for a larger number of riders and so increase the entries but sadly it is now a 7 hour trip and one I'm not willing to make.

So I've had to do a bit of head scratching.  It seems that endurance races in my part of the country are getting rarer.  I thought therefore that I would have to spend my season just doing short xc races instead.  No bad thing but anything over an hour and I struggle to make any impact no matter how much training I fit in.  I have however found something!  The Kielder 100 is a race I dismissed as being beyond my capabilities, but then I thought the same of a 24hr race so after a bit of reading I decided that it would be my main target for the year.  As a bonus it is held in September so my training for it wouldn't start till late winter (I hate training through the winter!)  This means I can still do bits of xc racing to keep up my speed and motivation.

The Kielder 100 is one tough race. The 100 stands for its distance in MILES, with about 14,000ft of climbing.  As its a race there are check points along the massive one lap course with cut off times.  If you don't make it in time your race is over.  Basically, it works out you have to keep over an 8mph average!  I'll be doing it on my rigid singlespeed........just because I can and they a proper SS category.

Anyway here is a video from the winners point of view during last years race.

There is also another race I am interested in doing and that is the Three Peaks Cyclo Cross race which is 38miles with 5,000ft of climbing and labelled as the worlds toughest CX race.  It is about two weeks after the Kielder 100 so I'm still not sure and places are limited so it may have to be a target for another year. That and I need a CX bike!  It looks hard, grim, challenging and fantastic all rolled into one.  Perfect.  Couples of videos below to whet the appetite.

Hopefully in preparation for these events I will also be finally getting my act together and doing the Coast to Coast which isn't a race but more a challenge.  Its a 150 mile ride taking in some tough road climbs of the lake district and pennines.  Some people take about 3 - 5 days to do it but it is possible to do it in one day and that will be my target.
So there we go.  I'll get some prep training in January started which will include some good cross training like trail running and weights, then time on the bike from February.  It's going to be a fab year if all goes to plan!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Want It Wednesday - Custom Charge Spoon Saddle

Came across this 'Want' last night.  I'm going to be buying a new saddle for my new mtb and was looking at buying this rather lovely one here.

However, is that good enough for my my WIW? No, I don't think so either.  So how about if you could have it custom coloured? Well now you can, because after a couple of years of rumour the lovely people of Charge now have a designated personalised saddle service allowing you to choose the colour of the cover, underside, bumpers, logo and stitching! You can have a go here
So is that a bit more exciting? I think so but obviously this bumps up the price quite a bit more and starts to put it out of my range a bit.  A normal saddle costs about £25 ($40) but a custom will cost from £70 ($112) which is a hefty jump!
There are some other people who also like to take part in Want It Wednesday and you can see them in the link.  Here you can see how to take part and see what others have been talking about.  So why not give it a go.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Eclipse Cycling Custom Made Cycle Clothing - Review

Recently I formed a group on facebook called North East Single Speed.  It's aim was to get together a group of like minded individuals to share thoughts, go on rides and socialise.  I know in the group there are some who will just do casual rides but then there are those like myself who would like to race.  On a trip to one such race I was travelling with a friend and we were discussing how cool it would be to have our own team kit so that we would be recognised at races and group meetings.  I explained that I'd already had a quick look and even had ideas for the design but sadly most of the companies would only allow you to order in bulk and we'd have to have more willing buyers before it could be considered.

However, after a little search I came across this company Eclipse Cycling.  The company, still very young and based in China, struck me for two reasons.  There is NO MINIMUM orders on anything you design and the clothing wasn't expensive.  I did some research and found only a small amount of information but there was enough out there to make me think that they could be trusted.  As there wasn't a load of cost involved I took the gamble and I thought I'd share my experiences with you.

On the website you go to their design software where you are given a number of pre set stencils which with a large range of colours gives you the scope to create something quite unique and stylish.  They have a showcase of some of there designs but really a little imagination is needed and you can produce some great looking tops.  I had already made designs on Photoshop for the jerseys logos on the front and the back which the software allow you to use on the jerseys and shorts.  Overall, the process of design is easy to use and quite fun so have a play around but bear in mind you can't save these unless you submit them to the company, but more on that in a bit. What I will say before you submit the design is don't rush it.  Get it as good and as close to your finished design as you can as it will save further complications in the future.  This is what I created:

Once you have submitted a 'ticket' then the real process begins.  You will then receive an email with a message from Eclipse and that will show you the image of your design. You can now, for the first time save the image and use it to show friends if you like, you have not yet committed to buying. I was contacted by Annie Lee, others have dealt with Max, but from my experience you keep in contact with the same person throughout the process.  You are now given the chance to finalise the product or make any changes, of which you are given three chances.

This is in my opinion where things got tricky and at times long winded.  Obviously here in the UK time zones mean that Emails to China would be slow and I'd often have to wait till the next morning to have any information from them. At first this was fine.  I made a small change to where I wanted the writing and that was done promptly and with no problems. However, I had grown a little impatient over a design on the long jersey whereby I wanted the sleeves done a certain way.  I explained as best I could but each time it was not done, sometimes with the design it went back to the original look that I'd already said was wrong.  Basically, although their written English is good, some things are lost in translation. You can see examples of their English on the website and grammar can let them down and not give a very professional impression.  In the end I took the image and saved it and manipulated it in photoshop to show what I wanted.  My advise stands as before, if you want it to look right and save a long process and explanation, try and get it as good as near finished first time.

With the design confirmed you are given a list of prices.  The prices are excellent.  You will find it hard to find normal tops that compare let alone ones with your own design.  Here is their list prices:

Short Sleeve Jersey $29.99
Wind Vest $37.99
Thermal Wind Vest $37.99
Long Sleeve Jersey $33.99
Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey $40.99
Regular Shorts $27.99
Bib Shorts $29.99
Pants $40.99
Thermal Pants $42.99
Bib Pants $42.99
Thermal Bib Pants $46.99
Arm Warmers $18
Thermal Arm Warmers $20

Short Sleeve Jersey + Regular Shorts $50
Short Sleeve Jersey + Bib Shorts $52
Long Sleeve Jersey + Pants Kits $65
Long Sleeve Jersey + Bib Pants Kits $70
Long Sleeve Jersey + Pants (Both Thermal) $70
Long Sleeve Jersey + Bib Pants Kits (Both Thermal) $78

There is on top of this postage to pay which is $12 if under $100 in total.

