Thursday, 30 September 2010

Commuting fun

Commuting this week has been a mixed bag of fun in the rain and fog, to noticeably more dangerous driving as the morning darkness hangs around far to long.

Monday's commute was quite a damp affair which gave me the opportunity to try out my new sealskinz all weather glove, in a nice shade of red. I can safely say they did the job well, being waterproof without being bulky. I always seem to have cold extremities for the first 20mins of a ride in cool and cold conditions and to be honest there was no difference here but after that my hands were very toastie and overall I was please with their initial outing.

The other item of note on my Monday morning commute was the White Van Man who decided to overtake me coming off a bend with on-coming traffic which meant he had to squeeze passed. As he was so close I gave the side of the van a bit of a rap with the side of my fist, only to quickly check I hadn't picked up too much road dirt on my new sealskinz. Weather he was oblivious to this I'm not sure, as he just continued on his way but hopefully it gave him a bit of a jump.

This morning there was quite a bit of fog rolling off the fields after yesterday's downpours. It was a chilly ride in with heavy due collecting on my helmet and gloves. Once again traffic seemed a bit oblivious of me, even tho this morning I had my day-glo hi-viz wind jacket on and flashing light to front and back. I have a feeling that as it wasn't really dark, just a bit dull, and the fog wasn't anywhere near a pea-souper, that they just didn't like me using THEIR piece of tarmac - but hey it's there for us all and I can't get to worked up by them.

Hopefully my homeward journey will be a much more enjoyable affair now that he sun is out and my planned route will take me up the bridle path and thru the local park for a quick bit of technique training ahead of Sunday's CX league race in my new team kit.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Reflections of ...

With the first of the West Mids Cyclocross League events under my belt it's been a time to reflect on how things panned out.

There was a new format for the Vets/Jun/Wom race this year, with the Juniors and Vet 40-49 starting 2 mins before the the Women and Vets 50+. It seemed to work well on Sunday with less of queue at the first bottle neck with the 100+ field being split into 2.

The two things that I have been mulling over since the race are to do with race strategy and technical gear. The race strategy this time around was changed, instead of my usual hell for leather flat out start and then usual grovel to recover I decided to try to throttle back a little at the start and then hopefully be able to increase my effort throughout the race picking my way through the field. I think now that I chose the wrong course for this tactic as many folks after the race were suggesting that the course was more akin to a an MTB race with lots of wooded, single track which made it difficult to overtake and make up ground. Also, with the more reserved start I ended up lower down the field on the first time up the steep, slippery stepped section and possible blocked my more riders than usual.

The other thing is a technical decision to go with a single chainring. About midway through the race my front mech decided to no longer want to change down on the the inner ring, so I ended up riding half the race totally on the big ring, which wasn't too bad as I was only using the inner ring on the steps and a couple of other steep sections. I'd thought about this at the end of last season and I know it's probably a good idea as most of the course don't have too many really steep sections, and I was finding myself riding whole races on the big ring and even using a single speed for a couple of races without too much detriment to my performances. so the only thing now is cost and time, and really I should have done this before the season started.

However, the season has started. Now racing under the colourful banner of Team Here Come the Belgians I will have to knuckle down and see what the winter months will bring, both in terms of weather
and racing success. Unfortunately no pictures from last Sundays race, but I managed to finish 25th overall (J/V/W) and 16th V40-49 which is ok for starters, with only one incident requiring an ambulance this year!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Course Reccie/Commute

With the first round of the West Mids Cyclo-Cross League at Redditch just 2 days away, decided that it would be a good idea to incorporate a ride over to the course on my commute to work. this would mean I know how long it will take for me to cycle over to race HQ and give me the opportunity to have a ride around the course (if my memory recalls the route).

The route was ok, with only a minor mis-navigation and took me 50mins. However, the ride around the course (complete with laptop in my ruck sac) served to remind me how hard it is going to be. The starting lap misses out the steps and heads straight up a very steep hill before hanging left to descend thru a bomb hole, which took out a few competitors last year. I'm going to be struggling to recover after that start, and there is more of the same to come as the route ascends and descends the hill at various points around the lap. On the second lap, we switch to using part of the hill that has a section of steps, which if not too crowded can be ridden up along the edge of the steps, but is again very steep near the top.

So after doing a couple of laps, I was feeling pretty knackered, initially a little down beat and not really ready for it. However this is the first round and my first 'cross race since Feb so I shouldn't expect too much and just try and start kicking things into gear.

The home this afternoon will have to include a few loops thru the local park to practise some dismount/mount drills as I haven't had chance this week with having builders in and car issues. Hopefully it will gee me up along with the sunshine that seems to have arrived. :D

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Warming up for a Winter of Anticipation

Over the last month my commutes to and from work have been interrupted somewhat, with nice things like lounging around on the shores of Lake Garda for 10 days and not so nice things like having to get car repairs done which means a lot more driving around than I'd like.

As a means of a warm-up to break me into the forth coming cyclocross season, I entered the Warwick Town Centre races after returning from Italy. With only about 3 outings on the bike in the previous 3 weeks I wasn't really expecting to much on race day. I have raced at Warwick once before, about 3 years ago, and said then it would be the last time as the idea of riding hell for leather round a 1km circuit that includes half a dozen 90 degree turns, a short drag, and iron works was a stupid one. Now I had convinced myself it would be good training for the initial cross races after the openers being so fast and furious last year. This time around however instead of the circuit being nice and dry (as forecast) the heavens opened about 20mins before my race (novice and 4th cats). As expected the racing was fast and I tried to keep things under control but as usual the adrenalin got the better of me and I just went all out for as long as I could, which wasn't long enough as it turned out. I did mange to be up there for the second intermidiate sprint after 20mins but then paid for my efforts when held up by soome lapped riders, eventually finishing 11th. I actually enjoyed myself more this time around and can only wonder how I might have performed if I hadn't had 2 weeks off just prior.

So there are now only 3 days until the start of the West Mids Cyclo-Cross League, and the anticipation within me is building. I can't wait to ride over to the series opener at Pitcher Oak Woods and do battle against my fellow 'crossers on one of the more technical courses with lung busting ascents, steps, wooded tracks and technical decents. A brief reccie of the couse later this week to check how the going is, and what tyres might be best, then ..."Let battle commence"