Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Race Report Scottish NPS Round 7 - Tweed Valley (UCI C2)

Scottish NPS Round 7 in Tweed Valley (UCI C2) - This was one of those races that Ryan and I didn't really prepare for. We only really found out about it last week and decided on Monday to go to it and booked the flights to Glasgow for Saturday there and return on Sunday evening. I was so busy during the week that I didn't even think much about the race, so no mental preparation or anything.

Loads of cyclists riding everywhere!

When we arrived on Saturday in the Glentress trail centre, which is one out of the 7 Stanes one in the area we were surprised to see heaps of cyclists out - and we thought, wow, this race must be huge! But then we found out that most of these people didn't even know about the race, they were just there on a recreational spin! We could not believe how many people there were just having fun on a spin out in the afternoon - the amount of downhillers, girls, kids, dogs, grannies etc... incredible!

View from the near Buzzard's Nest car park

We picked our way through the cyclists up to the top mountain car park (Buzzard's Nest) where the race was held. And wow, there was a purpose built jump park! And kids where doing jumps that I would never dare to do myself. I was really impressed!

One of the jumps - loads of people were riding over it before, but of course when I took my camera nobody did!

We signed in and did our practice laps. The course had a good bit of climbing in it and used parts of the purpose built amazingly flowy singletrack. Bar the 1st lap that used most of a fireroad for climbing, the laps were made up of a long climb using mostly singletrack with some very steep and slippery bits mixed in with some fireroad, then a really slippery, muddy and rooty straight and steepish descent, more technical singletrack descending, some fireroad and a bit of a last singletrack climb, before you hit the final bit of the lap: the jump park! Oh how nice it was after every lap when you descended down the last bit over the jumps to the finish line. Sooo much fun! (Although I didn't dare to do any crazy jumps - I'm such a chicken!).

On Sunday we girls lined up at the start to do our 5 laps. There was only 7 girls in the ladies Elite category, none of which I really knew. So I had no idea how fast they would be. We started off and oh dear - with the first pedal stroke I knew that this was going to be a tough race. My legs felt crap - lactic acid and pain straight from the start. Nonetheless, I sprinted off up the fireroad and noticed one of the girls tried to hang on. I then knew that I wouldn't have the mental power to win a close battle, so that plan was to give it my all in the beginning to just get away from all the girls as fast as possible, and hope they wouldn't catch me again when I slow down.

Ryan leading the pack :) (photosource)

I managed to get away on the climbs and held them away most of the descent, but when the expert men caught up, they brought Tracy Brunger with them, she seems to be a savage descender since she was able to make up all the time that I had on her on the climb! I just thought, damn, I need to go even harder! And I had hoped for an easy race! I got her again on the climb before hitting the jump park and was able to put a small gap on her at the end of lap 1.

Mel leading the race from the start (photosource)

The next few laps I was so scared that any of the girls would catch up to me again so I went super hard. I constantly looked back to see if there were any girls in the vicinity and it was hard to tell since a lot of riders had similar looking jerseys (all reddish with a bit of white in it!) so I had to look closely or try and recognize their race number to see if they were in my cat. I totally exhausted myself on the climbs and tried to recover as much as possible on the descents.

Biting the teeth together for the climb (photosource)

On the 2nd or 3rd lap however on the really muddy descent I slipped over a hidden wet root and fell and hurt my right thigh. It was just a blunt trauma, but it took me a few seconds to be able to move my almost numb leg and oh I was in pain. But no pain, no gain. I jumped back on the bike (hard when your brain tells your leg to move but your leg just doesn't want to follow ;) ) and tried to recover my hurt leg by mostly rolling down the hill. At the bottom of the descent I was able to pedal again cautiously and went harder again. Phew, I think I still kept off the girls.