In UK currency it cost me £34 for a thermal jersey INCLUDING postage.  You will be informed about about how long the making and ordering process is expected to take.  Overall it takes about a month and you will be sent and Email when your item is shipped. The item can be tracked also but I found this was never updated and even now says processing! I know others who have said similar things. If you intend to want the jersey for an event or charity then I'd give the whole process at least two months from start to finish to avoid disappointment.

One more thing that bothers me about the current website is you can't see all the designs of others as you could previously. It also meant that I had to email again to get information on my design so others could also order. This in my mind needs to be addressed to make it easier for the consumer.

When my long sleeve thermal jersey came i couldn't have been more pleased. The jersey itself is made by Descente, and fitted just right. The sizing guide from experience is accurate and the top fitted the same as many of my other tops.  The actual jersey is much more like a training top, slightly loose on the chest allowing me to put it over my short sleeved jersey. I can confirm that after some cold weather here the top does a good job in adding warmth.  The top has also retained it colour and shape after a few washes. On a negative side, the print quality isn't 100%.  There is some 'ghosting' with parts of the logo and some of the red letters, but you'd have to be looking fairly close to really notice. There is, if you also look carefully at the back logo, a couple of small red spots that shouldn't be there  In fairness I suppose if you want Assos style gear with a unique well printed design be prepared to pay twice if not three times the amount and look elsewhere. The clothes at Eclipse, are good and allow you to have something unique for yourself or your team so on the whole I'd recommend them and will be placing further orders with them.  Below are some pictures of the final product.  Hope you like it as much as I do!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Want It Wednesday - Bike Transport

How do you get your bike to a venue, a race or a group meet?  Do you do what I do and fling your bike in the back of the car (remembering to bring some large sheets to cover the back so it doesn't get dirty)? Or do you have a way of transporting them on your vehicle of choice such as on a roof rack?  These are all very acceptable forms of bike transport but sometimes its just not......whats the word......'cool' enough?

I want something more special.  I want a van.  I think I've been harbouring this desire from many races I've been to where I've walked by and looked in the back of some of these vans and see them carry all manner of bike kit.  Which got me thinking, wouldn't it be great to have a van that was purposely set up for bike transportation.

I think my dream van would cover the obvious inner racking to hold a couple of bikes securely during driving, perhaps where I can take the front wheel of and secure it by a clamp on the forks.  Then I think what about tools.  This van should have an inset tool chest bolted in, covering all my mechanical needs and maybe a work stand that works with the tow bar. 

How about a place to put your bike shoes, helmet, back packs and clothing.  And what if you're going to a bigger event. Then we are talking somewhere to sleep, maybe even a canopy or gazebo to keep you dry outside of the van including tables chairs etc.  A BBQ, a wood stove burner to keep you warm at night?

You probably think I'm being a bit mad but I've seen all this kind of stuff at various races and I want one too.  Although I would want it super smart inside and organised not just a mobile shed.  Some of you maybe thinking why not get a camper van or big bus thingy with all the latest home comforts, but the truth is most roads in this county are small and don't warrant big vehicles and most of the time I only want to drive out locally with it.  Maybe for some this would be a bit 'pro' or team vehicle (the thought of personalised decals had occurred to me!) but I just like the idea having everything I need with me.  Maybe that is just me.....

Anyway that's my WIW which I know has been a long time coming.  Sorry about that.  Others have also been contributing in the last few weeks as well so you really should check their blogs out to see what they want.  See my link here to see them and how you can join in too.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Build Progress

Just thought I'd post up this picture to show you how the build up of my new bike is going. I officially now don't have a mtb to ride which sucks but needs must.  Hopefully another months time I'm going to be ready to ride!!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Pro Cycling - It's Time To Believe In A Clean Sport

The USADA report has changed so much in cycling.  I for one welcomed the damning of Lance Armstrong, the downfall and final stripping of his seven cheated Tour de France Titles.  I've read so much into this man now that my head is swimming with endless information.  I've trawled the countless arguments on the forums and sat and watched as the pro Lance arguments have become more desperate in his defence.

There was nothing in the USADA report that was not already known, it was interesting certainly but much of the information I've touched on here before.  Perhaps it was the extent of how much he pushed other riders into doping that caused most alarm but it was no shock to me.  My opinion of Lance was never that great, I had already deemed him a bully so this was still not news.  Everyone just suddenly seemed so shocked by it all, I can only assume these people never read much into the subject and had to have it written out chapter and verse for them to get it.

I can say though it did change the hearts of many.  One of my friends who I've clashed on on a many of occasions was still strongly defending him before the report, claiming defence of hearsay, bad witness' etc.  Armstrong to him was an inspiration as a cyclist.  He went quiet for ages and I was surprised one day when he announced his feelings of sadness and having been totally let down by his hero.  He had come around, and instead of feeling smug I actually felt for him.  I had long excepted him as a cheat but for those that truly believed it must be so much of a let down.

I would say justice is done and the Armstrong has been rightfully stripped of his Titles and at time of writing his Olympic medal from Sydney is also under threat.

So what has this all meant.  Where does that leave pro cycling and its future?  Certainly, the focus has now shifted away from lance and moved onto the UCI.  This is a good direction to take as the UCI is rotten to the core and we can't have the top end of cycling run by those who aren't proactive in taking stronger measures against doping.  We need a new President to replace Pat "Dick" Mcquaid.  I find myself a little sympathetic of his rule at times.  He has wanted to prove the sport clean and show that cycling has moved on since the Festina affair.  But this idea has been his uncoming for in showing the sport to be clean has he had to ignore positive dope tests? Surely, to show the sport is clean is to not actually catch anyone? It is good to see in this instance that Paul Kimmage has lodged a criminal complaint against Pat for defamation after dropping a similar one against him!  The time for playing softly softly is over, and a hard stance has to be taken, not just with the positive tests but from the teams as a whole. And for this we need someone new and even new staff.

Pat McQuaid

The pressure of doping can come in two forms.  The one most commonly thought of is the plain cheat.  The one who wants to win for themselves, be the best at the sport and damn what the rest think.  There have always been these people in sport, and no doubt always will be.  Then there are the teams that pressure their riders for better results to please the sponsors,  the teams that will openly pay more to a rider if they dope.

