Monday, 25 April 2016

The Gorrick 100

I first rode the Gorrick 100 in 2004. 9 hours and 30 minutes after the melee of the mass start I was the last rider to complete the full distance. My girlfriend and Dad stood at the finish line waiting for me to creep into view. The commentator announced my arrival to the expectant throng, then folded down the door of the caravan and drove off leaving the three of us alone in a deserted wood!

For some reason I was captivated by this race, and it has become my "must do" event. This year will be my 10th entry in this classic event, only a racing injury and poorly planned holiday having kept me away in 12 years. The enduro challenge is run annually on May bank holiday Sunday. The course has moved from its original venue in Swinley Forest to Windmill Hill at Deepcut, but the principle remains the same. Set yourself a personal challenge and complete as many laps as you can up to the maximum 100km distance.

My best result came in 2011 when I finished 14th out of the 86 riders who took on the maximum 7 laps. The weather plays a huge part, my best time of 6 hours 22 minutes on a dry, warm Spring day, knocking over 3 hours off that first muddy experience in 2004.

Racing to 14th in 2011 on a dry and sunny May bank holiday.

Staying hydrated and fuelled is key to a comfortable day in the saddle. I start taking on energy bars and gels after 30 minutes, and religiously every half an hour from then on, occasionally supplimenting this diet with a banana. I pick up a fresh bottle every lap or two depending on the temperature, all of which means there is a pretty large bag of supplies needed in the pit. Cramp is the killer and once it strikes it is almost impossible to shift. Despite some pretty torrid and painful experiences I relish the challenge, finishing the race every year I have entered. As demonstrated by a hoard of finishers medals in the draw at home.

In recent years I have actually been confident enough in my abilities to race this event, targeting a top 20 place. However, this Sunday my hope will be just to cross the finish line before the commentator has actually gone home!

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Challenge set for 2016 - Grand Raid

The 27th edition of the legendary Grand Raid will take place in Switzerland on the 20th August. The 125km route over the alps between Verbier and Grimentz includes a total of 5000m of vertical ascent. With flights and a chalet in Verbier booked I am looking forward, with admittedly a little trepidation, to being on the starting line this summer.  

As a father of two I won't see much of the Olympians and ex-World Champions at the front of the race. My personal challenge is to finish the course within the strict time limit, which is enforced to ensure nobody is left out on the mountain. 

If I am going to have any hope, I really need to develope my stamina over the next 4 months. Last summers fitness has long since faded, with precious few longer rides in recent months. With this in mind I set off early this morning, braving a chilly April frost. My target was to complete a steady 4 hour ride without the usual weekend stop for cake and coffee. Sitting here this evening the 100km road ride, with under 1000m of climbing, is sitting pretty heavy in my aching legs. I know there is work to do!


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Gorrick Spring Series - Area 51

I can't believe it has been eight whole months since I last zip tied a race number board to the handlebars. In some ways it was all so familiar, but at the same time it felt as if it was my first race. Area 51 is a new private venue for the Gorrick series, so at least none of us knew what to expect.

Since it was the final round of the series I wasn't gridded and had to start from back in the pack. A downhill start into a sharp 90 degree corner certainly honed the senses as we flooded down the track like salmon all trying to break clear at the front. Fighting for space in around 10th I hit the bottom of the climb. In an all or nothing surge I attacked the hill, bouncing over the roots I battled up to 5th.

The leading 3 riders from the series had hit the front and started to gap 4th place, by the time I had forced my way past they were out of sight, only to be occasonally glimpsed ahead amongst the trees. As seems to be the current trend, Gorricks course designers seemed to have to deemed it necessary for the track to weave around EVERY tree in wood. Left, right, left we wound in dizzying fashion. Hardly a chance to grab a drink and precious few opportunities to pass. Luckily I was in clear air.

I pulled a few seconds on the riders behind, but one eventually broke free from the chasing pack and over the next lap and a half slowly pulled me in. He then sat on my wheel, recovering. I knew the attack was coming! Just before the end of the second lap he surged through and I chased his wheel as hard as I could. After a minute or two the gap began to yo, yo. Speaking to him after the race he was clearly on the limit and hadn't thought he was going to escape, but in the end the gap began to slowly open and eventually grew to 50 seconds by the end. 

At the start I'd have happily taken 5th place on my return, just a couple of minutes off the podium. I know my fitness isn't where it was last year, but I had really enjoyed being back racing. That's the 2016 duck broken and I can't wait for the rest of the year.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Introducing the 2016 Race Rig

With the first race of the year starting to loom large here she finally is. Its taken a little time but I'm looking forward to getting her muddy and trying out the upgrades I've made over the winter.

The big changes are new forks and wheels. Both help shed a little weight and will hopefully improve the ride.

Frame  :  S-Works Stumpjumper - 29er
Fork  :  DT Swiss OPM OLD 100mm
Wheels  :  Stans 3.30 hubs / Light Bicycles Carbon 29 rims / CX-Ray Spokes
Crankset:  Race Next SL with Absolute Black 32t Oval Chainring
Shifters  :  XTR M9000
Cassette: XX1 10-42
R-Mech  :  XTR M9000 Shadow+
Brakes  :  XTR M9000 Race
Pedals  :  Eggbeater 3
Tyres  :  Rocket Ron 2.25 / Fast Trak Control 2.0
Stem  :  Ritchey WCS C220 90mm
Bar  :  S-Works
Post  :  S-Works
Saddle  :  Specialzied Phenom

Weight 19.5lbs