Wessex CX Round 2

Whilst the hard people were heading off to the #3pcx challenge today, I was heading off to Swindon. To a golf course no less!

Before you get your hopes up that I’ve given up cycling and taken up golf, I have to tell you that the golf course is decommissioned and I went to cyclocross instead.

LCCA didn’t have a round this weekend, so I planned to combine seeing my parents, with a cx race. It’s still less than a year ago that I started racing, and I need all the experience I can get.

So, whilst I would have preferred to be in Yorkshire cheering on Keith Murray, Scott Chalmers, Scot Easter and Emma Osenton, I found myself moseying around a nicely technical grass course.

The other part of the reason I like the Wessex league, is that it so friendly. With the likes of Caroline Stewart, Chris Macleod and Graham Robins there, they make you feel more than welcome.

Caroline rode a recce lap at my pace with me, and I quickly identified one corner that I found tricky. Just one mind. Off camber, 180° right hander going downhill. Why I’m having problems with exactly the same type of bend two races in a row, I don’t know!

Very, very glad to be riding Continental CX Race tyres. With a course that had such a decent covering of grass, even when the heavens opened briefly, it didn’t properly cut up. Sure there were some damp, squidgy grass, but it was merely suicidily slippery. Not muddy as such.

It took me a while to get into the race. And looking at my lap times, my last lap was fastest again! I need the experience more than anything. Different courses, terrain, and people. I found it a huge learning curve today. Eventually winning the battle at the back with another girl.

The only problem I had was faceplanting over my bars on the second lap. Not entirely sure how I ended up on the floor – but hey ho!


I didn’t enjoy the first lap. But by the second I was back in that love/hate relationship. I love the course. I love riding cx. I dislike that I’m such a novice and so slow. I love the friendliness.

It’s not easy not having the experience or background of years in and around cycling clubs, road races and cross.

#keepsmiling

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Brighton Big Dog and Green Arrow Grasstrack 

A completely topsy-turvy weekend for me. Setting off later than I’d hoped on the hours journey to Stanmer Park. Stunningly clear skies, quiet roads – even the M25 – and the rad Red Hot Chili Peppers new album blasting out.

I’d chilled out a bit after Friday night, and was really looking forward to working with the amazing bunch of ladies in the tea tent. Nicky and Mandy, two of my seriously favourite hard working ladies. They give their all to this event, as well as what ever else they turn their hand too. I’d just like to say how proud I am of both of them.

Sorting stuff out with the other team tent lovelies as we decorated, cut cake and organised the volunteers lunch bags was priority, then greeting fellow ‘dog handlers’ and other vendors – namely the Morvelo crew, and my landlord Jon in the Vittoria tent.

As the morning drew on, I wondered if I’d be able to borrow a bike from someone to do a lap, and until I approached the lovely Matt Carr, it was looking rather unlikely. However, he introduced me to James and Jason at Ubyk, who agreed to lend me one of the beautiful Santa Cruz mountain bikes. 

It took a while to get organised as Nicky agreed to go around with me and she had left her bike behind. However when I went back to talk to the guys about which bike I could use, they told me I could use the stunning Santa Cruz cx bike. I questioned the gears, but it was too cool to say no to!

Riding a cx bike at a mtb race. Mad? Maybe. Cool? Well, a load of people loved it, after telling me I was mad/brave*

*delete as appropriate 

Eventually we were ready, and set off together through the start line in the grassy bowl at the lowest point of the course. As soon as we started climbing, I was down to 2nd lowest gear, puffing away like a steam train, wondering if riding a cx bike was a great idea! Up and up, through the grass, up and into the woods, dappled shade hiding the tree roots as I tackled the with all the skillz of a novice rider. Then, crippling stomach ache for five minutes, thankfully it passed as it felt awful. Some bits I had to walk, as I didn’t quite have the gears/ skillz/ or didn’t want to damage this rather gorgeous bike. The first bit was without doubt the hardest, with me holding up the one person who genuinely didn’t mind (although she wanted to get back to the tea tent!!).

