Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Rise in cycle accident compensation

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), more needs to be done to combat a rising number of cyclist deaths on Britain’s roads. The call to action came in light of recently published annual road casualty figures for Great Britain in 2012. Whilst overall road deaths fell by 8% to 1,754 in 2012, the number of pedal cyclists killed rose by 10% to 118 and the number of seriously injured cyclists rose, for the eighth year in a row, to 3,222. Many injured cyclists don’t claim cycle accident compensation because they do not realise they are entitled to any - but it’s always worth talking to an expert solicitor to find out where you stand.

Safe cycling network a priority

The Department for Transport (DfT) which published the report containing the road casualty figures, noted that an increased popularity of cycling on Great Britain’s roads since 2004 may have contributed to a rise in the number of deaths and serious injuries amongst the nation’s cyclists. Commenting on the figures, Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA said “The good news of a large drop in road deaths in 2012 is marred by an increase in cyclist deaths, especially among child cyclists which is particularly worrying.” He went on to suggest an improved cycling network to counter the rise in casualties: “It is vital to create a coherent safe network for cyclists by introducing appropriate cycle lanes and tracks, linking quieter streets, developing routes alongside rivers, canals and through parks where possible, and introducing more 20mph schemes in our towns and cities.” Despite the availability of cycle accident compensation, prevention is always better than cure, and Mr Clinton concluded by proposing further measures: “As well as boosting the provision of cyclist training and trying to make the roads safer for cyclists, we also need to hammer home the message to drivers to keep their speed down, watch out for cyclists and give them enough room on the road.”

Get in touch with an expert If you have been involved in a cycling accident, it’s important to talk to a specialist solicitor to find out the possibility of claiming cycle accident compensation. The professional and friendly team at Cycle Aid can guide you on the best way forward in any particular situation. Call us on 0800 387 815 or send an email to enquiries@cycleaid.co.uk.
Monday, 28 October 2013

Carry on Duathloning

Yesterday should of been a good day of racing at the Essex Offroad Duathlon that was also to be the inaugural English Cross Duathlon Championships  but in reality it turned into a comedy of errors. My first event in a while and no where near what I would call an adequate level of fitness, moving house, colds, work, etc etc all adding up the cause of that. The lack of fitness was clearly evident at the Dusk Till Dawn race a couple of weeks ago when I let the side down in the team event. But as Yazz once sang, 'The only way is up!'

Anyhow back to yesterdays race. For me I was looking at it as more of a gauge of my current level of fitness against others and hoping that perhaps everyone might puncture on the bike section and I could win! The weather was surprisingly warm when we arrived even with the wind, as I set about signing on an then the obligatory faffing session of having to assemble my bike after having to dismantle it to try and fit it in the boot of my car. Bike back together and racked in the transition area, with several visual checks to make sure I knew where my bike would be when I ran in, it was time for race briefing. This dragged on for a long, long time, even more interesting when you have two young boys to try and control. Luckily the muddy puddles in the vicinity kept them relatively entertained.

Finally with briefing over it was off for a quick warm up to get the legs ready for the first 3.5km run section around Hylands Park. My wave eventually set off with one chap getting a gap on the rest of us straight away. I settled into about 5th place, not far behind 4th. Three runners opened up a gap on us but I had to run at what I could sensibly maintain. It was when we got to the last km that the fun began. The chap in 4th place stopped as it wasn't clear which way to go. Seeing the previous wave up ahead I shouted straight on after them. It was only when we were going up the long drag and I looked across the field I could see Jez Cox and the two other chaps in my wave way, way across the other side of the field. Confusion ensued but with the majority of the field up ahead of us we continued to the transition. Onto the bike and everyone had come back together again. To say the transition from run to bike was a shock to the legs would be an understatement especially on an uphill drag in a headwind. As rider after rider came by I managed to entice the legs to co-operate once more after bribing them with an energy gel. The bike lap was basically around the park on the grass and then into the woods which were very muddy and slippy. The Kenda Nevegals were definitely the right choice here, maybe not so at D2D (perhaps that's why my lap times were poor at D2D..ahem!). Sliding may way around the first lap it was back to the start for a quick hop off and on the bike for the second and last lap. Feeling a lot better now I started gaining places. A quick CNP caffeine gel before the woods to feed the ever hungry legs and I was feeling great and flying. So fast that when I got back to transition I couldn't recall doing sections on the 2nd lap that I did on the 1st. Still trying to work out how that was possible when I was always seeing riders ahead I popped on my running shoes and set off.

The legs were feeling not bad and as I rounded a corner marker to start an uphill drag I then became aware of runners in random places around the open parkland and then a lack of signage. Next it was a Marshall waving their arms saying that the race was being cancelled! The reason being people going the wrong way on the run, in the woods on the bike etc....ah that explains my quick lap in the woods. So that was it, we made our way back to the finish line. The briefing at the end was that signs had blown down, dog walkers had moved tape and signs and all in all a bit of a calamity, but hey I have free entry for an event at some point next year.

I'm sure if the race had continued I would have ran sub 20 second km's and won....maybe next year, oh no hang we've been told there won't be an event there next year now.....so what am I going to do with that free entry then.
Monday, 30 September 2013

A cycle accident solicitor understands there is more than one victim

Motorist Gary McCourt was banned from driving for five years and ordered to carry out 300 hours of community service after being convicted of the death of cyclist Audrey Fyfe which resulted from a collision between his car and her bike. He had previously been jailed for causing the death of another cyclist, George Dalgity, as a consequence of reckless driving in 1985. Prosecutors said his sentence for causing the death of Mrs Fyfe was too lenient, but they failed in an appeal. As any cycle accident solicitor knows, the family members of a road accident victim want to ensure justice, particularly where their loved one has died. Mrs Fyfe's daughter, Aileen Brown, said she was "lost for words" at the failure of the appeal.

The issue of helmets

Lord Menzies said, in a written decision, that the appeal court "cannot disagree with the sheriff's categorisation of this as a momentary inattention, the result of which was a low impact, low speed collision with Mrs Fyfe's cycle.” He went on to note: “Despite the sheriff's error in treating the fact that Mrs Fyfe was not wearing a cycle helmet as a mitigatory factor, we are unable to say that the sentence of a community payback order with the maximum number of unpaid hours was unduly lenient.” The question of cyclists wearing helmets is often very contentious and it is interesting that this was raised in the appeal. A qualified cycle accident solicitor will be able to advise clients on the issue of helmets; whether or not this will affect their case.

