Archive for the ‘Red Bull Road Rage’ Category

Make your own 100% natural honey and lemon electrolyte sports drink

April 9, 2015

I’ve been meaning to share this little secret with you all for quite some time, not only to save you money, but more importantly to provide a healthy alternative to the masses of expensive, commercially available, often times near unpalatable, sports drinks on the market.

By way of quick background, I keep bees and produce my very own delicious wild flower honey in the Garden County of Ireland. The last week of July sees the Federation of Irish Bee Keepers’ Associations (FIBKA) hold its annual Summer School in Gormanston, County Meath, which I have attended over the past years. Every year, an expert in the field of apiculture is invited to attend as honorary guest lecturer and present lectures in their particular field of expertise. In 2013, it was Flemming Vejsnæs, the beekeeping adviser employed by the Danish Beekeepers Association who was this special guest of honour.

Flemming Vejsnæs

Flemming Vejsnæs

 

What does this have to do with cycling you might ask? Well, apart from making the 2 hour (60km) trip out to the venue in the morning by bicycle and then back home again in the evening, it was during one of his lectures, that he shared with his audience, information on a study conducted by a team of Finnish researches. They investigated the performance differences between a self-made and 100% natural honey, lemon and salt sports drink and expensive commercially available alternatives.

To briefly summarise, the performance of the honey and lemon sports drink was equal in measure when looking at values to indicate provision of energy in endurance sports (cycling and running) and insulin and blood glucose levels also were very similar, yet it came out a clear winner when looking at other parameters such as being better tolerated by athletes (no nasty stomach cramps any more) and resulted in fewer required toilet breaks. Nobody wants to lose a couple of minutes stopping to reduce bladder pressure during a race!

From personal experience, after well over a year of use during training and racing, I agree wholeheartedly with the above conclusions. It is not only much tastier, but upset stomachs have thankfully also become a thing of the past.

Here is the honey sports drink recipe to make up for the whole team:

• 450 g honey
• 180 ml lemon juice ( fresh or concentrate)
• 1.5 tea spoon salt
• 5.5 l water

Mix honey and lemon juice, add water and salt.

To view the entire research test results please click here: Honey, lemon sports drink

Personal tip: Use a light, milder honey for best taste, such as Acacia, Orange blossom or similar. If you prefer a stronger taste, a heather or lavender honey can be used. Generally I prefer to use locally produced, unfiltered and unheated honey, as it contains healthy natural enzymes and traces of pollen which provides very small amounts of protein and trace elements.

Happy natural honey sports drink fuelled riding!

Downhill Road Blitz – Victory for Black Sheep Bikes in Ireland’s first DH Road Race

March 12, 2015

DHRoadBlitz1024x395

Hardly back from Colorado, with a little under two weeks to go, it was time to knuckle down to tie up a few loose ends and put the finishing organisational touches to the up-coming inaugural Downhill Road Blitz race I had decided to organise earlier in the year. The past six months had been when most of the graft had been put in and so most things were already teed up and ready to go, but I wanted to make sure everything would run smoothly on the day and so made the necessary phone calls and sent out some final communications. The concept was the same as the Red Bull Road Rage races, only this time, it was with the support of my racing club Bray Wheelers CC, and Cycling Ireland. It was a world first for a national cycling federation under the UCI to sanctioned such an event. The race village venue was in the Glenview Hotel, proud sponsor and the event’s official partner hotel, at the bottom of the race course, namely the Red Lane, which was chosen due to its proximity to the course.

Downhill Road Blitz event poster

Downhill Road Blitz event poster

This promised to be an event where the competition would be as high as any other Red Bull Road Rage events that had been held across the world over the years. Top riders from Europe including France’s Guillaume Gualandi (World #1 Road Rage racer in 2008 and 2009) and Fred Mazères his Cantal Team Road team mate and Germany’s Christian Lademann (ex UCI World Champion Team Pursuit in 1999) and his former professional team mate Mathias Kahl (National German Madison champion with Lademann in 2005 – beating the reigning World Champions in the process) were already confirmed to line up. A host of strong challengers from Ireland would ensure a top level in racing.

Riders listen to the pre-race safety briefing.

Riders listen to the pre-race safety briefing.

The day before the event, I had a professional road cleaning service sweep the entire section of the race course of all gravel and dirt along the sides, and especially in the bends. Safety for the riders was my biggest concern. On the morning of the event, I met my team at the race village at 7:00 sharp and got things rolling. The weather wasn’t great, with light rain falling, but it didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits. The first riders showed up for sign on around 8:00, where they were handed their numbers and tags and went through the mandatory bike safety check conducted by Bespoke Cycles. At this stage, the Red Bull crew had also arrived, including a team of hostesses, aka a team of Wiiings, a camera man and to set up the start and finishing arches, the technical contingent. At 9:00 I held the rider safety briefing. Once completed, the signed up riders were all shuttled up to the top of the Red Lane, where they were able to complete a number of official practice runs on a fully closed road.

Riders preparing on the start ramp ready for the qualifying heats.

Riders preparing on the start ramp ready for the open practice runs.

Lunch was served for the riders in the Glenview Hotel restaurant at 13:00, prior to getting down to the serious business of qualifying for the knock-out stages. At 14:00 sharp the riders were again shuttled up to the top of the course in anticipation of proper racing. Taking my lead from the Colorado Road Rage, I decided to run with 3 qualifying heats for all riders, mixing the riders between groups in each round of heats. I was happy enough at this stage that my able team on the ground were taking good care of the running and so was finally able to join the racing activities for the first time that day.

Start of a qualifying heat (l-r): Tadhg Sheehan (Trinity Cycling Club), Janos Köhler (Black Sheep Bikes/Bray Wheelers), Malcom Goggin (Bray Wheelers)

Start of a qualifying heat (l-r): Tadhg Sheehan (Trinity Cycling Club), Janos Köhler (Black Sheep Bikes/Bray Wheelers), Malcom Goggin (Bray Wheelers)

Racing was hard and fast, and I won my first and third round heats, but was edged out into second place during the second round heat, by an audacious move in the final stages of the run by Mathias Kahl. It was however more than enough to qualify for the knock-out rounds. Next up were the semi-finals, where I finish just ahead of Fred Mazières who took the remaining berth from our group for the final. In the other semi-final Mathias Kahl had some bad luck when his back tyre exploded coming into the last corner, causing him to lose control and crash, sliding into the perfectly positioned tyre wall. It was not long before he was back up on his feet, but missed out on a spot in the final, with Guillaume Gaulandi winning the heat and Tadhg Sheehan capitalising on Kahl’s misfortune to take the remain final berth.

The women’s final was run before the men’s minor and grand finals. Fiona Meade (Blarney Cycling Club) took top honours ahead of Joanne McCallum, with local underage rider Caoimhe Ivory (Bray Wheelers) showing her strength to round off the podium against strong senior opposition. In the minor final it was Mathias Kahl who bounced back after his earlier mishap to take the win for the minor placings.

