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

June 20, 2016

Short and sharp

Filed under: Racing — dgpowell @ 2:51 pm

Can’t remember the last time I did a ‘long’ ride. Recently it’s been all about races lasting ever shorter amounts of time, as if the fairly short road races weren’t enough, June’s been about going flat out for no more than an hour really.
After missing the first round of this years Midweek MTB Madness series, helping out instead of riding, I was looking forward to getting stuck in at round two. For some reason I decided that rebuilding the rigid singlespeed was a good idea, so decided to race that…even tough the mostly-pan-flat course was crying out for a big top gear. Suffice to say I suffered on the fast sections as the 32:18 ratio meant an average cadence of something like 1000rpm (well, it felt like that, anyway). Up the slopes and through the singletrack though, that was a different matter. The bike was ace (apart from a dropped chain, ahem). I ended up 15th in the “racer” category, which doesn’t sound amazing, but was far better than i expected. think I’l carry on using that bike for the rest of the races. 🙂

Me, singlespeeding.

June brings with it some ace local club hillclimb events. first up was the Horwich CC race up Sheephouses, near Rivington. Quite a long climb (for UK hillclimbs I mean, it’s not exactly Ventoux…) so you can’t just sprint up it, a bit of pacing is required. Or, to put it another way, you have to suffer for longer. MY time up it this year was slightly slower than last year, but everyone’s time seemed to be a bit slower this time round. The end result was pretty much the same as last time – I finished in 3rd, happy enough with how I’d done after spending most of the previous week on holiday, drinking beer and eating lots.

Pic by Ellen Isherwood

Next up, Bury Clarions annual hillclimb over near Ramsbottom. I’d won it for the previous two years so felt like I had to go over and defend ‘my’ title. Being a short, 2 minute, effort I felt this one would be all about just powering up it for as long as possible, so that’s what I went for. Unfortunately I sat down to start spinning too early, lost a bit of momentum and had to battle to get back up to speed, which cost me a couple of seconds. A silly mistake really, but in the end it made on difference as Alex Auty set a blistering time – a full 6 seconds quicker than my eventual 2min 10.2seconds. Very impressive. my time was good enough for 2nd on the night, so I wasn’t too disappointed and the ride home afterwards was lovely, which was a nice end to the event 🙂

The very next evening was the seconds Horwich event, this time up Matchmoor. slightly shorter than the first round at 1.5 miles, but still long enough to not be a straight up sprint. I think I was way too laid back about the race and didn’t do a warm up at all, which came back to haunt me after about 2 minutes. My legs wouldn’t respond, my lungs simply weren’t opened up enough to haul in enough air, leaving me flailing around and grovelling over the finish line a full 13 seconds slower than last year’s effort on the same course. Good enough for 2nd on the night, but a really stupid mistake to make.

Pic by Stephen Salmon – who, like Ellen, takes great pics at absolutely LOADS of local races.

Mini-hill-climb-season over (though I’m tempted by a few others I’ve spotted on the Time rialling website…) it was back to racing on the road. This time a town centre crit in Horwich. These things are ace. All the silly speeds and knee-down cornering of usual crits, but on closed roads right in the middle of town. Racing them is pretty much as close to the feeling of being a pro as I’ll get, so even though this one was an E/1/2/3 category (so had lots of ‘proper fast’ people entered), I really wanted to take part.
It hit home a bit that I wasn’t going to be riding off the front of the bunch without putting any effort when I stood on the start line and realised I had more body fat than the rest of the front line combined, but hey ho, I thought, if you look confident you can look like you’re supposed to be anywhere. I also failed at that and just looked properly nervous.

Pic by Stephen Salmon

The first few laps were, as I expected, pretty bloody fast. To the point where I convinced myself my back wheel had moved in the drop outs and was wedged against the brakes, it was that hard to get up the climb over the start/finish line! It hadn’t, of course, it was just me suffering at the start of the race before my lungs and legs had got used to the effort but during the half a lap where I dropped towards the back to double check everything was properly attached, a break containing most of the fast lads got away. It was pretty galling to see the space open up while I tried to hurl myself from the back of the pack towards them as I realised what was happening (especially as Dave Headon had warned me about exactly this happening moments before the race), but by the time i flung myself off the front of the now 2nd group, the gap was a good 10 seconds or so.
For three laps I chased as hard as I could, off the front of the 2nd group and ever so slowly reeling back the leaders, the gap up to them shrinking down as far as just 4 seconds before I had to sit up and admit I wasn’t going to get back to them. Damn.
I waited for the 2nd group and rode with them for most of the race – everyone in it was taking turns and it was quite fun really, until the 1st group caught and lapped us. Although entirely expected, it still felt pretty rubbish being lapped, but rather than just sit back I decided to hop onto the back of the leading group for the rest of the race (which is perfectly acceptable, in case you’re wondering, as long as you just keep out of the way). Annoyingly, the pace wasn’t all that hard to stay with, even with the concertina effect you get back sat at the back of a group through the corners. Next time I need to not let a break go without me. 🙂

Chasing like mad, but to no avail – pic by Ellen

March 7, 2016

Back on the hard stuff

Filed under: Racing — dgpowell @ 11:54 am

Ok, ‘cross season is officially over, the evenings are staying lighter (a bit), the classic one-day Euro road races have begun in earnest and the weather’s…well, the weather’s still in full on winter mode so we’ll ignore that. Spring is coming!

