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

November 26, 2019

Slip sliding away – The Pembrey National trophy

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 10:55 am

Nope. Not in the mud. Somehow, despite the torrential rain that turned the awning on our campervan into an upstairs swimming pool, there was pretty much no mud. The puddles were deep (and utterly bloody freezing off the start line sprint in the middle of the pack!), but fast rolling tyres were still the choice to make. The sliding around was not coming from my wheels. This time, to my shock and disgust (at myself for not identifying the issues before the race, mostly), the rubber hoods that cover the STI brake/shift levers had lost all purchase and were just spinning round freely.

Doesn’t sound like much, I know. But it made the bike almost unhandleable on the tricky sections of the race course. Full speed dismounts (of which there were several each lap) were awkward with no real purchase on the bars, but the rutted descents, not yet smoothed by numerous race forced wheels (one of the joys of being the 2nd race of the whole weekend, with little pre race course practice to assist), were nigh on uncontrollable.
Unsurprisingly, I found myself much further down the pecking order than I know I should have been. More than enough power to get past people, but no handling to keep ahead on the fun parts (and, to be clear, they were fun – the course was just fantastic) saw me drop back over and over.
I ran my luck for as long as it would hold (and there are a good few people who will testify to just how utterly out of control I was), but on lap 3 the inevitable happened and catching the front wheel on a lump of grass (which should have been almost unnoticeable and utterly irrelevant, had I had some purchase on the front end of the bike) saw the grips spin wildly round, pitching me forward over the bars at full pelt. Smacking my head into one of the big, solid, wooden stakes at the side of the course and flinging me over the top of the barriers and into a crumpled heap further down the steep slope.

I clambered back to the race course with a ringing head, sore ear (and hand, no idea what that came into contact with…) and minced my way back to the pits. I swapped to the 2nd bike, which was infinitely less terrifying to control, if a bit slower, and set about trying to cheer myself up a bit. The top of the 3rd run up (which turned into a elongated run round the off camber tree as the race progressed) seemed to be “Little Northern England”, with more loud cheering for us NW riders than the Welsh contingent who’s back yard it was, and that helped a lot – nice work guys!

Pembrey National Trophy cx
Running up the slope towards “Little Northern England”. Pic by Richard Howes – he’s #RichardHowesPhotography on Facebook

Plenty of fitness saw me chase down and retake a few places until, quite simply, I ran out of laps.

15th in the end. A disheartening result, given how good I felt and how much the course suited me (there’s a rumour that the same venue might be bidding to host the National champs next season…now THERE’S a thought 🙂 ), but to try and take some positives from it, I’m still in one piece, the repairs to the bike are fairly cheap and easy, I’m obviously in decent shape (and we’re only just about to begin to build for the end of the season / this year’s National champs…) and I did get to hang around after the race, at the beach, drinking beer while watching the youth races. Marvellous stuff. 🙂

November 18, 2019


Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 11:35 am

We’re heading into the ‘steamy races’ part of the season now. By which, of course, I mean that the campervan windows all steam up when I’m sat in there having a bite to eat/getting changed before the race and after getting sodden wet through checking the race course out. It’s no bad thing as it gives me a bit of privacy while getting into race kit without having to shut all the curtains (or just flashing my arse to the world out of the rear window without a care…), but the toasty warm, dry races (whatever those are…) are definitely over.

OK Ulverston wasn’t particularly cold, but for the first time since it was relaunched as a venue the rain turned up to add even more interest to a redesigned and fun to ride course. The usual fast grass sections took on a far greasier, more leg sapping persona as the heavy drizzle set about creating something more ‘character building’!
Now, usually, this would just signal one thing – dropped tyre pressures to aid grip, but not on this occasion. Buried within the spoil heaps that made up a big chunk of the corse were numberous rocks and pointy bits of gravel. Low tyre pressures would offer grip in the corners, but at the rick of punctures and knackered rims if you ‘bottomed out’ too heavily. Tyre pressure is always a big discussion point at these things, this time more than ever!

I decided to play it safe and keep the tubs pumped up pretty hard. Certainly more so than most of the people I chatted to before the race. I knew I’d be wheel spinning a bit more and would have to ease off in the corners, but I came to the conclusion it would be better than risking a puncture (or worse, a damaged wheel) just a few days before the next National Trophy. As long as I kept focus,and didn’t get carried away trying to match people with higher levels of grip I’d be fine.

As I predicted, off the startline I wheelspan more than anyone else and after about 30 seconds of racing I was back in about 10th. No worries, concentrate on just working your way through and don’t start taking risks, I told myself, for about 10 seconds before getting carried away and trying to race everyone has hard as I could. 🙂

As I got to the front, Rob Jebb had ridden through the field and came past me riding (and running…) very smoothly. I started to get wound up that, for every one corner he took, I had to hacksaw my way roundabout 50 lurching, slipping turns as the wheels fought for traction. Maybe 30psi was a bit much, maybe I should have risked running them lower so I wasn’t having to flail about so much. Lots of maybes were rushing through my head as I battled (and it really did feel like a battle to get round at a similar speed to him) round, but what to do; shout out to the Horwich heroes in the pits ot drop the tyre pressures on the 2nd bike and try to put a chase on? Continue to throw caution to the wind and just keep trying to stay on terms with no grip?