Women's podium (l-r): Joanne McCallum, Fiona Meade (Blarney CC), Caoimhe Ivory (Bray Wheelers).

Women’s podium (l-r): Joanne McCallum, Fiona Meade (Blarney CC), Caoimhe Ivory (Bray Wheelers).

Next up was the men’s grand final, an exclusive Gallo-hiberno affair with two riders from each France and Ireland. I decided on going for a slower start to keep my powder dry by letting the other riders lead me out. Unfortunately, Fred Mazières suffered a puncture early on and was out of the running before he had a chance to challenge. I slotting into 3rd position behind Guillaume and Tadhg and bid my time to move up. Once we had safely negotiated the top section and passed the handful of bends leading into the middle straight, I rushed Tadhg from behind and executed the overtake. I knew I would need to be on Guillaume’s wheel exiting the main bend into the straight of the bottom half of the course and this is where I was now positioned. I stuck to his rear wheel like a shadow until we had about 250m to go and knew I had to make my move in order to be the first rider into the last steep section before the ultimate bend. Barring any mishaps this should pretty much guarantee the victory. I shot around Guillaume in a calculated move and took the race lead.

Leading out Guillaume Gualandi and Tadhg Sheehan down the final straight during the grand final.

Leading out Guillaume Gualandi and Tadhg Sheehan down the final straight during the grand final.

Carefully guiding my bike through the last section, I raced towards the finishing arch, around the last bend and took the chequered flag with my now customary one handed victory salute. I was delighted to finish off the season just like it had started, with a win to climb back on the top step of the podium after coming so close in Colorado. It meant that 2013 became my most successful season to date, in no small part because of the very best advice on training, injury prevention, psychological preparation and general support from world class coach Jonathan Gibson of the Athlete Clinic. It was undoubtedly the best decision I made to collaborate with him earlier in the year and my consistent results vindicated this choice.

Taking the chequered flag in the big Final ahead of Cantal Team Road's Guillaume Gualandi.

Taking the chequered flag in the big Final ahead of Cantal Team Road’s Guillaume Gualandi.

It was then straight back up to the race village for the prize presentations. All participants were guaranteed a prize thanks to the generosity of Black Sheep Bikes who had supplied enough high quality t-shirts and hoodies for everyone. Fiona Meade collected her prize of a Black Sheep Bikes hoodie for the fastest timed run, set in the final, along with her overall winner’s cheque (proudly presented by Bespoke Cycles who sponsored the women’s cash prizes) and her trophy. Guillaume Gualandi collected the prize for the fastest timed run in the men’s category, which he had set in his semi-final run, as well as his runner up cheque (proudly presented by The Athlete Clinic who sponsored the men’s cash prizes) and his trophy.

Elite Men's podium (l-r) Guillaume Gualandi (Cantal Team Road, France), Janos Köhler (Black Sheep Bikes/Bray Wheelers, Ireland), Tadhg Sheehan (Trinity Cycling Club, Irleland)

Elite Men’s podium (l-r) Guillaume Gualandi (Cantal Team Road, France), Janos Köhler (Black Sheep Bikes/Bray Wheelers, Ireland), Tadhg Sheehan (Trinity Cycling Club, Irleland).

Following the prize presentation, the riders returned to the Glenview Hotel restaurant where we had our lunch-time desserts still waiting for us (we never managed to eat them in the afternoon, as the road closure times meant we had severe time constraints with a strict schedule to adhere to). It was a relaxed affair as we all discussed the day’s events reminiscing on the good times we had and talked about planning another Irish downhill road race at some time in the future.

The full event clip produced by Black Umbrella Productions can be viewed by clicking here. Red Bull also put a clip together and can be viewed here.

I would like to give a special mention of thanks to Biking.ie who supplied logistical help as well as equipment to ensure the event ran without a hitch, the Glenview Hotel for providing an area for the race village setup and top notch catering for the riders, Red Bull Ireland for the media coverage and the great team they sent down, Black Umbrella Productions for the great clip they put together, Bespoke Cycles for doing the pre-race bike safety check and sponsoring the women’s prizes, The Athlete Clinic for sponsoring the men’s cash prizes,  and last but certainly not least, a huge thank you to all the Bray Wheelers members who came and gave up their free time to help marshal, ensuring impeccable safety throughout the event for riders and spectators alike. This event would not have been possible without all their support. Here’s looking forward to another one down the road (pun intended)!

Red Bull Road Rage, Guanella Pass, Georgetown, Colorado – Runner-up & 2nd 2013 podium with Black Sheep Bikes

March 10, 2015

It was with great anticipation I awaited the season finale of the Red Bull Road Rage season. It promised to be an epic return back to US soil for the first time since 2005 where this event was born, at the time descending Tuna Canyon, Malibu, California. What excited me most about the event was the chance to race in front of my sponsors from Black Sheep Bikes in their very own back yard of Colorado.

I reached out to Red Bull North America in order to secure a place on the starting list in late August. At the same time, due to my extensive experience at these events over the past few years, I was consulted on several points in terms of format and event running from an athlete’s perspective, to which I obligingly provided feedback to the friendly event manager. Shortly after, the last details were hammered out between Red Bull and the local authorities regarding road closure and the green light was finally given for the event to take place.

Georgetown Red Bull Road Rage event poster

Georgetown Red Bull Road Rage event poster

Tickets were booked for the trip from Dublin to Denver. Due to the race being held at ca. 3000m, I had made the decision to go out a good 10 days before the event to help acclimatise to the high altitude. The morning of my planned flight, I received a phonecall at 4am  with an automated voice message informing me the flight had been cancelled (no reason given). I was to leave the following day on the next one, but with a sister airline and via London instead of Chicago. OK, it’s only one day, I’ll be fine. The following day the delayed trip commenced. Unfortunately, another obstacle presented itself in the form of a fire just outside the airport in London in an industrial park, but right in the landing flight path of incoming air traffic. The delayed take-off in Dublin meant I missed my connecting flight and had to stay the night in London. Finally, another day later, I got on the plane for the final leg, arriving in Denver 52hrs behind schedule.

The plan was to spend the first couple of days in Fort Collins, the home of Black Sheep Bikes, in order to settle in at 1600m altitude before heading further up to Georgetown, over 1000m further up at 2650m atlitude, situated at the bottom of Guanella Pass (3657m) upon which the Road Rage would take place. 5 days prior to the event, I arrived at The Georgetown Mountain Inn, checked in, went to my room, got changed and hopped straight on to the bike for a quick spin up to the top of Guanella Pass. The views from the top were breathtaking out across the vast expanse of the Rockies with the neighbouring peaks standing out prominently. After a quick stop to admire the view, the GoPro was switched on and it was back down to Georgetown. To view the full descent clip, click here.

Basking in the sun with the Georgetown Mountain Inn in the background.

Basking in the sun with the Georgetown Mountain Inn in the background.

