Sunday, 18 October 2015

LBRCC & Café De Robot Pyrenees 2015

For the third year running we were off to the Pyrenees, Bagneres De Luchon to be precise, for our end of year trip/cx training week.
Flying and driving Saturday, the plan had been to ride upon arrival, but much faffage put paid to that. And I had bigger problems. So instead we went to the towns casino to register for Sundays fondo the La Lapebie. As Fraser and myself had already done this two years ago we opted for the shortest option with just the HC climb of Port De Bales to contend with and that's enough believe me....I'd done it twice already. Neil was urged into doing the mid length option that included the Col De Mente and two Champagne climbs. And Phil all the way over from Belgium opting for the full Monty, too silly for me to even look at!
First though I needed to put right the custom frame work carried out by the baggage handlers, So where to get a sheered off mech hanger for a British made 853 frame in the French Pyrenees? Answer, no where. Still the LBS vows to carry out a repair, my frame goes into their cellar workshop and once out of sight all I could hear was the sound of hammer on steel. I needed a beer.
By 4.45pm I had an operational  bike. Time to relax.
Sunday arrives. Phil is off before I'm even up (the long ride goes off first and is timed so all the distances get back together)
I'm up now and looking down at the competitors getting ready for the next wave, Neil's group. Stood there, coffee in hand and Neil getting ready I notice that they seem to be erm well leaving. 'When you off Neil' Seems there's a bit of confusion and Neil goes flying out the door.
Fraser and myself like true gents finish off our coffees and saunter down to the start. We're met by many enthusiastic Frenchmen, some doing warm up sprints.....have a word. We line up and wait for the off, well once the Mayor lets us go. He seems to be enjoying the limelight a bit too much and it all becomes a one man  show. Soon thank God we're off.  This bits fun, it's virtual shut down in town for us. Event motorcycles weave through us horns blaring whistles blowing, Gendarmes and marshals wave us through with those little lolipop signs. It's the sights and sounds of the Tour. Out of  town and onto the valley road and all slightly downhill to the first turn. It's fast and safe 25 to 30mph riding with no hopeless wannabes and crashes inherent in UK sportives. We keep the front of the ride in sight and take the turn together. There's a small gap as we hit the undulations before the big climb, but we're pretty well together. Undulations I should say in the Pyrennees are what one would call a full on climb back home. All too soon we're at the foot of the climb. A bridge over white water marks the spot. So to climb, I've done this before and tempo is best to start with. Tap tap tap, Fraser is still with me. I watch on in wonderment as a few try to hoon past? generally they're hooning only gets them just metres ahead before they slip back into oblivion. We're a little apart but tapping away nicely whilst we're still in the shade of the tree line. However all to soon we're out in the open where trees and streams give way to sun, rocks and lizzards. And it starts to climb, I get gear envy as a rider passes with a cassette the size of a dinner plate, I look down at my 25 tooth cassette and it looks woefully small.....feels it to. Riding these steep gradients makes me look forward to the pass up ahead where years ago there had been a feed station. As I ride the pass, Fraser joins me and I follow his wheel, though my back aches so Fraser pulls ahead. That's at about 3km to go, I mention that as 3km seems to be the point at which I feel I've done it. Fraser ahead I chase a lone Frenchman, when I catch him I decide to ride side by side to the summit with him. LBRCC chairmans version of the Entente Cordial.
At the summit Fraser is waiting, and without a second to even start faffing he suggests we go and try and get in under three hours. Gilets and arm warmers on we plummet off the top. A quick pose for the photographer on the way down and whoosh. It's a long way down off the Port De Bales with a few tricky bits. Then it joins the road off the Peyresourde which is super fast and pretty safe so we try and keep it at 40mph into Luchon. Off the mountain and into town and it looks like we can do it with minutes to spare, but the last marshal sends me the wrong way, luckily I look around to see I'm alone with a Frenchman waving furiously at me and and seemingly thinking I'm the idiot! We cross line inside three hours in a Gold medal time. Neil's day didn't get any better. Phil was Phil riding the monster without batting an eyelid. Then off for the post ride meal. No free energy bar and off you go here. Instead it's a sit down three course meal with wine and waiter service. UK are you listening?