In both instances I would propose that blame not be put onto just the rider but also the team managers and directeur sportives.  Let me explain.  If the leaders of the team were held more accountable for doping in the team then they would work more proactively to ensure it didn't happen or else loose their own jobs.  Even for the rogue cyclist, doping would be harder if the managers were trying to catch them out.  We need to removing the likes of Johan Bryneel who has had many riders dope under his control.  Riders who no doubt doped and are now team managers is not always good news, particularly those that have got away with it for years.

I like what team Garmin have done with their approach to doping.  They have ex dopers on the team yes but take a pro active approach against it.  They now have riders who talk out against it which many of the peleton despite the talk since LA have remained silent.  The Omerta remaining as strong as ever?  Sky have taken a different approach and have made all riders and staff sign a contract to state they don't and never have been involved in doping.  The result is they have lost big name staff such as Sean Yates.  Is this what all teams should do?  No, I don't think so.  By threatening peoples loss of jobs they are driving the issue under ground and ex dopers that are young and still got a career in front of them will not come forward.  I was all for the idea of an amnesty for riders to come forward but this has slipped away.  Maybe the truth would have been to much?  However, when people talk next year of teams being clean (and they will) will anyone dare say Team Sky is dirty?  Maybe that is what David Brailsford is striving for.  Teams we can start to believe and champions that we can say, "yeah he was clean" rather than the cloud of doubt left by so many previous yellow jersey cheats.

Americas golden age of cycling may have been something that never really was but at least they are talking.  Why have so many of the Europeans kept quiet on the matter?  Some of the Brits such as Cavendish and Wiggins have had much to say on the subject as of course has David Millar.  But what of the French and Italians? The Spanish have been coming out in the last week.  Indurain and Contador have shown support for Armstrong, which I felt strange.  Was the USADA report not translated into Spanish? Who knows but other Spaniard Oscar Friere was more honest and linked Spain as being the dirtiest of the nations and wondered on the link there.

People say cycling is now clean.  I say its not.  It cleaner.  But while new drugs are being developed and drug tests are being beaten then this problem will always emerge.  New drug tests aren't the answer to stopping this, but removing the old doctors, making managers accountable, having the tech for team mangers to test their riders and punishments that will effect a riders career rather than season could well be.  It needs to be explored but I seldom think it is.  I keep having this gut feeling people are looking at the wrong thing.  Happy just to blame but not make a proactive attempt to change.

I want to believe again.  I want to cheer a winner and know he is really clean. Here's what History has to say.  Lets hope the future is brighter.

Status of Tour de France winners

2012Bradley WigginsNever tested positive
2011Cadel EvansNever tested positive
Alberto ContadorTested positive
Banned for two years
Named in Operación Puerto doping case, but later declared clean.
Tested positive during 2010 Tour de France for the banned stimulant clenbuterol. Suspended for two years. Andy Schleck named as winner by default[97]
2008Carlos SastreNever tested positive
2006Floyd LandisTested positive
Banned for two years
Tested positive for high testosterone to epitestosterone ratio;[47] Óscar Pereiro named as winner by default - Clean but cleared after testing positive for salbutamol. In 2010 admitted to taking EPO, testosterone, human growth hormone and blood transfusions along with female hormones and insulin.[clarification needed]
1999–2005Lance Armstrong

Banned for life.

Retroactively stripped of all titles since August 1998.
Tested positive for glucocorticosteroid hormone without prescription given in advance.[98]
Associated with Michele Ferrari, who is suspected of prescribing doping agents.[99]
Allegations by former assistant for Androstenine use.[100]
Alleged EPO use in 1999 Tour de France.[101]
According to court testimony by former teammate, Frankie Andreu, Armstrong admitted to doping to his doctor when in hospital for cancer treatment.[102]
Floyd Landis accused Armstrong of doping in 2002 and 2003, and claimed that U.S. Postal team director Johan Bruyneel had bribed former UCI president Hein Verbruggen to keep quiet about a positive Armstrong test in 2002.[103][104][105] Landis also maintains that he witnessed Armstrong receiving multiple blood transfusions, and dispensing testosterone patches to his teammates on the United States Postal Service Team.[106]
Former team-mate Tyler Hamilton accused Armstrong of doping with testimony to a federal grand jury during an investigation of Armstrong.[107] Hamilton implicated that Armstrong had used EPO on the TV news show 60 Minutes.[108]
Implicated in a massive doping scheme by findings by USADA in 2012. Consequently banned for life and stripped of all career titles since August 1998.[41]
1998Marco PantaniNever tested positive
Banned for six months
Failed a blood test in 1999 Giro d'Italia.
Insulin found in his hotel room in the 2001 Giro d'Italia, but later declared clean "for not having committed any infraction."
Nonetheless, the UCI confirmed the suspension. [109][110][111]
1997Jan UllrichNever tested positive
Banned from the 2006 Tour
Retroactively stripped of titles 2005-2007.
Tested positive for amphetamines (off season, not taken for athletic performance gain)[112]
Involved in the Operacion Puerto case. DNA subsequently linked to blood bag discovered during Puerto investigation[113]
1996Bjarne RiisNever tested positive
Confessed doping use
Confessed having used EPO in 1996[114]
1991–1995Miguel IndurainTested positive
Never sanctioned
Tested positive for salbutamol in 1994, however both the IOC and UCI allowed Indurain, and asthma sufferers to use Salbutomol at the time.[115]
Greg LeMondNever tested positive
1988Pedro DelgadoTested positive
Never sanctioned
Tested positive for probenecid in the 1988 Tour de France, although it was not illegal for cyclists at that time[116]
1987Stephen RocheNever tested positive
Never sanctioned
According to an investigation in Italy into the practices of Francesco Conconi, Roche received EPO in 1993[117]
Bernard HinaultNever tested positive
1983–1984Laurent FignonTested positiveIn 1989 Fignon tested positive after a team time trial[118][119][120]
tested positive for amphetamines at the Grand Prix de la Liberation in Eindhoven on 17 September 1989.[121][122]
1980Joop ZoetemelkTested positiveTested positive in the 1977 (pemoline[123]), 1979 (steroids[124]) and 1983 Tour de France (nandrolon, although that was retracted later[123])
Bernard ThévenetNever tested positive
Confessed doping use
Admitted using steroids in the 1975 and 1977 Tour[30][125]
1976Lucien Van ImpeNever tested positive
Eddy MerckxTested positiveMerckx has tested positive three times, but never at the Tour de France. He was expelled from the 1969 Giro d'Italia after testing positive for Reactivan.[126]
He tested positive for Mucantil after winning the 1973 Giro di Lombardia. The drug was later take off the banned list.[126]
In the 1977 Flèche Wallonne, Merckx tested positive for Stimul (pemoline), along with Freddy Maertens and Michel Pollentier .[127]
1973Luis OcañaTested positiveTested positive in the 1977 Tour de France (pemoline) 18st stage.
1968Jan JanssenNever tested positive
1967Roger PingeonNever tested positive
1966Lucien AimarTested positive
Banned for one month
Missed the 1969 Vuelta a España due to a one-month doping ban.
1965Felice GimondiNever tested positive
Jacques AnquetilConfessed doping useDebated with French government minister on television, saying "Leave me in peace; everybody takes dope."
After winning Liège–Bastogne–Liège in 1966, was temporarily disqualified after refusing a drug test, saying he had already been to the toilet. He was later reinstated after he engaged a lawyer as the case was never heard.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Want It Wednesday But With A New (Easier!) Twist

