Sunday, December 20, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
I recenlty bought Geoff Waugh's old Bronica SQ, along with a 150mm lens and an additional polaroid back. So far I've only shot one roll of film with it, which I got back from the developers (genieimaging - £1.50 per roll, E6 or C-41 - bargain) only to realise my scanner doesn't work with Windows Vista. To make up for the disappointment I broke out the Poaroid back to have a play.
As I was home alone I was limited to a self portrait (this blog is getting way too heavy on photos of me, for which I apologise), but despite the limitations of the model, I can see why polaroids are so addictive. It is like magic. I love it - expect more soon!
It's been so cold this week, I've barely left the house and I've been conducting this week's Rocky training on the turbo trainer. It's boring but effective. When you live in the city and the first half hour of any ride involves getting cold riding through traffic and when the countryside you're aiming for is covered in ice, you're not going to get any quality training in on the road, so you might as well stay at home.
That's my theory at least.
On Tuesday I did Tabata intervals, then went for a 30min run (outside!) straight away after, a sure fire way to induce jelly legs, but a good workout. I've realised that while I'm an ok runner, I'm crap when I have to get off the bike. These "block" sessions (to borrow from the triathlon world) should help.
On Wednesday it started snowing, so there was no way I was going out. Instead I did 2hrs on the turbo with the first series of Curb Your Enthusiasm for entertainment, and a session of 2x20mins just below threshold to tire me out. It wasn't even that boring. Training indoors is only boring wheen you're trying to do steady miles, when you throw some intervals in the mix the time passes pretty quick.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Still, I'm now free till the week before the National Champs, so I've got lots of training and racing planned - hopefully by the time Jan 10th rolls around I'll have the sort of form I had back at Ipswich.
This is what I missed out on up at the front of the race. You can see me getting lapped about 5mins in - that could almost have been real time unfortunately. Jody was smashing it, God knows how someone so small can create so much power and get so much traction to put that power down. I don't understand it. Well done to BC too for putting up video reports of the race, they're a bit dry but it's good to see them using the web in this way.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
With that background it came as a surprise to find videos of the last two races I've done on the web. This first one is by Geoff Waugh from the South-East Regional Champs (I DNF'd - had a cold and kept crashing painfully...) and the second one is by Mike Beasant from the mud race I did at Hog Hill last week. It's not got such high productuon values as Geoff's but it's still really good to see. Cheers Mike!
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Sunday's London League at Hog Hill felt like a World War 1 re-enactment. The mud was so deep for large portions of the course, that riding was not just impossible, even attempting to ride was unwise, and would likely have resulted in a knackered rear mech. And while we battled our adversaries in the quagmire, organiser Michael Humphreys cheered us on from the sidelines with only a hint of menace in his voice, as if you'd be shot for desertion if you dared to complain that the conditons and the course were not conducive bike racing.
As it happened, the racing was actually pretty good. The usual suspects of Darren Barclay, Taylor Johnstone, Hugo Humphreys, Matt Holmes and Gary Lingard got away on the first lap, behind them was a group containing Phil Glowinski and Felix English, and behind them was me, in about 10th place. Having not raced for a couple of weeks I was going with the tortoise and the hare approach, and it seemed to work well in the conditions. We only did five laps as the course was so long, but by the fourth I was beginning to get into a rhythm and the guys ahead were beginning to tire — a winning combination.
Over those last two laps I moved up to fifth and finished the race just 2mins behind Darren who won, which is probably closer than I normally finish when I start faster. Interesting.
The one really good thing about Hog Hill was that I could get off my bike and jump straight in the shower to warm up. I reckon I would have got ill without it.
This weekend it's the inter-areas in Ipswich and then after that I'm off to Bradford for the National Trophy. I think my Vittoria Evo XM mud tubs are going to be seeing quite alot of action over the next few weeks.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I figured that becasue the surface there is all coal dust, file treads would be ideal. I was wrong. In the end I ran Grifos pumped up quite hard - about 30psi.
After some good battles I rolled across the line in fourth. Again. One of these days I WILL GET ON THE PODIUM!!!!
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Click on the vid below to watch what is a genuinely exciting battle for the win.
PS, Ian Field will probably be disappointed to have finished back in 32nd having had a couple of top 20's in the Super Prestige recently, but finishing just over 3mins down in the company is not bad at all. Keep it coming Fieldy!
Monday, November 02, 2009
The cyclocross archive on blackbirds.org is very cool, I urge you to go and have a look!
The event was held at Herne Hill velodrome and promoted by Rollapaluza who did a fantastic job providing a well lit course, cheap beer (although it ran out pretty early apparently) and good tunes to keep the crowd entertained.