Monday and it's time to conquer my nemesis. Superbagneres. Twice I've tried and twice I've failed. Once simply at the end of a heavy week in the mountains and the second time my back went halfway up. Setting off from the apartment in Luchon you find yourself climbing within minutes, think it was eight minutes to be precise no time to warm up barely time to get even cool! And this isn't an annoying climb out of Leighton Buzzard we're heading for the clouds.  So eight minutes in I'm puffing and panting, this old body needs far longer to get up to speed. And part of me is thinking I'll fail again. I reach the first hairpin that marks the start of the climbing proper. I feel better as the road narrows and steepens and I'm looking for the snow post that would mark the point my back went last year. I pass it and turn for the summit. I feel good now even if I'm off the back. The views change as I leave the tree line I view Luchon down below  and clouds and snow above. Still feeling okay I pass the 3km to go sign, I love those signs. Up ahead is Fraser, and the folly of a hotel that sits on the summit lingering in the cloud. I push on and onto the brute of a straight that'll take me to the top. Suddenly I get chest pain, so I slow and stand carefully monitoring any worsening.  I crawl to the top and cross the imaginary line before rolling back a few yards to meet the guys. The summit is bathed in sunlight but we only stay long enough to grab a Coke and picture the view.
Regards the chest pain, it seems that anything reached over 1500M can cause this, and I'll find myself suffering the same later in the week. We all at some point get a dry throat from the altitude.
With gilets and warmers donned we race off the mountain with a planned lunch of omelette at Chez Manus in our thoughts.

Sitting in our favourite café we decide that the Artigue will be the afternoons climb. A baby at just over 1200M, no problemo. After lunch we detour around Luchon to get rid of our café legs before we start the climb. I mean the Artigue after Superbagneres a walk in the park surely?. Seems I'd forgotten that this park was the Hautes-Pyrenees! And holy cow this ones steep from the start, thankfully it's short. However I'm hardly moving so this might take some time. The pecking order on Superbagneres has fallen into chaotic yo-yo'ing on this one. So it's all we need when we find the road has been dug up, and is blocked by diggers and trucks. I can't be arsed to pussy foot about and just don't care about ripping my good tyres, I wheel spin in the deep gravel scrape past the digger and clatter onto the tarmac once again.  A combination of concentration and pure bloody mindedness get's me up. The view from the summit is outstanding, we can look down onto the valley floor and up again to see the summit of Superbagneres in the distance. It's not often you can see a whole days ride laid out before your eyes like this.
The Artigue, shortest but hardest climb of the trip