I have been scratching my head about this one.  I have loved doing WIW and enjoyed reading other peoples posts on it.  I did feel that it was quite a commitment for people to take part in and it was mentioned whether it could be done on a more casual basis.

Well you can't say I don't listen and so have decided to do just that.

What I have proposed is that you can do a WIW any Wednesday you like!  Any posts that you do I will now put directly onto my WIW page showing your blog name and 'want'.  I will link back to your blog as per usual.  You don't have to do anything different from what you were doing before, just the posts will be collected differently and there is no set Wednesday in the month.

If you are new then please see my Want It Wednesday and the new instructions are up with an example of what I mean!

Hope to hear from you all soon.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Painted On-One Scandal 29er Frame 2012 edition

I've been a away from my blog a bit too much recently, sorry about that.  I'm don't race during the winter and so haven't had much to write about. I have, however, been concentrating on getting my Scandal frame painted and ready for building up.

Painting the frame has been a labour of love on my behalf.  I've never painted a bike before and after reading up on how to do it from many sources I got to work putting on the primer, paint and then lacquer.  There were a few small mistakes made along the way but after sanding these were sorted out and as the main colour went on I was starting to produce a smooth result.  The final results I'm very pleased with.  I've had to be soooo patient in between coats and sometimes re doing something and then going back and redoing the paint followed by more waiting for it to dry.  It ended up taking two weeks in total!

Anyway here are some photo to give you a taster as to how its going.

The decal colour was a hard one to decide on and in the end I went for white which I'm really happy I did. Of course the head badge finishes it off beautifully.
The On-one carbon forks have also been painted in the same colour and are nearly finished.  I noticed that the lacquer hadn't really covered certain parts of the fork well and so it needs another coat. (shame I've run out and need to go buy some more!)
I will end up putting most of my finishing kit from my current bike on to this just get it in a ride-able state.  I'm waiting on rims and to get them built.  Eventually, the stem and bars will be hi polished silver ones the same as my new Thomson seat post.  I'm very excited and wish I had the money to do it in one go!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Want It Wednesday - Goodbye.

Well after a while of hosting this linky party I have finally decided to call it a day.  For the time being at least.  So it's bye bye to Want It Wednesday I'm afraid.

I'd just like to thank all those that have supported the concept over the year, you've been fab but have decided that numbers have been dwindling of late and I was fighting to keep interest.

Anyway who knows, it may be back later.  Hope to here from you all still in the future!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Being A Lab Rat

While reading my copy of Joe Friel's excellent Cyclists Training Bible, I came across the part about over reaching training (not sure if it's in the newer edition).  It talks about a method of training where by four weeks before a major event training is not only increased significantly in volume but also in intensity pushing the body to a state of near over training.  This is followed by two weeks of very little cycling which should help the body peak perfectly.

This test was perferormed on professionals and later amateurs. Although it doesn't state it on the page (it does in the references) this study was done by the young Dutch professor called Asker Jeukendrup.  I know this because I worked with him as one of his amateur studies at the University of Birmingham.

It was twelve years ago now and I still have strong memories of it.  The day my housemate Matt and I waited in this small office in a building at the University of Birmingham.  We had come to this point after seeing an advertisment in a bike shop window asking for cyclists to take part in a study and with the offer of £300 pounds .  That to two students was more than enough bait. We would cycle AND get paid for it!  Asker Jeukendrup interviewed us both in his office and questioned us on what cycling we'd done, a bit about ourselves before going on to explain what he would want us to be doing.  The word 'hard' was used a few times but we were young and has reasonable fitness so that word never truely sunk in.  Beside, free money was involved.

What neither of us were really aware of us is who Asker really was, but during our time we learnt more.  It probably wasn't until years later that I found out more about it him on the internet.  We knew at the time he was a nutritional advisor to proffessional cyclist and particularly the Rabobank cycle team. I also discovered that he had links with helping Lance Armstrong come back to racing after recovering from cancer.  He has since written books and articles on sports nutrition (you'll find his name in loads of references) and done 19 ironman races and competed at european and world duathlons.  He certainly had an impact on my life and perhaps is why I took up so much interest in nutrition and training.

When someone says hard, it is often difficult to weigh that up.  Riding 100 miles is hard.  Doing a 24 hour race is hard.  Doing Intervals is hard.  What Asker meant by 'hard' was different to anything else I could imagine.  It was a 'hard' that nearly broke me, a never ending nightmare.

We met up in the labs and were introduced to a pretty young Australian woman called Shona Halson who was doing her Phd and would be helping with the study.  We were shown the equipement, lent the latest polar heart rate monitors and given our training schedules for the first two weeks. 

The first two weeks were straight forward enough.  There would be 10 or so hours of endurance training, some tempo work and some short intervals.  All our rides were recorded using the heart rate monitors.  But it was the lab training that proved to be the most taxing.  Before the initial trial Matt and I under took a VO2 Max test.  I'm not sure how many of you have done one of these (they usually cost £80 to do) but basically the static bike every two minutes increases in resistance.  You have a tube in your mouth measuring oxygen intake and I had bloods taken from me which was used to measure lactate acid at various heart rates and intensity. I hate needles at the best of time!  They are horrible, doing a ramping test is bad enough but trying to breath with a tube on your mouth whilst having someone withdraw blood from you just added to the bad experience.  I ended up having to do eight of these things over the six weeks. It was here I discovered that my maximum heart rate was 225.  Also included ever week was a static 40km time trial.  Dull at the best of times this on top of training was very tiring.  We also did once a week a two set 10 minute intervals.  I'm not sure which I dreaded the most.  Every exercise required some blood from me.  I was weighed regularly and had my fat measured with calipers.  Once a week I had to wear a my heart rate monitor during the night, as well as keep a mood diary.