The vulnerability of cyclists

According to research by the City of Westminster Council, over two thirds of crashes between drivers and cyclists are the fault of the motorist. Although the study may have only been a localised snapshot of the problem, it’s well known that collisions between cars and bicycles are responsible for a large number of cycling accidents, particularly fatal accidents. Even at slow speeds, the force of a motor vehicle hitting a bike and the lack of safety features on the latter means that cyclists are extremely vulnerable on the roads. They lack the benefit of seatbelts, airbags and crumple zones; all they have to survive a crash are helmets and protective clothing.

If you would like to talk to a cycle accident solicitor, simply call a member of the Cycle Aid team on 0800 387 815 or send an email to enquiries@cycleaid.co.uk.
Friday, 30 August 2013

Understanding the complex nature of cycling injury compensation

The father of teenager Ryan Smith, who was knocked off a bike whilst riding without wearing a helmet and now lies comatose in hospital, is campaigning for cycling helmets to be made compulsory.

Mark Smith, who is a paramedic, said “I don’t want any family to go through this. Don’t let this happen to your kids. Get your kids helmets.” It is understandable that he wants the issue to “go to Parliament straight away.” But the debate surrounding mandatory cycle helmets is a very controversial one and has continued for several decades. Although the decision to wear a helmet may affect the level of cycling injury compensation following an accident, whether or not helmets actually increase safety remains open to question.

The controversial nature of bicycle helmets:

Opponents of compulsory helmets often point to Holland which has one of the best cycling safety records in the world and where fewer than one in a thousand cyclists wear head protection. However, the low number of cycling injury compensation claims in the Netherlands may have more to do with the country’s excellent road infrastructure and the Dutch culture which has adopted pedal-power as a mainstream form of transport and where car drivers aren’t constantly complaining about their two-wheeled compatriots.

Back in the UK, research by Bath University traffic psychologist Dr Ian Walker found that helmet wearing cyclists could actually be exposing themselves to more danger purely due to the fact that
they appear to motorists to be “more serious, experienced and predictable” than their bare-headed equivalents. As such, drivers tend to give them less room when overtaking, increasing the possibility of accidents. This rather ironic observation shows how the route to ensuring safety on the roads is not black and white; there are a whole range of factors which need to be taken into account.

Even if one ignores factors such as road infrastructure, culture and psychology of motorists, the question as to whether a cycle helmet is an effective safety measure is disputed. They are only tested to impacts of 14mph so any serious accidents will not be covered by this testing. Furthermore, one study indicated that bicycle helmets might even increase the risk of brain injuries from rotational motion.

If you would like to speak to solicitors who know all the ins and outs of cycling injury compensation, call a member of the friendly and experienced team at Cycle Aid on 0800 387 815 or send an email to enquiries@cycleaid.co.uk.
Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Bivvy tastic

Having only camped a handful of times the concept of the bivvy was new to me and until I read about long distance bikepacking I thought it was something reserved for fishing allnighters.
This said I was intrigued and working with an ex-forces guy who raves about it I was keen to try.
I'm currently still recovering from a broken thumb and post op ligament damage so my racing is over for the year and my riding has been restricted to my single speed Inbred mtb on the flat pathways of Norfolk.
This is not all bad as its kept me motivated and I have been loving the simplicity of the single/rigid machine and how far it can take me in this brilliant summer weather.
So this week I planned to string together a few of the long distance cycle/walks that cover Norfolk. Starting from Norwich along Marriotts Way, Weavers Way, Norfolk Coastal Path and then down to Thetford on the Peddars way. Along with a few extra trails I know locally.
I had planned to set off on Saturday but rained stop played and I headed off Sunday AM. Within 8 miles I had a puncture in my only Tube so I had to try and ride nearby to a shop to find another thankfully the discount store of Roys of North Walsam held some for £2.99! bargain!
A rather large lunch was ingested and I was back on the remainder of the Weavers Way to Stalham and then I rode the Norfolk coastal path to Cromer. From Cromer did a few small trails in Weybourne and then back on the Coastal Route until a quick Fish & Chip stop at Salthouse.
Light was beginning to fade so on with the lights (In true shameless blog styley these were the awesome Hope R4 LED front light with the Hope District rear Light).
Enough of dicing with death against the cars on the Narrow coastal path I saw a Hostel/campsite open @ Brancaster. They appeared to have just closed, so I found a member of staff and asked in there was any room at the Inn was initially told no but they managed to squeeze me in on a unpopular pitch next to the toilet block. Given that I was only a bivvy bag I didn't need much room. 
This site is excellent and well worth a visit if camping out that way http://www.deepdalefarm.co.uk/.
Someone to kip found so a pint is was in order as I had just been cycling for 13hrs, just a couple of hundred yards was http://www.whitehorsebrancaster.co.uk/ and again very impressed and a amazing courtyard with the best patio heaters I had ever seen.
Couple of pints down and back to the camp-site and a wiggle into the bivvy and to fall asleep watching multiple shooting stars in the sky.
Everyone was up early, so up I got washed/packed and on the bike by 6:30am. The remainder of the coastal path beckoned until the start of the Peddars way just before Hunstanton.
This is a long straight 47mile roman road which ends just past thetford. This is well signposted and reasonably quick so just under 4hrs I was at the end and then cycled onto to Thetford.
Wimping out on 40miles on a singlespeed MTB on roads home I caught the train back to Norwich.
All in I rode approx 200miles and had a mini adventure to boot, Again? most definitely and in fact the the Ridgeway - Reading to Bristol and back is planned for September.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Ups and downs of the amateur racer

It's been an interesting couple of months on the ''trying to train'' and ''trying to do well in races''. June was not a bad month with a 3rd in the Eastbourne Duathlon and then following it up with a 3rd the following weekend at the Bexhill Duathlon. 