After a plunge in the hotel outdoor hot tub, a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast the next morning, I explored the small town before heading back half way up the pass road to the get a few runs of the course under my belt. It was straight forward enough with a couple of hairpin turns at the top and a couple more nearer the bottom, the two sets of hairpins separated by a section of long swooping bends and the last set followed by a long straight that could be ridden flat out. The following day it was more of the same with another few runs just to embed the course in the mind.

All along, the weather was still very pleasant with mild temperatures and brilliant sunshine. The forecast however predicted a severe plummet in temperatures the day before the race, with some snow fall. True to predictions, the temperatures plummeted faster than a Road Rage racer in full flow. I dropped into the local mountain bike rental and ski hire shop at the end of town to see if I could pick up some thermal base layers to help stay warm in the freezing conditions. I spoke to the affable owner, Tom Seabrook, about the race and convinced him to sign up, reassuring him he would have an absolute blast, both figuratively and literally! Despite the treacherous conditions, I went up for one more shot, just to test out the course and my equipment in the changed conditions. I was grateful to Tom for driving me up, which made it just a little easier. To view the run in frozen and snowy conditions, click here. It took less than 3mins to freeze all my cables, as pictured below.

Frozen cables after sub-zero snowy recon run.

Frozen cables after sub-zero snowy recon run.

In the afternoon, I had some interviews scheduled with the Red Bull film crew, as did Tom. Naturally they were excited to learn more about my Black Sheep Bikes Road Rage Custom 2, especially since it was built and hand finished right here in the Centennial State. That night, I took my routine plunge in the hot tub, only this time I had icicles hanging off my beard at the end of it! It was an early night, as an even earlier morning rise was scheduled the following day, with a 7:00 sign-on, with uplifts commencing at 7:30 sharp. James Bleakley from Black Sheep Bikes had made the trip down from Fort Collins with a couple more supporters in tow, ready to witness the days racing. It was a fresh -5°C that morning, but thankfully it was bone dry.

Black Sheep Bikes - Road Rage Custom 2: Close-up of head badge and truss fork struts.

Black Sheep Bikes – Road Rage Custom 2: Close-up of head badge and truss fork struts.

A new race format would be run at the event, whereby every competitor would race 3 qualifying heats against different group competitors in a 4X format each time. A points system was in operation, 22 for 1st, 16 for 2nd, 12 for 3rd and 9 for 4th. In the case of a tie on points after three rounds, in order to differentiate the riders’ rankings, a coefficient based on the riders raced against and where they placed in the overall qualifying came into play. The top 16 ranked riders would then battle it out in the usual format in a bid to reach the final.

Lining up in the start gate waiting to start a qualifying heat.

Lining up in the start gate waiting to start a qualifying heat.

After the three qualifying rounds, I had won all my heats along with two other racers, yet had raced against more of the other riders who generally didn’t score as high in the overall points as the other two racers to also win all their heats. This meant I placed 3rd overall going into the quarter finals, but was exactly where I wanted to be for seeding purposes. The quarter final was an easy enough affair, a I worked with another competitor, local racer from Boulder, Dwight (Whitey) Debroux, after a quick pre-race chat to ensure we distanced the other two weaker opponents early on. Once we had gapped them, we continued to collaborate to ensure we rode over the line in positions one and two. We even had a bit of fun down the home straight as can be seen by watching the shadows in this race clip run.

Racing during the quarter finals with Dwight (Whitey) Debroux.

Racing during the quarter finals with Dwight (Whitey) Debroux (#11).

Things got a little more serious in the next round, with the second seed Kevin Soller in our group. Again, a tactical approach was hashed out, as I wanted one less competitor to keep an eye on in the final. The run started much faster than any of the previous rounds. I needed to be extremely vigilant and marked Kevin closely all the way down until we were in the home straight. I then made my move with only about 100m to the line, ensuring that once I got past him, he would not have time to counter. It worked a treat and it was into the grand final. To watch how the semi final action unfolded, click here.

It's all smiles as competitors wait to be driven up to the start.

It’s all smiles as competitors wait to be driven up to the start (l-r) John Kavanaugh, Santiago Garcia III and Celia Ferguson.

I knew from previous finals’ experiences, that this would be on the limit, with only the strongest and fastest riders left in the competition. There was one man I felt would pose the greatest threat, the number one seed in the form of professional rider and multiple US National Champion (Scratch and Criterium over the years) Dave McCook, also the only rider to return from the inaugural Red Bull Road Rage in Malibu, California, in 2005. I was proven correct as he powered out of the gate like a demon possessed. The pace was relentless from the start. I slotted into 3rd position and decided to stay on Dave’s wheel. It was close racing the whole way down. Coming into the last hairpin that opened out into the finishing straight, I drifted slightly wide, leaving the door open for the 4th placed rider Mike Mitchell to come up the inside and slot into 3rd. I stepped on the gas again and quickly reversed the order again.

Dropping that position momentarily, was to prove a decisive error, as Dave sitting on Whitey’s wheel took a quick glance behind and with his years of experience in track and criterium racing quickly sensed it was the moment to go, with a little gap having opened between us. I realised too late and he kicked hard shooting off around Whitey into first position. I was able to close the gap and power around Whitey, but with the course running out, Dave had done enough to stay out in front to cross the line in first position. I was nonetheless delighted with second place, especially that I had done so in front of the Black Sheep Bikes crew. It was also enough to retake the Red Bull Road Rage World #1 ranking which I had first held in 2010. To watch the red hot action from the final, click here.

Following winner Dave McCook across the line to take 2nd place, with Dwight (Whitey) Debroux rounding off the podium placings ahead of 4th place Mike Mitchell.

Following winner Dave McCook across the line to take 2nd place, with Dwight (Whitey) Debroux rounding off the podium placings ahead of 4th place Mike Mitchell.

The podium presentations followed under a clear blue sky with the sun beaming down from above. Then it was the customary interviews that wrapped up the day’s events.

Final Red Bull Road Rage podium - (from left to right) Janos Köhler (Black Sheep Bikes), Dave McCook, Dwight (Whitey) Debroux

Final Red Bull Road Rage podium – (from left to right) Janos Köhler (Black Sheep Bikes), Dave McCook, Dwight (Whitey) Debroux

To view the official Red Bull event clip, including all interviews and the day’s action, please click here.

The last days out in Colorado were spent unwinding back in Fort Collins, where James took me out to share some of his favourite local off-road trails. My particular favourite was a ride up Hewlett Gulch in Larimer County, a short drive north west of Fort Collins.

