After 16 years as a professional cyclist I have decided to retire at the end of the 2013 season.
I have had a great time during my career with the highlights being three Olympic Games, a Commonwealth Silver medal, five National Senior Champ Titles and two Top 10 World Champ Finishes.
My last MTB race will be the National series Final on the 18th August, a race which I go into leading the series. I will hang up my pro wheels after the Cyclo Cross series where I intend to defend my National Trophy Title.
My motivation has always come from working hard to achieve new challenging goals. These future goals will now be off the race track.
I started BW Cycling (bwcycling.co.uk) with Andy Wadsworth a year ago and will focus on making this business as successful as possible, passing on my experience to help make faster, happier and more comfortable cyclists. I have always enjoyed coaching and helping riders and intend through BW Cycling to work with a number of cyclists from participation to elite level.
I have been fortunate to have been sponsored by Endura (endura.co.uk) during the last 3 years. I will continue to work with Endura to develop the MTR range of mountain bike clothing and to work on other projects.
Thanks to all my current and past sponsors and thanks to all the people who have supported and worked hard to help me during my cycling career.
The Old and the New
It is crazy when I work it out but 2013 will be my sixteenth year as a Professional Cyclist. I turned professional in 1998, to be honest this does not seem that long ago and I do not feel like an old guy, despite the aches and pains. I think the main reason for this is that being a bike rider keeps you young, at the end of the day messing round on a bike is a childish thing to do, which is why we all love it. Simply it takes us away from the adult bullshit in our lives and back to being a 15 year old punk.
2012 was one of my toughest but satisfying seasons yet. I have done some things on a push bike that I will always be proud of but coming back from what for many would be a career ending injury to winning National level races in some ways has topped all my the other achievements. Not making it to the London Olympics sucked and watching from the side lines hurt a bit, especially when the riders were being called up. That’s one of the bits of the big races that I love and ultimately feel I had been robbed of that memory.
Before my injury I had won enough National races that I gave up counting and to be honest races at this level were not motivating any more they became simply part of the job. Having to start again from zero after my injury changed everything and these races were now a big target.
It took me to June to achieve my goal, winning the third round of the series. I was then on a roll both in fitness and in confidence and I went on to win the next two races and take the series overall. I got to ride the World Champs at the end of the year, my 18th Worlds. I did not have a great race with a technical problem, but pulling on a GB jersey again was the icing on a good 2012 cake.
Having had a long enforced break the previous winter I did not feel the need mentally or physically to take much time off at the end of the MTB season and decided to take on a full National cross season. It is something that I always had down to do and I like the simplicity of the discipline. The races are one hour in duration and it is a fight from start to finish. You need to gauge your effort and know when to attack but its fast from the gun.
Cyclo Cross is also extremely technical but in a more subtle way than say big rock gardens on a DH bike. The speed that you ride and the general slippery terrain means that it is a balance between power, braking and traction, in damp conditions by applying just the right amount of pedal power at the right time you can increase the grip and you can feel the tires bite into the earth, in the same way you would in a race car.
I have raced cross in patches previously with a National win way back in 2005 and a few top 5’s at the National Champs but never taken it seriously, had all the right gear and done the specific technical training required to make the grade. Going into the start season I was quite open minded about how it was going to pan out, the only thing I did know is that I was in for the full winter.
I started the National series well with a 4th at the opening round and then followed this up two weeks later with a 3rd behind two Belgians in an epic muddy race in Ipswich. This was enough to take the yellow leaders jersey and the series overall was now on. I lost the jersey at round three but had good races at rounds four and five and took back the yellow jersey going into the sixth and final race.
To win the series I needed to finish ahead of cyclo-cross specialist Paul Oldham. I had a good race having a close fight with Belgian based Cross pro Ian Field and Belgian Van Houts which came down to the last lap and I ended up 3rd. To take the series at my first go was a great result and along with my National MTB series I took an off road double that had not been done since 1993. Who says you cannot teach an old dog new tricks!
Going into the 2013 season I have decided to step away from International XC racing and focus on domestic targets. With no Olympic Games to qualify for and my top 10 World Cup days behind me it made sense to mix it up in the UK , try and win some big races and get exposure for Endura and my other sponsors in the large MTB, road and cross races.
Riding internationally is great but it is tough, not just the quality of the competition but the travelling and living out of a bag takes it out of you. Last season I stayed at home during the back end of the year but my energy into the National race and was rewarded with three wins. My main aim is to take a National Champs and win the right to wear the Champs jersey again. During my cycling career I have won 16 National titles, from under 16 Youth to Senior but it would be great to get another before I hang up my race wheels.
I have two chances this season, well three actually if you include the Road Champs, but taking on the might of team Sky and the rest of the UK pro peloton single handed on a flattish circuit is near on impossible. My chances will come at the Marathon Champs in Sterling in June and the XC Champs in Glasgow in July and these are the events that I will focus on mentally and in my training.
I have had a bit of a rocky start to the season with a lack of form in March and then some illness in April but the training is defiantly on track and the signs are good that come the start line at the Marathon Champs I will be at my best and hopefully give the guys at Endura the job of printing a nice new White Champs jersey.
It was time to go back to my MTB racing roots and head to Matterley Basin near Winchester for the opening round of the Southern XC Series. Whilst Matterley itself was a new venue the regional race series has been run for twenty plus years and as a Junior racer and then a young senior rider the races were a big target for me. As I began to race internationally the regional races got pushed out and it has been a long time since i made an appearance.
The first two MTB races of the year had gone poorly and i had worked really hard over the last three weeks to turn good basic fitness into race speed. This involved some horrible turbo sessions, some fast MTB work and a few less flapjacks. Whilst the race would not be a National level event some of the elite riders there in particular Adrian Lansly and Ben thomas are top 10 guys so It would be a good test as to whether the hard graft was paying off.
Myself andLansly started hard and then on the big climb on lap 1 I put in a big effort and got a good gap. Unlike the previous MTB races I was able to hurt myself and felt like i was riding fast and smooth. Over the next 5 laps the gap grew steadily and I crossed the line 2mins up.
It was great to see Regional MTB racing is really healthy right now, with good size and quality fields in all categories, a great course and a professional but relaxed atmosphere.
Been close to home my family were able to come along too and my eldest daughter joined me for a bit of podium action.
After the hard start to the year I have ended my MTB season on a high at the National series final and the World Champs. Where I ended up with a few numbers that I am rather proud of..
3 National race wins out of 5 races..
My 9th senior series overal title..
My 17th appearance at the World Champs.
After a dismal start to the season I managed to turn things around by June winning the third and fourth races. Going into the fifth and final races I had a narrow lead over 2nd place and needed a top 5 to secure the series.
On a fast dry course I knew things were going to be tight and at mid distance the front group was 6 men strong, but I was feeling comfortable and biding my time. I started to attack and with a lap to go was on my own and feeling better than at any point this year. I crossed the line a minute up and took my 3rd win of the series and the title overal.
After a quick trip to Eurobike, where I was on the Endura stand showing off the new MTR collection that I helped develop, it was off to the World Champs in Austria. I did my first Worlds as a 16 year old way back in 1992, if you told me then I was going to do 16 more of them and be riding 20 years later I would of said you were bonkers.
After a tough 12 months my World Ranking has dropped sharply and I had to line up 72nd out of 105 starters, its been a long time since i lined up closer to the back than the front. Its a scrap back there especially at the first bottle neck section. I was moving forward on the first main lap when disaster struck, the chain wrapped up on a rough descent and the front meck twisted. Luckily i was close to the pit and could get things straightened but the damage meant i was stuck in the small 28 tooth ring!
My bike was far from perfect but my moral and legs were still good and I set about moving back through the field. Over the next hour I overtook 30 riders but ended up a disapointed 52nd. However it was great to make it back to a World Championships after my broken hip 12 months before.
After a month break from racing I am taking part in a full domestic cyclo-cross season, which peaks with the National Champs on January 8th. Now Ive never won one of them before..
Last weekend I took part in the UK National Champs near Reading. It would be my 14th Senior National Champs and with a record of 5wins and 12 podiums so far I was hoping to make it 6 wins and definatly make it 13 podiums.
The course was flat with long sections of winding singletrail, so the complete opposite of what i like, but after a few road races there was some power in my legs. I got a great start and was so relieved by this fact that I got a bit carried away and proceeded to smash the first lap. Then on lap 2 when race favorite Liam Killeen started flexing his muscles I found myself in a bit of trouble.
The next 3 laps were not fun at all as I tried to limit my losses whilst my legs came round, which they did with two laps to go and i was able to fight back from 5th to a podium 3rd spot.
Its been a good month for press coverage, in particular a great full page shot in Outdoor Fitness, the big mens monthly. Which was run alongside an article about overcoming injury written by my strength coach Andy wadsworth.
Also currently out is a 4 page feature I have written in Privateer magazine Issue 10, on my Olympic experiences and also my monthly Know-how feature in what MTB.
Next event up is the Chain Reaction Marathon on August 5th
It seems like winning bike races is like waiting for a bus, you wait for ages and then 3 come along at once!
The week after my win at the 3rd British National I headed up to Scotland to take part in the Glentress 7hr, the main event in a week of cycling activities at the Tweedlove festival. As much as I love riding my MTB i am not a masochist and think 7hrs on a mountain bike is a bit heavy and teamed up with Scottish rider and Endura supplied Rab Wardell to ride the pairs event.
The Glentress 7hr is a great event where people still push hard and compete but there is a relaxed and fun feel. This combined with a lap that takes in some of the best trail centre trails in the UK and some natural sections and you have the makings of a tough but sweet day out.
After 11 laps of the course me and Rab took the win in the pairs category, fair play to the tough guy who won the solo category doing 10 laps!
Two weeks later I was north of the border again for the 4th Round of the British XC series at Killougtree. The course was based around the trail centre there but with heaps of off piste singletrail that was made super technical from Saturdays torential rain.
Thankfully it was dry on Sunday, my legs were going round well and I kept it steady and upright on the techncial roots to take my second national win of the year.
Full report and some great photos from Andy Whitehouse at the British Cycling site
With a few weeks off MTB racing its road racing time, with the National Road Champs, Beaumont Road National Series and Stafford Crit National Series.
It has taken a little longer than i wanted (but less than i was advised) but 9months after my hip fracture I made it back to the top step of the podium at a National race.
The race was the 3rd round of the five race National series and took place at Hopton Castle near Ludlow. The course was a good one with a long climb up followed by what seemed by endless flowing singletrail down, the type of trail that you would ride for fun with your mates. After the man made scaryness of the recent World Cups it was sweet to get to be able to enjoy the berms, the jumps and speed.
From lap one I was off the front with Dave Fletcher for company, who is in his best ever form, having finished a PB 45th at the world cup the week before.
On the climb i would get a small gap which he would pull back on the descent. Starting the last lap we were still together and well clear of 3rd. I was just getting ready for a very painfull 15min of racing when i heard him puncture, having had my fair share of bad luck recently it was someone elses turn.
It was great to win a national again and was a massive relief that i could still do it! Report and photos at
Next up is the Tweedlove MTB festival in Glentress where I will be cometing in the 7hr pairs enduro with Scottish legend Rab Wardell.
Been a professional cyclist is a great way to earn a living, how could making something that is a hobby into job not be, but it is not an easy life. The obvious hard bit is the training, eating well, the crashes and missing out on many a party. However the hardest part and far less obvious is the pressure.
When you are a young amateur you having nothing to lose, you are an underdog, you hit every race with without pressure on your shoulders. But on signing your first contract this changes, you are now a pro, you are accountable and there to be shot at. Your ability to place well in bike races pays the mortgage and every year or two you need to sign a new contract. Add in a family and all of a sudden it is a very serious contract occupation no different to any other, only we work in lycra not a tidy suit.
When you are winning and riding well then it feels like the best job in the world but if you have a long bad patch, the pressure builds and pressure often makes you ride worse, it’s a vicious circle.
How many football teams get on a losing streak? They lose a few games and the pressure builds, then they try too hard and as a result play badly, their heads drop and it then takes an almighty turn of form to win again. When they do turn it around they are so relieved and play so relaxed that they have often had a winning streak.
I have been on a losing streak recently and been feeling the pressure. Coming back from a serious injury and wanting to make the Olympic team, which was my original goal before my broken hip, was always going to be an extremely tough but I wanted to, had to give it a shot.
Even though I have defied many peoples belief that I would not race at an elite level again, this is not a good enough result for me. I do not want to imply make up the numbers but be as good as the week before I crashed where I placed 9th in the European Champs.
This not surprisingly has turned out to be easier said than done. I managed to get back to racing in just 6 months, taking part in a big 3 day stage race in Cyprus in late Feb. I was nowhere near top fitness and was still walking with a limp but booked the trip so that I had something to aim for and to find out exactly how much work and what work needed to be done.
The answer was about 1min to slow in a 20min lap, which in my mind was not good enough to make the trip to the opening World Cup sensible. My hip and the damaged muscles passed the test and to my relief I was able to take risks on the descents and at the start, but I was simple not fit enough.
Over the next 4 weeks I trained as hard as possible ready for the next race, the opening National Series. Normally I would be quite relaxed at a National having done and won a load of them in my time, but this was not a normal year and I needed a good race for my mind and to prove that I was back, there was pressure. As a result I got a bad start, was then trying too hard and crashed heavily into a tree injuring my shoulder.
This was far from the start I wanted and needed and then I felt under more pressure, the vicious circle. I trained hard again, but the shoulder injury was bad and kept me off the mountain bike and out of the gym, defiantly not good and more pressure as knew I was not 100% heading into the first World Cup.
What I needed at the 2nd World Cup in Belgium was a basic hilly course that was test of fitness, what I got was an intense technical affair, which required a lot of skill and strength. After my first days practice I was mentally struggling but after a second day of practice felt a bit better after giving myself a good talking too and taking on some of the more difficult drops.
In the race I was gave it my all on the opening laps but could just not get my fitness out on such a testing course and the pressure got to me and I mentally cracked with 3 laps to go, struggling to commit and dropping back through the field.
The following week was the second round of the National series and although I was talking a good race, my mind was a mess, full of self-doubt and pressure. The race went in a similar way to the week before, a good couple of laps followed by a lack of commitment which resulted in my worst National for years.
I knew that my fitness was good and my shoulder would improve soon. I needed to keep trying, try not to put too much pressure on myself and then get a good race in. The race I picked to try and do this was a round of the Swiss National Series, which without doubt is the toughest national series in the world, with every race like a mini World Cup.
To make the most of the trip I headed out early for a few days at La Bresse in the Alsace region of France, this is the venue for the 4th round of the World Cup, which has always been a big aim of mine. As I headed off to Gatwick airport I wondered if I was doing the right thing, mentally I was in a bad place and here was going off for 5 days in my own company.
But as soon as I got to the mountains my mood lifted and my first days training was positive, the second even more so. For the first time in a while I felt 100% healthy, was riding well on and off road and enjoying the course and the surrounding trails and road cols.
I rocked up at the Swiss Cup tired from training but happy. Although was again feeling the negative of self-pressure. I told myself there was no expectation and it seemed to work and on the start line alongside the world best riders I was relaxed.
I had a poor start but quickly moved up through the field and was riding well; I was enjoying the race and feeling good. The negative thoughts of previous races never entered my mind and I was able to fight for the whole race finishing physically empty. Whilst my 15th position was good but not amazing, compared to my previous results this year it was a massive improvement and a huge mental relief and proof to myself that I am over my injury and can still compete at the sport at level at the highest level, the pressure is off.
It took a little while, but after 8 months out of the game i finally made it back to the start line of a World Cup race.
The second round in the series took place in Houfalize in Belgium, it is the classic MTB venue having hosted 19 world cup rounds since 1989. The course used to be a hilly epic but with shortened lap and race times enforced by the UCI (the governing body) the race is now an intense, technical affair based on one steep hill side. So great for spectators but not so good for skinny dudes like me who like big long climbs!
Having missed the opening round I had to line up 74th on the grid out of 175 starters. With the need to get in the top 50 to get a better griding for the next race I went out hard over the first half of the race but ultimately paid for my efforts and lack of racing at this level so far this season and cracked. I eventually crossed the line in a disapointing 95th.
But it was great to get back to this level of race and finish, which will only make me better next race. To find out how much better i only have to wait till sunday and the 2nd round of the National series at Dalby Forest which is a big one as it is registered UCI Cat 1, so lots of points to win and foreign riders to fight off.
Here is Part 5 of my recovery series from mylifept.com and shows the work that my physio Rich Bricknell has been doing to try and get me walking and riding again.. www.bristolphysiotherapyclinic.co.uk
Im back on my MTB!!!!!!!!
4 months after breaking my leg Im back on the MTB and mylifept.com were there to record it all
A vital part of my recovery from my broken leg is the work I am doing with my strength and conditioning coach Andy Wadsworth at www.mylifept.com . If i did not do the work in the gym my body and in particular my glutes would not work correctly and not only would i be more likley to get injured but I would be down on cycling power too.
Mylifept have produced some video clips showing what i have been getting up too in the gym and on the bike.
They are up on youtube and also been running on Cyclingnews.com and Bikeradar.com, check them out on....
When luck runs out!
It is easy to take your body for granted as usually it works so damn well, it is an amazing machine and combined with a mountain bike you can climb mountains, descend crazy descents, jump, hop, sprint and keep going for hours.
Then all of a sudden something goes wrong. It can be a crash or an over use injury or an illness, but the result it the same we have to stop. The pain and discomfort is bad but as a serious rider being unable to ride your bike really sucks, even more so when it happens to be your job.
I have been a racing cyclist for 21 years old and during that time i have a catalogue of injury’s ranging from a broken wrist to knee tendonitis. Considering how many times I have hit the deck and how many times miles my knees and back have had to endure I consider that i have been pretty lucky, but my luck definitely ran out in August this year.
During a World Cup XC MTB race I am constantly pushing yourself to the limit, the competition is that fierce that you have to fight for every second, both uphill and down. As the race enters the last couple of laps I generally start to feel the fatigue, the legs are fading, your arms are a bit weak and your concentration starts to drift. This is the time when you struggle to hold your line and you are more likely to crash.
The course in Czech was brutal, a mix of five steep climbs and descents on a mix of root strewn wooded trails, with some manmade rock sections to test the skills. Before the race i texted my coach ‘this is going to be one of the most physical races i have ever done’.
On lap five of seven on a flat section I had one of those classic crashes that all mountain bikers have had where one minute you are good and the next you hit the deck, so quickly that you are still holding onto the bars. Normally I would be up quick sharp but not this time as I landed awkwardly on a large root. The pain was insane and Im not sure how I managed to get off the course. The result was a fractured neck of femur, in other words I broke the ball of the hip joint off my leg.
The next seven days were the hardest of my life. The highlights being.
-Holding my leg onto my body as I was moved from stretcher to stretcher.
-Unable to communicate with someone who is just about to nail your leg back on.
-Being told you are having liver failure and need an operation, when you know its just because you have done a wc bike race and need some food.
-Being injected with unknown substances.
-Wondering if you will be able to race a bike again.
-Developing a massive bed sore and no one giving a shit.
-Hopping up the steps onto a plane because someone chump forgot the lift.
During this period though I had massive support from my family, in particular my Dad who flew out to help me, my friends and my employers Endura, which without would of made a dark period a shade blacker.
After hooking up with a UK hip surgeon on my return I had a full MOT and the Czech fella’s had done a fine job and I should be able to make a full recovery. I was told that my injury would require a 12 week rehab period with no weight on the leg for the first 6 weeks. At this time I was just happy to be home and in one piece (metal assisted) but after a week became pretty pissed off with the situation. After a couple of bad days, a few tears and a several slaps from myself I came round and it was rehab time.
Despite only being able to use one leg I got in the gym with Andy after only 2 weeks and hopped round the gym, working on my good leg and my upper body. Sorting out my weak skeletal shoulder blades was a job I could be cracking on with now. Getting exercising again was great, giving me some structure and keeping me happy. Then after 4 weeks I was allowed in the swimming pool, where i did aqua running, which is possible the most stupid form of exercise ever invented, but beggars can’t be choosers.
After a long six weeks i had my half way check with the surgeon. The x-rays showed that the bone was healing well and it was time to start putting up to half body weight through the leg. He also gave me the go ahead to get back on the bike, well an indoor one, limited to a 200 watt maximum. This is 6 weeks earlier than i was originally told which has been a massive boost.
After 6 weeks of not using the leg for much it is in a bit of a mess, with some things tight and some things weak and wasted. The result was that my first 10min bike session was like a joke, as my leg was going in and out so much i was worried that the damn thing had been put back on the piss.
But now 6 sessions in and a heap of off the bike work I am getting there, the comeback has well and truly started.
Seventh National Series Overall Title.
On the weekend the 5th and final round of the National MTB series took place at Newnham Park near Plymouth. With my injury i was obviously out the race but have scored well in the previous four races the series overall was still mine.
The rules state that the overall is based on your 4 out of 5 best races, but you must attend the final. Luckilly attends means be there to go the podium not start the race. So i hobbled down with the family for a day at the races, see a few friendly faces and collect my 7th senior series title.
Some podium shots, featuring Zoe and Emma wanted to get up on the stage and Emma one second away from a champagne shower!
Life, sport and bike racing is a mix of highs and lows. After the high of my 9th place at the European Champs (my best result for 3 yrs) I came crashing down to a massive low only a week later at the sixth round of the World Cup in the Czech Republic.
