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

April 26, 2021

Superstar nobody

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 9:21 am


Bittersweet things, final laps. I mean, you’ve done it, you’ve fought your way though the whole race – the whole series, in fact – you’ve earned a finish line, the right to have the chequered flag waved for you even if a few people have already had it waved at them before you get to it. Everything from the starting whistle, from packing the van in the morning, from the “one last go at getting the gears working silently” in the garage days before has been for that finish line.
But why would you want it? Why would you want the chasing to stop, the racing to end, the all encompassing bubble you feel totally central to to burst?

Posted by Stuart Rider on Saturday, 24 April 2021

Thanks to Stu for the pic – and the cheering!

Between the tape the noise is directed at you (even when there’s no spectators, officially), your name echoes, your team is chanted as you pass, endless encouragement and heartfelt hope is fired at you. Your ego will allow you to feel like you’re worthy of it all. A midpack superstar. You cross the finish line and you melt back into the course side chattering melee.
So yes, bittersweet.

Even more so this season. Looking at how the odds were stacked, how fate and teeny tiny virus molecules moved around non of us should have had the opportunity to climb inside our own race bubble. Most didn’t. Sport stopped all summer and for most the winter was written off well before it even arrived. Only few people with enough enthusiasm to carry the hope of a whole (oversubscribed, even) field of entrants and so much positivity they probably look at the National Lottery and think “Nah, I’ll take on something with more probability of failure, that’s too easy” stepped up and expertly stepped over all the barriers (insert pun about bunnyhopping the barriers here…). There shouldn’t have been a finish line to cross at any point over the winter and this spring, but thanks to their belligerent belief, there have been several.

I got to race, to chase people blatantly more skilled and faster than me, over and over again (albeit at fewer venues than would be considered normal), to pretend I was some sort of superstar thanks entirely to these guys.
My pretend few moments of being a somebody might have melted into the overall course side din within seconds of crossing the line (happily, I should add, to be part of that mass of race-humming-equals really is one of the joys of these events), but the work put in by what I’d say is the closest we’ll get to superstars, to get these events to even exist, deserves recognition for a whole lot longer.
I guess to these organisers adversity is just a type of camber…and we know how much a cyclocross rider loves taking on a tricky camber 🙂

April 11, 2021

Additions

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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