Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Old Magic

As mentioned in the last post I've been getting back into some bike racing after about an 18 year break. So in the spirit of this I decided to enter the North West Regional Road Race championship race. Carefully chosen as it was being held near Garstang in Lancashire and hence would be pan-flat! Last time I entered this race was back in 1990 when I was young and fit and bursting to get into the big league. That year it was held somewhere in Cheshire and again was flat and by some happy chance (and obviously a fair bit of sweat and suffering) I won it!! The pinnacle of my racing career and the reason I got the opportunity to head off to the continent to race for the following 3 racing seasons. That year I was racing in the big boys race, category 1 as it was then before Elite was introduced above.
My current Race Licence is for a Category 4 racer, so I entered the cat 3/4 race. It's been both fun and frustrating racing in this level of race. Although I'm no where near fit enough to go in the higher levels I find myself frequently frustrated by the level of riding (ie. weaving and wobbling) and tactics in the cat 4 races.
This race was no exception. The field was fairly large with 60 riders allowed, the not too technical race circuit was around some fairly quiet roads and we were escorted by motorcycle marshalls who stopped the traffic as and when it appeared. Luckily the day dawned dry but a bit breezy which could have resulted in the field being blown apart if there had been a team or individual rider who had put in an attack at just the right moment. I could see exactly where the best spot would have been but I didn't have the legs and fitness to do it myself and no-one else either did, or saw the potential.
Riding around in a big bunch of riders can be alarming at times especially when big sturdy chaps decide they are coming through and barge you out of the way. I'm no stranger to a bit of moving people when needed but I definitely felt a couple of times like it was getting a bit hectic.
The race was 5 laps of a approximately 10 mile circuit having been reduced by one lap on the start line (result!!). For the first 4 laps small groups tried to get away of the front of the peleton but no-one managed to make a significant gap and the group stayed together. I was riding in my Manchester Wheelers shirt ( first time in 22 years) and there were 4 other guys from the club there too. Some of them showed on the front a few times, dragging the peleton along but ultimately not really accomplishing much. I decided staying sheltered in the bunch was a way better idea!! Come the last lap things started to hot up and eventually a group of about 6 riders managed to get away and stayed away until the finish (just!). The rest of the group then just wound the pace up and up and up as we neared the finish. There was no full on sprint finish as the pace was already high. I managed to stay up near the front of the group, my legs were screaming and cramping but I gritted my teeth and kept going right to the finish, coming home in 18th place and as the first member of the Manchester Wheelers team.
I have to say I was pretty chuffed overall, and feeling psyched to get some more racing under my belt as the summer goes on. Maybe the old magic will come back in force with a few more miles in the legs????

Thursday, 10 May 2012

A bit of everything.

Ok so mostly in the last few weeks my life has seemed to involve pulling on plastic with the odd bit of rock and some pedalling thrown in for good measure.
Ian Hey back from 18 months in the deep south and cranking again.
This last week has seen a brief respite from the miserable wet-ness and a full weekend of real rock climbing - who'd have thought it?!
Last Saturday (my birthday - yes I am indeed quite old now) Ian Hey, Ruth, Rob Adie (and Buster) and I went for a little trip to the Churnet valley. Now looking at the map it really doesn't look that far from the Roaches but good grief it seems to take forever. That combined with not just 1 guidebook which doesn't make the approach to the car park clear but 3 of them!! (Niall Grimes I think you need to write a better description!) It's all very well saying follow Red Road from behind the pub - but frankly finding the appropriate pub seemed to be the crux. This was my first visit to the actual crags last time I tried to go I failed to find them after flying into a rage whilst trying to drive a large van around narrow lanes where all the junctions seem to be those 45 degree ones where you can see absolutely nothing when driving the aforementioned big white van. On that occasion I left the area before spontaneous combustion could occur!
This visit reinforced with another MIC and an MIA I though nothing could possibly go wrong! Not the case. And after the piss taking I got from Ruth when I returned home without finding it last time it was sweet revenge to see that she couldn't just find it immediately either!
Ian on Ousal High
But find it we did and so we got to sample the delights of some Churnet sandstone. We headed to Ousal Crag for some traversing - topping out definitely not very appealing! Then along to Cottage Rocks, very pleasant. A stop into the Ramblers Retreat - nice pie but how long does it take to bring 3 drinks, a toasted teacake and piece of Damson Pie? I'd hate to be there when it was busy!
Last stop of the day was Wright's Rocks which was more a fact finding mission than much actual climbing as by then skin was thin and it was also getting a wee bit chilly.
I think I'll be headed back there sometime especially when the weather is looking a bit dodgy, it was bone dry down there with reports of rain and wind and cold elsewhere in the Peak - result.

Sunday was a new day and a very different venue I headed off to Malham with Jonny G for some beasting. Jonny was psyched to get the tick on his Upper Tier project Herbie, and I wanted to open an account with New Dawn down on the catwalk. I can safely say that both these objectives were attained - nice one Jonny! New Dawn well it might take a while but I'll be back for another go........if I can just sort out that nasty move at the start!

On a more random note I seem to have gotten back into cycling a bit of late, mostly due to Ruth deciding that she wanted to start having a go at racing. We have both been going to the cycle circuit at Ashton for their tuesday night race series. Ruth has done the last 3 weeks and I missed last week due to excessively tired arms. So anyway the first week was VERY busy there was a field of 55 which is a hell of a lot of bikes and riders on a small circuit, especially as quite a number of them didn't really seem to have quite the control of their bikes as would have been ideal. But not that surprising as it's a race for the lowest category riders (Cat 4), which is what you automatically are until you earn some points to move up through the ranks. I did alright that first week but I was a little bit cautious as I don't really want to get involved in any Mark Cavendish style crashes......what an horrendous move from the other rider (Roberto Ferrari).

This week I was feeling a bit more confident the field was smaller only 22 and everything went more smoothly. The pace was slower despite my best efforts to liven it up, everytime I tried to push things on the group would chase me down and then sit up rather than continuing on at any speed......probably worked out for the best as otherwise I might have been absolutely destroyed and unable to put in any turn of speed over the final laps. As it was I managed to come home 3rd after narrowly avoiding another rider who punctured on the final bends.
Pretty chuffed with that and it meant I won back my entry fee.