Monday, 30 January 2017

Merida Ninety-Six XT Ride Review

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Skating around the issue

The ground was definitely frozen. I could feel it through my jersey as I lay spread eagled in the frosty dirt. The front wheel had shot out from underneath me throwing me onto the ground. I tried to get up but my foot slipped and I fell back to the ground. I scrambled up like Bambi on an ice rink, sliding around desperately trying to get to the top of the slope. Luckily it was only my warm-up lap!

I've never experienced a frozen race course before. The frost was like snow in places and the soil was frigid. In some areas the ice made conditions sketchy at best. In between the corners the firm ground meant high speeds, but after a few wobbles and with my confidence dented, I decided on a tentative approach for the rest of the lap.

Warmed up and leaping away from the start, I followed the leading riders through the first few bends. As we hit a wide sweeping curve all grip disappeared and we all skated through the corner desperately searching for grip. Suddenly my bike stepped out from under me, I caught it before hitting the deck, but this allowed the three in front to pull away. I resolved to use my strength on the next climb to close back up and as we hit the base of the incline I applied a surge of power. The rear wheel spun out on the frozen ground and I stalled. Forced to dismount I ran up the slope and ended up losing more time.

The gap ahead remained steady for the remainder of the lap, until we reached the scene of my warm-up incident. Two back markers from another category had dismounted and were struggling to make their way up the slope on foot. So I was again forced to scramble up the icy incline. I finished the lap with 3rd still firmly in my sights trailing by around 16 seconds.

Driving into the new lap and attempting to close the gap ahead I dived into an icy switchback too fast. First thing I knew I was on the deck. Scrambling back onto the bike I was now even more tentative and tense, when I needed to be supple and reactive to the conditions. After a couple more big scares I backed right off. It isn't often I can say I don't enjoy riding a bike, but right then the option of stepping off and getting back in the car was so strong I stopped.

I turned back towards the car, but then saw two friends who were still racing. Perhaps it was the thought of trying to explain myself to them after the race that provided the motivation to get back onboard and complete the final lap. I was very relieved to see the organisers had closed the treacherous incline by the time of my third lap.

I crossed still in forth, slightly disappointed in myself, but at the same time pleased that I had persevered.  

Thursday, 19 January 2017

New team kit

The new City Cycles team kit has arrived just in time for the first XC race of the season this Sunday. Thanks to our shirt sponsors McMurdo and Strada wheels the blue shirts will be hitting the course at the first round of the Gorrick Spring Series.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Base miles

Winter is time for putting in the hard graft. If you want to reap the rewards come the summer, then you should be piling on the mileage now. Over the past 3 or 4 years I have been used to annual averages of over 150 miles a week, regularly topping 200 miles by the end of the Sunday ride. In two years I only rode less than 100 miles in a week 3 times  - each time while on holiday. (Even then I'd always managed some miles while away!)

However, taking on a new business has meant a steep learning curve and lots of extra hours planning and dealing with the inevitable paperwork. So in fact owning a bikeshop has lead to much less time on the bike. A commute of 10 minutes each way, instead of an hour hasn't helped either!
Sunrise on the South Downs before work

As a result I have only topped 100 miles over seven days, 6 times since mid August when the whole purchase process kicked off. My goal for the new year was to try and structure my week to hit the 100 mile goal for the first time in 6 weeks. I started well with a 3 hour MTB ride on Monday, my day off. I grabbed what I could during the week, before waking up early and splashing around for 90 minutes before work on Saturday. I totted up the totals - 99.8! Oh, well! I could roll up the lane Sunday morning and notch up the last few yards.

Then came the opportunity to join the boys for a longer Sunday morning social. At 8.30 I rolled down the lane into the drizzle. My legs immediately felt heavy, having ridden the previous day. It was a sobering thought that only a few months ago I used to think nothing of a daily 35 mile commute. I joined the others and toiled away at the back of the group, destroying myself by taking the occasional turn on the front of the group.  

It is obvious my fitness has suffered in the past 4 months as time in the saddle has reduced. In the short term I am not going to have the same opportunities to ride that I had in the past, but this week has proven it is possible for me to maintain a sensible level of training, enjoy time on the bike and hopefully not embarrass myself come race day!
Sunday social!