Sunday, April 29, 2007

K-Capital Cup Round 4 - Castlewellan

Last Sunday saw the final round of the K-Capital Cup series taking place in Castlewellan. It's a course and a location that I really like. I raced there twice last year (the first race, in April, was my first race in Ireland and second race ever) and the weather had been perfect each time. As it turned out, the weather was again perfect with the race with the course running even faster then last year! (About 1.5 minutes was cut from a 19 minute lap time with extra single track added!)

My knee had been feeling a bit better over the last few days before the race (2 of the last 3 weeks were mostly off the bike :( ) and I felt that it would hold up okay for the race. The thing that I worried about was that it had been a while since I had gone hard on the bike – I didn't know if my legs and lungs would hold up to the fast pace I expected. Shortly after 1:30 the Elite race started at a very fast pace. Adrian Lansley was pushing the pace hard and unlike the last two races I felt myself slip off the back from the start. My legs just did not have the power to keep up – it basically felt that I was carrying an extra 10kilo back pack up the hill. By the top of the first climb (100m vertical over 1.3km with a few flat sections and bits of single track) the leaders had opened up about 20 seconds on me and I already felt spent – damn my knee! The next two laps or so I spent trying to hang on as best I could. I know when I'm pushing hard when I question why I'm putting myself through this... For the first 2-3 laps I felt like selling everything I have and giving up cycling completely! I guess I know I was pushing myself :) The remaining laps felt a good bit better (the first lap was my fastest with the following 6 all being around the same time - around the 19 minute mark) but I was still loosing time on the climbs. My descending and single track navigation actually felt really good. At the start of the season, before I started riding Elites, that is where I thought I would have had most problems – I guess 100mm of travel front and rear and nice wheels and tyres (Got SLRs and Huthinson Pythons recently – more on that later) can help! All the single track was very fast with the only breaking needed when you approached a tight switchback. I finished feeling I could continue for a while more, cooled down well and joined the MAD crew... (Thanks to Shane for helping me out with the bottles and mechainically throughout the series! I really appreciate it!)

The Expert race starts off - Yvain (215) wins the race and series

I should really try not to unzip the jersey! (Pic from here)

Robin finished out winning the race, and the series with Niall Davis coming in second. Results and report available here. I'm still annoyed about having to deal with my knee injury (I know, injuries happen) as I would have loved to have been able to push hard in Castlewellan.

The series overall was an amazing experience – the races were supper well organised and every course was magnificent. I really can't fault anything about it. I really hope that the series will be run again next year as I think the people organizing it all learnt a lot and the Irish XC scene gained a lot from it.

4 races down, lots more to go... Racing Elites has been great so far – the commitment to it all has been huge and there was a great speed boost over Expert but it has been such a rewarding experience so far.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Two weeks ago saw Mel and I head off to Barcelona for 5 nights. It had been a while since we had traveled together (Paris last summer) due to Mel's college work etc... so it was nice to get away. The morning before leaving we ended up booking a hostel in the Gothic area which, as it turned out was a great location. Everywhere that we usually wanted to go was right on our door step.

Our main plan for the trip was simply to spend lots of time just hanging around relaxing in the nice weather. Unfortunately, the weather didn't join us (Ireland actually had a lot better weather for the week!) but lots of relaxing was had :)

One of the streets beside our accommodation

Mel in Park Gruel

The first couple of days we walked around to see the sights, Park Gruel, the Safrada Familia and the main produce market off Las Ramblas... were all pretty good but I think the constantly cloudy cold weather detracted from it all. As an excursion, one of the days we headed off to Girona for a day. The (old part of the) town was really nice. Small cobbled hilly streets with old churches and great pastries and decent coffee.

The produce market

Both of us enjoyed the trip but in that weather, 4 full days in Barcelona was a little too much. I guess I'm growing out of city breaks at the moment (2 days in Barcelona, 1 in Gerona would have been enough) and rather the more active holiday.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Praying to a Porcelain God

The last week has been pretty annoying. My company, Edgespace, is taking a little time off after our last contract so I've been off all week and the weather has also been amazing – that's all the good bits that serve to elevate my annoyance, my knee has unfortunately not gotten much better over the last few days. It's mostly fine but sore if I put any pressure on it while pedalling so the only spins I've been on have been pretty short and very very relaxed. It's been really frustrating with all the nice weather, the free time and a race coming up. I could have been out on 4-5 hour spins out into the backcountry... I have not had an injury since this time last year so I guess I should be thankful for that! 14 days to my next big race...

Friday was also a bit of an annoying day too – Mel and I cooked a Bangers & Mash recipe from the web – all went well and it was really tasty. We then watched a few more episodes of Six Feet Under, however, by the end of our second episode both of us started to feel bloaty and sick. Regardless, we went to bed – both our bodies spent the next 12 or so hours trying to deal with food poisoning! It was horrible, just like a very very bad hangover. We ended up spending yesterday (another glorious day) walking around like dead zombies.

