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

March 25, 2015

Battle on the Beach

Filed under: bikes,lunacy - mine,Racing — dgpowell @ 8:33 pm

“If you want excitement, this is probably a bad way to get it” I find myself thinking, as I desperately try to stop the front end of the bike swerving away from under me across the compact sand. The wheel, coated in a rapidly deflating tyre, twitches and bucks as I try to slide backwards on the saddle while maintaining the 25mph the 20 strong group immediately behind me is thundering along at. Perched on the front of the pack I start to try and edge my way out to the side of the group to not cause a huge high speed pile up.

“Don’t dig in. Please don’t dig in” I scream out inside my head, as I start to feel the rim grounding out on the sand. I’m not quite out of the back of the select group that has broken away from the front of the race as we start to turn and head towards the forest and steering, which is pretty interesting on the sand at the best of times is downright confusing at this point.

Somehow I stay upright. Somehow I make it out of the back of the group without wiping out or taking half the field with me and roll, heart racing, to the side of the course.

From here on in my race was pretty much over. Plan A was thrashing it’s way round the course and off into the distance as I glance up while frantically rummaging round in my jersey pocket for my pump and spare tube. I had no idea what Plan B was. I’d not set off with one. I’d decided that, despite the appearance of a lot of Very Fast People, I was going to get in the top 10 again and that seemed like enough to be getting on with. I’d have to make one up as – after what seemed like a weirdly long time – the 2nd group off the beach flew past. Hours spent unwillingly practicing in the dark while out riding at night come good as I stuff a new tube into the tyre and get it inflated enough to get going again in barely an eternity. I’ve only lost a few minutes, but in that time pretty much the whole field has raced past. Plan B will have to involve starting at the back with an overly soft tyre.

I leap back on and sprint along the fireroad towards the first section of singletrack like a man possessed, surprising myself with just how much effort I seem to be putting in. Plan B forms itself as I catch the first of the backmarkers on beginning of the narrow trails that make up much of the “not beach” sections of the course: Let’s pretend I’ve just given everyone a head start. Let’s see how far back up the results I can get from Stone Dead Last in the 2.5 laps that remain.

Let’s fucking have it.

Queues have formed as people mess up through the sweeping trails. I do all I can to limit my losses, seeking out any chance to sneak through the lines of waiting riders and, whenever riding becomes possible again, floor it round as many riders as I can.

Part of the first lap is spent learning how the softer-than-I’d-like front tyre handles. It squirms about a bit under me, but the bike seems pretty much as it did when the race started: faster than I could ever really need. Every stomp on the pedals launches me past rider after rider. Every twitch on the bars fires me in whichever direction I need to go so quickly I can barely keep up. It’s brilliant. Racing it is brilliant. No-one is even bothering to try and keep up, they just watch as I hurtle off up the course in a completely different race to theirs. I am re-enthused by each overtake. Plan B is awesome. Hey you, in front, BOOM, see you later. Repeat.
I’ve worked my way up to and through a group of about seven riders as we hit the beach for the second time. Memories of last year, working together with other riders pop into my head, through and off to keep the pace high. Not this year. Sorry guys, I’ve business further up the race. I hunker down on the drops, drop the chain a couple of gears, pick a bike shaped dot way off in the distance and utterly fucking hammer it towards it. No holding back for the next lap, just get the heart rate up into the 190s and hold it there. Each time the bike shaped dot it reached, pick another and chase it down.

I wish the beach would never end. I could do this all day. Then I get back into the singletrack, the flowing, rolling, superb singletrack. I wish it would never end. I’m barely touching the ground. Skimming across whatever surface the course happens to be at any point with an almost zen like control.

As I continue to climb back up though the race I get to watch everyone’s battles from a strangely remote position. Riders hound each other through the twisting, treelined track. I see it as I catch them, announce my passing and occasionally get a final glance at it as it disappears behind me. I don’t know if they’re executing their Plan A, or doing all they can to fight out a Plan B like me, but it makes for great viewing. Microcosms briefly captured before I move on.

I hit the beach for the final time with one aim. I’m further up the field now. Shaven legs (on the blokes, ahem) are becoming more prevalent. The personal battles between the riders I’m catching and passing are getting more serious. A few are glancing at me and taking me on as I sweep round them. Not giving in as easily. And, I’ll be honest, I’m starting to feel the last hour of flat out riding. I want to try my legs out one last time against a group.