Some of us dressed up in Haloween costumes (thus my silver gimp suit) but not enough - the events back on next year, lets have more people dressing up!
I had a nightmare when I punctured within about five pedal strokes of the gun firing. My back tyre went bang and I had to ride a whole lap on a flat tyre to get to the pits. Oh well.
The proof that it was a good event was that Laura and her sister Ellen came along and didn't hate it. Bike races that your girlfriend actually wants to come along to are the future - you heard it here first.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I was just looking back through my old Flickr photos and rediscovered this picture of Lars Boom at Koksijde in 2007. It was the day I first discovered cyclocross. Until the gun fired for the elite mens' race, I'd always considered cross a freak show, but within 15minutes of the race starting I was sold and desperately making plans to buy a cross bike as soon as I got home (which I did).
Man, I wish Lars Boom was still riding. He'd be showing that punk Niels Albert how it's done, that's for sure. The guy just has class, look at the poise, the shine on his legs and the perfect colour co-ordination. I'm not being creepy, but he just looks right in this photo, right?
It sounds like the partisan Belgian fans (and their bully-boy tactics) drove Boom to the road. Realistically, a kid with as much talent as him, especially as a non-Belgian, was always going to end up on the road, but I can't help thinking he took the plunge too soon. It's a shame he won't be racing on the cyclocross circuit this season, bar a couple of appearances. This autumn and winter are going to be a duller place without him.
The course was a lot less technical than the previous two trophies, from my point of view at least, as you carried a lot more speed through the corners. This suited me fine as, coming from MTB'ing I enjoy the more flowy stuff a lot more. We did a couple of laps then Claire raced.
Despite a pretty spectacular start where she led for the first half a lap, she ended up in sixth, behind Gabby Day's mum. If Claire can stay on the right track (literally, not riding into the tape) she should be coming top five every race, not bad for her first season.
Photos are here:
My race went pretty good. It started bad, but ended good.
Coming to the end of the first straight, I saw a sneaky gap up the inside of a corner and tried to jump into it. Unfortunately, the guy I was trying to pass came to halt and put his foot through my front wheel, bringing me to a standstill too. That put me dead last.
I moved up quite a few places on that first lap and found myslef in a good group.
Next lap, Will Bjergfelt came steaming through our — until then fairly cohesive — group on his way back from a puncture. This split the group, with me stuck in no man's land. I was confident that most of the riders that went with Will wouldn't be able to maintain his pace, and sure enough, half a lap later I started catching riders as they got dropped. This was really good motivation and gave me the carrot I needed to chase for the rest of the race.
With one to go, I caught onto the back of a good group of four. Just as I was catching my breath to recover from the effort of bridging, the attacks started.
I made it across a couple of times, but a couple of sketchy moments on the corners made me resign myself to second last place of the group.
Still, that was good enough for 29th place, my best ever finish at a National Trophy and good enough for a couple of ranking points. The icing on the cake was not getting lapped — another first at this level.
At the start of the season, my two ambitions were to stop getting lapped and to start coming top 30. With this achieved I'm now looking ahead and thinking I want a couple of top 25's, and come January I want to come top 20 at the national champs. Anything's possible right?
This weekned it's Haloween Cross at Herne Hill on Saturday night, where I'm going to look like an absoloute idiot in a particularly unpleasant outfit, followed by the inter-area champs on Sunday. If you see me drinikng alcohol on Saturday night after the race, feel free to give me a talking to. I'm really going to need a good night's sleep before Sunday's seriousness.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Which is why I was please to find these two vids. I'm not a big Niels Albert fan but Stybar is an absolute dude — the guy just smashes it the whole time, which is what you want really isn't it. Yeah, Niels does that too, but I dunno, I'm British, we prefer losers and Stybar is not a big winner. Albert makes it look too easy.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I started ok but not great and had to work pretty hard to get across to the second group. Fortunately there was quite a bit of singletrack where one rider was as fast or faster than a group, and within half a lap I was part of a group chasing the two leaders, a flying Jamie Newall, and Dan Duguid who was just ahead of us. Darren Barclay was riding in our group but eventually had enough of us and pissed off after a couple of laps to go round with Dan. That left three of us riding for fourth, me, junior Taylor Johnstone and Gary Lingard from London Phoenix.
Taylor was smashing it and so was Gary, so I wasn't feeling too hopeful, but with so many riders, we were lapping riders all the time, and with three to go, I hit the front as we approached some traffic and managed to ride away from the other two to come fourth, 1.53 behind Newall.