After a few decent road races and having a suspicious amount of “fun” having a go at time trialling last year I’ve been keen to have another go this summer. I moved up from 4th to 3rd cat on the road (in one race, ahem) and started to wonder if I could move up again this time round to 2nd cat and of course, with time trialling, you always know where you could know a couple more seconds off your best time…so you have to do it again. You just have to.
I figured the biggest issue with moving up to 2nd cat on the road would be getting into enough races to make it possible – the North West racing scene is burgeoning at the moment, which is great, but does mean that entering a race is no guarantee of actually getting a place. As such I waited until payday and chucked a good hundred or so quid at race entry fees, hopeful of getting as many rides as possible.
Unsurprisingly, a mixture of Refusals, Reserved’s and a couple Acceptances started coming back. I guess it’s the same for everyone. Slightly annoying to not just get what you want every time but I’m not sure it’s worthy of the abuse some organisers have apparently been getting (bit of a soap box rant there).

Anyway, first event back on the road was a time trial, the NLTTA ’10’ on a course that I’ve seen many a TTer racing in the past while I’ve been out for a ride. Straight up the glamorous A6 then round a few more equally glamorous B roads to finish. Pre race self-advice such as “take it easier into the block headwind” and “it’s the first one of the season, just see how you feel” were completely ignored as I forgot all about the slightly downhill start and thought “Oh my god I’m amazing I’m comfortably over 30mph. Yay me!”, before the road levelled out, the headwind kicked in and all of a sudden I was struggling to keep over 24mph. Suffice to say I suffered later on, eventually getting round in 23mins 18secs, quick enough for 10th place on the day and a decent target for the rest of the year. 🙂

Suffering. Pic by Stephen Salmon.

With lungs still a bit raw from the Tt effort, Sunday saw the first road race of the year in the glamorous venue of Pimbo. This race was one of the “Reserve” ones – where I’d not officially got a place, so had to turn up on the day and hope that someone who HAD got a ride didn’t turn up. Sometimes you find out in advance of the day if enough people tell the organisers that they won’t be coming but usually you just have to turn up, sign on and hang around until about 20mins before the start to find out if you’re taking part. It can be a bit stressy, to say the least, but on this occasion the hassle was worth it as I did get in, albeit with no time to warm up.
The course was pretty simple, basically a lap of an industrial estate, with a slight (really slight!) climb to the finish line and a slight descent on the opposite side of the course. Although I much prefer hilly courses I was quite glad of the simplicity given the 90 strong 3/4 cat bunch I’d be riding with. Less technicality = less chance of mid bunch crashes. I knew straight away that the course wouldn’t suit me, but decided to make the most of the opportunity and have a bit of fun, rather than just wait for a last lap gallop for the line (which I’d have no chance in).
Each time someone leapt off the front in an attack I’d try to go with them. If there were a couple of us I’d see if we could work together to get a break going, but nothing ever really looked like sticking. Bit of a shame, but it was nice to get back into the swing of things.

Going with moves. Pic by Ellen Isherwood.

I had a few turns on the front of the bunch, to see how well I could tow the group along, each time trying to pick up the pace – checking how fast we were lapping, then going to the fore and trying to speed it up to see if any fractures in the group happened. Again, although nothing ever came of the attempts, it was ace to be on the front, lead motorbike sat alongside as I pulled us along at well over 30mph on the flat, listening to the gasping and wheezing going on behind. 🙂

On the front again. Pic by Stephen Salmon

By the last lap if was clear a bunch sprint was going to take place and the main group was getting to be a twitchy place to be. With half a lap to go I decided that there were too many bar touching, wheel overlapping nudges going on around me and worked my way off to the side, just in time as it happens as I’d just got into the wind out of the peloton as the hideous sound of carbon hitting carbon, followed by the squeal of locked up tyres and the high-speed-crunch of bikes and bodies hitting the ground echoed out just to my left.
Having had to move back through the field a bit to work my way out of the bunch I knew I’d be too far back to get involved in the sprint (and, deep down, I knew I would be too slow to do anything other than become a rolling roadblock if I tried to muscle my up the the sharp end), which meant I rolled over the line in a fairly uninteresting 26th place. But I’d stayed upright, got a good workout up at the front and finished a fast race (27mph average, which was a bit quicker than I’d expected) without feeling tired, so there’s positives to take home.

