Archive for the ‘Road racing’ 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!

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

March 12, 2015

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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.

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.

2011 in review: Focus on road and track racing

October 11, 2011

First of all, I would like to apologise for neglecting my blog for the best part of a year. I will put it down to all the cycling I did and racing pursuits.

The season started on a good base mainly fuelled from a 35km round trip commute since early November 2010. The first phase of my racing season I decided to give road racing a stab to see what it was all about. On 9 March I lined up for my first race, the Navan Cycleways Cup. The hours of weekly commuting paid off as I took 2nd overall in the sprint finish. The following race on 14 March, the Naomh Finian in Clonard was a hadicapped affair where I finishing with the pack. It was third time lucky as I took the flag in the St Partrick’s Day race out in Dunboyne following a 300m sprint. On-board footage of the final kilometres can be watched here (sprint starts at 6:00).

Victory in the St Patrick's Day Race, Dunboyne

It was only one more race, the Des Hanlon in Co. Carlow, where after getting dropped on the 3rd of 5 climbs, I managed to pulled back a 1 minute deficit with a downhill Road Rage worthy performance on the last descent to finish with the main breakaway.

The second and main phase of my racing season was defined by track racing, again a first. The Wednesday Sundrive Road Track Summer League took place every Wednesday evening for eight weeks straight from early May. The Summer League was then followed by the Autumn League in a similar format. Different races were held with different ability groups all catered for every week to mix things up, making sure that all rider styles and abilities were catered for. Missing two out of the eight weeks in both leagues due to work commitments meant it was going to be nearly impossible to challenge for the overall. I enjoyed some good racing nonetheless and was happy enough with a few wins and some additional placings in the Elite group.

The first Omnium event of the year at Sundrive Road was the International Track Grand Prix on 3 July. The weather turned out nicely and the racing was spirited. I got a lucky break in the scratch race, not traditionally a forte of mine, by getting on the right wheel at the right time, allowing me to take 3rd in that race. I was more suited to the other events, including a flying 200m, a standing 500m TT and a Kilo Dash. Eventually finishing on equal points with the second placed rider, it went down to the combined 200m and 500m times, where I came up short by a few hundredths of a second. Not even having expected to feature on the podium, I was more than happy with the day’s result.

International Track Grand Prix: Putting down the hammer during the 500mTT.

The next big event of the track season was the National Team Championships on 13 August, which included the Team Sprint and the Team Pursuit. Also included on the day’s programme as a demonstration event was the Keirin. I was lucky enough to ride on both the Bray Wheelers Sprint and Pursuit Teams. The competition was fierce and when the dust had settled the Bray Wheelers Teams took a silver in each event. To cap things off, Jason Howick, also a member of both Bray Wheelers Teams took the gold in the Men’s Elite Keirin Demonstration event.

Bray Wheelers CC Sprint Team power out of the blocks on the way to a national runner up title (l-r: Jason Howick, Janos Köhler & Ordhan O’Caoilte)

Next up, the 2011 National Track Championships on 3 September, where unfortunately I arrived in a significantly fatigued state and experienced a clear under-performance as a result. I did manage to improve on any previous personal bests, which was a positive sign. There is always next year to look forward to!

A second Omnium event, this time a full Olympic Men’s Omnium was held over two days, Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 September, including no less than 6 events. Day 1 included a Flying 250m, a full distance 60 lap Points Race and an Elimination Race and Day 2 comprised of a 4km pursuit, the Scratch Race and finally the Kilo TT. It was D-day between Lucan Road CC and Bray Wheelers CC, with Lucan leading Bray by a single point in the rankings for Track Club of the Year. Bray would have to have a rider on the bottom step of the podium, but ahead of the best Lucan rider after the two days racing to share the spoils with Lucan. It was Derek Cunningham who rose to the occasion and went one better with support from his team mates to clinch the silver medal, with Lucan failing to land even a podium spot ensuring Bray received the honours of Track Club of the Year 2011!

Finally, the season finale in the form of the Leinster Track Championships took place on 24 September. The form was there, the motivation even stronger. It proved a winning combination as I took gold in the Elite Men’s 500mTT with a personal best of 36.56secs. Bray made it a 1, 2 when Jason Howick clinched the silver. Next up was the Scratch race and this time I had to settle for bronze. I was more than happy to be on the podium, as I had even considered not riding at all, so little had I fancied my chances. Jason again clinched the silver making sure Bray had two men on both podiums.

