Saturday, October 19, 2013

2013 Irish Hill Climb Championships

2nd, 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 1st... what's next? Those are my previous results in the Irish Hill Climb National Championships - how would I do in 2013.

As I mentioned earlier, much of August and September was spent racing in Belgium. No training, just race and recover for a month - I loved it. When I got back to Ireland, it resting, then winning the Irish MTB Marathon title followed by more recovery for the final race of my season - attempting to defend the Hill Climb title I won in 2012.

The first time I won the Championship it was actually held on the same climb in Kerry - Short Mountain. Basically the climb was about 1.9km at 7.5%, 900m at 3% with the final 1.2km around 12% with some steep pitches. Like in 2010, rain and a block headwind getting worse as you climbed where the order of the day.

I went through my normal warmup (rollers, about 30 minutes) and got to the line perfectly on time. My pacing plan was pretty simple - get up to speed, then back way back off on power until I see a rolling average around 445-455W. Keep at that for the first few minutes. Then on the 'flat bit', try to keep the power up (not tracking numbers, just making sure I don't go too hard or too easy). 1.2k to go (you hit that ramp), all out to the finish. Last 5 minutes was close to 500w so I paced it very well considering the conditions and gradient. It was a lot windier at the top, a lot steep so it made sense to 'spend' your energy there.
Last off - photo, Karen Edwards
I finished 2nd... by .7 of a second to Mark Dowling. .7 of a second equates to about 150-250grams of weight across me or my bike. On the day, I couldn't have done many things better - my problem (the .7 seconds - probably more like giving away 15) was eating too much tasty food in Belgium when I was racing there and after a long season, not being particularly focused on this race (and being lean). I put on a chunk of muscle mass (which helps) in Belgium, but also body fat and didn't lean down enough when I got home.

My final two races of the season, both National Championships, were 1st and then 2nd. Not perfect, but it still a nice way to close out the season.

Now to find a team for next year...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

2013 Irish MTB Marathon Championships

[500th blog post - wohoo]

The Irish MTB Marathon Championships – unfortunately last year I was not in the country to try and defend the title I won in 2011 (I was road racing in France) so this year when I returned to Ballyhoura, I was determined to reclaim it.

Before the National Championships, I had been racing Kermesse races in Belgium for a month – no off-roading possible but the explosive nature of the races there carried over pretty well to racing on the mountain bike, the only difference was that, outside of recovery rides, I hadn't trained or raced at a particular intensity for more than a few seconds in weeks – on the long climbs in Ballyhoura it didn't seem to matter. My month in Belgium was basically – Race, Race, Rest, Race, Race, Rest – for a month – that was a good month :)

My race bike for the day - S-Work Epic 29er
2013's race was a little more special than usual as for the first time, were running the event which was being used as a dry run for when Ireland host the European MTB Marathon Championships in 2014 on a very similar course (a little longer though).

Once returned from Belgium, the road bike was put away and I went back to learning how to ride a mountain bike – the first session was a little embarrassing – squirrels were holding straighter lines down the descents than me but fortunately, most of the skills returned quickly – a large part I put down to the bike, a 29er full suspension bike – moving back from the road, it felt pretty natural – more so then when I would switch to a 26er from the road.

Race day arrived and we all lined up. British Champion and world class marathon racer, Sally Bigham lined up alongside me – she obviously couldn't become Irish champ, but was using it as a recce for the Euro's next year – great to have her here for the race and she simply smoked the course. It was also great to see AnPost CRC pro rider, Ronan McLoughlin line up in his first MTB race – sources say he will be back for more.

The race itself was pretty straight forward – I felt strong, but was always wary of a) crashing hard and b) having a mechanical – I pushed on pretty hard on the fireroads but took the technical trails reasonably carefully. Throughout the race I was in the front group, and for the second half, off the front so I didn't feel the need to really push it. Three and a half hours later, with a big smile on my face I finished reclaiming the national title.

Almost finished - photo Max Power (taking fantastic pics as always)
I have won this title before but this one means a lot to me as I hope to represent Ireland next year in the Euro Champs on this course (in the National Champions jersey) – it is a course well suited to racing a road season and lies one week before the road race nationals – fingers crossed I'll have some good form for it.

Thanks to for putting on a stellar show. The course was fantastic with a good mix between flowy trail center singletrack, natural trails and fireroad. The following morning my body felt like it had been hit by a truck – something I don't get racing road races – means a tough technical race! Also, many thanks to Cycleways, Specialized, Schwalbe, KCNC, NoTubes and Zipvit for the equipment and fueling - I have said it before, but with my bike/fuel setup, I feel like I'm cheating (seriously, go find a demo Epic 29er to ride).