So many riders did present a few challenges in overtaking and I reckon it can't be long before the London League has to split the senior race into two, maybe a 40minute Vets race and a 1hr senior race, I don't know. A shorter Go-Race for non-license holders and beginners might be an idea too.
Anyway, fourth, I was pleased with that, but I'm only just beginning to feel normal again. It was pretty hard work.
This weekend is the National Trophy in Ipswich. I raced there last year and enjoyed it, but I'm hoping it's going to rain between now and then - I've had enough of off-road crits and I want to ride some mud.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I started well (for me) without going too deep into the red, then did a really good second lap to move up to a quality group of four. We rode well together, if tactically, until two laps to go (of a 13 lap race) when the only Belgian in the group attacked.
I attacked on the next lap leaving my cohorts behind, which saw me cross the line in fourth place, and first Brit.
Euphoria quickly turned to discomfort when I got a hearty dose of cyclocross gut - crippling stomach cramps that only seem to come on after the one hour all-out effort that is a cross race.
Saturday night Ben Spurrier, Claire Beaumont and I travelled up to Derby for the National Trophy. It's fair to say we're a bit out of our depth at this level, but you won't improve staying at home in your comfort zone, right?
As I've still got no ranking points I was started on the back row of 60 riders, which meant it was going to be an uphill struggle. I managed to move up a bit on the first lap and was riding with guys like Darren Barclay (for a very short period) and Dave Haygarth (until he rolled a tub) which I was quite happy about. Anyway, it was all going well, and I was even beginning to think I'd escape getting lapped (a first in a Trophy), when it all came unstuck with two to go. I stacked hard on a descent, knocking my chain off, forcing me to run the next climb, losing a load of places in the process. Gutting.
I got lapped not long after, so just cruised round my last lap, trying not to get in people's way. Check out the full race report on British Cycling. The course in Derby didn't really suit me - too much braking, stop, start, sprint, brake etc etc - whereas I know what to expect at the next round in Ipswich, so I'm hoping for a better ride.
Monday, October 05, 2009
I finally made it to a London League race, this being the third of the series. It was a new venue next to the river Lea to the north of London. London Phoenix were promoting and they did a great job with the course allowing room for overtaking on every section while making it technical enough to be really challenging.
I started ok but having not really raced since the end of August, I struggled when the initial adrenalin rush wore off - looking abck at my lap times I did two good laps, two terrible laps, then five consistently fast laps. The highest position I was in was fourth but those two bad laps sent me back to 10th, but I eventually clawed my way up to eigth.
As I've come to expect, I had a mechanical with my front brake cable pulling through on the first lap which made the technical sections, err, interesting.
One of the reasons I wasn't feeling too good yesterday was the fact that I've spent the last week in Ireland, MTB'ing with snapper Victor Lucas for an upcoming feature in MBR. The weather was unusually amazing for the first couple of days (check the Twitpic -->) but returned to type later on. Keep an eye out for the December issue of MBR to find out more.
Check out LondonCycleSport's video of the first lap of the race, I'm number 10.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
My race was pretty much over when I rolled a tub going into one of the steep banks, leaving me with a long run back to the pits. It was a shame as I had been riding in around 30th place which is actually pretty good for me.
So this week I need to go back to basics and re-gluing all my tubs. I think I went wrong by trying to keep things tidy and not using enough glue - with two thin layers on both rim and the tub I thought I'd be safe, but I wasn't. New tubs and new rims obviously need more.
Today's required reading: race.cx pro tub gluing technique, crossjunkie's tub gluing post, cyclocrossworld's features on tub gluing (part one and part two), plus of course re-reading the tub gluing section in Simon Burney's Cyclocross: Training and Techniques book. If that doesn't drum it home, I'm doomed.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Also, I counted 13 Police motorbike outriders, on this - completely closed road - stage. Are they just there to show off in front of the public or what? Maybe I'm just bitter that grassroots cycle sport is left to flounder with zero Police support while the elite is seen as a great marketing opportunity.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
These shots are me having a play with on camera flash. I've not really used a flash on the camera very much in the past, but looking through fashion mags, it seems a pretty popular look - on camera flash against a white wall, you can't go wrong can you? I used a manual setting on the camera (1/80th, f4, 200iso I think...) and just set the flash on ETTL, although after a bit of experimenting I decided to overexpose the flash 1 and bit stops to get the wall bright white.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Sunday, September 06, 2009
If anyone ever suggests to you that a training camp in Scotland, in September is a good idea, laugh them out of town.