Red Bull Road Rage, Bosnia and Herzegovina – Back to winning ways with Black Sheep Bikes

October 4, 2013

It all started with an unexpected message via facebook. Thursday evening 27 June, I receive a notification via the social networking site that the Red Bull Road Rage News page I am one of the admins on, received a message. Upon opening, it revealed a question from another rider Marko, about how best to approach cornering as well as stating the desire to ask a qualified expert additional questions. A few back and forth messages ensued the following day to culminate in receiving a link to the map with the details of the upcoming Red Bull Road Rage near Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Immediately it was panic mode realising it was only a week away. How was it that I hadn’t seen or heard about the event, despite the information going live on the Red Bull site on 6 June? A quick email to the address given on the event website to apply for a start place was sent with the necessary requested information. A phone number was also available, but I presumed it was an office fixed line number so didn’t bother calling it on a Saturday afternoon. I continued communication with Marko in the evening and asked about the number, whereby he informed me it was a mobile and I should just call, which I did. I introduced myself after ensuring English was understood, but was asked to call back in 15 minutes as he was wrapping up an event.

Bike Servis sign edit

Half an hour later I picked up where I had left off, explaining I would like to enter the Red Bull Road Rage planned for the following Saturday. I was told it shouldn’t be a problem and that he would reply to my email on Monday when back in the office. I didn’t even have to wait that long, as Sunday afternoon an enthusiastic reply landed in my inbox stating “We would be glad if you joined us on July, 6th. “ Without further ado, flight tickets were book for the ensuing Wednesday and a few days later I was jetting off to experience a new adventure, in to me the yet unexplored Balkans. I had one goal only and that was to go win this event for my late brother who had finally succumbed to MS only months before and nothing, absolutely nothing was going to stop me.

Marko met me at Sarajevo international airport, as he had very generously offered me to stay with his family, which I willingly accepted. It was only a short drive before we arrived at his house in the eastern suburb of Sarajevo, surrounded by fields with the mountains as backdrop. I was introduced to the family and fed fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden, immediately feeling the warmth, generosity and hospitality that is so pervasive and customary of Bosnian culture. An early night ensued to ensure readiness for the following day.

Poor Lucky

Poor Lucky in his cramped cage.

After a delicious fresh breakfast, again with only the freshest home grown ingredients, Marko took me across the road to meet his neighbour’s “pet” bear, ironically called Lucky. After this unexpected introduction, it was time to build up my bike. Once completed, Marko and I headed down to an electronics shop to find a microSD card for my newly purchased sports action camera. There were none in stock in the capacity I wanted, but we were informed one could be delivered within 30-45mins if desired. Now that’s service! The go-ahead was given and a short wait later we were set to go up and check out the Road Rage course. Only a few kilometres away from Marko’s house, he knew the road well and directed me the quickest way up some back roads.

We parked at the bottom and I decided to cycle up using the ascent as a warm-up. The road was only a couple of years old and had the finest high quality asphalt surface, presented in immaculate condition.  Once at the top I switched on the camera and commenced my descent under a beautiful setting sun. It was a very fast descent and upon reaching the initial starting point below again, my impressions were confirmed as I checked my ride stats and got a top speed reading of 96.4km/h! The clip can be viewed here.

Race village and finish arch

Race village and finishing arch.

Friday was spent relaxing to ensure fresh legs for the following day. Saturday arrived and both Marko and I headed up to the race village after another healthy breakfast. We were greeted by the friendly Red Bull event hostesses and filled out the usual paperwork to complete registration. Not long after, the qualifying group heats were announced, with riders’s numbers being selected at random to make up the groups. Marko was in the first heat and I in the second last. We were then all shuttled up the hill to the start where we awaited the morning action.

Marko start RBRR

Marko (far right in red top) storming off in the first qualifying heat.

Marko and his three fellow heat competitors set the action off. I had about a 25 minute wait until my heat went, so I kept warm cycling up and down the road behind the start line. Then it was action time. I decided to go full throttle from the gun and dropped the others in an instant. Once I had a substantial gap, I settled into a strong rhythm and ran out a decisive winner. When I got down, I met Marko, only to learn he was not as lucky, having fought bravely until the end, but ultimately having to cede to stronger competition. Once the last heat came down, there was a break while the Red Bull Team put together the finalists for the knock-out heats.  Then it started to rain heavily for a short while, before we were shuttled up in the buses again for the eighth final runs.

Qualifying win

Running out a decisive winner in my qualifying heat still on dry roads.

By the time my heat got under way, the road was showing patches of dry tarmac, but still quite damp in places. After my all out charge from the previous round I decided to experiment with other tactics and this time let my fellow group heat competitors lead me out. After slipstreaming them for about 700m into the course, I rushed them from behind, rode into the pocket of still air and burst by them immediately establishing a substantial lead. Then it was time to conserve energy and I tucked in down on my top tube and cruised down the next 2km. I flicked a quick look over my shoulder as I approached the bottom hairpin and saw they were no much closer. I started guiding the bike carefully around the bend when suddenly my front wheel gave way. I was just able to rescue it before I went down and had to correct my trajectory allowing the guys behind me to get right on my wheel. An all out acceleration out of the corner dropped all but 1 competitor and the two of us worked together to keep it that way drafting each other in turn down to the finish line. I ran in behind the victor by a mere couple of tyre widths. Job done, into the next round.

Raining on the race village

Heavy rain over the race village.

I immediately went to change my slicks for rain tyres after the hairpin scare which could have ended my race for good right there and then. Tyre pressure was also dialled in for the conditions. As I was completing the change the heavens opened again vindicating my decision to go for the rain tyres. This was going to be the best equipment choice I made of the day. After the rain eased somewhat, the qualified riders were transported back up to the start. Again I was in the last heat and decided to employ the same tactics for the start. The move was executed with textbook style and the gap was blown out. This time however, I was careful around the bends and continued to keep the power on. The aim was to get to the hairpin with a huge lead so I could steer around it without taking the slightest risk. Hairpin approached, speed scrubbed right off and the hairpin became a memory until the next round. One more big acceleration and I cruised under the big Red Bull finishing arch. I decided I had found a tactic I was happy with for this course under the current conditions and so stuck with the tried and tested method, making the semi-final an exact repeat of the quarter final run, albeit it under much heavier rain.

After heat in the rain cooling down no helmit

Catching my breath after taking a rain soaked 1/2 final win.

 It was into the bus for one last ride to the top. Confidence was brimming at this stage and I knew if I stuck to the plan and didn’t take any unnecessary risk or make any silly mistakes, this was mine for the taking. I also knew that I wouldn’t have it as easy as in previous rounds, as I had three formidable competitors, including some of the strongest international mountain bike riders from Bosnia in both cross country and downhill. I would need to pull out all the stops and find a little extra to secure this one for sure.

Again I went for the now winning formula, waited until the right moment and then attacked like my life depended on it. It worked as I distanced my rivals, yet not nearly to the same extent as in previous rounds. Again prudence was executed in the corners and every other metre of ground I covered was full on the throttle to make sure I didn’t leave my competitors even the smallest opportunity to exploit. Hairpin was again reached with a 50m gap in hand, negotiated safely and then business as usual with one last monstrous acceleration. I screamed my brother’s name as I sped towards the finish line as this one was for him and he had been my strength and motivation all along every step of the way to this moment. Around the last bend with the welcome finish arch in sight. I sat up and raised my both arms in true roadie style, only for the front wheel to start violently vibrating and wobbling the whole bike around!

