Tuesday, 13 March 2012

My War Against Road Rash

3M Tegaderm Hydrocolloid Dressing

These massive 13cm x 15cm Hydrocolloid Dressings should do the trick of getting me healed up and back on the bike in no time. I currently have a load of smaller ones from Boot The Chemist stuck together like a patchwork quilt on my thigh. They are leaking and I am having to put a big pad over the top to catch the Oozing stuff. Less than ideal yeah? So tomorrow I have some of these bad boys coming in the post.
With a bit of luck a quick change of dressing and I will be OK. The dead leg seems to be going and I'm now just suffering from the nasty plasters pulling on the hairs.


Crap Start to the Racing Season

After a bit of a delay to the start of my season (after missing a few early races) I planned to kick off 2012 with the local Wentwood 50 Enduro. It's only 10 miles from my house in Wales and it's quite hilly so it's a no brainer. I did it last year and this was my very 1st ride on a bike after recovering from the bout of Swine Flu I had.
I rode over and gave myself an hour to get there so I could ride over taking it easy. It took me lest than 40 mins to get over there unfortunately so I ended up standing around waiting for the start.
Fitting my GoPro to the handle bars seemed like a boring option so just before the start I moved it down on to the front hub QR with a cool little tube like attachment from KCNC.
The horn went and we shot off up the 5km road climb. I started just behind the two O'boyle brothers from the Torq Team. Anthony O'boyle and Simon Smith shot off up the climb with purpose and got a good gap. I thought it was best to hold back a bit and stick with Sion O'boyle and the two riders from Clee Cycles. I got gapped by a few riders so I decided to gun it a bit and try and catch up on the flat/draggy bit. My legs felt really good and I was confident of catching them all ahead of me. I came round a corner which dropped down a bit and then went left. The corner was wet and muddy and I don't know what happened as it happened so quick (according to the guys watching I grabbed a bit too much of both brakes) I slammed over onto my right side. sliding down the wet tarmac shreading my kit. I got up fine but realise I was a bit hurt. My leg felt really numb and my bike was trashed. I was bleeding a lot and clearly had some bad road rash on my thigh, bottom, knee, shoulder and forearm. Just after I came down the rider who had been on my wheel hit my bike and got sent over the bars (Poor Sod bloody glad he was OK).

I will edit the full video ASAP. Some of it is funny with my miserable mutterings

My bike looked OK but when I twisted the bars back. (I had to undo the brakes to do this) I realised the gear hanger was bent bad. So I got the gears working fine and headed off. I headed off down the grass banking to find my front rotor was bent bad and my front brake was totalled. It takes a lot to piss me off and at this time I was just happy not to have broken anything bad like a bone or the frame. As I was fixing my bike a few more riders came down where I had. They were in better shape than me though as I'd probably been going twice as fast.

Might need a new jersey
By the time I got going again I guess I was towards the back of the 400 strong field. According to my Garmin stats I was faffing about for 9mins. I was now amongst a lot of riders who know were no slower than I was due to my front brake rubbing and the dead leg. I was hard work going through the muddy sections. It was easier for me to ride but at times I couldn't as I just couldn't stay on the bike. I was in constant pain. It's not the 1st time I have fallen off badly. Out in Majorca a few years ago I crashed on a wet corner whilst riding a bit too quick and broke my collar bone. I managed to ride a further 90 miles broken but if I am honest this was a lot harder. I wasn't on the road and my front rotor rubbing was just making it worse.

Pics on Flickr more

I soldiered on appearing to be cheerful but inside I was somewhat pissed off. Nothing was inspiring me to ride. the course was really nice but the muddy sections got me down and anything technical was just impossible with no front brake and a leg that didn't want to know. I was fine on the fire track passing riders as I'd expect to. They must have though what the hell happened to this guy. In all I found it very tough and when I got to the feed station at about 22km I though enough was enough and I'd opt for the 25km option over the full 50km. I heard whilst at the feed that Sion O'boyle had just gone through to the road descent. As I was riding down Simon Smith in 2nd passed me. I though about trying to stay with him for a sec until I remembered I had no front brake or legs. I plodded on down to the finish to collect my bag and the 10 mile ride home.
The ride home was bloody awful. I'd long lost the will to pedal and just couldn't be bothered. Basically I should have just waited for all the riders to complete the 1st road climb and then just ridden home. I'm a battler through. I don't give up easy but sometimes it's better to cut your losses and just quit.
I got home and my 5 year old daughter greeted me at the door. She took one look at me and shock her head. "So you didn't win then?"


