Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Out of the freezer, into the fire: Southampton National Trophy

I had perhaps my best ever start in Southampton on Sunday. Starting from the fourth row, I somehow snuck my way through a whole heap of riders to find myself up in the top 20 at the end of the first lap. Unbelievable. Kevin was stood trackside yelling at me about how great the situation was, and I believed him. I was up with the strong guys, I just had to keep it going.
One lap later, things started to go pear shaped. I was getting knackered; I'd been punching above my weight, and I was starting to get hit back. Billy Whenman and Darren Barclay got across to me on the only real descent of the circuit, and as I tried to get round the hairpin at the bottom of the hill, I caught my STI on the course marking post and knocked myself off.
The group rode away as I untangled myself.
I sprinted off, but with the foresight that I needed to relax for a bit and recover if I wanted to avoid making mistakes. The errors kept coming though, and I crashed twice more on the next lap before I pulled my finger out and started riding well again. The whole race, I was up and down like a yo-yo — literally and figuratively.
I found myself riding round with Andrew Nichols, and together we caught Mike Cotty with about three laps to go. Things were looking good for a while and I took the lead. Nothing much happened from there on, except first, Cotty rode away — fair enough, he's a very good athlete — and then on the last lap, Nichols dropped me. He's a skinny little under 23 who goes up hills somewhat easier than me. Oh well. I came home in 31st, outside the points, so technically no better than a DNF. What a load of bollocks.
Realistically, it was quite a positive ride as I had an amazing start and I was mixing it with some good riders all race. Negatives were the lapses of concentration and the lack of strength in the final. Lessons learned — more miles needed, more skills required.
Two weeks till Bradford, scene of my first decent ride at this level when I came top 30 at the 2009 National Champs. At last year's Trophy however, I had a thoroughly shitty ride, so who knows how I'll go. One thing — my fingers are crossed that fewer than 10 Belgians turn up in Yorkshire. They're taking all the points scoring places and ruining my ranking!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thought for the day

GymClass 07_05
Quote from the legendary George Lois in the latest issue of the brilliant Gym Class Magazine (my copy's in the post), via the equally brilliant MAGCULTURE blog

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Good fortune (new Specialized tubs) and bad fortune (broken Ultegra rear mech)

Bad — my mech snapped off after one and a half laps at today's London League
broken mech
Good — full quiver of new Specialized Tracer tubs (they worked great for the lap and a half I got to use them in pretty wet, muddy conditions)
Specialized Tracer tubs

Drumming at the London League

I ripped my rear mech off during my warm up lap, so I didn't get to race today. Instead, I cheered on the other riders while Geoff played drums. More of this please — it's fun.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Adam Craig on TRP CX9 brakes

Adam Craig is a dude — check out his bike check and interview on CyclingNews

Interviewer: "So why do most people still use wide-profile Euro-style brakes?
Craig: "Because most people suck at riding, and they don't know any better. They think that the wide-profile Mafac thing is cool, which it was back in 1954"

Adam is using the new TRP CX9 brakes. See that pic down below from Mallory Park? You'll see I'm using the same brakes. That was my first race on them and they were great. I was swapping between EuroX's and CX9s on my two bikes and the CX9's made life so much easier. With good brakes you're either on the gas, or on the brakes. With normal - ineffective - brakes, you end up freewheeling the whole time so as not to pick up too much uncontrollable speed. 
Which sucks.
Anyone who tells you you don't need brakes in cyclocross is a crank who's never raced properly and/or is a crap rider. Brakes matter — get the best you can, and set them up so they work!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Specialized shows new cyclocross tubs