Watch out ladies it's Speedo time! After two full days riding, each summiting a HC climb we head off to the towns natural spa to recover.
Day three is another HC or multiple HC's  Fraser and myself have an easy day of just one climb. Phil and Neil have three in mind. Our day starts in the the beautifully named Luz-Saint-Sauveur. The big ride is to summit the Col du Tourmalet, followed by the Col d'Aspin then the Peyresourde. Fraser and I are just riding Luz Ardiden another HC climb made infamous by the Lance Armstrong spectator/bag crash.  We've planned to complete our ride and then follow the other two back over the three summits to Luchon (in the car). The three climbs are going to be tough, and I admire their courage, I really feel happy I'm not doing it. I've done Aspin followed by the Tourmalet before and it's enough.
So we depart. Phil and Neil head off onto the beast of a drag that takes you to the foot of the Tourmalet, whilst we twist through town and over bridges to the foot of Luz Ardiden.  So,as to what Phil and Neil got up to I'll never know, but for now we're on a peach of a climb, I like this a lot. Narrow twisting with wicked cambers nice. We ride steady together through the treeline, I soak up the atmosphere recalling images of colourful Tour characters racing up here. After a while I need to stop for a nature break, Fraser doesn't need to witness this and presses on. Back on the road again I see Fraser has passed a lone rider and I set off to do the same. Sadly the blokes not going to let another Engleeesh past and continuously monitors proceedings behind him. I nearly have him, but the ski station is reached and that means no more road, Fraser is already up here and filming me arrive, tummy and knees in and a broadside finish just for a bit of a flourish.  Pictures taken we tank back down, Fraser is ahead and I get stopped on the fastest section by a digger clearing fallen rocks which is a shame. At the bottom we um and ah about riding another summit, but decide against it. So we head back to the car and de camp in the heat of the sun.
Luz Ardiden
We head off to find the boys. Up and over the Tourmalet and over the Aspin, then we get the call. 'Come and get us'  Two climbs are enough and it was a late start so fair play. We gather them up and drive over the Peyresourde. The two of them will feel it tonight! They tuck into cow burgers that night whilst we go for Tapas.
Day four and we ain't giving up it's going to be another HC climb followed by two other summits. First the HC Pla d'adet  then the Col d'aspin and finally Hourquette d'ancizan.
Pla d'adet isn't suited to me, just a few gentle metres from the start in Saint-Lary-Soulan and the climb just goes for it. Leaving the others to go on ahead I target the first hair pin where I plan to stop and straighten my back. Just looking down on the town from this first bend I'm amazed at the altitude gained. I'm back on the bike and just feeling a little more dialed in, but still it's tough. I'd like forty minutes of riding before hitting a Pyrenean HC climb, less than four minutes hasn't given my lungs a chance to get out of bed. It's a struggle and it's a bit hot, but look where I am I think to myself, and another part of me enjoys the masochistic pleasure of it all. Then relief comes at a small village on the climb, it's lesser gradient is enough for me to recoup on. I pedal through the village that clings onto a horse shoe shaped col. And then I'm ready for the rest of the ascent and to help I'm riding into a cooling breeze. My pace ups and soon I'm at the summit. The climb has been tough but beautiful, sadly the summit ski resort has nothing to give, just empty brick chalets. We loiter wordless for a bit then tank back down. What was tough going up is now a whoop whoop descent with a few places that you need to take care on, despite a 4000' drop we don't exercise any care at all. Even bunny hopping the drainage gullies at Pyrenean descent speeds probably wasn't the best of all ideas?  We reach the bottom and Phil's raggedy tyre goes. Why do they blow when you reach the bottom? I mean that's great having descended of a very rainy Portilon for the tyre to explode at the bottom I 'll be forever thankful.
Next it's the col d'aspin after we've had a good blast through the countryside to get to it's base.  I've ridden the col d'aspin before from this very same side it's a peach. The early kilometres are easy, and though not a massive climb it passes through stages. At first it's a dark stream lined road. Then the forest thins out before becoming mountain meadow and finally all you have is rock besides you. The summit welcomes me again. It's a saddle that you go up and over. Or wait a while on as we do, but not for long because this descent is even better than the last. We leave together in tandem and stay that way for the entire descent. It works out well as the hairpins come so thick and fast that the last rider can spot vehicles coming up as the first rider hits the turns.
We descend wheel to wheel out of the tree line into the valley.
We'll have a stop here before the next accent. We pick a nice café with comfy loungers and order large sugary coffees......then ice cream.
Our third and final climb for the day is the Hourquette d'ancizan. This has some real steady long gradients, nothing compared to the last two climbs, but after sitting here so long after riding two Tour De France climbs we'll have the mother of all café legs.
We roll out homeward bound, down the valley road and then turning to the mountains. Although the going up here should be easy it's not and it's very hot and you get bears here. I don't like this long long arrow straight climb I'm on. I look ahead at all the mountains rearing up ahead of me and think Christ. But I'm saved, a road appears from the left, it's my road and it's turning away from those looming mountains. And there's a headwind, which in this case is great as I'm so bloody hot. The gradient now is much steeper but my Garmin says I'm going quicker, I know I am. Up and up I go weaving past wild horses on the road. I'm now in a massive col and the gradient marker bearing in mind I'm still climbing says 8% descent, I'll have that. Fraser is with me now on this weird landscape. And we ride together up towards the narrow  cutting that marks the summit and the way down.
Over the top the difference in landscape is stark, open mountain meadow one side and now down though tree lined and gorge like landscape?
Time on the Hourquette