Not exactly two places that you would immediately associate with the fast and frenetic pace of duathlons, maybe the breathlessness aspect that goes with it given that the average age is around 80 in these coastal retirement havens. This made for interesting racing on the Bexhill road circuit. Let's just say I'm not entirely convinced by a circuit that winds it's way on open roads in and around the houses on Bexhill seafront, with Sunday drivers deciding to stop whilst going round a roundabout to discuss directions with a marshall, and all this while contesting a gale force 9 headwind for half of the 4 road laps. And in an evil twist they put the long run leg at the end. 

So while the week before at Eastbourne I was trying to chase down 2nd place this time I went into the run leg 2nd only for my legs to reply ''actually I think we would rather call it a day now so we're going on strike''. It was painful, especially with a hill to circumnavigate twice. So 3rd it was then and missing out on a chance to get a prize presented by Graham Norton. Yes you did read that right.

I haven't done much running since then especially as the duathlon season won't kick in till September time. Work as well has been busy along with trying to do the house up, sell it, move in to the other house so back to sporadic training it was. I did manage to fit in the 2nd round of the WSS MTB series at Gravesend Cyclopark with it's two short races format. That was hard I have to admit. The legs and lungs were questioning whether it was October already and the cyclocross season had kicked in given the frenzied pace for 45 minutes each time. I'll be honest, my legs aren't used to that and I got my 4th and 5th places more by default of people having mechanicals or puncturing rather than my sheer race pace, but hey, I'm easy I'll take the points how I can. Unfortunately my hopes of all the people ahead of me puncturing didn't quite come to fruition.

Since then it was a ride a week if I was lucky until at last a new gym opened near to where i work, (despite the best efforts of a 'corporate gym' complaining), giving me the opportunity to cycle into work so that I can at least have a shower when I get there and at the same time get in a nice 26 mile bike ride.

It was back down to earth with a bump though as despite having entered the Etape in Annecy and meeting up with friends down there arranged, everything conspired against me to the point where I had to cancel going......that still hurts. A 3 hour ride round my local roads didn't have quite the same romance as doing the Etape, especially as it involved 2 punctures and more potholes than you could wish for. Since then the puncture pixies have been hard at work as it has been a been a puncture on every ride be it road or mountain bike up until my ride on Friday night.

Still at least I managed to get round the course with no punctures at the 3rd round of the WSS Mtb series at Wrinsted Court. This was despite 2 excursions into the bushes on the first 2 laps on an off camber corner, which was slightly embarrassing after telling the chap next to me on the start line who had never ridden the course to take it easy on that section. Not content with this, i decided to find a conveniently located hole after the bombhole section hidden by some weeds which meant the bike stopped but I didn't making for an over the handlebars incident. Not good as i was in pursuit of second place at that point.

By the start of the 5th and final lap second was in sight and I managed to catch him on the last hill. I caught him and attached immediately but I could see his shadow on my wheel as I glanced down. It was then flat out to try and drop him, I could have done with another hill to be honest but was left with a small section of single track with a bombhole before the tracked opened briefly uphill. I knew that he was going to counter attack here so went as hard as I could to get the all important hole shot before the last single track section before the final corner before the line. 

He got me though out of the bombhole so we came round the corner with a bike length between us. I went for it, but sprinting is definitely not my forte. Still I gave it a shot but not quite enough in the end so 3rd it was. A good result you say, well there was on 4 finishers! Where are all the racers...we need more people to attend this event otherwise it will not be around next year at this rate. You can't tell me everyone was up at the Nationals in Glasgow or do people just not want to race XC anymore.

If only the finish line was a bit further up the hill!
All i know is that I think the time has come to purchase a full suspension bike. My body aches after these races now, so I look forward to another painful session of physio to free my back, neck and ribs up. I love the One One Race 29er but for recovery and less stress on my body I need a full suspension.....all donations gratefully received!
Saturday, 13 July 2013

Testing? On a mountain bike? In the woods?! Yes please!

I've had the Kings Lynn CC mountain bike time trials on my radar for a while. Unfortunately I missed the first race through stupidity, then the rest of the races were either when I was racing other events, or a day before I was heading off for other events. Alas! However, this Saturday, I finally got to give it a try. I had thought the race was Thursday this week, but at the last minute (despite having my bike packed in the car), but I still ended up going there for a recce. Looking at Shouldham Warren on Google Maps, I was starting to get interested.

Thursday nights ride turned into a longer-than-usual evening ride for me, and ended up doing over 2 hours of tempo riding, with a few tear ups. Took quite a bit of effort to find the trails, but eventually I had the basics of a loop together. As it turned out, wasn't quite the loop, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I was feeling pretty good on the bike and enjoyed the trails. They had turned to sand dunes in a few places, but there was always a solid line (except a few descents, but they could be controlled easy enough). The trails were pretty similar to the Brandon Country Park stuff in Thetford Forest, but they had quite a decent bit of gradient.

The TT arrives, and my preparation was a whole 3 hours sleep. Been having a bit of insomnia recently, which is very unusual for me. Got there and had a good chat with Chris from EHF Racing and got started with my warm up. The TT starts on a fireroad climb, then hits some singletrack. The first half of the course was the main part I had trouble locating, so some of it came as a bit of a surprise, but before long, I was settling into my own pace and chugging along. As with mountain biking - every ride has a story! And this morning's story was a bit of a treasure hunt. There were 3 times on the course where I ended up either taking a wrong turn or was really confused about what direction to take. But that wasn't really a major concern - I was just happy to be out pushing a hard effort and enjoying the ridiculously hot sun. For some silly reason my white CycleAid top was unwashed and stinking, so I thought I would wear a black jersey instead. On the hottest day of the year, that wasn't the best decision I have made this week. That will teach me!

Thanks for the organisers for putting on these events. I loved it, and am really looking forward to the next one. There is even talk of holding XC races in the future, and I was pushing them on doing evening night races in the Winter - now that would be ace!

Happy riding!








Sunday, 30 June 2013

Carry On Cramping - Thetford Summer Enduro 2013 Race Report


Yesterday was a rather nice day. Two years ago, Thetford MTB Racing hosted their inaugural Summer Enduro. I did the solo 10 hour race and had one of the best ever races I can remember. Sunny skies, fast trails and a party atmosphere made it a really enjoyable 10 hours on the bike. Last year, the enduro had to be cancelled due to a serious infestation of over zealous wombles in Thetford Forest. But it was back with vengeance this year.