The race was great big crowds, well organised and a super tough course, which featured tough steep climbs, technical descents and lots and lots of roots. The Elite men were down for 8 laps and I knew this was going to be one of the most physical races of the year.
I pushed to move up on the start loop and took a few risks, one of which did not pay off as I hit a huge rock taking an off-piste line. The tire did not go completely but went to 10PSI and required a quick CO2 inflation. This meant i came round lap one mid pack in 70th.The legs were good though and by the end of lap 5 I was up to 32nd and going forward.
Then near the end of lap 6 things went wrong in a big way. On a flat rooty part of the course my front wheel slipped out and in went down. Its the type of crash I have had a thousand times but luck was not on my side and I landed with my full weight on my hip onto a large tree root.
I never experienced pain like it as I dragged myself of the track. After a painful trip to hospital and an xray it turned out that I have a fractured the neck of my femur, in other words I have snapped the ball of my hip joint of my leg!!!
Its a bad injury but I am lucky as there was a complete break but everything stayed in place and the hip did not dislocate. I was operated on that night and they pinned and plated the joint.
My Dad stepped up and flew out on the Monday to help me, which was fantastic, as being on a Czech hospital ward, language issue, dealing with the insurance company and being generally worried would of been far more challenging on my own.
I managed to get home to the UK on Saturday and go to a UK hospital. The consultant was happy with the work they had done in Czech and now I can begin to recover and rehab. Basically this involves 6 weeks on crutches with no weight on the bad leg and then another 6 weeks working up to full weight. I have exercises to do but no riding for 12 weeks!
At least it is almost the end of the season , I have only missed 4 races and like they say if it does not kill you it makes you stronger..
Photos attached of me in hospital looking positive and a nice shot of some metal work ( i hope they put titanium in there!)
Today I was taking part in the European Champs in Slovakia today and things went really well and i finished in 9th place.. My last top 10 in a major race was back in 2008 at the Worlds, so happy yo know there is some life in the old dog yet!
The course was tough one, more physical than technical, which is what i prefer.. I started 30th on the grid but got through the start crashed and chaos in one piece and began to move up.
Eventually with two to go i was in a 5 man group fighting for 8th place.. Most of the time i lost to the group in 4th to 7th in lost in the opening lap, but thats the way it is when you start 30th.
The last lap was brutal as the group split and 3 of us sprinted out for 8th, i led out from a km to go and got done by the German champ but held on for 9th..
Sorry no photos yet, but there will prob be a report on the British Cycling website soon
I set off to the 5Th Round of the World Cup in New York State, USA with high hopes, as the training had gone well as had the previous National race. But sometimes things just do not go to plan.
With the races become shorter and therefore faster this year a good start is essential. I was gridded 37Th and with hope of a top 20 result was going to need a good one. The gun went bang, clipped in, started to sprint and there was a big crash on my left which then took me out!
Thankfully me and my bike were in one piece but it took a while to untangle it, get my chain on and by the time i was going again I was dead last in 105Th place. The next few laps were chaos and i was either sprinting to get passed someone on a wide trail or stuck waiting in the tight stuff, frustrating and a killer interval session.
By the end of the race I finished 41st, disappointed but still with ranking points and as people keep saying at least you did not break yourself like Brad Wiggins
There are always other races and i only have to wait 7 days till the National Champs, the form is not going to go anywhere!
I am now doing a monthly coloumn for What MTB called BikeFit covering all aspects of fitness, training and some riding pro tips. Part two is in this months edition- August 124- Fuel your ride.
It took a few months but I finally made it to the top step of the podium on Sunday, taking the win at the 4th round of the UK National Series..
With my good results in the early rounds against the foreign riders meant that I also wrapped up the series overal with a round to spare.
The race took place at Margam Park in South Wales. a bit of a favorite venue of mine and one that shows my age as I won my first ever National Series race there as an under 16 back in 1991.
The circuit is hilly and super tough and after heavy rain on Saturday the sun came out and the temp reached 28degrees, making the long climbs tougher. But my recent hard work paid off and I was away on my own on the 1st climb and then could ride at my won pace, coming home nearly 7mins up on 2nd place, the Irish champ Robin Seymour.
Another week of hard training and then its time to rest up a bit as I travel to the USA for the 5th round of the World Cup on the 9th July and then the National Champs on the 17th July.
Full race report and results at http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/mtb/article/mtb20110627--MTB--Beckingsale-and-Harris-dominate-Margam-0
Photos attached courtesy of Paul from the Orange Monkey Cannondale team
After the high of the Dalby World Cup, with the high finish (despite the mechanicals) came the low of the next round in Offenburg, Germany.
The legs had come round well and I was on the pace of the good guys, After 5 of the 7 laps i had worked my way into the top 20 and things were looking sweet. But then for the second race running I picked a slow flat, unfortunatly it was a way to the pit and i had slipped back to the 50s. I got a few back but ended an unhappy 48th. taking an overal 31st into the Mid season break.
But at least the form is good and I know that a top 10 finish is achievable now, something i would not have said at the start of the season. I just need to keep my push bike in one piece.
After an easy week it was back to work with the road miles and then the 3rd round of the National Series on the weekend near Reading. The rain hit big time on the Sunday and turned the flat singletrail circuit into an ice skating rink. I was lacking a bit of power as a result of my training and felt like i was going sideways more than forwards sometimes but dragged out a 4th place.
A disapointing result but one that extended my lead in the series
Full results, pics and video at
The Bike Riders United also produced this real nice film from the Dalby WC following my weekend.
Next up is more training and the 4th National race on the 26th June,as i build up to the big races in July and August
Its been a good month for me in the UK MTB magazines.
In the June edition of MBUK I have written a preview of the upcoming World Cup race in Dalby and got me and my Look 986 in there in the process. Then in the June issue of MBR there is a 10page interview based feature and a guide to a ride on the Quantocks.
Both mags have had a re-design and look great.
The season is now in full flow and it has been a busy 10 days with the second round of the National Series taking place in North Yorkshire and then the first World cup race taking place in South Africa.
The National Series race took place on the course that will be used for the second World Cup round in May. That combined with the UCI category 1 points and prize money ensured that, like in Round 1 a large number of foreign riders made the long trip over. In fact on the 10 man front row I was the only British rider, with Canadian Geoff Kabush and French ride Maxime Marotte the riders to beat.
After 2 of the 6 laps the race was already in small groups and I was in the front one pushing hard with Kabush and Marotte. On the long climb I was feeling good and on lap 4 Marotte cracked leaving just me and Kabush to fight it out. I was getting away on the climbs but then getting pulled back on the descents and in the end I had to settle for 2nd, but happy to be only 16secs behind a World cup winner.
Video of the race at http://vimeo.com/22574473
From Dalby I headed off to PieterMaritzburg in South Africa for a far bigger test at the opening World Cup race. The first WC is always a nervous one as all find out for definite how the training has gone and all the warm up races results are forgotten.
The track was really tough with a lot of singletrack climbing and a number of crazy technical rock sections that would not have looked out of place on a Downhill track. The lack of overtaking places was going to affect the race and with my grid position of 53rd (based on my less that great 2010 World Cup overall) it was going things even tougher.
The race went off fast and I was feeling it on lap 1 but then started to move up well on laps 2 and 3 overtaking riders on the climbs when it was possible. But I was struggling on one of the rock sections and losing time and giving some places back.
In the end I had moved up but not as much as I had liked and I crossed the line in 40th. This will now be my grid position for the next round at Dalby Forest on May 21st
The weekend saw me in action as the domestic MTB season kicked off with the 1st round of the XC National Series at Sherwood Forest.
The race was a World Rank Category 1 race so the ranking points and prize money on offer was enough to tempt 15 foreign riders over that swelled the field to over 60 riders. In particular 3 riders from the Rabobank MTB team were here inc World top 25 ranked Emil Lindgen and the current Junior World Champ.
The race at Sherwood is flat, fast and includes massive amounts of tight, twisty singletrail and a good start is essential. I got an absolute shocker and was back to 20th exiting the start straight. I had to fight like hell on lap 1 to get up to the front and by the time i got there Emil was already 15 sec up the trail.
I set off in pursuit with another Rabo rider, Marco Minnard on my wheel who then jumped me on lap 2. The race then became a rather painful time trail, with 20sec gaps between the top 3, which grew to 40secs by the finish.
The top 6 ended being-
1 Emil Lindgren Giant Rabobank - 6 laps in 01:45:01
2 Marco Minnaard Giant Rabobank - 6 laps in 01:45:39
3 Oliver Beckingsale Endura MTB Racing/Look - 6 laps in 01:46:20
4 David Fletcher Boardman Elite - 6 laps in 01:47:06
5 Jody Crawforth Specialized UK - 6 laps in 01:47:48
6 Michiel Van Der Heijden Giant Rabobank - 6 laps in 01:48:05
It was not the most fun day out but I will happily take the result, esp on a course with no climbing. To to end up top brit with a solid start to the series and 30 world ranking points was a good weekend.
Interview from the race and some talk about Olympics at http://www.winkball.com/walls/JmMS3ep75mVG/the-british-xc-mountain-biking-series-nottinghamshire
There is a full race report at the British Cycling site at http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/mtb/article/20110327-MTB--Euro-Stars-Light-Up-Sherwood-0
Next up is the Second Round of the National Series on the 17th April followed by the opening round of the World Cup in South Africa on the 24th April
After a few days recovery and steady riding following the one day race it was time to get going again at the Cyprus Sunshine Cup 3 day stage race.
The event takes place up in the Troudos Mountains and is proper Mountain bike riding. The event consisted off a Time Trial (over 1 lap of the XC course) a 50km point to point race (that peaked at 1250m and included a 500m vertical descent downhill section) and then a traditional XC race to finish. In other words it was going to be damn hard
The race was graded with the UCI as a HC (higher category) stage race and is one of only two in the world this season at this level. So there was a lot of World Ranking Points and also prize money at stake. So despite it being early season the competition was hot with 15 riders in the top 50 in the world in the 110 man field.
The time trial race was brutal as the course was hilly and technical, so as you raced it you were going way into the red and then hitting some scary stuff. My legs were pretty good and I felt I paced my effort well. In the end it was good enough for 11th place, which improved on my 14th rank so a decent start.
The next day’s Point to Point race is a classic and I love this of racing. Riding the course mostly blind, big hills and big descents. In this case a really big climb and descent, with the last climb a 45min whopper followed by a technical 15min descent. I was motivated and feeling fast and hit the front on the climbs and going over the top of the big climb I was sitting in 5th 60secs off the lead.
I was holding my own on the way down but then disaster struck. I caught a female racer near the end (who set off earlier) and on a steep hairpin bend she went wide so I cut in tight but lost the front wheel and crashed hard. I got up pretty quick but was beat up and damaged my rear shifter. I got to the finish and ended up 17th and dropped to 15th overall. The bike was fixable but the whole in my knee and my strained thumb a little less so.
I was pretty beaten up in the morning but started the XC race positive but after the start loop and one lap I had to call it day. Which was not the way I wanted the weekend to end, but that is bike racing.
Next up is a couple of weeks training, a road race and then the First UK national.
Couple of photos below of me in full pain during the TT, courtesy of Ian at Orange Monkey
After all the training it was finally time to pin a number on and start my 2011 season. The original plan was to start with a warm up road race in the UK last week but illness put paid to that, so my first start was the Cyrus Sunshine Cup Round 1.
The Cup features 3 international races and are the first European races of the season, with a one day race UCI Cat1 , a 3 day UCI HC stage race and another one day UCI Cat 1 making up the programme. Three weeks sounds a bit heavy to me in February so I am just doing the first 1 day and the big stage race.
Out here we have formed a bit of an unofficial GB team with Team Orange Monkey/Cannondale’s Paul Beals as Team Manager. There is 4 Orange Monkeys, Lee Williams of Wiggle and Myself. The last time I was out here was 2006 but the Monkey's (that will be the orange ones not the 1960s Beatles rip offs) have been year for the last 5 years so have things dialled.
Being the sunshine Cup it was obvious that it was going to piss it down all night before the race, turning the fast hard clay into it a mud bath. But come 11.30 and a bit of sun it had almost dried out and the fast XKing Contis were back on
The first race is always a nervous one, new kit, bike and uncertainty in how fast/slow you are actually going, compared to 85 other dudes who may be at 100% top form or still plodding at 90%. Basically you have to be open minded and I was going to be happy if my Thumb (which had to be operated on in November) stood up to the test and feel like I was in the mix of the race.
The course is a tough one for a season opener with 210m of climbing a lap for our 7 laps and with some rough and technical descents it was proper Mountain Biking. The two start loops were flat out through the village and on gravel roads. There is something about this scary start loop chaos that still gives me a bit of a rush after all these years of racing, and it is the same feeling in a fast bunch sprint in a road race.
After 2 laps I was sitting/dangling off the back off a 6 man front group and feeling OK, but after another 2 laps my lack of winter MTB riding caught up with me and my legs started to tire on the really tough bits. A couple of small groups caught and passed me but I kept it together to cross the line in a average 12 place, 2.30mins down on the winner.
My thumb was good and was no bother all race, which was a big result, my new Look bike was fast and my basic fitness was good. What I need is to toughen up a bit and I think a 3 day stage MTB race this weekend will defiantly do that!
Below are re a couple of photos, one of a training ride and getting our breaths back at the finish
Full report and results can be found on Cycling news
The new team is officially up and running with a new website and a swanky team launch down in London City. It has been a pretty busy few weeks since i got back from training camp, what with sorting the bikes, photos, fliming and hard training. But it is all come together, the team looks great and I am riding pretty well too.
Team site is www.enduramtbracing.com it is pretty cool esp the homepage with me riding.
There is a news story on there all about the team launch and some videos that go with the road team. I make the odd appearance in the training camp film. The location was the design museum near Tower Bridge and it was a big affair esp with 18 riders. Here are some photos of me and the new Look986 race bike and then a team shot, there is only one palm tree in the photo the other is actually Dave Clarkes hair.
This winter I have been lucky to have two new training tools in my garage, a Wattbike ergo and a concept 2 rowing machine. The guys from Wattbike paid me a visit and did some filming.
The clip is not just me on the wattbike but includes some in depth training chat and other bits and bobs, check it out
Spent a few days up in Scotland doing some photos and fliming for the new Endura MTb racing website which will launch soon. Also got to give my new Look 986 a good thrashing around Glentress. If you click on my facebook link it will take you through to a load of shots from the fliming day.
Beckingsale and Pritchard help Endura diversify for 2011
Top UK mtb’er makes the switch to ambitious Endura set-up, whilst Scottish Commonwealth track cyclist Chris Pritchard puts Endura on the boards.
After many years at the top of UK mountain biking Oli Beckingsale has committed to a 2-year contract with Endura, starting in Jan, 2011. The 2006 Commonwealth silver medalist has been at the top of UK mountain biking for over a decade, and moves to Endura after another successful 2010 season which saw him defend his UK MTB Marathon title.
Speaking about his move from Giant to Endura, Oli stated:
“I am really happy to be riding for Endura for the next 2 years. It is a strong British company with a long history with mountain biking and will give me the product, support and flexibility to work towards my long term goal of not just competing in the London Olympics but producing a result that I can be proud of. It’s not all about the Olympics though and there are a lot of Big races in the UK and abroad that I want to play a part in next year, in particular the home World Cup round in Dalby and the UK National Champs.
It is also great that the hardware suppliers of the road team, Look, Sram and Continental have also come on board with Endura MTB racing and I could not ask for better equipment to do the job in XC racing.”
With the emergence of the Endura Racing road team as major domestic force in UK pro-cycling, 2011 will also see Endura further extend their sponsorship into track cycling. Chris Pritchard took the bronze medal in the Keirin at the 2010 National Track Championships, and went on to represent Scotland at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Dehli.
“2010 was a great year for me, with the Commonwealth Games and my performances at the National track champs.”, states Chris, “It’s great that a Scottish business like Endura has come in to held fund my progress, and I am very excited to be using and help develop the excellent Equipe clothing range.”
Chris’ programme will focus on the track with specific focus on a number of criterium races in the summer months.
On announcing the signings, Jim McFarlane of Endura said:
“After putting so much investment into the road team we were keen to ensure that the Endura and Equipe brand reach also extended into other cycling disciplines, so we were keen to back some athletes in MTB and track cycling. Chris’s involvement will be very useful in helping Endura make its first steps towards track specific Equipe product which is an interesting niche within cycling and we are delighted to have such high quality representation on the boards.
We have a long and well-established background in XC in general and we have known Oli for a very long time having provided various kit for him over the years. Oli isn’t just fast, he is a very switched on rider and the ideal guy for us to be working with on a separate focused range of performance XC kit that is the MTB equivalent of our Equipe range – and that’s exactly what we’ll be sweating over for the next year, hopefully launching the range in 2012.”
Oli, Chris and the 2011 Endura Racing team will be unveiled at a prestigious launch event in central London on the 3rd of February.
First of all Happy New Year.
During my 6 weeks of been un-able to ride outside I had to ride on the indoor trainer a lot. Most of the time it was for 1-2hrs but there was a couple of 3hr sessions in there too.
I know there a lot of people who are forced to spend a lot of their winter training time on a damn bike that does not move due to work and family commitments so thought I would pass on a few things that found worked for me.
- Get it level
Before you get going make sure that you bike is not on the piss and leaning to one side. Then make sure that the seat is level and not pointing down at least.
- Get a fan
Not someone to cheer you on (though that would prob help) but the metal spinning variety. Even when it’s cold you still need some air flow to prevent you sweating buckets.
- The trainer
If you are going to have to train inside a lot it is worth getting a decent trainer, as there is a big difference in smoothness/feel between models. I am lucky to have a watt bike in the garage which is an awesome bit of kit.
Music or TV, whatever works for you. But counting down the seconds looking at the garage door is not good for the soul.
- Warm up
Get at least 10 mins under your belt before thrashing it. Try 5 mins easy and then 5mins steady.
- Keep it varied
I think the longest you should you any one thing is 5mins. Remember it is not just the Intensity that you can change but cadence, in/out saddle as well. If you are always changing things around the time will go quicker.
- Have a plan
I found it best to write my session down on paper before. If you make it up on the spot it is too easy to make it easier!
- Time off
If you need to do over 2hrs I found that the best thing was to stop every 50mins and do something else for 10mins. I did 10mins on the rowing machine and then got going again for the next hr. You could do 10mins of gym work like core/press-ups etc. When you get back on you feel a lot better and time goes quicker when you break it down like this.
Hopefully the ice does not return the evening get longer soon and you do not have to ride indoors as much.
In my last proper blog I described how my last race of the year was ruined after less than a minute by a massive start straight crash that beat up my hip and also my thumb.
Well it turned out that I got a little more beat than I first thought. I had my thumb x-rayed the following day, which found no breaks and I was happy that with a couple of weeks of rest it would sort itself out. But after I returned from my holiday 3 weeks after the crash it was still swollen, sore and just not right so I got an expert to check it out.
When I mean an expert I mean a MTB mate who luckily happens to be a surgeon, who is specialising in hands. He is an expert but my check up happened to be in my mates Pips garage over a pint of cider following the annual Halloween MTB night ride (see photo below).
The opinion of Jezza, sorry, Dr Loveridge was that it appeared that I had ruptured a ligament and to get my arse into see him the next at the hospital hand clinic the next day. When I got into see him his and his boss’s opinion was an operation, which would be followed by 6 weeks in a cast!!
I had a rather cool looking batman style black cast put on there and then and 6 days later I was been put to sleep, to be put back together..
When I came too I was given some good news by Dr Jezza and that was that the ligament had been stretched but had not ruptured. They had tightened it up and I was only going to need 2-3 weeks with a club hand.
The prospect of 3 less weeks of showering with a bag on my hand, not driving, writing with my left hand etc meant I left the hospital pretty happy with life. In fact perhaps they should do this with every patient... Before an operation tell them that it is really bad and then post operation tell them it’s actually not as bad as that, giving the patient a positive to go home with.
Anyway, like with most things it could always be worse and through the experiences of some of the people around me I feel pretty lucky. Training wise it is not really effecting things and a combination of gym, running and ergo training I am training hard in a cross training sort of way.
One bit of new kit that is defiantly helping right now and will continue to help even when I am able to ride on the open road is my new watt bike ergo (www.wattbike.com). Not only is it smooth and solid to ride but allows me to really do specific drills as I can sprint flat out on it and never get on top of the gear. I am also doing a lot of specific pedalling and cadence work which really works on this machine. Like them geezers at Sky Cycling Team say ‘its all about marginal gains’.
Halloween night ride, Dr Jezza is in the black and yellow scott top..
Check out the following interview, with Felice, our Giant Factory soigneur..
as well as being a super soigny she is a xc ski shredder.
You can tell that I amnot riding that much right now. As well as joining facebook I am now up and running on twitter as well, this will be soon be linked through this site too. I am at
I am now on facebook, search out Oli Beckingsale (not oli beck), send a friend request and we are good to go!
Well the season did not end quite as I planned, in fact far from planned..
I entered the first Cyclo cross National Series Race on Oct 10th and was feeling pretty good having felt like I had hung on to some form from the end of the MTB season. The weather was perfect, being sunny but wet in the week so the course was a bit slippy but not a mud bath.
I was gridded on the third row but got off the line badly and going into the first sweeping right hander I was prob mid pack in the 80man field. Then it all went wrong, 2 guys went down, Nick Craig hit them and went flying, then I hit the bikes and went air born, landing on a bike.