£300 was not feeling like enough.......


The first two weeks went by ok.  I was fitting the training hours around my life (not in my girlfriends opinion) and spending early morning at the lab and riding long hours at the weekend.  By the end of the two weeks I was starting to feel a bit tired.  But this was only the start.

Weeks three and four were monsters.  The intensity went up some 30% and the hours near doubled, or at least that how it felt.  The 40km time trail was the worst.  My legs were dead weights from the start so it would prove a very slow time.  I had when fresh done it in 1hour 7 minutes by the end of week 4 I was doing it in 1hour 22minutes.  By the end of week three I was a broken man.  Near to tears at having to do another lab test, having more blood taken from me.  My mood was way down, I was aggitated, my concentration low and I wasn't sleeping well.  Worse my veins in my arms had started to collapse from all the injections I'd had.  I looked the proper junkie.  It's difficult to describe depression but I was close to it.  Matt was the same and both of us had said to Shona about wanting to quit.  We had had enough.  It really was that hard.  The out of lab intervals were no more fun and riding my bike was the last thing I wanted to do.  Duing a big long ride or race is hard but only for that moment this was continous and those two weeks just went on forever.  Shona talked us round.  Her Australian charm winning us over.  I was always a sucker for an accent and a pretty face.  Asker in the mean time had gone off to join the Rabobank team at the giro d'Italia but sent us a lovely letter wish us luck during our 'weeks of hell' as he put it while he gives support to the Rabobank boys in sunny Italy.  Least he brought back some team bottle for us!

By the end of week 4 we knew that the worst was over.  The VO2 tests would continue as would the intervals and time trials but the the general riding was stopped.  By week six the last of the weeks I was feeling so much better in mood and in fitness.  My last 40km I did a 1hour 2 minute test beating my previous by 5 minutes.  In fact Matt and I improved in everthing and by some considerable margins.  I was feeling really good.

We were later given all our data along with explanations of what it all meant.  I've kept it all and it has proved very useful.  I learnt so much about myself.  I know at what heart rate my body would produce excess lactic acid, my VO2max but also my ability as an athlete.  The test would pretty much end any hopes of being proffessional but I'd figured that out before.  I learnt what it was to train really hard and am now very aware of myself and of getting overtrained.  It was the hardest money I'd ever earnt, but it has given me lasting memories.  Not all good I'll grant!

I ttitled this 'being a lab rat' as at the end of the day all I was was a statistic, an experiemnt in sports science.  The data used from these studies went on to prove probably very little and to even question the use of it in training and what over training is.  I hope you're all very grateful, I suffered for science and a better understanding.  Well maybe not............but I got paid.

A week later Matt and I took part in a team in the Red Bull Mountain Mayhem 24hr race and did some blistering lap times.  This training method obviously worked but to this day I could never repeat the effort required and neither would I ever recommend it to anyone.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Want It Wednesday #27 - The Question of Wheels.

My bike build is proving to be something of a headache.  While it should be fun and exciting creating an original rather than off the peg bike it is proving…well complicated.  The problem is that it is marked by restraints of money and my sometimes stupid obsession with weight.  The two in the bike world hold hands in gay harmony. Simply put if you want light you gotta pay big bucks.  Which to allow this line to rhyme, sucks.

I have so far struck lucky with my On-One frame and now for that matter their new carbon fork which I wanted last fortnight.  Both of them are light and haven’t cost me a wad of money, but now my attention has turned to wheels.  More specifically rims and tyres (tires for my American friends!)
I really really(!) want to get some Stans ZTR crest rims.  They are light, strong and are the best option out there for converting to tubeless.  These are all important to me but they are going to cost me £130. Boo hoo.  I could just get the DT Swiss X470 rims which are good rims.  I’ve had 26er equivalent for years and rate them and they go well with my DT Swiss 240s hubs. They would cost half the price! But, and I really think I should have put that in capitals to exasperate my turmoil; BUT they weigh over 100grams more or 200 if you add them together which is half pound in weight….on wheels.  I could be cheap and have a good 1700gram wheel set or spend more and wait longer to get the other bits I need and have a 1500gram set.  (notable this is the same weight as my current 26er wheels).


Being tubeless would make them lighter still……


Look at them, aren’t they lovely and so many people say good things about them but I just don’t know how much longer I can wait to have my bike lying in bits purring sweet nothings about me about fast rolling rides and a new and fun beginning in the 29er world.


I won’t even go into the turmoil that is the rubber question of tyres.  Schwalbe spring to mind but I can’t justify their price when they wear out so fast so maybe Maxxis Ignitors but aren’t they hard to get onto rims!  Bontrager 29-2?  Don’t they only work well with their own rims tubeless?  Everything else seems to either weigh a tonne or just be over the top or to minimalist for what I need.  Hey you may gather me to be fussy.  I just want it to be right.  I want a sub 20lbs Single Speed bike and I’m going to have to cough up and be patient.

Or maybe not…….

 Who else is taking part in WIW this week?

Merry*Death on a Bike

To take part please go to the top page marked Want It Wednesday and follow the instructions.

Friday, 21 September 2012

North East Single Speed (UK) Team Kit

First Design of the kit.  What do you think?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

North East Single Speed (uk) Is Born

I've been a bit busy recently. 

I did my last MTB race of the season on my single speed finishing a reasonable 25th out of 37 competitors, done on a course that was tough on a SS. I was joined by my friend who also competed in his first race on a single speed and finished just ahead of me in 21st.  Despite being bitten to death by a swarm of vampire like midges we had both enjoyed ourselves, not least because of the light factor.  Being September the race ended up finishing in near dark conditions which was I suppose dangerous for some of the racers.  My friend and I came equipped as did a small few others with lights.  I love night riding so it was good to be racing on fast flowing single track with only the beam of light in front of me to guide the way.  It's the first time I've ridden so fast in semi darkness so it got quite scary at times, I can only imagine how the poor racers without must have felt!

