Monday, February 22, 2010

2010 Cyprus Sunshine Cup Round 1

Wow, that was hard. A winter of training and the odd cyclocross race really made me forget just how hard XC racing is and yesterday was a real 'tough cookie' as a first race.

It has been almost 5 months since my last race and like last year, Round 1 of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup was my introduction. Round 1 this year was being held on a course that was very similar to the course that the final round last year was held in Voroklini. This year, they took away a rocky technical climb and descent (about 1.5 minutes) and added an extra 2 laps! This was going to be a long hard race. 240 meters of climb on the 6.7km lap – I would have 7 laps and an additionally hilly start loop totaling almost 2,000 of climb.

Nerves were the order of the day for the morning – “why am I doing this?”, knowing how hard the 2.5 hour race was going to be. After a navigational error on the way to the race course we arrived with just enough time for a good warmup – at that point, the nerves subsided as my race head went on.

The start was going to be manic – due to my placing in last year's series I had a good grid position (3rd row) but having almost 100 international riders on the start line (almost everyone flew in for this, only a few Cypriots on the line) meant that the race start would be manic for all involved. The race whistle blew and the frantic pace began. I slipped down a bit on the climbs but I wasn't too worried – it would be a long race, the first of the season and the temperature was soaring. The first lap went by in a blur, it was feeling tough but not too bad. Second lap was okay as I eased off a little to catch my breath putting in a reasonable lap time but by the start of the third, it felt like I had blown my lights. From that point on I suffered around the course – the power was drained from my legs but the close racing helped pull me along. It really was a shock to the system.

Coming through for my final lap, I seen a few riders that were ahead of me at the side of the trail, oh no... I was pulled! I wasn't close to being lapped and I was about 14% (there is a 20% rule) off the pace of the winner – I was a bit annoyed to say the least! My legs were cramping but I still wanted that final lap.

I had no major incidents in the race, no crashes (almost everyone you met after the race had some cuts and bruises), I burped my tire on a descent midway through the race losing a little air which meant nursing the tire a little, but nothing major. All this and a huge amount of suffering meant I finished in 41st - better than half way in the huge field.

A clip of one of the descents. The guy who messes up on it wins the next day! It is much steeper than it looks.

The first race of the season was one of my toughest – I seemed to blow up and had to endure the severe course. As ever though, the racing was close, and the organization ran a top quality event with a World Class field in 30 Celsius heat – what more can you ask for in February. I'm really looking forward to this weekends stage race!

Results are available here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

2010 Irish National Cyclocross Championships

It takes a long stopover in Heathrow Airport for me to finally be able to put something down about the 2010 National Cyclocross Championships.

The cyclocross season for me was about doing something a little bit different in the winter, getting a few high intensity workouts (races) thrown in and enjoy another aspect of cycling. Having just complete the season, I achieved all of the above. But, I digress, back to the racing...

Due to the terrible weather back in January the original date for our National Championships had to be delayed by almost a month – the course itself, on the original day of the championship, was great – covered in snow, slippery, but very very fast. However, road conditions in the country meant that the venue would be hard to reach for some which forced a postponement. For that race, I had prepped a little, for the first time in the season I had taken it a little easier in the lead up week and was feeling fresh for race day when I found out about the delay. This complicated matters as two days after the initial championship, I was traveling to Gran Canaria for a month of hard road training. This camp is a cornerstone for the coming cross country and road racing seasons so I was not going to change my plans.

Fortunately for me, the rescheduled date for the championship was after I returned from the camp – the following day in fact! Arriving home at midnight on a Saturday having travelled from another continent for a one hour sprint the following day isn't great, but I was really thankful to be there at all for it.

Race morning arrived and I was groggy – first things first, prep my bike for the race and then start prepping Mel's as she was going to take part in the MTB short track support race. This all took more time than I wanted which meant a slightly later arrival at the race venue than I had planned. My plan was: preride a couple of laps (and learn how to ride off-road again!), go back to the car, get race kit on, and then head to the road for a high intensity warmup.

The warmup laps went pretty well – I adjusted the pressure in the tires up a little as it felt a bit squidgy for me (being used to 110psi, dropping to 26psi felt weird). I then met my parents and brother who came up to watch the race (incidentally, they loved it – a great spectator sport). As I noticed that the mtb race had not started, I inquired when our race would start and was told 1:30pm, 30 minutes later than scheduled – no problem, I'll just hang out a bit and then head to the car to get ready at 12:50. At 12:45, as I started to head to the car to get ready I heard that the race was in fact going to be held ON schedule – damn – I'm not even ready and have not had a warmup! I raced to the car (the warmup?) and got my race gear on and got a passer by to pin on the number. Crap...

