Friday, February 27, 2009

Pre-view of round 2 of Cyprus Sunshine Cup

The 2nd round of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup is a stage race, consisting of 3 stages on 3 consecutive days:
  • First stage is a Time trial of the 7.4 km long XC loop
  • Second stage is an XC point-to-point race of 41km for men and 32km for women elite
  • Third stage is a normal (lapped) XC race on the 7,4km XC course, women elite was start loop+4 laps, men elite was start loop +5 laps.

The week before the races Ryan and I went to pre-ride the XC course and part of the point to point course (the 7km single track descent). The XC course was basically mostly easy uphill fire road connected by super steep single track descents or single track climbs and descents. I crashed on one of them and thought I may have to walk some of them in the race. For the point-to-point race, we only knew that it was fire-road in the beginning, then a huge long single track climb with 700m vertical climb, about 1km tarmac on top and then a super long singletrack descent, about 7km long and 600m down. We didn't have the time to pre-ride the whole point-to-point loop, so we decided to at least ride the descent which you could reach from the road. So we cycled up the 11km up the tarmac and did the descent. First I found it quite technical and scary, a lot of tight switchbacks - it was kind of a cross between benchcut and GC in Djouce, along the ridge of the mountains with fantastic views.

The day before the race we did another pre-ride of the XC course and Ryan gave me an uplift to the descent, and it was a lot less scary the 2nd time round, only the weather was getting a lot worse, rain and wind and hail and lightning. We took a few videos from the uplift (sorry, no bike action in these)...

Another video of us driving up the hill:

And we are still driving up the hill....

Just before I have to go:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cyprus Sunshine Cup #1 (UCI C1)

Sooo, where to start.... There is always so many new impressions and things happening around you when you are traveling to new places. Friday morning at 4am Ryan and I left from Dublin to Cyprus after 2 hours of sleep and organizing and packing solidly for the evening before that. And Ryan had this crazy idea of building up his new 2009 Specialized S-works Epic, which had only arrived that evening. Ah well, why not make it harder for yourself if you can have it easy, right?

My cheat note marking the kms of the climbs and feed zones

Anyway, we and our bikes made it safe and sound to Cyprus (or so we thought), where we are staying in a tiny village called Kalavasos. It really is tiny, consisting of narrow alleyways and bright stone paved roads and steps and loads of stone houses and flowers. It's actually really cute and we've got a really nice little courtyard and it even has a bike rental/tour place (whose importance will come apparent later).

The last few meters sprinting - I had no idea how much time I had put onto Githa

The first race of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup starts only about 3km from here in Tochni and goes by the place in our village, ending about 200m from our front door. Yesterday we went to Tochni to sign in and to pre-ride the course. The first race of the cup is a cross country point to point race of the UCI C1 category, 48.3km long and 1787m climb for both Elite men and women. Details about the course and the profile can be found here.

And then I noticed. My handle bar had a really bad kink in it! It was so bad it's crazy we didn't notice it when we built up the bikes (but in all fairness, we only had 2hours of sleep and it was dark). It was definitely a no-go for going out on the pre-ride. So, where do you get a new handlebar in the middle of nowhere at 1:30h on a Saturday in Cyprus (I don't have a word of cyprese, or is it cypryc?) ?? Thank god for Mike, the organizer from the Cyprus Sunshine Cup. A really nice and very helpful guy. He called around and in no time he had a solution: The bike rental/tour place in Kalavasos (Cycle-in-Cyprus) kindly agreed to give me a lend of a stem and handlebar until I could organize myself a new one - no questions asked. So, we went back to Kalavasos and met the owner from Cycle-in-Cyprus who is actually from Sweden but spends most of his winter months here with his mate to run the bike guiding/rental business. A huge thanks to Cycle-in-Cyprus for their spontaneous support. So, guys, if your next trip goes to Cyprus, I can recommend this place! He also has a lot of local trail knowledge and gave us some advice about the course, since we wouldn't be able to pre-ride the whole thing.

Exhausted but happy after the race

Race day, nerve day. Bathroom 3 times. Warm-up, rain shower, bathroom again, call-up, mass start, off we go. 12 girls in my cat. I see a few girls in front and try to hang onto them. The course is very very rocky and a little dusty. Lots of climb - on loose rocky stuff. No power, this isn't fun, why are first races always so hard? Some really steep climbs, descents on loose rocky ground and lots of deep rain furrows (just like Ireland!). Scary stuff when fast. An open gate causes confusion, some people go the wrong way, we wait, somebody knows the right way. Some girls catch up. We go on. A puddle comes up and the guy in front of my splashes me from top to bottom - I'm well refreshed and all senses heightened. Still a few girls around me, some switching of positions. See Githa Michiels ahead and Petra Henzi overtakes me. Feed zone #1, calling out to Angelos (thank you!!), bottle hand-up works well. Overtaking Petra. More climb, we 3 girls are staying pretty close together (Githa Michiels, me and Petra Henzi, in that configuration for most of the ride). Still not in racing mode. Need to focus on the race. Focus! A deep (really deep!) river crossing. Feed zone 2 thanks goes to Theodores. More last technical climbing over loose rocky ground on steep furrowed switchbacks. Githa pulls away. Petra is left behind. Damn, I'm loosing her! Finally the top of the last climb, about 15km to go, and I finally (!) get my racing head on and start putting down the power - I see Githa pop up in the distance ahead of me and slowly reduce the gap. 10km to go, 5km to go. I'm getting nearer. 1km to go, she's 100m in front. 200m to go, she's 20m in front. I charge. I start sprinting, I pass her at 100m to go. Took her by surprise. Thank god I don't understand her language. Last few meters, and it's over. Relax....

