CJ takes another – Bidon practice – Image ©Paul Harris / Cycling Shorts
When you’re growing up, everyone wants to be the hero –PM, astronaut, fighter pilot, racing driver – but nothing achieved in any of those roles ever happens without a vast latticework of support. Cycling is not immune; indeed, when Wiggo thrust cycling into the faces of an otherwise unknowing public last July, the nuances of the support network around him must have been hard to spot for the casual viewer. Sir Bradley had his nine-man squad on the road, of course, and everything that Team Sky could think of in the way of shiny kit and qualified personnel. And on the road, out of the spotlight but orchestrating every aspect of every race in their beautiful black and blue Jaguars were the Sports Directors.
In the never-ending pursuit of the aggregation of marginal gains, for 2013 Team Sky took the opportunity to despatch two of their Sports Directors to the MIRA proving ground at Nuneaton to learn more about handling the Jaguar XF Sportbrake. Marcus Ljungqvist and Dan Hunt both have experience from within the car during races, but neither had previously received specific driver training – under the auspices of Nigel, one of MIRA’s exceedingly capable instructors, Team Sky’s DS’s put themselves to the sword in one of their 2013 cars, merrily sliding and spinning their way around MIRA’s watered, variable grip circuits with some chap called Martin Brundle also on hand to offer the occasional word of advice.
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All Images ©Paul Harris / CyclingShorts.
“So what does the pedal on the right do, again?” Martin Brundle one of the finest racing drivers on earth – maybe the only thing he does better is present programmes about it. ©Paul Harris / Cycling Shorts
The point was not to train Marcus and Dan how to drive like racing drivers, Martin explained as Nigel sped us around to demonstrate, it’s about teaching them how the car reacts so they know what to do if a situation occurs during a race that pushes the car over the limit. “You might think that, as racing drivers, we throw the car around wildly,” explains the former Le Mans winner and World Sportscar Champion, arguably the best Formula One driver not to win a Grand Prix. “In reality it’s all about being smooth and gentle with the car.” The limiting factor is the tyre –it transmits inputs from acceleration, braking and steering, but if you try and throw too many things at it at once, that’s when things go pear-shaped. Being smooth with the inputs not only allows you to run closer to the ultimate limit, it also means that you’re less likely to go skating wildly over it and the car will be more easily controlled.
For Marcus and Dan, the day was about learning to recognise and respond when that limit is approached, and if Nigel’s teaching is anything like his driving, the roads of ProTour cycle races will be the safer for the improvements in their competence – the Sportbrake proved itself amazingly capable, with eyeball-popping go, stop-on-a-dime brakes and a taut agility that’s just wrong in a car that size. In Nigel’s hands, it happily ran sideways on the low-grip track, then flung us around the capacious rear with gay abandon on the dry handling circuit – if the demonstration was anything to go by, it doesn’t seem likely that Marcus and Dan will often be called upon to push the big cat to the limit!
What’s clear throughout the whole process is that Jaguar and Team Sky have an exceedingly warm and productive relationship. With an engineer on hand with a view to improving the car still further for the peculiar needs of bike racing, it’s obvious that, while the cars look like a standard Sportbrake with livery and a bespoke rack, they have already been modified to suit the job (to cite one example, the rear windows in the Sportbrake didn’t quite go all the way down– now they do), and the process is ongoing with discussions taking place on improved information technology and amended wing mirrors. When it comes to marginal gains, nothing is off limits – Team Sky even went to the lengths of putting a rider on hand to practice the interactions between rider and car, Chris Sutton setting what just might be a record for the number of bidons stowed on a single rider.
Marcus Ljungqvist and Dan Hunt – better drivers. – Images ©Paul Harris / Cycling Shorts
So – a useful day? Dan is positive. “It’s great to be able to test the car in a safe environment and being allowed to fail without the risk of consequences.”
“We went on three different surfaces,” adds Marcus. “ Slippery, super slippery, and super-super-slippery! – and we took the car to the limit to learn how it would react. The good thing here is we can do it over and over again, in a really relaxed environment, so we can remember what we did – in a race maybe something happens but you don’t remember actually how you managed to control it.”
“It’s a core component of what we do, we SHOULD be good at it.” says Dan. “At Sky, we always want to be better at everything we do, and driving’s a critical part – getting guys like Martin and Nigel from MIRA, it’s fantastic for us.”
Marcus nods. “A lot of times it’s former bike riders, you’re supposed to be a good sport director but you have no driving experience at all – you think you’re (just) driving thirty K’s an hour behind the peloton but sometimes it’s really crazy back there.”
“Marginal gains doesn’t stop with the riders, every member of staff has a responsibility to do their job better tomorrow than they did today,” says Dan emphatically. “That’s what marginal gains is about, doing things a little bit better, all of the time –for us today it’s about improving our driving skills, tomorrow it might be involve better tactical skills. For the riders it’s about fitness, about improving their race times. Marginal gains isn’t just equipment or an empty philosophy, it’s about getting better at what you do every day, trying to be the best in the world at what we do.”