(My new club kit is not due in from Giordana until the end of April so I will some how have to fix this jersey pictured above. A nice shoulder patch is required I think. Maybe I will get one of those Iron on patches I dunno Star Wars or Transformers. Something daft for sure. I still have my skinsuit but that's really not much use in a 24hr race. I need pockets)

My Silly Crash at the Wentwood 50

What a Plonker!!

(I will re edit with iMovie at some point and have it HD with the rest of the race.)

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Leadville Trail 100: I'm In

About two weeks ago I got the email telling me I had a place through the Lottery. I paid $15 last year thinking if I get a place, cool if I don't, I don't. This year I was already planning to Colorado to visit family. So I am over the bloody Moon as you might be expected. It's not the best race in the World but if I'm in town I sure as hell would love to do it. Riders I know who have done it say it's good but the Alpine Odyssey 100 out of Crested Butte is a better one so I thought I'd do that as well.

With my entry done online the chances of getting in via the lotto were slim. I thought it would be great to try and qualify through the Alpine Odyssey 100 which was on last day of July in 2011. Unfortunately in 2012 they had moved it to mid September the very same day as the Montane Kielder 100 and I would be back in the UK for almost two weeks for sure.
Anyway I got a Leadville entry and I am super happy.

Map of the course (click to see full size)
 I've been training hard for the 24hrs of Exposure. I will have great endurance but if you have a look the Profile below the highest point of the race is at 12,612ft. Now I live at sea level. I've never stood on ground that high let alone ridden or race a bike that high.

Lucky for me I have some family (distant through marriage) that live at about 8,000ft. Ethan Passant who has finished the leadville in the top 4 in the past in 7:27:50 and was 3rd to the Mexican Border in the 2011 Tour Divide just happens to be married to my brother in law Thomas's sister. Well the nice chap via Facebook has kinda agree'd to give me a bit of a hand with my training. 12,600 ft for God's sake. This is going to be fun yeah?
Profile of the course (click to see full size)
So how do you train for a race that is at Altitude? One thing I have is a bit of time out there before the race. About 2 weeks. I will be staying near Boulder for most of it which is high enough itself I guess. One bike my Scott Scale 29er. I guess I will slap some road tyres on it and get out on the road a bit in the mountains.

Not only do I have to ride 100miles at Altitude I can't hang about. I don't know if it's a good thing but I will probably have a bus to wisk me off to Vegas straight after the race. I'm trying to get my Brother in Law Thomas to do the Leadville 10k run the following day so I don't have to rush away.

The Leadville is steeped in American MTB history I guess. It's been running since 1994 which was about when I got my 1st MTB and there have been some pretty famous chaps racing it. Floyd Landis came 2nd in 2007, Lance came 2nd in 2008  then won it in 2009, Levi Leipheimer won it in 2010 and Todd Wells last year. In fact last year it seems lots of the quicker American XC racers turned up. Under 8hrs used to get you in the top 20. Last year that was the top 80. Rebecca Rusch seems to be winning it a lot in the ladies race. One thing I've noticed or not noticed is many Brits doing it. Well there is one this year and he's a Welshman. I guess I better take a massive Welsh Flag with me.

But before this I have hundreds of miles of racing to do. But can I beat 8hrs at the Leadville 100?

Leadville 100 Website

Monday, 5 March 2012

Less than a month to go until 24hrs of Exposure

24hrs of Exposure website 
Last years course

I've got lot's to do. Two races in between now and then. Wentwood 50km just out side Newport and the Abergavenny Handicap Road Race. Plenty of training and a good taper planned. One big job I have to do is service the two bikes I will be using. Both need new drive trains. The Lapeirre is just getting a new chain, cassette and chain rings and the Scott is getting a XTR chainset, KMC chain and XT cassette.