A few other riders then rode into me and i found myself taking while to get up and find my bike! Normally with some good old adrenalin I get back on my horse pretty quick but not this time. I had the worlds worst dead leg, as a pedal had gone into my hip/leg and i could not walk, let alone pedal. I had also given my thumb a good tweak somehow.
I was in a bit of grief so decided to sit down for a bit. My family had come for the day out and saw the whole lot happen and came over. My eldest daughter Zoe looked after me and found the fact that she was looking after me for once pretty entertaining.
Anyway, 3 weeks later and my leg is almost back to normal but my thumb is still sore and swollen so seeing a specialist tonight to see if its damaged or I am just impatient.
Thankfully the injuries did not stop me enjoying my 3 week break and I am now relaxed and getting back into some training, with some gym work, some easy rides and lots of MTB whilst the trails are still in decent shape.
Last weekend I attached a number to my MTB for the last time this season and took to the line for the UK National Series final.
The race was registered as a UCI category ! race which makes it important and With me and my big rival tied with 2 wins and a second each it was going to be a winner takes all affair for he National series as well.
The race was at Newnham Park in Plymouth, which some of you will remember hosted a World Cup XC race back in the 90s a few times. It is also pretty local to me and ive raced there loads over the years and generally like the place. The course was a good one, a short 17min lap, 3 hard climbs, some nice singletrack and some fast stuff. With all the steep climbs and lack of rough stuff the XTC hardtail was given an outing.
The race went off hard and when myself, Lee Williams and the visiting Norweigan champion got a 30 sec gap, i made sure the pace was kept high to keep Liam distanced. Lee got dropped on lap 2 and things were all going to plan, then on lap 5 of 6 I attacked the hardest climb and was away on my own.
In the end I crossed the line for the win, with lee 2nd and Liam back in forth, so my 7th National senior series title was in the bag too. Its always nice to finish the year on a high too..
As soon as I crossed the line my 2nd race started, the race to get back to Bristol, in my suit and into town for Simon Richardsons wedding (ex Mtb rider and now road rider for sigma sport). Four hours after crossing the finish line i was suited and booted on a bar terrace sipping on a gin and tonic with Rach and in time for dinner. So i felt like i had won twice that day.
No race shots im afraid but attached is a post race interview shot and a podium one.
There are no more MTB races but i am not doen quite yet as I am racing in the first round of the National Cyclo cross series on the 10th Oct and a local warm up race this week.
Last sunday I took part in The UK Marathon Champs (100km) and having finished second in the XC champs I was keen to defend my title..
Having returned from the Worlds in Canada on Tues and not feeling too grand all week i decided to go low profile and get to the race on Sunday and ride the 25km loop blind, which always adds a bit of excitment..
The course was tough, hilly (2500m total ascent), rough and with lots of techncial singletrack and very little forest track. So it was going to be as hard on the brain concentrating for 4.30hrs as it was on the legs.
From the gun Lee Williams went out hard and I was forced to follow (he is top 5 UK XC guy) and we were 3 mins up after the first 25km lap. At 45km Lee got tired and I was left on my own, which was not great as i was enjoying the company..
I put my head down and ploughed on. The last lap was brutal as I felt like i was fighting the rough course as much as the other riders. But kept it steady to win by 10mins and take my second marathon title..
Another hands in the air if you just dont care shot
The last big international race has been and gone. It was def a case of saving the best to last, as the World Champs in Mont Saint Anne were an awesome affair.
The venue is a classic in MTB terms hosting the Worlds way back in 1998 and a World Cup round every year since. The organisers put on a great show, the crowds are big and the courses fun and really tough.
I had some personal demons to face, having had the worst crash of my career on this course only 12 months previously. But a load of technical training , time on the course and the help of my anthem X fully I was riding smooth and confident on race day.
Been more of an uphill pedally sort of guy I am never going to be at my best around this type of track but rode strong and moved up all race from start spot to finish up in a solid 26th spot.
Attached are some photos from Jake the official Giant snapper from the World Cup final and the Worlds
There is no rest for the wicked, as I now have my National Marathon Title to defend this sunday (12th Sept) then the UK National final on the 26th.
I am now 10 days through my Canada/US road trip which includes the World Cup final and the World Champs and everything is going pretty well.
To start the trip I hooked up with the GB National team in Mont Saint Anne, Canada for 5 days of pre Worlds prep. Many of the team had been here a while on a training camp but for me I felt that a couple of days to get over the travel and time difference and then a few days on the Worlds course would be enough.
The course at M-S-A is a classic and despite being altered a bit each visit it has remained pretty much the same. It is one of the toughest courses around being super physical and technical and requires you to be on the ball on 95% of the course.
The Worlds were also held here back in 1998, when i was a last year under 23. Which is scary to think about as that was 12 years ago!!
From the train camp I then headed Stateside to Windham, New York for the World Cup final. I was looking forward to racing in the US with my American team and team mates and def enjoy the amazing trailer set up that they have. Only problem is it makes me wish it was at every race.
The race course was awesome, my favourite course all season. It was mostly an up and down affair but there was always short downhill technical bits on the climbs to stop you getting bored. The main DH was technical and a good rider could make up time here but not overly so, courses where you have 50 people stood around in practice hoping there balls will grow enough to ride a section is not cool.
Come race day there was big crowd and good weather so everything was set. I had good legs after the first congested lap and started working my way through from my 50th grid spot. On lap two I was into the 20s and feeling good and then I flatted! I decided to ride it to the pit instead of putting a tube in which was prob not the best move and cost me a bit more time as it was super sketchy riding it down.
However I did not feel too bad about the flat as it happened to loads of guys on the sharp rocks that were littered on the downhill, guess i should of opted for the thicker tires, isn’t hindsight a marvellous thing.
By the time I got going again I had lost about 3.30mins and was back to 70th. I still had 4 laps to go and the legs were good so I was still motivated and at the finish had got back to 39th, not a good result but not bad considering. The World Cup has def been a downer for me this year and I have not a smooth race all year which sucks but thats bike racing.
I am now back with the National team at the Worlds venue, relaxing and recovering from the race. Its nice to know and have been on the course already as do not feel pressured to get practising too soon, hopefully it will pay off with a good ride on Sat?
I realised today that it is possible to tell my state of moral (and pretty much every other athlete) by the frequency and quality of their website blogs. When life is sweet I want to tell the world how things are going and am motivated to write interesting entries to go with the cycle results stuff. On the flip side when things are bad the last thing I want to do is revisit bad experiences and talk about bike racing.
One bad period occurred at the end of July with the 4th and 5th round of the World Cup in Champery in Switzerland and Val di Sole in Italy. I had trained hard and had good moral (this is proved by my frequent and full blogs).
But at the first of the races I crashed badly in the first lap chaos and bent my knee in a way it should not and had to pull out. I was unable to walk all week but could pedal in the seat OK by the weds and was able to do 2 practice laps the day before the race.
The race in Val di Sole was a big target of mine having placed 10th here at the 2008 Worlds and I had trained hard for weeks with this race in mind. The race started well and I moved into 30th from my grid of 60th after 4 of 7 laps but then began to stall a bit.
My lack of riding during the last week was catching up with me and by body began to crack. At that point I began to crack mentally, which is pretty rare for me. But to be honest to be at a race that you have focused on and to not be 100% through injury is hard to swallow.
I ended up crossing the line in 43rd and was a grumpy bastard for a day or two. Moral was coming back (I could tell because I thought about writing a blog) but then I got really sick and was out of action for a week and went back to being grumpy again (def no blog entries)
However things came round, like they always do at some point and I got back to training again. In fact training over the last 10days has gone really well, all the hard technical MTB riding and hilly road rides have been paying off and I feel ready for the final World Cup race and the Worlds.
Which takes me back to my original point, I have just written a proper web blog so things must be on track.
Check out this months MBUK magazine for a feature i wrote on the Giant team camp......
After two second places in the last 2 years behind my rival Laim Killeen i was not in a rush to add another silver medal to my collection. But in the end it was not to be and i had to be happy that i even finished at all.
The race started well and I attacked from the gun on the hilly but technical circuit. I got a gap after half a lap and then on a rough section of course i had a freak mechanical and the chain came off the front ring (i was running i chainring and i chain guide). 30secs of wrestling later i was back on track and chasing.
I got back to 10secs from Killeen on the 3rd lap and then the chain snapped, i guess from been damaged earlier on.. The only option was to run 1 mile in my carbon shoes to the technical zone where luckliy a National team mechanic gave me a chain.. I lost 6mins in the incident and was back to 9th place..
After a tough chase back i managed to get back to second place on the last lap. So all in all an epic day out in the countryside.
Big shout out to Stephen James of Giant sponsored Pedal on Cycles who broke is race bike in a race crash the week before and ended up using my Anthem X training bike, which he built 3 days before the race and used to win the Junior Nationals, so if i did not win any races at least one of my bikes did.
Next up is World Cup action from Switzerland and Italy.
Here is a photo of me wondering when the bad luck is going to end at the Nationals, thanks to Jason at Suunto for the shot.
Before i start with the race reports, here is a a web interview from www.bikeradar.com
Next week is Bike Radars bike UK show and I have been helping to promote the Dirt Crit race there..The photos in the feature and from the course at Brands Hatch race track
Back to the racing. Last weekend was the 4th round of the UK National on the World Cup course at Dalby Forest.. It was set for another Oli v Liam Killeen battle, but i messed up and it was over as soon as it started.
I got an awful start and Liam got a good one.. By the time i got through to 2nd on the singletrack based course I was 20seconds down, I could not close the gap and we raced solo for the next 5 laps, with Liam going a bit faster crossing the line 1min up.
With 2 wins each from the 4 races, it is going to be a winner takes all at the final in September
On another note if you are up riding in Dalby forest check out the B&B and cottages at
They are located in Wilton a few miles from the forest and looked after myself and the Giant crew once again.
With no photos from the racing, here is a far more interseting shot, of me and my girls walking on some secret Bristol Singletrack through the bluebells.. I love bluebells man
After a few weeks at home trying to get fitter and faster I returned to action in France at the Tour l'ain VTT for 3 days of stage race action. The race was an ideal chance to get some racing in my legs before the important stuff in July The race is a UCI class 3 stage race so attracted all the French teams and Dutch, Belgian and German teams too.
With the requirment to race as a team I guested for the GB National team which was great as there operation is pretty slick.
Day one was a nasty one with a 10km team time trial that climbed a 400m hill, The time was on the 2nd rider. We ended up 5th team but lost time to the other favorites which waa going to be hard to pull back.
The next 2 days were good fun and i wish all mountain bike racing was like this. With 50km 1 lap races through proper hills, with no chance to pre ride you have to just make some mental notes from the map/profile and off you go. which adds to the fun in my book.
Over the next 2 days i got stuck in and tried to pull back the time overal. In the end I finished 7th overal and along the way managed to win the 2nd stage and also the green sprints jersey! So not a bad 3 days work. You may ask how the worlds worst sprinter won the green jersey, well the sprint lines were always handily placed over the tops of big hills.. Think it will be the first and last green jersey i ever win though.
Photo attached of stickman on the podium with said sprint jersey
Its been an interesting couple of weeks thats for sure with good and bad races and some TV work. First up was the 3rd round of the World Cup in Offenburg, Germany. A great venue, with a fast technical course which always attracts a massive crowd.
I felt good during the week and survived the start loop with 220 other guys racing for the singletrack. I was sitting in 40th and starting to move forward but then had to stop on lap 2 in the tech zone to try and fix a steering problem.
Luck was not on my side and the problem got worse and I struggling to keep the bike on the track, crashed and was forced to pull out so not too good.
I had to chance to make ammends the following weekend at the third round of the UK National series in South Wales. It was going to be a tough one with rain, mud and big hills but I was motivated to say the least and attacked on the first hill.
My Old rival Liam Killeen hung on and then put me under pressure on the slick downhills but on lap 3 I got a gap on the climb which grew to the finish and i took the win by 1min. Again the anthem X was great and lucky i had the legs for my MRP single ring today.
Between the races I also got some good PR work in, with a magazine shoot for the Bike Radar Show at Brands Hatch and a TV day with Adventure TV guys Ben Fogle and James Cracknell.
For their latest challenge they are taking on a 2700mile MTb ride from Canada to Mexico in August and with little Off road experience they needed a bit of advice.. So I joined them for a day In Wales to teach them the basics and by the end of the day I got them round the red loop with out any crashes. The programme is being made for BBC and will be on in the Autumn and this will feature in the prep programme.
The first two World Cups have been and gone and they were both awesome events, unfortunately I was not riding as fast as would off liked.
I was prepared for this as I had a bad patch 2 weeks before the opening race, where I trained a bit too much/hard and got sick. A week of only easy riding was def not the best prep and although I was healthy for the race the lack of training and racing showed and i was a bit of the pace, placing 37th at Rd1 in Dalby and 40th in Rd2 at Houfallize.
The races themselves were both great though, with the Dalby race been a worthy WC opener. British Cycling and everyone involved did a great job, the course rode well and the organisation was superb. All the riders I spoke to loved the tech fast course and looking forward to coming back next year.
Moving on to Houfallize which many consider (me included) to be the home of XC racing. The course has been pretty much the same for several years and includes long climbs and technical descents.
This year they radically changed the course basing it around 4 short steep climbs and steep tech drops. The course was made for the crowds/TV but I think it was not as good a race as previous years and some of the magic of Houff was lost.
Anyway I hope that the racing and some training can bring me up to speed and I will be further up the field for my next two races, a massive German National race and then the 3rd WC in Germany also.
Photos below from Houff taken by Prof Passfield my Performance Consultant. The first whilst warming up, honestly i was a bit nervous and the second pulling a less smiley face on course.
Oli Beckingsale carves racing line on The ‘Monkey Trail’
The West Midlands ultimate mountain bike trail – The ‘Monkey Trail’, was unveiled at the Forestry Commission’s Cannock Forest near Rugeley this weekend.
Giant’s Commonwealth Silver Medalist and Olympian rider Oli Beckingsale cut the ribbon and led the first riders out on the new red grade mountain bike trail, which has been designed as a technical route for expert cyclists, starting and finishing at the Birches Valley Forest Centre.
The new ‘Monkey Trail’ is part of a £200,000 project supported by Giant to improve the visitor facilities at Cannock Forest, which includes eight kilometres of new singletrack and some new look features added to existing routes. Cross-country, downhill, and family cycle trails ranging from 1 – 10 miles have all benefited from the revamp and were re-launched on the day with a variety of skills sessions aimed at riders of all abilities. In addition riders were able to test Giant’s Anthem X and Anthem X W demo bikes – the ultimate tool for tackling the challenging terrain.
Birches Valley Forest Centre is already the starting point for the popular ‘Follow the Dog’ technical route. The seven-mile, single-track trail, which was created by Chase Trails as the West Midlands’ first dedicated Cross Country MTB trail, was also upgraded as part of the changes. Now linked together, ‘Follow The Dog’ and the new ‘Monkey Trail’, provide 24 kilometres of the West Midlands’ finest bike trail.
The ‘Monkey Trail’ features some short sharp climbs and long flowing descents, with some extremely tight twists and turns along the way, new features include lung-busting climbing turns, berms, rooty drops and lots of narrow flowing singletrack. The trail is built from locally sourced stone and natural features are beginning to merge into the trail so within a few months it will look as though the trail has always been there.
Wider changes and improvements to existing trails will help more people of all ages and abilities get active and develop a healthier lifestyle. There is an easy green route for families and beginners through to blue and red courses for cycling enthusiasts.
After the winter months it was finally time again to ziptie a number board on and get MTB racing. With the 1st UK National Race at Sherwood Forest. I had road raced the week before (and did Ok placing 3rd in the Evesham Vale RR) but the first MTb race of the year is the time that the real racing starts for me.
For a skinny guy like me who likes hills this place sucks as it is flat as a pancake and with 65% singletack as well its a nightmare to break away from the pack. But riding with a bit of power combined with a bit of tactical nous I managed to slowly get the leading grp down from 6 to 3 to 2 and finally got a gap on my own to take a satisfying win by 40secs from Welsh champ Lee Williams.
Anthem X Adavanced was the weapon of choice and eat up as much bumpy flat singletrack as i could throw at it. Oh and it looks sweet too which I reckon adds at least 1mph.
Next up is a trip to Switzerland for round 2 of their National Series, where World Number 1 Juilen Absalon is on the start line amongst others. This will be a big race as it is only 2 weeks before the World Cup opener and everyone there will be testing their form, so I will not be the only one who is a bit nervous!
Pic from the National race. Arms in the air if you just don't care..
Check out this months MBUK magazine. That gnarly freeride guy on the front cover is actually a boring skinny XC rider in disguise..
Its a cool photo though, taken by Russell Burton at the Rock Drop on the Dalby Forest World Cup Course. I was up there with Doddy from the mag and Nick Craig doing a feature and despite the snow we still got it in the bag, as they say.
Couple of bits of pre season press for you to check out
One is an interview in a newish online mag called imbikemag, mag is pretty cool and some good shots from last years team camp in there, click on
The other is in a small UK mag called Shred, which can also be read on line. Got the cover and an interview inside, click on
Keep an eye out for next months MBUK mag too, as Me, Nick Craigy and Doddy hit the World Cup course at Dalby. It was a good day out and a good laugh, even if the place was covered in snow still. I think me and every other bike rider in the UK has had enough of it now, was fun to ride in the snow for a couple of MTB rides but the novelty wore off in Mid December.. roll on the spring..
What with the snow and ice that gripped the UK for a month or so I cracked and did a runner to Majorca to find some warm/er weather, to finally get over my xmas illnesses and get some good base training, that is so important at this time of year.
I had a week booked here with some mates anyway so it was only a matter of a quick flight change and tempting one of the guys to come a bit early, which was not hard as he had fallen off twice in a week. It was all worth the effort as I am now coming home with 50 quality hours of pedalling in my legs in the 13 days I was there.
Road riding in the UK is generally a bit boring and with our cramped roads a bit dodgy too. But take the same 700c machine to Majorca and things change a lot. The roads there are the tarmac equivalent of quality downhill singletrack. It has the lot, long switchback climbs, and fast quiet lanes, amazing views and relaxed cycle friendly drivers. In fact the only guy who beeped us all week was some Brit in a BMW X5 with UK number plates, oh well; guess a wound up wanker in the UK is going to be a wound up wanker where ever he is in the World.
The island is great for moral because as well as the gradual climbs the road surface is smooth and fast. So much so that when you return to the UK you get road-lag, as in Majorca you roll along at 20 mph whereas in the UK you now seem to have to push to average 18mph.
Anyway it’s back to the colder weather but looking forward to seeing my family and relaxing for a few days. Then it is time to hit the trails and go and play in the woods, as much as I enjoyed whizzing around on a road bike its always the dirt that makes me smile the most.
The worse bit about being a pro rider is when you get ill or injured and at the moment I am ill, which means I am become a grumpy monkey. When you have a normal job a cold means a bit of discomfort but you can normally get things done with the help of some nightnurse or what not.
But when its your job to train/race you end up playing this stupid game of ‘am I really ok to yet’ and most athletes start to believe that 5 days off their bikes will cause body parts to start dropping off. I have been playing this game now for a week and lost the first round as I went out for 2 hrs when ‘kind of Ok’ and set myself back and now have sinusitis which means when I tap my head I have a hollow pain behind my right eye.
I know it is not the end of the world and that I should not be grumpy. But I want to train, want to ride my MTB at Afan on Friday with the boys and am not really in a rush to paint the hall way or sort out my expenses, both of which I have done I having been that bored.
Well my charity auction has been and gone and was great as it raised £570 for the Springboard group and a very charitable friend made a donation too. With some gift aid tax relief means the total is about a grand. Thanks for anyone who made a bid and well done to the winners.
Was up at the World Cup venue in Dalby on Tuesday. Doing some course testing with Nick Craig for the organisers. This basically meant making sure the tough lines were first of all rideable and flowed and secondly to make sure any easy ‘B’ lines took longer to ride than the tough ‘A’ lines. For the record they did and the course is a good one and has been improved since its debut at the National Race in May. There is a lot of time and effort going into this event and I am sure it will pay off.
It was good to catch up with Craigy. He is kind of retired now and so I do not see him at that many races but we spent many a season together and always have a laugh when we meet up. It was probably pretty annoying for everyone else up in Dalby to try and stop us talking and get riding.
While I was there I also got some data in a sports science sort of way. The main bit being getting in a fast lap with all the gizmos on so I have some facts of what is involved. The problem is that I am unfit compared to the summer so to get a decent lap meant I had to go super hard and up the main climb I died on my arse which made the next 6mins of the lap pretty painful and slow.
The 4.30hr drive back down to Bristol was pretty rough to but there was some great radio on between 7 and 9pm as Zane Lowe was doing his masterpiece bit and this week was the Streets- Original Pirate Material. It was played in full with a massive history introduction etc and this made the journey pretty sweet.
Oli Beckingsale Charity Auction.
As a professional cyclist I am lucky enough to get given a fair amount of bits and bobs that are limited edition or generally expensive. Normally it sits around in my garage or given to friends or family but I have decided to get some of the best bits that money cannot buy and auction them off to raise money for a charity called Springboard Opportunity Group.