The reason I mention this race here in this post is that I did something different on sign on.  After my name I got to fill out the little empty box which had TEAM written above it.  My friend and I both wrote North East Single Speed. That felt weird and a bit pretentious as we aren't sponsored but then I suppose nor are many cycle clubs.  And that is what North East Single Speed (NESS) is.  A club for SS.

I have recently created  this group on facebook to try and catch those who ride their single speeds in this area of England.  The aim is to try and get like minded riders out for group rides as well as form something of a race team.  I've already mentioned that I was trying to push local race organisers to be the first and have a specific recognised single speed category.  Not their own race, but just recognition that they took part.  I've had some luck so far and talks are under way for next year.  So for this I've been concentrating on creating a more professional look of this SS group.  Mention was made of getting a Jersey made and so after a bit of searching designing began.

After some hours of fiddling and playing with designs and lettering I've managed to create something with what looks about right.  I'd love to show you the Jersey product but I can't right now as the company doesn't have a feature to save design to a hard drive.  However, I can show you the logos I did for it.

The Jersey is white and black with bands of dark red in it.  The upper chest and upper back are in white and that is where the logo go.  On the front it looks like this:

and on the back it looks like this:
The logo is based on a lone chainring for obvious reasons.  The flower is the Yorkshire white rose (think Wars of the Roses) petals are beer bottles a symbol of socialising!

a little motto is written on the back near the bottom which reads 'Derailleurs are for Failures'

No doubt when I get proper pictures I will show you.

So for me this is all exciting.  Some may curse me for trying to make it more main stream.  That's not really my aim.  SS is said to be on the decline and I'm gripping it and trying to bring friends together for fun rides and doing something the Americans have. A category all of there own.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Want It Wednesday #26 - On-One Carbon Monocoque Tapered Fork

Well a few weeks ago I delared my WIW to be for a very beautiful eXotic carbon fork.  I had full plans for actually buying this fork as it was in my price area.

But it makes way for this little lust.

On-One Monocoque Tapered Carbon Fork

This is On-One's new Monocoque tapered carbon fork.  It weighs 700grams.  700grams!  Better still it's only £150.  The reason I like this fork is that it was designed to go with the Lurcher carbon frame.  Well the Lurcher shares exactly the same geometry as my Scandal so it will ride well with it.  Also my frame has a tapered headtube so having a tapered fork will work and look better than my previous WIW.  It does have the look of a road or cross fork but I think it'll look great.  What do you think?

So I'm going to get this next week.  Happy days :)

So what are you wonderful people Wanting for this Wednesday?

Join in if you want by going to my Want It Wednesday page and following the instructions.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Lance Armstrong - A Hero

Lance Armstrong, World Champion, 7 time Tour de France Winner and Cancer survivor.  To many he is iconic not just to the sport of cycling but to those who have ever suffered or been effected by cancer.

His book 'It's not about the bike' is a detailed true story of his fight and survival against a cancer that brought him close to death and his return to the forefront of cycling's premium race the Tour de France from 1999 onwards.  His seven wins from 1999 to 2005  were often magnificent his domination of a the tour a splendour to watch and to many of his fans he is a hero.  But with great success also comes equal suspicion, his victories tainted with accusation of illegal doping and blood transfusions.  It seems that no one is allowed to be this good without being suspected of being a cheat.

But to this day and despite over 500 urine and blood tests taken during, before, after and at anytime out of competition, Armstrong has never been caught.  He is by all accounts clean despite the rumours.  He has fought many court battles against those that would try to taint his name.  He has quite rightly defended all that he has strived to obtain.  Some would say that he is aggressive and quick to put people in line but this is his right in stopping rumours and lies formed by jealous or spiteful ex employees.

To many his success in cycling is only a small part of his fan base.  He is the founder of Livestrong a charity which to date has raised over 500 million dollars to help with research, awareness and helping those deal with cancer.  As an unlikely survivor he has often given hope to those who face the fight, a hero in the fight against the evil of cancer.

Yet here we are in 2012 witness to the proclaimed stripping of all he stood for.  His tour titles stricken from the record books.  The American Anti doping organisation (USADA) have attempted  to take Armstrong to court to investigate his use of doping within the sport and his involvement of trafficking and being part of an organised doping ring.  The case led by Travis Tygart has by many people been seen as nothing short of a witch hunt.  Despite all his previous tests and no evidence found of doping from races 13 years ago USADA have continued to try and bring Armstrong to justice.  A few days ago Armstrong finally conceded that he would no longer fight the case.  This isn't an admission of defeat as so many would claim but more a dispirited response after years of trying to fight to clear his name.

American Armstrong said in a statement that he is "finished with this nonsense" and insisted he is innocent but did not want to spend any further effort clearing his name.
He said: "There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough'. For me, that time is now.
"I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999."

So what if his titles are stripped, what then?  In a sport that has been rife with doping and blood transfusion passing the jersey onto the likes of Jan Ulrich who failed drugs tests and later confessed guilt.  The whole thing smites as pointless.  Stripping him of his titles is a at best not going to achieve anything. Even if he did dope he would have been racing against others who were also doing the same and so levelling an even playing field.

 He will always be seen by millions as the winner of those tours and taking those from him will fail to clear up doping within cycling.  This has brought a lot of questions on USDA as to this charade.  It is felt that they are doing this to justify their own existence, trying to land a big fish and not following up on already outstanding cases or other sports that suffer the same doping problems.  It would also seem that they no longer want to loose face in this very public debacle.

 Armstrong claims the USADA investigation "has not been about learning the truth or cleaning up cycling, but about punishing me at all costs".

"Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart's unconstitutional witch hunt," he said.

He accused USADA of having "broken the law" and "played the role of a bully" and insisted he always "played by the rules" put in place by anti-doping agencies and cycling's world governing body the UCI.

He added in a statement on his personal website: "The idea that athletes can be convicted today without positive A and B samples, under the same rules and procedures that apply to athletes with positive tests, perverts the system and creates a process where any begrudged ex-team-mate can open a USADA case out of spite or for personal gain or a cheating cyclist can cut a sweetheart deal for themselves.

"It's an unfair approach, applied selectively, in opposition to all the rules. It's just not right."

The supposed evidence that they have brought forward includes up to ten of his team mates but their motives are under question.  Some believe that they may have been bribed with money or pardons for there own misgivings in drug usage.