We again descend in a group, this is beautiful and I feel so well tuned in. Cars allow us to pass and enjoy this very narrow laned descent. I really take it all in and knowing all three climbs have been done helps.
We're spat out off the mountain into typical French countryside. The pace along the lanes gets super fruity, but then at the next village I just want to kick back and enjoy the ride home. At a tiny village I wash myself at a fountain before following an avenue back to the car.
They'll be lashings of ginger beer tonight.
It's Thursday Phil and Neil set off for another days riding, whilst Fraser and myself think sod it and head to the spa and cafés.
It's not all about the bike
It's Friday, we go home today but there's time for one more climb and lets make it another HC. And I know what the brutal Port D'Bales. I've done this summit three times and always from the super tough Siradan side. This time though we'd take the wide open Peyresourde climb road and turn off right for the Bales. We set off, Phil ahead because he's doing it another.....harder way. It's the last day, the way is out and back so we all go at our own tempo.
Strangely the Peyresourde road seems easier? I tap away and soon arrive at the right hander I need to take. Holy cow it becomes steep, I can see Fraser ahead, he looks close but I know it's an optical illusion he's probably several hairpins ahead. It's hot as well. On I go over familiar ground, I can see he first of the few mountain villages I'll pass so I know it'll ease off soon. And soon it does.
Then I get a strange feeling. It feels a little to easy, I can't see anyone else and all of a sudden it doesn't feel familiar. I've been here three times, but always descending at stupid speeds. I wonder if I'll end up in the wrong place and have to retrace my steps. I'll press on, the tempo still feels easy. Then finally I recognize a familiar section, a right hand hairpin, straight up then that left hand hairpin that goes past 180 degrees. I see a bunch of Spanish guys in club kit up ahead and my steady tempo takes me past them, because in Leighton Buzzard that's how we roll. Past a Dutchman with dinner plate gears and out into the hot open summit climb.
Tempo tempo tempo and I see the only Km marker on the route and it reads 3km. It's also the point at which Phil descends past me heading for the summit of the Peyresourde.
As I've said above, 3km is in the bag as far as I'm concerned when riding. I spin to the top to meet Fraser and await Neil's arrival.
We talk about doing the Peyresourde ourselves, but nah. Instead Fraser switches on he's Go-Pro thingy as it's superfast downhill all the way to the front door and we are going to give it some for the camera.
Off we go, been down this bit three times and up it once so I know it well enough. I follow Neil and Fraser struggling to descend as quick, but when I find the right position on my bars I'm up and past them. Cars on the lower slopes of the Bales slow us down, and I'm on the brakes all the way to the road that takes you off the Peyresourde and into Luchon. Good job I know it's here!
Then kaboom superfast  wide road to the finish. We play for the camera swapping leads and giving each other the finger with heads down holding out as long as possible for the next turn. Probably not damaging Levi Leipheimers Strava time on this descent.
And brake.
All that's left to do is have one last coffee at Manu's before tidying up to leave.
Another great trip, thanks Fraser. And thanks to you Phil for dragging our arses out of bed each morning to kill ourselves on the mountains, ta.
That was a lot of mountain kilometre,

A few extra images.
Adams Ale

With Fraser topping the Horquette
The guys on the Aspin
Neil. From Superbagneres to the Artigue and all before our eyes

