Monday, April 28, 2008

2008 Irish NPS Round 1 - Ballinastoe

This weekend saw the start of the Irish NPS series hosted by Sorrento. Having just ended the K-Capital series and have raced 9 times in the last 9 weeks I was going to give this one a miss to get some long training spins in – but in the end, it was so close and rumors of a good elite field meant that I couldn't not take part - so Mel and I headed over on Sunday to race it. The course was a little bit over 6km long and had 175 meters of climb per lap. Elites were going to be doing 6 laps. The course started up a steep hill that turned into some new twisty single track, a short fireroad sprint and onto more foresty singletrack. You then joined onto a fireroad with a bit of a brag up to the first 'man made' single track section – basically, the new all weather trails... After that, another climb followed by a huge amount of very fast single track all the way back to the start.

Course Profile

At 1:30 the whistle blew and we were off up the hill for another 2 hours of pain. Joe McCall and a couple of others went for it over the first 100 meters but as the hill got steeper I moved into first to grab first entry into the singletrack, which I didn't relinquish. I took the first few sections of single track pretty carefully – I was in first and didn't want to make a silly mistake and let others through – there was no room for passing at all :) As we hit some of the climbs I upped my own pace a bit to make sure anyone that wanted to stay on my wheel had to work but the elastic broke pretty quickly and I rode the first lap alone. On one of the sections of singletrack midway around the second lap, Peter Buggle, closely followed by Liam McCreavy bridged up to me. They were riding the singletrack well but were a little off my pace when climbing so for the next four laps I rode pretty steady on the climbs (a little harder then they were going) and took the single track pretty easy, basically recovering, learning the fastest line, making sure I didn't do anything silly like puncture and getting some practice in racing under pressure. My plan was to attack hard on the last lap on the last big climb and then actually ride the single track fast seeing as I spent a few laps scouting the trail.

One of the very fast singletrack sections - Yeah, for warm weather :)

The final lap bell went and we rode with me leading, then Peter, then Liam. Two sections of single track into the lap and at the start of the second last climb I noticed that there was a bit of a gap back to the guys, it was a bit earlier then I planned but I felt good so I decided to go for it then. By the time I entered the next section of single track I couldn't see them and that was that for the rest of the lap. Fortunately, I was able to ride over the line about 50 seconds up on Peter without having to do a sprint finish.

Must practice my victory salute ;)

When I did my warm up lap (no preride this time) I didn't know what the track would be like for racing on – but as soon as you started to race it really was a lot of fun. A course that really favoured close racing and I had a lot of fine riding with the two other guys.

One down, five more rounds to go, although I'm pretty sure I'll be missing some races due to other race commitments. My title defense has started :)

Results are available here, and some photos here and here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Found this on a forum. Seen this type of thing before but this is a particularly good video of it.

I don't think my health insurance would cover it - would be funny to ask :)

I think I need this...

I think I need this for the bike room :)

Apparently, of the 30 million people in Tokyo there are 15 million registered bikes and no room to park them... I wonder how cost effective this is...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

2008 K-Capital Cup Round 4 - Castlewellan

700 days ago, I arrived at Castlewellan for my first ever mountain bike race. (Well, actually, I did the Sea Otter classic two weeks earlier but I wont mention that for now...) Dry, sunny, warm and a 12th place in Expert. I still remember being nervous before hand – wondering if I should have done sport but then really enjoying the course and race (I think about 35 people took part in expert that year). So, after 700 (ish) days I returned as an Elite for the final of the 2008 K-Capital Series.

The weekend, as usual, started with the preride on the Saturday. I expected the course to be pretty dry (it has not rained much lately, but it has been cold and windy) and it didn't disappoint. In fact, there were sections that were so dusty and loose that I was hoping for a little rain over night (which actually happened). The course was a couple of minute steady fireroad climb followed by lots of single track climbing and descending with a very stiff (18% loose) fireroad climb in the middle. There was 170 meters (or so) of climb per lap and the Elites were doing 7 laps. As I rode my first practice lap, I noticed the huge smile on my face – the course is truly amazing and has everything. A steady climb, lots of kicker climbs, twisty flowy singletrack, rock gardens, fast singletrack... the list goes on. It really is a world class venue.

