Saturday, April 18, 2015

2015 Photos from the road/trail

A few photos from training/racing view recently (mostly Irish). All taken with an iPhone.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2015 Roc Laissagais World Series MTB Marathon

It is five days before my first big race of the year and I am looking up at the ceiling. Things are turning white - kinda like when you slide the brightness all the way to the right when editing a photo. Please don't faint. I’m lying on a hospital bed while a doctor is stitching me back together - the ninth doctor I had seen that day. I ask, do you think I can race this weekend - he chuckles…

It actually took me quite a while (and the help of an x-ray machine) to convince them that I hadn't broken my leg - each doctor was convinced despite the fact that I had driven a car for four hours, walked around a bunch and had zero pain killers.

Why I was there - well, a stupid crash hours earlier in the final ten kilometers of Ras Mumhan. The race (other than some very expensive crashes) had been going pretty well. I was in good form and pretty relaxed about it - it was going to be my last road race for a while and although I would obviously try to win I hadn't put myself under any pressure.

Full gas - Pat Doherty

Stage 1 was fine - a bunch sprint with some crashes I was happy to avoid. Stage 2 saw me on the ground ten kilometres in with broken equipment (first ever Ras Mumhan crash). A hectic chase for an hour to get back to the front saw me only feel ‘good’ again for the final hour - small group sprint. Stage 3, rolling open windy roads - so much fun. The group splitting to bits all the time.  I almost got it right sprinting for third just behind two leaders (I got fourth, 23 seconds behind the race leader on GC). Final stage - as nervous as hell - great weather, no wind and a huge group rode along filling the complete road. We were an almost complete group when we hit the tough finishing circuits. With two and a half laps to go, I was towards the front of a reduced (about 40?) front group when a rider believed that it was important enough to get to the front (one row more forward) to risk riding on the verge. Splat - half the front group goes down. More broken bikes and bodies. I DNF (but am given a time as we were on the finishing circuit). My teammates pushed me home (I couldn’t pedal).

3rd/4th was close between Ali and I - MTB star Grant Ferguson just behind - Brendan Slattery Photos
Teammates - Brendan Slattery Photos
Back to the hospital - as the doctor works on my knee Mel is with me - we hadn't seen each other for a few days - 2am in St. Vincents - some “date night”. Having helped Mel home from hospital in London just over a week earlier I found it funny that she was now doing the same for me. My injuries were basically bruising everywhere, eight stitches on my knee and heavily bruised muscles on my right leg.

My first race I had focused on for the season was only a few days later - the first European round of the MTB Marathon World Series in Lassiac, France - Roc Laissagais. I said out loud I was 50/50 on being able to go but deep down I didn't think I could. I would give it a day…

Using every recovery trick I know, healing was rapid - scarily so and I even got out for a short easy spin on Wednesday to see how it feels. Okay - I'll go. Ryanair texts me - sorry, your flight is cancelled. Really - like seriously? I change the flight to Saturday which would mean no preride, hectic travels but more recovery time at home. By the time I leave early on Saturday morning, I'm feeling okay. 

Race morning and I'm nervous - different from road racing, or really most other racing I do. I'm nervous as I CAN NOT CRASH on my knee - if I do - it is skin grafts and plastic surgery. i.e. Not good. 

Gun goes and we are off - as always, people go hard up the first climb - I take the odd glance at my power meter and see that this is in no way sustainable for a 4.5 hour race. Sure enough, after 10 minutes I'm riding by a lot of riders. First descent - okay, don't crash and stay off the brakes. Bang, hit from behind - no biggie, chain is off, stop, put back on… I descend, something doesn’t sound right - the chain is clacking everywhere. I get to the bottom, start peddling and almost fall over - F*** - the rear derailleur is kaput. Basically, it has no tension on the chain. I spend the next 20 minutes on the trails going and stopping trying to figure out what I can do or what gears will work - in the end, only my big ring (40t) and the 3 biggest (as in easiest) gears on the back. Good for the moderate climbs, shit for everything else. 

Early in the day

I continued going as hard as I could when I could, riding easy on the flats (not because I wanted to - at the moment, that would be my strongest trait) and coasting the descents - oh, and having to walk some of the steep steep technical climbs. I’m sure I looked funny as I would rip by riders on the climbs only for them to catch me on the fire roads again.

The day wasn't my finest descending day by a long shot - having not seen the course I was on the brakes way (WAY) too much BUT, rolling over the finish line after 5 hours (90k, 3,000m climb all off road) I hadn't crashed and my knee was just as pretty/ugly as it was when I started. This alone was a win. Oh, I finished 47th (180 starters).

What did go well? My Specialised Epic was a joy to ride (had been training mostly on my hardtail) and the Schwalbe Racing Ralph on the front and Thunder Burt on the rear where perfect for the conditions.

I’m happy I went, frustrated about the mechanical (but it is MTB, these things happen and I have been fortunate that I have only had two or three mechanicals in all my MTB racing over the years). It wasn't exactly how I envisioned my return to MTB racing, but hey - I'm still in one piece! My next one is on April 26th in Italy - Tiliment Marathon. I'm looking forward to it!