Brilliant pic from Mark Whale’s Flickr account

Down onto the drops again, fight over the loose sand and onto the faster hardpacked stuff out by the tideline, I spy 5 riders a few hundred feet in front, riding closely together. Head down. I Fight my way up to them. It takes another eternity to get up to the back of them. They’re working well together. Through and off and suddenly aware of my arrival. I drop another gear, pull out to the side of the group and throw down as much power as I can muster to accelerate round them and off in front. I hear the clicks of chains hurriedly skipping over rear cassettes as they respond. Deep breath. Not that I wasn’t silently screaming with every inhalation already, but this will require all I can do. I pick up my leg speed as much as I can. And hold it there. Until even my face is sore from grimacing.

A glance under my arm shows a widening gap. Job done.

I pick up more places through the forest and cross the finish line several hundred places higher than I was after the “head start”. Plan A is dead, Plan B got me to the finish. Long live Plan B. 🙂

Thanks to modern technology, you can now live the joy of getting a puncture in the middle of a fast moving group with me here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yGTVUAI5s4&feature=youtu.be (it’s about 9min 20secs in)

Here’s the Strava thingy-ma-jig for all you lovers of analysis

And the Strava playback of the race (best viewed while listening to the ‘chase’ music from Benny Hill)

And, of course, here’s the results

Thanks to everyone involved in making the race happen. It’s a brilliant event. Utterly. Keep doing it. 🙂

January 22, 2014

What will be, will be

Filed under: bikes,lunacy - mine,Racing — dgpowell @ 2:11 pm


Ace pic by Paul from http://www.paulmassonphotography.co.uk/

It’s funny, I know people seem to say “ooo it’s like no time has passed at all since [insert whatever here]”, “I can’t believe it’s been a year since [more whatevers here]”, but driving up the muddy fireroad towards where the rest of the JMC lot had set up camp, I genuinely couldn’t believe that a whole year had passed since I last packed up the car and drove home with fewer brake pads and sorer legs that I had arrived with.
A lot may have happened (and, equally, nothing at all happened for a while!), but it was almost reassuring to see the trails shooting off in all the right directions, from all the right places once again, as the Zafira lolloped and lurched it’s way over the potholes.
Crashing, wondering if I’d be able to race again, the forest seemed happy to let me put it away as “the past” and start again. Course tape and cones marking the route I already knew it would take seemed to welcome me back as if nothing had happened in the months between: the hills were still there, I was here, nothing else mattered.

The gazebo was set up as it always is; gas fire in the corner to keep the helpers (and non-racing racers) warm and comfy, tables covered in weird foods and drinks neatly arranged, enough spare bike parts to run a bike shop stuffed wherever a space appeared, with everything kept in it’s place by a thick dose of sarcasm. Home sweet home, pretty much.

Pits organised, a retreat to the hotel (and the pub, ahem), for some pre-race face stuffing and a semi-early night meant the early start on race day wasn’t too much of a shock to the system. Even if it had been, I found myself happy to be suffering it again. The bleary eyed attempts at getting chammy cream and winter embrocation the right way round, the “where’s all the stuff I neatly laid out and put somewhere safe, aaaarg, oh wait there it is, right where I left it” panic. I’d forgotten just how integral a part of a race it is. For me anyway, Rich Rothwell didn’t seem to be suffering from it, in fact if there’d bee a hammock available I got the impression he’d be asleep in it!

And the race itself? Every rock seemed happy to see me again. Almost as much as I was to see them. I threw in a few decent paced laps, grinning from ear to ear for a few hours as the joy of racing again overflowed. Corners were nearly overshot. People I wasn’t really racing against were raced against simply because they were there. Dougie Vipond asked me (on camera) if I was planning on going for the win due to me not letting the front runners get much of a gap…I was slouched against my bike outside the pits, clutching a mug of tea of being offered a slice of cake at the time so couldn’t really answer “yes” with any conviction, but that wasn’t really why I was there. I was there to race in it’s simplest sense. No long-term training had brought me to the start line in peak fitness, nothing like that, just the ownership of a bike and a desire to hammer it for a long time. I was there to see if I still wanted to immerse myself in the whole “scene”. If I did, this was a beginning, if I didn’t, this was a fitting swansong.