On the start line (legs cold), there was no ranking based on any races from the last 12 months, only the previous years national championships of which I was not a part. It was a very wide start with around 12 riders lined out and it made a nervous few minutes trying to make sure my race for 1st was not hampered before we even begin this technical course.

I just about got to line up on the front row and a while later the race started – I say a while later because there was no “race will start soon” announcement, or the REQUIRED, “anytime in the next 30 seconds” announcement! Just a random whistle, followed by a “go” when there was a realization that most of the competitors didn't know the race was starting!

Picture via bikepure

I had a poor start (something I have been working on and getting better at) and spent the first lap and a half moving through traffic. I than sat in third and started chasing down Liam McCreevey and Joe McCall. Joe, who has been very focused on this race for many months sensed that he didn't want me close to him and attacked hard when I was about 10 seconds back – Liam dropped off on the attack and I soon passed him. Joe and I raced at around the same pace, him always around 10-20 seconds up until midway through the race when cornering aggressively (the course was a joy to ride with highspeed slightly bermed corners) when my bike skidded to a halt – instantly, I thought I had lost a derailleur as my gears had started to cause problems. After a few seconds, I figured my wheel had simply come loose and dropped out of the dropouts – a bit of fiddling and I was ready to go – my Garmin tells me I lost 40 seconds in this episode. I continued on but found it hard to get a flow again with Joe and I staying about the same distance apart. I finished feeling fresh a minute back on Joe to claim my 2nd place. When I say fresh, I mean, I could keep the same pace for another hour or two but going quicker than that was very very hard – cycling 90 hours in the previous 4 weeks over big mountains tends to do that to you!

As you can probably tell, there were a couple of things that frustrated me about the day (only one being down to me, although I did skip my usual kit check before the race start as I hurried to get to the line) – the main thing though was that I would have enjoyed a good race against Joe – some close racing. This race for me was a simple time trial around the course – thankfully, the course was exceptional and I enjoyed that aspect immensely.

Thanks to the organization for running the event – especially Greg May – due to the postponement etc... he came under a lot of flak, thank you for holding through and running a great event in a great venue. Thank's too to all the supporters who where out to cheer us on – I hope you got to see at least a few of us suffer!

So that was the end of my first Cyclocross season – I learnt a lot from it and enjoyed it. I will have to see how it effects me a little later in the year (too much racing?) but I'm pretty certain I'll be back next year to give it another go and claim that Green jersey. In the last two years, I have claimed National Elite medals, silver or better, in four different disciplines – the Pokemon phrase springs to mind – “gotta catch 'em all”... Maybe I should get a Time Trial bike... :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Setting up a double crankset

I have been asked about the crankset on my training bike many times and each time I explained it from the start - I guess I should put together a quick post that I can point to in the future.

The setup starts as an XT crankset (triple) that needed new chainrings. I don't use a granny ring and spend most of the time in the big ring so I felt a proper double setup would work better. With the big ring (a 42) where the middle ring was, I would also achieve a great chainline meaning that all the gears on the rear cassette would be accessible without having the chain at extreme angles.

I basically removed all chainrings from my XT crankset and bought the following 3 items.

Narrow chainring bolts (or single speed ones) for holding on my new big ring.
A 42 tooth 'middle' ring.
A 28 tooth 'granny' ring.

Then I simply bolted on the new 42 tooth ring where the middle ring used to live with the narrower chainring bolts, then the 28 tooth ring where the granny lived and finally adjusted the 'H' limit screw on the front derailleur so that it would no longer move to the old big ring position.

A post ride example of the setup

I've been really happy with the setup and spend much more time in the big ring as you can easily access the full 11-34 rear cassette.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

2010 Irish National Cyclocross Video

As I posted earlier - the National Cyclocross Championships where on at the weekend. My report is still to come (I came second) but I wanted to post this video first. It's pretty short (I forgot to charge the camera), and mostly covers the front of the race but at least you get to see what it was like :)

It is in HD so should look good in Full Screen.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Irish Cyclocross Champs

This weekend DCU Cycling Club and Team Worc are hosting the Irish National Cyclocross Championships in St. Annes park. Origininally, the event was to be held on the 10th of January but was postponed until February 7th (this Sunday) due to the crazy weather at the time.

My time in Gran Canaria ends on the 6th and I'll arrive back in Ireland late that night - not the best prep for a 1 hour flat out race on Sunday but I'm still really looking forward to the challenge. I have not been off road in almost a month and am really looking forward to riding my cross bike.

All details for the event are available here - if you are not racing, come along and cheer us on. It is a beautiful park and you'll get to watch 100 folk 'suffer' around the course :) The main races starts at 1pm.