I noticed we’d got a bit of a gap back to the battle for 3rd (which, apparently, was a great, close race right through). Well, I say “we”, Rob was a good 20 seconds further round the course by this point, but it gave me the reassurance I needed to think about practicing my riding technique, rather than putting on a desperate chase to see if I could get back in contention. I left the tyres pumped up and embraced the extra slither. Really focused on finding smooth lines rather than thrashing around the course in search of speed. Concentrated on making dismount/remount decisions quickly and based on what was happening at any point, rather than what I’d done (or what others were doing) on previous laps.
I knew the gap up to 1st would go out, but the chance to target good riding while actually racing doesn’t come around too often, so itseemed the right thing to do.

Barrow Central Wheelers cx
Pic by Dave Haygarth

It turned out to be surprisingly good fun. Smooth lines based on the way the course had cut up through each turn, allowing the bike a bit of freedom to move around without fighting it or panicking (as I had done earlier, which would result on heading off in almost random directions to get round the bends!). I held my position on the race, crossing the finish line 2nd, with the only issue being a chain that half jammed itself between the jockey wheel and mech cage on the last lap (soft pedalling required to not muller anything!). Brilliant fun.

So brilliant, on fact, I rode straight back tot eh start to ‘double up’ and race the senior event too. My aim this time being to get round without blowing up as I had at Heaton Park. I rode fairly conservatively and stuck with the “ride smooth” philosophy, making up places as the race went on and riders naturally slowed.
The rain had stopped by this point and within a lap or two the levels of grip started to come back, which meant less of a disadvantage for me, but before I could really start to get into it the bell rang for the last lap. Ace, lasp lap without imploding physically or crashing stupidly (Ok, only crashing stupidly once, but we’ll gloss over that as it was just a dasft uphill toppled to one side!), lets get to the finish with everything in one piece, I thought to myself.
I didn’t know where I’d finished, placing wise (12th, in the end), but I was happy to have got the extra riding (and running…) in. Practice makes perfect, and all that. Back to a steamed up campervan to get changed from 2-race-muddy kit (the rear window wasn’t as steamed up as I expected, so apologies to anyone I mooned!) and to start plotting how to keep the smooth riding thing going next week at Pembrey. 🙂

Barrow Central Wheelers cx
You can’t see the roots under the greasy mud in this pic, by they are there – that’s why I’m mouthing “smooth” to myself! Thanks to Dave Haygarth for the pic.

November 4, 2019

Technical trampling

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 11:53 am

I’d genuinely begun to wonder how much I’d spent on diesel, dragging two big tubs of water to and from every cyclocross race this year. Each week I’d lug them into the van, drive them to the race, ignore them as the bikes didn’t need washing, lug them back to the van and drive them home again. I wondered if the cost had reached a point where I’d spent a coffee’s worth, chauffeuring them around, as I strolled past the catering van perched on the outskirts of Stadt Moers park.

Thankfully, this time, it was totally worth the effort. I’m really enjoying racing cx whatever the conditions at the moment and, although the lack of cleaning post dry race is lovely, I wanted a proper mudbath to do some sliding around in. Irvine’s National trophy had been “grip for miles” and “lean the bike over in the turns” fun, now I wanted some “control the slither” and “find the grip in the slop” fun and that’s what I got 🙂
The Pit Crew Extraordinaire got to do something other than just spectate this time (which is nice – it’s good to keep them busy 😉 ) as the bikes needed a wash just about every lap and I got to race in some proper slop. I even got a minute or so per lap run, through the trees, to test my Bambi like running skills on. Ace.

The start went OK, I lost a couple of places in the first couple of seconds off the line, but got back up onto Andy Brindle’s wheel before we hit the really tricky stuff, which I was happy about. Andy’s really smooth at the technical on-off-run-on-slither-off-run-back- on style riding, with his speed remaining super constant throughout and with no energy wasted in overly flamboyant flailing around during the dismounts/remounts, so I made a mental note to watch and learn as we naturally opened a small gap on everyone else. I’ve been doing quite a bit of work on my techy skills as part of this year’s more focussed training and it definitely helped me keep on par with him (though I’ve still got some way to go before being as smooth).

Pic by Ellen

On lap 2 I opened a small gap as I found some grippy lines through the singletrack (which somehow remained swoopy and fun, despite the mud!) which kept me on the bike a bit more and popped out of the “faster to run it” treelined section, next to the pits with a few seconds space behind me.
There’s very little that can send a shiver down your spine quite as well as having your pit crew tell you, as you swap bikes, “you’ve got a couple of seconds on Rob Hope”, with several running sections around the lap. Each time the mud forced me to dismount I expected him to skip merrily past, so each time he didn’t I did all I could on the rideable sections to keep the gap, while maintaining as much sped on foot as I could muster.

Looking for the grip by basically riding the very edge of the course (ie crashing through the bushes!). Pic by Ellen

One bike change per lap saw me use up 90% of the water I’d dragged to the race and meant I was never putting too much strain on the components (sadly a few people had to do the “walk of misery” with knackered rear mechs due to the clogging mud).

I kept pushing and tried to not start looking behind me until the second half of the last lap. When I did I found more clear space behind than I was expecting and took a few deep breaths and relaxed a bit, crossing the line with a mud plastered grin. A win. On a course that tested pretty much all of the skills and fitness cyclocross demands. Can’t be anything but utterly chuffed with that…even if I did manage to miss the podium presentation (again…)!

One week off from racing now, then up to Ulverston, which has been a great race for the last couple of years. Here’s hoping it is again 🙂

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