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

January 12, 2020

No. Positivity.

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 8:34 pm

The whistle goes and to my delight I feel my left foot clock positively into the pedal before it’s even swung through 45 degrees. I get, for once, for me, a decent start. In most races it would be a great start, but the National Championships is a big race for most people and everyone’s at their best, so I find myself pretty much holding my own – still just about second row as the speed briefly maxes out down the short tarmac start straight.

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Another rider has got alongside me and, having the inside line for the first corner, is edging ahead. He veers across in front of me and I hear the terrifying TWANG TWANG TWANG as his right foot starts to make contact with the spokes of my front wheel. In my mind I can already see the world pivot wildly to one side, accompanied by the hideous sound of aluminium ripping out of carbon fibre. The crunch of rider hitting the floor at full pelt, the howl of panicked braking from immediately behind and the crack crunch of bikes hitting the floor as the ripple of a huge start straight crash ends my race in the most painful way.
No.
I’m not having that.
Somehow I manage to flick my front wheel away from his heel as it drops and stop any damage. It robs me of some speed at a hugely inopportune moment and sees me swerve slightly towards Nick Whitley, who is thankfully able to lean on me to get past. I hemorrhage more places as I find myself away from any lines I’ve pre-ridden and unsure of levels of grip where I am, but I snap myself back into race attitude as quickly as possible.

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Working on the assumption I’m in about 20th I set about finding some positives and doing the best thing you can do – race yourself back up through the field. I was gridded 14th, so I’ve not thrown away the whole race (OK it would be fair to argue that it’s not like it was exactly mine to throw away in the first place!), I’ve just given myself more to do. Best crack on with it then!
The ground conditions are ‘heavy’. You need to deliver a lot of power on the straights to make progress. I can do that. I can churn with the best of them. Smooth, diesel power!

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4 laps in and I’m back up to about 11th. The woodland section of the race course SHOULD be great fun. Although the course tape is wide all the way through, a single line that resembles a piece of the best ribbony singletrack has formed through most of it. It SHOULD be all about flicking the bike through with a (max heart rate tainted) grin plastered across my face, but I’m not riding as smoothly as I can (OK it would be fair to assume this means I was riding pretty rigidly!). I fail to spot a tree root facing diagonally across the apex of a tighter corner and learn about it’s existence as it spits my front wheel out from underneath me. To underline the stupidity of my momentary lack of concentration, I feel my right pedal harshly scrape up my calf, adding a physical sting to the 3 hard won places I lose scrabbling to get up.
No.
I’m not having that.

Back up and one deep breath as I remount. I’ll just have to get those places back straight away. Back to chasing people down, getting past and heading straight for the next victim to catch!
Realising I’m not riding very smoothly I resort to just staying upright on the “course features” and issuing forth as much power whenever the chance arises. I have more than enough and I’m able to open gaps as more laps pass by.
I know the race is reaching it’s conclusion because those around me (including in the pits!) look tired. I don’t want it to stop! I’m vaguely aware that I’m hovering in or around 10th and that there are at least two more places only a handful of seconds ahead of me.

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I see what I hope to be the ‘next catch’ just ahead as we ride through the 2nd passing of the pits. The gap is shrinking as we approach the freshly constructed bridge and dismount to clamber up the almost-knee-high steps. He stumbles and trips as he reaches the top. The gap is barely there. We almost dismount in unison to run through the muddy zig zags before the finish straight. He remounts earlier than me and gets bogged down with wheelspin and I’m alongside. I hurl myself back on with all the subtlety and smoothness I can muster, only to discover a usually insignificant speck of gravel has embedded itself in the space between my left cleat and the shoe. I can’t clip in.
I roll across the line a few seconds back and smack the shoe against the pedal a few times, not in frustration, just in acceptance that it could have happened to anyone.

10th.
I find it funny, in all the post race chat (slowest moving thing in the universe: a cyclocross racer heading back to their car/van past all their friends and adversaries. Never more than 3 steps taken before another stop to chat, enthuse, exaggerate, play down and offer opinion on every minutia of the last hour), that so many people are impressed with the result. I’m delighted with how fit I was, but disappointed with what I’ve missed out on.
No, I decide as I start to repack the million and one things that seem to be required for cx racing nowadays.
I’m not having that.
It was a decent showing and a great place to beat next time round. I raced against genuinely talented people and found a way to match them. Now I have to go one step further. Lets crack on!

January 5, 2020

Even Flow

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 10:01 pm

The neck check: if your symptoms go below your neck, affecting your breathing, stop. Rest. Make sure you’re getting all the vitamins, minerals and hydration you need and do not stress your body.
If, however they’re all above the neck, use your discretion to figure out how much you can keep doing. A bit of a sniffle might get blasted away with a good workout.
With my lungs clear but what felt like a bit of a cold creeping up, I based my decision on whether to go to Saturday’s NWCCA race on just how snotty I was when I woke up on that morning. A gentle, even flow was deemed fine. I knew I wouldn’t be gaining any more fitness before next weekend’s National Champs, but Lee had told me my training block should have my legs bouncing back from the fatigue I’d carried over through last week’s race and that sounded like something to go any play out with!