The singletrack and roots didn’t really pose a problem and I soon learnt to adjust, probably being over cautious, but it wasn’t my bike to damage! Some bits were hard, and a couple of corners got the better of me (one uphill, where I actually squeaked then burst out laughing). Suddenly we were high above the road on the bridge, then down and into a cracking run the other side (again, some bits I had to walk!) Then onto the bridge and up and up. Where the surface was loose in places, I found that climbing was hard as I span out a few times. I also had to remember how to redistribute my weight so it didn’t affect it so much. Then suddenly there were logs! Hadn’t really thought about that, and managed to skirt the first one before telling myself to MTFU and get on with it. Funnily enough, I tackled the rest without a problem!

The tail end of the lap, I ended walking down a couple of bits after guys fell off a few meters in front of me, before winding through some trees and suddenly finding a massive drop and a few people stood there. I hesitated as I couldn’t figure out where the track went and decided to wait until someone came down and rode it in front of me. Then I could see, and without managing to clip in, rode straight after him and out into the grass bit of the finish whooping like a kid.

It was epic. I may have been a bit mental to ride a slightly unsuitable bike, but it handled a lot more of the course than I felt it had any right to do. I also managed to drop off the back behind the saddle a couple of times when required, which isn’t as easy as it sounds when you hit a corner load of tree roots! But I think my laughs along the way said it all. I was over the moon to get around and Nicky was excellent enough to wait for me a lot.

Reluctantly I had to hand the bike back, and get changed, before going back to the glorious job of washing up and drying! 

Beer pouring fell to me and Mandy, with beer hand ups being done by Rory ‘The Big Dog Himself’ Hitchens and crew as the last few riders finished, before we helped with the podium presentations.

Gutted I couldn’t stay for the celebrations, but grass track was calling. 

Sunday 14th Green Arrow grasstrack at Hertford 

I left later than intending, having not slept too well again, and promptly got stuck on the M25 for over an hour. I did finally get there, tired, fidgety and not in the best frame of mind. Wondering if my legs were up to it. 

Phil kindly lent me his Fuji, and he rode his Holdsworth. A few minor tweaks and I set out for a few warm up laps, immediately feeling that rubbish hollow feeling in my legs as I did a few quiet laps. I had absolutely nothing, but hoped with doing a bit more, that I would be OK. 

The men’s races were up first, and we had plenty to cheer on with Rob, Phil, Steve, Alex, Matt and Tom riding, along with Sally and also Steve’s young daughter Safiya.

I lined up for the 3km scratch race and started fairly well, before being dropped on the first half of the lap. I pushed on for another two before my right thigh started cramping up and I pulled out. I was pretty outclassed and rather tired, which combined to make me rather grumpy. After figuring out we had a break for a bit whilst the men’s National 8km was on, I decided to eat some lunch. Only for a very strange feeling.

My back molar had fallen apart.

After that, and figuring out my financial implications of another visit to the dentist, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind and with my leg aching and my tooth sore. I decided to get changed and pull out. 

Not my finest hour and I spent the rest of the day mentally kicking myself and feeling like a twat. Being so unfit was not a help either. Something I need to work on as it was quite frankly embarrassing. 

But I had a great time cheering on my friends. With most of them picking up top threes in one event or the other. Rather proud of Tom and Matt at their first grasstrack event! Both picking up prizes for top three in different events.
Laugh of the day:  Matt actually fell over, then Alex, after trying to teach me how to track stand the other week, eliminating himself after he rolled into a hole. 

#keepsmiling 

Ride London Day 1

Today I’m here at the Expo in the Excel, working for Sigma Sport on the Sigma/ Extra stand. Having been picked up at 6, it’s the lull at lunchtime  (alright ‘late’ lunchtime) that’s let me get out for food and a quick blog post. There’s a load of my favourite people here that I don’t get too see as often as I’d like. Shelley, Mark, Rob and Joe from Conti UK  (I’ll be working with some of them over the weekend), Rory from Upgrade, some of the Hot Chillee crew, my super landlord Jon from Vittoria…. and a few more.