Ryan looking exhausted going into the climb :P (photosource)

Then, on lap 4 the leader group scrambler for the Elite men came along and told me that the lead group was coming through. I looked behind - nobody. I went on by myself and about 5min later, Gareth Montgomery was coming through - by himself. I looked behind, nobody else. Another minute or so later Robin Seymour was coming through, chasing Gareth, who was about 30seconds ahead of Robin at the time. I went into my final lap without being lapped by any other Elite rider - pah, lead group, that was only Gareth and Robin ;)

Descending on a berm in the jump park - my favourite part of the course (photosource)

I was exstatic when I came to the last bit of the course for the last time, the jump park, and enjoyed the little jumps, I even tried to get some air! I finally finished the race in first position, and more than 6min ahead of Tracy Brunger in 2nd place. I was really happy with how I was able to push myself so hard, because I thought I was going backwards on the last few laps, afraid I might bonk for the first time in a race, but looking at lap times I was actually going faster! I am really really pleased with the consistency of my lap times, which just confirms my good endurance. I went so hard in this race that I felt I had really earned myself that win. Another nice thing was that because this was a UCI C2 event, I got 30 UCI points for it, so I now have a total of 56 UCI points!

The proud podium!

Results can be found here and some pics from the race here.

Thanks as always to Torq for their continuing support.

I also want to say thanks to the people who shouted motivation at me during the race. It is so nice to get so much support in a race where I didn't really know anybody. It really helped on that last climb!

The view from the bedroom in our B&B

Finally we want to say thanks to Ian and Carol from the Millburn House B&B near Dolphinton ( They were very accommodating to us with regards to bike wash, secure overnight storage (in their kitchen) and great rooms for really good deals and pre-bike race friendly breakfast. They have 3 rooms, and we took the biggest (it was about 3 times the size of our own bedroom) double room with ensuite bathroom, huge TV with lots of good DVDs for choice and amazing views for 70£ per night for the room, the smaller (but still big) other double bedroom is 60£ per night for the room and they also have a twin room. They are also a great source of knowledge about dog agility and curling, if that is what you are interested in and their two dogs love being played with. It's a great place to stay if you are going on a trip to the 7 Stanes and it's worth enquiring about 3 night autumn deals!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Race Report Ras na mBan

Lots of last minute arrangements (of course) and I had all I needed to take part in the Ras na mBan, the annual female only 3 day stage race in Kerry, Ireland: a bike, a lift, a bed and a team.

The bike: I was so happy when I found out that Cycleways would give me a really nice 2007 Specialized Tarmac Pro to ride on for the Ras. This time the oogling was over MY bike - hehe ;) It was great to be on the same level with regards to racing equipment than the other girls - so I had no excuses left! Here I just need to say thanks AGAIN to Cycleways for their amazing support, I could not wish for more, thanks for making it possible for me to ride the Ras on a professional level bike.
The bed: All accommodation was sorted by Valerie Considine, who organized this race and who is part of the women's commission in Cycling Ireland. All the riders and their support was staying the the beautiful Sneem Hotel in Sneem, Kerry.
The team & the lift: I was to ride with the Bray Wheelers, of whom I knew that Jenny McCauley would ride the Ras. I knew Jenny from mountain biking and was very happy that they accepted me into their team for the Ras. So in total we were 4 girls riding for the Bray Wheelers in the Ras. This meant my lift was also sorted since I was able to get down with Jenny and her husband Ritchie who would be doing our support for the Ras.

View from Hotel Sneem

Over 50 riders has signed up with teams from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and of course Ireland.

Line up at the start of the race

Stage 1: Getting used to the race

1 loop of 60km

Profile of loop

The first day was pretty uneventful with regards to racing. It seemed that everybody was just happy to hang onto the bunch really. The only time when there was some more serious movement in the team was up the climb to Moll's Gap, when the pace got faster and the bunch broke up into 2 or 3 smaller groups. I was able to hang onto the lead group - until my chain went down. I hoped it would catch again (thanks Fiona Barrett for helping me push me on), but eventually had to stop and get off the bike to put it back on - damn! That meant of course that the bunch had gotten away. I went back onto the bike and raced as fast as I could to get back to the lead group which I caught just after the Queen of the hills top at Moll's gap. At 1km to go the pace increased again - I was badly positioned at the back of this bunch and just couldn't make my way through the riders. There was a final slow down at the tight right hand corner before the last 100m of uphill to the finish line. I had been able to get to the outside of the bunch and was well positioned for the sprint, but was totally in the wrong gear and couldn't get the speed up fast enough on the uphill to the finish on that high a gear.

