Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A Day in Photos.

Inspired by team mate Simon's recent blog about photos (see here http://simonernest.blogspot.com/2011/03/life-in-colour.html ), here's a photo "diary" of me exploring the Ochil Hills on the day of Paris Roubaix.

The Ochils, where i got genuinely confused as to which side of the road i should be on thanks to a combination of Alpine scenery, warm weather and no traffic. In fact, the only vehicle i saw on this whole stretch of road was a horse!

A view out over the Firth of Tay. Beautiful.

Twas a fair old climb up to the car park at Pitmedden forest, somewhere i've been meaning to try out on the MTB for a while. Someone leaned out of the back of a land rover to take my photo as i struggled up the hill too, which i thought was only adding insult to injury...

On the day of Paris-Roubaix, it just seemed right to hit the pave (or maybe grave, in fact), although cobbles were lacking (perhaps not a bad thing!). Even with road maintenance like this, I love Scotland.

The rather imposing silhouette of Falkland hill, where there's much more scary mtbing to be had - not sure i'm tough enough for it though.

Nearly home - heading for Ceres with the first buds of spring just starting to burst on the trees. Ah, bliss.

Friday, 8 April 2011

BMBS 1 & The Goatee of Filth

I’m already failing on my New Year’s resolution to keep my blog up to date – the last few weeks have been mostly spent running to stand still however. So, here’s my update from the last two weekends, just before the next one starts. Firstly, BMBS 1 at Sherwood Pines.

BMBS Round 1
Clipstone, it transpires, is really quite a bit further from home than it was last year. However, it would also be fair to say that last year, it would have taken a less feasible, and much less desirable journey to get to the first round, as Rachel and I were sunning ourselves, and trying to fix her ankle in Gran Canaria. What a difference a year makes!

In the week running up to Sherwood, the weather switched from cold, windy and rainy to warmer, windy and slightly less rainy. Spring was coming to the East Neuk, which meant it had probably arrived down south; the Sherwood effect of warm sunshine, dry fast trails, and dust-choked racing looked like a realistic prospect yet again. Yet again, i found myself hoping for some rain to slow the racing down, i don’t know what it is about skimming trees at 30kmph through the singletrack, but i’m just not good at it, especially early in the season when i always struggle for speed (actually, being rather a diesel, i struggle for speed all the time!). Anyhow, my prayers went unanswered (next year maybe i’ll sacrifice a furious fred or two to make it clear i’m serious), and as we headed over the Forth Road Bridge it was dry, warm and sunny.

Waking up the following morning after a night spent at my parents, it seemed like maybe the weather gods had been listening after all, as it was overcast and noticeably colder than the day before. I was feeling hopeful, maybe Sherwood wouldn’t be a dirt crit after all. The remainder of the AW team were driving up from Reading, minus “Turbo” Tim Dunford, who had had rather a rough week and was too under the weather to race (given how tough Tim can be, you know it’s bad when he says it’s bad!). We all met up for a couple of laps of the course, which showed significant improvement over my last experience of a Sherwood BMBS with some trickier lumpy sections through the trees to keep you on your toes at race pace. Suitably prepared, we then had some photos taken by the inimitable Jake James, photographer to the stars (well, an excellent cycling photographer anyway!), including at least one of me gurning as i feared for my life on the wall ride on the skills loop – oops.

A relaxing evening spent at a luxury apartment near Derby, and an excellent Jamie Oliver pasta-based dinner provided by Dr. Ernest, and it was then time to go to bed. Rachel and I were first up, just in time to get her to the Elite women’s start at the unsociable time of 9:30am, especially given the loss of an hour’s sleep (it always feels like more, i reckon she started at half-six at the latest!). I had a nice chat with Maxine’s mum in the feed zone, and we compared notes on what it’s like to live with these elite women in some depth, whilst simultaneously trying to keep track of who was where. It’s a tough life being a feeder!

After Rachel finished, i had a few minutes to kit up, warm up and head over for gridding. From the second row of the grid, i had a good view when the Elite riders demonstrated how not to duke it out in a start, as half the field came to a stop after a crash on the very first (and very slight) corner of the race. Thankfully, this year, we got away with relatively little incident, and with less cruel “roadie traps” than the log on the 2009 course that claimed two collarbones, and showed up my total ineptitude at bunny hops (see video below) that was probably just as well. I had an ok race, not spectacular, but not terrible. I felt like i rode hard, and i was chuffed that only the front 5 elite riders caught me on my last lap, but i wasn’t exactly challenging for the podium. Early on, Nick Evans and i rode together, but as we turned onto a fire road mid-race, Nick turned up the pace and i was soon on my own. On the last lap, i came across Doug Shearer on his fancy new Rocky Mountain, evidently not having such a good ride as a year ago, but then the season is long! I rolled across the line a few second adrift of Doug in 28th, with my usual post-Sherwood regrets of feeling able to carry on at the same pace.

I did find one photo of my trying to give it the beans courtesy of Arthur Green. I’m looking forward to Dalby more now though, i’m liking my climbing more and more.

Goatee of Filth 2011
The following weekend, it was time for the much vaunted “Goatee of Filth” an homage to Shaun Kelly, and the fantastic early-season classic de Ronde van Vlaanderen. Put another way, it’s an excuse for the VC Moulin guys to get together, go for a nice ride in the hills in Fife, try their best to find as many cobbles, and then eat cake at the house of Martin and Susan. Having never been to Burntisland before, we were a bit concerned that we may do our usual trick of setting off in plenty of time and still being late. Our over-planning backfired spectacularly and we were the first ones there just after 9am – oops.

We set off up the “warm up” climb just after 10am – and what a warm up! A SRAM fail later, followed by a short stoppage at Ian’s house to pick up a spare bike (good old cyclists eh – how many motorists do you know who have a “spare car” lying about?!) for Marty Savalas, and we were off again. The last 20 miles of the ride were spent trying to play roadrunner to the big black clouds on the horizon, similar to those that had made the last year’s epic all the more, well, epic. Amazingly, we survived, and returned just in time to see Nuyens win the RVV in an amazing sprint against Chavanel and Spartacus. Oh, and have a chortle at Simon’s last climb cramp that ended with him making a spectacular leap into a ditch, resulting in a chicken and egg confusion about which came first. Amazing food was laid on by our gracious hosts, and all too soon it was time to head home tired but happy.

Goatee of Filth from martin steele on Vimeo.

Until today i wasn’t sure how this weekend could possibly try and match the last two, but now it’s clear as Scottish tap water – this weekend will definitely be the one where i get my first sunburn of 2011! Bring on the wrinkly knees....