The Goldie Lookin' Chain

Who needs more carbon bits?
Ready? I bloody hope so!

Little Bags For Stuff

Stuff Bags

Pod waterproof stuff sack
I've had a few down jackets in the past. I've always managed to get them soaked at times when I need them to be dry. Whilst browsing at the Snow & Rock near my office I discovered this little number. Well a whole range of breathable stuff sacls. The great thing about this is you can squeeze all the air out of it and it stays out. Genius !! So I can now put my down jacket inside my Deuter Race rucksac with a change of clothing knowing that even if I fall in a bloody river all will be dry. AND!! I can fit it in my bloody bag as it compresses well.

I've started thinking about getting my kit sorted to do the Tour Divide. I will build the kit up and test it as I go along. Who knows when I will do the Divide. Next year or 2014 who knows.

Is My Helmet Bright/Light Enough?

Giro Aeon
I've been using the Giro Prolight for the last 18 months or so. It's the lightest helmet out there and combined with my Exposure Diablo is still lighter than some helmets. Problem is the way it fits on your head is not adjustable and overtime it has stretched. So Giro brought out the Aeon. Well it's bloody great. The way it fits on your head is great and it's not far off the weight of the Prolight. Doesn't look as daft as the S-Works Prevail. I was watching the Paris-Nice stage today and I though how much of a plonker Tom Boonen looked with that silly hat on his head.
Any way the colour? Yeah it's bright enough yeah? I saw the Vicious Velo guys with the Lumo Aeons and I thought I just had to have one. Probably clashes with my orange but who cares hey.

Daytrip to Afan on The Spare Day 29th of Feb

I'd not done a long ride on a mountain bike for a few week. Plenty of long training rides on the road bike in the bank but not off road. With a new saddle to test and 24hrs of Exposure only 5 weeks away I took a day off on the Spare Day of the year. A spur of the moment thing due to the good weather we were having.
The plan was to catch the train to Port Talbot from Paddington, London and ride up to Afan Forest on the road from there.

Waiting for the Train at Paddington
One thing I have to do once a week is travel from Wales to London and back. I don't always take a bike but when I do I fear the journey on the train. You have to leave the bike in the baggage cart. Problem is your not in control of your bike for 2-3 hrs and anything could bloody happen.
Strapped in and ready to roll
Last real food of the day as I'd be just on Gels and Energy Bars for the day. That Bagel was pretty good. The coffee was rancid. At Paddington some Mars reps were handing out little 'In case of emergency' Snickers gift boxes. Nice touch. I ate it straight away. I had a few Accelerade Gels for emergency.

Snacks for the journey
The train was delayed for almost an hour so that was riding time lost as I wanted to catch a train back that got me back to London before midnight if possible. Last time I took this trip on the train was two years ago and it was similar weather. I couldn't believe my luck when I got off the train at Port Talbot Parkway.
The sun is out in South Wales (Time to ride up to Afan Forest on the road)

Pontrhydyfen Aquaduct (Which is now a bike path)
Enjoying the need for sunglasses
The Excellent White's Level