Victory line salute

Victory salute for Road Rage win number 2.

I have never put my hands back down on the handle bars so quickly in my life. In the end I went for another one handed victory salute, to ensure nothing else went wrong. Not far behind me triple national cross country champion Mario Kojić rolled in as runner up ahead of his strong team-mate Stefan Tešanović who took the remaining podium spot beating the young talented downhill mountain biker Nikola Solomun into forth. The on-board footage from the race winning run can be viewed here. Shortly after I was surrounded by not only all the photographers, but also Marko and his family who were as delighted and excited as I was with the win. Then the inevitable question everybody wanted to know, “How fast did you go?” I checked my computer to reveal a top speed of 97.3km/h and that was in the rain! The podium celebrations ensued promptly with interviews capping off the day. To view the event highlights please click here.

Podium Bosnia

The final Red Bull Road Rage podium with (l-r) Nikola Solomun, Mario Kojić, Janos Köhler (Black Sheep Bikes) and Stefan Tešanović.

I dedicate this victory to my brother Miro, who left this world before his time. You will always go with me wherever I am. RIP.

Red Bull Road Rage, Mont Ventoux – From disappointment to relief

July 12, 2013

In March of this year, the exciting news broke when Red Bull announced it was planning to run 4 Road Rage events in 2013. This was greeted with delight by the Road Rage faithful community, as 2012 had been completely barren and Road Rage aficionados were beginning to lose hope of seeing more events organised. Locations announced included Denver, France, Bosnia and Brazil.

After clarifying some communication points on the Red Bull press release, it transpired that the first event would go ahead in France, descending 6km and 445m from the top of the mythical Mont Ventoux. The excitement at a longer course was evident by the positive comments that floated about in the build-up. All the big names, including three of the top Road Rage racers from France, Guillaume Gualandi (World #1 2008/2009) along with his multiple podium standing team mates Frédéric Mazières and David Lacoste, not to mention ex track World Champion and 2 time Road Rage runner-up Christian Lademann from Germany and the most recent Red Bull Road Rage Champion Piotr Szafraniec from Poland, to name but a few of the stars, were all set to be on the start line.

Podium

Wild scences from the last Road Rage podium celebrations in France, with (l-r) Cédric Gracia, Guillaume Gualandi, Frédéric Moncassin, David Lacoste and Frédéric Mazières.

Then 10 days before the event an unexpected announcement came: The competent authorities had issued a non-favourable response to Red Bull in relation to the event and it was promptly cancelled. Naturally the riders were immensely disappointed at this turn-about, but there was nothing to be done, only wait for the next event.

Having booked my flight tickets 2 months in advance, I decided I would go anyway to test out my newly rebuilt Black Sheep Bikes Road Rage Custom 2. After riding the original bike for nearly two years, I provided feedback to the guys at Black Sheep and wanted to have a few things changed to be able to go even faster. The modifications were discussed and the bike sent back to the BSB HQ in Fort Collins where the rear triangle was rebuilt. I got the bike back the day before I flew out and so would have to wait until I was in France before I could unpack it and test it out.

Road Rage Race Day

Saturday 8 June was the planned race date, so I thought it would only be fitting to venture up on the same day for the first test run on the new machine. I drove up to Bédoin, with the intention of making one ascent to the summit of Mont Ventoux followed by a full descent. The weather had turned by the afternoon and not long into the start of the ascent, it started to rain. I toiled on up the climb until I emerged above the tree line only to be surrounded by thick cloud cover and ever increasingly strong winds. It was a struggle up to the top as winds gusted strongly between 80-100km/h, the rain driving down in sheets and the temperature barely 6 °C at the summit (not including the wind chill factor). My hands were completely numb at this stage and I was nearly blown over several times on the summit so strong was the wind.

To watch the clip to get a true sense of the terrible conditions on that day, please click here.

Under these conditions, the descent was incredibly dangerous, and on several occasions I got blown across the road without warning. Visibility was down to about 30m due to the thick cloud cover and the wind was driving the rain so hard it was cutting painfully into my face. It became abundantly clear to me that the competent authorities in the sous-prefecture of Carpentras had made the only sensible and correct decision by cancelling the event, which in hindsight was a big relief. It would have been irresponsible to hold the race under these conditions and emergency services would not have been able to respond effectively had someone gone over the side of the road. I was relieved to get back down to the shelter of the tree line. From here on it was business as usual taking a little extra care due to the wet road.

Black Sheep Bikes Road Rage Custom 2 Test Day

Two days later the weather had turned for the better and I decided to embark on a triple assault of Mont Ventoux, that is to say, climb every one of the three sides. Well, I really only wanted to cycling down each descent, but that inevitably meant I would also have to cycle up each side. I commenced in Bédoin and nearly failed on my mission before I got started. 2.5km into the climb I realised my bottom bracket was creaking a bit. Upon quick inspection I realised that the previous ride had probably been the nail in the coffin for my bottom bracket bearings, so I turned around straight away and went to the Bédoin Location bike shop to have a new set of bearings and cups installed. I received friendly, quick service and 45mins later it was mission on again and I commenced the trip in earnest. A little under two hours and the summit was reached. A short break later and I was plummeting down the western descent towards Malaucène a breakneck speeds. 20min34sec later I had completed the first descent of 21.6km at an average speed of 62.9km/h, currently 44sec faster than the next best time. I checked my Garmin to see I had hit and maximum speed 117.5km/h! Going in the right direction I thought, having bettered my previous PB of 115km/h set back in 2008 during the Ötztaler Cycling Marathon race in Austria while descending the Kühtai into Innsbruck.

To watch the full clip of the descent from the summit of Mont Ventoux to Malaucène, please click here.

After refilling my water bottles at the village fountain, it was back on the saddle for the slog back up. Again, it was around two hours of steady climbing before I would reach the top. It was also the first time I was able to admire the stunning views on the way up, that I had missed on the way down due to having to concentrate fully on the road. Again a short break was afforded, before I plummeted down in the direction of Sault. This is the longest descent at 25.1km, but with the least elevation difference, making the gradient somewhat gentler, a welcome relief after the first two tough ascents. Unfortunately my progress was interrupted by some roadworks which killed any chance of grabbing a triple crown of Strava KOMs for the descents. Well, it’ll leave something to aim for on my next visit.

Again a quick bottle refill was made at the village fountain, before the last climb back to the summit. With about 6km to go from Chalet Reynard, another cyclist I had passed at the beginning of the climb fell into pace with me. He had been shadowing me at about 100m back or so the entire time. As he drew level with me, my unusual looking bike caught his eye and was enough to start us chatting and I got to know him as Bernard. It turns out he is the cousin of a famous former professional road and track rider and multiple national French champion Charley Grosskost, from the era of  Eddy Merckx and Luis Ocaña, at one time even riding for 5 time Tour de France winner Jacques Anquetil. Bernard was no slouch in his day either, winning the Alsace 100km team time trial title and taking podiums in other notable races. We exchanged many cycling stories before we reached the summit for the last time that day. At the top he took the only photos I have of the day as he luckily had a camera with him. We exchanged emails and he left before me while I sent a quick text to my friend who I was going to meet in the village, to let him know I would be down in about 20mins. I also tucked in anything that might fly out on the super fast descent that was to ensue.