Turns out I did.

I may have allowed myself plenty of time in the pits to “relax”, soak up the atmosphere and generally not run myself into the ground, but I still got caught up in the whole experience. Still raced to not be last and, as I watched Jase, Phil, Rich, Budge and Andy smash the front end of the race apart, knew that I needed to get back ‘up there’ soon.

Bring on the future, I’ll be ready for it 🙂

January 9, 2014

The way out is through

Filed under: bikes,lunacy - mine — dgpowell @ 8:50 pm

Time ticks on and tentatively I’ve limped a few miles as the weather’s fallen apart and winter has taken a hold. Training? No. Preparing? No. Enjoying? Yes.

No aims up to now, nip out for a bit when the opportunity arises, ride with friends, tick of a few “I’m on my way, don’t forget about me just yet” milestones. Well, no aims but one: don’t miss the ‘puffer.

No training for it means I won’t be tickling the podium spots, but there’s no way I’d miss it while I still have the ability to ride.
Instead of it being a target in itself it’s become a start. A rebirth. No, not as a singlespeeder (nuts to that, I’m just riding singlespeed to save wear on drivechains while riding a race I’m not hoping to win), before you ask. Just a phoenix like rise from the ashes for next summer and for the World Championships in Scotland next October. Enjoy this with no pressure of trying to get “up there” then build, train, get back into the fight.

See you soon world. 🙂

June 27, 2013

Just £3 yer suffering, £3, get yer suffering, only £3

Filed under: bikes,lunacy - mine,Racing,stream of consciousness — dgpowell @ 10:45 am

I’m practically horizontal. If I closed my eyes – and managed to stop shivering – I could probably just nod off right here. I doubt the older gentleman buried somewhere under my left arm would be too impressed if I started snoring and dribbling on him though.
He’s pretty much bent double, and in what seems like a bit of discomfort, reaching out as far as his arms will allow to grasp the bike underneath me as I hang, both feet clipped in immediately behind a small white line pained on the side of a road, in the middle of nowhere.

I think I’ve done this wrong. I think I’m meant to be right over by the kerb so he can hold me perfectly upright, offering me the opportunity to sprint off into the distance as soon as another bloke sat on a small wall finishes counting down from “1 minute”. I’m about 2 foot out in the road, leant over towards the poor guy doing his best to support me wobble-free for up on the pavement. If we were a pair of cards we’d stand upright, in a geometrically stable position, which is great but, in “30 seconds” he’s going to let go and, with me ratcheted into the bike and stationary I’m really starting to think that I’ll do what that one lone card would do without it’s support and just gently topple over. Into the gutter.

If the course for tonight’s event – a hill climb race, based near Horwich, heading from outside a pub (clever) to the top of the local Col d’Winter Hill – started on a sharp left hand bend I’d be set up for the perfect start, I consider, as a glance downward shows me I’m perched on the sidewall of my tyres. It doesn’t though and I begin to wonder if I should unclip, apologise for making it hard for everyone and just set off with one foot on the ground.

“15 seconds”

Damn it! No time! I’ll just have to hope I don’t make a complete tit of myself in front of all the other riders…who are probably already wondering why I’ve decided to start from the wrong side of the road, leaving the ‘hold you up’ guy in need of traction afterwards.
I wish I’d warmed up instead of standing around chatting until I started shivering. That wasn’t very ‘pro’, was it

10
9
8
7

Which way does the course go again?

6
5
4

Wait hang on, I think I’m in too big a…

3
2
1

…gear

Go

Naaaaarrgrggrrgg. aaarrrrnggng, huuuhhuhhhu, pedal aarga go get going move it aaaaarg

Like a 1 litre overloaded nissan micra setting off up a hill in top gear I cough and splutter into a super gradual acceleration away from the line.

Are my brakes stuck on? Have i inadvertently dragged ‘hold you up’ guy along for the ride? Will I have to do the whole thing with him hanging on my back? Christ why am I not going anywhere and what is that weird feeling in my chest?