I like working events like this despite the long days, it’s such a great chance to interact with people – not just customers, but people from all over. 

A lot of people are here to do the sportive for charity, for causes that are near and dear to them and that in itself is special. Others to do it just to say they’ve ridden the same roads as the pros on Sunday.

So. I’m here with Sigma today and tomorrow. With Continental on Saturday, and at the cattle market in Kingston with Continental for the activation zone in Sunday. Don’t be afraid to come and say hi if you are around!

Another roller session planned for this evening as I won’t be doing much for the next few days!

#keepsmiling #thankgodforfriends 

And It Happens Again!

So I’m meant to be riding cx at Herne Hill at this very moment. But instead I’m sat by a Shell garage on Croxstead Road. In the locality of Herne Hill.

Why am I sat here? Well, I’m waiting for my lovely landlord to pick me up in the Vittoria van. Why? Because of three things:

  1. A pedestrian clipped me earlier up by Clapham.
  2. A car then clipped my back wheel leaving me on the floor and driving around me.
  3. My bike is a bit poorly.

I’ve got through the shock. Missing a bit of skin. One very sore thumb. Not one cyclist stopped, though a few pedestrians did.

I’m pretty cross, but I’m alive. Sore but walking. Bloody but unbowed… and all of that….

There goes my CX out of the window. Just after I’d got the Kinesis fixed up. 

Anyway. There was a cracking bike race on today. So I guess I’ll get home and watch the highlights and thank God I’m in one piece!

London CX Team Champs

Finding out the night before that there was no entry on the day was a bit of a downer. Although there had been an odd message or two that suggested there was an outside chance of joining in with the fun, so a decision to rock up with the two bikes turned out to be the right one.

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Dave Spragg suggested joining in with the Kingston Wheelers composite team, as they only had three riders; Matt, Tim and Jumpei. So I took a leap into the unknown (not having met my teamies before), and signed up.

Despite problems with registering the tags, I thoroughly approve of Crawley Wheelers event. Probably because I got there early enough to avoid the huge queues!

A warm up lap made me well aware of the sections that might prove tricky. The first section into the woods was the only one I’d thought might get tricky, but didn’t. The others; Tree Root Central Part One, Death Drop Slide, Slippy Hill, Brake Hard Corner (they spray painted that on the track!) MTB dip, Woodchip Mud, Tree Root Central Part Two all had their fair share of spills!

As they called us to line up, I discovered I couldn’t find any of my team mates (I’d met Matt by then), so hung around wave 2 until I saw Barry Hyde (another lovely Wheeler in a different team). His suggestion to stay in wave 2, was probably the right one, Matt eventually showed and started in wave 3, Jumpei in wave 1 I think.

Then a completely nuts start. As everyone; Seniors, Vets and Juniors, Male and Female, all started together. Jumping on Barry’s wheel was the best thing I did, following him until the sheer press of people made it impossible to stay there. I think I did ok on the first lap, riding Death Drop Slide was impossible as there was just too many people.

However, as the press of people thinned out, it didn’t actually get much easier. I decided to stay on the Kinesis as the mud wasn’t sticking too much. 2nd lap was harder, I totally blew up after riding Death Drop Slide and had to run a couple of sections, which helped me get my breath back a bit. I walked/jogged Slippy Hill, as the first of the guys started coming passed me – one of them even complimenting my gorgeous ‘anodised red’ (orange) Giro’s (the most ridiculously comfortable shoes ever – and of a colour even Scott Chalmers would approve of!) The course was chopping up by then, and I had a couple of worrying moments at Tree Route Central Part Two. I did admittedly snap at a few vets and seniors, four of which didn’t call a line, and hit my front wheel when chopping in front of me.

Quite a few people racing actually called out with various ‘Go on Elz,’ ‘Keep going Elz,’ etc, it’s a right boost to be honest, half the time I have no idea who you are though!

Which cheeky fucker told me to stop chatting?!?!!