P1000601

Summit of the Col du Mont Ventoux (1912m)

Once ready, I clipped in, switched into downhill race speed mode and let rip. A nice 50km/h westerly tail wind meant that I had a wind assisted descent on the exposed top part, the same section the Red Bull road Rage would have taken place on. I picked up speed quickly and passed the Col des Tempêtes not long after, continuing to accelerate hard. I quick glance down at my Garmin where I spotting 108km/h on the screen and I was still picking up speed rapidly. I passed Bernard after a short while later flicking him a quick wave of the hand as I negotiated the bend. As he was in my racing line, I had to go wide in order not to cut across him. This also pushed me wide on the exit and made for an additional adrenaline rush. Back on the power and flat out the rest of the way, slowing marginally for the ensuing bends. Chalet Reynard was reached rapidly and from there on it was a roller coaster ride to Bédoin. 21min19sec later I had completed the final descent of 21.3km at an average speed of 59.8km/h, a mere 3sec faster than the next best time. Now for the moment of truth as I checked my Garmin to see my maximum speed: 131.8km/h! I could hardly believe it! Total trip distance was 139.3km, including 4463m of total elevation gain, taking me 7h18m to complete.

It was only then I not only understood, but could also fully appreciate just how significant the improvements and modifications to my second generation Black Sheep Bikes Road Rage Custom were in terms of performance. The guys in Fort Collins worked their magic like only they know how, using their decades of experience to pull the best out of the machine following the feedback I provided. In addition to the bike now being much much faster, it is also more stable at high speeds, handles better in corners, doesn’t lift the rear end under heavy breaking on extremely steep descents, but the nicest and most unexpected added bonus was that the bike is now also super comfortable on longer rides. To find out more about their wonderful two wheeled, creations of working art, just visit the Black Sheep Bikes web page.

To watch the full clip of the final descent from the summit of Mont Ventoux to Bédoin, please click here.

More important lessons – Red Bull Road Rage Poland 2011

May 30, 2013

It is with mixed feelings I think back to this event. On the one hand, the disappointment in how things evolved and on the other the important lessons I took from it. They say it is often the most painful lessons and experiences that teach us the most and I can definitely slot this one into that category. It all started in a very upbeat fashion with the long awaited and overdue news, that 2011 would indeed again see a Road Rage event organised. I had given up hope of anything materialising when the Red Bull Poland put out the announcement in early September of their scheduled race for 1 October 2011. A place on the start line was secured soon after, flight tickets, a rental car and accommodation were booked and I was set to go. My form could not have been better after a tough season of track racing benefiting my fitness enormously. A week before the event I had taken a Leinster Senior elite sprint title and rounded off the podium in the Scratch race. Confidence was brimming and I was eager to compete in the sole Road Rage event of the season.

Sunset from the top of Góra Żar overlooking Międzybrodzie Żywiecki.

Sunset from the top of Góra Żar overlooking Międzybrodzie Żywiecki.

The venue was in, for me, the unpronounceable southern Polish town of Międzybrodzie Żywiecki in the province of Katowice. The course descended 4km down Góra Żar with long straights and sweeping hairpin bends and a couple of faster more open bends completing the challenge. I arrived in the host town a couple of days preceding the event, a small village set in a beautiful valley surrounded by forested mountains. After unpacking and putting the bike together, it was out onto the road for the first reconnaissance run. A quick cycle up to the top and a first run down. That evening I studied the video clip I had filmed of my descent, before switching off the lights. The following day involved numerous ascents via the funicular railway to the top followed by an equal amount of descents on the road to familiarise myself as best could be with the race course. I was joined by other racers who were doing likewise including a close rival and friend who I had made raced previously in Belgium, namely ex professional and World Champion Christian Lademann as well as his very likeable former team mate Marko Thoss. Eventually we all called it a day and turned in to rest up before the big day.

The morning sun greeting the riders through the mist.

The morning sun greeting the riders through the mist.

D-day delivered a crisp sunny autumn morning. Initially a thick mist hung in the bottom of the valley, just below the finish point, cloaking all below in a blanket of soft fluff, but as the morning evolved the clouds dissipated to clear the stunning views over the fields and lake below. Sign-on went smoothly and then it was up to the top for some official practice runs, this time on a fully closed road. I settled for a single run before it was time to wait for the qualifying session. With number 68, I had over an hour to wait until my start time, during which I relaxed in the deck chairs provided in the racers area at the start. 20 minutes before my scheduled start time, I started warming up properly. With 3 minutes to go I went to wait in line, only to be told (via translation as none of the officiating staff spoke a word of English), that there was an issue and there would be a delay of about 5 extra minutes. So I went for one last spin back along the top road. I came back a few minutes later only to hear my name being called out over the sound system and someone came running towards me telling me I only had 30 seconds to get in the start gate. With no gloves on, my helmet strap unfastened and my skin suit open (it was quite hot at this stage, especially with all the protective body armour), I was suddenly under an immense amount of time pressure.

Official practice run in the black & white Trajectoires Cycles jersey on far left

I got in the gate and was still pulling my gloves on when the gate dropped. A few seconds later I tore off, only to realise that the front zip on my skin suit was open. While still pedalling, I fumble the zip up with my big leather gloves. Finally set, I turned on the power and started to descend like my life depended on it. Full tilt around the first wide sweeping hairpin on a super tight line and out into the long straight that followed. A short sharp engagement of the brakes before entering the next hairpin, again taking a super tight inside line. As I came around the bend, a photographer was down on his hunkers along the road side in the grass verge and I was going straight for him! I believe he was even more surprised to see me coming straight at him with my left shoulder, knee to the ground, than I seeing him in my racing line. He threw himself backwards into the hedge and I twisted my head and upper body up and a collision was avoided. I proceeded unabated and into the next hairpin, again at full speed, continuing to take as tight as possible a line on the inside to catapult out into the next straight. A slight right hand bend followed before the steepest section of road at 14% gradient. At this point I was clocking well over 85km/h. A tricky sweeping left hander ensued. A slight checking of the brakes and it was safely negotiated. One last straight before the last hairpin.

