Friday, April 30, 2010

2010 World Cup Round 1 - Dalby Forest, UK

Finally I have some time to catch up on my blog writing - all this college stuff interfering with my cycling! ;) I've got a little breather now - just hope I passed my exam!

After having missed the first Bundesliga race in Muensingen, Germany, due to the volcanic ash, I was really looking forward to racing again in Dalby Forest, for Round 1 of the World Cup Series. Not racing in Germany meant I spent the weekend on two long mountain bike spins on some of the driest trails in Ireland - I felt so invincible, everything is so rideable!

Waiting to be called up....

Going to Dalby didn't really feel like going to a World Cup, since I've raced on the same course last year in a UK NPS by the same organizers, so it felt more like going to a local race. In fact, this was probably the least nervous I've been in all the World Cups (3!) I've done! The course was just as technical as last year, with only minor modifications.

On race day I was gridded in the latter half of the grid. When the gun went off I tried to hold my position going into the singletrack in the short and fast start-loop. The singletrack forced the riders to form an orderly line, and I lost a few positions (I started in 56th position, and went through the start area in 68th), but was able to catch riders again on the wide start loop area. There was a lot of traffic on the first lap and lots of nice flowy singletrack meant that there was little possibility to overtake, so that for the first lap the only option was to just hold on to that wheel ahead of you and not let people from behind you come by.

After the traffic had dispersed by the 2nd lap, I really started to enjoy the course and settled into my pace. Lap after lap I made up a few places on the climbs and on the flats, slowly climbing up the rankings and and finally finishing in 56th position (the position I started in....). Not really a fantastic result, but I'm slowly climbing up the ladder - better than in Offenburg last year with a similar amount of riders.

I had a lot of fun though and I am thinking of signing up to Offenburg now!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Race report 2010 Irish NPS Round 1 - Slade Valley

What glorious weather we were greeted with for the first round of the Irish NPS in Slade Valley near Dublin. I was still recovering from my exertions from the Ras Mumhan a weekend earlier and had not been feeling all to well leading up to this race. With additional stress from college this meant that I got almost zero training in from then till this weekend, so at least I would be super recovered (read: stale...).

Anyway, back to early heatwaves in Dublin (around 18 degree Celsius) and a very sunny morning. Since the race wouldn't start until 1:30pm for the senior categories I had decided to arrive early and do a practice lap then. I've been looking forward to the course, since everybody has been raving about it.

Alone on the fireroad (photo from Aine)

From the start it was obvious that the organizing club IMBRC have put in a lot of effort into the course, with a huge amount of great flowy singletrack. The course was mainly dry, apart from one or two muddy sections and 100% rideable. What made it quite challenging though was the amount of twisty singletrack through the woods with lots of mean slippery roots (one of my nemesis). As I always ride my wheels with too much pressure I was having difficulty to get over some of the sections without washing out, a tire that had seen too many sharp Cypriot and Israeli rocks didn't help the cause either (my excuses for the lack of technical skill....).

Anyhow, it was fantastic to see so many (5) girls at the start, including Cait Elliott, who's riding into form greatly, Ciara McManus from Northern Ireland and Jenny McAuley making a comeback into the MTB racing scene.

Dusty dry trails here (photo from Aine)

We set off to a fast start up the fireroad. A few unfortunate moments of riding beside the fireroad and not on it meant I only got into the singletrack in 3rd position, behind Cait and Ciara. I stuck onto Ciara's wheel and prayed that she would stay on Caits wheel. Then, when the singletrack opened up to a short bit of linker fireroad I took the chance and attacked, overtaking both Ciara, Cait and soon after two Juniors. This turned out to be the right move, because the singletrack tightened up again, meaning that Cait and Ciara got stuck behind the Juniors, so that I could open up a gap - see, tactical racing :)

I pulled away quickly to get out of sight from Cait as fast as possible. For the rest of lap one I could still see glimpses of her behind me, but I kept going fast and out of sight in lap 2. Unfortunately I started getting cramps in lap 3 (must have been the "hot" weather ;)), so that I had to throttle back a bit.

I kept looking behind to see if Cait was catching up again, but couldn't see her, so I decided to go into cruise mode for the last two laps - ready to attack in case she showed up behind me. I finished first with Cait arriving 2.5min behind me and Jenny McAuley completing the podium.

l-r: Cait Elliott, Mel Spath, Jenny McAuley (photo from Aine)

I know my preps for this race weren't great and I wasn't feeling too great on race day either with my stomach going into refusal mode after the race, but it's great reassurance to know that I can still make my legs perform when they need to, even if they don't want to.

Thanks to Stewart for his mechanical help on my bike and for screwing my head back on with a few motivating words. Thanks to the EPIC pit crew for doing my bottles too! And thanks for IMBRC for putting on such a quality event and for Jenny McAuley for giving me a lift to it!