Brake Hard Corner had a few people off in front of me, and I was far too cautious riding down to it, thought I did ok, then rode a bit too hard into MTB dip – and completely face planted. I’m assuming Jon Baines has a hilarious picture of me rolling in the mud!

A decision to change bikes on the third lap was good/bad/neutral. The Colnago is quite different to ride, a bigger frame and different geometry, but hell is it pretty! I was tired by the fourth lap, and a couple of silly mistakes almost, ALMOST had me down, but I managed to stay fairly upright and still attached to the bike.

And I’m fairly certain I was smiling still when I crossed the finish line! I really enjoyed it, such a great community of people out there.

Massive thanks to the Kingston Wheelers, especially Toria pitting for all of us today, Dave Spragg and Barry Hyde. All of you have really helped me find a bit of faith in myself, and get more confident!

Super to see all the Brixton Cycles girls, David Barnaville (good to actually meet you, rather than brief phone conversations with Saddleback) Jody & Stu  and the various others that said hello.

#keepsmiling

 

 

Lovecrossed CX

I’ll freely admit I’d had Lovecrossed CX in mind since I’d got the Kinesis last year. Accordingly, I actually pre entered online. What I hadn’t factored into a beautiful frosty Thursday morning as I left for work, was getting hit by a car.

I’ll not go into too much detail apart from I no longer have the Trek I’ve been flying around on, and my backside is the colour of the night sky… yes really. I’m very very lucky to have not been badly hurt unlike a fellow employee.

I managed to get on the cx bike for commuting to work on Friday, thinking I’d be ok to just trundle in and back. I was. On Saturday I discovered the Kinesis brakes were playing up again, and as I was getting increasingly stiff and sore, slowly rode up to Sigma Sport (the shop at Hampton Wick) to see if anyone would have time to have a quick look at them. Luckily Will had time to fit me in before they became non stop busy (Will also did the Mechanics Course which I did a couple of weeks ago, a very patient teacher and excellent at explaining more complicated procedures easily).

As Lovecrossed CX is held at Chavenage House, it’s a bit of a trip for me, so a decision to stay at the parents on Sat evening was a bonus. It also meant I got there a bit later than expected, finding Hank on parking duty (certainly a role reversal – usually me on parking duty and Hank racing with NFTO!) and finally meeting Tangwyn Andrews.

A quick faff with the bikes, before realising just how sore and bruised I was. Oh well. Sign on. Find the pits. Take the Kinesis and stuff down with poor Verity having her first eye opening experience in the pits. A quick half lap warm up, tarmac, gravel, into the woods, winding in and out, into the field where it was just starting to get mucky. That special Cotswald sticky claggy mud. The first foray into the haha, and the kids were racing on the rest. Could see the start, but not really where the course was going.

I managed one full warm up lap, not long before the start, not realising quite how much it would cut up in the race. Luckily the parents arrived too and gave Verity a hand cleaning the worst off the Kinesis.

Sadly they only gridded the Veteran Men in front of us before calling everyone else up as one mass start. Within 30 seconds I realised I had nothing in my legs and my backside up to my right shoulder was not too comfortable. I rode at the back, just happy to keep up an average pace, ending up walking/ carrying the bike from the second haha (not the one from my first half lap) into the wood, over the hurdles and the coffin (n.b Hank – should leave those hurdles up for a very small hunt jump!)

I tried riding the through the wood, but it wasn’t happening. I bet a few people had a laugh everytime I appeared around the stone wall and into the pits. No bike change on the first half lap. Back on and away.

I rode what I could, and carried/rolled the bike through the rest of it. I probably shouldn’t have done it but I’m damn stubborn sometimes. I know I finished last. I really don’t care.

Lovecrossed CX has a lovely set up, everyone was friendly and welcoming, and it’s a fun, hard course to go around. Lets hope I’ll be a bit more with it if they have it next year!

We did stay to watch the last couple of laps of the Senior Mens race, gathering from Keith Murray that Scot Easter was having a bit of a nightmare of a race. However, sailing around at the front was Scott Chalmers (Felt Racing/ Saddleback) who won, pulling his trademark wheelie across the line…

 

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(Scott Chalmers being interviewed, not that he actually managed to speak into the microphone!)