Schwalbe Team support HQ @Road Rage Poland

Schwalbe Team support HQ @Road Rage Poland

Swooping down into the left hand hairpin I again went for a very tight line. As I exited, I began to pedal out of the corner and suddenly heard a loud bang as I managed to roll my rear tyre off the rim and the tube exploded. Beyond belief, I somehow managed to stay upright on the bike and bring it to a halt. I had barely 500m metres to go , but had to run them in my cleats carrying my bike as I went. I crossed the line and then spent a tense half hour waiting to see if I made the cut for the top 32 qualifiers. Alas it didn’t happen although I wasn’t the slowest rider either! I was gutted that my race had to end in such a fashion, as I don’t think I had ever had the level of fitness I carried into this event. I watch from the sidelines for the first time as the rounds progressed. The final saw plenty of suspense and action as local country rider Piotr Szafraniec upset the odds to take the win in a last effort burst over the final 200m, with Christian the rider who was edged out for second after having led the final for a significant portion. Another local country rider, Marcin Motyka, rounded off the podium where the traditional celebrations of spraying the bubbly ensued.

The final podium

The final podium: (Left to right) Christian Lademann, Piotr Szafraniec & Marcin Motyka.

To view live in race POV footage shot from Christian Lademann’s bike during the final run please click here. For the reverse angle view please click here. Official Red Bull full event clip.

Red Bull Road Rage, Israel – Back on track with 4th place

July 3, 2010

A view of the course

Ready to put the disappointments of Latvia behind me, it was off to round three of the 2010 Red Bull Road Rage season. Another first in terms of venue, this time it was off to Israel. The venue could not have been better chosen, with the steepest road in Israel the course. A spectacular twisting descent including no less than 7 switchbacks along the Syrian boarder down off the southern Golan heights towards Jordan far below, would test the skill and nerve of every rider brave enough to take the high speed plunge.

Early morning sign-on

It was a 6 o’clock start to try beat the imminent afternoon summer heat that opened the day’s proceedings. The list of riders read like the “Who’s who” of Israeli cycling, with many past and current national road racing , cross country, marathon cross country and downhill mountain bike champions present. As an Irishman, I was the sole foreign rider to venture over for the event and was made feel most welcome from the outset. A pre-race safety briefing was held, with the most important information kindly translated from Hebrew for me by some of my co-competitors, including the following: “To the left of a road is a fence, behind which lies a mine field. If you land on the other side of the fence, don’t move! We will come and get you out. To the right of the road is a cliff with over 100m drop. Stay to the left of the barrier. If you fly out, you will truly fly. Just take care!”  Ironically the flying reference was not linked to the ‘Red Bull gives you wings’ slogan, although one might wish for those wings in this situation.

Pre-race safety briefing

Next up was a controlled pace course inspection and safety run, with scheduled stops to point out the most dangerous spots, including the signs that warned of mines and the tank crossing point where the road had been slightly damaged. Nothing was left to chance and every potential danger was address. Once done, it was time to start with the official practice runs, of which I got a couple under my wheels to properly familiarise myself with the course. It wasn’t long before it was time to get ready for qualifying. I was first up and so took up my position in the start gate. Heart rate sitting at 151bpm, my mind had informed my body of what was to come and yes, I was evidently ready for action! 5 beeps, the gate dropped and I was off.

Giving it all in qualifying

After qualifying, I waited in the racers paddock at the finish as the riders came down one by one. My time held for a long time until one other rider was finally able to snatch the top spot. It remained so until the end of the qualifying session, after which we were all bussed up to the start paddock again. It was decided to hold some pre-qualifier 4cross heats for the slowest riders only, to whittle it down to the desired 32 fastest riders. The top 16 fastest riders were able to rest as the others fought it out for the remaining 16 spots. This way it still gave everyone the chance to ride at least one knock-out round before the real racing would begin in earnest.

Ripping a hairpin bend.

Through the early knock out stages my tactic was simple: Use my power coupled with a 54-11 conversion to blow out a gap early on and then sit on that advantage conserving my energy for the next rounds. It worked well and I was still as fresh as an Irishman can be in the wilting 35°C heat by the time it came to final. With no weak riders left I really needed to be on top of my game to ride this one to victory. I sat in amoung the bunch watching for the danger men before I timed my attack in the chosen location. It stuck as I blew out a gap of 30m within a matter of seconds. So far so good! Around the next hairpin and down the steepest part of the course at 18%, around another couple of sweeping bends and into the next hairpin. Still holding my advantage I tackled one of the slight uphill transitions bringing me to another hairpin. As I entered it, my rear wheel monetarily lost traction as it slipped on the white line and out from under me forcing me to release the brakes and counter-lock the steering to catch myself… Saved! I desperately tried to get around to the exit of the bend, but the momentary releasing of the brakes had meant I was off trajectory and couldn’t avoid rolling with my front wheel into the gravel on the outside verge. The inevitable happened as my front wheel washed out on the ball bearing-like gravel stones and I was caught up by the protective straw bail that blocked my path to the guardrail and over the other side 100m down into the ravine. As I jumped back up onto my bike, I watched as my three competitors raced by. I started pedalling frantically, only to realise I had derailed, costing me an additional few seconds of valuable time. By the time I got going I was about 100m behind and faced an uphill battle if I was going to pull this back. Out of my rhythm and my concentration disrupted I mistimed the following right hand hairpin on the exit of a blind left hander. This cost me more time which didn’t help my cause. I gave it my all, but only managed to halve the gap before the finish line and so it was not to be this time as I took 4th place in what has to be the best Road Rage I have ever ridden.

Red Bull Road Rage podium, Israel (l-r): Janos Köhler, Daniel Eliad, Ohad Ben Hamo, Eli Wexler.

The prize presentation took place down in the valley, just across the Jordanian boarder in the hot water spring resort of Hamat Gader, where riders had a chance to refuel, refresh and relax. What a fantastic day!

Red Bull Road Rage, Latvia – One for the learning curve

June 11, 2010

Warning signs on the approach to the first bend.

Only a week after the Belgian Road Rage, it was Latvia’s turn to host the next event. This was to take place in the picturesque town of Sigulda about an hour east of Riga on the edge of the Gauja National Park. The venue was to be the national luge and bob sleigh track, with the service road being used as the race track.

70 riders turned up to try their luck on this technical, narrow and twisty yet short track. At only 700m, it was the shortest Road Rage to date. The road surface was less than ideal, with many dangerous imperfections, including cracks, developing holes, uneven drain covers, ripples and gravel in some corners. The track had obviously not been cleaned, even swept as a thin film of sand-dust was also present, which could be seen from the tell-tale signs picked up on the tyres. This did not bode well at all.

A briefing was held, followed by a controlled pace safety reconnaissance run. Next up was practice, with gate starts in the 4cross format. A couple of these were accorded all competitors and was enough to alert me to the inherent unsuitability of this dangerous track. Grip was at times nearly non existent as the thin film of sand-dust which covered the unswept track acted like micro ball bearings beneath the rubber. Qualifying was next and held in the traditional time trial style. I settled for a rather safe than sorry approach, clocking in a solid equal 6th place. Times were very tight and less than a second separated the top 7 fastest riders.