But drugs aside and even if he is found to be guilty in someway the Armstrong fan base remains strong and this is perhaps most evident in the extra donations that have been made to Livestrong.  People don't often care much about cycling and his success but more what he has brought to those affected by cancer.  Before he is condemned he should be remembered for his charity work which he intends to continue supporting.

Lance Armstrong is a Hero in cycling with or without his titles, drugged or no he beat the best in the sport who were doping.  His work for cancer has been inspirational and an example to many.

Please Also See - Lance Armstrong A Bully And A Cheat

Lance Armstrong - A Bully and a Cheat.

Lance Armstrong, World Champion, 7 time Tour de France Winner and Cancer survivor. To many he is iconic not just to the sport of cycling but to those who have ever suffered or been effected by cancer.

His book 'It's not about the bike' is a detailed true story of his fight and survival against a cancer that brought him close to death and his return to the forefront of cycling's premium race the Tour de France from 1999 onwards. His seven wins from 1999 to 2005 were often magnificent his domination of a the tour a splendour to watch and to many of his fans he is a hero. But with great success also comes equal suspicion, his victories tainted with accusation of illegal doping and blood transfusions. It seems that no one is allowed to be this good without being suspected of being a cheat.

Recently the American Anti doping Committee (USADA) led by Travis Trygart have submitted evidence against Lance that he prohibited substances, had trafficked drugs including EPO and testosterone, and had administered such drugs to others.  USADA also have evidence that Armstrong assisted, encouraged, aided, abetted and covered up those anti doping violations.  This evidence also includes Johann Bruyneel the director sportif, RadioShacks team doctor Pedro Celaya  and Pepi Marti the team trainer for the last decade.

All to often forum sites and Lance Armstrong's fan base have failed to understand the above.  All to often he is excused because he passed over 500 drugs tests from urine and blood taken at any time in and out of competition, and that USADA can't strip him of his titles as he has not officially been caught.

Lets look at this as a defence for him.  Firstly this isn't just about doping to win in races but also how he has been involved with doping in the sport.  There are ten of his team mates who are willing to testify that he was involved.  Now to Lance he feels that these people have been bribed with money or pardons to cover for their own usages of drugs within the sport.  Some this could well be the case but if people like George Hincapie who has continued to ride 17 tours and has been one of Lances right hand men or even described as a 'brother', is willing to speak out then eyebrows should be raised.  Others over the years have also proved not only their own evidence his involvement but his attitude towards doping:

Lance has often been quick to legally bring down anyone who would blacken his name, these include Emma O'Reilly, US Postals Team Massuese who testified against Lance.  O'Reilly said she heard team officials worrying about Armstrong's positive test for steroids during the Tour. She said: "They were in a panic, saying: 'What are we going to do? What are we going to do?' "
Their solution was to get one of their compliant doctors to issue a pre-dated prescription for a steroid-based ointment to combat saddle sores. O'Reilly said she would have known if Armstrong had saddle sores as she would have administered any treatment for it.
O'Reilly said that Armstrong told her: "Now, Emma, you know enough to bring me down." O'Reilly said on other occasions she was asked to dispose of used syringes for Armstrong and pick up strange parcels for the team.  Lance Armstrong hounded her for two year suing her for a million euros for what she had said in this interview with David Walsh.

An example of his attitude towards doping is also made clear by cyclist Christophe Bassons who was one of the cyclists caught up in the Festina Affair in 1998 whereby the whole team were arrested and searched finding evidence of drugs within the team.  Bassons was later cleared by his own members of the team saying he was a clean rider. From obscurity, Bassons emerged as one of the few cyclists who would criticise drug-taking in the sport. He spoke for many when he complained that the sport had "two speeds", one for the drug-takers and one for people like who him who did not cheat.

During the 1999 Tour de France Bassons was asked to write a column for the newspaper, Le Parisen. The Tour featured the return of Lance Armstrong after his battle with cancer. Basson wrote that the riders were shocked by the speed of Armstrong. Armstrong later cycled up to Bassons to remonstrate with him and encouraged him to leave the Tour. Later on French TV, Armstrong admitted the conversation. "His accusations aren't good for cycling, for his team, for me, for anybody. If he thinks cycling works like that, he's wrong and he would be better off going home," he said.
Other riders threatened him and most ignored him. Bassons could not take the pressure and left the Tour.

Filippo Simeoni a former Italian champion has testified in court that he had used EPO under team doctor Michele Ferrari.  This was the same doctor that Armstrong used and in an interview with a french newspaper Armstrong had called Simeoni a "liar". On the 18th stage of the 2004 edition of the Tour de France, Simeoni gapped up to a breakaway of six riders that posed no threat to Armstrong's leading position. Nevertheless, Armstrong followed Simeoni, which prompted Armstrong's rival T-Mobile Team to try to catch the breakaway. This would not only catch Armstrong but also eliminate the stage winning chances of the six riders in the original breakaway. The six riders implored Armstrong to drop back to the peloton, but Armstrong would not go unless Simeoni went with him and the two riders dropped back to the peloton. When Simeoni dropped back, he was abused by other riders, including Andrea Peron, Filippo Pozzato and Giuseppe Guerini. In a later interview, he told of how Daniele Nardello also abused him, calling him "a disgrace". Afterwards, Armstrong made a "zip-the-lips" gesture but later said that Simeoni "did not deserve" to win a stage. Two days later was the final stage, which is usually a slow stage in which the Tour winner (in 2004 it was Armstrong) already celebrates his victory. But in this stage Simeoni continuously attacked, to take revenge for what Armstrong did three days before, but was reeled in every time by Armstrong's team. Simeoni was again insulted and spat at by other riders after this.

So what of these tests he's passed.  by Lances claim the most tested athlete.  Firstly, lets look at USADA point of view. They are following the World Anti Doping Agnecy WADA code of conduct. In articles 2.2 it describes how the 'Use of Prohibited Substance' can be established by any reliable means, including witness statements.  Basically a riders guilt can be found not just by drugs tests but also by witness evidence.

Now we also have to look at those tests.  According to Michael Ashenden, an anti doping scientist working in detecting banned substances within in sports states, that during 1999 there was still no test available for effectively finding EPO.  He could have used it during races or prep and still would not have been found guilty.  Even with advances in Labs at finding EPO in the blood system during Armstrongs era there was still no test available for transfusing there own blood 'autologous transfusion'.  Armstrong could have bloated himself ever day of the week and been tested 300 times per day and he would never have been found guilty.