Lesson No 1: Get to know the final 1km to the finish area really really well.

Still smiling

Stage 2: Taking on the challenge

4 x 16km loop = 64km

Profile of 1 lap

Well, this stage was were it was all going to happen. The night before some of the Irish teams had discussed a bit of a possible strategy which was basically that the Bray Wheelers and Orwell Wheelers would work together attacking and counter attacking from the start on throughout the race to tire out some of the foreign teams so that some of the Irish Development team riders (who would recover mostly throughout this stage) would be fresh towards the end of the stage (at least I think this was the plan). And so we set off and sure enough, 2min into the race Valerie Considine (Orwell Wheelers) attacked and I joined her. Another minute later we were joined by Fiona Barrett (Orwell Wheelers) and the 3 of us worked together. Eventually Valerie fell back to the bunch, but we were joined by Louise Moriarty (UCD/Swift Racing) and Linda Ringlever (Moving Ladies) while Fiona Barrett decided to fall back to the bunch. This had all happened before we even arrived at the start of the long, curvy climb - the turn of which we almost missed! So the three of us worked together up the climb, with the bunch still in our vicinity, but slowly pulling away. I was scared when I saw the bunch coming up the tiny narrow country road and hoped we could stay away till at least the top of the climb (riding in a bunch on a narrow rough road is a bit too claustrophobic for me....). We stayed away till the top and on the descent heard from the car that we even seemed to widen the gap! That wasn't what we had planned!! I knew it would be very hard for me to stay away for long, but I did my best to hang on with Louise and Linda. And so we went into the second lap, still in the lead, now with about 30secs in front of the bunch. On lap 2 Louise and Linda sprinted for the QoH while I did not have enough power left for the sprint and got over the line in 3rd position, barely able to catch the 2 girls. In the third lap we heard we were now 45 secs ahead of the bunch and 30 secs ahead of 2 chasers. Wow - we really had a significant lead at that time! However, I was feeling more and more tired, it is so much harder to work in a breakaway than to hang onto the bunch. The third time we went up the climb I was really starting to feel the effect of our breakaway effort. Toward the top of the climb Louise however was still able to pull away from Linda and me. Linda was also tiring up the climb, but I hoped she'd be ok once we are back on the flat and the descent. Once back on the main road I noticed that Linda had fallen back even more but Louise had been able to open a big gap on me and got over the line first for the QoH. I thought I would have more of a chance to catch Louise by working with Linda, so I dropped the pace until she was back at my wheel. However, as soon as I put my foot down, I dropped her again. She must have been really struggling at that stage. So I decided to try and chase Louise by myself instead. However, she was way to far gone by that stage and the car told me she already had about a 30 sec lead on me. I was still by myself at the start of the fourth and last lap, but the car came up to me informing me that the bunch was only 15secs behind me, at which I decided the best was to conserve any energy I had left to get through the race. I was spent and I would not have been able to fight out the last lap by myself. So I struggled up the climb, and tried to see how fresh the bunch was by launching a few futile attacks, it's kinda cool to be able to 'control' the bunch with your attacks, see if they react or if they think you aren't worth following - it seemed they were still in quite good form. At the finish sprint again I was positioned to far back in the field and had too many people ahead of me, and finally came over the line with the main bunch. Louise however had been able to put another 1.5 minutes onto the bunch in her lonely last lap, finishing a total of 2min 10sec before the bunch. In this stage I also found out the value of being on a team. For the time I was in the breakaway, Jenny McCauley and the Moving Ladies and Swift Racing team just had to cover any attacks from the other teams and try and keep the bunch back as much as possible.

Mel accepting post-race advice from the road racing queen herself ;)

I was really really tired after this stage, and was barely able to eat (which is a sign that I really overcooked myself), but forced down the bars. The cold and drizzly day didn't help either.

Later on I found out that Linda Ringlever had bonked on the 3rd lap because she dropped her bar. Unfortunately she didn't say anything, because both Louise and I would have been able to give her food. All these would'av, should'av, could'avs!

Lesson No. 2: Hang onto the fast person, do not wait for the slow person!