We've been here 36 hours now, and as far as I know, it hasn't stopped raining the whole time. In fact it makes the weather forecast above, taken from Loch Fyne Fisheries, seem a little over optimistic. God knows what the rest of the week will be like, but I don't think there's going to be a whole lot of bike riding going on if it stays like this.
Here's hoping there's a lot of running involved at the Exeter round of the National Trophy cyclocross in two weeks...
Monday, August 31, 2009
So it proved when the race split to pieces on lap one. Lap two was the fastest lap of Hog Hill I've ever done - 2mins 41secs, which equates to an average speed of 45kph. It hurt, bad, and only the best survived. Needless to say, I slunk my way round the course at back of the bunch.
I felt stronger as the race went on (at least, in comparison to the other riders off the back with me) and had a few gos to escape but none came to anything. There goes a glorious 25th place!
Check out Phil Jone's photos of the race on Flickr, he's been playing with off camera flash and the results are a pretty spectacular step up from his earlier stuff. Lovely stuff.
Yesterday was a nicer day. Me, Ben Spurrier (manager of Prologue Bikes in Sheen) and Claire Beaumont (marketing manager at Evans Cycles) went out on the cross bikes. I didn't realise we were going off-road, so put my standard road wheels in, complete with 23mm race tyres inflated to 120psi, which ended up feeling pretty sketchy when we hit Wimbledon Common and then the dirt trail that goes around Richmond Park. It was frightening for a bit, but then the sketchiness became fun and I was able to make the most of it. I didn't even puncture, unlike Ben! It was my first ride on the new Cannondale crosser and it felt great. It's a little bit shorter than last year's Focus which adds a bit more control in the technical stuff over the old bike.
Riding off-road on what is essentially a totally unsuitable tool for the job was actually pretty cool. The speed you can get a cross bike up to in a really short period of time is amazing - ridiculous in fact. Why didn't I ride my cross bike all summmer?
First cross race of the autumn is this Wednesday at Herne Hill. Assuming I can stick some tubs on my wheels in time of course.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Races at Hillingdon always end up fast and yesterday's race was no exception - we covered the 60km at an average speed of 43kph. That's quick by amateur standards.
I was really flagging by the end, but it was all good training: my average heart rate was 164, but improtantly, I spent 35mins with a heart rate above 170bpm, which is where the real training benefits happen.
I've got no idea who won, but I know a break of three stayed away from the second lap all the way to the finish, which is pretty nuts given the speed the bunch was doing. Impressive stuff.
Results will be on www.londoncyclesport.com
Monday, August 24, 2009
My ambition is to get on the podium, if not for racing, then at least for looking like a prat in a fancy dress outfit (i've been scouring ebay for lycra suits, there are some crackers).
For details (there's a beer tent!) check out the Rollapaluza website
EDIT 25/8/09: It looks like they've just added another 35 entries to the men's race, making it up to a field of 80.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
I'm warming to the Lensbaby. At first I thought it was a BIG mistake, but with better light, it's pretty good. Bit more practise, and I think it will be a useful tool in the bag. More photos on Flickr
I just bought a lensbaby from my cycling buddy David the photographer. Bloody hell is it hard to focus?! I'm looking forward to playing with it more though. He also sold me a Canon 50mm f1.4 as used by The Sartorialist - check his shots, I hope I can achieve something similar.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Check out Jesse Rosten's website for more good stuff, particularly the POV 5D MkII on a motorbike vid (and a how-to on how the cam was mounted - genius) — http://jesserosten.com/
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Momentum is gathering, anticipation is building, autumn is coming.
Then I rewatched the Superprestige from Hamme-Zogge. Ugly name and ugly conditions. I love this video though. Pity the riders, but pity the spectators and the cameramen more. It looks like hell.
I've been talking to Geoff Waugh about going to the Koppenberg Cross this year. It looks great - cobbles, mud, two bike changes per lap, riders vigorously shaking their hands to dry their gloves out. It all adds up to a classic. Nathan Spear is hosting footage of the full race - ideal for keeping you going through a hard turbo session.
For more vids, go check out www.crosstube.net
Monday, August 10, 2009
As the years have gone by, I've realised that this is a position that you can't force yourself into. You have to lead the high life for a while otherwise you don't last long on the wagon: you end up hopping on and off, never really satisfying your desire for a normal life, and all the time feeling guilty for not achieving what you know you're capable of with a little bit more motivation. If you're going to do something, you have to do it properly.
I don't think I'm the first to approach training this way. Having read Bradley Wiggins' recent tweets it sounds like he's of a similar mindset, and anyone who has read Graeme Obree's autobiography will remember the extremes to which he took this philosophy, by turns leading the life of a monk or a raving alchoholic.
