The next few races

Well, its not the best kept secret that I enjoyed the Tour Divide, so no surprises that I’m heading back there next spring.

The only proviso is that I’ll do it if the snow-pack is not massive as the year I did it (2011) we had to divert around some of the biggest passes and walk some of the early passes with snow shoes on.

I rode the Flathead this summer and can’t wait to get through there again in race mode. Its awesome up there!

The Tour Divide is 2750 miles long and has approx 200,000′ of climbing.

The race after the TD looks fun. Its 5000 miles from the east coast to the west coast of the USA all off-road. Its being put together by Billy Rice, the first man to yo-yo the TD.

Should I just yo-yo his race the first year he hosts it????

Oh well, back on the bike getting kit dialled and of course a big thanks to all the businesses that are helping me with equipment and advice.

More info to follow soon

Slow news day

Well, what do you know?
The nice team at MBR (Mountain Bike Rider) magazine did a couple of interviews with me after the SDWx4 and have published the result in Septembers issue.

It is full of facts about the ride and brings back memories of endless gels annd protein drinks at each pitstop.

There is little passion in the aticle, its all about the facts and the work that went into it, so if you fancy seeing a beautiful series of dawn and dusk vistas of the downs with me riding majesticaly onwards, don’t buy the mag.

If you want to learn about this and a few other daft long distance trails in the UK, then this is a great feature.

Thanks to MBR for getting involved and following up on their first artice on my efforts on 2011’s Tour Divide.

Thanks also to my wonderful clubmates woh now sneak sections of drystone wall into my backpack to make rides a little tougher.

Mission accomplished

Well, after over two years of preparation and waiting for the right weather-window, I got it done.

55 hours and 5 minutes of South Downs Way fun (four times over). I also clocked up 49,000′ of climbing.

The weather was the best we’ve had for a bank holiday for a year and the forecasters started calling it about a week away, giving loads of time for settling the nerves, the crew and the bike into tiptop condition. I even took a couple of leg massages to be sure of being as relaxed as possible for the start.

I rose at 0430, ate, dressed into cycling kit, stuck some udder cream on my backside and drove to Winchester. There was one spectator (Clyde) came to see me off at 0600. I was not planning to stop until I had ridden to Eastbourne and back a couple of times.

Kerry was support crew until QECP where Andy Stroud took over (Karen was meant to be there, but as her daughter was giving birth, we excused her). Andy crewed for me to Eastbourne and back to the A27 crossing – a committment of over 12 hours!
The first leg went according to plan, though maybe a little fast as I was done in 11 hours 34 minutes.

Riding down into Alfriston, I told Andy that I thoought the ride was going so well that it felt all downhill. Error.

The first night section went really well with the Diablo lights being swapped out at every pit. I could happily ride on full beam knowing there was another light ready to go (Exposure lights had kindly lent me four Diablo’s). At just before midnight, sitting on a gate at the top of Amberley Mount was a buddy from the club who had ridden out from Whiteways to stalk me – Alex rode with me and kept my mood light until Harting, when he left me and cycled back to Tangmere for a couple of hours sleep.

I rode into Winchester knowing that Carl (my wingman for leg three) had been there since six and was ready to ride. His job was to keep me focused and to sit on my wheel, giving me a clear view of the trail ahead as by now my reactions were slowing down and I needed maximum time to see the train ahead. He did ann amazing job and when I punctured, he was off his bike and spinning my wheel before I even dismounted properly. We plugged the slash (I had a tubeless repair kit threaded and ready for action in my pocket) and were riding inside 2 minutes. Another club member Daphne was along for the ride from QECP and she stuck with us until near Jack and Jill windmills – I didn’t know when she peeled off as Carl would not let me look behind or wait for her, but I did hear she safely caught a train home from Brighton as my final leg co-pilot bumped into her there, on his way to meet me at Eastbourne.

I got attacked by the Sleepmonster whilst wobbling up the tarmac towards the YHA at Truleigh hill and had to ask for 15 minutes sleep. Carl and Daphne both set alarms, but they were not needed – I just woke up and silently got on the bike and rode on up the hill to the radio masts before the fun rollers to Devils Dyke.

I know we met a lad who was involved with Richard Sterry’s triple whilst climbing the open fields after the A27. Simon rode with us to the top of that climb and somewhere beyond. Again Carl would not let me look behind to check on him when he flatted – that was the last we saw of him, but he did kindly abandon two energy bars on a gate for us.