About me- I am a professional mountain bike racer for Giant Bicycles (www.giantbicycles.com) and have been racing full time for 12 years. In which time I have competed at 3 Olympic Games, have won a Commonwealth Games silver medal and been Senior National Champ 5 times. More information www.olibeck.com
About the charity- Springboard provides support, learning and play facilities for children aged 0-5 with special needs and their families in North Somerset, England. They do a fantastic job and I know this first hand as my eldest daughter Zoe has benefited from their support for the last year. More information at www.springboardweb.org.uk
Whats for auction?
There are 3 items on www.ebay.co.uk and they all end on the 26th November. If you copy the link web search it will go direct to the page.
- Rock Shox SID Beijing fork.
This fork is a SID team fork with special graphics and was given to sponsored only riders for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There were a dozen or so made and this is a one off as it also has the British flags on it. Also in with the fork is a Team GB Olympic t-shirt which were only given to members of Team GB at the Beijing Olympics.
Giant National Champions Jersey 2008
This jersey was one of 5 that was printed for me for the 2008 season when I was National Champion. Unworn and cool as ice
Giant Team skinsuit 2009
This is a Giant Global team Skinsuit. Printed for team issue only and not for sale anywhere, ever. Unworn and one of 10 made by Hincapie Clothing in the USA.
My time off has been flying by and some more bike related things have begun to happen in my life so I can write an entry of some interest. I had my standard 2 week blow out with no exercise, plenty of booze, crap food and fixing the house.
I have now started to hit the gym in a serious way and have been working with my mate Andy Wadsworth. I used to ride with Andy years ago before he set up his personal training business.
His clients include a number of top golfers and he also coaches elite cyclists.
I have been seeing Andy to work on some weak spots that I have and it’s been an achy but positive couple of weeks. I have worked with strength and conditioning coachers before but never on a weekly one to one basis and the difference is massive. The hour that I spend is 100% quality, in terms of the correct form and the intensity. I come home wasted as I have to concentrate so hard to do the exercises properly but things are coming along nicely.
On another note I had a day over at Forest of Dean last week with Doddy and the rest of the MBUK crew racing husky dogs! In turns out that the Forest is a hot spot for Husky racing crews who are carried round the forest roads on cart/mtb type things. They challenged the mag for a race, so I was brought in for a bit of XC fire power. It paid off and I managed to give the eight hounds a good kicking. It should make a great feature and will out in December I guess.
For some recent press check out the following link at the Telegraph magazine
Where as well as a pretty picture I am included in their 5 pro cyclists best autumn rides feature.
This week I have mostly been listening to the Stone Roses, the second coming album
Another season has been and gone and like always time flies.
My last race of the season was the Roc D’azur classic down in the South of France near Nice. The race is awesome and in my mind the best MTB race in the World. Thats a bold statement I know but how many events have 25 degree temps in October, start and finish on a beach, have 14,000 competitors with 6,000 riders in the Sunday 53km event, a massive expo, a World Cup BMX race and a really good tough real MTB trails to race on.
You may realise that I like this event and even though it hurts when you ride fast I love racing it and would be down there even if it was not my job. If you fancy a good time get down there with some mate (easy jet fly cheap to Nice) and get involved in 2010.
In my race over the classic Roc one lap 53km XC race I was riding ok despite doing more walking with baby Emma on my back than riding during the previous 2 weeks. In the crazy wide up start I worked it well and got into the narrow stuff in 7th place which made sure I could ride with the front group. I hung on over 2 big climbs till past half way but then had to except that I did not have it for a top 5 and settled into a rhythm that would see me cross the line in 2.12hr for a decent 10th place
The weather has been good in September again in the UK as it has been for several years now and basically this rocks. I enjoy this time of year a lot as there is no real tough training to be done just riding to keep everything going and you basically race of the condition you have built up during the previous months.
Or though sometimes you get to this time of year and have a complete mental and/or physical collapse. Last year I had both symptoms after 2 years of chasing the Olympic dream and was nailed. However this year I have been on the chose life programme and as a result and still in fine spirits in both body and mind.
So for the National final in Plymouth I was up for it and pretty pumped to win at home. The legs were not great but good enough to ride hard for the first 2 laps, the two visiting Czech guys hung on but then come lap 4 I went hard on the main steep climb and was all alone. The course was dry and good fun with some nice flowing singletrack and my anthem X fully was in its element.
I crossed the line 1.30min up with a big smile and took my 6th National series title too, which was cool. It was also cool that my wife Rach and my older daughter Zoe made the trip down to watch. Zoe got really into it and could not stop shouting ‘go go daddy’ all day which also made me smile.
After the podium I legged it back up the M5 to Bristol as I had an end of season night out planned with my 3 road race buddies that live local and ride for Rapha Condor. We had to get one in before they all headed to OZ for racing and winter vacations. It was a good solid night and the Guinness helped re fuel me for sure, oh and the kebab at 4am.
Photos below from www.britishcycling.org.uk and Dave from Giant
After a couple of nights at home I was back off to Europe for Round 8 of the World Cup at Schladming in Austria. There have been races here for ages and quite often they hold the World Cup final. It’s a nice place and all that and enjoyed my one ski trip here with Giant Europe.
The venue has a great DH course and they love the epic 4.30min length but the XC is always a bit of a bodge. This year was no different and involved some stupid steep riding up hill on grass and some downhill on grass, which is just plain rubbish in the wet and plain boring in the dry. Then we did some slightly better bits in some woods that are never dry and then a km or so off criterium racing round the town.
The course was crap but did suit my abilities after a steady start I rode my own race and picked off a load of guys. I was closing on the top 10 pretty quick but then my legs started to tie up a little and I dropped a couple of spots, crossing the line in an ok 19th. Not great but after the last 3 races World Cups it was a nice way to finish the year and push my overall up to 34th, which again is far from great but not bad.
The overall is important though as the next World Cup is Round 1 in Dalby, England and we line up on the previous year’s result.
The race was ok but the part was awesome. Usually the season ends not with a bang but more a pop. We race on a Sunday, people start to go home, the town has been wrecked by people on Saturday night so a few XC guys ended up having a pint in a random pub. This year we raced on a Saturday and there was an official night club party. Pretty much all the XC guys made it and were on. Team Giant was in good form and put on the best team performance I have seen in a long time.
Just got back from Switzerland and the 7th round of the World Cup in Champery. Alot of overseas travel involves generic hotel departure lounges and hotel chains but I am lucky enough to travel to some amazing places courtesy of my ‘job’. Champery is stuck up a valley deep into the Alps and is part of the Port de Solei resort and links up with super popular locations of Les Gets and Morzine over the mountains into France to make up a skiing and riding paradise. The scenery is amazing too with massive rock outcrops.
Teammate AC had been there for a couple of days when I arrived and was cracking big time, his heart wanted to head off into the hills for hours to ride the trails but his head was telling him to do an hour easy and get over his jet lag from Oz. In the past his heart has often won but this time he used his head and it paid off big time as he ripped his way to 6th place only a minute off the win and 10 secs off the podium.
Talking about Adams race is more interesting than mine. The course was a tough one technically and in the dry I was cool but it rained the night before the race and some of my Mt Saint Anne crash demons came back to haunt me I was not riding too well on the steep stuff. As is this case with riding bikes, if you are scared you get tight and if you get tight you crash. Despite telling myself to stay cool like Fonzy, I decked it on a steep chute and attempted to pull my finger off in the crash netting. It stayed on but hurt like hell so I stopped to have a look, decided I would live and got going again 10 places latter. My climbing legs were good and I could limit the damage a bit but rolled in a very average 39th.
I did have a load of photos from the trip but managed to get my phone lost/stolen in Geneva airport on the way home so I am afraid it’s only boring text.
It’s been a weird sort of week because the World Champs have been going on in Australia and I have been sat on the other side of the World watching and waiting for the results like a super fan. I have only missed 2 worlds (in 95 and 96) in the last 17 editions and donning the GB kit at the Worlds has been an annual affair for the last 12 years straight. It was my decision not to go at least, which is better than not been selected.
The UCI in their wisdom set a pretty hardcore programme of Marathon Worlds, then 2 weeks later the Worlds in Oz then 2 World Cups in Europe on the next 2 weeks. I am a realist and know my limitations and doing this programme would leave me a broken man for sure. Having raced the Worlds course at the World Cup last year I was not in a rush to race it again. It required a great start as the majority of the lap is rocky or tight single track and there was very little climbing. It was fun to ride but I am not in a rush to travel to the other side of the World for a fun ride as I can do those 2 miles from my house. Being that the other races are better suited to me and the decision was made I was staying at home.
So far I have not regretted the decision and although I did not get the result I was after at the Marathon Worlds (23rd) it was a great race to do and I was able to get in the mix and give it a go. I am also confident that I can do something decent in the next 2 World races, which will obviously be helped by not having jet lag and 70 odd people racing me will.
But around keeping an eye on the activities down under I have been training hard and enjoying my time at home. The weather has been Ok and I’ve been getting in loads of MTB riding, in particular an epic in South Wales. There are 2 trail centres in the Afan valley near Port Talbot both of which are amazing. I parked up at Glyncorreg as the cafe serves the best coffee and then set off on the energy trail. At ¾ ways round I scooted off down a forest road that linked to the Wall trails from the other centre, then banged out the Penhyd trail then followed by tracks back to the energy. From there I hit the shorter skyline loop. After 4 hrs and 80km of manmade single-track heaven I was back at the car really tired but with a big grin.
To even out all the dirt I was riding I then hit the tarmac for some road race action. I headed down to Dorset with Tom Southam and Darren Lapthorn, who both live near me these days and ride for the Rapha road team for 120km of Regional series fun. The course was pretty good with a mix of stuff and a steep climb. Despite saying he would not attack early Tom could not resist is and first time up the steep’un and he was off. I weaved through the carnage of suffering riders and made the split of 5 that went away. All good except we now had 71 miles of through and off to do! Tom was getting some Tour of Britain training in and was smashing it and we eventually had 5 mins on the bunch. On the last lap 3 stickman attacks and some team mate tactics on Tom’s part saw me cross the line 40secs clear for the win.
Now it’s time to freshen up a bit and get ready for this week’s World Cup in Champery in Switzerland. Live race and highlights are in www.freecaster.tv
Last weekend I headed to Graz in Austria to take part in the World Marathon Champs. Gave it a good go but did not have the minerals in the end and finished 23rd.The new carbon anthem X SL was amazing and the perfect too for the job.
I was kind of in at the deep end as this was only first ever international marathon and not sure how it was going to work. Add in to the mix the mother of all courses, with 6 monster climbs, tech downhills and tech climbs and it was going to be a pain day for everyone. Spoke to Christophe Sauser and he said it was the hardest Worlds course he has done in climbing and technicality!
Over the first climb which started with a 28% (not a mistake) 3km road climb and i was in the second grp from 5 to 10 taking it steady as i could but the legs were good. Over the next big climb and after some crazy forest road descending the groups came together to make 10 men at halfway.
Climb 3 and the race blew up as Roel Paulison ( the winner) put the hammer down up and downhill. Starting the 4th climb i was in a grp from 3rd to 6th and feelling pretty good and getting confident. Then on climb 5 after 70km it all went wrong as my legs were giving way and i started to slide backwards.
16km painfull km later I reached the course high point in 16th place with 20km of most technical downhill to go. A flat did not help and i reached the finish in 23rd in 5hrs. I have never been so happy to see a finish line!!!
In a Giant newsletter 5 things style, some stats on the course
1- 104km in length
2- 3800m of climbing
3- 4.36hrs the winner time
4- 152beats, my average HR for 5hrs
5- 1 beer, the amount it took to take away the pain that night
Interview up and running on the British Cycling site with some pretty phots too
The World Cup in Mont Saint Anne, Canada has been and gone and I messed up big time. You may have been watching the race on Freecaster or seen some reports in which case you will have seen what happened to me, if not and you fancy a laugh check out
The trip started well as I had a new push bike waiting for me that is so fast that I do not really need to pedal. Its a full production Anthem X SL advanced (like the one in the mag ads that have been running), its 300gr lighter than the alloy, has a tapered steerer, stiffer and looks bad ass. To add to the bad assness there is the added bling of a XTR upgrade kit. Shimano hooked us up with a £1000 kit that includes gold ti bolts, a gold ti chain, some ti cassette bits and white jockey wheels and cables.
When I find my phone lead I will get some photos up on the site (have prob left it at home)
The course is Mont Saint Anne is legendary, its as tough as it comes, with roots and rocks everywhere. It feels like most of the lap is on technical up and down trails. Most courses have a couple of bits that make people stop and think, this has 3 km per lap of the stuff. On my main practice day it was dry and i was in control on the course and riding well, then my second session the day before the race it was a bit wet and i was strugging a little bit. I was hoping for dry and on Sunday morning it was but at noon it rained hard for a couple of hrs which made the course slick.
I was 30th on the grid and got an ok start to come round the first loop in 38th. It was super slippy and was causing me a bit of grief in some sections. By the 4th lap i was sitting in about 30th and getting by and then it all went wrong.
There was a steep downhill section that was fine in the dry but the rocks were slick with a mud coating in the race and alot of people were crashing and hurting themselves as the landing was on pointy rocks. They had built a chicken run that was still pretty full on and this included a piece of boardwalk with no chicken wire, as the mud got dragged onto it both wheels would lock up when you braked.
I came down went too fast, could not stop and hit a big rock that sent me over the barrier and I landed on my side on some rocks and bushes that had been cut back. Somehow a branch or stick went through my ear and cut my head. Yes through my ear on the flappy bit. When I hit the deck it hurt alot and then it started to bleed alot. At this point I decided just to lie there and let some medical people sort me out. They were flapping which made me scared and then I got the shakes. In the end they bandaged me up and off i went to the docters to get sorted out. Big thanks to Sue Clarke who was watching having raced earlier, she helped me out, gave me her top and came to the docters to make sure I was ok.
I had managed to rip a fair hole on my ear but 5 stitches and another 2 for the head wound did the trick and I was good to go. It looks pretty horrible at the moment but reckon it will not leave any long term marks. Short term i have some other bruises and scrapes but rode for 3hrs on the road today so should be fine to race the World Cup next week in Bromont, Canada this Sunday, Oh, and the new pimp bike is still in one piece.
The Euro Champs have been and gone and I ended up 14th. Which I am pretty happy with and felt like the last months training has paid off and I was going better than in the spring.
All weekend the weather has switched from heavy rain to sun and combined with a warm wind the course has been going from a mud bath to fast and sandy in a few hours. The sandy earth dries very quickly and luckily when its wet is generally rideable and grippy but makes a complete mess of the bikes.
Rain was on the card for Sunday morning but in the end it rained to some degree all day. Once we all decided that the rain was staying the mud tires were on and so were the waterproofs for the trip from the turbo trainer to the start line.
I was feeling generally good and ride pretty well in the mud like most Brits so on the line I was up for it. The start was a cock up, the Spanish dude in front of me ended up going down the start straight with neither pedal clipped in. I ended up in the 40s and that meant a stop start, dodgy first lap fighting for every place.
But the legs were good and felt pretty strong on the short climbs that I normally hate so started to move forward. Of course the bike no longer worked, the lockout was jammed and the middle ring just equalled chain suck so that meant a big ring 44x34 gear for all the climbs. Everyone is in the same boat when its like this and all you can do is spray some water on your bike at the feed stations and try and stay positive.
I was advancing pretty well and was closing on the top 10 and then cocked up big time hitting my pedal on a tree stump while descending. Anyone who has done this will know it is like a land mine going off, one second all good and the next up in the air then bang on the floor. I landed hard but got away with only some scrapes and bumps. But it took the edge of me for a bit and in the end I got up to 14th place.
I have had a 6th and a 10th in the Euros before so there is nothing too get excited about, but it shows that things are going in the right direction and I am in good condition with 3 big races in the next 3 weeks. Just need to stay away from crap starters and tree stumps and things will be sweet.
Sat in my hotel room in Holland the day before the European champs race and waiting, waiting and waiting for the race to start. It is always the same for international races, we travel out a couple of days before to get some recce laps done and to have time to rest up a bit.
The riding only takes a couple of hrs a day so there is a fair amount of time to fill. I used to crack having this much spare time and felt like I was wasting my life, but this was before I had 2 kids. Now it is luxury to have a lie in, to have a relaxing breakfast and to watch some day time TV/tour de France without getting hassled to watch cbeebies every minute. I miss my little monkeys but I’m loving the me time. That is for a few days and then I will want to be back at home watching cbeebies, like they say a change is as good as a rest.
All this spare time means that I more likely to write entries like this...
In Giant race team tradition I have compiled a Dutch top 5
Back to the bike racing. The course is what you would expect in Holland, more off road cycling than mountain biking. The course is based on some artificial hills and goes round and round the same 3 bumps. There are 10 climbs and 80 corners per 14min lap, we are expecting 9 laps so that is 90 climbs! They are only little climbs but its going to sting a bit.
The relay team did well and came home for 6th, not helped by being gridded 16th. Just heard that Annie Last was 4th in the Under 23 which is another good ride. In the Men’s race tomorrow we have 4 riders which is a rarity in the World Class era that we live in. Myself, Liam, Ian Bibby and Jody Crawforth take the start at 1pm, word is for rain which I would be happy with.
The reason for the lack of entries is that not a lot has been going on to be honest. Due to the way the race dates were set this year there were no major races in June and not being in a rush to run around Europe chasing races I had the luxury of a month at home.
Just because there were no major MTB races it did not mean that I have had a 5 week summer holiday, instead it has been a time to put my head down and train hard. Though it was cool to be at home with my girls, see my mates, get some walks in and ride my local trails during a sunny month.
The first week went to plan and then the kids and I all got a nasty sickness bug. The worst thing was the bug kicked in during the last hr of a 5 hr ride, i felt really rough, crawled home and crawled into bed where I pretty much stayed for 2 days. After a few days I was back riding 2kg lighter and eventually back working hard.
To make things a bit interesting I went over to Abergavenny to ride the National Road Champs. The 190 man field was full of some class and motivated riders and i did not expect to podium or anything like that but wanted to get stuck in and be in the mix. With the race ‘only’ being 100miles the continental pros ripped it up from the gun. I made the first main split of 30 men that hit the big climb of the tumble. I was off the front in a small group but with 50miles 25 men came back together on the run in to the finish circuits. Then I messed up and missed a split that went on the downhill section. I ended up in the back 10 and that was it game over and before you know it we were 3mins down. I did 6 of the 10 finish laps and then called it a day. All this jumping around at 30mph was starting to hit home and decided that I was not going to dig really deep to finish in the teens, it’s a bit negative but there is only so much juice in the tank and there are some big races coming up.
It was a great race through, with closed roads and massive crowds on the main climb and the finish loops. It was a good positive race and a good workout. It was also great to see Kristian House get the win and beat the bigger names by riding with his legs and also his brain, he’s a hard working geezer who’s been around for a while so fair play.
Now it’s time to put the road bike away and time to play in the woods with the bears and the squirrels. I have 4 big races in 4 weeks, with the Euros, the Nationals and 2 World Cups in Canada. So there will be plenty to write about now, hopefully I will ride fast?
Its been a busy week or so since the NPS3 /Marathon Champs weekend so the website entry has taken a back seat till now. The day after the weekend I set off down to Devon for a 5 day holiday with the 3 Beck girls, with no bike and no lap top. This meant some quality family time and time for me to recharge a bit after 2 months of non-stop racing. Got some swimming done and some serious hot tubing and got some beer down my neck so all went to plan.
I got home before the weekend and with no racing it was time to have some fun riding and get over to Afan for a good session with some of the boys. Box the mechanic made it as did Joebro and Sweet, who did the 12hr team bikefest singlespeed race the day before, so respect. People prob think im nuts organising a bike ride on a free weekend but this is so far removed from racing, it was a riot and this is sort of riding i will always do when the racing has stopped.
As for the racing, the Margam weekend was sweet and went to plan. I could commute to the race from home for both days and did not pre ride as I ridden most combinations of trails over the 19 years that I have raced here. Yep that is not a typing error, I did my first race at Margam in 1990 and won my first Youth National series race here in 1991. Makes by back ache just thinking that i have been racing that long.
Not staying overnight meant that the girls could also come for a day out which was cool. The weather was super good too and all in all in felt like a pretty fun, relaxed weekend which was what I needed after World Cup chaos.
Liam decided to make an appearance and his back injury is on the mend, which is cool as I like racing with him and its good for the organiser/scene for us to race eachother. After sitting in for a lap and leaning the course myself and Liam then rode off the front and that was that. With two days of racing planned and Liam only doing the XC I knew that I needed to use my head. With a lap to go I decided to settle for 2nd and not attempt to go toe to toe with Killeen. But 2nd place extended my lead in the series so all good and the legs were not nailed at the end.
On Sunday it was marathon Champs time, over 4 laps of a 22km course. Again the weather was sweet and staying hydrated was going to be a big deal, a rarity in the UK I know. The race went of pretty casual and for 2 laps a group of 8 of us rode round tempo, with some laughing and joking esp when Creber fell off and then Bibby crashed from laughing too much.
But with 2 laps to go it was time to get to work and up the long climbs I gave it some and Bibby and Oldham were the 2 that could follow. Had to laugh as us 3 stickman were riding along, less that 200kg wet through between us. Only the last lap I gave it a bit more again and was away alone and then stuck my head down at XC pace to cross the line for my first marathon title.