Stage 3: Starting to feel it - the time trial

Stage 3 was a 2mile time trial. It was still raining and I think nobody wanted to do it. Everybody seemed tired from the hard stage in the morning. With Jenny's carbon wheels I was standing at the start line and sprinted off like my life depended on it - but hey, wait, this corner wasn't so tight when I rode out to the start! Damn, jamming on the breaks I had to slow down to get safely around this corner. Immediately after I sped up again - damn, another one of those tight corners and I had to hit the breaks again. What a waste of energy. Back to speed and going hard, and what, is this already the Sneem sign? Am I really already almost finished? There's the line and that was it. Hmmmmmmm - that wasn't how I had imagined it. I didn't feel I had given my all, and wasted too much energy in the corners. I wasn't happy at all, but then my time wasn't that bad - I had come in with the 6th fastest time, even ahead of Louise. Funny enough, Louise Moriarty, Linda Ringlever and I (the 3 breakaways from stage 2) all came in about 1 sec apart in the TT. Had I been 7.5 secs faster I would have been 3rd. With a few exceptions, the time trial really was what decided the final GC position of the riders.

Jenny McCauley

Lesson No. 3: Appreciate the importance of the TimeTrial. This is your easiest chance to make up as much time as you can. Learn the time trial route really well, especially when it is this short.

Stage 4: Survival

A lollipop out and back loop of 90km

Only the head of the lollipop and the return leg are shown - both climbs are done twice

I knew from the start of the last stage that this would be just survival for me. The plan today was for me to recover so that I could go hard for the 2 QoH climbs, since I was in overall 3rd position for QoH and wanted to keep this position (the next girl up had too many points for me to realistically take her place, but the girls behind me all had enough points to be a danger to my placing). My teammate Jenny McCauley was now placed 3rd in the GC due to her amazing time trial (she came in 2nd!) and was trying to keep her position. It was her task today to react to any attacks. Similarly, Orla Hendron (placed 4th in the GC) wanted to keep her position, so both would try and fight back any attacks. And so it went. I recovered as much as possible on the flats and attacked on the climbs to pick up some points, getting over the QoHs line 3rd in the first one. The second time I pulled up to the breakaway group and then attacked just before the climb to get over the line first from this group, but it was actually 2nd, another girl had time trialled up that hill all by herself from the start of the climb. I knew however that I had gotten enough points to keep my 3rd place in the QoH. I was still really pleased with my effort, having been able to go so hard even though I was absolutely wrecked. On the way home, I was hanging onto the bunch with the skin of my teeth and had a dismal final sprint. Man, I was happy to see the finish line!

The other half of the Bray Wheelers team: Iron woman Siobhan Duggan and Fionnaula Ne Bhradaigh

Wow, this was some amazing race! Louise Moriarty won, Anne de Wildt from Moving Ladies came second and my teammate Jenny McCauley came 3rd overall. Orla Hendron had to give her 4th place to Katrin Hollendung from Cogee Saar, taking 5th herself. 6th was Tamara Zwaan from District Noord-Holland and I was the first second teammate for Bray Wheelers in 7th position. We had done really well! Bray Wheelers got in 3rd and 7th in the GC and 3rd in the QoH - what an achievement! I was really really happy with how the race had gone and the effort that I had put in. I am also revising my opinion that road racing is easy: it's really really hard if you are part of a small breakaway group - it's only easy if you are hiding in the bunch!

I also want to say something about the organization of this race. Valerie Considine from the Women's Commission put in a huge effort to make this race the success that it was. The only thing I needed to do was call her up and she organized a room for me no problem (none of that calling up of B&Bs etc myself). Everything ran smoothly and was organized perfectly (NB: this is coming from a German ;)). Another great thing about the race was that we could all stay in Louise Moriarty's father's hotel (Hotel Sneem), and it was great to be able to have dinner together and catch up with the other racers - so much fun!
Proud Mel in the prize giving

Thanks as well to Jenny McCauley for allowing me to ride for Bray Wheelers and for the lift and for the carbon wheels for the TT. Thanks to her husband Ritchie for checking my bike before and after each stage to make sure that everything was in perfect condition and for doing calvacade support for us in the stages. Every racer will understand how nice it is to have somebody to hand you your jacket and your recovery drink straight after the race.
Jenny McCauley receiving a price for 3rd in the GC

And the biggest thanks of course goes to Cycleways who lend me a real pro bike to race on for the Ras - it put me on the same leve as all the other racers equipment wise.