Cyprus sunshine Cup #1 podium

Ryan thinks I came in 3rd or 4th. We'll see. We ride back to Tochni to pick up the car.

When we return to Kalavasos the results are up. I did come 3rd, wohoo! I was beaten by 10min by the Swedish national champion in 1st place and by 5min by the Italian national champion in 2nd place. The girl I beat in my sprint was the Belgian national champ - I put 7 seconds on her - and the other girl that was in our group of 3 was Petra Henzi, coming in 5th. Full results and report can be found here and a pic of the women's podium here.

A few more pics of the race can be found on and I found one with me on it too.

Thank you as well to the Cypriot Shimano team for their tech support in the race. Oh, and my new 2009 Specialized S-works Epic rode really really well. Ryan managed to set up my shocks really nicely and it felt so natural. Amazing bike. Great for those climbs too.

Hope my racing instinct has been woken again with this race, looking forward to Sunshine Cup #2!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bike porn

2009 Specialized S-Works Epic

We don't usually have a lot of nice weather here in Ireland, but today was just a beautiful warm and blue-skied spring day. So, finally I got the opportunity to take out my new bike, a 2009 Specialized S-Works Epic, kindly provided by Cycleways, and of course I took some pics before it's all getting mucked up. The bike is almost set up race ready, I've only exchanged a few bits with some nice and light KCNC components.

Specialized + KCNC

Bike Spec:

Frame: S-Works Epic full carbon 100mm travel frame
Fork: Specialized Future Shock e100, 100mm travel with Brain Fade
Rear Shock: Specialized AFR remote mini , BRAIN inertia valve w/ BRAIN fade
Seatpost: KCNC Pro Scandium 350mm
Front Derailleur: Shimano XTR
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XTR Shadowe
Crankset: S-Works OS carbon crank, 175mm
Brake Calipers: Custom Avid Ultimate SL Mag
Shift Levers: SL-M970 XTR, trigger
Cassette: Shimano XTR 11-34
Chain: KCNC Superlight Chain
Wheels: Roval Controle SL
Handlebar: KCNC Bones
Brake levers: Custom Avid Ultimate SL Hydraulic
Stem: KCNC SC Wing
Saddle: Specialized Phenom SL
Tires: S-Works Fast Trak LK
Pedals: CrankBrothers - Eggbeaters

Specialized + KCNC

I was only out for a short while today (not feeling too good, maybe I'm getting sick :(), but from my first impression it's easily the best bike I've ever ridden. It's also the first bike where I get this feeling that it feels just like an extension of my body. It's so amazingly light and handles really well. I expect it to be even better once I set the tires up tubeless and I can reduce the pressure. I was a bit scared in the beginning when I felt the brain turning on (at least that is what Ryan said was happening when I called him in distress from the mountain because I felt like I was bottoming out my rear shock, but I clearly wasn't), so I adjusted it to a bit of a softer setting and it was fine then. Can't wait to get out on it again.... such a nice bike... still can't actually quite believe I'm going to ride such an amazing bike this year.... :)

2009 Specialized S-Works Epic

I've put some more pics online here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Racing preps

It's only one week now before my first race this season. Ryan and I are going to take part in the Cyprus Sunshine Cup, a series of UCI points races (2 C1, 1 C2 and 1 S1) spread around the centre of Cyprus. I'm really excited to see how my winter training over the last few months has helped me improve and get faster. My training this year was quite different from that last year. Last year I just did a lot of short, high intensity exercises early in the morning - I remember getting out before breakfast at darkness, just to be able to get my training done before work. This year I am a lot more flexible with my time and I was able to do a lot more long endurance rides after having had breakfast - something I could only do at weekends last year. And of course, this year I spent 2 weeks in Gran Canaria in January for base training where I was able to put in lots of long miles in beautiful weather. So my race preparation has been quite different this year. Only last week I started doing some high intensity VO2max and anaerobic capacity drills (boo!) and this year I already feel sooo much stronger than last year this time. Hopefully that's a good sign for the coming season.

Another profile of pain - last weeks anaerobic capacity drills

However, racing prep is not just on the bike, it's also off the bike and sometimes even takes more time than riding. Off-bike racing preps involve things like choosing your races for the next season, cultivating and creating sponsor relationships, sourcing gear and bike bits (all processes that have started at the end of last year), finding airports, finding and booking cheap flights, finding and booking cheap accommodation with broadband Internet (both Ryan and I have a full-time job/PhD), finding and booking a cheap car, prepping the bike (bike fitting, exchange bits and pieces, testride, adjust things here and there, prepare tires etc.), go to the physio to get your knots untied etc, etc. And then it's the actual bike and gear packing for the journey itself! It seems like we are never finished doing bike stuff outside the riding itself. Unfortunately it's not just riding the bike!

Guess my new bike! ;)

However, it is nice to see when it all comes together and I am really happy about the help that we are receiving from our main supporters Cycleways/Specialized, Torq and KCNC this year. I can't wait to ride my new shiny amazing bike wearing my new shiny cool looking gear! :)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Snow snow snow =====> Turbo turbo turbo....

Hmm, I must have complained too much about Irish winters always being so dull and grey and not having any snow, because it has been snowing, sleeting, slushing for the last few days! Traffic is chaotic, my commute painful in the sleet.

Nonetheless, on the first day of snow, Ryan and I ventured out up on our local training ground 3Rock to check out the scenery and if it would be possible to do some off-road riding. But there was even snow on the single trails within the forests! We had to stick mostly to fire roads for safety reasons and gave up about an hour and half into the ride. I've never seen so much snow in Ireland, ever!

It's really really beautiful, but it means I'm bound to the turbo trainer in the meantime, sigh....