So all good and a nice way to head off for my holidays with 2 days off good racing in the bank, a better tan and a stripy jersey
Last weekend the World Cup continued with round 4 in Madrid. Its a unique race as it takes place in the casa de campo a huge park 1km from central Madrid, this means loads and loads of bonkers locals turn up to stand on the several steep short climbs and go mental for any and every spanish dude.
The circuit is dry and super fast but this year we had a load of rain on friday and saturday so by race day it was still slippy and slow. The women had it tough but by midday and the mens race it was drying out fast. Its a hardtail circuit with the only technical difficulty coming from the speed on the gravel so the XTC got pulled out from garage.
With my normal team support staying US stateside I bought in Joe Boy my brother for back up, he stepped up to the plate and did bottles, bike cleaning and general moral boosting. I returned the favour by buying him the odd beer and introducing him to the delight of the bedroom buffet (where 2 hungry dudes cannot wait for the spanish to start cooking at 9pm so raid the local spar for various delights and make a mess of their nice room).
A good start is essential and i messed mine up, so that was not the best. But i took it steady let a few people drag me around for a couple of laps then got stuck in and moved up from 40th to a big group that was racing from 18th to 30th. This was as far as I was as i was going and on the last lap we all went for the line and split up. I ended up 24th , which was a solid ride to sit 30th in the series.
Next week is round 3 of the UK national series on saturday and then national Marathon champs on the sunday so gonna be a tough weekend. Maybe the plan will come together or maybe i will just be nailed and mess it all up, we will see? Then I have a break from racing so off with the family for 5 days of fun and then its time for some hard graft to try and up a level my mid July and the next run of big races.
After my explosion the week before and with the general fatigue of 2 back to back World Cups I was not really feeling like driving 280miles up to North Yorks to pin a number on again. But once i arrived in Dalby forest my motivation returned and was excited to be racing. The main reason for this motivation is that this the 2nd National Series race was the test race for a full on World Cup bid for 2010. Therefore the race was bigger, the course was a good mountain bike course with some hills and some technical stuff and all in all in felt like a decent bike race.
Going back to the course, alot of time and effort had been made into making a World Cup quality course and it got the Oli Beck seal of approval (if that counts for anything?). The first loop needed some wider sections for passing but the mix of climbs and flats was good and also the mix of man made and technical was good, with some good old fashioned roots and rocks and a steep chute with a scary sounding name. We all know that a course is not good enough unless at least 2 sections have scary names. I grew up with devils drop at the Cheddar Challenge so i found this out way back in 1989 and this was reinforced by the legendary Pipeline at Plymouth.
The race went well and I did not feel like poop which was a relief. A front group formed on lap 1 which then became just me and Aussie visitor and Olympian Dan McDonald. Then on lap 3 I gave it some gas on the main climb, got a gap and that was that.
I then kept it steady to take the win by 90secs, so all good.
On the equipment front the anthem X tooking its 3rd beating in 3 weeks and was awesome, again with the MRP single ring. But i admit i did not knock it down to a 34 for the steeper climb. To be honest getting back on a hardtail feels so harsh now and i think im getting soft.
So the race was good and I hope the UCI end up with it on the calender next season as a UK race is always good for all of us, the racers, the fans, the industry and for attractiong some people who as of yet do not know how much fun riding a bike off road is.
Talking of fun, here is a pic i took this week that sums it all up for me, sun, secret local singletrack, pretty flowers, dry soil.. Sounds like one of them Mastercard Ads.
Just got back to the UK from the 3rd world cup in Belgium, the race in Houfallize is the closest thing the MTB scene has to a road classic and attracts a field of 260 riders! add in 20,000 drunk Belgian cycle fans/perverts and it goes off.
I had my best racing legs so far this year and rolled round the 1st of 6 laps in 7th place feeling like i was in control. I then settled into a group from 7-12th for the next 3 laps and feeling confident that a top 10 was on the cards
Then things went a bit wrong and i started to feel my brakes were on and then with a lap to go I exploded and ran out of energy in a big way. All I could do was roll the last lap feeling pretty rough and sorry for myself. I crossed the line in 65, which could be a record for places lost per km..
But hey I was on the pace and with a few tweaks i will be in the top 10 for the whole race at some other points during the season, but doing in Houffallize would of been nice..
From the discomfort I felt during my massage, that has just finished I can tell that I tried in the World Cup yesterday. As World cup races always are it was crazy fast and having tried to follow some guys that are better than me right now for 2 laps I then felt real rough and was in a bit of a pickle for 3laps, before coming round on the last 2 laps, moving back into the top 30 for 29th on the line.
The course at Offenburg is one of the most fun courses to ride out there, with lots of single-track, some steep and interesting bits and gradual climbs. The Germans also pick some old school style names like the Wolfs drop, the Dual line and the snake pit, ohhhhhh super scary. But you do go down some pretty big chutes and you do some big drop offs so thankfully it was dry as a bone as there are loads of roots.
The other good bit about Offenburg is that there are loads of spectators and the 2 of the tough bits are in the same spot with a feed and it has its own commentator so the atmosphere is good and as a racer it feels like you are proper sports person.
The organisers of the British World Cup bid at Dalby were there with the guys from British Cycling to see how it’s all done, which is good skills to be thinking like that. Shame I was only Brit in the men’s race! And there was only 1 in the women’s race and she came from New Zealand. World Cups are tough and not for everyone but I am sure people will be moaning when we do not have any or many spots in 2012 for the London Games.
On the bike front there is some cool stuff going on. I rocked the anthem X and it was perfect for the hard, beat up track. Was using a proto 2010 shock on the rear with a mechanical pedal platform , which basically has a more open action once you hit stuff and pass the platform and worked real good.
Was also rocking the MRP X1 chain guide and a single 36 ring up front, yep a single ring. With an 11-34 rear cassette you still get a good spread of ratios and in the bargain you save about 300 grams of weight, have a better chain line and a more secure chain. The guide is an XC specific guide developed from a DH one and is now close to production. As long as there are no long flat road sections or crazy steep climbs this is way forward.
Have just rocked up in Offenburg, Germany and everything is sweet. The sun is out and we are in the same top accommodation as last year, based in a small village up a hill in a vineyard. The main news as I arrived is that they now have internet in the apartment so we are now totally sorted and I can actually update my website while relaxing, instead of trying to do it while running around like an idiot.
It’s been a busy winter and the website has suffered as a result, I admit the entries have been pretty rare and for those who have a look regularly I apologise and have promised myself to get on the case.
The other small problem is that until March of this year I did not have a great deal of cycling related activity to talk about. I’m sure that the majority of people do not want to hear about my new kitchen/diner, what my kids have been up to, how I rearranged my garage and put down carpet or how I got wet/cold/muddy/snowed (delete as appropriate) again and again whilst training.
But things are changing now for sure. I have clocked up some air miles to the US and Sth Africa and the World Cup is under way and have done some cool stuff that is worth sharing with other people so the entries will now flow fast.
Going to try getting some diary type shots up to as a picture says a thousand words. Just got to work out how to download the 100 photos from my phone to my PC, so do not hold your breath as I am a computer retard with no patience, not a great combo.
Will keep you posted on the World Cup this weekend and from Belgium next week.
After last years Olympic related stuff a later start to the season was required but I could not put the racing off any longer and my 09 campiagn has kicked off.
With the first World Cup in Sth Africa looming I needed some warm up races. First up was a regional road race and after making the 10man split i broke away on my own on the last climb and stayed away for the enxt 8miles to get the win.
The following week was the first round of the UK National series. The venue was Sherwood forest and it is my least favorite course in the UK, being based on forest road and flat windy rough singletrail, so produces very negative races which usually end in a sprint, being the worlds worst sprinter this is not the best. With 6 guys starting the last lap I did my best to split things up but ended up with two on my tail who sprinted me so I ended up 3rd. At lease the plush anthem x meant my back did ache at the end.
Then it was a quick pit stop at home and off to Sth Africa for the opening world cup near Durban in Sth Afrca. The course was ok with some tough steep climbs and two fast loose descents each lap, which were the kind that were not hard to ride but hard when you are going flat out and breathing out of your arse. The weather was hot at 32degress and the racing intense. Its always a shock at the first race how hot the pace is and with no International racing in my legs it was a tough day out. But i got round in one piece and finished 22nd. Not a personal best but a soilid start and there is more in the tank for sure.
I have a weekend off now and then 3 races in a row with World Cup 2 in germany, World Cup 3 in Belgium then back home for the 2nd National in Dalby Forest. It s a tough run and by the time I end up in Dalby I think Dave the mechanic is going to need the jump leads to get me going. But it will all be good im sure.
I have just returned from the 8 day Giant Global team camp in California and had a great trip. The Giant team for 09 is being run by the Giant US set up with 3 riders, myself, Adam Craig and DH rider Jared Rando forming a Global team and the 3 remaining riders riding under the Giant US banner and riding domestically in the US. I already knew most of the team and staff but it was a good opportunity to meet some new faces, get in some team bonding, some training, some sweet trails and to get a load of PR/media stuff done.
The media stuff made life pretty busy as we had to do a lot of photos for Giant, a couple of days with the press inc velonews, MTB action and Bike, the 3 biggest mags in the US. We also had a day filming for Universal sports with goes out on NBC so is a big deal over there.
But it was not all work. One of the US marketing guys is a ex BMX world champ so located the camp at a extreme sports base called Woodward West. The place is nuts with one a number of skate parks, a DH course, a massive freeride area and a huge indoor ramp park. On a few evenings we took some STP jump bikes to the park and had a go. Its not a natural environment for me but got into it and grew the balls required to hit the big jump into the foam pit. After a few goes i was getting pretty high and was not quite so stiff, but would not want to try and land out of the foam pit. The Giant rider Kurt Sorge (2nd at Rampage last year) was unreal in there, back flipping the boxes and looking so smooth.
After 4 days the media stuff eased up a bit and we able to get some long rides in, the high light being a road trip to some famous trails which inc a continuous 12.5 mile roller coaster section of singletrack. It was one of the best trails i have ridden and not a bit of mud! which makes a change after a winter of snow and rain.
It was also the ideal testing ground for my new race bike. Its an anthem X in team colours to match the new kit and is running on full XTR, fox shocks and Pro finishing kit. The new frame is super supple whilst pedalling well and the bike is really stable, so basically all the things I look for. With a stiff and light hard tail waiting in the wings for the more basic courses, I have two wicked bikes to choose from this season.
After what seems like a long winter my season feels like it is starting and after 5 months without travelling abroad I am off to the US for 10days for a team camp. After a long season last year with a load of travelling and time away from home I was through with the bullshit that goes along with being a pro rider. Do not get me wrong I love what I do and love racing and riding my bike, but had had enough of airports, hotels, waiting around for races and the general stress of peak races.
After 5 months of being at home, not getting on any planes and doing some fun stuff with my family and friends I am recharged and ready to get stuck in again. The training has been going good and I am really enjoying my riding. Have tried some new training ideas and the results have been positive so I am looking forward to pinning on a number in April.
That is another part of my recharge plans, starting my season as late as possible. I have a small road race in late March then the first National on April 5th, the week before the first World Cup in South Africa on April 12th. This is the latest start I have had for years but with a very hectic April and May I think it will pay off.
Doing lots of media and photo stuff in the trip to the US so will have lots of proper photos for the site and some details and shots of the new push bikes soon.
In the end I did manage to hold my own in the cross champs and ended up in 4th place. The cross champs is normally one of the biggest races in the country and this edition did not disappoint. The course in Bradford was a good one, it was not muddy and there was a big crowd.
By lap 2 an eight man group had formed and I was in it and feeling pretty comfortable, then I got a bit confident and did a bit too much on the front instead of using my brain and sitting in. Then when it really kicked off I was swinging a bit and missed the split to the front 3. For the final 3 laps I was chasing the group, I finally got on with half a lap to go and had no choice but to attack. I was not strong enough and they were all on me and on the last tough section I was dropped and had to settle for 4th.
But it was still a good day. I was happy with how I rode on minimal prep and also had a good time, which is important at this time of year, as I will need all my moral intact for a tough summer season.
After a few easy days I have to get on with the hard training. Over the next month this will generally involve lots of 4-5 hour rides on and off road with specific blocks of work in the rides. As I am staying in the UK for all my training this winter it may not be that pleasant but its good to be at home, so its time to man up with the help of mudguards and a waterproof jacket.
Happy New Year and I have finally posted a diary entry. At the end of the season i normally lose the plot a bit and have not got a lot to say as well.. which combined means a lack of motivation to sit and type.
Off the bike things have been busy with a monster DIY project followed by the birth of my second kid, another daughter called Emma. This has made this off season pretty busy but she is awesome and now we have a full family, although i am seriously outnumbered by my 3 girls and will be in need of some regular man time to keep my testosterone level up. Despite the lack of sleep I have got some good training done in the last couple of months and am happy with where I am at.
The big mission in Oct and Nov was to put some meat on my bones and this has worked well and I am about 3kg of muscle up. However to put this on I had to lay of the riding and am not getting the benefits of the power yet. This was made clear to me and everyone watching at my first cyclo cross outing of the year in mid Dec where I got a good kicking.
A month later and I feel a lot fitter and faster having done some solid riding, some intensity and a couple of small races. Its the National Champs this weekend in Bradford and I having a pop, I am not going to set the world on fire but think I can hold my own and not look like an idiot (as was the case 4 weeks ago).
Irrespective of the results I enjoy training and racing on a cross bike and enjoy the discipline. As a summer racer it can be hard to relax and not get to caught up in the result and the pressure, but as motivator to train in the off season and to keep the skills up in cannot be beaten, but you have to be prepared for the off kicking now and then, will the weekend be another one?
It has been a month since my last race and the time has flown by, as it always does. I finished the year earlier than normal, in mid September and it was a good thing I did. After the Games I was fried mentally more than physically, not surprising considering the pressure of qualifying for the Games in the first half of the year, peaking for the Worlds and then nine weeks later peaking for the Games.
Physically I got it right this year and have been in good shape when I needed to be and have finished the year healthy. Although after the problems of last year I was scared to really push deep when the training got tough, which may not be a bad thing.
All in all the year was a success, the highlight being finishing 9th in Fort William in a 4 man finish for 6th. It was great to ride like that in front of a home crowd and an ideal location to do a personal best. The disappointment of the year came two weeks later at the World Champs, I was in great form and the course was good for me, but I had bad luck, first i was ill the weekend before and not ride for 4 days, then crashed heavily in the race due to a mechanical. Despite this I still finished 10th, only 90secs of 4th, so was left wondering what could off been. But that’s bike racing.
At the Games I was pleased with my result. I prepared the best I could for the conditions and the course, which was not ideal for me. I paced it well and rode a good race and was just of my aim of a top 10 position.
After an easy month I am loving riding my bike again and keen to get training for next season. It is not the time of year for hard bike training but time to work on my weaknesses and get stronger, I am hitting the strength work hard and eating a lot of food so watch this space, I may not be recognisable next season with super muscles or may just be a fatter version of last year, we will see?
One thing I am doing this year is some cyclo cross, I really like this discipline but do not normally have the time to do it properly, but having stopped early this year I feel I can have a pop. So am planning a five race prep for the Cross Nationals, with an aim of getting on the podium, not just making up the numbers as I have in the past.
This is also the time of year for ‘wheelin an deelin’ but I can confirm that I am staying out with Giant for at least the next 2 years, Its great news and I am chuffed, the product is great, as are the people I work with. I have been hitting the trails on my new anthem X and it one hell of a bike, it climbs like the standard anthem and drops like a trance, so basically it’s fast with a big F and cannot wait to put a number on its bars next March.
On another note, if you are in Covent Garden check out the Oakley flagship store. At the Games they run a safe house for sponsored athletes to hang out at and get some custom product. They were taking photographs of posing athletes and have put them in an in-store exhibition. Some are in the window too, including a large 5x3foot print of some idiot pulling his surprised face.
Sorry if you have written me emails to my on my web address. I have experienced some major tech problems with my web service provider which have not delivered some of your mails to me. This should be sorted soon and i can will receive and reply to everything. Thanks
After training and waiting all year for the Olympics, it is a funny feeling to have done the race and for it to be all over. The whole experience was good, China put in a good games and my experiences of the country were generally positive, the only negative being that anyone in authority is very inflexible, which cracks you after a while.
Having been to 2 games before I was not going for the Olympic experience, not to sound grumpy, as it’s always the same stuff. But the real reason was to race in the biggest MTB race and to try and go really fast, pretty simple really. Competing in the Games is a highlight in any athlete’s career, there is a lot to be won and lost and more people are watching than in any other race and this gives the start line a special atmosphere.
There was a test race on the course back in 2007 and the general opinion was hard physically but not real mountain biking and people were talking about racing cross bikes. The UCI were not going to let that happen and got in the World Cup 4X course designer to spice things up, and he made it vindaloo hot. Every descent was not technical with jumps, logs, rocks and tight loose turns. Combined with the super steep climbs and this was probably the hardest course ever used for a top XC race. At race pace the 3.8km course was taking 15min to race with avg speeds at about 16kph, which is pretty damn slow. To sum it up it was like a 9km course with all the boring bits taken out.
My race went to plan and I only made a one mistake on the last lap when fighting for 10th place so other than I finished empty and happy. My plan was to ride at my own pace bang out consistent laps and catch people as they popped. After 3 laps of 8 I started to catch the 5th place group and was picking them off. In the end I was only 80secs off 5th and if the race was a little longer I would off caught a few more, but had to settle for 12th. I could not have done anymore and on a course that was not really up my tempo riding street I have to take the place I got, top 10 place would have been sweet and was my aim but hey what’s 2 places.
Now I am sat in Canberra, Australia as we have a World cup race this Sat. Having been the right side of the world, if the wrong side of the equator, it seemed logical to carry on the trip. This is also the venue for next year’s World Champs, so good for me and the National team to check it out.
I have been in China now for 3 days and have now got my head around the time difference and motivated to write on my laptop rather than just messing around on the internet.
I am currently based on the Northern edge of Beijing in a town called Changping, about 20km from the Great Wall. I am here 8 days to train, acclimatise, and relax before heading into the chaos of the village on Monday. This is also when the course opens for practice.
My initial impressions of China are good. The people are all cool and happy that i’ve met, it is hot, humid and hazy but on the edge of town does not seem polluted. They are really into the Games and the new airport is pretty impressive.
We are based by the Triathlon venue so the hotel has several tri teams in it and the triathlon cycle loop is closed to traffic and non games people for training, which is sweet.
Not really alot going on over the last few days as i have been spending most of my time relaxing and getting over the training i did at home and the travel. But i am out and about on a 4hr ride today so should see a few things and will get some photos.
Its all go now, with only 3 weeks to go to the Games. Since the Nationals I have been at home training hard and getting ready to travel on the 8th. There has been a fair amount of media interest too since the squad was announced and that has taken up a bit of time. The Games take the interest outside of cycling, which is a big benefit of Games selection to the sponsors, from regional newspapers, to sky sports and the BBC.
A bonus of the Games is getting a cool new bike and my sponsors have done proud. I am on a new Giant XTC pre production frame which is 300gr lighter than the current XTC model!! And have some cool bits to hang on it in particular a pair of custom blue hope brakes with Olympic rings and a pair of Beijing special Rock Shox SID forks. This bike will be featuring in MBUKs super bikes after the games and will get a picture up on line too. My current race bike is featured in What MBUK this month so check it out.
Will try and get some reports up when I am out in China but will have to see how much wifi access there is. But if not will do my best and ride it like I stole it.......
Despite the many years of getting bike product sent to me I still get excited to get a new bike or some cool kit, as at the end of the day bike riding is my job but deep down still my hobby.
So I was well chuffed to get a box full of thermal stuff from my new sponsor Vanguard. I like nice clothing but am too tight to ever buy any so a box full of cool kit went down well. There were thermal gloves, knees, arms, under hats and vests for every temperature. Do not know how much use they will get in Boiling Bejing next month, but I will be snug as a bug in a rug this winter.
It was white and stripes jersey time again last weekend with the National Champs. This year the venue was Ringwood in the New Forest, the guys from Pedal On did a great job with the organisation and laid out a fun course. But it was far from ideal for me being mostly flat singletrack, but hey it cannot be hilly every year.
All the regulars were there and Liam Killeen also came out to play so it was going to be a good one. After a hectic first lap I hit the front on lap 2 and pulled myself and Liam off the front, on lap 3 it was Liam’s turn to out on the pressure. We were both able to follow each other without any problems it was going to be a close one.
Then near the end of lap 3 I hit a small tree stump on the track and ripped my tire. The stans latex did its thing and sealed the whole but instead of 35PSI i now had 15 PSI in my rear tire. I was able to follow Liam to the pits and took a new wheel and remounted 30 secs down. It was now going to be a 2 lap Pursuit.
We were both pushing hard but Liam was a bit stronger and the gap grew on lap 5 and was 1min at the finish. The puncture was a shame as I was looking forward to fighting it out and the spectators were enjoying the battle. So after 3 years of being the champ and wearing the Champs jersey I am now back to my Blue and white Giant kit, which could be worse, as at least I like the design
After 3 weeks of hard training and the Champs I am now having a 5 days easy period before starting my next 2 week block of hard work, then its China time.