Full results can be found here:

Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Stage 4 & GC

Reports and pictures can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mountain bike racing vs. Road racing - an analysis ;)

I've only done one road race now, so this is not really a fair comparison, but it gives you the insight of how it felt like to do a road race from a mountain bikers perspective.

Mountain bike racing and road racing are very different. For example, in a mountain bike race I mostly go my own speed, you often hear a mountain biker saying "I rode my own race", i.e. the fastest speed you can do for the length of the race without bonking, so it's like an offroad time trial. Only if I have a target to chase - someone in my eyesight, which is a lot shorter distance than on a road race, I usually go out of my comfort zone to push super hard to catch and overtake that person. Or say I know somebody to be a good technical rider, then I try and go hard to stick to that person on the uphills because once on the downhills I can try and follow his line which can often make you go faster. The average speed in a mountain bike race is between 10km/h and 20km/h, depending on how hilly and technical the terrain is. You don't always find somebody matched closely to your speed on all types of terrain or even just the same speed up as downhill. Actually, the best races are those where you do find somebody who is closely matched to your speed and ability, so you have a good battle all the way!

Due to the faster speeds in road racing, a road race is much more group oriented, you try and stay with the group to be sheltered from the wind (except when you are trying to break away), so you are automatically more dependent on the speed of the pack or otherwise you'd be a loner against the wind all by yourself. The difference of riding by yourself on the road or in the pack is huge: I was averaging almost 38km/h in the road race due to being able to "hide" in the pack. When I go on a lonely road spin on my mtb, my fastest spin ever for about the same time was averaging 28km/h - a whole 10km/h less and it felt a lot harder than when I was riding in the shelter of the pack!!

The other outcome of this is of course that you ride sooooo much closer together in a road race - it's a lot more "intimite". Yes, it happens in a mtb race that people run into each other, or when a person falls in front or you and you crash into them, but in a road race it's almost elbow on elbow and wheel on wheel! I felt it when a guy pulled in a little bit too early just in front of me and touched my wheel. In mtbing you never have more than 2 or 3 people closely around you apart from the start and that only for a very short period of time, i.e. when you overtake them or they overtake you. I've had many races where I felt like I was going around the course by myself for long stretches of time!

The start was also different. In a mountain bike race the first lap is the one were people sprint off like the devil is behind them and go super hard to get into the single track first. So after a lap in a mountain bike race I am usually already totally wrecked and I try and recover in some of the following laps while trying to hold my overall position and to gather energy for the last lap. In a mountain bike race the first lap is usually the fastest and the last one the second fastest (or at least faster than the one just before). In the road race we didn't even really start racing until the 2nd lap.

And also, I find a 2 hour mtb race is a lot harder than a 2 hour road race. On an mtb race there isn't as much "chilling out" as in a road race, without the possibility of hiding in the bunch. You always go hard and even though you have downhills, these are often so technical, that you can't really chill out that much - you might not be able to pedal because you have to hold balance with the use of your upper body, but not pedalling often means you can't clear the accummulated lactic acid easily, which can lead to cramps once you go hard again. If the descents are not technical, you pedal through them. I have had a lot more lactic acid in my legs on a 2 hour mtb race than on this road race.

Another difference is that in a mountain bike race it also seems to be more a case of you against the course - every lap is challenging and in each lap you get better at choosing the right line down a tricky descent - there is so much more dramatic change in scenery and terrain per lap. The road race seemed a lot more monotonic and a matter of you against the other riders.

And finally - a nice thing about road racing is the minimal preparation before and minimal clean up after. In a mountainbike race I would turn up the day before to pre-ride the course and to decide on which tyres to use and organize feed zone support, whereas in a road race you just turn up 5 min before the start and that's it! Similarly, while post mountain bike racing there is bike washing, muddy gear, collecting bottles from the feedzone etc. whereas after a road bike you just put your bike into the boot, throw on your jeans and you're done! Wow.....