This day, as with every other day, Team Sky just got that little bit better.
Competitiveness, an urge to do your best, is within human nature, a part of all of us. But in the drive to further yourself, there are steps that you need to take – only the very few are born with a natural ability at any sport, and even for them there’s time to be spent and effort expended in order to hone skills and enhance physical attributes. Cycling is not immune; indeed, there are not many sports where the amount of time you put in so clearly has an impact in the amount you get out. So it behoves you to spend time in the saddle if you want to improve, and part and parcel of that is that there are boundaries to cross in your long personal voyage of self-improvement. I’ve just crossed two of them – my first sportive, and my first half-century.
The event was a new one – the Rawlinson Bracket commemorates the untimely passing of Nick Rawlinson, who passed away in his sleep at the shockingly unfair age of thirty. A keen cyclist, Nick was training for the Maratona dles Dolomites and his first season of racing – accordingly, his friends and family put together the Rawlinson Bracket to allow riders to experience some of the roads Nick knew well and loved to train on, but also to raise funds and awareness for Sudden Adult Death Syndrome. Whilst not a county particularly noted for verticality, Warwickshire nevertheless boasts some fairly beastly climbs along the Edgehill escarpment, and although the more leisurely 24 mile Bottom Bracket would give them a swerve, the 50 mile Top Bracket would utilize these and other climbs to the full.
Registered with British Cycling, online registration and entry was simplicity itself, and a couple of weeks before the event, my event number and on-the-day instructions hurled themselves through the letterbox. The day itself dawned grey and distinctly chilly, but at least it looked dry with no precipitation – parking at the Heritage Motor Centre, however, there were undeniable flakes of snow tumbling from the slate-coloured sky, although we were blessed to have nothing heavier fall during the event. Signing on was just a matter of turning up and signing your name in the appropriate place before heading out into the cold to get kitted up, and one thing was becoming very in-your-face apparent; although nothing was falling from above and the roads were dry, it was painfully, blisteringly cold. I was pretty well prepped, but in a moment of jaw-dropping stupidity, I’d left the winter gloves at home in favour of some slightly cooler* handware, cooler in both senses of the word. With Team NTG pedalling nervously to the startline, my fingers first started to protest, then yell angrily, then finally start to fall silent – and numb.
The briefing was cheerily delivered, useful and to the point, and before we knew it, we’d been set free and were off and running. From the start, the key note of interest was our fellow participants zipping past us at great pace and then disappearing into the distance – Team NTG’s scratch squad were a fairly fit bunch but they were carrying a hybrid-mounted great pudding in the form of your correspondent, and although I had been prepared for Vince, Jon and Steve to similarly make themselves very small on the horizon in no short order, I was very grateful to them for riding at my gentle pace. For the first mile or two, we followed the B4451 towards the amusingly-monitored Bishop’s Itchington and although traffic was by no means heavy, there were a few cars about – once we turned onto Knightcote Road, however, we were into the lanes and the remainder of the ride was blissfully quiet.
It was still flat, though, and digits were definitely on the chilly side. Riding two by two, we pedaled along in amiable fashion, honking about the cold and hoping for a hill to warm us up – Vince was on a box-fresh spanking new Specialized Allez bought only the day before, settling in and reveling in the step up from his Apollo hybrid.
It wasn’t long before we were passing Northend Manor, which meant Burton Dassett and the first serious climb of the day wasn’t far off. Burton Dassett is a lovely piece of parkland that normally calls on you to be shoo’ing sheep out of the way between heavily-gasped breaths – this time there were no sheep in the road as we passed, although my companions made like mountain goats and quickly dropped me. I wasn’t bothered; although tactics hadn’t been discussed, I’d half had it in mind that they might scoot off and ride at their own pace, which wouldn’t have bothered me – I knew that 50 miles would be quite a test for me, and that I couldn’t afford to try and match an unachievable pace, but if they wanted to test themselves, I certainly wouldn’t begrudge them. I also knew from riding with Jon that my modest climbing pace was uncomfortable on his steeper-geared Genesis Croix De Fer, so I was unsurprised that the others would ride away from me when it got steep. What was pleasing, however, was that the others took it steady on the ride away from the top, and it wasn’t long before I was back amongst them.