Course Profile

I awoke Sunday to rainy weather – I was staying in Monaghan, checked the rain radar and it looked like Castlewellan got some rain, but none now – perfect. Mel and I arrived to the usual buzz with the Sport race having just started. After Mel freaked out a little about a slightly worn brake pad (in these conditions it would last 100s of km) we both warmed up. Heart rate seemed grand and shortly before 1:30 we all lined up for the start. As the whistle went we all sprinted off up the hill – same as usual except this time I didn't feel any snap in my legs. The lactate acid was built up to a max 30 seconds in. At this point I was probably around 7-8th position. As we exited the first large section of single track and climbed the steep fireroad section I joined into 5th place where I stayed most of the race. I enjoyed riding the singletrack but kept feeling that there was something a little missing (mostly in me?). On the second lap I passed Conor who was having some tire issues (he would later catch me again to claim 4th position). The rest of the race was pretty hard. My max heart rate (set on the second lap!) was 181 – a far cry from the 190 that I should hit while the average for the race was really low... (Not far off what I did for the 4 hours in the UK the week before) After a near bonking moment on the 5th lap (fixed by a gel) I finished feeling okay but once I started eating I felt pretty sick. (Very unusual – I can eat very well even after a hard race or training) I should have been recovered from the UK races but somehow I didn't feel it during the race. Something to have a look at.

Pictures from here

So that was the K-Capital Cup for 2008 – an absolutely amazing series of races which is really doing amazing things for Irish XC racing. (Downhill World Cup star Ben Reid was even seen at two of the races – maybe he will give XC a go – he did win the Expert race by a good margin) A huge thanks has to be given to all the clubs that organised the races but especially to the Seymour family who seem to be at the core of most of the best Irish events – thanks – you made the opening of the season amazing!

Mel had another good race to wrap up the Elite ladies competition - her report will be up shortly on her blog.

Photos are available here, here and here. A report is up here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

2006 Specialized S-Works Road Bike For Sale

I'm selling my Specialized 2006 S-Works E5 Road bike (size 58). It was bought in December 2006.

The bikes components are full Shimano Ultegra (new brake pads, chain, 12-25 cassette, cables, almost new rear derailleur).

The wheelset is the Fulcrum Racing 5 Evolution with brand new Specialized Mondo tyres.

The bike is in perfect condition with only one slight mark on the seat stays where my mudguards rubbed some of the anodizing. (Who would of thought that the plastic would have done that...)

There are some more pictures of it here.It's a really nice high end road bike and I'm selling because a new one arrived a few weeks ago and I need to make space :)

I'm looking €1,250 for it.

**** EDIT ****
The bike has been sold.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

British Cycling Whyte Enduro Series 100km - Round 1

Another day, another race report. These double header weekends require lots of writing :)

So, after the disappointment of Saturdays race I was hoping for a better one on Sunday. The Thai meal that we had in The Swan on Friday night was good enough to entice us back again. Another 4 portions of rice between us and we were good to go. (We actually even ate a ton more when we got home before going to bed... Cyclists eat a lot!)

My calf muscle was pretty sore all Saturday evening and sure enough when I woke on Sunday morning it was still sore – I decided to take a quick bath, hoping that would loosen out my legs a bit, when I headed out to the car to pack up the bikes my legs (and body, minus my shoulder) felt amazing. I thought today could be a good day. Magdalen House put on a huge breakfast for us of exactly the right kind of foods and with that digesting we headed to the course.

The course was a little different from the XC course, a little longer, a little less technical with most of the nice features of the XC course remaining.