After the Worlds Champs I had a well earned week off, well almost a week of as I did a 1hr easy ride and an intensive aerobie session down in Devon. The amazing flying disc got caught in a tree and Myself and my mate Longun then spent 15mins throwing a large rock into the tree Geoff Capes style till I hit the jack pot and knocked it out. What with that and carrying a 17kg sleeping infant 2 miles and it was actually a tough cross training weekend and my arms were burning for a couple of days
After a few days at home I was heading off to start my Olympic preparation. First stop was a week of base training on and off road in the South of Spain near Sierra Nevada. The academy guys have been here a few times before and we hooked up with www.freeridespain.com who looked after us and showed us the trails. I had a mix of road and off road on the menu and Si our guide had some mint routes for us, from 1hr climbs, to awesome singletrack and skalectric style roads.
I am writing this on my last night before I transfer up to Madrid to do some race specific training. The Madrid World Cup circuit is the closest we have to Bejing in Europe with the short steep climbs and the heat, so the idea is to recreate a Beijing circuit here and smash it for a few days. It’s also a good time to test some equipment, tires and hydration strategies.
Then its home for the National Champs in the New Forest on the 20th July. With the games around the corner I am training pretty hard around the race so my not be at my best, but I am not going to give up my jersey without a fight. Having been the National Champ for the last 3 years it would mess up my wardrobe for starters.
Currently sat in Venice airport battered and tired after yesterdays World Champs, with a 5 hr wait till my flight at least I can do all my bits and bobs like diary writing, oh that and eat pizza and drink espresso till my eyes pop out.
Ended up 10th in yesterday’s race which was my aim and having finished in the top 10 at the Fort William World Cup I have done exactly what I wanted to. I am happy but thinking what could have been. The last 2 weeks have not gone too smoothly (with a cold, hay fever and a crash) and neither did the race (with some tech probs and another crash) so I am left thinking I could of been higher up, but that’s bike racing.
After crap weather early in the week it was red hot over the weekend and was 30degrees on race down. My race was up and down I had an average start and then moved up well on lap 2, but on lap 3 ended up riding into a hedge at 20mph after a brake mechanical. Was jammed in there good and proper and it took a few spectators to pull me and my bike out, my shorts were in bits but thankfully my old boy was safely tucked away so not probs there. I lost my head for half a lap but then got into a rhythm again and moved back through well.
Ride of the day was from fellow Brit Killeen, who came through 70th on the grid to finish 4th! After suffering for the past 14 months it was some comeback. With two of us in the top 10 it was the best Senior XC since maybe 1993 when Dave Baker took the Bronze.
It was great weekend for the Brits though especially for the DH guys, in particular a 1,2,6 finish in the junior men, Rach Atherton winning the women’s race by 11 secs! then Gee Atherton winning the men’s with Peaty in 2nd.
Over the years I have always got my arse down to the finish of the DH to watch the last dozen or so guys come down. Is good sport, some are friends and it also gets my going for my own race. This year was no different, the living legend Peaty came down to go into the hot seat with 6 to go to the crowds delight. Sam Hill was on it and was 7 secs up coming into the finish then lost the front wheel and decked it, he got up quick sharp and crossed the line 0.5 secs behind peaty. The next few failed and it was down to the Gee. He was up all the way down and crossed the line 2secs up to make it a Brit 1-2. It was an awesome ride but was gutted for the old guy who missed out on the only title that has eluded him.
I have a week off the bike now to give my mind and body a break then it’s all about the Olympic Games on August 23rd.
It is now 4 days to go to my first big target of the year, the World Champs in Val di Sole in Italy and starting to get a bit wound up by it all, which is a good thing as long it does not stop me getting my beauty sleep.
After the Fort William world cup I had a few easy days pencilled in and then travelled over to Italy on the Thurs to have 10 days to prepare here. Bad bit was that I came down with a cold the day I arrived and instead of spending 2 days doing some mint road rides in the Dolomites with my US team mates I was lying in bed being grumpy and thinking it was the end of the world. Luckily things have come round now and i have been able to train for the last few days and feel like i am back to my self of 2 weeks ago.
The course is pretty tough with some super steep climbs and some equally steep drops, which in the dry are not too bad but become pretty sketchy when its wet, which it has been for the last couple of days. Managed to have a couple of'hey you guys' stumbles in practice but nothing major and I like the course so all good.
Now its just of case of been fresh, knowing the lines and giving it some gas on race day.
After a few weeks of training and some road racing it was time to get back to it and put a number plate on again at the 5th round of the world cup at Fort william in Scotland.
To add some power i had grown a bad ass beard, this started on the train camp in France when me and Adam decided to form a pact, he would not cut his hair and i would not shave till Fort William. The result we looked like 2 extras form Brave Heart. Its gone now though as Mrs Beck did not like it and i was starting to look like i should be selling the big issue.
Back to the race, the training had gone really well and i thought the legs were good and it all started well as i moved from my 20's gridding into the front group of 12 after lap 1. The group stayed togther for a few laps then blew apart on lap 4 and i got caught in a bad place and missed the split and was in the second group.
On the next 3 laps the old legs were still good and i moved through a few guys and starting the last big climb was in 6th and chasing the podium only 20secs away. But it was not to be and on the long flat run in i was caught by 3 guys who then beat me up in the last 500m and i ended up 9th
But this is a personal best in a world cup and equals my best ever 9th at the 2005 worlds, so all good and to do it at my home world cup with all the brit supporters made it even better.
Next up is the World Champs in Italy in 2 weeks time and with good form thing are looking good.
Over the few months i am going to one of the BBCs focused athletes and doing a diary for them for the cycling and olympic sections of the BBC website. To start it off they did an interview, which can be viewed at
After training for the last 2 weeks I needed a bit of low key racing to get back into the flow. What better than a bit of 10speed racing, always good for a bit of pain and some leg speed.
On the thurs evening i headed up to Castle Coombe the local car racing circuit where Chippenham Wheelers run a summer series. I have been racing at castle coombe since i was a junior and enjoy it but always find it hard as its pan flat and fast, not so good for a stickman. We had 30 guys in the E/1/2 field for out 17lap- 30miler and just for giggles it started raining hard 10mins before we started and for the whole race. With no rain in a few days and some nice car fuel on the track it was slippy as. Everyone gets stuck in for these races and after finding out how hard you could pedal with out sliding it became a laugh. Just approaching the bell i gave it a go and got a gap. this was good but also bad as it meant i had to try really hard for 4 mins and try and actually win. I held off the bunch and too my first ever win in 15 years.
After getting in a sweet MTb ride at Afan with Wilko on Fri i then headed on the Sunday down to Salisbury plain for the 130km South Division road champs. It was a good course and no rain and with some good guys so just the ticket. After lots of trying a move finally went and 5 if us were away on the last lap. Up the last climb i gave it a good shot but could not crack one last man and got done in a sprint for the line. But still was happy that i was riding well and if my form on the road is good normally im real good on the dirt.
Did a bit of the old questions and answers this week for Giants ride life site about training and my current train camp. Thought i would put these on the diary for those of you who are interested.
Q-What’s your training program been like for the last few days? Do you structure it on a day-by-day, a week-by-week, or is it all planned for the whole year in advance (subject to illness etc)?
A- I have a rough plan in advance for the year that is worked out in November, this evolves a bit then through the year. This is broken down into phases of 3-6 weeks with specific training days and goals in there. I work with Louis Passfield a sports scientist who helps me out.
Q-Do you try to train at the moment on different types of terrain, or are you sticking to one type?
A-At The moment i am on a training camp in The vercours region of the alps so most of the riding is hilly, but there is a mix of off road and road with a mix of endurance and short intense days
Q-How much do you use the training camps to test out new equipment- on this training camp for example?
A-The Training camps are the time to test me out! I generally test equipment in my easy periods on my home trails
Q-Do you stick to a rigourous routine and if so what - approximately! - is it?
A-This camp is broken down into 3 blocks of 3 days with a recovery day between. General pattern is Long 5 hr MTB ride with some strength efforts, a 2hr ride with specific intervals and then a 5hr road ride with tempo climbs. After that I need my easy day for sure and after 3 blocks of this i need a few easy days when i am at home.
Q-How has the weather been?
A-Mixed , some sunny days, some cold foggy days but not alot of rain, which is what counts. The higher Mtb trails at 1700m are still snowed up and the higher roads near Bourg de Oisans are still snowed covered. But all the roads on the vercours are snow free now.
Q-Do you know a lot about where you’ve been staying in advance? And the routes you’ll be on? If somebody’s trying a training camp like yours could you recommend a couple of vital dos and don’ts?
A-I have stayed in Villard de Lans before and know a local ride guide Ed Nicol. Who has been on some rides with us and got the maps out. I knew that the weather here would be ok at this altitude in May by speaking with Ed.
I would always get as much info on the area from searching the internet or better speaking to locals. If you are going somewhere to train you need to know that you will be able to achieve what you planned and bad weather, hot weather, traffic, road conditions can effect this.
Having raced for 4 weeks in a row it a great to not be pinning a number on for 2 weeks and get some training in. When you race tough MTB races back to back there is not a lot you can do in the week between other than recover, practice and then race again. The end result being that after a while you actually start losing fitness despite the racing.
It would off been nice to have spent this time at home with my family, caught up with some mates and not lived out of a bag for a while but with the Worlds coming up in 5 weeks time at a medium altitude venue the best thing to do was to come to the same height to train. So I am writing this in a little 1 bed apartment in Villard de Lans on the Vercours plateau near Grenoble.
Its a great riding spot with epic traffic free road riding and lots of MTB trails. Being away from the big Alps there are more road options and less tourists driving around which is sweet. I am not here on my own but staying with US team mate Adam Craig, who has bitten the bullet and decided to stay in Europe for the 3 weeks between racing, its a commitment to be away for 10 weeks but he will feel the benefit of the no jet lag programme in the next races. Also in the area is Ed Nicol a mate who runs a bike and ski guiding company so he is showing us the loops.
Having banged out 15hrs in the saddle in the last 3 days on I am on a rest day today before starting another 3 days of training. I have timed it well too as its raining today hence the rather long diary entry. Will write again with how its going and try and get some photos up, inc the crazy Gorge roads round here that are cut into the cliffs with 200m drops to the side. Fair play to the guys who cut these roads years ago, i guess that is what people did before the invention of TV, the internet and good films..
Over the weekend i took part in the 2nd round of the British series on Sat at Drumlanrig castle in Scotland and came home with the win. Having raced 3 world cups in a row and been travelling around all over Europe my brain was after a weekend but luckily my body had recovered well and was still in good shape.
On the technical rocky, rooty circuit my Anthem full susser was spot on and i allowed me to take time on the climbs and then float the descents and on the second of six laps i was out on my own and eventually finished the 6 laps with a 2 min gap to take the top step on the podium and the 30 world ranking points.
After 4 races in 4 weeks i now have some time to train and am off on Tues for 12 days in the Alps with my teammate Adam Craig. I am staying at Villard de Lans in the Vercourse region. Ed Nicol the ex national team manager lives here where he runs a bike/ski holiday company, so he can show us the trails and quiet roads. Check out www.bikeandski-vercors.com for some photos and details.
The 3 back to back World Cups have finished and its not been a bad run of races and i now sit in 21st overall.
The 3rd race took place in Madrid, in the Casa de Campo park 2 km from the city centre. the course is fast with small steep hills and been close to the city gets about 30,000 spectators most of whom are loud, crazy spaniards.
The week since the last race had gone well and i had recovered well and with the Giant US guys backing me up things were sweet come race day.
The race was mental and started fast and never let up, after 3 laps there was a front group of 25 riders and i was sat happy in there, but knew it was going to kick off. On lap 4 of 7 the big guns fired and it was in bits. I was suffering a bit in the 28degress heat but kept it together despite a high speed 2 wheel wash out crash and hung in there for 19th place.
Next up is a National series race in Scotland this weekend, then i am off to the alps with team mate Adam Craig for 2 weeks to get ready for the WC in Scotland and the Worlds which are both big aims this year.
Did an interview with British Cycling a week or so ago, check ot out on
The World Cup whirl wind continued with the round 2 at Offenburg in Germany. The course is pretty nuts with loads of rooty singletrack and crazy long steep drops, which the locals love and attracts massive crowds. After last weeks 18th i was on the 3rd row and looking forward to a decent start but then got a bit of a shocker and dropped to the 40s, like an idiot i panicked, went to hard to try and move up and then suffered big time. Eventually i came round and started going forward again but 30th was as good as it was going to get. But still 23rd overall which will do. My team mate Adam Craig was having a sweet day and was mixing it with the big guns finishing 8th
Next up is Madrid for round 3 this weekend
Before i came over to Belgium I popped in to Kent Uni where my coaching consultant and all round clever bloke Prof Louis Passfield is based. Did some media stuff with local BBC and Kent TV. Basically Olympic based stuff but came across pretty good, interested then links are
The BBC piece can be viewed at; http://www.bbc.co.uk/southeasttoday/latest_stories/
Click on section marked 'Scientists help pedal power'.
Kent one is http://www.kenttv.com/programmes.php?PID=1094&Title=Biking+for+Beijing
Writing this in Germany feeling pretty knackered but mentally happy about how last week’s World Cup opener went. The race was in Houfallize in Belgium and with 15 previous World Cup races there going back to 1990 its the closest thing us off roaders has to a classic.
It’s a tough, hilly and well worn technical course and heavy rain on the Saturday made things more even interesting. Thankfully it was dry on race day, which is sound for riders, helpers and spectators. In Houf you always get a lot of nutter Belgies who shout their heads off fuelled on beer, sausages and waffles and the atmosphere is brilliant.
The opening World Cup is always flat out and with this being Olympic year and loads of countries infighting for selection it was going to go up a notch. With my grid of 49th (based on last year’s World Cup) and a bit of missed training i was not too confident but deep down i was feeling ok and with a 2 min steep road climb start that suited stickmen things could of been far worse. I was also on my new XTC advanced SL hardtail prototype with new SID fork so my push bike had lost a pound in the last week which was going to help.
As the 260 man (yes 260!) field hit the climb it kicked off but my legs were good and I moved up into the top 30 before the singletrack. Over the next few laps i moved forward and was feeling comfortable and with 2 laps to go was sitting in 14th but then my missed training started to tell and I stalled a bit and faded to 18th. Was still happy to make the top 20 and start my season with a solid result from a duff gridding. I feel like I am over my problems of last year, the confidence is back up and that i can ride in the top 10 sometime in the next couple of months.
This weekend we race the 2nd World Cup in Germany so I am hanging out here for the week. I am staying in a sweet apartment in the vineyards and with Adam Craig and the guys from Giant USA. Its great to be with some nice people and getting well looked after with Tom on the bikes and Elke on the legs and management, so life is good.
I took myself off to Ireland on the weekend for the 3rd race in the K capital International series on the weekend. It was another technical circuit but had some real good sections of rocky rooty stuff that was hard to ride smooth. The legs were good in practice but my throat was not the best and I felt on the edge of a cold.
Woke up on Sunday and shit had happened, throat was proper sore now and felt a bit out of it. With loads of important races coming up the only option was not start the race. This is the first time in 11 years as a pro that I have travelled to a race, practiced and then got ill, so i guess it was going to happen someday.
The race was the last session of a hard pre World cup block so it was a pain to miss it but i have been training hard so its not the end of the world. Instead I now need to chill out, feel 100% and then get a couple of hard days in before heading off to the World Cup on the 20th.
This year the UCI have put the opening 3 World Cup races in row. This is super tough and the best option is to get fit and fresh and then hope for the best. All you can do is race and recover. With the 1st National race the week before it is not the best for me to be there and make it 4 races in a row. I made the hard decision to miss it and focus on the big picture, which is riding well at the Worlds and the Games. However I will be at the 2nd race and up for it.
Check out MBUK this month as my Welsh Epic is in there with some real nice photos.
They say a wins a win and yesterday I notched up my second of the year at the 1st round of the Midland series. Having pulled out of the Girvan road race the week before with a cold I needed a replacement race and decided to roll up to Stoke.
It was a great race and felt like the old days. I rolled up on the day with my two girls, signed on, warmed up and raced. No pre ride, no hotels, no stress.. The course was good despite the heavy overnight rain and was starting to flow by the end of the race. Best of all the sun was out for the whole day which made everyone happy, most of all Rach and Zoe who were stuck in the woods for 2 hrs handing out bottles.
With some heavy training in my legs I decided to sit in and take it steady for the first 2 laps and was happy to follow Duncan Jameson around and let him find out how deep the muddy ditches were! Then I wound it up a bit and tried to get faster each lap. Felt pretty good and like the stick legs had some power so think I am on track.
Next week I am off to Ireland for the 3rd round of their series, then a weekend off then its time for the big stuff with the opening World Cup in Belgium.
Just returned from Ireland and my first MTB race of the year, it all went well and have notched up my first win of 2008. It was my first ever visit to Ireland and I like the place and also the Kcapital race series is a good one as well, with good courses, a chilled out atmosphere and a good bunch of locals.
The course was pretty technical, which was to be expected as it was designed and built by Irish champ Robin Seymour, who loves the tech stuff and goes downhill quicker than any XC rider I know. With this series been the Irish Olympic selection the local were also going to be flying and pretty psyched so it was going to be tough.
The race went off fast and my legs were a bit dead but got going after a few mins and starting going round well. I was a bit rusty on the slippy roots and Robin was off and gone. I held the gap but for the next 3 laps it was between 5 and 30secs. Then on lap 4 I made contact and starting the last lap had 5 secs which i extended on the climbs and made 1 min at the end.
So all good and not a bad start to the year. After 5 months out of racing i was a bit slow on speed but that will come. Next up is some road stuff and then back to Ireland for the 3rd round of the Kcapital series on April 6th.
Feb has been a great month for riding so far with cold, sunny days and dry trails. Been getting it loads of off road riding inc a 3 day epic with Nick Craig in Wales. I had an idea to ride all the trails at the 7 trail centres in Wales in 3 days. Stupid as it adds up 160 miles, but I need some hard training.
After 15hrs of mostly singletrack, a gallon of coffee, 2 curries, a bit of rally driving , a few hrs of night riding we finished the challenge. The weather was great and to be honest if it was bad I would of cracked. Instead it was a riot and loads of fun.
It has been a while since I have ached all over from my neck to my feet as our bodies took a right good kicking. The challenge is going to be a feature in MBUK magazine in a couple of months so check it out.
The time for road trips is soon to be over as the season kicks off soon. Got a week road training in Majorca then off to earn my keep with Giant at their dealer demo week, where i will be taking dealers out in Cannock (so life could be worse). Then the racing starts on March 6th in Ireland.
I am writing this with a smug grin on my face as i am currently sat in a cafe at Palma Majorca airport on my way home from my first training camp of the year. The reason for the smugness being that in the 11 days I have been here I have done 40hrs of quality riding without rain, where as back in the UK its been miserable with high winds and monsoon rain. Its always sweet to be away and watch BBC world and find the weather at home is crap, on the other hand ive been away before in Spain training in the rain while Bristol had sun, so its not always as simple as get on plane get sun.
The GB team have a base in Majorca from Jan through till March for the endurance track squads and I managed to tag along. The mens squad were there and managed to get some rides in with them, although missed there interval blocks out as I am still getting in my base fitness. Them boys were working hard and going good and also full of confidence, so it was good to be around that a group like that as it is easy to be motivated.
Got a week back home now to sort out my life, do some work type stuff like a MBUK feature and make sure equipment and kit is on its way. Most of my sponsors are staying on from last year but got some new ones too. The main ones being Giant of course, Schwalbe, SRAM, Hope, Race Face, Crank Bros and Oakley.
Then its some MTB riding and then back out to Majorca for another week of road work, where hopefully my luck will continue with the weather, cheers.
Well 2007 is nearly over and good riddance too it and bring on 2008. From the start of this year to the end I have been struggling a bit and it has not been much fun either and at points has defiantly been a job. But I got through in 1 piece, with my head still screwed on and still with some good results in the bag.
At the end of November the training was still relaxed and i was able to do some proper fun things with my weekends. First up was my first experience of enduro MX racing, unfortunately I was not on the bike but spectating as my bro was lining up for his first competitive time out in the South West series. 300 riders in a field revving the arses out of their bikes gave me a buzz just standing there, Joe-boy looked like he was feeling too as he was pale as. Over the next 3 hrs I stomped the course and kept popping up like dungeon master, the boy did good taking 13th out of 60 in sports and ended up walking like a cowboy for a few days.
Then the week after I was off to Belgium for a 2 day raid, with some of the guys from Giant and their mates. On the menu was some bike racing at the Koikjside cyclo cross World cup with chips, mayo and beer and then into Ghent for a night at the Ghent 6 day track race and a few more Duvals. The cross race was wicked, amazing crowds like being at a football match and good close racing. The 6 day was good once we got there and being in the mosh pit in the middle was the way forward. From there we hit the town and finally back home for a quick kip and drive home with some serious TC. For cycling fans who enjoy a beer or two I would recommend it.
But as December began it was time to get reasonably serious and start structured training. Nothing too hard but a good mix of road work, cross rides, MTB loops and Gym stuff, which combined should take me into the new year strong, balanced and fit enough for training camps.
Have a good xmas and new year.
Did some tips for XCracer.com and thought I would add them here too. Hope it helps with the winter, though so far it has not been too bad.
Top winter tips.
1- Get the right gear, bit of no brainer but makes a big difference.
Mudguards like crud catchers front and back, something under your helmet like a buff, layer up with under vest by your skin, and waterproof socks or winter riding shoes for the really crap days
2- Pick the right trails for the conditions
Some trails are year round (most of manmade ones) and some trails are only good for dry periods (like most of the stuff round Bristol where I live) There is no point riding round in really muddy trails all ride, ruins your bike and kills moral.
