Posts Tagged ‘Bray Wheelers Cycling Club’

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, 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.

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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.

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).