Twinkly Dave – Mud splattered bicycle and pizza enthusiast Growing old disgracefully

April 11, 2021


Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 8:47 pm

Round 4 of the NW CX league this weekend. The way things have been in the world, to have got to 4 rounds is pretty impressive. The way racing has had to be, to have got to round 4 without completely destroying the bike in the clogging, drivechain jamming mud is no less impressive (if somewhat more luck based, in place of hard graft and boundless enthusiasm by the organisers, sponsors, marshals and courseside sheep…), but there I was, stood on the startline, fully working bike ready for another thrashing.

Only it wasn’t me on the startline. I was in the woods with a hi viz vest of authority and a couple of (never used, thankfully) coloured warning flags and a radio that seemed to be mostly be used by commissaires finding out of there was anyone in the queue for a brew yet.
Mashaling duties. I can’t pretend it was a hardship. Maybe it was for anyone unlucky enough to be stuck out on an exposed hillside during a race in really bad weather, but for me and Angela it was basically a day in the sundappled woods, hurling encouragement (and mild abuse) to everyone as they raced past. With free coffee, when we joined the aforementioned queue.
The hundreds of other me’s on the startline for each race thundered past us over and over again as their races came and went. The delightful deep rumble of grippy tyres skimming over parched ground was a great counterpoint to our combined (and often repeticious, sorry – bit out of practice!) encouragements and, quite frankly, by about midday I was well up for some of the dry and dusty, fast racing that had shot past us.

With not much in the way of cx racing recently, I’ve not been trying to ‘peak’ or really work on top end speed – not that anyone has, I should imagine – but it took all over about 2 seconds for me to totally forget that and get thoroughly caught up in the flat out, grin inducing nature of dry cyclocross. The sprint off the startline towards the ‘cornery’ part of the course was half gasping for breath, half giggling with glee. There was to be no ‘grinding it out in the slop’ today.

Yay racing! Pic by Ellen

Any power you put into the tyres was converted into forward motion with little resistance and the corners, oh the corners! Standard protocol at the side of the course, pre and post race at dry cyclocross races is to tell everyone you prefer it when it’s muddy as your handling skills come to the fore. Balls to that. I love racing in the mud, it is great fun and a true test of skill and ‘feel’ but getting leant over in the grassy turns, popping out the other side of each course twist with a stomp on the pedals to release a little flurry of dust and acceleration, those deft, lightweight flicks to keep you skimming across the ground, rather than several inches deep in it, REALLY is brilliant.

Getting a lean on! Pic by Ellen

The only thing better, in fact, is to be doing it shoulder to shoulder with other people and, yep, most of the race was like that. Just awesome fun.

As per usual, it all seemed to be over all too soon. The lap counter on the start/finish line counted down just too quickly for my liking (Should have entered the senior race too. Would have done if I’d known how clean the bike would be after one race!) and, although I dropped back a bit from the great fun racing for 2nd/3rd I could feel I had plenty more efforts in my legs, I crossed the finish line in 3rd, wanting more. More!

Oh no, only a few laps left! Pic by Ellen

I settled for more marshaling so I could watch and cheer on the junior/senior race. The riders in it seeming to relish racing on a course that hadn’t been churned to utter misery by all us old fogeys for once 🙂

Spot of TTing this week, then…MORE! With any luck, another dry (though, you know, I prefer muddy cross races because my epic skills come to the fore, ahem) cx race to finish off the season and draw a line everyone involved ca be proud of under the horrible 2020 season.

April 6, 2021

Not brief enough

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 2:27 pm

First event of 2021 took place last weekend. Hopefully the first of many and hopefully the last that felt quite like it did!

A 10 mile TT is a pretty simple affair (despite all the nuances you can get bogged down in) – turn up, ride your bike, eat some cake, go home.
Last Saturday’s TT was made more difficult by being A) stupidly early in the morning (no breakfast for me, or enough sleep!) and B) bloody freezing (not only was there the excitement of seeing if I still fitted in the skinsuit, but I had to attempt to shoehorn a baselayer underneath it for warmth!)

I “warmed up” on the turbo trainer next to the van with the temperature guage on my Garmin happily telling me it was well below freezing. I could tell, as the “warm up” basically got me from “shivering with sore hands” to “not shivering as much”. By the time I’d zipped up with skinsuit, clambered o the race bike and pulled on a thin pair of gloves (aero, doncha know) I was back to shivering again. Arse.

I’d hoped that I’d warm up within a mile or so, so set off quite conservatively and planed to build up the power / pace as my legs got more supple. What actually happened was the wind chill made everything worse…and worse…and worse.
By 3 miles in my legs were stiffer and less interested in pushing any power through the pedals than they were at the start. By the halfway point my hands and feet were burning cold, shortly after which they went utterly useless to the point where I couldn’t change gear as I couldn’t feel the shifter in my hand! By 7 miles I’d given up hope of a reasonable time and just wanted to go home and by 8 miles I was getting more and more upset with how much pain I knew I was going to be in when I got back to the van and my limbs started to regain some feeling.