3- Be flexible
Check the weather and if try and fit in with it. If you a planning a weekend epic ride on Sunday and sat looks like being a good day and Sunday shit, try and switch it round. Likewise if its peeing down in the morning check to see if it is gonna clear up later on.
4- Get oiled up
This is a top racing boys tip. If you are going out in the rain putting some oil (baby oil or bike specific stuff like elite ozone) on your feet, legs, butt and lower back. This will keep the warmth in and the cold wet out. This is where the shaven legs come in useful
5- Stay keen
The main thing is to stay keen and enthusiastic. if the weather is really bad then stay home and save your juice for another day than thrash around in the mud and get cold and pissed off. If you are looking to race in the spring, it is what you do in Feb and march that counts not November.
Sorry for lack of entries over the past month but in terms of bike riding there has not been a lot going on. After the race in Turkey the bike stayed in the bag and I went off to Majorca for a week with my girls which hit the spot. Other than throwing the nipper round the pool and getting off the couch to get another beer there was no exercise done.
But after holiday there is plenty of deal sorting and the like to be done for next year and sorting out training and racing plans so that keeps me busy. Oh and doing all the DIY stuff I have put off for the last 10months.
But after 3 weeks off its time to get back on the pusher and start some easy riding and also put of the shell suit gear for some run/gym work. For a month I will do roughly 10hrs of exercise a week with some road, MTB, running and gym making up the time. Then at the start of Dec I have a 3 day MTB camp in North Wales with the National team, so need to be kinda fit for that so I do not die on my arse and have to be pushed home.
This year has been a bit of nightmare for GB as a nation in terms of our National ranking and Olympic place allocation. The basic way that it works is that the National rank is the top 3 riders points added together, then depending on the countries rank of 06 and 07 combined the Nation gets 1, 2 or 3 places at the games. Simple hey.
In 06 we had a great year and with Liam Killeen in 10th and myself in 13th we were sitting in 6th overall and only 1 place of 3 spots. But 10 months later and with Liam out of action for most of the year and with myself not riding so high we are sitting in a combined rank of 13th. This is still 2 spots but if we drop to 14th we get only 1 spot and the Czechs are not far behind and having had a good Worlds are even closer.
This has made the last few races of this year very important and to be honest not as much fun as they normally are. So instead of sitting on a beach with a Stella or doing some chilled out races in the UK I packed my bags and headed off for a couple of high ranked Euro Races.
First up was the Hondsrug Classic in Holland. This is a massive 1 day event with 1500 riders starting at once. It is based on a big lap and the elite riders and most others do 2 laps which takes the winner about 1.40hrs. Being Northern Holland its pan flat, super fast and therefore not the most stickman friendly location. Added into the mix were 3 top cross riders on board their cross bikes.
I got a dodgy start and with the cross riders having the edge and attacking I was in a bit of grief when the line broke and I had to close on my own. I got back to the front group but at half way the shit hit the fan and it was too much for me and I got dropped from the front 9. The next group caught me and I tried to sit in and recover but when we started jumping for the finish i was stuffed and rolled in 19th. No points and with Czechs in 10th and 11th they picked up a handful.
Five Days later I was on a plane to Turkey for another end of season classic, the Alanya International Cup. The event is based around the historical castle in Alanya climbing and descending the steep hillsides and is a cool location for a bike race. The steep climbs were more to my liking and with the race clashing with the bigger Roc d Azur race in France the field was not too strong.
On Saturday it was a hot 30degress and dusty. As we warmed up on race day it went black and the taps turned on. It was like a monsoon and the rocks and cobbles on the descents were slick. The roads were like Ice and on the start loop several guys hit the deck by riding like idiots. I got a gap on the main climb and the legs were good but the 2 Ukranian guys got me back on the descent as I stayed safe. I rode away on the climb again but this time a twisted front mech allowed me to be caught as I stopped in the pits. But thankfully after that I was OK and took the win and a valuable 60 Points.
Now I can finally have that Stella on the beach as I put the bike away for a couple of weeks and head off on holiday. We still have a gap on the Czechs and with only races left in South America I hope things are safe, but we will see..
The third MTb race in 3 weeks but this time in the UK, well was abroad really as up in North Wales. The race was the 5th and final round of the National series and was held at the classic trail centre of Coed Y Brenin. The circuit was based on the old trail centre and the Red Bull trail which was pretty cool, as the course had some good climbs and downhills. The only spanner in the works was the 65mm of rain that fell on the area on Friday morning which made some of the trails more suitable for an edition of paddles up than a bike race. There was a visitor too in the shape of the Dane Peter Anderson, who is pretty speedy with a 14th place finish at the Worlds a couple of weeks before.
Warming up the legs felt good, which a nice surprise as i felt pretty shit all week and from the start i felt comfortable and strong. A group formed on lap 1 with me, Peter and Paul Oldham, who was riding on Dad power and trying to show 4 week old Declan how cool his Dad is. On lap 3 the pace became a bit hot for Paul and he drifted off but me and Peter were pretty even. Going into the last lap and i attacked on the 2 main climbs but no luck and with 2 miles to go I got jumped on the forest road. I could not get on Peters wheel and the gap slowly opened before the big downhill to the finish. I was beaten and did not push the descent as i was worried about punctures crossing the line 20 secs back.
But 2nd on the day was good enough for me too take the Series for the 5th time and go with my National Champs title. That means i have held both titles for the last 3 years which is a record i am proud of.
After 2 days back at home to dry out and do my washing it was travel time again, to the World Cup final in Slovenia. What was supposed to be a easy trip out with some of the National team guys turned into a bit of a hassle as they all missed the plane having got stuck in traffic. After a few quick calls the hire car was in my name and after wrestling with a map of Slovenia in WHsmiths i worked out roughly where i was going (too tight to pay £8.99 for a map i will prob only use once, better to try and remember the way using my photo graphic memory and hope for the best).
I cruised through Slovenia on my own in a nine seater transit and found the road i needed, after climbing up for 14km i was starting to lose faith but came upon a sign for the village i needed. It was worth the drive as the place was pretty stunning, with views over the city. We were at the top of the main hill by the gondola and the course was at the bottom of the hill 900m below.
The rest of team 'hey u guys' turned up at 1am and after a lazy morning we headed out after lunch for some course practice. The ride down the hill was mental, we avoided the freeride tracks as the yanks who arrived early in the week described them as scary steep and went for the forest road. 20mins later and with smoking brakes and arm pump we hit the course. It was a good one with rooty climbs and downhills and a nasty start climb, it was proper riding and as long as it stayed dry would be cool.
I started 57th on the grid and with ok legs moved up on the wider start climb and hit the narrow stuff in the 30's. Got into a good rythem and moved forward a bit and held it all together for a pleasing 27th place. I felt better than the Worlds the week before and was riding technically better too which was bit annoying, although the Anthem fully was helping things no end.
The biggest MTB race of the year has come and gone and it was a great weekend for British Mountain biking as it was a awesome event. The Downhill Brits did well again with 4 medals in all 4 events and David Fletcher did a great ride to win Bronze in XC junior men. However for me it was a steady day and I finished disappointed in 35th.
After the last 2 seasons where I have been riding well and at peak form at the Worlds it was not nice to be there not 100%. I had some promising signs before the race and a good race 3 weeks ago but also some bad health again so did not know how it was going to go. I rode as fast I could but was not tough enough or fast enough and had to settle for a steady ride.
I am looking forward to the winter and getting back on top of things again but for now I have to focus like Fashanu and look towards the World Cup final and the National final in the next 2 weeks.
The big news up here is obviously the superb ride of junior Dave Fletcher in the Junior men’s race taking a bronze medal. Fletch has been getting stronger all year but raised his game on the day that matters. He was in the mix from the start and rode with his head as well as his legs to take 3rd by a healthy gap and super close to the win.
The GB DH and 4X riders have also qualified really well and if they can handle the pressure will be sure to gain medals, as they normally do at the champs. Great to see Steve Peat back on his bike and riding after his injury and with a few more days rehab he will be running sweet again.
For me its almost race day but today’s lie in was disturbed by the dope testers from the UCI, who came calling at 6am for blood samples. A load of teams were tested yesterday and its good to see, if not a little annoying when you are sound asleep.
The World Champs are now in full swing up here in Fort William with a number of medals won and lost. There are none for the Brits yet but as i write this the junior men are on course so that may change, as GB have 4 talented young ones in there.
As you would expect up in West Scotland it’s raining and has been drizzling pretty much non-stop for the last couple of days. But this has affected the trade area more than the race track, as the course stands up very well to the bad weather. Most of the track is man made and has been designed to be weather proof and also last a number of years so that it can be used for future races and by the public.
As for me things are going well and the days are ticking by without too much trouble or boredom. As that can be a problem before big races as you are sitting around a lot killing time whilst been slightly nervous. It’s a bad combination and thankfully gadgets or a good book normally does the trick.
The final hard training is done and i fly up to Scotland tomorrow (Monday). In the week up to the race my training is all based around the course, a few laps on Tuesday steady and then a couple of laps on Thursday with a bit of hard work mixed in to open myself up. Other than that its easy road rides and plenty of time watching DVDs to fill the time.
The course up at fort William includes a long technical descent so this needs to be practised so that come race day i am as smooth and quick as possible. It’s not scary to ride but the rock and bermed sections need to be taken as fast as possible so it becomes technical in that way.
Tuesday will be a busy day for the GB team in general as well as for me. As well as morning practice there is the team relay in the afternoon and then the opening ceremony in he evening. The team relay is always a good race and one that i have done a few times myself. Basically its a 4 lap race with a senior, under 23 and junior man and a women doing a lap each in any order. So you have a women been chased down in the last lap by a senior man for the win, which gets pretty interesting. As for the result the hot money is on the Swiss.
I was in need of a decent race before the Worlds and also in need of some World ranking points so headed off to Hungary of all places to do the Budapest Cup. Ian Wilko was in the same boat so came out with his girlfriend Jayne which made it a bit of a laugh too.
The race was great, well organised, good atmosphere and some good riders turned up, but the best bit was that I did them all and won! The course was good too, with some fast technical stuff in the first half and then a couple of tough climbs in the second. It was short and we had 8 laps to do which was going to hurt, especially as it was 30degress too.
From lap 1 me and the pole and highest ranked rider in race Galinski were off the front but on lap 2 I got a gap, this 20sec buffer remained for a few laps but then he cracked and by the end I had a healthy 2 mines, to take my third ever International win. Not a bad time to do it either with only 3 weeks to the Worlds
Sorry for the lack of updates during the last month, this is not due to me been slack but a technical problem with the server. The missing diaries are featured below, Cheers
Two weeks after the Nationals it was time to find out whether the training was working as I lined up at the Swiss Cup in Bern. The Swiss cup is a big series and always gets a decent international field and with this round being their higher category registered race the Men’s field looked like a World Cup.
I like Swiss cups races as they always have a good atmosphere, with a good crowd and no frills approach to racing. This venue was one of the best I have been too as it was on the top of a big hill above Bern that was accessed using a mountain train, that took you straight up the side of the hill up to 800m altitude.
The course was a good tough one with some grass start loops and then a hilly 5km lap with fast tech descents inc a near vertical shoot followed by a little ring on the front of your seat climb. With 3 start loops and 7 laps it was going to be a tough one for sure.
I started well and moved up a bit on the last start loop and had a smile on my face as my legs were good. It was going too fast for me at the front but I settled into a descent group that went from 12 to 18. We swapped around between us during the race and going into the last lap I was in a battle for 11th with Frishi and two other guys. On the last climb I was going ok but finding it tough and was in 13th but then Sauser cam past at warp speed and knocked me to 14th (He snapped his chain on the line and came through from a 4min penalty!!). It was a good ride and for the first time in a while I felt like I was riding like I was last year, there is still more to come though.
Six days after the Euros it was time to defend my National title. With dodgy form and a dirty trip to Turkey in my legs I was far from confident and with everyone knowing that I was not at my best a few people fancied their chances of taking my stripy jersey.
The race was at the classic venue of Newnham Park and after the cock up of the Bristol Nationals; Martyn Salt had come to the rescue and combined the Champs with a round of his National Series (Good job fella). The course at Plymouth is not as hard as in the old days staying in the park but there were a few short tough climbs to spilt the race.
Come race day if let like my legs had come round a bit from the kicking they took in Turkey and I started the race a bit happier. From the off Paul Oldham and Wilko took it on and on lap 1 we were off. Poor Oldman was suffering from a cold so dropped back and that left me and Wilko to battle it out. I spent most of the time at the front and attacked every climb, but with a lack of fitness and the climbs being short meant that I could not drop Wilko. However I kept going and on the last lap I finally got a gap that I held to the finish to take my 5th Senior title and my 3rd on the trot.
Was a relief to come good and get it out the way and now I can concentrate on getting into shape for the Worlds
Check out the August edition of Men’s Fitness magazine. It’s a bike special and I am doing my gym workout for them. Look a bit bad though compared to all the buffed geezers in the rest of the magazine though.
After a few weeks out of action and only 10days training the Euro Champs in Turkey were going to be a tough return. But I had to start somewhere so turned up and gave it a go. The Euro Champs have been highlights for me over the last 2 years with a 6th and a 10th but this year I ended up a with very steady 32nd . The first hour was ok and in was in the 20’s and feeling ok but the last hour took its toll and I suffered like a dog and dropped back a bit. But to be honest it was great to be feeling healthy again and riding properly, if not a bit slower than I would like.
The racing sucked but the location of the race was cool. It is the region of Cappadocia in the middle of the country and the main attraction is the houses dug into the rock. It’s a weird rock here and is stable but easy to carve and back in the day they locals made their homes in the rock. Later on the Christians hung out here and hid from the Romans and there are hundreds of churches in the area. Some of the rocks are like cones up to 50metres high and are now 4 storey townhouses. It’s pretty rare to race somewhere interesting and it made the ride to the course and back a bit exciting.
After not doing a lot and generally getting pissed off for 2 weeks I am back on my bike and training again, after my physical collapse at the 3rd World Cup. It looks like it was a build up of fatigue that goes back to when I was really ill in January. There is never a good time to take a break and this was not a good time as I was forced to miss the Giant-T mobile 24hr and have also had to cancel a training camp/Olympic recce to Asia next week.
The 24hr race is a massive event for everyone at Giant and as defending champions and the 10th anniversary it was super important, so to pull out was really disappointing and not good for Giant. Without a Giant World team to pick from it was harder to find a squad especially now we needed 4 guys, but we got a good team together from Europe. We had 2 Norwegians Truls and Martin and two Dutch guys Leo and Nieck. And for their sins they also had me as team manager to show them the ropes.
Having never ridden an event like this before and never raced at night the guys were up against it. They started well but against a well drilled and experienced Scott UK team they started to drop away. 2 broken mechs in the mud knocked us back to third behind the Danish Rivelle squad. But the guys did a great job and made it on to the podium.
Next up for me are the Euro Champs and then the Nationals. Hopefully I can find gain some fitness I the 3 weeks before and ride OK. Then I can keep building to the Worlds.
Well I was hoping that the first half of my season would end in cheers but instead it was tears. After the second World Cup I was feeling a bit rough and missed the third national race to try and be in good shape for the 3rd World Cup race in Switzerland. I trained at home and that went well but in the days coming up to the race something was up. I put these negative feelings to the back of my mind and cracked on till race day.
I was gridded 23rd and with a 3min start loop climb before a long tech descent a good start was essential. The gun went and we were off but even before we started the hill I had lost places and no matter how hard I tried the brakes felt like they were on and people were coming round me. I slipped back into the 70’s by the end of lap 1 and on lap 2 things did not improve and I decided to call it a day. I hate pulling out of races and it makes me feel bad for days. It sucked even more as my family and my parents had come to watch and to see their faces as I rode by slowly was not good skills.
However shit happens and that’s bike racing. I have a small virus which eventually got the best of me and forced me to rest. After a couple of days of sleeping a lot and feeling rough and grumpy I came round a bit and could enjoy my week’s holiday in France. Stayed off the bike for 6 days before jumping on one of my old Scott Strikes that my Dad rides now to pedal round the lanes for a couple of hours. These things can take a while to sort out but when it does I will be back on it.
Unfortunately I missed the 3rd round of the National Series on the weekend through bad health. Since the World cup the previous weekend I have been a bit under the weather and come sat I was still not right so had to make the call to stay at home. With another big World Cup race this weekend I could not risk racing and making myself worse and end up messing up both races.
After racing the first 2 flat races it was a shame to sit out a hilly one, especially as its not far form home to Margam Park, in fact it was at Margam that I won my first National as a Youth way back in 1991!! Just writing that down makes me feel like an old bastard. The race was won by young un Ian Bibby (his 1st NPS win) so well done to Bibbs, the lad has come on a notch this year and looking good. Although looks like he had to work hard, only beating fellow stickman Paul Oldham by 6 secs, having caught him on the last lap. Bet them two legging it across the grassy finish at Margam in full pain mode was a sight, trying to squeeze every last watt out of there little cramping quads.
I did a piece on getting into MTB for Guardian newspaper which was in on Saturday. If you want to check it out it’s on their site at
After the World Cup race this weekend I am popping straight over to France for a week’s break with my folks in France so will not be able to post a report on the race till the following week but check out www.cyclingnews.com for the result.
Just got back from the 2nd World Cup race and feel like I’ve been playing Rugby, not riding my bike. The course combined with the conditions made it one of the most difficult World Cups I have done. The race was in Offenburg, Germany and is described as the most technical circuits in the country and as I went round on Friday I found they were not exaggerating.
Most of the 5km loop was on single-track and had a few nasty climbs and some nasty descents to match, but the thing that Offenburg has is 4 really steep drops. Each one dropping 8 meters or so on what feels almost vertical at the top, but no worries as it was 34 degrees and bone dry.
But on Sunday as we waited in the hotel it started to spit rain and when we left to ride to the course 2 hrs before the race it was throwing it down and we were in our full waterproofs. There was quick change to mud tires and on went the crud catcher in preparation and I hoped for good luck. When the conditions are bad everyone will have some bad luck with crashing and mechanical problems but you have to keep positive and hope that you can stay in the race.
My positivity was tested on only the second corner as some chumps got tangled up and then took me with them. 4 of us hit the deck and with 210 riders behind me I was scared of been trampled but somehow I got up quickly with me and my push bike in one piece. But the result was a few bumps and I was back in the 80s. One good thing is that the legs were going round good and I moved up when I could, but with lots of slippy single-track this was not that easy and of course every time we got to one of the drops it was carnage as chumps were overtaking waiting riders on stupid lines and then decking it. Proper penis of the day award went to the new Swiss champ, I do not know his name but the bloke is a dick as he did this 3 times on lap 1.
As everyone got spread out though life got easier and by lap 4 of 7 I had got up to 25th, but then it was my turn for a big crash as my hands slipped off the bars at the bottom of a drop and I went off the back off the bike, again me and my bike were in 1 piece but more bumps and I lost the plot a bit. Over the last 2 laps I was getting a bit puffed out and struggled as the course got slower and slower and my bike got heavier and heavier. Eventually I crossed the line in 32nd not a great position but in some way I was happy just to get to the finish at all.
After a few days resting and training at home it was time to head up proper North to Scotland and in particular Fort William, the venue for the World Champs in Sept. The course has been re-designed for the champs and the Scots were holding a round of their series on the course, the race was also world registered so a few points and pounds up for grabs but most importantly it was an opportunity to get the feel and some data before the big day.
With the second round of the world cup the following week I had some training to do so Friday involved 3 hr session with some recce work and then 3 tempo laps of the course and then I chilled on the Sat and watched a dismal FA cup final as the rain hammered down. On Sunday though the weather was good (for Fort William) and we did not have to line up in our waterproofs.
The organisers were hoping to attract a few foreign riders but with some big races in Europe and a World cup the following week most stayed away, but the big Austrian Michael Weiss turned up. He is a good rider with some big results so I knew I was going to have a race on my hands, but was hoping it was not too hard as I need to save some gas for next Sunday.
The new course is generally tougher physically and climbs from the gun. Weiss rode hard on lap 1 and the two of us were clear. We then stayed together till the climb on lap 3 where he jumped me at the end and attacked the downhill, I flapped a bit and made a mistake and I started lap 4, 18 secs down. I almost closed him down by the top but again lost a few secs on the downhill. The last time up the climb I could see him slowing and my legs were still good and I caught him and jumped getting a gap which extended top 45 secs at the finish.
It was cool to win on the course and is good for the head, although there is some work to be done by Sept, to be near the front then I will need another gear on the climb and a bit more speed on the drop down.
After a couple of weeks off racing it was time to pin a number on again and start what will be a tough run of 5 races. It’s an important part of the season and includes the second and third World Cup races which are my main aims for the first half of the season.
Starting the racing off was the 2nd round of the National Series. A National is always a race worth trying for but this one was worth trying that bit harder for being Category 1 status (the nice guys at British Cycling had stumped up the extra funding to turn this race from a Category 2 International to a Cat 1, this means double World Points and double £) .
I had two small concerns though, firstly I have been training like a nutter for 2 weeks and after a few recovery days I was not going to feel tip top and secondly I hate riding at Clipstone. I banished a few ghosts last year by winning here but they changed the course again and put in more single-track, more dead turns and less bits where you pedalled. The other problem for all the riders was that with sport, expert and elite men and women on course at once it was going to be a nightmare for everyone with minimal passing places. So basically we were going to be spending all day trying not to crash into or piss off lapped riders and not hit any tree stumps as we went off piste to squeeze past. Anyway as I drove to the race I told myself to stop being grumpy and ride near the front to stay out of trouble.