Oh, that’s my lungs gong into complete shock. Fair enough. Oh look my thighs appear to have joined them. Well, this is going well isn’t it, my body’s revolting against me and I must have ridden all of about 500 metres from the line. Hmm. How long is the course again? 3 miles? Ahh. Right.

Oww actually, this really hurts.

A glance down (well, more accurately an attempt to focus on where I was already staring – I’d not looked up since wobbling away from the start line) at the computer tells me I’ve hit the heady speed of 18mph. which seems odd, as the feedback from every part of my body suggests I should have just heard a sonic boom as I went past the speed of sound. The pain -> speed ratio here is all to cock. On the plus side, I have ridden half a mile and seem to be settling into a bit of a rhythm on the flatter section of the course. If extreme discomfort can be classed as a rhythm.

I should probably stop thinking and just get on with it. Turn my head off for a while. Why can you never turn your head off when you want to?

Is my right shoe a bit loose?

Ooh wait, I think i’m really getting into this now, yes, here we go I’m accelerati…oh wait no, it was just a dip in the road, back to massive thigh pain

(I do feel like my thighs are massive at this point. In fact it seems like a miracle that they’ve not burst, Hulk stylee, out of my shorts)

A waving flag of a marshal bravely stood in the middle of the road tells me I’m at the sharp left hand turn halfway along the route. Momentary joy as I briefly regain the lean angle I had on the start line is wiped away as I remember that the left turn means I’m on the steeper part of the course.

It’s a hill I hate when I ride it normally. It just doesn’t seem to suit me, not steep enough to really fight your way up, but still too steep and with too many changes in gradient to pick a gear and ‘work it’ to the top. I’m never quick up it at the best of times and tonight, with a couple of miles of intense effort already weighing me down tag-teaming with a gusting headwind, there’s a strong possibility I may come to a complete halt and start rolling backwards.

IMG_7094
Pic by martin holden photography

As the road kicks up in front of me I give up any plans about pacing, optimum riding position, efficiency or even thinking full words, in favour of just getting up the bloody hill.

There are spectators (a few of them) alongside the road giving encouragement as I flail about on the pedals, grinding the chain against the front mech as the bike protests at my awful riding style. I stop looking towards them when I realise my eyes must suggest I’m pleading for an end to the suffering and aim what little attention I can hold at the road just in front of my wheel.

That patch road becomes, to my surprise, full of someone else’s back wheel. The guy who set off 1 minute before me (who didn’t seem to be leant over as far as I was) was riding quite a retro bike, leaving me with startline aspirations of catching him before we reached the summit. For the first few miles I’d not really seen him, even though the road was fairly straight, so I’d put any thought about it to the back of my mind, coming to the conclusion that he might well have been riding it to slow himself down a bit as, without the handicap, he’d be illegally fast, or something.

Do I put on some sort of extra spurt of power as I pass? What’s the done thing here? Say hello?

An attempt to form words fails spectacularly as the gasping for breath turns them in to vague, slightly unnatural sounding, gargling noises. I realise that, not only have I probably just creeped the guy out, but he’ll be in as much discomfort as me and perhaps not too appreciative of someone attempting conversation at this point.
I attempt the ‘spurt of power’ option, which doesn’t yield much in the way of results, but does seem to hurt quite a lot. As I do so, a cyclist stood at the side of the road watching the event cheers me on, recognising and rewarding the effort, even with it’s fairly pitiful effect.

IMG_7091
PIc by martin holden photography

The rest of the route becomes a repeat of this, each time the gradient changes I attempt to push a little harder, usually to a ripple of applause from those stood at the roadside, until I see the finish line flag wafting in front of me.
Well, at first I don’t realise just how BIG a finish line flag it is, thinking I must be a few feet from the line until a second glance shows me it’s still a ‘mini sprint’ away and isn’t being held aloft my a midget.

Great. What I’d really like at this point is to have to bloody sprint. That’s right at the top of my list of thing I could do with right now that is. Bloody marvelous.

Leaden legs are called on for one last time as I thrash about towards the finish and roll, wheezing, over it. By complete chance, the finish line is situated just a couple of feet away from one of the comfiest looking patches of uneven, overgrown, litter strewn, rock covered grass I’ve ever seen. I make it my mission to discover just how delightful this geological miracle actually is and flop down into it.

It doesn’t disappoint.