Ashenden also further goes on to say that there is evidence Armstrong did in fact dope, given in an interview with Andy Shen at nyvelocity (click here for full link).  In brief it states, tests were done on numbered samples of tour riders from 1999 which was Lances first Tour winning year. Of the 87 usable samples tested 13 proved to be positive.  it wasn't until later that 6 of these samples were found out to be Lance Armstrongs.  This does have a tendancy to over rule any facts of not failing tests.  The evidence was thrown out of court as it was felt that they could have been tampered with but Ashenden feels that the odds of this are slim.  What is interesting about the use of EPO in this period of sport is that it was always assumed that other riders were doping heavily so Lance  was levelling the playing field.  What the results showed is that only about 8% of the field were using EPO the favoured drug of that period.  Does that explain his dominance in the Tour?

Yes other riders have admitted to doping during races but it is more complicated than that.  Not all riders are doping at the same time.  Not as some assume at the same time.  Riders that use EPO don't always use it all the time.  The body can build up a tolerance to it so more has to be used over long periods of use.  The best way to counter it is to use it at peak times during competition such as before a mountain stage or time trial.  This also therefore limits the time a athlete can be caught taking the drug.

Lastly, riders up to 2004 were not escorted to doping control after the race straight away like they are now.  This would give plenty of times to use masking agents to make EPO less traceable.  Evidence also suggests that Armstrong was given notice 20 minutes before being expected to take a test.  This all points at failing in a system that was not strict enough or well equipped to catch athletes.  He may be the most tested athlete, but it would have been very hard to find traces in Armstrong.

So is this really a witch hunt by USADA as Lance and his fellow supports mimic?  It would seem that the American anti doping committee is justly motivated.  People who think this is just about Lance have showed there anger as he is now retired and therefore doing this is pointless.  But let us not forget the others who are being accused are still within the sport and so therefore still influencing riders to dope.  If a cleaner sport of cycling is needed then people need to be found out and stopped before newer younger riders take up the old ways.

Finally a note on Lance and Cancer research.  It can not be taken away what he has done for others with his charity Livestrong.  It has has helped so many people through dealing and living with cancer as well as raising awareness and in small part research.  However, people to often play the god card with Lance and lay claim to him having saved thousands of lives.  That's quite a claim.  A claim that has often helped him hide behind what has been described as his "cancer shield" when talking about his doping in sport.  The charity is more based on helping rather than saving peoples lives.  It is the people like nurses, doctors and carers that do this, it is the money that come from the donating public that pay for it all.  Armstrong is a great figure head for the charity, but he is no saver of lives.

Please Also See - Lance Armstrong A Hero

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Want It Wednesday - A Nice Holiday!

So that's exactly what I've done.  I have gone south of the country for a couple of weeks away.  In fact as I am pre writing this I am hoping to be on a beach somewhere but more likely being rained on.

I'm not near a computer this time so I won't be able to link up anyone I'm afraid, so any of you that would like a break, now is a good time to take it!  However, if anyone does take part I will still link you at the end of this post.

I hope you are all well and loving the summer season and getting some good riding in.  Be in touch soon.

Jez x

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Racing: The Winners and the Losers

Somewhere in a small woods local to where I live, my legs were burning my back felt ready to explode and I was loosing touch with those that I was racing against.  At the time I just remember ticking off each section of the course; the fast swooping single track, the bumpy grassy sections, the loose pine cone strewn corners, the tight switchback climbs and the power sapping short climbs.

Later on I'm just left wondering why I was doing it.

This was Round 4 of the North East MTB league. I'd been excited about doing this event for months. I'd previously enjoyed doing round 2 despite the slippy muddy conditions.  But conditions were a lot more dry now and so the race promised to be faster and more favourable for my SS.  More importantly, this was a home race. Not something I thought I'd ever be able to say but this was literally in my home town and the start was only about 100 metres from my house.

There were some familiar faces and old friends there on the start line which always makes me feel relaxed.  Having pre ridden the course I was impressed with what the race organisers had created in such a short time and with such a small area.  It was certainly less hilly than the previous race and there was even a bit of dust involved, which has been a rare sight this summer.  As I stood on the start line I thought about what my chances were in this race and what I hoped for.  I'm no natural born racer as I've said before.  I'll never win, but I refuse to be last and so I thought that a mid field result would be a good target.  I was only four places off that target in the last race.  The field was small this time and looking at the racers I knew some of them to be out of my league.  My friend on my right used to be a uk cyclo cross champion and had won the last two rounds and some of the others were regular road, cyclo cross and mountain bike racers.

I was still the only Single speed racer in the field so was already at a slight disadvantage but I wasn't going to let a little thing like that put me off trying.  Once the race started the pack was quick to spread out and there was no real fight into the first bit of single track.  I was somewhere near the back and hooked up on the rider in fronts wheel.  First off camber loose turn and I slowed down too much dabbed a foot and lost him.  Not the best of starts but I concentrated on being fast on the next few sections and to try and pull him back.  As the race settled on the first lap I was tailing the only women racer and had a guy on carrera bike on my back.  He made a surging attack by the second lap and went away and another stupid mistake meant I lost some distance on both of the riders.  I could see the woman and Carrera guy about 30 meters ahead of me but they weren't getting away.but were working with each other.  By the third lap I had caught them back again and was enjoying the racing experience but I was already feeling the strain in my legs and lower back.

Sadly, it was on one tight switch back corner that I lost momentum and had to dismount run a bit then get back on my bike.  By then the other two had increased the gap again.  Curses, how had the gap increased by so much?  I pushed on but at the end of every lap I could see they were getting further away if only by meters.  I never caught them.  I was a bit disappointed that I'd let myself down technically but I had really enjoyed the battle and hope that they are there at the next race. I don't know where I came in the end as I'm still awaiting the results but I think I failed on my target.

So maybe that's why I still race.  Not for the glory of winning but for my own little race, the ones that don't matter to anyone else but me and those I'm up against.  It's exciting, it's hard it is quite simply fun.

Watching the women's Olympics I wonder if the pro racers feel the same thing.  There are those who will never medal and they must know it so why bother.  I imagine it is for similar reasons I race. It was good to watch though, and humbled my own bike handling skills on the bike.  Congrats to not only the medal winners but to all the field on a hard fought race.

 I always hold onto this point in any competitive sport.  There are always losers, but without the losers then there can be no winners.