Wednesday, 15 January 2014

2014 Cyclocross National Champs, Derby

3 bikes, half lap changes, some phenomenal pit crewing from the Barnes family.

These pics from Ben Putland sum it up quite nicely.

I was 41st in the end -nothing to write home about, but easily my best race of the season. Owing to the UCI 80% rule I was pulled as Ian came round for his bell lap. I thought I might make it to the finish unlapped (a first for me), but we'll never know. Curiously, it was more enjoyable than it looks. I seem to revel conditions like that.

Interesting from an equipment point of view was running a direct comparison between Challenge Limus and Dugast Rhinos. 2 identical bikes, with identical wheels but different tubs. The Limus' had more grip in the horrific mud, but felt noticeably slower.

ViCiOUS Po did well to finish 35th, Boom was 11th in the women's race, Kev was 22nd in an 85 strong Vets race and James Flury was 10th bihind first time winner Thomas Craig in the Junior race. ViCiOUS Velo also placed 5th in the team rankings, which is nice.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Monday, 16 December 2013

Bradford National Trophy 2013

Andy Whitehouse's image from British Cycling.

Stupid, miserable, shit day out all in all. I'd been looking forward to Bradford, as I always do. It's where I got my first okay result at Trophy level, the year of the infamous mud-chute. This has since been vastly scaled back and rarely garners the interest of more than a couple of spectators. Basically, the less challenging the course, the faster the race and the greater my disadvantage.

This wasn't helped by some weird brake jamming incident whereby my front wheel seemed to have shifted in warmup. I didn't notice anything untoward riding up and down the Tarmac but from the a certain point on the first lap, everyone else proceeded to leave me for dust. I'd had a good few weeks and felt alright, but all of a sudden, I was ploughing everything I had into the pedals and watching everybody else sail off into the distance. The guys in the pits said my front wheel wouldn't turn when they went to jet-wash it.

Then the water pump failed in the car 25 miles south and we got home 8 hours later on the back of a recovery truck. Big up to the RAC and Daryl the recovery driver though, top service all round.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

London Cyclocross Summer Series by Phil Moran

Moran Photography: Round Five &emdash; SUMMERSERIES-5804

Click the image to go to Phil's site

Friday, 12 July 2013

Core strength, you need core strength.

I've had a 'bad' back for as long as I can remember. At least the last 20yrs. I recently had a bunch of MRI scans to try and establish the root cause of my otherwise ambiguous pain.

The scans showed that my bottom-most (L5) disc is almost completely deteriorated, the result of which is that the two vertebrae which would otherwise have been nicely spaced by a protective gel bumper, are now effectively resting directly on top of each other.

No-one can say how or why this happened. It may be genetic, it may because as a race, we humans have altered the way we go about our lives or in my case it could be the long term result of one of four life-threatening impacts i.e. through trauma you rupture a disc and some of the gel leaks out. Normally this will heal itself in a few weeks. Whatever, it's all gone -literally dry as a bone.

People have been crapping on at me about core strength for some time. As cyclists, core strength can easily fall by the wayside while we plug away, building up further muscle imbalances. However, no one ever really put into simple terms, why you need a strong core or how it helps. People just said it would. Don't get me wrong, it does help -hugely. but it took an orthopaedic surgeon last week to put it into terms I could really get my head around.

As you stand or sit upright, your spine compresses as it holds you in place. In my case, those two vertebrae resting/grinding against each other. IF you can activate, strengthen and build your core, it will act like a scaffold for your spine and support your weight, thus easing the downward pressure through your spine.

This year, I subbed out bike training in place of a core strength programme. Then I got a referral to a physio. Brilliant, and on the NHS. This further complimented what I had been doing, and after 6 or 7 months I can genuinely say things are better than they have been for years. The root cause, the mechanical problem hasn't and won't go away, but all the side affects are lessening or becoming easier to deal with i.e. I can sleep through the night without it waking me up and I'm not in pain whenever I move.

Pilates. I haven't started yet, but I plan to as my brother, who recently ran his first marathon in sub 4hrs raves about it for core strength. As a runner he was experiencing IT Band discomfort at the knee. Did loads of googling and reading about possible causes and solutions but a few Pilates classes later and the resulting core strength eliminated any and all issues.

Aside from that, basic advice from physios and surgeons alike was "keep active". I kept a diary in the early part of this year in a bid to narrow down what made things worse. Not riding my bike definitely makes it worse! As I start to get fitter -not race fit, but on my way, it has got better as well. It's easier to move my own weight around -constant pain becomes a bit tiring after a while.

With regards my racing, it's been a bit frustrating not being fit enough to kick it with the roadies on a Tuesday night, but more important is the bigger picture. I hope to have built a stronger platform for race form to work off, come the autumn. I imagine it like stripping down a battered old Land Rover and then galvanising the chassis prior to a rebuild.

I wanted to share my epiphany and I hope this puts things into a bit of perspective or simply makes it easier to get your head around the reasons why people go on about it. Don't underestimate it, don't ignore it.