Results available here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

2010 Ras Mumhan, Kerry, "Race" report

I am not quite sure what got me to sign up to the Ras Mumhan in the first place. I'm largely blaming Ryan, who I think only convinced me to do it so that he won't have to drive all the way to Kerry by himself. It's not that I didn't have a choice, there were plenty of stage races on over Easter weekend, including the Gorey 3-day and the P&O Tour of the North. I knew most of the girls would do the Gorey 3-day, so this one would have been the most obvious choice, but I also saw Fiona Meade signed up for the Ras Mumhan, so I thought, well, if she dares it, I dare too. The other reason why I went for the Ras Mumhan instead was one of safety - since most of the riders were A1s and A2s, I knew it would be quite safe. What I didn't think of was that the same riders would also be a lot faster and stronger than the A3s and A4s......

Anyway, I don't think I quite expected the race to be THIS hard.....

The race comprised 4 stages around Kerry, with a total of 493,5km.

Stage 1: Killorglin Milltown and Glencar
, 96.2km

The start to stage 1 was super hard. After missing my first road race this year a week beforehand I was still trying to get back into the knack of things what with feeling comfortable in the bunch etc. so that I was way too much at the back and suffered (REALLY suffered) from the harmonica effect. If it was a cat A3/A4 race I'm sure I could have hung on, but the speed and accelerations in this race (mostly cat A1/A2 riders) was just too much for me and after a few full-out cross-eyed sprints to catch back onto the bunch I had burned all my matches. About an hour or so into the race when the next acceleration came along I couldn't follow and got dropped from the bunch. After feeling miserable about my abysmal performance I got on with myself and enjoyed the 45km or so by myself, riding endurance, with the plus that I was actually able to enjoy the scenery because I didn't have to concentrate on any other cyclist's rear wheels. I've attached my power data below. I spent over 13 minutes of the first hour in anaerobic capacity - no wonder I was spent so quickly.

Power profile from day 1 - I got dropped from the bunch about an hour into the race - power profile a lot steadier from then on

Stage 2: The Healy Pass and Moll's Gap, 140.9km

This time round I was feeling a little more comfortable in the bunch and I was able to hold my position better and benefiting from drafting in the bunch, but again I got dropped about an hour into the race. However, with all those long hills on the course I managed to pick up one rider after another and even overtook some of the riders on the final climb that greeted all the tired riders with a headwind from hell. I wish road racing could all be uphill! Finishing 15th last (plus 4 dropping out), this was to be my best performance!

Ryan however showed a fantastic performance, with a 2nd place finish - only loosing out to Wim Botman in the final sprint up Moll's Gap. He even got a mention on the RTE news for this - I'm so proud of him!!

Riding through this magnificent country side of Kerry, with snow capped mountains in the distance was an amazing experience.

Stage 3: Valentia and South Kerry, 142.6km

This stage almost broke me. After the neutral roll-out there were fireworks. The riders attacked from the start and the speed was absolutely unbelievable (even Ryan said the start was very fast). I basically got dropped from the start - and I still had about 140km to go! With the broom wagon lingering temptingly behind me I rode on and caught one guy, overtook him and set on for a pursuit of two guys I could make out in the distance. Finally, on a longer bit of climb I caught on to them and we started a good pace-line. We picked up one more guy on the way who stayed with us for a few min, but he then dropped out. So the three of us trudged on, with the broom wagon just behind us. At about 70km to go they dropped back and the other guy that I had overtaken at the start joined me again and basically pulled me home the other 70km.
Just want to apologize here to the broom wagon drivers who I got to follow me around for about 140km so that I could do the full stage.

Stage 4: Killorglin and Milltown, 113.8km

Got introduced to the main sponsor as the "only [read: crazy] girl in the race" before we set off to a leisurely start. Woah, I couldn't believe how slow the guys were going. Life was easy, the bunch behaved for once and didn't outright attack and I had no problem hanging on. Until we hit the first hill. The last 3 days of racing had slowly sucked up all my energy and I gave up on that small hill, stopping to push and getting dropped by the bunch - AGAIN! I felt bad about it because I felt that I could have stayed with them today and all I needed to do was to push through those extra 20secs of pain. But I was spent. Soon enough a few other stragglers joined and as a group of 3 we worked (or rather they worked while I just hung on) our way around the course, until we hit the crit part, where our race ended, because we arrived about 2 laps too late. At least this gave me a chance to watch some of the rest of the race. And with those howling winds I was quite happy I didn't have to do the rest of it. I finished 98th in the GC in the end, which is third last, but I'm happy I am amongst one of the 100 survivors out of the 125 riders who started off on the first day! Ryan finished a fantastic 6th overall by the way....

All in all a great experience and fantastic interval+endurance training (over 450km and over 15hours in 4 days) and a good chance to sample some of Kerry's finest landscape. Not sure if I'll do this one again though, I think I'll stick to some of the easier ones for now.....

Results available here.