Friday night consisted of camping, erecting gazebos and a pasta fest. The plan was to pre-ride the course, but the rain was lashing down and the motivation melted. Woke up early on Saturday, feeling a tad chilly, but it wasn't raining. Thankfully, it stayed that way. Hooray! Before I knew it, the gun went off and we were tucking in to some classic Thetford singletrack. Half way through the lap, I was really enjoying the course, then the long fire road sections started becoming a lot longer, and I lost touch with the main group I was riding with, but I kept the hammer down and after a quick transition, my partner was off. For the event, I teamed up with local legend, "Nibs" - who is essentially the cycling version of The Stig (except he doesn't wear a crash helmet, or appear on a TV series presented by and aimed at people with severe learning difficulties).

As the race went on, I started to feel pretty rough and was fading. Towards the end, Nibs put in a double lap to give me some much needed rest. I found doing pairs pretty tough, especially on a reasonably short course, as it didn't really give enough time to get proper food down (assuming you wanted to keep it in the stomach). Also, even tougher when your partner is monstrously fast and doesn't fade…ever.

The biggest problem I had during the race was cramp. To the point that when I left transition on the last lap, it took me a minute or so to be able to lift my leg up to clip in - much to the amusement of onlookers. I've found cramp to be a bit of the problem over the last month's worth of racing, so had a good chat with the Torq people at the end of the race about it all. I was pointed towards this article on the beloved electrolyte tablets (aka "anti-cramp" tablets). In essence, the science suggests that cramp isn't caused by dehydration/lack of salts, but over exertion. As the race progressed, I was pushing my self harder and hard to try and keep up with the pace set by Nibsm and was feel like a bit of a let down, but at least the cramp told me I was trying hard enough ;) Anyway, we placed 8th (annoyingly just a minute off 6th), in a really classy field, so not bad for a day's work.
Thursday, 20 June 2013

Mayhem, well sort of.

I’ve not done a 24hr in a team for a good few years a combination of focusing on the longer distances, a healthy hatred of sprint work and just a little bit of laziness meant that everything I did , I did on my own. But a last minute, well week, call up by Johnny from Loco meant that it was going to be another long weekend in a damp field for me.

If im honest the idea of  a new venue did not fill me with excitement, one that had not been used for MTB racing before only added to my trepidation – I will admit to being bias towards Eastor Park, rose tinted memories of growing up riding the Malvern’s, watching Warner, Peat and Lazenby having sneaked over the hills into the Classic, that and I actually enjoyed the obelisk climb. Yes I need help I know.

The campsite was noticeably smaller than Eastnor, hopes of a better atmosphere were damped down as it began to rain, a few beers later and an early night ready to ride the ‘new never been ridden’ course at first light. With the ever present danger of 1000's of riders trapsing over freshly cut tracks I hope Pat and his team had done a good job.

If you’d asked me on that first lap if I could pack up and go home I would have bitten your arm off, maybe I’m spoilt, maybe my expectations have crept up or maybe im just getting grumpy in my old age but the course really didn’t fill me with that ‘ive got to ride this’ feeling that I would hope for in event of this size. Both myself and Ian were feeling petty down about it all – driving most of the way across the country to ride round a damp field is not really the best way to spend the weekend. Having come this far it would be rude just to head home, and Johnny had some home made gel that needed trying so it was with a modicum of enthusiasm and a bucket load of caffine that I lined up for my first lap, third in a team of five. Well its amazing what some race bred adrenaline, a bit of mud and some riders to chase can do for a course, although there was no single track of any note (Trails you can get two bikes down side by side is NOT single track) and some of the hills were so steep that all but the very best were off and pushing it was good fun seeing just how fast you could throw the bike into the now bare bedrock corners.

As Ian has detailed the race progressed through the night with the course going from sticky to very sticky and back again, the final few miles actually reminding me of the time trial I did a few weeks ago, long hard pack climbs holding onto the middle of the bars with legs complaining.  I did realise that it was the first time I had ridden a bike at night since October last year, unfortunate this came back to me as I was heading into a muddy corner on the rapid side, somehow I made it through the other side…

We came 8th in the end which I’m quite pleased with, admittedly a lot to do With Gareth and Johnny from Loco turning themselves inside out but I like to think we all did our parts. Maybe if I started riding the MTB more than once every 6 months we might move up a bit more!

As usual great to catch up with Jon from Scimitar, thanks to the LOCO boys for the invite and Simon for bringing a back up gazebo at the 11th hour!

France next, one mountain bike, two cyclocross tyres, 985 miles, and eight days. Errrrrmmmm….
Sunday, 16 June 2013

Mountain Mayhem 2013 Race Report

DISCLAIMER - I AM VERY TIRED AND WILL PROOF READ TOMORROW ;)


Mountain Mayhem has always been on my hit list of events to do. One of the original 24 hour events, it's almost compulsory to do it at some point. A few weeks ago, Shergie asked me if I fancied joining a mixed team and having a crack - how could I have resisted?!

When I asked a bit more about the team, it dawned on me that I would be racing with some of the fastest endurance racers from South Wales. Gareth Evans and Jonny Williams both race for Loco Tuning and are annoyingly good at riding mountain bikes extremely fast. Hanneke Van der Werf joined us, racing for Torq / Qoroz is an extremely strong racer, and last year won the overall title in the Endurance Series. I knew from the start that I really needed to up my game.

On the Saturday morning, we pre rode the course, after the heavy rain throughout the night. We were met with a mudfest and felt generally disinterested in the course, the event and life in general. But, we had come to Princess Anne's estate for the singular purpose of racing, and we didn't want to disappoint her! So the race gets underway and Jonny goes off riding first (after a rather unpleasant cycling-shoe-hindered run. Gareth goes out next, and the heavens open. Whilst the faff monster attacks Shergie and his bike, I fear getting sent out next into the rain. Fortunately, the bike gets fixed and I was spared. 

Finally, the time comes for me to head out. After a slick transition, I go out on my first proper lap. Despite the muddy conditions, the course was a lot more interesting in race mode.

So back at the base camp, I decided to eat lots and rest ready for the next lap. Whilst I was waiting in transition, the word was that the course was drying out nicely and way more fun to ride. Shergie came in, gave me the wrist band and suggested I "pin it". I did accordingly and the course was a million times better. The 1000s of riders had carved out a line through the mud to the limestone beneath. I applied myself at pinning it, and came back with a lap time around 15 minutes quicker than before. I was chuffed, but cramp had kicked in on a few of the climbs.