After a short break, it was time for the real racing to begin. I ran out a comfortable heat winner in my 1/16 final heat to progress to the next round. The round caused little difficulty, as I clocked the fastest time of the 1/8 final heats, a time which was not bettered again until the 1/2 finals. Things were looking promising, yet the course was beginning to notch up the crash victim count rapidly, mainly on the first tight right-hand bend where a huge crowd had assembled at this stage. With little room to manoeuvre, in terms of line and time, it was essential to get a good start. I did just that in the 1/4 final, getting my best start of the race so far. Down the first straight and around the first left-hand bend, where I suddenly lost the front end as the tarmac transitioned from smooth asphalt to a cracked uneven patchwork. I went down heavily, with the rider behind me ploughing straight into the back of me, unable to avoid me in the surprise developments. The other two riders also scattered left and right in a desperate attempt to avoid us. I jumped back up, but my front tyre and blown when it got ripped open, the handle bar was twisted around and the brake levers were broken off. I knew my race was over, as I picked up what remained of my bike and started to walk back up to the start. My worst fears had been realised in relation to the atrocious state of the track and it was absolutely no surprise to see only mountain bikes present from the semi-finals onwards, for the first time in Road Rage history.

A hotly contested all Latvian final played out under the afternoon sun with John Balēvičs running out as the eventual men’s winner and Ivita Krumins taking top spot in the women’s final.

Red Bull Road Rage – Cycle Inn / Trajectoires Cycles rider Janos Köhler victorious in Belgium

June 10, 2010

La Redoute

La Côte de La Redoute in Aywaille, Belgium saw the opening of the Red Bull Road Rage 2010 season. This steep hill features in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège, often used for the decisive move of many eventual winners with attacks coming at the steepest 22% gradient section about halfway up.

About to disappear over the edge of the 22% drop

Saturday 22 May was D-day. 80 riders turned up to test their descending skills and athleticism in the quest to become Belgium’s first Red Bull Road Rage champion. The weather was brilliant and set the atmosphere for the showdown. Sign-on ran smoothly, followed by the customary practice runs. For the first time, qualifying took place in a 4cross format, rather than the usual individual time trial. After putting in a solid run it was back down to the race paddock to wait for the results. Finally the moment of truth arrived and the news broke of the top four seeded places all being occupied by four veteran Road Rage friends: 1. Janos Köhler (Cycle Inn/Trajectoires Cycles, Ireland); 2. David Lacoste (Cantal Team Road, France); 3. Guillaume Gualandi (Cantal Team Road, France); and 4. François-Xavier Plaçais (Trajectoires Cycles, France).

Next up, the customary 4cross format knock-out rounds were held, with the top 32 qualified riders going head to head in groups of four, two riders progressing each time and the remaining two riders retiring from the race. All the top seeds had comfortable wins and progressed to the quarter final round. Again as expected the top four seeds ran in as winners of their respective heats and progressed to the last eight.

Power slide with counter lock through the chicane

The semi-final saw some drama unfold, as I punctured about a third of the way down hitting a bar of uneven road. As I came through the chicane halfway down, I could feel the back end starting to squirm and knew I would need more than just skill to reach the final. I continued to hammer down the mid-section straight towards the last corner, as the rim started to make more and more contact with the road. I brushed off a significant amount of speed approaching the last corner hoping to gently nurse my bike into the home straight. As I fought the back end around the corner, trying to stay upright, F-X Plaçais tore by me on his way to take the semi-final round victory. Little did I know that the next rider was breathing down my neck, but I had not need worry as he completely overcooked the corner and ploughed into the hay bail barriers (see below) to give me the chance I needed to clinch that last spot and qualify for the final. The other semi final saw the first top 4 seed fall, as Guillaume Gualandi was eliminated by 7/100th of a second at the hands of German ex-professional road and track racing multiple Olympian and former world champion, Christian Lademann (Wiki article Eng/De).

Fighting a punctured rear end through the last corner with crash sequence during the semi finals

The moment had arrived for the big final. The tension had risen to unparalleled levels, as we all knew there was only one chance now. The countdown kicked off: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Go! The gate dropped and we tore off like thoroughbred race horses out of the box. F-X got the best start as he nosed ahead of me, using his extensive 4cross start experience. I bit down hard and pushed forward with everything I had pulling level with F-X. Around the first right hand bend neck and neck we raced. I was at an advantage sitting on his left hand side with the next bend giving me the inside line. I made it count as I pulled ahead and into the lead. The 22% chicane was upon us in no time and a sharp, quick, short engagement of the brakes brushed off just enough speed to safely negotiate it. Immediately again, it was head down and full on the power. The last bend approached with a rush. Just go for it! Full tilt, holding on for dear life right on the limit. Into the home straight, now only 150m to go. A quick flick over the shoulder informed me I had done it, with my rivals trailing 20m behind me. This was the moment I had waited for so long, as I raced towards the finish line raising my fist in victory, punching the air. I was overcome with sheer ecstasy. Behind me 2nd and 3rd place were decide by the closest of margins with Christian Lademann beating David Lacoste by 2/100th of a second! F-X who had unfortunately derailed through the chicane took 4th place having fought like a real champion until the end.  As F-X caught up with me he threw his arms around me and said “We won!!!” Indeed, this was Trajectoires Cycles best road Rage yet. I went immediately to congratulate both David and Christian on their podium places, before we were ushered up by the marshals and Red Bull organisational crew for the podium presentation. It was quite simply such a moving experience. Photo shoot and interviews followed the champagne fuelled podium celebrations.

Podium Red Bull Road Rage, Belgium: (l-r) David Lacoste (F), Janos Köhler (IRL), Christian Lademann (D), François-Xavier Plaçais (F)

Full list of results here.

Trajectoirescycles.com announce sponsorship deal for 2010

April 2, 2010

In Rengg, Switzerland, at Red Bull Road Rage 2009 with François-Xavier Plaçais of Trajectoires Cycles

In anticipation of a brand new Red Bull Road Rage season, I am delighted to share Trajectoires Cycles recently issued press release on a 2010 sponsorship deal:

Trajectoirescycles.com Snap up Irish Road Rage Downhill Ace

Trajectoires Cycles Nantes, France have agreed a sponsorship deal with the undeniably quick Irishman Janos Köhler. The deal is initially for the duration of the 2010 Red Bull Road Rage downhill road racing season which kicks off in Belgium this coming May. Trajectoires Cycles were eager to have Köhler on board after he turned heads by beating the likes of Cédric Gracia and Frédéric Moncassin as a newcomer to the international downhill road scene in 2009.

With the fastest time against the clock in Rengg, Switzerland (2nd overall) and fastest time in the wet in France (6th overall), François-Xavier Plaçais, owner and managing director of Trajectoires Cycles, believes it’s only a matter of time before Köhler graces the top step of the podium. ‘It’s great to have such amazing talent wearing our colours and we’re really happy to be able to help him in what are difficult times for new athletes finding sponsorship.’

Trajectoires Cycles shop in Nantes are France’s leading fixed wheel and single-speed retailer and are also stocked with the latest high end mountain and road bikes. As part of the deal with Köhler they will be providing all on-site parts, mechanical assistance, and local transport requirements at the Red Bull Road Rage races.