Any roadies out there who would like to give their perspective on a mountain bike race? I would love to hear what roadies have to say about doing one of our races. There's one more chance left this year: the last Irish Mountain biking NPS will take place on the 28th of September in Carlingford. Any brave souls out there who want to give it a try? I'd advise to pre-ride the course the day before if you haven't really done much off-roading. Don't be put off with the technical sections though, you can always get off the bike and walk those bits ;)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Race Report Leinster Road Racing Championships

After the training ride with Ryan yesterday I felt really really cold. This morning I felt like a cold was coming on and I didn't want to get out of bed. But I had a race to go to! Reluctantly I set about my race preparations. I'm scared now. What if I fall and I involve the whole pack into a huge pile up? What if I ride into someone else's wheel? What if I am not even able to last through even one attack? Damn, what did I get myself into!

The C group with the girls

We went up to Dundalk and the weather was perfect. The sun was shining, it wasn't cold and the roads were dry. Thank god. We set up our bikes and signed in. All the people look like they've been doing this for years. I'm such a newbie, hope it doesn't show (or maybe hope it does, so I'd be forgiven for any mistakes I will make?). Damn, I'm really scared now. We roll up to the start where we are told that it's now 10 laps of a 5 mile loop for everbody with a handicapped start, the girls setting off 4min before the Cat C guys and the Cat A & B guys setting off another 6 min later. A good few girls (maybe 7 or 8) were at the start and off we went. The speed in the beginning was nice and easy and lasted for about the first lap. I guess we were just trying to get a feel for the course? The course itself was basically a mostly straight bit of road with a roundabout at each end. So we started about a few hundred meters from the first roundabout, cycled uphill to just before the second roundabout, down a steep descent into the roundabout and up again on the other side, downhill all the way to the other roundabout and up again to the start.

"Squeeze me!"

On the second lapone of the girls attacked and I followed, and so eventually did another 2 girls. The four of us stayed together for a good while, and a few times we tried to get a pace line going, but it didn't really work, and I felt I didn't really get the hang of the timing, so I just tried to hang on as well as I could. Eventually though we were swallowed up by the Cat C guys which helped a lot. In the morning Ryan had given me a link about where you should position yourself in a pack - the first third supposedly works best, but somehow I always found myself at the back of the pack - just hanging on there really. You see, I'm a mountain biker - I'm not used to cycling so close together at such high speeds....

And for the rest of the race I basically hung onto this group. The main places for attack were out of the 2 roundabouts, since both of them lead onto a climb. Especially on the far roundabout there were some ferocious attacks and I really had to put the head down to keep with the group or to bridge back to it. This was fun though (guess since I made it each time) and made the racing more interesting. Each time it seemed a few more people would get spewed out at the back of the pack at such an attack. Then, on the other hand, on some of the flat bits, especially just before the roundabouts, people were just chilling and I was free wheeling or just slightly pedaling.

Too far back in the group...

As far as I could see there were only 2 more girls in this group (I later on found out there were 3). So I just thought to keep an eye on any breakaways and see if they included any girls. Going up and down the same stretch of road meant that the two groups (Cat C + us girls and the Cat A & B guys) passed each other all the time on opposite sites of the road, so you could easily see if any of the breakaways had succeeded. And so we went lap by lap. In the end the Cat A & B guys never managed to catch up to us. It seemed like the attacks were getting harder at the end (or maybe I was just getting more tired), but there were no successful breakaways from our group that didn't get eventually caught again (and didn't include any girls anyway), which was lucky for me, because I was probably too badly positioned at the back of the pack to be able to react to any attacks - at least it would have cost me a huge effort, even just to work my way up to the front.

Smiling and waving - you'd never see me doing that in a mountain bike race!

It was obvious that everybody would just be sprinting out of the last roundabout to the finish line. I tried to work my way up the pack a little just before the last roundabout pass, but I think I was a little late, so I really had to put my head down in the sprint. I thought there was only 1 more girl in the group now (but there were still 2) and that we had lost the other one, so I kept my eyes on her and made her my target and sprinted as fast as I could to the finish line and made it to it before her!!! Later on I found out that there was actually another girl in my group that I also managed to beat by maybe a bike length. She had short hair and I must have assumed that she was a guy from behind.