More rest, and then it was going to be time for my..graveyard shift. As everyone was setting in for a night's sleep, I went out for a double lap stint. My strategy was to take it extra easy for the first lap, and then push harder on the second. This seemed to pay off nicely. However, feeling extremely tired, once I handed over to Hanneke, got back to the tent and got a few hours sleep.

Before I knew it, I was awake and cold. I felt pretty dire and would have been quite happy to never ride again in the race. But before I knew it, I had my CycleAid kit on, and I was drinking as much water as possible. Talk moved to caffeinated gets, and I had one stuffed in my hand. At the start line, waiting for Shergie, I emptied the sachet into my cake-hole and waited for the magic to happen. Before going out on that lap, I was asked my expected lap time (based on how I was feeling), and I went for an optimistic 1 hour. In my head, I knew that was going to be a tall order to deliver this late in the game. But as I started riding, the caffeine was soon kicking in, and I was feeling reasonable. I kept pushing as hard as I could, trying to drop a rider I suspected was also on a mixed team. I saw their weakness was climbing. So, naturally, I pushed as hard as possible to keep up the tempo on the climbs. There was a big, open, steep, grassy climb in the lap that was always my marker that the end was within touching distance. This seemed to appear much quicker than expected, but I didn't think much of it, and got on with turning the pedals until my legs cramped. Really digging deep into the saddlebag of pain, I just buried myself on the last 2 climbs. I knew I was pushing my body hard because I had even dehydrated my eyes and my contact lens was dry. Through blurred vision, I tore through the event arena and hammered it towards transition, to be met by….

Silence!

That wasn't exactly in the script! After shouting the name a few times, my biggest concern was "what if I go back to the tents and he comes to the start via a different route?" Well, before procrastinating any longer, I tore off in search of Mayhem's next victim. Much to my relief, I found him straight away, and discovered I had somehow managed to pull out a flyer of a lap, almost 15 minutes ahead of schedule!! It felt so good to know that when I needed to really dug deep, I was able to turn out by far my best lap time - even when I was expecting to bonk. But my work was done, so I just collapsed on the floor, a steaming, shaking, sweating mess. My racing was complete. 

In the end, we managed to bag ourselves 8th place out of over 80 teams. All in a day's work...


Sharing the Tweed Love - a Glentress 7 Race Report



Couple of short and sweet little blog reports this evening. The first up is about a very, very enjoyable seven hour endurance race I did a few weeks ago up in Glentress. The unambigeously titled Glentress 7 offered mountain bikers the chance to race a really rather impressive 6.5 mile course, with over 400 metres of leg splitting climbing per lap.

Travelling up from Norwich to the Scottish borders is never really a quick trip, but the luxury of a big pick up truck and lots of nattering about general mountain biking helped speed it up on the Thursday. The mountain bike community of Glentress really put on a spectacular week of events under the Tweed Love banner. On the Thursday night, we were lucky to catch a cinema screening of a video competition for short films about mountain biking in the Tweed Valley, followed by the Red Bull-sponsored feature documentary Where The Trail Ends. This left us feeling rather inspired by beautiful cinematography of insane descending and the inside of numerous A&E departments. The two seemed to go hand in hand.

Friday gave us a chance to pre ride the course, but instead we opted to mis-read signs and, inadvertently, do an extended explore of some of the Glentress trails. This involved quite a bit of fire road work (yawn), and by the time we had reached the top, we weren't feeling particularly inspired or challenged. But then we found the main descent and were buzzing.

The following morning, when we set of racing, we soon discovered that the course was in fact a rather perfect mix of short, sharp fire road climbs (which were never particularly long - not easy - but not too long), then followed by awesome singletrack. This repeated until we reached the highest point of the course, and then that's when the magic happened. A set of swooping single track soon developed into a steep, tight, rooty, off camber descent to the arena area, routed through the dual slalom course.

This was my first endurance race since Kielder last year, so I wasn't really sure of my form, but I felt reasonable and notice a marked improvement on my technical riding at race pace, compared with previous years. All good! Until…

…one of the little single track sections that you drop in, I was "thrilled" to discovered that squeezing my rear brake lever no longer did anything to my rear brake! As luck would have it, the ground broke my fall, and my mouth expressed my mood with a set of historic phrases. I soon realised that my brakes no contained no pads - brilliant! I managed to cruise some of the way down using just the front brake. Another crash, and a failure of SOH, lead me to push the bike down a section. One of the marshals said they could radio in and it would be ok for me to go down the access road to the start. Turns out, the access road was about a billion miles longer and by this point both brakes had failed. Hmmm!!! At the area, I discovered a piston had gone missing from my rear, as had my motivation for more racing. When I remembered I was racing Mountain Mayhem in a couple of weeks, I decided there was no real point burning myself out for a decidedly average result, so I decided to save my energies for another battle!


Despite this, I absolutely loved everything about Glentress and have this event on my calendar already for next year.
Thursday, 13 June 2013

Ride UK24 - Manchester to London



A Team from QBE’s Norwich and London offices, comprising Samantha Howells, Karen Baker, Dean Pointer, Neil Sutton, Neil Higgins, Alex Fitzgerald and myself, Paul Whitlock took part in the inaugural Manchester to London Ride UK 24 cycle challenge on the 8th June, the idea being that you cover the 250 mile course within 24 hours by bike!

For me, the idea was to have a goal to work at and to try and get fit for this year, having always been a mountain biker that had never really cycled over 70-80 miles before, the idea of donning lycra and attempting such a distance I knew would be a really tough challenge. Training has meant that my wife has been a “cycling widow” and most of the weekends for the last 3 months have involved doing 100 miles sportive rides in an attempt to get ready for what I now know was the toughest 24 hours I’ve physically endured.

Despite it being a charity ride and even though the distance itself was a challenge, the organisers didn’t leave it at that, the very first stage comprised of some very long road climbs out of Manchester, across the Pennines and the Derbyshire Peaks and even at 185 miles into the ride the organisers placed in a gruelling Cat 3 road climb and they never took the easy option with the route.