Hopefully, the hillier and longer races to come will suit me a bit more…

December 7, 2015

The Northern Champs

Filed under: Racing — dgpowell @ 10:14 pm

Lets cut to the chase: It didn’t go well. No mechanicals or anything like that, I just wasn’t ‘on it’ right from the whistle.
Ah well.
The course looked suitably ‘As Tough As’, with much of the ‘in and out of the trees’ singletrack sections reduced to a slippery run and the off camber sections also quicker on foot. Sadly, due to all the oldies taking so long over their races, us seniors had to miss out a few sections of the course because it as getting dark, not so sadly, those sections were mostly the running bits. With ground conditions deteriorating as the day went on, the shortened lap seemed to work OK.
From the instant we set off, I saw the front group open up a gap that I was on the wrong side of and by the time I passed the pits (where info was constantly shouted to me) I was only just in the top 30. As the laps passed the gap just grew, I picked off a few riders as they slowed but I could tell I wasn’t riding well (hello to all the hecklers on the off camber sections!), to be honest I was almost delighted when the eventual winner caught and lapped me just as I approached the line. Partly because I didn’t have to go round again and partly because I could sneak into the pictures being taken 😀

Never mind. Hopefully the Carlisle race will still be on in a couple of weeks and things go better there!

Northern champs cx
Pic by Chris Meads

November 24, 2015

Many updates in one go

Filed under: Racing — dgpowell @ 11:58 am

OK, right, erm, here we go…

Few weeks back (seems like half a lifetime ago now) I raced the National Hill Climb Championships. It was a nice day, I felt fairly relaxed and hoped I’d do well. The hill itself wasn’t quite steep enough to suit me (I’d like something like Hardknott/Park Rash – 20% plus for a long time to really get my teeth into), but it was alright. I set off in way too small a gear and, where I should have been powering away, I found myself panic shifting to get some speed up. Lost a good second or so there. Decided to shift back up to an easier gear for the steepest hairpin straight afterwards and fluffed that change as well, mashing the rear mech across 3 cogs instead of one, leaving me spinning like a fool.
The course evened out after the hairpin so I sat down and got myself back together, found a ‘just above comfy’ pace and rode on through the halfway point, listening intently to what the commentator was saying about me (he wasn’t calling me a “big lad” like he had to some of the earlier competitors, so that cheered me up). I rounded the final corner still at the same pace and realised I’d not pushed hard enough to set a brilliant time – if the finish had been another 4 minutes up the road I reckon I would have done really well, as it was I rode over the finish line and declined the use f any “catchers” as I just wasn’t exhausted enough!
38th place and over 30 seconds back on the eventual winner. Not embarrassingly slow, but not exactly my finest hour!

Hill climb season over (Phew! I’ve been pretty rubbish this year!) and back to ‘cross. Part of the way through the season now, so everyone’s really getting stuck in to the races. Lovely stuff.
Otterspool came first. Last year I had no luck here at all. This year…I hit a tree at full pelt on a drop. Hard enough to separate me from my bike. After a rubbish start I’d fought my way back up to the sharp end of the race, got carried away and just completely overshot a corner. Both wheels locked up and drawn magnetically to the stoutest looking tree on the whole park. Owch.
I spent a couple of minutes checking I still had all my teeth/my jaw wasn’t in pieces before gingerly getting back o the bike and taking a lap to ‘get back into it’.
12th. Lowest finish of the season and a scuffed up face/ear/neck. Damn it.

Next up was Cartmel. I enjoyed the course there last year and, although the weather was worse this time round it was great again. The climb up through the woods (2/3rds rideable, the last bit a “run” (stumble)) was as tough as ever at race pace. I got my crash out of the way early on, during the first lap, but ended up 7th. Would have been 6th but I didn’t realise I’d caught the guy in 6th on the run in to the finish, so didn’t react when he sped up, thinking he was someone I was lapping. D’oh!