Wow, so I just won the female category in the Leinster Road Championships! I think I placed in the 20s overall. Not too bad for my first road race, wouldn't you say? I hope I didn't piss off some of the girls though, I mean for them I was this unknown girl coming along, never seen her before, on a lent road bike (non blinged out), and she is a mountain biker and has never ridden a road race before. I guess I must have looked intimidating enough though in my shiny Torq gear - they even made sure at the start that I was eligible for the Leinster Champs title! And who does she think she is anyway winning it so out of the blue?? Well, it only seems so out of the blue to them since I hadn't done any road races before (and it seems that road bikers and mountain bikers don't mix that much). However, I recognized a few faces from mountainbiking. It was nice to see though that a lot of my mountain biking fitness and skills carried over into road biking. Also, I again blame my hill drills - they are such great drills for attacks. Actually, I blame my coach - he's just the best coach and support I could imagine. So, thanks to Ryan for giving me a crash course in road racing and thanks to Cycleways for the short notice lend of the road bike.

Results can be found here and a race report from the organizing Cuchulainn Cycling Club can be found here.

Thanks to Cycleways for the lend of the bike

Anyway, this experience has convinced me that I will be able to do the Ras na mban. Only need to sort out a bike now for it (I have to return the one I have) and accommodation and transport etc.

Crash course in road racing

Well, so on Thursday I found out that the UK NPS & Marathon races on the 13th/14th of September had been cancelled, and on Friday I was considering doing the Ras na Mban instead (a 3 days 4 stages women's only road race) which is on the same weekend in Kerry.

However, I have three problems:
1) I've never done a road race.
2) I haven't really done much road bike riding (I think I've been on a road bike twice) and have only ever done 3 road group spins (all of them on my mountain bike)
3) I don't have a road bike....

I don't actually own a road bike and as a soon to be student again without having paid off my first student loan, buying one is a little out of my budget. Therefore, to rectify all this and also to see if I could handle road racing at all Ryan told me about the Leinster Road Racing Championships which would be on this weekend on Sunday, and that I should do them to try out a bit of road racing before committing myself to a 3 day stage race (even writing this I just realize how crazy this idea is). So on Saturday we went into Cycleways to ask them if I could get lend of a road bike just for this weekend and they were really supportive and gave me a Specialized Allez. In the afternoon I headed out with Ryan so that he could give me a crash course in road racing.

So far I had heard that road racing is supposedly totally different from mountain biking or even a road spin. You are either cruising comfortably or it's all eyeballs out - very surgy as Ryan described it. To get me used to this we played some games where Ryan was attacking out of the blue and I would have to follow (yeah right, as if this was even possible, his attacks are 800Watts for more than 10 secs!), and to make me aware of the most obvious situations where people will attack (or I could attack), e.g. out of corners and up a hill. The other two main lessons were these: Stay with the pack and try and do as little work as possible so that you are fresh at the end when you are going for the finish line. Well, there was another one: Don't do anything stupid.

Hmmm - not sure if I like this.... We'll see how it goes tomorrow. At least the race sounded fairly short: 8 laps of a 5 mile course for women.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Decisions, decisions.....

How come that the end of the season races are all cramped in and clash? These races and events are up for choice in the next few weeks before our come-back into the social limelight:

13th/14th Sept: British NPS & Whyte Enduro Rounds 5
OR The Epic Blast IV

Edit: The British NPS & Whyte Enduro Rounds 5 races have been cancelled, so now it's this decision:
Ras na mban (3 day road stage race in Kerry, Ireland)
OR The Epic Blast IV

20th Sept: Carlingford Marathon
OR German Bundesliga race in Bad Salzdetfurth

28th Sept: Irish NPS Round 6
OR German National Marathon Champs

4th/5th Oct: Dusk Till Dawn, UK
OR Marathon World Cup, France

12th Oct: C1 MTB race in Alanya, Turkey
OR Bike Show London

Anybody wants to help me decide?