Out enjoying myself (White Assos top was probably not the best idea)
Lots of fire road on The Skyline Trail (lights needed for later)
Nice view of Llyn Fach lake
I had a good ride around the 1st 2/3 of the Skyline trail. The climb is good fun but then you get too much fireroad. Great for training as your always pedalling but not so much fun. Anyway I missed a way marker and went a little off course. I rode back up the fire road I had been down retracing my steps. I found where I had gone wrong and went down a nice bit of single track i had shot past. About 20 mins later I'm riding down some more fire track and the yellow arrows run out. Where the hell had I gone wrong this time. I had my Garmin with me so I was never that bothered about getting lost. I followed this trail until it ran out. It came to an abrupt end with a bit of a swamp. I could see the trail centre so I put my bike on my shoulder and walked it through the marsh and down a steep field to the road. What a cock up1?!
Impact puncture number 1 (Not tubeless on my training wheels)
Back to the trail centre to top up my bottles with Accelrade 4:1 drink and time to head up the White's Level trail. This has the same starting climb as The Skyline trail but heads South rather than North. About 2/3 up the climb I hit a rock and a flat fast part and blew the rear tyre. I took my time fixing the puncture and put the wheel back, took a bit of food and carried on.
Used one of the Lezyne patches for the 1st time. (Worked a treat)
Impact Puncture number 2
White's Level is amazing. I had so much fun on it. It flows so well and i was bombing through the sections with a bit of caution as it was the first time I had ridden most of it and it was dark. Part of my plan for the day was to get a good bit of riding done in the dark on my own. By the time I got to the 'Two Tombstones' section of single track it was pretty dark in the trees. I hit a log with my left pedal when I was going too quick for my skill. Although I didn't crash bad I seemed to have another impact puncture to the rear. This time I fixed it really quick and continued.
The Trail just seemed to get better and better. I have bugger all experience on duckboards/Northshore (only the very small amount at 24hrs of Exposure (still need to right that up) so I took a bit of care as I rode in the dark through it.
One thing was clear by now that I wasn't going to get the amount of riding I wanted in. The train being late and getting lost on Skyline ment I was never going to get all of W2 done and ride to the train on time. (Looking back I could have but if I had a miss hap I'd be staying the night in Port Talbot)
The gate for CX Bikes
The gate for MTB Bikes
So I decided that when I finished the descent of White's Level I would ride down the trail to The Afan centre and do the Climb and descent of The Y Wal trail joining them up with the fire road. It started to get a bit misty up on Y Wal so I tuned my lights down a bit. The climb was a bit easy and crap compared to the White's Level and the descent was fun but not a patch on what I had done earlier. I had done Y Wal before. Thing is it wasn't very memorable.
Ahh my old Uni mate Nick. I will be seeing him in Boulder in the summer
Straight back down the road to Port Talbot I found myself with 30 or so minutes to kill so I went for a bit of a ride down to the beach and back just to keep warm. Went I got back to the station I took off all the sweaty clothes I'd been in all day and changed into a fresh jersey and my new down jacket. I was glad I took the jacket as the temperature dropped a hell of a lot.
A change of kit and a sort out at the Station

Bloody glad I took my warm jacket and cans for the journey
I look forward to returning to Afan but next time I will go with some people. It was nice to have a day to myself just training but it would be good not getting lost. Gutted to get so bloody lost and miss out on some good riding.

Is This The Finest Saddle Ever Made?

I think so

The fi'zi:k Kurve Snake
I've been a fan of fi'zi:k saddles for a while. I've had the fi;zi:k Gobi XM on my Lapierre and a Tundra 2 on my Scott Scale 29 for the last two years. I prefer the flatter shape of the Tundra over the Gobi. I decided that I wanted to try one of the Kurve saddles after having a good look at it whilst at The Bike Show in London. OK it's intended use is for a road bike but I though this thing is going to be great on my 29er. I went for the Snake version. fi'zi:k have they're take on which saddle you should have on flexibility here: http://www.fizik.it/spineconcept/ I just like flat saddles.
So  put my Kurve Snake on my Scott Scale 29 about a month ago. I'd only done a few 2hr rides on it and it felt comfortable but I knew this was now test to see if this saddle would be good for it's intended use which was comfort in the saddle for a long time. Last week I headed out to the trails for a solid 7hrs or so in the saddle for a good test.
Well it is bloody comfortable for a such a hard looking saddle. I've never used a Brooks saddle and the racer in me will probably prevent me from using one in the future. Who the Hell wants a massive lump of leather to sit on like that? Too dismissive? Hey we have to think of weight saving over comfort a bit. I really felt that with the Kurve you have a saddle that moves with your movement and takes in so much of the little bumps you get off road. It moves with you like it says it will in the promo videos and diagrams.
So after a 7hr ride I'm saying this is the perfect saddle (Well it would be better if it came in white). I will report back in a month when I have completed the 24hrs of Exposure race with my ass in better condition to last year.