Central CXL Round 4 MK Bowl


Central CXL Round 3 Hemel Hempstead

As above it's racing in Hemel today, quite literally a drive down the road. But when we go off at a tangent I don't question it. You see Miles is driving and clearly the rules of 'magical mystery tour' apply to he's driving. I suggest that if Miles is leading club rides in he's eighties you take a packed lunch wrapped in a paper map.
Anyway we arrive at the venue Gadebridge Park, the hilly one! You can see the course from the road and the sight of the main hill brings on an involuntary 'chinny reckon' We're early despite Mile's detour. So after getting kitted up and signing on we roll over to watch Emma B and Alice in novices. They're having fun and Alice comes away with a Bronze gong.
We go for a warm up prior to the Vet 40 race. God I feel pants. My throat is getting sore and my breakfast can't make up it's mind which way to go, up or down. On top of that the course is an 'old skool' slogger. Feeling hot and sick I settle trackside to watch Jules, Andrew and Colin slug it out.
Watching them get tired each lap I decide I'll just have one warm up lap and wing it.
Anyway Jules and Andrew are neck and neck and going for it. Colin shouts puncture as he passes! The racing looks different today, teams are together Luton, Corley's and LBRCC, and the faces on the front aren't the same. I watch from the same spot to see Jules and Andrew lap consistently and wheel to wheel. Colin doe's have a puncture but presses on regardless.
However this week Andrews bad luck is behind him, and he go's on to take LBRCC honours in the V40 race.
I'm up next with Miles and Darren in Vet 50. This week I'm honoured as I get front row gridding. Though I'm gutted I feel so bad that I'll probably blow the advantage.
We're going to get sent off PDQ like other weeks, fifteen seconds then go. The whistle goes and we're off.
The start as usual is on the only flat straight and after a few metres we'll tackle the main climb. A climb that elevates you so the course can wind it's way back down.
I lose places on the climb and Darren goes past. I keep him in check and we reach the top with a string of good riders. How strong is Darren? I stay behind uncertain. The course drops to the hurdles and Darren falls letting me past. I complete the lap just ahead, but Darren passes on the climb again. The climb is clearly Darren's strong point, again I follow his wheel until I see an opportunity to pass him on a tight turn. I take the lead again and pass the line ahead, but again Darren passes me on the climb. I think I have a plan to beat him. I decide I need to get ahead to make him chase, meaning he'll have to chase and put the extra effort in on the hill each lap. With three laps to go I'm hoping he doesn't have enough to keep attacking on the climb?
Last climb ahead
An opportunity arises just after  Darren passes. Mark Eidem is just ahead, a far faster rider than both of us. I put on a sprint and pass Mark. This wakes him up and he chases meaning that Darren is behind with a rider in between us. Mark is pressing me and a large gap opens up. Looking at the gap I get I think that this will be enough to take LBRCC honours even with this and two more laps to go!However the race isn't over until the fat lady sings. I clear the hurdles and kick my own chain off re mounting. I squat trackside undoing the wedged chain, thinking it's on I set off. But it's not on and comes off again. Darren goes straight past. I'm still there this time calmly re fitting the chain.
Darren's gone and I have two laps to catch him. I make little inroads until the climb, where this time Darren is a little slower he is still ahead. We both get in good laps, but Darren remains ahead. Bizarrely my malfunctioning gears are helping, I can't get my easy gear for the climbs so I have to press hard meaning I'm going quicker uphill.

At the bell I'm on Darren's wheel. I match him on the climb, but for the first time all race I get to the top first. At the top I reach for the drops and hurt myself to make a gap. Now it's a case of executing a perfect lap and not slowing. I'm still ahead as we reach the last little climb before the course descends to the chequered flag. I make a bold statement to myself and choose the big ring for this last climb in readiness for a fast descent.
Job done LBRCC honours taken. Darren's right behind me and Mile's follows in soon after. I look at Darren and think I've woken a sleeping giant and that my days are about to get a little harder.

Seniors next. Neil, Ross and Mitchell. A good course for Neil a superb all rounder, nice hills for Ross. For Mitchell? not much to write home about.
As expected Neil takes an early lead. Ross is second with Mitchell third. Mitchell closes each lap, but the hill where Darren and myself fought doesn't suit him.
Neils lead grows, really grows so all of us spectators assume he has it in the bag. And our attention turns to Ross and Mitchell. Can Mitchell make it up on the technicals? Over the course of the race he comes close, but Ross manages to stay out of reach.
10/10 for style
At the bell Neil flies through. Then Ross and Mitchell.  Green corner develops to see Neil grab the win for honours. In the distance we see the distinctive flash of LBRCC green, here he comes. But hold the front page it isn't Neil it's Ross. Ross takes honours, Neil has 'gone' big time and comes in second ahead of Mitchell. Neil tells me later that he just went, as if he wasn't moving which just goes to show how much effort you put in during a race. I do feel for him, but like my race it's the big picture that counts.

Without a doubt great racing today. Emma B out for the first time. Alice also racing for the first time and coming home with a medal. Andrew and Jules really having a go. Colin racing an entire race on a flat. My ding dong with Darren. Miles racing while his body and mind were still in Holland. Neil's supreme effort. Ross's LBRCC win and Mitchells first year courage on a course that didn't have his name on it.    