Leinster Track Championships: 500mTT podium (l-r Jason Howick, Janos Köhler & John Lynch).

Race Around Ireland 2010 – Team Wheelworx/Boards.ie

November 3, 2010

rai logoThe second edition of the Race Around Ireland took place in the second week of September 2010. It is part of the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association (UMCA) World Cup series which includes other huge endurance races such as RAAM. The task was straightforward enough, yet certainly not easy: A non-stop 2100km ultra distance marked route anti-clockwise lap of Ireland. Solo riders and 2 man teams departed Navan on Sunday 12 september and had 132 hours to complete the race, with 4 man and 8 man teams leaving on Tuesday 14 September and having only 96 hours for the same task.

I had been asked only weeks before, if I would like to join Team Wheelworx/Boards.ie as a support crew member. I accepted the challenge without a moments hesitation. Along with a couple of riders from Swords CC, brothers Aidan and Peter Doyle, one from Orwell Wheelers CC, Tom Blennerhassett and Kevin Leavy (unattached), a total of 6 crew members joined the adventure. Click here for facebook page.

Chasing Peter down a seemingly endless road

Chasing Peter down a seemingly endless road

The full team assembled in Navan late Tuesday morning for sign on and race safety debriefing. Everything was ready to go and riders readied for the 20:00 start. In the early stages the Team settled into 2nd position on the road and would not relinquish this for the duration of the race. Things got interesting in the early hours travelling along the north coast of Ireland as the wind picked up considerably. By the time the riders reached Malin Head, the winds were blowing at gale force strength making progress difficult. The next challenge encountered was in Clifden around about midnight where an unintended delay during a change-over saw the 3rd placed team make significant gains and come within minutes of us. Thankfully this was the last they would sniff of our trail, as all the riders really put the hammer down and by the end of the night the team had pulled out an even bigger time gap than ever before.

I will not attempt to recount every detail of the adventure, yet one thing that has stayed with me since the trip is the the incredible scenery I witnessed along the way, as the route travelled through some of the most beautiful landscapes Ireland has to offer, so much of which I had never seen before.

Racing through the night

One of the biggest psychological hurdles was overcome as we reached the point where the journey turn in a northerly direction from Kilmore Quay and back up towards Navan. Although very tired from nearly three days of straight riding, this seemed to give the riders the necessary boost for one last drive towards the finish line. The Wicklow Mountains provided the ultimate test of the journey, but seemed to have little effect on the cyclists as they continued to deliver what can only be described as super human efforts.

Just before the arrival into Navan, all four riders saddled up to ride in unison and after 3days 5hrs 20mins crossed the finish line together, as a symbol of what had allowed them to achieve an incredible 2nd place overall: Ex unitate vires.

An exhausted, yet elated Team Wheelworx/Boards.ie after finishing 2nd overall.

An exhausted, yet elated Team Wheelworx/Boards.ie after finishing 2nd overall.

Third Coast Bicycle Festival including the 5th Annual Fixed Gear Symposium and the 3rd Annual Cherry-Roubaix Classic

November 1, 2010

The last weekend of August saw Annual Fixed Gear Symposium in it’s 5th edition and the Cherry-Roubaix Classic in its 3rd edition take place in and around Grand Traverse City, Michigan, USA as part of the Third Coast Bicycle Festival.

The programme involved a multitude of different disciplines making sure everyone had something to look forward to. A breakdown of the main events are detailed below.

– 27 August: Hill climb

The Hill Climb was held up Wayne Hill on Friday afternoon under the blistering sun, with local pro rider Larry Warbasse from team BMC (2009 World Road Race Champion Cadel Evans’s team mate) taking a commanding win as he stormed up to the top on his fixie, finishing over half a minute ahead of second place and setting a new hill record in the process. Marcus Bush took victory in the Men’s geared bike category.

Larry Warbasse (BMC) on his hill climb winning fixie

The woman’s victory in the fixed gear category went to Tracy Halsinski as she took her third straight win in as many years. Local rider Johanna Schmidt from Hagerty Cycling Team took 1st place in the geared  bike category.