I warmed up a little (15 minutes) and stood at the start early. Front row for me today – I was not having a repeat of yesterday. The gun went off and we sprinted off, the initial pace was not that high and my legs felt good so I was enjoying it. Duncan Jamieson and William Bjergfelt of Felt Racing started to up the pace about a quarter way around the first lap with Matt Carter and myself following. The Felt guys really picked it up about half way around the first lap and Matt drifted off the pace. Decision time for me, do I follow the Felt guys or ease back hoping they blow. I eased back a little and stayed with Matt but the early pace seemed to have effected him a bit and for the next lap and a half I found myself by myself. Exactly what I didn't want, so I eased back a little more to be joined by Matt (again) and Paul Ashby. We worked together for the next two laps when Paul upped the pace a little on a short single track climb – Matt dropped off so we continued regardless. Enjoying the company, Paul and I decided that we will just work together and ride the race, with 50km to go, it was still a long way and lots of windy fireroad still to cover. Paul got some great pulls in but seemed to tire a little during the 6th lap. (Being a local, he was still hammering the singletrack though – was fun trying to follow his line). For the 7th and 8th laps I pulled through as I still felt really good and fresh. I upped the pace a lot from a third way into the last lap and midway around the Paul let me know that he was going to drop back a little so I rode the final section alone. It was funny, 95km into the race and I still felt great – guess I should have gone after the Felt guys on the first lap.

Yeah, for dry conditions

In the end, the 100km (or so) was covered in 3 hours 55 minutes – I finished strong, didn't bin myself and finished in 3rd place so I was pretty happy. I even gone a slight tan from the race :)

The Mens 100km Podium

A have to say a big thanks to the Torq lads for all there help over the weekend – this year I will be riding under their team colours. It was also the first time that I got to extensively use all their nutritional products and I've been blown away by them. Especially the Torq Gels and Torq Recovery. The gels are the easiest to take I have tried yet, gave great consistent energy throughout and I didn't have stomach cramps afterwards (lots of gels do that to me). The Recovery drink, well, I felt great after the race and the following Monday despite all the racing and traveling - enough said.

There is a report and photos available here. Also, Mel had another great race and you read about it on her blog.

Now my focus has switched back to the K-Capital Series, the final round taking place in Castlewellan this weekend. Probably my favorite race course :) Lets hope it doesn't rain...


I had to go to the Physio today to check out my shoulder and I passed by the beach on the way home. It was beautiful.

The marathon report will be up later today.

Monday, April 14, 2008

2008 British National Points Series XC

Last weekend seen me racing abroad for the first time of the 2008 season, indeed, it was Mel's first race abroad ever. We were heading to the first round of the British National Points XC and Marathon series. We packed up on Thursday evening and flew Dublin to Stansted Friday morning hiring a car for the 1.5 hour drive to Thetford. The morning was uneventful apart from us taking a slightly more scenic route to the course.

We arrived to find Robin and the Colnago/Ergon crew already setting up and rain clouds brewing. Bikes were quickly built up and as we finished the heavens opened for a downpour – I really hoped this was not a sign of things to come... (it sucks running for a plane after a marathon race with everything covered in mud). We got two laps of the 10km course in – it was pretty simple, about 5km of flat fireroad and 5km of (almost) flat singletrack. Not really my style of course but by the end of the weekend I really did start to enjoy the swoopy nature of some of the trails.

An overview of the course - really really flat

On Wednesday I had booked ourselves into a B&B close by so after our preride we headed to Magdalen House. On arrival, we got one of the nicest welcomes I have had from any place. Picture it, we arrive mucky from a pre-ride and we are greeted with a bucket of warm soapy water and a hose to wash down our bikes etc... closely followed by tea and coffee. Great :)

A nice Thai meal (not exactly PRO) the night before with a double helping of rice in an English/Thai restaurant, The Swan, had us ready for bed early.