Given just how wet many of the NW races have been this season (case in point being Burnley’s 80% running laps), I was under the impression this race would, as it was based at an agricultural showground, be another slow, muddy, probably lots-of-runny affair. It’s all good, of course, it’s all racing and cyclocross isn’t track cycling – the conditions are part of it – but a bit of a grin did spread across my face while wheeling my kit trolley over to the pits. It didn’t sink into any axle deep puddles, or grind to a halt in thick gloop. The course was, apparently, quite dry!

A pre race ride around the course confirmed that, with the exception of a few short sections, the ground was firm, grippy and completely un-January like! I was just as happy to find that big, open sections were the order of the day, with few slow corners and more emphasis on overall power. Ace, something to open the legs up on with little risk of breaking anything the week before the champs. 🙂

My tactics didn’t stretch much beyond “find a decent pace and sit at it. Open the legs up a bit but don’t thrash yourself into the ground. Burn off the sniffles without burning yourself out.” So I did that. Steady off the start, find a rhythm as quickly as possible and don’t get too caught up in how the race was going. To my delight this saw me ride back up to the leading pair as we crossed the finish line for the first time, go to the front and then sit at a pace that allowed me to get away for the win. I took as few risks on the corners as I could (Ok they weren’t massively technical, but this was a legs and lungs test – I know the bikes are working!) and just concentrated on keeping myself “in the zone”.

NWCCA Rnd 9
Pic by Elsie “youtube sensation” Haygarth.

A wave of thanks to the marshals and a slightly delayed drive home to do some cheering on of Craig and “Look I’m in 5th!” Ben in the senior race and that was that. Legs feeling good, nose clearer at the end of the day than at the start and the chance to get some power down on a dry (mostly) race course in the middle of winter fully taken, can’t ask for more than that! 🙂

Somehow I don’t think people will be swapping to Griffos and adding pressure to their tubs for speed on Saturday at Shrewsbury…

December 30, 2019

Hammers and nails

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 8:02 pm

I sort of knew, by the time we’d reached the first corner, that I wouldn’t be riding off into the distance in the lead of the race. TBH I knew it before I packed the van that morning. I’m not ill or anything, just getting ready for the National Champs and I was in a weird ‘tired / not wanting to injure myself’ sort of mood. Conversely, I also wanted to use the day’s racing as some good training, so had entered both the V40s and Senior races to double the workout (and skills test…and fun, obviously!)
After a comfortably slow start I settled down to just working my way back into the top 10 without overcooking it on the delightfully slithery Macclefield race course. The explosive power to get back up to and battle for the lead wasn’t quite there, so a steady churn saw my start to quite enjoy myself, eventually finishing in 5th (5th on an off day, how good is that!), a minute and a half down on 1st place, but feeling surprisingly sprightly and fresh on the line.

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Pic by Mick Hall

A swift change of race numbers and guzzle of a can of coke (complete with associated burp) and it was back down to the start for race 2. No need to worry about gridding (or anything really, no pressure at all!) this time round. Just agree a plan to not get caught up in the melee of the first few moments and avoid crashes….then completely ignore that as the first few seconds of the race saw gap after gap open up in front of me like some sort of biblical parting of the seas. I’d have been mad not to ride through the spaces that kept appearing! 🙂
After half a lap or so everything settled down and I got back to the same sort of churning I’d managed in the earlier race.
Once again I didn’t run out of energy or fade, though a moment’s inattention while riding over the barriers (note how I don’t describe it as bunnyhopping – it was more of a ‘huck one wheel over, then the other’) saw me mush my face into the ground in front of a load of onlookers, d’oh! I didn’t quite manage to close the gap to Paul Upton in 12th and eventually finished 13th, with another good workout in my legs and lots of ‘test the levels of grip’ style cornering in the bag. Cross is boss, no matter what your finishing position. 🙂

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Pic by Mick Hall

A week of getting the bikes to work properly (gritty cables weren’t helping gear shifts or brake performance at any point, but thankfully didn’t have any effect on my racing) and some more ‘finishing touches’ training wise before the Weaver Valley race which will nicely serve as a shakedown for everything before the Champs a week later, are what’s in store now. Oh and New Year as well. Have a good one everyone – plenty more months of bike related shenanigans to come!

December 16, 2019

The end of the beginning in the middle

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 12:46 pm

Final round of the National Trophy for this season is done and dusted. (Well, eventually the mud will dry enough to be classed as dust). My first season of “bothering” with it – as in dragging myself around the country to do enough rounds to qualify for a final placing, instead of just doing one or two rounds that sound like fun – and it’s been quite an eye opener.