Friday, 16 October 2015

Central CXL Round 2 Milton Keynes

Round two marked the first of three visits the Central League would make to the Bowl this season. And like the week before the weather was playing nice, meaning LBRCC attendance was good, though at the time of writing this (3am) I'm having trouble recalling exactly who was there! I do know that Ross and Mitchell rode seniors, Jules, Andrew and Colin were in Vet 40. And Miles, Darren, Kevin, Steve Judd and myself were in Vet 50. And hats off to Steve, one novice race and straight into the vets.
The first wave of LBRCC racers were off in V40. I literally arrived as they were getting ready to go. So before getting into my warm up routine, I loitered around to watch the early race unfold. The race order was the same as last week at RAF Halton, Jules just ahead followed by Andrew and Colin. As I said last week, it's hard to say what exactly happens in their race as all I can see is them passing me lap after lap. I can say that the race order didn't change. And I must confess I was having a little shout at Andrew watching he's re mounts. Though as it turned out he was having issues with the pedals.
Jules went on to take club honours in the category. And after the race whilst chatting with Jules a smiling Andrew came over to say he's pedals were playing up. Jules and myself looked down at the offending Eggbeaters, and I know Jules was thinking the same as me, that they weren't playing up....they were totally shagged. Seems Andrews run of bad luck wasn't going away.

So to my race, grand dads, silver surfers...oldfarts! That said it's a pretty nifty lot, probably because by the time you hit your mid fifties, most of the lets say slower boys have jacked in this racing lark. And it probably goes some way to explain why we have the Vets World Champion resplendent in he's Rainbow jersey amongst us. But hang on, one Rainbow jersey.......two Rainbow jersey's......three Rainbow Jersey's.....three Rainbow jerseys are in my race! Slightly confused, do we have three current age category World Champions here or three guys that have been World Champions?  Never mind, I'm racing with three guys that are or have been World Champions, I guess that's a top three out of the question then. On top of that throw in a few guys with international experience and I think you could call that having the ante well and truly upped.
I get a second row gridding, the others are right behind me. This seasons starts are far quicker, as in the organisers don't have you hanging about. The first key words I hear are 'you'll get the whistle in 15 seconds'. No countdown or anything fancy like that. Whistle, tear off, second foot in and hustle for the corner just metres away. It's a very tight corner that won't be used for the rest of the race, give absolutely no quarter here. Off down the only straight, a baked hard affair that you have to go hard on, your bike bounces about, but it won't break. You then hit the first climb, nice it is and topped by a bend with a hurdle thrown in. From now on we'll go up and down, straights or 'the' straight will give way to tight turns, 180's, steps and wicked off camber twisty descents.
About a third into the first lap Miles passes me, and a glance back lets me know Kevin isn't far behind. When this happens to me in a race I have to assess. Are they strong today or am I weak? are they simply being hot headed? Whatever you don't panic. Miles soon fades and I regain the LBRCC lead, Kevin however is staying at a relatively consistent distance behind. I've assessed and decided how I'll race. It's going to be about getting it right at every twist and turn. And I'll tempo up every little climb. Only the short bumpy straight and short tarmac section before the loamy climb will get my full attention. After two laps my plan has worked, the only thing I need to check on is Darren's race as he's gone past Kevin and is now the closest LBRCC rider to me. However Darren will have to do the chasing. And to make he's life harder the course is drying and my lines are getting better each lap.
Steady on the climb, coached by Keith!

I manage to keep the LBRCC lead. And soon the Rainbow jersey passes me to mark the dying seconds of the race. I go under the chequered flag feeling chuffed. Darren, Kevin, Steve and Miles come in. Darren is going to gunning for me next week.

So to seniors. Ross and Mitchell are head to head. With nowhere on this course for Mitchell to stretch his legs he is going to have a hard time keeping up with Ross, whom for 2015 it's been all about the hills. During the course of the early laps they stay fairly close to each other, but then the constant ascending takes it's toll. Ross opens up and Mitchell starts to labour, he's track style position not looking at home on the grassy slopes. It stays at about 30 seconds +/- a few. Then to my surprise Mitchell is back on Ross's wheel. It's clear though that Ross has slowed, and in fact looks in trouble. Mitchell passes and Ross actually seizes with cramp. Race on!. They disappear and we wait to see who comes out of the tree line first, it's Ross.  Ross has recovered and Mitchell can't produce another effort. Ross takes LBRCC honours.