Saturday we woke to find a beautiful morning and the news that it had not rained from yesterday during our preride – this meant the course was going to be super fast. Sure enough, when we arrived we found out that Elite men will be doing 6 laps (that's a little over 60km!) and the Elite ladies will be going for 5. I warmed up well and arrived at the start 10 minutes before the start – the shock when I seen that everyone was already there and gridded. Crap, 7 rows back I'll be starting in last, the WORST thing for a course like this which was basically going to be a road race with the singletrack helping to form groups. The race started and I worked hard to make up places... I passed about 20 riders and had made my way up to around 15th - 20th (I think, could be way off) then disaster struck. On a fireroad section I was hammering along trying to catch more people when the rider in front swerved right and hit me square – attempts at staying upright failed and I went down hard. This section was a bit of a blur but I remember seeing bodies flying over me. I hit my shoulder (that I hurt last week) badly and got a large bruise on my calf – my neck was also very stiff (still is). I was doing around 30-35kph at the time and considering, I actually think I got away reasonably well. My front wheel was a bit out of true and there was various other injuries to my bike but nothing race ending. I eventually got up and started to ride again, winded, annoyed (now I was way back) and pretty sore I knew that it was the end of today's race. I decided to refocus for Sundays marathon but continued for another 2.5 laps just to open up the legs and learn the course a bit. Mel, on the other hand had an amazing race on the Sunday, but I'll let her talk about that one. I have to say a big thank you to the Colnago/Ergon guys for helping me out with my bike – they retrued the wheel back to perfection – thanks a million :) Also, thanks to Eammon McConvey for helping out in the feed zone. And well done to his son Conor, who scored a fine 3rd place!

Picture is from here. More on Torq tomorrow :)

Results can be found here and a report and photos here.

With a downer (for me) for the first day, I was hoping Sunday would be different. It was, but I'll write a post about that tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Video from the K-Capital Round 3

The start of the K-Capital race - I need to work on my starts, although I'm not nearly as bad as last year! It was great having the kids screaming and the cow bell :) If I ever see them cheap, I'll buy a ton and hand them out at races...

Monday, April 07, 2008

2008 K-Capital Round 3 UCI C2 – Djouce Woods

This weekend was the third installment of this years K-Capital Series. Summer like temperatures during the week (shorts and short sleeve jersey!) didn't hold for the weekend so it was going to be bitterly cold with showers of hail and sleet! As usual, Saturday was the preride and Mel and I headed out early to have a look. The course was going to be very technical on the descents/traverses but reasonably easy climbs (fire-roads but a couple of steep single track climbs). The course started with a loop around the start field and then into a section of single track that climbs to a fire road that brought us up to mid way down XTC, down it then up a 1 minute fast climb to the start of Off Camber which lead onto a traverse across some open mountain. Down onto a fireroad then up to Gran Canaria (my favorite section). After that, it was a tough single track climb to the top of the Earls Drive and then a long swooping descent to a very very tricky river crossing. Then, it was mostly single track climbing with some fireroad at the end back to the start/finish area. It was a tough 7.5km loop with about 280 meters of climb per lap. Elite had 4 laps.

Course Profile

Race day arrived and I actually felt reasonably good – as I'll be racing the next three weekends I took it pretty easy during the week so I felt pretty rested. A good 30 minute warmup went to plan (apart from the hail storm) and we all gathered down at the start area for our 1:30pm start. My ranking in the series so far meant a front row start but some of the riders gridded further back just snuck up anyway (no big white lines on the ground this time to mark the rows). The start was pretty quick and I dropped back a couple of positions before the first singletrack but I didn't worry much as after that there was a bit of a steep climb and I knew I would get by people as needed there. The first lap ran out with lots of little battles. Lee Williams, Micke Haggquist and myself changing positions a lot. The second lap started and the tussles continued – I really enjoyed having a few battles on the course – the course lent itself pretty well to that as I was able to catch people on the technical terrain and people were catching me on the fire-roads (opposite than usual!). At the top of the single track climb I passed Micke and Lee (hopefully for the last time) and started the tricky Earls Drive descent. Unfortunately, towards the bottom I burped my tire (first time with this wheel/tire combo – it was a mistake on my part) and then had to fumble around getting my CO2 (I hate long finger gloves for racing) out of my pocket, two jerseys down and filling the tire. Half way through the operation I watched Micke and Lee pass me by. Damn – had lots of fire in me now to catch them again.