In companionable fashion, therefore, we proceeded along the way chatting as we went, the next challenge being a climb up through the village of Shotteswell. This led us to the B4100 which runs from Banbury to Gaydon and forms a part of my regular commute, so I was overjoyed to launch myself down the familiar Warmington Hill in spite of the biting wind – by this time, even my trendily-attired fingers were adequately warm…
Turning west before the military camp, I gulped down a gel before we hit the B4086, turning south to aim at Knowle Hill. Knowle Hill is a proper climb, not too long (little more than half a mile), and the guys again worked their way ahead of me as we hit 14% – I’d done a recce a couple of weeks before, as I knew it to be an awesome piece of downhill tarmac, so I knew I was capable of riding up it in the middle ring, but it was still a bit of a shock to see dismounted riders pushing up the hill. My sense of inferiority born of taking a lowly hybrid to the start line against a sea of proper road kit diminished with every revolution of the granny ring.
Our ascent of Edgehill marked an approach on the halfway mark, and the rest stop at the top of the hill gave me time to assess – I felt ok, pretty good after a banana, and in my head there was only one more serious climb left. I’d had a bit of a play along Edgehill prior to the event, and thought I had things covered, but although I felt strong on the restart, once we’d descended into the picturesque village of Tysoe (there’s a great downhill on the way in – I unclipped the inside foot into a hairpin left just to be on the safe side, and my team members were asking if I was worried about impacting the scenery on the outside of the turn. Pff – bunch of old women). Tysoe led us onto Lady Elizabeth Hill which was a comparative long grind, at the top of which I struggled to make the time back up to the rest of the squad – I was definitely starting to lose strength. Just to make things more tricky, I managed to pull out an energy bar on a flat section shortly afterwards, but struggled to open the beast – as a result, I ended up trying to chomp on chocolate and orange as the road swooped up and down, turning the simple act of eating into a tricky prospect.
As we got to Compton Winyates Hill, passing the 35 mile mark, my legs had definitely got it into their collective head that they’d more or less had enough of this pedaling lark. Vince had to stop right at the foot of the climb to locate an errant gel, but came past me at a blistering pace on his way back to joining Jon and Steve – I was indifferent; by now it was all about trying to make the finish, and my legs felt like mush. Trying to generate extra power was like pushing water uphill.
The route then rejoined at the top of Lady Elizabeth Hill, and I sped gleefully down back into Tysoe before rejoining the lads just a couple of miles before Sunrising. I knew Sunrising of old – as a family we’d been driving up it on the way to Silverstone since the Seventies, and since I’d worked in Banbury, Sunrising had been a frequent part of the commute if I couldn’t face the motorway. I’d only cycled up it once, but it was and is the steepest hill I’ve cycled up so far. That was the end of January, and I’d managed to hold the middle ring, but on the day, little more than three weeks later, I had to drop to the granny ring almost as soon as the climb started; it seemed almost endless, but my bloody-minded spinning eventually had me round the top corner and at the apogee of the hill. From there I knew the route home – we’d cleared all the serious climbs. It was an overwhelming experience.
Once atop the escarpment, I put in some effort in aero mode to try and catch the rest of Team NTG, but we were through Edgehill before I rejoined with them. By then we were poised over Edgehill, a hill I’d ridden down a couple of times before and with my gravitational potential energy advantage, I managed to open a small gap on the rest of the team before we started to span the plain to Kineton. Putting in a turn to try and catch a couple of riders ahead of us, I gave it a dig before Vince took over, dragging us past them but also separating the team, the new Allez giving free expression to his prodigious ability. Steve gave vain chase as Jon and I worked our way more steadily home, but there was no doubting who finished with the most ammo in their legs.
Still, 50 miles, done; my first half century, and first sportive. It was a brilliant feeling just to finish the event, and it ranks high amongst my thus far meager athletic achievements. But complete it we did; cheerily run, the event was fun from start to finish and with over £4000 raised for SADS, there was a clear correlation between the fun had and the funds raised. No-one I spoke to had anything but praise for the event, and there was a pleasing finale when Steve and Jon looked to donate. When they went unsatisfied in their hunt for charity buckets, they asked a SADS-t shirted lady who advised them that there were no buckets, but they could leave contributions with her. In jest, Steve asked if they could be sure that contributions left with her would be safe and she smiled as she said that yes, they would be safe, as she is Nick’s mum. I thought it symbolic of the quality of the event that Nick’s family were there to pitch in, a year to the day after his untimely passing.
Nothing that I saw or heard leads me to conclude that the event was anything other than a complete success. I’ve no idea if there are plans to make it an annual event, but if there are, sign me up now!
*Coolness, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but for me, the gloves I wore were as cool a pair as I own.
For more information SADS (Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome) visit: www.sadsuk.org.uk
To learn more about Nick and details on The Rawlinson Bracket event visit: www.the-rawlinson-bracket.co.uk
from a first-timer’s viewpoint
There’s a cliché about velodromes that, if you’re like me and have never been to one before, you’ll have heard a time or two on telly – it’s that the camera cannot show just how steep those banks are. You hear these things and you nod to yourself, and you file them away in the back of your mind – and if like me, you finally get to go somewhere like Manchester’s magnificent National Velodrome, well… If my experience is anything to go by, your jaw will drop open and you are going to spend fifteen minutes running around laughing inside your skull and going “that’s incredible!” No, the camera really does not do it justice. It’s like staring up a 75 degree slope from the middle. And from the outside, it’s like looking down a sheer cliff face – you’ll be impressed, trust me on this one.