pic by James Huang for bikeradar (click pic for orig article)
So just hours after I posted yesterday's moan about how I didn't feel confident on my Vittoria XM tubs, I discovered that Specialized are in the early stages of producing their own cyclocross tubulars over on bikeradar.com and cyclingdirt. Trust me, this is brilliant news for amateur cyclocross racers.
It would seem that manufacturers are finally getting annoyed with having to buy their sponsored riders £500 worth of new tubulars every year from just one manufacturer — Dugast. The quality of those Dugasts might be good, but a company like Specialized wouldn't have taken kindly to Dugast's old-world delivery times, pricing and the fact that the tubs come unfinished — you have to seal the sidewalls yourself, and even then, you can only expect to get one season from a pair of Rhinos before the sidewalls rot. How hard can building tubulars be? If a one man show in Holland can dominate the market with a very idiosyncratic product, surely a company with Specialized's design, feedback and financial clout can surely do a better job?
So Specialized entering the market is good for me, and probably you too if you're in any way ambitious on the cross course. The main reason Dugast has cemented its position at the head of the market is the tread pattern of the Rhino — it's aggressive 3mm deep central tread digs in providing traction both for driving forward and for not sliding out sideways. Its one problem is that it clogs. Looking at the Terra tub above, it's very much inspired by the Rhino, but with a more open tread pattern to better shed mud. The 33mm thing is practically irrelevant: yeah, that's as wide as you're allowed to go by UCI rules, but such is the variability in tubs that Specialized has had to err on the side of caution and make these slightly narrower than 33mm to ensure they all squeeze into the commissaire's calipers.
pic by James Huang for bikeradar (click pic for orig article)
The second tread is called the Tracer and is based on the Renegade MTB tyre. I'm yet to try the MTB version of this tyre, but Burry Stander and Christophe Sauser have been racing it all season in mixed conditions, so the tread pattern itself is likely to be pretty good. My only thinking is that you can't lean a cross bike over the way you can an MTB, so that shallow tread might be limited to dryer conditions. We'll see. There's also a file tread design, but I'm not that interested in them — check out the video below for more info on them.
The Terra is undoubtedly the tread that will be most exciting to UK riders who for a long time have had a choice of Rhino's or, err, nothing (and thanks to the extortionate cost and lack of availability of Rhinos, very often chose nothing). What's also exciting is that Specialized is entering the sport in such a serious way — choice is always a good thing, and up till now we haven't had any. With any luck, it is the start of a trend, with more big companies coming into the market in the near future. Cross is on the up, and a great way of keeping your brand in the public eye during the winter months, especially now the sport is growing so quickly at a grassroots level (the people who actually buy this stuff). Personally, I don't think Specialized will be the last to challenge the dominance of the european tubular industry — exciting times all round.

Visit cyclingdirt.org for more Videos

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mallory Park National Trophy

National Trophy Cyclocross, Mallory Park
Mallory Park has an unenviable reputation as a venue that eats bikes, riders, and the enthusiasm of all who step over the threshold. I'm glad to say that I, my bikes and most of my enthusiasm for cyclocross are still intact, despite a completely mediocre result.
I ended up coming 28th yesterday, which on paper is my second best result at a National race, but I still feel a bit disappointed. I never really got going in the race — a lack of traction and enthusiasm being the main culprits. The Vittoria XM tubs I'm using have no central ridge to them, unlike the hallowed Dugast Rhinos I borrowed from Kevin to use in Ipswich, so I was finding that I had very little cornering grip on the greasy, flat grass corners and cambered straights that made up much of the Mallory course. That lack of confidence meant there were only a few places on the course where I was able to really push on the pedals without fear of crashing. Excuses excuses...
Next round is Southampton in two weeks time. I'm hoping for a return to the top 25.
Photos are all by Dave Haygarth, who came fifth in the vets. Loads more on his Flickr
National Trophy Cyclocross, Mallory Park
National Trophy Cyclocross, Mallory Park

Sunday, November 14, 2010

More great cyclocross photos by Geoff Waugh

Pics by Geoff Waugh, including a few of me — all from this year's Eastern League Cyclocross Series.
Regional Cross - Images by Geoff Waugh

Friday, November 12, 2010

Richmond Park, Autumn, off-road cycling

It's been blowing a gale all week, consequently, there aren't many leaves left on the trees. Shot this today in Richmond Park for Cycling Active magazine.
Wimbledon Common, Cycling Active shoot

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Double whammy

It looks like I've got the cover of tomorrow's Cycling Weekly magazine. I did the shoot back in February or March with Ben Spurrier and Claire Beaumont from Condor Cycles, so it was a surprise to see this shot being used so much later. We spent a whole day shooting covers in Sussex, down near Beachy Head, this was one of the first we did, en-route to where we planned to shoot.
Talking of Ben, he's interviewed on the Condor blog together with another of my shots. I'm quite pleased with this portrait — it was shot on the steps of the bandstand at Southwark Park in Bermondsey.