A good finish to the days racing for the LBRCC riders. So everyone pack up and go home.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Central CXL Round 1 RAF Halton

That's entertainment

So here we are at last, at the start of the long awaited cross season. And what a turn out. Central CX League has grown both in quantity and quality, and LBRCC was in keeping with that upsurge. Thirteen LBRCC members have arrived at today's venue. Probably because this was the opener and that it had rave reviews last year. The course at RAF Halton was is a peach, and sort of has that feeling that her Majesties forces have had a hand in it's build and up keeping.
So who was there? Emma, Steve and Steve Judd in novices. Jules, Andrew, Fraser and Colin in Vet 40. Darren, Kevin, Miles and myself in Vet 50. And finally Neil, Ross and Mitchell in seniors. Present and correct and racing in that order.
Until the point Miles and myself arrived I had been feeling ner vous. However seeing so many friendly faces put me at ease. I sign on and spend and age chatting with old friends, guys I go head to head with for forty minutes, cutting and barging each other only to shake hands with afterwards. It makes me a little late until I realise my start is later than I think, new start times you see.
Miles and me pin on numbers and go for a warm up. Realising we have a while to go, we set off to watch the vet 40's racing. The guys are looking good. Jules leads, Andrew is next and Colin follows as third LBRCC rider. Fraser has had a start line issue, though at the time I thought he was living up to his own motto 'business at the front, party at the back' a mullet reference. The guys finish in that order, though Andrew hadn't been gridded as he should have, don't think he was too pleased.

We're off next, so here's my version of events. Gridding goes well as I get called up early. The other guys are called up soon after. I look over my shoulder only to see them all grinning right behind me, the course is wide so they've ended up right on my wheel. The commissaire doesn't bugger about and we soon get a fifteen second call, on the whistle we'll be off.
It goes and we're off. I get a quick clip in and get away fast, handy here as it's right hander, left hander, left hander and singletrack bang bang bang bang. It's up to the other to catch me now, still that's some pressure with forty minutes to go. A rider from behind hits my wheel and then my leg, but it's him that goes down and I hold firm, bit like riding in Belgium.
For now I concentrate on making ground, and I won't have a clue how the others are going until we complete a lap and I can judge the gap on the switchbacks.
The course is a piece of cake in these conditions. Okay a few exceptions like the deep gravel drive up to the mess, and the blast trench, a technical drop in and out that only requires you not to fall off.
One good clean lap in and it's only Kevin that I see behind me.
And so it goes. Another lap and Kevin is roughly at the same spot when we hit the switchbacks. I'm a little pressured, but then it's him that will have to do the catching up and then pass, but I have a plan already for that scenario.
Now what sounds like something from my dreams turns into a short nightmare. I find myself in the company of two fast women. They hoon past on the straight, but slow me on the turns and dips, acutely aware of Kevins mountainbike skills I expect him on my tail at any moment. Thankfully once shown the open track the two ladies are off, they're F1 and I'm smoky diesel.
He isn't upon me, in fact he's dropped back. Feeling slightly....okay, I decide to bury it on the next lap. High lines on the off cambers, in the drops in the fields, out of the saddle through the mud and dig hard on the gravel.
The bell and finish line is soon after the exit from the woods so when the bell sounds I have to wait to get to the first switchback to see if the hard work has paid off. I conclude it has. I push on realising that even if I finish a minute or more ahead it's placings that count, so I lock in on two riders to put between the two of us. Nice to fill the the gap with two Team MK riders. I get the flag, and pull over to wave the guys in. Kevin arrives, Darren follows and Mile concludes the proceedings with what looks like a XC foot race!
It's a good showing so far.
Next up are seniors. Neil, Ross and race virgin Mitchell. These guys race for twenty minutes more than us, but I couldn't give a toss I raced the hour for years, now it's their turn.
From the off Neil is away and away by a country mile, and on Colins new bike.  Ross and Mitchell are neck and neck, then Mitchell seems to get away lap by lap.
Trouble on the terraces 

The course doesn't have the terrain to suit Ross's strong points, and he struggles with his mojo. Neil is still away and carefree in the technicals. It's easy to tell he's done harder stuff during his time riding fat tyres. Mitchell has that air of a newbie that hasn't raced long enough to know what can go wrong.
And the technical's suit him. The race finishes as it had started, Neil grabs honours with Mitchell second and Ross third.

Overall a good turnout from LBRCC. Next week Steve Judd is stepping up to vet 50. And Ross I expect will be after revenge. It should be good. Andrew will have to get over his gridding cock up, it happens now and then sadly. The guys will have me in their sights, but I'll be on my home ground. Bring it on.