A photo I took yesterday when Mel and I went out for a walk

Today both us are heading off to Barcelona for a couple of days – neither of us have been there before so it should be good :) Hopefully by the time I get home my leg will be up for hard training again...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tootling along...

My knee has been pretty sore since Sundays race. I bashed it during one of my off single track excursions and then several things happened afterwards that meant I was driving cars for about 5 hours which I'm sure didn't help. On Monday, I was cycling into the city on the road bike but decided that it was sore enough that I should leave my bike with Mel in town. Then yesterday, I wanted to go on a very gentle spin to keep my leg loose... So I ended up cycling into town again, except this time on the Epic. I was riding by UCD anyway, going very easy (pratically only using my left leg) when I heard a jingle jingle noise coming past me. Turning around I saw what looked like a 20 year old student with long brown curly hair (no helmet!) passed me on what looked like an out of shape granny bike. I was riding along on a €5k bike in my club gear and got passed by a girl on a granny bike! I was good and kept going slow...

I had to laugh :) My knee feels good today so hopefully it's back to normal...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

K-Capital Cup Round 3 - Carlingford

So that was an interesting weekend of racing.

Sunday saw the third round of the K-Capital Cup visit Carlingford, Co. Lough. Luckily MET Eireann predicated beautiful sunny weather for the weekend so the pre-ride on Saturday and the race on Sunday were both held in beautiful sunshine. The course was amazing, if a little new (less the a week old in it's current incarnation). Basically, it was about 150 meters up a fireroad then left on to a steep single track climb and then a single track descent back onto the fireroad (about 1.5 minutes...) then another 900 meters up a fireroad, nowhere near as steep as last week. Then we hit single track for the remaining 3 kilometres of the loop. We were going to be doing 8 laps of the course.

Sunday morning was arrived and I felt more prepared then I did last week, my warm-up went well and I was looking forward to a bit of racing. Shortly after 1:30pm our race started and the Elites accelerated up the hill. Again, I was glad that the speed was not too fast and I set in behind James McClusky (out of the wind) for most of the climb. You could tell everyone was being careful in the single track the first time around and over the first 1km or so I passed a few racers out. About three quarters of the way around the first lap I was riding very comfortably (read – I wasn't going so hard I wanted to quit) and was enjoying a tussle between Lewis Ferguson, Lee Williams and myself. Then on a dual track the specific hiss of a snake bite came from my rear wheel – to say I was a little annoyed is an understatement, I was really really enjoying the racing and I still felt strong. About 2 minutes 20 seconds (wasted 20 seconds trying to find my CO2 cannister – rookie mistake) I was on the way. It was hard to get myself back up to full race speed, but I tried anyway... By the single track on the fourth lap (I think) I was back in 8th position and enjoying the race again when another flat occured. This time, as I had no CO2 or spare tube it was going to be a 2.5 km run across the single track back to the technical area... A new wheel greeted me at the technical area and I sped off – by the top of the fireroad climb I was in 9th when, this time my front tire flatted (I had given up to laughing about it all at this point). About 3km of single track running was ahead of my and I got lapped by the race leaders. When I crossed the line (5th lap complete of 8 total) I assumed my race was over due to being lapped so I put on warm clothes and drank chocolate milk and talked to the other races... About 15 minutes later I found out that I should keep racing as it's not over until the leaders finish. So, I ripped off my extra layers and cycled off without my gloves (the Bontrager foam grips are actually really really nice without gloves). I enjoyed the last lap and used the second half as recovery as I knew that the was no one to catch....

Picture of me descending from here

So, after the weekends racing I learnt a lot of things
1.Tubeless is the way forward – I'm getting a new set of wheels
2.You need a spare wheelset in the pits ready to go
3.Have spare tubes and CO2 ready to go
4.Keep racing until the commissionaire tells you your done!

The race left one other bad taste with me – at some stage I bashed my knee off a rock and it's been pretty sore since. I had to get off the bike yesterday after only a couple of minutes of easy riding and I wont be on a bike today. I'm icing it as a type and hopefully it will be perfect again soon.

There is a report available here and some more photos here.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sauser's new Specialized Epic

Slightly old news but over on Christoph Sauser's blog he posted a picture of his new prototype Epic for this years Cape Epic. Unfortunatly for him, his team mate had to drop out which put him out of trying to defend his title from last year.

The new bike lost a bit of weight on the wheels (Stan's Wheels) and the frame (some new type of carbon). Pretty bling bling looking... His old one was about 9kg depending on tyres - this one is even lighter. I though I was pretty good with a 10kg bike.

He mentions his new bike here