Riding down to the kiosk turnaround, we saw Graham and met him whilst I was having a food/battery/drink change at the top of the golf course, by now Will Le Maitre (support crew since the QECP, and having taken over from Andy G who had crewed me through the night on my second leg) was starting to tell me what I was eating rather than me saying what I would like; it was a seemless transition and I’m so glad he had taken on the third leg duties. All I had to do was get back to the A27 in reasonable shape and I knew I could make it to Winchester.
Riding along the top of the open downs around Firle are the least familiar parts of the downs to me, and then the mist came in and we were having to use the red line on the GPS from earlier on in the day to navigate. We didn’t make any mistakes save for me thinking I was wearing a thin windproof jacket and when I asked the crew for a warmer jacket as the one I was wearing was not warm enough in the mist, I noticed I was not wearing it — it was still in Grahams back pack and I had been riding in a shirt and armwarmers thinking I had my Montane jacket on. Getting tired.

The lights gave us a few moments of interest during the night when they had not quite had long enought to charge fully using just the usb from the car cigarette lighter, but really, it added to the fun and we simply rode side by side and shared Graham’s light. He was riding a Diablo with booster pack and was good for the whole night section with no recharge needed.

There were no mishaps on the fourth leg apart from when the sleepmonster got me again. This time I was riding on a bit of doubletrack, not really bothering which side I fell off into – one side was a wire fence, the other a hedge. It was time for a snooze. Steve C and Martin S had taken over from Will Le Maitre at the A27 (though he lives in Wales, he stuck around to see me finish in Winchester),and were waiting for me near the chalk pit museum. They stuck me in the passengeer seat with a blanket over me, changed my socks, put on some shoe covers and gave me 20 minutes sleep. During the rest of their stint as pit crew, they fed me really well and when I refused food, Steve told me that he would have to tell Kerry and that he would be in trouble from her if I did not eat, so would I please just eat it?
I did get to the stage where one more gel or another cup of protein mix were not high on my list of desires, so they skillfully moved me onto mouthfulls of self heating pasta and meatball suppers and the hot food really hit the spot. Perfect timing guys.

Passing Cocking, the pace of the ride slowed as I started to meet fellow riders and runners and without Carl there to boss me about, I dallied and chatted to far too many people who had come out to see me finish. There was a good welcoming team at the QECP and it did give me a good rest before the Butser alp. Even after a breather I didn’t manage to ride it, even though in training six times up and down was simply a good workout. I was tired and the steeper hills saw me walking now. I still had a bit of energy for the steady climbs, but was really just faking it from Old Winchester hill to the finish.

The final gate of about 360, was at the top of Cheesefoot Head and all I had to do was spin downhill to the finish from here. There was a great crowd waiting to welcome meincluding two previous double record holders, Lydia Gould (first lady doubler) and Neil Newitt (single speeder) and of course Kerry was there with a nice hot flask of tea.

Loads of piccies taken, some prezzies, though why anybody thought more ges would be anice present was daft, and off in the van to home. I fell asleep twice on the journey home and didn’t take my helmet off until inside.

Time for a shower, a sleep and food. Its now 10 days after the event and I’m still hungry and not really focusing on tasks for very long. Maybe tomorrow I’ll clean the bike.

The ride is on.

After over two years planning and training, we’re going to get the weather windoow to get this done.
The support creww are itching to get out there, I’m restless for the flag to drop.

Lets go for it.

The training has been good apart from 5 weeks in the winter with a rotten cold, so we just to go for a 400 mile ride now before anybody else has a pop at it…..

I’d like to share a little ditty that has kept me focused through the winter .

Perhaps I am stark crazy, but there’s none of you too sane,
It’s just a little matter of degree.
My hobby is to ride my bike, its fortressed in my brain:
It’s life and love and wife and home to me.
And I’ll do it, yes, I’ll do it; I’ve a hunch I cannot fail;
I’ve a vision, I’ve a prompting, I’ve a call;
I hear the hoarse stampeding of an army on my tail,
To the best and biggest bikeride of them all.

Singletrack forum should run some updates, as will our club website http://www.southdownsmtb.co.uk/

I’m off to ride my bike for the weekend.

Training ride

As you know, I don’t bother with writing abut training rides, though some say I should post some details about training as many don’t know how to do it….. so here is the secret in a nutshell.

Ride your bike.

Lots.

Cet conditioned.

Ride more and further.

Repeat.