The race started quick with the usual suspects and also a few foreign extras in the mix. I stayed out the trouble and out the wind and as we came round the first lap there was a group of 10 or so at the front. I gave it burst at the front as did Burry and Wilko but with no great affect. Then at the end of lap 3 Bibby jumped on the forest track and got a gap as everyone looked at each other. I let Burry chase a bit, let Wilko do his team mate blocking job in the single-track and then decided to try and go for it. I put my head down and just went hard, it kind of worked as the group split but still had Wilko on my wheel.
We caught Bibby and he could not hang on, so as we went into the last lap it was down to me and Wilko. For those who do not know him Wilko is MTB rider born and bred but is leading the National Road series at the moment and it is on the tarmac that he spends most of his time these days. He is build like a brick shit house and can sprint so a flat fast course is up his street. This meant my chances in a sprint were nil so I had to get away. On the draggy bits I gave it everything and had him swinging but not enough so we hit the finish together, where I got completely smashed!! Was pissed to lose a race like this but all in all I am pretty happy to come away with a 1st and 2nd from two flat National course. Next up is the World Champs test race in Fort William where we got to race the course where the big one is happening in Sept so should be interesting.
Not a lot going on in the racing department for a couple of weeks, having not started at Rutland road race last week. But plenty of training to be done before the next World Cup races and a few PR days, so I am not exactly sat around all day watching Under the Hammer (the best day time TV programme by far) and Countdown.
Last week went over to London for the day, for the Fort William World Champs media launch which was all pretty cool. Being that most mainstream journalists do not know that a world exists out of the M25 the organisers decided to take mountain biking and Scotland to them. They rented out a cool Scottish bar on Trafalgar Square, had a press conference, launch and then a load of us did a photo shoot on the steps. Peaty, Mosely and the Atherton’s were in attendance as well as the Fort William MP Charles Kennedy, the old Lib Dem leader that resigned due to liking the pop a bit too much. At one point me, Peaty and Charles posed together and all I could think about was this combo would be a messy night on the piss.
The guys did a great job there and to be honest I was pretty excited by it all. It’s going to be an awesome event and with 30,000 odd Brits there it’s going to be good to ride there, just hope I can get it right and be near the front somewhere.
The season finally got going properly yesterday with the first round of the World Cup. Until you have done this race it is always a nervous time as you do not know where you are really at. The race was in Houffalize in Belgium and for us mountain bikers it is the closest thing we have to a road classic. There had been a World Cup here most years since 1990 and the winners list is a who’s who of XC racers. The circuit is great as it is proper riding and combined with a great atmosphere and 30,000 mad Belgians this is where it’s at.
The start lap was 70% of a normal lap and went straight up a 3min 14% road hill before joining the circuit. This was right up my street and my legs were up for it and I got stuck in and went into the single-track in 5th place, I started the 1st lap proper in 9th place and then I realised that today was not going to be great and that the front guys were going to quick for me. I suffered for my fast start for the next 3 laps and my legs wanted to chill for a few minutes and recover, but this was not going to happen. Over the last 2 laps I came round a bit but it was too late to move too far forward and just picked off a few for 25th place. It’s an Ok result and to be honest it’s nice getting the first race out the way and get some points on the board and an ok gridding for the next round in late May
Raced the first National Series race at Thetford yesterday and despite feeling pretty rough all week I turned it on for race day and got the win. It sounds easy when I write it down but it was a tough weekend. After years of racing on the same circuit the venue moved to another part of the forest and even though it was the same type of stuff, a change was as good as a rest. For those of you that do not know Thetford forest it is flat with lots of BMX style single-track through the trees. To be honest it’s not really my bag, I like a few hills and all though the single-track is fun for a lap, to race round it for 40 of 60 km is a bit too intense and causes lots of problems with lapped riders. But the good bit is that the racing is close and more like a good road circuit race where you have to use your brain and not just your legs, if you ride at the front all day you just get knackered.
Being race number 1 there were a lot of pumped up people on the start line which worried me a bit with nearly a km of fast road to the first narrow track.
70 excited racers + too much coffee + first Nps nerves + forest track for 1km = complete chaos and at least 1 big crash because someone will ride like a dick. There was a crash but I was in front of it and got into the narrow stuff in 6th, the man going like a train was the South African champ Barry Stander (he rides for GT and was on his way to Sea Otter) he was pushing hard on the long single-track sections and with his skills and a winter of racing his legs he was strong and got a gap.
We pulled him back and then he went again on lap 2. At the end of the lap there were a few drags so it was here that I gave it some and got across to Barry, taking Bibby and Gareth Montgomery with me. We all worked well and the gap grew over the next few laps. At the end of lap 5 I decided that it was time to break it up and went hard on the drags again and this time only Barry could follow, this was cool but he was starting to worry me. The last lap was full on as me and Barry had to go full gas to make the move stick as the other 2 were chasing. Back to the last km drags and I attacked again with everything I had and did not look round till the forest road. A quick look and I had 15 metres but this was enough as I pushed hard for the line. It was the first time I have won Thetford and I really enjoyed racing like that so I was pretty pumped at the finish and happy to win the opener.
Some photos will follow in the gallery soon, where you check out my pimping white shorts and National top. Bit gay I know but had to be done.
You may have noticed that I have a new home page design. My mate Sean who has created the site (thanks) has been playing around and developed version 2 which is a bit sharper and stylish, well we think so.
On Sunday I finally started the real work and pinned a number on for a MTB race. Not one for an easy life I decided to dive head first into the deep end and do the opening round of the Swisspower Cup. With the World Cup at the end of the month and this race being the biggest in Europe that weekend, the race became a mini World Cup. Luckily the Cape Epic stage race was still on in South Africa otherwise it would have been even harder. On the start line was the World/Olympic champ Juilen Absalon, the under 23 world champ and the 3rd and 5th ranked riders in the world rank, oh and not forgetting me, a stickman from England with white legs and a bit of self doubt having not really tested himself yet and wondering whether he was any good.
The race was going to be tough with 10 laps of a 4km loop that went straight up and then quickly down. The gun went and my legs were good and I got Absalon’s wheel in 4th place, being my first race and with all these boys having done a few, this was probably not a good idea as after 1 lap I was breathing out my arse a bit. The next two laps were no fun as I tried to hang in there and come through the bad patch. On lap 4 things started working again and I settled into a good tempo, working my way through. On lap 9 I was up to 5th place and a podium spot. But this was not too be as the Spaniard Lejeratta came flying by on a charge and took it from me, with me 20secs behind in 6th.
All in all was a good start to the year and I was in the mix with some top guys. With only 3 days road racing and a couple of hard sessions as prep I am sure that I have more to give so I am content and looking forward to the big stuff.
Been a bit crazy the last few weeks and it’s not finished yet. After my road racing I legged it off to Majorca for some hard training, with a group of cycling mates, so it was hard but pretty relaxed and good fun. In team hey u guys were Andy Wadsworth (Trainer and regular contributor to What MTB), Zak Toogood, Phil Spencer, Will Bergfelt and Duncan Jamerson. It all started off nicely on day one when we took a wrong turn and ended up having to do an extra hour on a main road into a block headwind, coming back through Palma Zak cracked and needed a push up every hill. Pure guy was dead after only day 1, but he bounced back to become king of Soller on day 2, it was a recovery that Floyd Landis would have been proud of! After seeing Zak crawling home on day 1 and then giving it out on day 2 I started to believe that maybe the guy was telling the truth? Perhaps Zaks heroic effort can be used in his defence?
After a week of battering myself and only 2 coffee stops I was spent, but then had to go straight up to The Belfry hotel to attend the Giant dealer Conference for 4 days. With mild over training and a shit night’s sleep I was a grumpy monkey on day 1, but a few easy rides, some sleep and a few laughs I came round and actually enjoyed it. Was Impressed by the show Giant put on for all the dealers, and there are a lot of Giant dealers. They have technical talks, business talks, all the product displayed, demo bikes and they all get a night on the piss. Not bad for ordering a few pushers. Was a test of will power to stay out the bar and off the cakes, but when you are racing the Olympic champ on the weekend it’s not too hard.
That’s right, on Sunday I go to Buchs in Switzerland for the first Swiss Cup race. The Swiss series is probably the strongest National series in the World and always gets a top foreign field. The races are always good and fast so I thought I would start my World Cup warm up there. It’s a tough place to go for my first MTB race but I have got to find out some time if I’m good or bad so why not now.
Will let you know how it went…..
Felt like a nice relaxing no pressure start to the year, so that means its road race time. Road racing is by no means easy but I am not expected to win/do great and if you are on a duff day you can blag it and finish in the bunch, whereas in a MTB race if you are bad it shows. The other bonus is that legging it around on the flat in the wind with a load of strong guys with big legs makes my little legs work pretty hard so I get a good training effect that should, hopefully pay off in April
First off was a local classic, the Severn Bridge RR. A good field lined up for the 10 lap/70 miler, only problem was that it was throwing it down and not too warm. But having not pinned a number on for 5 months a bit of rain was not going to dampen my enthusiasm. Was active form the gun (to keep warm) and on the hill on the first lap I dropped my heals and got a gap, over the top the main men came across and we had a sweet little 10 man group. The next 2 hrs then went like this, nice bit of through and off, group split with 4 laps to go, still in front, getting a bit cold and tired, 2 laps to go lots of attacking, me and other lad dropped on windy flat stuff and rolled in. Jobs a good un few tyres for a prize and an Argos re spray for king of the small hill prize, going to get my grans Zimmer sprayed.
This weekend went up a notch and rode the first round of the National Series, the Bikeline 2 day. All looked a bit serious with team cars, turbo warm ups and ear pieces. But tried to keep it real and remember that I was on a low key mission so had a brew and rode around a bit before stage 1 a 1.6km TT (not bad typing it was actually only 1600m). It’s about as nasty as it comes and with a few drags and a block headwind it was going to suck. Tried to push myself and tasted a bit of lung lining at the end so got it out, but bit off the pace of the skin suit boys in 30th place.
Next up later that day was a rolling and windy 60km road race and with 100 men on some narrow roads it was going to be a bit sketchy. The cross winds were savage and at one point everyone was on the wrong side of the road for shelter. That was when some geezer from the SIS team rode into the front of a car that had pulled over. Made a proper car crash sound and ripped the bumper off, his bike was not too pretty either. The look on the poor girls face was a picture.
On lap 2 it kicked off and a 12 man spit went clear, I made it across and with all the big teams in there it was a goer. Got stuck in and was going ok even if near the end I was maxed out a few times in the cross winds. My mate Ian Wilko skipped off the front with Dean Downing near the end to take a few seconds and the leader’s jersey. Was pretty chuffed with my 9th overall.
Sunday was the tough day though with 140km on the menu. Tried to hide for the first third but had to start getting involved in all the jumping around rubbish as it was looking like it was going to snap, and snap it did with 15 riders going clear with 60km to go. Again I made the move so gave myself a pat on the back. Everyone worked well and we hit the long 3km climb out of Ruthin with a nice gap on the bunch. Newton was the first to attack the hill attempting to take the 7 secs back from Wilko. I went over the top of him and then another guy pulled it. A few turns each and 5 of us were clear, the only problem for me was the next 15km. Being 6foot tall and 63kg is not the best combo for riding on the flat at 35mph and to do a turn with these guys was pretty tough, but I painfully got by. On The run in to the finish I gave up and rolled in a few secs behind the other 4, deciding to save digging that deep for a MTB race, a decision I would regret as it cost my 5th overall. But was pretty happy with 6th my best ever National Road result, not a bad start to the year and as a rule if I can road race good I can MTB race really good so fingers crossed.
It’s been quite an interesting couple of weeks since last time I wrote an entry, but here are a few things that have been happening in my World.
Dope raid!! Got the knock at 6.30am and being able to sleep like a bear I did not hear anything, so it was wife, Rachel that looked through the curtains to see a man holding an ID badge. Her first thought was they have come to arrest him, what has he done. She opened the door and he explained he was from UK sport and it all clicked, she returned to bed and woke me up. Then in a daze I made the man a brew, pissed in a pot, signed some forms and then could go back to bed. This is what happens these days as GB elite athletes have to put their details into a system called Whereabouts. Basically it’s for out of competition testing and we have to give 1 hour a day for 5 days a week where we will be. Three missed tests and it’s a 6 month ban, so heavy stuff. It is one of the best anti doping system in the world and out of comp testing is the only way to really catch the cheaters so although it’s annoying it’s a good thing.
Heat testing. The 2008 games are going to be hot and humid and for a discipline like MTB that will be a big factor, as we are pushing hard for a long duration at low speeds. In an attempt to look at the challenge I will face and the best way to combat it I was visited Portsmouth University with BC sports scientist Louis to do a dirty 2 hr turbo session in Beijing conditions, so 31degress and 72% humidity. I had 6 long intervals to do at threshold and after number 4 my core temperature had reached over 40 degrees. This is where it is considered to be unsafe and I had to ride at recovery while my temperature returned and the onsite doctor had to check me out, although all he did was ask if I was ok? And look at me as if was mad.
Big crash!! Was doing a photo shoot with 4X rider Oggy for MBUK magazine at the super technical trails near Stainburn, Harrogate. These are the most gnarly man made trails I have ever ridden and need to be treated with respect. I lost that respect for a few minutes and was following Oggy at speed down a section, he rode a bad line and I followed. The fact that he can probably bench press twice what I can meant he rode it out, where as I am a stickman and as I rode off the ledge I crumpled and was thrown over the bars. It’s been a while since my last big stack and I landed like a sack of shit. I was winded and in a bit of grief but Oggy did his nurse bit and got me on my feet. Took me an hour or so before I felt with it, we banged off some photos to finish off and then it was a long journey home. I am sat here the day after stiff as with 2 fingers strapped together and move like my Nan.
I quite often take myself over to South Wales for a potter around the man made trails at either Afan or Cwncarn. I have great trails around Bristol but when the weather has been bad they are a no go zone, where as the Welsh stuff is kind of weather proof. I normally go during the week when it ’s nice and quiet but today I went to Cwncarn on a Sunday. I could not believe it, I got there at 10am and the car park, which is pretty big was rammed and riding on the trails was a bit like going Saturday shopping at Tesco’s.
I was planning on a hard tempo 3 hrs so instead of doing 3 laps I mixed it up a bit and after my second climb up I climbed for another 10mins to the top of the downhill courses. There is a black run and a red run but the trails share a lot of the same trail, splitting, to take the riders down a hard or easy section. Being a Sunday it was pretty busy and many DH riders have a tendency to hang around in the woods around tough sections riding, watching and chatting. Think they got a bit of a shock when a stickman in tights, normal helmet and over shoes came through on a hard tail, with his seat of his arse and a set of power cranks on. Quite a lot of those extreme guys would normally mutter a few words at the sight of a lyrca clad rider but the fact that I was riding the trails reasonably quick and cleanly kind of confused them and kept them quiet.
I Rode two thirds of the way down and then back up for another run, which a lot better as I knew the trails and this time all the way to the car park for another full XC loop. All in all a good day at the office and great to see so many people from little nippers to old geezers out on the trails, even if it did make it a bit busy.
Back from my road training camp in Spain and it was a good one. After a pretty crap January with illness messing things up, it was great to get in a hard block of work and live life like a pro should. For those of you who are interested what I got up is shown below. Basically trained for 2 weeks at home and then ramped it up for the 10 days that I was away. When I got back home I did not do a lot for 4 days to recover. Then I start another block of a few weeks.
The aim of the camp was to develop my aerobic engine and continue working on my strength with a couple of specific days, hopefully it will do the trick. It helps to be away from home with no distractions where I only need to think about riding and recovering, except I miss my girls, magazines can only be read once and Sky news is not a great channel when it’s the only channel.
W- Travel to Spain
T- 4hr steady with 1hr of high tempo climbing
F- 2.30hr steady with Strength Intervals
S- 6hr Steady in easy gears
S- 4hr steady with 1hr of high tempo climbing
M- 1hr recovery café ride
T- 4hr steady with 1hr of high tempo climbing
W- 2.30hr steady with Strength Intervals
T- 6hr steady in easy gears
F- 4hr steady with 1hr of high tempo climbs
S– Travel home and relax
S- Easy hr and then go out for brunch at nice café with my girls!
Life can get pretty boring on training camp and sometimes it’s the same old stuff, eat, ride, eat, TV, eat; sleep so we need something to take our minds off the monotony of daily life. With everyone sporting winter fur we decided to start the official Feb big hair competition. Of the 4 of us here I, Si Richardson and Ian Field fancied our chances. The forth Ross Creber was out the running with a short straight affair.
The rules were simple, no product and after entry to the dinner hall no hand assistance. It was a close call but the win went to Field with Si in second and my mad professor look in third. The battle is now on for next year’s honours and everyone will be following a scientific phase plan in order to be at their microphone headed best.
Finally made it on training camp and I feel like I am really putting down the base that I can build on later in the year. I am 3 days into a 10 day camp and all going good so far. It’s not that sunny but 16degress and that’s good enough for me. To be honest I do not come here for the sun but get away so that I can be completely selfish and only think of riding and recovering. With home life getting a bit busier since the arrival of baby Zoe, these training camps are even more important and it’s nice to do nothing but ride my bike, sleep, and do stuff like write this.
I am actually staying on the Costa Blanca just North of Benidorm in a town called Altea. The road riding round here is spot on with some good coast roads, some lumpy valley roads and some big climbs up to 1200m. A lot of riders and pro teams come here and you see other riders all the time.
Have done last couple of days with Belgian Roel Paulissen. I was with him on Giant last year and he is now on Cannondale. He has been here for 3 weeks with some of his family and was getting a bit tired but looking fit and healthy. I think he will on for a good year after some bad luck over the last 2 years.
I am going to wind it up now and get my feet up and try and recover from today’s sprint strength work and get fuelled up for a steady 6hr ride tomorrow.
For MBUK magazine I am training up an adventure racing model called Emma Cox to take part in a National event. She has 7 months to get up to speed and when we first met in October she could not really ride a MTB off road. We did some intensive technique training and she practiced hard over the next 2 months, the main points being
- looking ahead, where you want to go.
- getting out of seat on technical/rough trails.
- setting the bike up to suit your size/style
- using the brakes smoothly and braking before the turn/obstacle.
- Using the gears to pedal efficiently
We met up in Cannock yesterday with Steve Behr snapping the pictures. She has come on a lot and is more confident and able. We had a good day and despite it being freezing she looked more relaxed and was moving around the bike a bit. She is fit from her running training but needs to ride her bike a bit more and on the trail look for lines and she will be good. The plan is for her to do small race next in Feb. Check out MBUK for the features.
Back on the bike after my dirty illness and loving it. Its times when you are forced off that you realise how much you love it and to be honest addicted to a certain extent. My wife Rachel has been getting in the neck over the 12 days that I was off training, with me moping around and generally been grumpy, but now I am back out there and am generally a nicer person again.
One thing that did get cocked up was a week in the sun in Lanzarote. With the virus not clearing up quick enough my departure date came and I had to make the painful decision to stay at home, I would have only been doing short rides building up my fitness so sacked it. To be honest all these trips get a bit boring and if I am not out on my bike training hard then I get pretty bored and am best off at home where I have my family, my TV and my PC to keep me amused. There are enough days sitting in hotels piss bored in the season without doing it on training camps too.
All is not lost though I’m away again soon on 31st Jan for 10days in Spain, with a few days on my own and training with Belgian Roel Paulissen who’s out there and then a week with the younguns on the National Squad.
This year I am riding solo with Giant UK as opposed to last year when I rode with a Giant World team and therefore I have a few more things to sort out, but the advantage is that I have more control over where I’m racing and my can choose my own equipment and sponsors. This can be a ball ache now but it is a massive advantage to be at the big races fresh and on the best bike. Lining up on wheels 400gr lighter than other guys is not just good for the speed but also for the head (cheers no tubes).
Everything is almost sorted and looking good, check out my sponsors and my bike pages for all the details.
As for the training things have ground to a halt as I have caught a dirty virus that everyone seems to have round here. The end result was 3 days feeling shit and another week of not being right and counting. It’s been a while since I’ve had something like this and for a pro rider it’s the worst as all you want to do is ride and get better, but sitting on your arse is what you really need to do. But I will be well eventually and can crack on with becoming the World’s strongest stickman
Happy New Year and welcome to my new website. I have been meaning to sort something out like this for a while and have finally cracked on and done it, to be honest I’m a bit slack when it comes to technology in general and especially IT so this is a big thing for me. Big thanks to Sean for doing the hard technical stuff that baffles me.
I enjoy reading other peoples sites and hope people will find what I have to say interesting and it will be regularly updated with news and diaries, otherwise what is the point. It’s not just going to be about results and sponsor stuff (although that’s an important bit!) but about the other bit involved in being a pro bike racer, like the training and the road trips.
Although it’s the off season it’s a busy time of year for training and also for sorting out the other stuff involved in the real world, like sorting out sponsors, contracts, equipment, race programmes and all that. But it’s all coming together and it’s cool to be at home for a while with my family. Plus the training is pretty varied and not too hardcore right now, but that’s going to change in a week or two when I start ramping it up.