For everyone that took part there were both physical and psychological highs and lows, there are points when you question why you are doing it and feel that you could not turn another pedal, but there are also points where you realise how far you have come already and that realistically you can make it if you can just keep going.

I think we all agreed that riding the opening stages in the sunshine and admiring the beautiful Peaks scenery  was amazing, the camaraderie between the riders was great and the event organisers were brilliant, often they would drive past whooping and hollering and giving you that little bit of a lift needed to keep going to the next rest stop. There were 6 rest stops enabling you to take on food and drink and at 4am they resemble something out of the Living Dead with lycra clad cyclists just trying to summon the energy to eat, let alone get back on the bike to ride the next stage. It does take real self-motivation when you have been riding in the dark for hours and have stopped in the warm for a half hour, to go back out into the cold knowing that you still have over 100 miles to go and have to navigate going across the centre of London when you can barely stand up and the saddle is the last place you want to sit!

It is an incredible event though, with 139 of the entrants of the 141 having finished and 129 of those within the 24 hours, I think that as a team we all did amazingly well and crossed physical limits we did not know that we could prior to the event. I can remember thinking during the night stages the elation I would feel at crossing the finishing line, but by that point I could barely muster the strength to stay upright, the elation came later after a few hours sleep, some food and that first pint and thinking “I have just cycled from Manchester to London in one go….!”

All in all, we will have raised over £9000 for Little Havens Hospices so the sore legs we feel now and have been worth it.

If anyone would like to still add to the fundraising, the link is here:


A few quotes from others:

Samantha Howells:  
Lows – “Being sooo hungry I was like Man vs Food at the food stops”, “6 hours in the dark country lanes with one good light between 3 bikes and bats flying round my head”
Highs – “Having a lovely young man accompany me the whole way because I was last!”

Neil Higgins:
Lows – “ Finishing Stage 2 which time we were 7 ½ hours in, still 35 miles from halfway and with the night cycles ahead. The finish seemed a mighty long way off at this point”, “not being able to keep up with a man on a weird gym bike thing”
Highs - “None!!”

Neil Sutton:
Lows -  “The unexpectedly brutal climb in the Chilterns at 3.30am had me swearing very loudly”, “being overtaken with a mile to go by a man on an Elliptogo”
Highs “..a very acceptable lasagne and focaccia at 2am in a school hall in Oxfordshire”, “crossing the finishing line and seeing my family waiting for me”

Alex Fitzgerald:

Lows – “Lying on the floor of a school hall at 1am not knowing I could sort my bike out, let alone finish the ride..”, “knowing that you’ve got another hilly 80 miles to go at 1am almost broke me..”
Highs – “Riding the Peaks, alternating between the beautiful views and the guy in front’s rear wheel…flying through some beautiful Midlands villages, many hosting fairs with bunting across the street”

Dean Pointer:

Lows – “Punctures! Riding through London after 24 hours on a bike with no sleep”
Highs- “ The climbs and drinking beer in London knowing that we had thoroughly deserved it”

Monday, 3 June 2013

#Shutuplegs

Apparently people do a few years of 10’s and then maybe a 25 or two and if there feeling REALLY brave they might have a go at a 50. It takes a special kind of idiot to jump straight in to 100 miles having never used tri bars for more than an hour before.

Hello *Waves* I am that idiot, or at least I am in the eyes of the Icnield road club.  I left out the fact that I have actually done three time trials in my life, the Welsh 12hr champs, an interclub 30 and this 100; and I’ve figured it out already – are you sitting down? Time trialling is simply an exercise in pain management, as a friend of mine put it “Its that point where the stabbing pain in your legs is no longer a pain its normal” right then, glad that’s cleared that on up…

With a push off at 06.06 on a Sunday morning it became clear that a I would have to leave the very nice, warm and (Key point this) non saddle shaped confines of my bed very early, as luck would have it my housemates were on their way back in from a night out. Suffice to say breakfast was a surreal event – a combination of alcohol and lycra not normally seen outside of certain nightclubs…  Rolling in to the event HQ it became clear that I had missed the memo that stated I needed a full aero TT bike, silly helmet and skinsuit to be considered serious. I had not only got a set of clip on extensions but had managed to borrow a pair of wheels, the rear being a carbon tri spoke; how could this fail to turn me into Wiggo?

As I have said, pain management pure and simple, when it hurts keep going and if it doesn’t hurt then your not trying hard enough. Only when you have worked through the pain and reach the ‘zen’ on the other side do you know you have reach pure testing nivarna. Or a 25mph plus average on an E1/2…

I won’t go into detail about the next 4 and a bit hours, suffice to say I know the bit of A1 between Stevenage and Cambridge very well indeed. I rolled past the finishing line for the first time and stopped, unfortunately there was another 8 miles to go – this I’ve decided is one of the flaws of not having any form of milometer, after a few seconds, well minutes of faffing I realised that having got this far it would be daft not to finish. So knowing  that I had 9 miles left it should have been a case of burying ones self but after 98 miles and a stop it really took every last little bit of effort to get the legs turning never mind sprinting – I managed to catch one of the three people who had passed me during my faff but a *lot* of time lost…

The timekeeper reckons on about 4.31 without the confusion.
That’ll do Gromit, that’ll do…


Am I going to do another one? Probably.
Am I going to become a full time tester? Probably not.
Do I want a fully fledged time trial bike? Hell Yeah…

 

 

 

Blast from the past!

''XC Racing'', an element of mountain biking that I have passed by for the last couple of years, why, well a disappointment with the format of the races as they became more akin to a cyclocross race with some being over and finished in less than 75 minutes. There is the value for money aspect as well, paying out £30 for a short xc race or paying that for a 4hr plus endurance race.Contrary to popular belief I wasn't born in Yorkshire but it's really difficult to justify travelling halfway round the country, forking out on hotel (my other half doesn't do camping!), food, short race and then back home. Plus there was the fundamental point of my lack of xc race fitness, especially at Expert level.

Last weekend though saw a very welcome return of the WSSMTB xc series. In a previous life this was the Whipstakes Mountain Bike Series that ran back in the 90's when a privileged few had full suspension and I had a fully rigid Zaskar.....yes you young 'uns I said fully rigid! These were always well organised, friendly events on proper old school mountain bike courses on local farmland and woods, none of these manicured trail centre tracks here.