Todays training ride (75 miles) was good as I had a piccie taken by my friend Richard Treadwell. It was aken somewhere near Liphoook, looking south to the downs.on top of the world

Winter toes

So I’ve been testing a pair of 45NRTH Wolvhammer boots since picking them up in Calgary in early December.
They have taken a real beating since then and are allowing me to get out and do some 8+ hour rides without my toes dropping off.
I have watched a couple of forums discussing cold toes with interest in the past months (I have Raynauds) and the lengths folk go to to not spend money amazes me….. extra socks/plastic bags/newspaper stuffed inside summer shoes and the number of riders not happy with their usual winter shoes.

So glad I have these. They have a clip on top of the toe box so they can take gaitors and will cope with negative 25 degrees! They can’t help me down to that level on account of my poor circulation, but are an awesome addition to my winter riding.wolv

Plastic wheels

I have been holding back on doing a piece on the wheels I’ve been on for most of the summer so I could give them a real workout.
I ordered the wheels having had long discussions with Strada wheels and let them know there was no super rush to build them as I would rather train on old heavy wheels (order placed June 2013).
When the wheels were delivered (around November 2013) I found it very difficult to get my Small Block 8 tyres on – I used to be able to fit them with no tyre levers on the ali wheels.
Sadly, whilst using a plastic tyre lever, a section of the rim collapsed and after a discussion or two, Strada told me they had been working with their manufacturer and changed the profile of the rim, so now I’d be riding with two different profiles of rim…. Jonathon later agreed this would be rather odd on a semi-pro set up and two new wheels (with the new profile) arrived.

The Small Block 8’s fit on with no need for levers, just a little technigue and a pair of thumbs – perfect. They need a compressor to get them to inflate whilst settling them in ‘tubeless’ mode.

They fitted a Son dynamo hub on the front and a DTSwiss 240 on the back as I’ve had the DT Swiss before and ridden it with one service since March 2010 and it is still perfect.

The lightness and stiffness of the wheels is darn good and having ridden them to Morzine, around the Alps and done every ride on them since, I can say I’m not looking forward to resting them through the winter and returning to the 719 rims.

These plastic wheels do not show any signs of wear and all the spokes twang the same as when they came out of the box, many South Downs Way’s ago.

The wheels as supplied by Strada do not have a recognised manufacturers name on them and having seen some press about the poor quality of some Chinese carbon products, I would say that Strada have chosen wisely.

Week off

Well, I’ve had some time away from the bike saddle and had a mooch up a few of the Welsh 3000′ mountains and now I get a week in Chamonix crewing for a pal who is running the UTMB – the worm will be well and truly on the other foot for once.

Then its a few weeks in Fernie riding the local trails that get used for Trans Rockies and various other BC bike races, so fitness should be maintained.

Already feeling positive, despite not getting it done in 2014.

Bertha

Annoyingly, Hurricane Bertha has put paid to my SDWx4 this season.
I spent the year prepping for this ride, then had to gamble with several variables, namely the weather and getting the right support crew available to pit for me.
With a wet start to the summer, then a stonkingly hot July, the window for completion came down to 9th/10th Aug.

Then came Bertha.

Call me a wimp, but I didn’t fancy doing two 100 mile legs into the tail-end of a hurricane, so I called the race.

It gives me an amazing base ready for winter training and I plan to get this done early summer 2015.

One of my buddies asked ‘what if somebody else does a four crossings or even a 5?’
I said I’d just kill the game by doing a ‘deca’
He came back with a plan of getting London Transport to sponsor me and do a ‘double deca’

Stupid boy.

Thanks to all the folks who have gor involved in this venture – I’ll get it done.

Ride through France

I set off from Caen and rode my Tour Divide set-up bike on road to Morzine a few weeks back.
75 miles the first evening and found a wonderful oak forest to camp in. Then 166 miles the next day, 146, 143 and finished off to Morzine with a 58.
I did consider riding through the night for the last 58, but most of it was around Geneva and I decided it was not going to be much fun.

Got to the chalet the club had hired, stripped the bike so it looked more like a mountain bike rather than a mule, and played in the mountains for the week, with mud, padding and loads of food.

The route through France took me through many beautiful places including Camembert, D’artagnans home, the Loire valley (twice), the Rhone valley and Loughans. You grow to learn how far you can ride on a bag of chocolate croisants and omelettes.

No showers for 5 days and a shedload of climbing made for a great way to arrive in the Alps.