Looking for positives from the ride, my new (bought in bits from ebay) bike didn’t fall to pieces – in fact It was very comfy (I didn’t even get the “sore glutes from the first TT of the season, so I didn’t get the riding position too wrong and have some scope for development) and I fitted i the skinsuit with enough room for a baselayer, without the zip looking like it was going to explode. That’ll do.

CX next weekend. Hopefully a bit warmer!

December 29, 2020

Bonus ball

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 10:54 pm

So, yeah, I crossed the finish line. On the bike. Mostly for the look of it – running across the line when your bike’s in one piece just looks wrong in my opinion. It probably cost me a couple of seconds, having run across the timing mats on my last lap right up to the start of the gentle descent into the lower field, in order to keep stretching out my advantage on the riders behind, by keeping a pace that was higher than the wheelspin inducing ground would allow. But the time loss didn’t matter too much. I could see open space behind me enough to calm me down and the emptiness of the course in front of me was once again humbling enough to wipe any concern about putting extra effort in to catch anyone.

I had no idea whereabouts in the race I’d finished…well, no, that’s not entirely accurate, I knew I hadn’t won. I’d crashed on the first series of corners AGAIN (as I shouted to myself at the time), offering up a huge advantage to riders who simply don’t need it anyway. But other than that, I didn’t know how many people were ahead of me, how many were still behind me and just how many were still taking part.

At each one of the races I’ve done this season I’ve classed crossing the finish line on board a bike that was still in the correct number of pieces (one – even if it is misbehaving) as a success. Maybe not a hard earned one, but something to be happy with on the way home afterwards. In a normal season, I’d have worn my welcome with my pit crew pretty thin by this point, with half lap bike changes no doubt being the norm to keep them on their toes and me on a fresh, working, non clogged bike. This time round, however, you and everyone around you simply has to push their luck. Tyres will clog, mounds of grass and mud will build up wherever they land and drivechains will succumb when jammed solid with dirt with no warning. No-one’s around to clean it off for you. Yes, you can try to limit the risk slightly by opting to run more (as I did on this occasion), favouring cleaner lines over what might be faster ones and holding back slightly with the effort pushed through the gears, but it’s still basically a lottery. Play the numbers as they’re called – remember which gears are still working rather than skipping and work out how to use what you’ve got as you ride – but know that not eveyone will make it to the finish line and it could be your bike that implodes next, even if you’ve done nothing wrong, as far as mechanical sympathy goes.

So. Yes. Over the finish line on a still working bike (2nd, 3rd and 4th gears still usable and shiftable between them as needed, that’ll do), having had great fun retaking as many of the places I’d thrown away on the first lap crashfest. I’ll take that.

Putting some power down when possible. Pic by Ellen

Turns out I finished 2nd. A welcome bonus, even if it is a coincidental one. 🙂

December 20, 2020

A tale of two mindsets

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 10:52 pm

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I had wisely stopped, halfway up the lovely new gravel climb through the woods, to pull the stones that had once again wedged themselves between the jockey wheels and mech cage out before any further damage was caused to the mud clogged drivechain of the bike.
Foolishly, I had already tried to ignore it and had a near catastrophic jamming incident, the cranks locking solid as the components twisted and pulled forward instead of allowing the chain through. Incredibly, as I leapt off, assuming my race was over (for real this time, having already “thrown away” the race crashing on just about the first corner…) and the walk of shame was upon me, I found that everything was attached – a glimmer of hope and enough to carry on, though clicking the shifter in either direction was a fruitless endeavour, with just the odd misshift and dispairing, skipping gear as a result. Singlespeed and softly softly it was then.

Hard re-won places once again rode past me as I clawed away over the rear wheel, jumped back on and slithered round the grippy corners on too soft tyres. Oh yes. Too soft. I’d rolled my eyes heavenward as I felt the rim of the front and then rear wheel bottom out…on the flat, smooth tarmac out of the car park, while rding towards the start line. Not from hitting anything, just under my own weight. Cornering was nothing more than a test of my glue job sticking the tyres on (thankfully, it seemed to be good enough!) as they twisted around and nearly threw me off. And then, as we already know they did throw me off on just about the first corner. Stupid mistake.

I should have been downhearted. Maybe even secretly hoping for the drivechain collapse that kept threatening to happen. But no, once the jockey wheels were once again free to move, back on I got and back to squirming round I continued. Occasionally I would be caught out by an unexpected reaction from the tyres to an unnoticed divot or rut on the course and find myself randomly dumped on my arse

Random lie down on a straight bit. “Thanks” to Dave Haygarth for capturing the moment

but occasionally I’d keep everything upright and build up enough steam in the one gear I had that worked to regain a place. I’d find my victories where I could.

At certain points I was able to lay down a bit of power and feel like I was getting somewhere. I had no idea how long the bike would last – and a new rhythmic “tick tick tick” noise coming from somewhere at the back of the bike wasn’t offering much reason for long term optimism – so I just tried to keep as close to flat out as I could.