Downtown Sprints

Friday evening witnessed a new event for the first time as part of the Cherry Roubaix Classic’s programme: Sprints in the form of drag races, i.e. standing start sprints. This proved to be a hugely popular event with both riders and spectators. Both geared and fixed wheel riders were catered for. The highlight of the event was without a doubt a local bicycle mechanic on his bmx who turned up to race against the swarm of lycra clad roadies. Not only did he handsomely hold his own, but he beat many of the riders he went up against, which was a huge crowd pleaser in every way.

DowntTown Sprints: Bmxer drops roadies from the gun

Event clip

– 28 August: Criterium

Saturday afternoon saw the first of the two big events of the 3rd Annual Cherry Roubaix Classic take place. A 1.22km (0.76ml) course through the old town, including cobbled sections like in the Paris-Roubaix, had been sectioned off and was to showcase the criterium race. This was also to prove a very spectator friendly event, as the riders would pass by frequently and often. The format was based around a set time rather than number of laps, plus one ultimate lap after the set time had elapsed. Larry Warbasse confirmed his status as pre-race favourite, firmly stamping his authority on the race. He took overall victory in the show topping Men’s Pro 1, 2 race, riding smart during the entire time before finally turning the screws and making the race winning move in the last lap to pull clear with his two podium standing adversaries who both finished barely a second behind, yet well ahead of the chasing pack.

Larry Warbasse (BMC) on his way to victory in the 2010 Cherry Roubaix Criterium (Mens Pro 1, 2)

– 29 August: Road race

The showdown was staged on Sunday with the road race tracing a 13.7 mile (22km) circuit over the rolling hills of Leelenau County, on a slightly altered version of the 12mile course used for the late 80s Michigan State Road Race. This time Larry Warbasse was a marked man from the gun, having to withstand one attack after another from every quarter. While in the end it proved too much due to the fact that he had no team mates to support him and was therefore racing alone against a plethora of well organised teams, he still finished in a very respectable 4th place.

However the real race I had come to watch was the Cat 4 Women’s one, staring one of the new 2010 stars to the Hagerty Cycling Team, Grand Traverse City local Barb Beauregard, along side her more seasoned team mate and climbing ace Bridgett Widrig. I would not be disappointed, as together they decimated the field, both simply riding away from the peleton from the first KOM, making it a superb display of dominance through positive team work and sealing a deserved and undisputed 1, 2 for Hagerty Cycling Team. Over four minutes separated them from the trailing 3rd place rider.

Bridgett Widrig and Barb Beauregard (Hagerty Cycling Team) following their impressive 1, 2 in the Women Cat 4 road race.

 

Dream start to first ever road race

May 8, 2010

Thursday nights are traditionally known as club race nights for Bray Wheelers Cycling Club members, the club of which I am a long-standing member on and off since 1992. Despite this, until Thursday gone by, I had never competed in a traditional road race, having always preferred off-road riding and more recently the thrill of the Red Bull Road Rage competion.

Sign-on was held from 19:15 and the racing began shortly after. As a handicapped race, I was placed several groups back, yet not quite in the scratch group. The course, a 30km out and back round trip, was relatively flat with a couple of drags along the way. It took me a while to settle down as the complete novice, but with a few friendly tips from fellow riders I integrated well and the group worked seamlessly maintaining the Belgian circle in fluid motion.

Nearing the turnaround point the earlier groups of riders came against us. It would only be a matter of time before we would catch them on the return leg. The pace picked up and caused a split, with a few of the weaker riders unable to maintain the increased effort. As the race continued to near the finish, we managed to integrate into the front running groups. The nearer we approached the finish line the more frantic the peleton became, with attacks being launched ever increasingly. None stuck, but pulled the main group apart, stretching it back down the road.

I sat awaiting the moment of destiny, positioning myself to strike when the time came, as we pulled around the last bend and into the long finishing straight. Watching, waiting, watching… Then the decisive attack was launched and I somehow instinctively sensed it was now or never and pounded into the pedals with what I had left, head down going for the line. I surged by the the initial protagonist of the move and suddenly found myself out front. A final burst for the line and I was able to start my road racing career in a fashion I could only have dreamed of moments before.

Taking victory in the sprint during my first ever road race