And finally managing to grab a chair by the fire in the house to watch the Worlds from Zolder!

((Next up could be this: Aber Cycle Fest

– but I don’t actually have a road bike anymore!))

#keepsmiling

 

CX skills session 2 with Caroline Stewart

Drills, skills and technical riding were order of the day, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I’d done roughly 50 miles on Saturday (the day after our Xmas party – not bad considering I’d told everyone I wasn’t going out!) helping Toria out leading and dropping back to keep Sarah company – it’s great to be a stronger rider and I know exactly how she felt out the back.

A very short ride to the park with Caroline on a lovely out of season warm day. Luckily it’s perfect for drills and skills, nice grassy area with two short steep stepped banks. And with an excellent teacher who’s very patient, but superbly good at explaining the how’s and whys of what we’re doing. And what works and doesn’t work.

I started off following Caroline. Trying to ride the same lines as her. It’s a bit daunting purely because I don’t want to fall off and my turning skills certainly needed working on. Then she stood on the flat bit between the two banks giving me the following drills to have a go at:

Riding off camber straight along a bank, 

Turning off camber, up and down the banks,

Figure of 8 up and down the two banks, with sharp turns (more acute turns and coming back on myself)

Tight turns around a bench and a tree, then onto the steeper section of the off camber at an angle to ride in a straight line along it (with Caroline as a human fence post after I *drifted* onto the easy part the first time).

Riding on the steeper part of the off camber kick pushing.

The drills are repeated and repeated. Sometimes I find doing a drill uncomfortable purely because I’m not used to it and again I don’t like to feel like I’m losing control of the bike at the point of no return, but it gets easier a lot quicker. A couple of times Caroline uses herself as a human fence to stop me riding onto the easier part of the bank.
It’s never boring because the more I repeat doing stuff the more I’m learning. I’ve watched a lot of cx, but only when it’s mentioned now do I see how it all comes into play. How shifting your weight on the camber can help you keep going. How and why to power up a bank and bring yourself out of the saddle at the right place just before the top – to power yourself over without spinning out behind.

I absolutely love it. And it’s easy to talk to Caroline who seems happy with my progress  (well I hope it’s progress!).

Then it’s onto how to dismounting and remounting. I’m confident enough getting off the bike – but remounting not at all. I’ve got to remember not to do that stupid hop and since letting my seat down – I’ve found its got easier. More than a couple of times I completely fudge it all up. Unclipping the wrong foot first. Looking down at trying to clip back in. Completely stopping the bike…
Then how to carry the bike and the reasons for doing it different ways. There is no barriers, so a handily placed stick does. Ride up. Dismount. Lift bike – not by the top tube! – shoulder it. Put it down correctly. Get on. Easier said than done. And my clipping in skills were next to non existant today. Especially doing this! #ForReasonsUnknown.

A quick ‘game’ of off camber pursuit (Caroline’s best invention!) which I lost funnily enough! And off through the woods to play on different surfaces. Leaf litter, pine needles (and pine cones!), scree, gravel, roots, hillocks, deepish muddy sections and tree roots everywhere.
I’m struggling to keep up this time. A combination of not much sleep and a long day on the bike yesterday has taken its toll and when I hit a really deep muddy section I don’t have the power to get through it. And have to get off and carry it, jumping over a ditch in the process! But I laugh. It’s all good fun!

Today was a lot harder in some ways – really having to concentrate on the how’s and whys, as well as the surface I’m riding over. I’m used to not thinking too much and just doing it – this has definitely given me more knowledge of what to try!

But it’s great, it’s awesome to have a friend that can coach me and can help me out with what I’m not so brave doing.

Huge thanks Caroline, it’s great to have someone like you who’s so good at coaching, let alone a good friend. So please check out her coaching page or follow her on twitter @swordpanda!

https://m.facebook.com/CSCycleCoach/

#keepsmiling

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Just a tad muddy!