My last race in this series was in 1999 in Expert category, now lets be realistic here. Back then I was young and permanently attached to a bike, getting out on the bike now is based upon what time I get back from work, when the kids go to bed, etc etc. Two rides in a week is a luxury at present! So as I looked down at the riders in Expert category and saw Ian Field (GB cyclocross rider), Alex Paton (former GB academy rider) I quickly stepped back into reality and put my name down in Masters category....just one year till veterans though!

Now the Masters category only consisted of nine of us, hopefully more at the next round, but on the plus side I was guaranteed to get gridded at the next race as long as I finished the race.

The course went straight into a climb to get the lungs open, and a stairlift would have been beneficial as I assumed my position at the back, not by choice, more by fitness, or lack of. Now I had set myself some realistic goals for this race....number 1-Finish,.....number 2-Don't come last.

The course was a 20 minute blast through bluebell woods, farmtracks, couple of big bombholes before climbing back up along a rumble strip of a farm track that shook every part of you body, before back into the woods for a couple more bombholes and back to the finish. The On One Race 29er was ideal on this course, my tyre choice not the best on the greasy wooded tracks that involved a couple of semi stacks and 'contact' with the saddle. It was on this same part of the course that I came round the corner on the 3rd lap to find veteran rider Jon Lyons has parted company with his bike and had come down hard. After making sure he was ok and picking his bike up out the way I set off once more and passed another couple of riders before Jon came hammering by, fuelled by adrenalin and at the same time giving me a wheel to hang on to. As he pulled over at the finish with his laps completed' I headed off for my last lap with a guess that I was probably around 5th place, and just gave it my best effort, spurred on by ''go Daddy'' from my two little boys.

I passed riders on my last lap but wasn't sure what category they were in and it was only when I crossed the line I found out I was 3rd and about 40 seconds off 2nd with 1st place way out in front.

Mission accomplished and an enjoyable return to xc racing, and £22 in prize money for 3rd...bonus!

All in all a good day, the bike worked well, and I'm still impressed with the On One wheels that have taken a fair bit of abuse but perform and sound like they should cost quite a few quid more.


My only gripe being, where are all the xc racers? Oh yeah probably like me been put off xc racing. Well dust off your racing gear and get yourself up to the next round at Gravesend Cyclopark on the 23rd June. It's going to be a two race event in a superbike stylee...motorbike noises optional as you race...each of 45 minutes plus a lap, and double series points on offer. The bigger your elbows the less chance of being overtaken! Check it out at www.wssmtb.co.uk spread the word and see you there, as long as you promise not to beat me!
Sunday, 26 May 2013

Trigger's Broom


My nice gentle season opening has been rudely awakened by 130 miles of time trials in a week, and no I’m not sure how I got talked into it ether…

Oh I remember; after 9 months of being overworked and a little bit lazy I’ve spent most of last month actually enjoying riding the bike and well this return of mojo has been accompanied by the only competitive cycle sport you can do round these parts, namely riding up and down a duel carriageway staring at your front hub…

Oh well there is an end in sight, mountain mayhem is a little under a month away and beyond that were planning an epic cycle tour down to Bikevillage in southern france. With any luck this should kick start my fitness ready for next years cyclocross season – were playing the long game this year…

If nothing else this mornings TT was a bit of a wake up call and highlighted just how slow you become after 9 months of relative inactivity and work. 1.21 for a little less than a 30 is pretty slow although it does give me something to work on I guess.

Oh and just so you’ve got something to laugh at, triggers broom of road bikes – I just cant break the thing!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Lost in the woods

Having not posted for ages on here, you may be thinking "lost in the woods" is a deep and meaningful blog post title about my inner mental state. Afraid not. I was out last night for a 40 minute trail explore type of session on foot (commonly called a run, but I was way too slow to be considered a runner last night). Ended up thinking I was back near the car park, when in fact I was on the other side of the woods. Got in 1 hour 20 minutes in the rain, but only means I had more fun and found some strange objects!


So what have I been up to, I hear you ask! Well, over the past few months I have gotten about a bit - racing in Strathpufferland was a brilliant way to kick off 2013, a really cool MTB skills session in the Peak District with AQR, a very muddy ride around Sherwood Pines,  an excellent bank holiday weekend in Afan, a few sessions on the excellent new trails at Tunstall (as made by TROG) and lots and lots of miles around Thetford Forest. The first big race of the year kicks off in a few weeks at the Glentress 7, followed by a team effort in Mountain Mayhem (with the formidable boys and girls from Loco Tuning) and thinking of having a "fun" crack at the Thetford Summer Enduro in a pair. Alps in August and Kielder in September! Pointer is talking about doing Relentless in October, and it am getting more and more persuaded by that :) So what have you been up to?!
Tuesday, 14 May 2013

19hr champs


Right put kids in bed a cup of tea in hand and a plate of buttered malt loaf, it must be time for a blog.
Saturday saw my third attempt at the Euro/UK 24hr hour champs. The first, '11, was my rookie 24hr and I was reasonably pleased with 16th.
Last year after attempting far too many events and a painful Strathpuffer solo effort a few months before, led to a very disappointing 21st.
So this winter just gone, I didn’t race, just spent months training with a couple of Duathlons thrown in and a tapered three months of training up to last week.
The general advice from fellow 24hr riders who had seen me racing was to slow down and think of the whole race.
So Saturday midday came there we were at the start line at Wasing Estate with a mere 24hrs of riding ahead.
I went off slow and let all the 12hrs riders do their thing and I plodded on, resisting the testosterone urges to chase the riders who passed me by.
All going well and about 10 laps in I was 10th, the top ten for me would have been a result so I was happy to plod on and try to consolidate this.
Then as the light faded and the heavens opens (I had planned for a shower, but not what followed) thinking this was just a shower, I didn’t pit, I just thought an opportunity to put a extra lap on my rivals as they sat it out or changed clothing.
This, I now know, was a disastrous move! Lap 1 of the shower I was cold and wet but the second I started to freeze and my body felt like it was shutting down and I started to wobble on the bike.
I came into the pit and realised it was the early stages of hypothermia and I had no choice but to get off the bike change and warm up before it got worse.
So fresh clothes and then in the car with the heater on full, a cup of tea, a pot noodle and wrapped in a space blanket and a tent groundsheet.
The hours past and I was in and out of a semi sleep state, then around 2am (five hours later) I decided to try another lap with some kindly borrowed waterproofs and some improvised plastic bags in my sodden Sidis (the worst thought of getting back out was the idea of putting them on again).
So after the first lap I felt ok and continued to knock a few more out incident free apart from a slowly deflating tyre which had to be pumped every few hours, low pressures weren’t a bad thing in the mud.
My carbon bottle cage broke and I replaced that but then around 4am going down a very muddy switchback my chain jammed and once I stopped to look I realised the rear mech hanger and rear mech had bent beyond repair.
This was about a mile into the seven mile lap, so I pushed the bike around the rest of the lap, all the time time thinking right im going to get the singlespeed out and MTFU and keep going.
And that I did, and another consistent 7 or so laps done on the singlespeed and finished right on the nail around 11:45am.
All this had led to a 8th position overall and I was happy with my effort to say the least, as it was the worst race I had ever had for issues, but also my best ever result/effort.
That’s the great thing about 24hr racing when it seems like its all over it probably isn’t and with some grit and determination you can still claw back as result even in the remaining hours.
Friday, 22 February 2013