Edit: I finished 7th out of 49. Not bad. Not as good as it could have been, but not awful.
Thanks to all the guys at Horwich Cycling Club who organised and helped out with the event. Good effort all round 🙂

January 31, 2013

This is a twilight

Filed under: bikes,lunacy - mine,Racing — dgpowell @ 8:01 pm

Well it started well enough. Pleasantries were thrown about, marks made in the trackside sand, scary game faces briefly masked behind polite smiles but beneath it all a new rage burned to get out.
New year, newly rebuilt bikes, new purpose, fresh faced and ready to take on some new suffering, I stood on the startline, ran when they told me, got on my bike as soon as I could and set about sacking everyone else off as quickly as possible. People wanted to race me? They’d have to get close to me first. Set fire to the fireroad climb, tear up the ice with the studded tyres, shatter rocks and mock openly the bridge that I’d failed on last year. I become a ball of tensed up anger, bursting out of every corner with such force it’s a miracle my tyres aren’t just torn straight from the rims. Faster at each turn, twisting metal beneath me, wild eyed and snarling. Laughing almost. Manic. And winning.

No crashes, somehow. Off the ice tyres after 3 laps, they’re just getting in the way, I’ll fight the frozen surface without their help. Lap times keep shrinking, the lead keeps growing, so does the anger. Fuck you all, I’m coming though on fire. 10 minutes. 15. The light begins to fade. Means nothing to me. Darkness can’t hold me back. Cameras in my face on the start/finish line “how do you feel about being 30 minutes up, it’s getting dark, how’s it going?”

The race is only just starting. Those first few light hours are nothing but a warm up and I’m feeling plenty warmed up now. Supple limbed, wide awake, ready to reign down on anyone stupid enough to think they can compete. This is almost easy!

The course changes it’s face as the temperature drops. Hidden in the darkness I’m keeping at bay, more ice sneaks onto corners so far fast in character, catching me out as my mind races ahead of me on the course. I slam down hard on my hip. Under any normal circumstance this would receive nothing but contempt and a slight bruise, but in the build up to this race the ice snuck in an early blow, hitting me hard enough to make walking upright painful, coughing unpleasant and sneezing downright agony. Those symptoms were still hiding away as I set off all those hours ago and now they’re back. Bigger and more disturbing than before.

I try snarling my way through to no avail and a lap later creep, hunched over, into a tent to assess what’s wrong.
I treat myself to a change of clothes as I gently poke and prod at intestines that spasm, flutter and ache to the touch. Soothingly rub ibuprofen gel over the area and curl up with still gritted teeth.

Hours pass. Rain falls on the tent, echoing inside as I remain foetal. The rain won’t stop and in suddenly lost eyes the realisation that I won’t either begins to grow. I know I can’t “ride off” what’s wrong, but I tell people that’s what I’m doing anyway, get back on the bike and attempt to smash out another lap. Down in 5th place, over a lap and 40 mins behind everyone in front of me I revisit the power that got me round the first half of the race so quickly. Suddenly I’m 4th.

Lap times begin to fall, despite the discomfort beyond what is expected in a race like this.
Then I’m less than a lap down on 3rd.
Then the gap is down to 26 minutes.
My stomach begins to accept energy food and drink again, meaning only one thing: Double espresso energy gel time!
Instantly 7 minutes a lap quicker, instantly stealing back nearly quarter of an hour a lap, no-one overtakes me each time I go out. No-one. No team rider, no-one. This is what I promised myself from the beginning. Always fast. Me the Should Have Been would be miles away from the rest of the race by now, rather than in the thick of it. But Me The Hero is dead, flawed from the start and now reborn as something so utterly careless about how he’s feeling the only thing that stops me is the lack of time left.
Somewhere out on the course I catch third, so engrossed is speeding up, in matching lap times done 23 hours previous I don’t even realise and with that it’s all over.

No fairy tale ending. Like something from a horror story I roll over the line, grinning from under layers of grime, wishing we had to do it all again.

Strathpuffer 2013_279

If I could race again next weekend, I would. If you have to stand next to me on the startline anytime soon, and I feel like this, I almost pity you.

601074_4915734246537_159335885_n
Podium: Jase (winner! by a full lap! with one gear!), Tim (taller than the rest of us), me (in a hell of a hat)

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