Category: All Posts (page 1 of 13)

A few thoughts on Mountain Bike racing

As I was watching the US Cup live stream from Fontana last week, I recalled the pain and suffering I went through racing there last year. I recalled the amazing descent of the backside of the course; the blown out switchbacks and lemon-squeezer rock drops that required infinite precision whilst your heart rate was still hovering around maximum. And then I looked back at the screen and I didn’t see any of it. I saw a line of ants riding along a trail. The helicopter view didn’t give me much perspective on the steepness, and I realised quickly that my interest and understanding about the race would have been so much less if I had not competed there the year before. With about 6000 views on race day, the Fontana live-stream didn’t reach a huge audience, but it’s definitely a lot more than would ever show up at an event and watch it live. So what is the value of MTB racing on a live stream, and what are we trying to achieve by putting it up there on the internet?

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Altitude Sickness – an introduction

I’ve never suffered with altitude sickness before. I thought it was a condition that befell only the unfit, the unprepared and the unaware. I was wrong. Having been back in Colorado for an entire week since the trip to England, and having trained hard during that week, I didn’t consider the possibility of acclimitisation being a problem. I agreed to go for a backcountry tour to the Indian Peaks, in the west of Boulder county, without worrying that I was in any way unsafe to be in the hills.

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Old Man Winter: a bike race.

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The Old Man Winter came about due to the new trend of “Gravel Grinders” that is sweeping the country. The idea is simple: we ride our bikes on all kinds of terrain, and races should do the same. I wasn’t sure if it really was a race until I saw the $1000 put up for the winner, and that every self-centred bike rider (me included) in Boulder was lining up to do it.

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2015 Colorado Mountain Bike race Calendar

This calendar was correct as of February 4th, 2015. Some races will get cancelled or change dates, so please check this information carefully. More races will be added when the dates are known.

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The demise of the front derraileur

The Rabo-Liv Team Bike of 2015 World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot

The Rabo-Liv Team Bike of 2015 World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot | Photo by Thomas Maheux via Instagram

A new generation is a rare thing in Cyclocross. With 2015 marking the first World Championship in the post Nys era, the rainbow jerseys were decided by skills and equipment developed in just the last couple of years. Disc brakes are now accepted as worthy of the rainbow stripes, but a subtler change has swept across the pro’s bikes: The front derailleur is no longer dominant, and in its place are a variety of set-ups from both SRAM and Shimano.

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The Balancing Act

Bike riding is fun. You know that already. For some of us, racing bikes is just as fun as riding bikes. The rush of pinning on a number, sharing conspiratory glances with competitors on the start line, and drinking the best tasting beer at the end adds another level to why we’re in the cycling community. But then comes the urge. The urge to get faster. Somewhere in there, riding around mid pack fails to satisfy you. You want more. You think about that dreaded word “training”, and decide to stop waving at fellow riders travelling in the opposite direction. It’s a terrible spiral.  For those of us who live in the cycling mecca of the Front Range, we’ve lost a lot of friends down such a tortuous pathway. At some point, when you’re hammering straight past another awesome photo opportunity while struggling to stay attached to your riding ‘buddies’, you realise something is wrong. Really wrong. But it’s OK. There’s a balance to be found. Training to become a cool person who takes photos and still wins races is a difficult balancing act, and it takes way more dedication than just chugging the occasional protein shake and weighing out your quinoa every morning.

To be outside at the nicest of times, when the sun is shining brightest, you have to suffer through a few thunderstorms first.

To be outside at the nicest of times, when the sun is shining brightest, you have to suffer through a few thunderstorms first.

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A Year in (more than) 12 photos: 2014

Thinking about 2015

The arrival of December marks the end of the cycling calendar for most people, me included. I can’t race US National cyclocross champs, and because I’m staying in Colorado this Christmas, I won’t be racing UK nationals either. With no more racing to do, it’s time to start thinking about next year!

I’m very sad to say that the Red Ace Organics MTB team won’t be continuing next year. As with every sponsorship agreement, it was going fine until the plug got pulled. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to fill in the details more publically. I will be riding in Boulder Cycle Sport colours for 2015 and beyond, and I’m very happy about that.  BCS has given me some solid tasks to pay my way. I will be helping to manage and coordinate their club mountain bike team, which is an enthusiastic bunch of local racers. Part of this will be leading group rides, teaching beginner and intermediate level skills clinics, and helping newer racers with how to prepare for races around Colorado. It feels like a solid and tangible plan, and one that can be measured easily by Boulder Cycle Sport and me. I’m excited!

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Playing the rabbit

Cyclocross is its own nature. The animals found between of the course tape on a saturday live according to their own set of darwinian rules. An ecosystem of it’s own. Sculpted by the evolutionary force of lactic acid pulsing through the veins of the chased and the chasers.

I played the rabbit this weekend. Chased by the cunning fox behind. It’s a law of averages: the higher ups in the food chain normally win. But the prey has to give it a shot to survive. Sitting and waiting to be caught is only for the weak. I bolted from the gun. Scared. Eyes dilated and lungs shocked into action.

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Brady Kappius played his typical game; get to the cameras first. An obstacle in their own right, the photographers mark the trickiest sections of the course. They’re the thorns that we run through, hoping to emerge without fumbles and falls caught in their boughs.

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The good races

It’s always so much easier to write about the good races. The successes. Words flow onto the screen as I scrutinise each detail; I can elevate the minutia into a blow-by-blow account. Saturday was a success, so I expect the following post will be exactly as described above.

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