Adventurous streak


Well continuing my rather sporadic blogs, and indeed rides, at the moment I think I might be getting some vague reminisce of form back. Rather than driving across the country catching up with all the old haunts riding seemed the transport de jour. In anticipation of Mike’s 200 mile cross country epic in a little over a month it seemed like a good idea to get some 100+ mile rides in on some hills.  I always seem to enjoy point to point rides more than out and back, probably the adventure in me – bailing out when your 80 miles from your destination is always more hassle than its worth…

So half past eight on Monday morning and two counties down, the day was going to be long but with enough tea and cake it was looking like a good one. 

The planned route took in Stratford upon avon, Worcestershire, the Malvern hills and then on down through the Forest of Dean through Chepstow and into Bristol, where I had a training date with Kim and some roller racing… The next day would see me heading back up through the Cotswolds (Deceptively hilly) back into the Midlands.
 I’m not going to bore you with a hit by hit account of the ride, just a few hastily grabbed photos from the few days. I think in total there was about 300 miles covered in a little over three days, not to bad but im still on the back foot compared to most on the Informal 200…

Peaking out at Worcester camp on top of the Malvern Hills.



 I miss the roads in South Wales, no one but the sheep and the odd tractor to distract you.











Deceptively big these Cotswolds, the long straight approach to hill climbing.












Next challenge, apart from cleaning the bike - 200 miles across wales. Gulp.
Thursday, 14 February 2013

John Flitch Memorial Duathlon

If you like being beside the seaside in North East Kent, in your cycling/running kit as the icy wind blows in of the sea at the beginning of January then this is the duathlon for you. It's a fast, flat course consisting of 2.5 mile run/9 mile mtb/4.5 mile xc run. ''Flat'' I hear you say...sounds easy does it, well the first run is straightforward out along the seafront normally into a raging headwind, then back, hop onto the bikes for 2 laps of what can either be frosty, slightly muddy ground, or if its been raining a lot recently mud, mud, oh and a bit more mud before back along the promenade before doing one lap of the bike course as the xc run. The added bonus on the xc run is that you get to jump/wade/fall in about four dykes towards the end of the run, before four mounds to run up and down before the finish.Heaven!

I have done this event several times now and the earliest was in 2005. I have never been able to crack the top three, having had a few fourth places just to frustrate me even more. With family in tow we arrived a good twenty minutes before the start ( not bad for me! ). Suitably psyched up on several renditions of the ''wind the bobbin up'' song from my two boys en route to the race I was feeling fairly confident . I say fairly, as  I was ill at Christmas and then again during the week before this race, and it was 50/50 if I would race on the Saturday. Still, I had paid my entry all ready so here I was.

The 1st run leg kicked off and I set off, resplendant in my new Team Cycleaid Skinsuit, with several comments of ''that's not going to be white by the time you've finished''. Back towards the bike section and four of us were evenly spread at the front. A quick change onto the bike and we were off for the mud, and there was plenty of it. I had opted for cyclocross tyres for my On One Race 29er. I don't know if it helped or not, definitely not when the back wheel slid on a rut and I went head first into some brambles. Two laps of mud hell later and it was back along the seafront into the headwind into the transition for the last xc run. I was fourth and I knew I could make up the places on the last run, but I was feeling the cold. I caught the third place solo male and was feeling confident. Then my lace came undone so I had to stop to fix that and then the cold really hit me and the legs didn't want to co-operate, so my run turned to a shuffle. I lost third just before the dyke crossings and then fourth just after them. I kept shuflling as best I could even having to walk a few times as I was feeling that rough.

With just about enough energy I crossed the line....in 5th place for a change. Oh well, try again next year I guess. Looking back at my times, my last run leg was 9 minutes slower than last year, so that sums up how my body was feeling towards the end. Onwards and upwards!
Thursday, 17 January 2013

The return of, well sort of anyway...

I have been a bad man and i feel bad, not only have I not been riding my bike much since the big move but I have neglected to keep the blog up to date ether; both of these things are set to change mind....

Never doing things by halves I've taken on Mike Hall's (You may remember him from such Guinness world records as pedaling round the world) informal 200 mile ride as an early season leg warmer, or in my case starter.  The event is open to all comers; departing from 5am in Caernarfon and then pedalling the 200 miles to Cardiff bay for a reception and fund raising evening!  The aim of the ride is to give riders who may have completed a number of 100 + mile individual rides a chance to go for the next challenge of a double century while raising tonnes of cash, i however shall be spending most of the day trying not to get dropped! If you fancy a challenge or just want to donate to a good cause have a look, i assure you it will be in the best of company...


 Mike Hall, image shamelessly stolen from Bikemagic


So with the thought of a 200 mile ride on my shoulders you'd think id be making it out at every possible opportunity right? Well yes, there just don't seem to be that many opportunity's at the moment...

I have however become involved in some local road outfits and seem to be worryingly close to getting talked into doing some road racing, or god forbid time trialling in the not to distant future which will no doubt cause a fair amount of hilarity. That in itself is a good enough reason to Man Up find some time and remind myself why i haven't shaved my legs...

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