I knew I’d miss the Crawley round, which meant that, as there were only 6 races with 5 finishes needed to get in the league, I’d have no room for error. Sadly errors had already been made (by me) in the previous rounds. I’d never really hit my potential, as I drove to the final round in York. I wasn’t going to get a finishing place in the standings the (to my mind) reflected how strong I’d felt and how much support I’d had, but nonetheless I had to race at York to get a final place at all, I owed it to everyone that’s been helping me as much as to myself, if not more. In some ways it took the pressure off and i lined up at the start with little stress and the hope of a good race.

What I got, rather than the simple “race hard and stay smooth” plan I;d hoped for, was a series of issues that properly tested my attitude!

A sub-par start has me stuck in the middle of the pack as we hurtled round the road circuit used for the start straight – mildly terrifying being in the melee trying to lean round the hairpin bend on low pressured, mud encrusted tyres – but I stayed upright and tried to limit my losses as we hit the first running section.
Somehow, while dropping the bike down so I could remount I managed to catch the course tape in the drivechain and had to stop to untangle it. 2 minutes in and boom! I was out the back of the race faffing at the side of the course. Any hopes of a last round brilliant finish were pretty much scuppered.
I reminded myself that there was no point being dejected at this point in the series, remounted and set about riding back up through the field (oh what a joy it is to have the strength and fitness to do that at National level!). I was in no way smooth or controlled to start with as the grumpy adrenaline from the stop subsided, but I made up a good few places before, for the first time in ages, the chain came off.
Only a handful of seconds were spent reattaching everything, but once again, place after place was lost at the side of the course. I took deep breath and set about riding back up through the field. Again.

A quick change of bikes, in case the dropped chain was as a result of mud/grass clogging something up (big thanks to Angela here, for solo pitting like a pro!), and I really started to get stuck in. I regained about 10 places in quick succession before a second dropped chain halted my progress, albeit briefly. I swapped back to the 1st bike on the next lap and noticed that there was a group of about 5 riders all stuck together a few hundred yards ahead of me.

York National Trophy
Pic courtesy of Richard Howes

I rode up to them and made the decision to not get caught up in the tussle they were having (I also spotted that the group consisted mainly of NW riders who were all fighting for top 15 places, which is pretty awesome 🙂 ) – i would just hammer past as quickly as possible and get through the group in one go, then push on to get a gap as quickly as possible.
We were in full view of the pits as I put the effort in to go through – loads of encouraging noise emanated from the pit area as I got to the front of the group. Nw riders have a great mid race battle, cheered on by the NW contingent supporting them. Ace.
OR, rather, it would have been ace if I’d not almost immediately got my line over a tussocky lump wrong and binned it. Still in full view of the pits. Arse. The cheering turned to (fully deserved) mild sarcasm and I had to grin to myself about the whole thing as I extricated the bike from the course tape and sheepishly got back on to try and close the gap once again.

I didn’t realise we were on the last lap and, with only a few corners left, I didn’t quite get back on terms with the group, eventually finishing in a somewhat disappointing (for the amount of effort I’d put in) 16th. Ho hum. Good job the course was enormous fun to race on, or I’d have been in a mood!

And that was that. Not sure where’ll finish on the overall standings, all I know is that, with 5 CX races left of the season the National series is over. For now. Unfinished business with it you see. Next time round I’ll do better!

A couple more NW league races over the festive period, followed by the National Championships are what’s on the cards now. Lots to play for and lots of great racing to come, hopefully with all the bad luck, mechanicals and other such issues already out of the way!

December 9, 2019

The Cob, Bap, Barm conundrum

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 1:34 pm

The on site coffee / catering van cleverly avoided the issue by simply describing the grilled cheese snack they were offering as a “sandwich”. In the surrounding car parks, hundreds of mud plastered cyclists did battle to prove, once and for all, which as the correct term for a small amount of bread in a rounded shape.

It may have been advertised and marketed as the “North of England Cyclocross Championships”, but we all knew it was something far more important than that. the moniker given to our lunch snack was up for grabs and as a result the racing was fierce.

By the time I got to have a go at naming the bread product (or racing for the Northern CX title, if you prefer) the waterlogged course had turned into a run, almost entirely. Stood on the start line, left foot sinking into the mud as the commissaire gave the final instructions, I glanced across to see Rob Hope and Rob Jebb grinning like Cheshire cats. To say their running is strong is to say I’m quite fond of pizza (I bloody love pizza). Between them they pretty much had the race in the bag before we even got going and, true to form, within half a lap they had left me (and pretty much everyone else) far behind.

Northern CX Champs
Pic by Tim

I did more running / stumbling / tripping over in shin deep slop, than the rest of the season put together over the following 50 minutes. Barely riding the bike at all. My finishing place of 6th may not sound very good, but I was pretty chuffed with it, I’m not a running specialist, so staying “in the game” was enough of a result for me.

Robb Jebb won our race, which (I think) mean all V40s now have to refer to the bread as “Cobbs”.

I’m now praying to the god of mud that the York National Trophy this weekend isn’t another long run with a bike on my shoulder!

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