Thursday, 26 July 2012

Getting Back To Work

Having a baby is a life changing experience, your time is no longer your own. Everything revolves around Ferris and very irregular eating and sleeping (if we’re lucky) routine - not to mention the nappies! Gone are the days when I could roll home from work, pull on the cycle shorts and breeze out the door for an hour or two on a training ride before dinner. So to keep up the fitness and maintain my sanity I’ve been cycling to work every day. It is a 35 mile round trip taking about an hour each way. The first week was fairly torrid with a fierce headwind in the mornings and a couple of soggy rides home. However, this week couldn’t have been better, spinning along the coast road looking out at  the sun sparkling across the harbour.
I am slightly concerned that I’m becoming tuned to 1 hour rides. Although mile munching on the road bike does mean I’m racking up 175 miles a week backwards and forwards to the office. Time will tell how I cope with the 6 hour Brighton Big Dog Enduro on the 4th August.

Why a photo of a pig? My route home takes me through the pig farms around Funtington and this chap (I don’t actually know it’s the same one) oinks at me everyday as I ride past. I’ve started replying with a cheery “Hello!”. Is this the first signs of commuter madness?

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Congratulations Fay!

Huge congratulations to Fay on winning the Nationals at Wasing on Sunday. Awesome result! Nice to see the national colours in the South Downs Bikes team!

Race Report:
As the women’s master’s race unfolded, it soon became clear that there was an almighty battle being played out with Jo Munden, Fay Cripps and defending champion Caroline Goward the main players. In a ding-dong battle the lead constantly changed hands with little to choose between the 3. By lap 3 it seemed that Munden had made her move opening up a 13 sec lead going into the last lap. However just 23 minutes later the title went to Cripps, with Goward just 19secs adrift, while Munden failed to finish, after falling victim to the hot humid temperatures, Munden had collapsed trackside suffering from heatstroke. Luckily reports are that there are no long-term effects and she’s fine, a little disappointed maybe, but fine 

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Chichester Challenge

Technically (for insurance reasons) the Chichester Challenge isn’t a race, but tell that to the competitors! Everyone rides as hard as they can, plus there is a trophy for the first rider home! The 55km course snakes across the South Downs around Goodwood, Harting and Kingley Vale. I have ridden the event on eight previous occasions and have many fond memories of blazing across the sun baked chalk under clear skies. This year sun screen wasn’t going to be a concern and numbers were definitely down after days of rain had ensured a mud bath awaited those who gathered on Lavant green under grey drizzly skies.

I could easily have won the event on 3 or 4 occasions in the past, but punctures are a real feature of the flinty course and I have only made it home unscathed on one occasion. This includes the year when I invested in the thickest, knobbliest tyres I could find, only to puncture within sight of the start!

This year I was totally under prepared. I had been at home all week with my new born son so hadn’t done any training. The cranks on my race bike had been returned under warranty so I was riding my wife’s 10 year old, fully rigid Stumpjumper. The lack of suspension I could deal with, but the cheap V-brakes are next to useless in the mud.

I was joined by South Downs Bikes team mates Ian Petherbridge and Fay Cripps on the start line. We set off together up Chalk Pit lane to the top of the Trundle at a steady pace and reduced the field to a lead group of five by the top. I knew I was going to struggle on the descents without suspension or effective brakes but hung onto Ians wheel as mud streamed from his rear tyre and across my face. My glasses were quickly obliterated but visibility between frantic blinking was little better without them.

At the bottom of the hill the five regrouped for the next evil climb that eventually takes you to the South Downs Way above Cocking. One of the other riders tried to make a break near the top but Fay pulled him back and I followed her wheel as Ian and the 5th man dropped back. The mud defied belief and I was drenched and fighting to keep the bike upright as Ian steamed back through, making the most of his 29 inch wheels on the flatter section along the ridgeline of the Downs.

Several of my Chi Challenge races have come to a premature end on the decent to Hooksway. So I took it carefully, dodging the deep gulley’s in the path formed by the recent torrential rain. Wet chalk has a friction co-efficient similar to ice, so steering inputs are best kept to a minimum, riding with soft hands, gingerly nursing the bike from side to side. At the bottom I passed Ian kneeling, CO2 canister in hand, topping up a flat tyre. So now I just had to chase down Fay – which is no easy task, she is one fit young lady! On the climbs over Harting Down I closed in but lost ground again on the decent and flatter sections out towards Petersfield.

However, I love the final climb out of Stoughton over Kingley and was confident I would catch her here and make use of my fully rigid bike on the tarmac run in to the finish. My wife had said she would bring my son to the finish and I began to imagine crossing the line with my arms in the air. Beck running out to congratulate me..... SNAP!

The chain had broken. That’s the trouble with a 10 year old bike which only emerges from the shed every 3 months. With wet muddy fingers I fumbled for the spare chain link. Before I could remount two riders went by, with Ian chasing behind them.  I was angry and riding hard to make back time – too hard. Psssssssssssssstttttt!

The puncture dashed any remaining hopes and a third before the finish dropped me even further back, but I had given up by then. So another year and another defeat grabbed from the jaws of victory. If I’d had my own bike maybe things would have been different. The chain wouldn’t have broken and I might already have been ahead as I wouldn’t have lost time on the descents. Maybe next year?  

Friday, 13 July 2012

I'm Back! - June Summary

Well what an exciting few weeks! Ferris Connor was born on the 30th June so there hasn't been much time to think about cycling recently! My two weeks paternity leave have flown by in a flurry of nappies, visitors, midwives and dodgy instant meals.

Ferris - 7lbs 8oz
June Summary

Miles : 478.9
Riding Time : 29 hours 50 minutes

Highlight: Birth of baby Ferris!
Low Point: The weather and low mileage

With due date looming my riding and racing reduced as I didn't want to find myself hours from home when the call came in! With no racing goals for motivation there was also little incentive to venture out during the wettest June on record.

I managed one final Southern area race but missed the last round. The dropped points unfortunately meant I finished 11th overall in the series. Still quite an achievement but a top 10 would have been nice!

I had already written off July and two weeks in I've hardly looked at a bike. I did however enter a local race, which I should have won but....... more on that later!