For now, I'm glad to be back on the wagon. The prospect of programming a training plan into a spreadsheet, and filling my diary with race dates, and setting the alarm an hour early to get in some secret training has all of a sudden become very appealing. Experence has taught me that motivation is a fickle beast, and while you've got, you may as well flaunt it. For the time being, that's just what I plan to do.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
All this positive energy is making me think I should invest in a proper camcorder. I'm thinking Sanyo FH1. If you've got any feedback on what budget camcorder for filming cross and mtb, PLEASE let me know. I really hate it when I waste money on junk, don't let me make that mistake! I want good colours, and a high frame rate for slow motion. Whaddaya reckon?
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Saturday, July 11, 2009
I think Fabian was having some fun for the cameras on this descent, there's some pretty OTT cornering going on, especially when he gets back to the bunch at the very end. Impressive nonetheless.
Youtube have stopped embedding of this vid, so just watch it by following the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_wEG2RNMJc
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Back in the mid-nineties, it looked like tubular tyres were destined for the scrap heap. High quality, lightweight clincher rims like the Mavic Open Pro became the standard while super-light, super-stiff factory-built wheelsets like the Mavic Ksyrium began to take top honours in most races, and all the while, clincher tyre technology continued apace, with manufacturers experimenting with new compounds (often using more than one in one tyre) and puncture proof belts to make clinchers THE choice for serious cyclists.
And then carbon happened.
Carbon lends itself to simple shapes like a tubular rim, which is simply a circular tube with one edge flattened off to allow a tub to be stuck to it. While an aerodynamic, stiff, aluminium clincher rim weighed in at around 475g, an equivalent carbon tubular rim was at least 100g less, and probably stiffer to boot, allowing the use of fewer spokes.
As the nineties became the noughties, carbon became the dominant material in high end road racing wheels and now, as we reach the end of another decade, the majority of racers at any level are riding carbon - tubular - wheels.
Just as the nails were being driven into the tubular coffin, along came carbon and saved the humble tub for another decade.
This rebirth of the tub came at the same time as a rebirth of cycling as cool pursuit, with it's long and varied history. Tubs fit in with the nostalgia for the old days that brands like Rapha hang their coats on. In fact, issue 13 of Rouleur, published by Rapha, has a huge feature in it about tubs. It suggests that gluing on tubs is at once a trip down memory lane while also taking you a step into the future - the wheels they use to illustrate the feature are Mavic's space-age and uber-expensive Cosmic Carbon Ultimates.
My problem is, carbon wheels are mostly a fashion statement. And like most fashion statements, they're not that practical for most of us.
Carbon wheels have notoriously bad braking, especially in the wet; they're expensive to buy and expensive to maintain and repair; they force you into the world of pain that is the tubular tyre.
Tubs have their place, no doubt - it's just that place is a wet Belgian field. Tubs are essential for cross, clinchers can't compete with the traction you can get from a 32mm cross tub pumped up to 20psi. And even if clinchers dcould compete in terms of traction, try running them soft and you'll suffer a pinch flat in five minutes. The only other application where tubs are essential are the cobbled classics, where avoiding pinch flats is essential. But with the advent of tubeless, for how much longer that will be the case is anyone's guess.
Everywhere else, clinchers win, hands down. And the top reason is not price, or practicality - it's grip. Well, it's price and grip. If you want grippy tubs that you can really rail corners on, you're looking at £50 per tub; clinchers, you're looking at more like £20 per wheel. For example the tyres above - both Conti GP4000s - currently costs £49.73 for the tub, and £22.05 for the clincher on Ribble.
As a cross racer, most of my road racing takes place in criteriums where cornering speed is paramount and for me, the grip of a quality clincher tyre combined with the secure braking of a aluminium rim provides a more cost effective, faster combination than carbon wheels and mediocre tubs. And lets face it, most of us ride mediocre tubs. I know that when I came to replace my worn out GP4000s I went for Sprinter Gatorskins more for price and puncture resistance than anything else, and yet they still cost twice that of a good racing clincher.
Finally, the idea that tubs provide a more comfortable ride than clinchers is nonsense in my opinion. Regardless of how the tyre is formed, 110psi feels like 110psi, and that is, pretty harsh.
So tubs, or clinchers? If you've got tub sponsor and a pro tour mechanic to do all the dirty work, tubs are still worth pursuing; if you're an average Joe like the rest of us, clinchers won't let you down.
This post was inspired by Crossjunkie's Defense of Tubs