Proper training

I've been on leave from MBR for the last couple of weeks which has allowed me to train properly. Today I rode over to Mitcham Common to do some specific cyclocross training — 5 long starts with a recovery period on the singletrack, some specific skills training including a dismount (over a log, no barriers available) and then 4min, 6min, 8min and 6min intervals. It's hard to explain quite how beneficial training off-road at race pace can be. At the end of an interval, when your tyres start sliding out on the corners, that's the point when yo become a better rider. Whereas at first you might tense up and dab a foot on the floor, the more you practice at speed, the better you become. Not only do you learn to go faster because of the physical training effect, but you learn to maintain your speed too. Ideal.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Rollapaluza Halloween Cyclocross Video

I made a video of the Knog Rollapaluza Muddy Hell cross race on Saturday night. The best thing about it is the music, by Bush Tetras. The footage itself is a bit meh... I just need more practice, and starting at an almost pitch black bike race was not ideal. Next time I'll try something where there's a bit more light.
All the filming was done with my Canon 7d, shot at 720p 60fps, some of it played back at 24fps for true slow-mo. I edited it in Premiere Pro, which I'm in the very early stages of learning. I can kinda do the basics, but I need to work out how to do the more complex things like colour correction, and do it all much quicker.

Geoff Waugh — Selectism

World famous bicycle snapper Geoff Waugh has a show at the excellent Look Mum no Hands on Old Street, starting tomorrow. Check out Geoff's latest work from Koppenberg Cross on Monday — we went together and seeing his slideshow has got me feeling slightly inferior, the's got a great eye. This is brilliant.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

National Trophy Round 2, Chantry Park, Ipswich. BEST. RESULT. EVER.

At the time of writing it looks like I came 23rd on Sunday at the National Trophy in Ipswich, which is far and away my best result ever. Really, that result is entirely thanks to the better grid position I got after scoring points (well, a point, singular) at the first round in Wales. In Ipswich I started on the third row, eight per row, so I didn't have to fight so hard on lap one to move past slower riders. It's actually quite interesting to me — if you always end up in 31+ position, it's really difficult to do a breaktrough ride as you will always be starting from the back. The minute you score a point and get recognised by the system, you're away, and life all of a sudden becomes much easier. In cyclocross, success really does breed success.
I used Kevin's Dugast Rhino's at Chantry Park and bloody hell do they grip. No way could I lean the bike over like that on my other tyres. It's a real shame as they cost £150 per pair. At least I should be receiving £10 prize money from Sunday to put towards the outlay!
(both photos by Luke Webber for British Cycling)

Sven Nys is terug — Koppenberg 2010

I went to the Koppenberg Cross yesterday to shoot photos for Cycle Sport Magazine. Sven Nys won on a heavy heavy course. The mud was revolting — two bike changes per lap revolting. Still, what's bad for the racers is good for the photographers. The shots here are just a few of many, I'll let you know when the photo feature is due out.
Koppenberg CX 2010
One of the most interesting things about going to a cross in Belgium is the fans. There are thousands of them, and unlike in this country, where the only people who turn up to bike races are other bike racers, and occasionally their families, in Belgium they are just common or garden sports fans. There are a lot of characters too, out for the frites, and beer...
Belgian Cyclocross Fan
For now, check out the last lap, where Sven raced the hardest part of the course on a flat tyre. The descent off the cobbles was somewhere I shot and you can see how off camber and hard going it is in the clip. Definitely a day to be behind the lens!

Oh yeah, I neary got run over by Ian Field on the first lap when he got knocked almost into the ditch by Radomir Simunek Jr. Check the pic — there's some serious elbow action going on there.
Ian Field Vs Radomir Simunek