Feed on the first lap - Thanks Sean!

I got going again and caught and passed Micke and headed after Lee up the final fireroad. At some point after this (and I don't know when) Lee disappeared – I didn't think he dropped me but I found out after that he had to pull out for some reason – that was a pity. Third lap was going reasonably well until towards the bottom of the Earl Drive descent I misjudged a corner and hit a tree at about 25kph. Man, I thought I broke something. A quick check of my mobility and I decided that I can continue – pretty shacken up, I rode like a squirrel for the next few minutes. Then, down at the river crossing, Micke passed me again. Damn! Refocused, I headed off into the climbs and caught him a couple of minutes later and put my head down to gap him. That was the last place changing for me for the day.

The last lap was pretty enjoyable despite my shoulder (which at this point was throbbing). With a few minutes left in the lap I got a glimpse of Joey McCall who was having a stormer behind me so I put the head back down and hammered up the last climb finishing a comfortable enough margin ahead of him in 8th position. (I should have been putting my head down like that on all the climbs!)

Overall, the race was pretty good fun – I never seemed to get the Earls Drive descent well but I was happy enough with how I rode aside from that. I lost a few minutes due to various mistakes, but that is racing. Today, I feel perfect (apart from the shoulder which is in bits) so now I'm second guessing and thinking I didn't push enough. Well, there is always next week...

Mel's report is available here. Results can be found here and there are a couple of pictures here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Me in the winter

From BKW

"Establishing shot: Cyclist shown from shins down walking up stairs. With each step water squeezes from his booties. The brand is unrecognizable thanks to a mellange of mud and sand. As the camera backs up you see the thick tights and jacket covered in sand too. The bike on his shoulder is covered in grime. The cyclist shivers uncontrollably, drops his keys twice before ramming one into the lock on his apartment. He opens the door, sets the bike down and begins to strip: First the neoprene gloves, then the glasses, helmet, struggles with the jacket zipper and as he staggers, naked, from the foyer, we see a wet, dirty spot on the wall where he leaned while he struggled with his socks."

The weather has changed a bit - it was warm yesterday and it looks like being warm today. Finally - apart from when I put on too much clothes I don't think I have sweat (and not had it evaporate off) all winter/spring... Hopefully the weather will stay like this for this weekends race.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

2008 Specialized S-Works Epic Race Bike

Like last year, I got another custom built Specialized S-Works Epic. A short supply of the frames this year meant that I had assumed I would be riding my first race on last years bike but the delivery man was very busy (and me very surprised) to see everything I needed arrive on time for the first race (4 packages the day before the first pre-ride). The major issues I would have going straight into a race on a new machine is wheel/tire combinations and any geometry changes. Fortunately, I had my new wheels about a week before hand and as the frame style had not changed, my bike fit would be very very similar.

Just after I finished build - same as I used for the K-Captial Races

Major changes from last year are that I'm running Specialized's new Roval XC Controle Race wheelset (1420grams – a post about them later), Manitou's 2008 R7 MRD fork and I also switched to a SRAM Twist Shift, Hope Mono Mini Pro shifting and braking combination from last years XTR Dual Controls (which I still love).

The Hope brakes are amazing

Overall weight of the bike (mostly due to wheels, tires, drivetrain and pedals) dropped by about 500 grams for a 'standard' racing trim... I.e. Proper tires etc... Total weight is 9.79KG (21.5 pounds for you imperial folk). Changing a few things (I.e. For a hill climb) I could get it down to about 9.4. Pretty light for a full suspension with disc brakes and durable components :)

From the other side

Finally, how it rides – very fast up the climbs (especially rocky, technical stuff) but really plush and confidence inspiring on the downhills. The difference for me on a technical descent speed wise if a few percent over my Carbon Hardtail, BUT, I finish the descent much more relaxed and recovered. Most notable things about the build for me have been the quality of the Hope Mono Mini Pro brakes and the Roval wheelset.

A big thank you to Cycleways for setting me up with the frame and wheels!