Ripping up the course (literally in this pic!) as best i could with what was left of the bike!. Thanks to Budge for the pic

As the last lap bell sounded I spotted Chris a few corners ahead of me. Slowly slowly catchy monkey I chanted to myself, legs occasionally spinning frantically, then suddenly creeping round the cranks at a glacial speed as the course dropped then rose as we made our way through the woods for the final time.
Contact was made, then thrown away again as the tyres reminded me of my own stupidity and fired me off in totally the wrong direction through the tighter corners.
Not too far behind up the run up – dragging the bike for the final ascent as it weighed a metric ton – and not too much space allowed to reappear on the next corner-y section. On to the final climb and his rear wheel is coming back into my head down vision. I can see the chain running through his rear mech – a pang of jealousy – and, if there had been a proper headwind, I was close enough to benefit from any shelter. The final dismount / remount of the final lap and we’re basically in sync.
I remount earlier and flick at the shifter in vain hope of a bigger gear to push against. If I can get ahead I can hog the grippier line on the metres wide course. Flappy legged wheelspin. Damn. Chris remounts in front. I hear the click of his shifter. I see his mech respond. I think rude words and plonk my arse dejectedly in the saddle as he pulls away.

At least I got to ride ride to the finish, I remind myself. At least drivechains can be replaced easier than frames, wheels and the like. Oh…what was that tick tick tick noise from the rear wheel? Oh, it WAS the rear wheel. So buckled from having a mech inserted into it’s spokes that the stone laden tyre was smacking against the seatstay. Marvellous.

Working out what went wrong, how much it’s all going to cost to replace and trying to work out how it as still awesome fun. thanks to Budge for the pic

I squirm and slither my flat tyred, wrong geared way back to the van, unsure why I still feel like I’d had a brilliant time…

December 6, 2020

Great disappointment at the first round of the NWCCA league

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 8:00 pm

No two ways about it, I was properly gutted.

Not with my equipment, the bike was still working pretty well for something that you couldn’t see underneath the half ton of mud and grass. It was damn heavy to try and shoulder on the running sections of the course (so I didn’t bother and just dragged it alongside me for those), but it was still shifting gears as requested, stopping when the brake were pulled and heading in the direction I pointed the bars (after a few courseside moments had been spent straightening them after a first lap crash left them skewed somewhat off to the left…).

Not with the course either. OK it was pretty churned up and there was a fair bit of running involved every lap – especially when trying to be conservative with the bike as there were no pits to swap to a second bike – but it was mostly brilliant. Lots of super slippery corners to slither around, some really fun swoopy stuff, a couple of near vertical “run” ups and plenty of opportunity for close racing without having to get too close (covid secure and all that). All you could ask for, with some extra mud thrown in for good measure.

It wasn’t that the racing itself wasn’t very good. Because it was. OK so my stint near the front lasted about 3 minutes but, as has always been the way with ‘cross, it sort of doesn’t matter if you’re racing for 1st or 31st as long as you’re chasing down the riders in front, dropping the riders behind and trying to get each section of the course ridden well enough to exacerbate those two objectives.

Obviously the first lap, because I’m still near the front of the race! Pic by Ellen

I dropped several places with a couple of silly crashes (I mean, I’d even been advised by Phil which line to avoid before the race and I still managed to cock it up – leading to the aforementioned twisted bars), but I made a few places back up. I got comfortably ‘schooled’ by the super skilled guys who managed to put minutes into me, but I started to get to grips with the lack of grip towards the end. Frankly it was just ace being back racing with everyone again.

It wasn’t even that I’d dressed for the weather that had been around the day before – I was ready to race through sleety, snowy rain, strong winds and sub zero temperatures. All of which were absent, replaced with calm, blue winter skies and the kind of sunshine that makes the views even more impressive. I was soaked with sweat but fine with it. OK by the end of the long run up I felt quite close to death each lap (not a runner, even less a runner that can cope with heat), but frankly if you’re fidning it easy you’re either winning by miles or not trying hard enough.

Ahh, it’s good to be back racing again 🙂 – Pic by Ellen

No, the disappointment was simply the sound of the last lap bell ringing. I’d lost all track of time, all sense of how many laps I’d done (and it wasn’t even all that many…), I was just…racing. Not brilliantly, but still. Racing.
I even found the spare breath to double check with the timing tent marshals that it was definitely the end of the race. I could happliy have carried on. I would have happily carried on if I’d had the chance (maybe I should have entered the senior race too). We’d not been short changed, the race for me was 44 minutes, which is pretty generous, but like a kid on the 20th of December feeling like it just should be Christmas by now, the idea that I’d have to wait two weeks until round two just seemed rubbish. A huge disappointment, that tainted the overall experience of the day, for at least 10 seconds. Then the whole “end of race experience sharing buzz” thing kicked in (again, in a covid secure way) and we all just got on with looking forward to the next chance to race.

Roll on round two!

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