Back to Otterspool for the next round. giving the place One Last Chance to be nice to me – I like the course, I’m just feed up with stuff going wrong each time I get there! Full on storm conditions made it much more exciting and slippery, with the start being almost hilarious as everyone wheelspan their way down the start straight.
Right from the off my drivechain was skipping whenever I put any power down through the pedals. I’d replaced the chain during the week but not changed the cassette as it had been fine when riding to work, even when sprinting off from traffic lights/up hills in too big a gear. It had been fine until it got to Otterspool, then started slipping without warning. Bugger!
I dived into the pits, grabbed the 2nd bike and set about working my way back past people. Everything seemed to be going OK until an innocuous little crash halfway round the lap. A simple little ‘wipe out’ on a wide corner, just a gentle ‘slide to a halt’ sort of thing as the front wheel lost grip. The kind of thing where you barely even lose time as you’re back up instantly afterwards. Only, when I leapt back to my feet and grabbed the bars, I noticed the left brake lever was pointing in a very odd direction. Trying to shift into the big ring I discovered that I’d smashed the insides to pieces. BUGGER IT!
Not knowing what state the lever was in structurally I decided to swap back to the other bike with it’s skipping gears and spent the rest of the race soft pedaling to reduce the skipping from the drivechain, which was bloody difficult in the thick mud.
At least I know which race(s) to marshal at, rather than race, next year!

Pic by Paul “I’ve just finished racing, now I’m taking pics as well” O’Halloran

The amusingly named Stadt Moers park held last weekend’s race. Last year’s course was good and this year’s didn’t disappoint either (though the start seemed to go a bit awry, ahem…). wonderfully slippery mud made for a lot of sliding the bikes around and turned the course into a real slog. Good. I like slogs! A lack of ‘explosive power’ d=didn’t seem to matter too much as I dragged my way round and up to 6th. Missing 5th place by a measly 4 seconds without realising (I did wonder why everyone in the pits was really shouting at me as I rode past for the final time…)

And there we are! Up to date again.

A week off then its the Northern ‘cross Champs. It’s at Heaton Park, which I quite like. A decent course for me, with some nasty little ‘slightly uphill’ slogs (not that my aims for the race extend far beyong “don’t get lapped”, this time round!), so I’m looking forward to it 🙂

October 14, 2015

What goes up

Filed under: Racing — dgpowell @ 6:19 pm

First ‘double header’ of the winter last weekend. A hill climb and another round of the North West cyclocross league. Being on top form for both can be tough – recovering from one in time for the other is pretty tricky (as I found out last year when I decided to race cyclocross the day before the National Hill Climb Championships, a decision that came back to bite me approximately halfway up the hill when I went ‘pop’, deployed first gear nd grovelled to the finish line while wobbling all over the road).
Luckily this problem was solved by having both races start within a couple of hours of each other…

I’d not considered doing both until Phil pointed out that the cyclocross round was only a few miles down the road from he Rake in Ramsbottom, where the hill climb was. With a start time up the hill of 12.21pm and the senior ‘cross race not starting until 2.15pm it seemed doable. Easily doable, in fact. Hours to spare between the two…

Obviously it wasn’t as easy as that.

The hill climb went ‘OK’. I got what I’d deem an ‘acceptable’ time up the hill, too much worrying about blowing up before the final steep section meant I went conservative and got to the foot of the Rake itself far too fresh. 2mins 49secs wasn’t awful, but I know where a good few seconds were lost. Oh well. The noise from everyone cheering on the steeper slopes was ace though. A great atmosphere and a scarily knowledgeable guy on the PA, giving everyone loads of information about every rider made it a great event to take part in, and hang around for a bit afterwards to take my turn cheering/heckling.

Pic by Matt Pickett

Hanging round after my run to cheer other riders on, natter to friends and generally faff about meant that the trip from one race to the other turned into a bit of a rush. One bike was flung in the back of the van, some ‘Sunday afternoon traffic’ was sworn at and, after driving about half a mile past where the race was trying to find somewhere to park, another bike was yanked off the bike rack in a semi panic as I realised sign on would close at almost exactly the same time I’d get to it. A fresh pair of shoes (and socks, ahem) were jammed on and I sprinted off down the road leaving Angela to sort everything else out and make her own way up to the race site.

I managed to throw some money at the guys running the sign on tent and wave my race license just as one of the organisers announced they were closing and, with no knowledge of where the course went beyond what Joe and Andy had told me as I lined up at the start, the second race of the day kicked off.

For the first couple of laps I rode conservatively (relatively speaking, I was still gasping for breath!), trying to work out what was coming next by watching the behaviour of those just in front of me. Although not fast, I got round the first two laps without crashing and, once I had an idea of what was coming round each bend, started to work my way back up through the field. At the start of lap 2 I was sat in 24th place and by the bell lap I’d ridden back up to 10th.
Much like the hill climb, it wasn’t an awful result, but certainly not ‘all that could have been’. Oh well. For the second time in a day it had been great to take part in, a very different course to most, and entertaining as a result.

Pic from the Spoxe Facebook page

Another double header this weekend, this time with only one event each day thankfully, more ‘cross on Saturday followed by another hill climb up the Nick o; Pendle on the Sunday. Hopefully there’ll be less rushing involved!

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