Monday, 5 October 2015

LBRCC Race Experience Day

How is today going to pan out? I must admit I'm a tad concerned and have to ask a youngster if one still calls 999 to get peeled off the tarmac. I'm talking about the long awaited LBRCC race experience day. A day for those that have never pined on a number to have a go. A brainchild of the committee and delegated to Neil Green to sort out, That's delegate spelt D U M P. Also cunningly dumped upon Neil to sort whilst the rest of us are on holiday, so the day before we ask each other what we're doing?
Then I realize who we have on board to help on the day. Dave Brown, resident MK Bowl race winner.  Then the new generation Tom Duprez,  Andrew Martin and Dave Allan all well respected racers earning their spurs the hard way and not through half hour point grabbers. The old guard Miles Walker with whom I raced  here back in the early nineties and myself a winner here back in 2013. And of course Mr Green our latest MK Bowl Vainqueur.
So with these guys it wasn't far off one on one, phew. And on top of that it dawned a bright and sunny day. A little look up and a thank you God.
So here we are, about 23 of us plus Ash on photographic duties. And a host of riders families. Oh and an out of action Chris Wren waving flags and countdown numbers.

To get things rolling we literally get rolling. Off anti-clockwise we roll down the hill! along the flat and around the ever so slight dog leg to go up again and repeat.  We do this again stopping this time to point out the dangers of sloppy riding at speed on the corners and how best to tackle them. Then up the drag, pulling over we explain how attacks will often come here, maybe one two three on the bounce. We go around again letting it sink in.
This time when we stop Tom takes us through a few do's and don't's when it comes to pedaling (or not) and getting out of the saddle, or rather the chaos it can cause.
I then rattle out a few basic tips, painfully aware that Dave Brown is listening with a good decades worth more experience than me. So guys, if your bike plays up don't look down and don't faff while you're racing. Don't keep looking at your Garmin. Remove and replace your bottle without looking down, keep it's lid open ready to sip in the split seconds you'll get and no sudden braking.
Basics done, one on one time now
Next we peel off into groups of seven for  multiple laps and Q&A time with the racers. We set off gradually upping the pace. Here it's just like a club run, but intensified a hundred times. We start to see how every little thing you do or don't do has a positive or negative effect. Like grabbing a wheel or not means staying in the race or not.  What it feels like to move out into the wind. How to corner without scaring the group to death. When to brake. When to change gear. How to get out of the saddle without throwing the bike back. And just about every little thing that makes you a good rider.
See me, when I were a lad being a good and respected rider was more important than being a fast one. Okay be fast, but be good first and foremost. I remember being told how to sit in the saddle, how to hold the bars depending how we were riding, position vision and pace were all taught. More art than stats.
However I must say I was impressed by the general standard of riding, I'd be happy to sit in with any of the guys. And after explaining that they didn't have to shout and point at everything as done on club runs. And failing to explain when friend becomes foe during a race we were ready to go.
One last briefing to explain the race duration, the laps to go, the bell and the flag. And asking them all to look out for each other I sent them off. Thirty minutes and five laps.
Dave Brown and myself slowly wind things up, not the usual race day 25 to 36MPH though. I warned them I'd bark instructions so when Mitchell has a pop I point furiously at his back wheel, it falls upon Steve to grab the wheel which he does and I slot back in behind him. This is how it goes. We pull off some playful attacks, but this starts to break things up so Andrew and Myself ease off to gather in those stranded out there alone. We form little groups, races within a race. Up ahead Tom, Dave B and Dave A put the stronger riders to the test.
They're out of sight. Myself and CPF tap out the last few laps, both picking up riders and dropping them at the same time. The bell sounds and there's one last push. Then pain gives way to smiles it's over.
The day has passed without incident. Everyone has learnt something that'll prove invaluable on club runs and that's made me very very happy. I hope some do go onto race. I know that the following week Mitchell pinned on a number and raced seniors at the RAF Halton cyclocross. Steve Judd raced novices at the same event. 
I'd recommend a day like this to any club, and I'd like to see it rolled out to more members of all abilities.
Thanks Neil. cheers for the support from the families and Ashley for the great images.
Grand Master Dave Brown and Master Dave Allan 
Andrew Martin giving away trade secrets

Grandad being playful
Neil (handsome Neil) Green 

Tom (Leighton Loco) Duprez