If the banking looks steep from the bottom, it look like a sheer cliff from the top, like riding a wall of death – Image ©Paul Harris
One thing that you DON’T really hear is how much the camera slows things down, too. When I got there in the afternoon for Revolution 39, there were riders casually spinning around before the National Madison Championships, in groups and individually, fresh-faced youngsters and crusty old seasoned pros alike. Their pace was pretty impressive, even just as they warmed up, but my attention was seriously grabbed a few minutes later – without me really noticing, the composition of the riders changed subtly. The traffic slowly thinned out, and instead of groups going round at the bottom, chatting and practicing the odd changeover, all of a sudden it turned into stocky fellers, circulating slowly and silently on their own, high up on the banking. I happened to be sat facing the track when their purpose became clear – with no warning, a dark blue streak arrowed across my line of vision almost too fast for my poor unprepared brain to track. There was no sound in advance, and you could almost feel the whump of the air being forced apart by the speeding rider – the sprint guys, out for a final tune up before the heats that afternoon. I don’t want to exaggerate – they weren’t faster than a speeding train, or so fast they were blurred, but if you’ve never had a sprinter unexpectedly go past you at speed close up before, trust me on this too: it will make you sit up sharply and utter an involuntary expletive.
A couple of other things surprised me early on – the first was how small the arena as a whole is. With a capacity of around 3500, the National Velodrome can only seat about 6% as many people as the City Of Manchester Stadium over the road. The second was that it wasn’t sold out for the National Madison Championships. It wasn’t empty by any stretch of the imagination, but I would estimate it was only between half and two thirds full, which is an absolute crying shame not only because the racing itself was superb from start to finish, but also because tickets were just six quid – for £6, those with the foresight to be present got to see the likes of Fostermann, Hindes, D’Almera and Pervis in action during the early sprint rounds, they also got both Boys and Girls rounds of the DHL Future Stars Madison, and the race for the first National jersey of the year. Six quid – they should have been queueing ten deep at the doors!
Pervis’s sprint win was warmly welcomed – it was to the credit of the knowledgeable crowd that away team wins were so readily applauded as home victories. – ©Paul Harris
The Madison itself was an incredible race, going right to the wire after a smidge under an hour’s racing, and there was a wait of an hour or two between that and Revolution itself – and when that started, you couldn’t have got a seat for love nor money. The quality of the competition was absolutely top draw – even when there was a “favourite” for an event, it was by no means certain that they would win, and frequently they did not. Spurred on by the world-class racing, the crowd were vocal and enthusiastic all night long which really added to the atmosphere, and one aspect of that that I was really pleased about was that it wasn’t just people cheering for the home riders –when one of the less-fancied riders, or a rider racing for France or the Rest Of The World won, even if it was a British rider they beat, even one of the stars, the crowd stood and cheered the performance. Pete Kennaugh’s astonishing ride in the Points race drew plenty of praise, of course, and was a hugely popular win – but the crowd cheered just as loudly when Robert Bengsch and Marcel Kalz smashed the kilo Madison TT field apart like a well-aimed bowling ball scattering the pins to all corners. I really liked that lack of jingoism.
Was there a downside? Not that I can think of – only that tickets are hard to come by, but the series can’t be faulted for being a successful draw. The only thing that I did come away thinking was, I wish I could have a go – but then, having said that, a handful of brave and hardy souls took to the boards for a taster session between the afternoon and evening events when the velodrome (thankfully for them!) was free of spectators. And watching them gamely spin round, another thought occurred – the gap in talent and ability between the national pro and the keen amateur man in the street is a gulf so vast as to be virtually insurmountable. They make it look easy, the pros, they really do – that’s another thing the camera doesn’t show you. Would I go again? I can’t wait for the next one…
Revolution is a brilliant evening, it’s truly action packed you don’t get a moment to blink. The Manchester Velodrome is an amazing venue and now contains a BMX Park. The seating is comfortable, the Velodrome staff are the friendliest you’ll come across at a sports venue, even the guys stood out in the freezing cold directing you into your parking space have a smile and a joke for you. The car park is well organised but if you are attending an event you do need to check the Manchester City Football fixtures beforehand as the velodrome traffic can get caught up in the Football queues as the stadiums are opposite each other. The Velodrome is very well signposted from all sides of Manchester.
Food at the Revolution is ok, there are a couple of nice kiosks that sell good coffee and pancakes, but most of the food is burgers and hotdogs, the queue’s tend to be huge, if you’re travelling a long way I would suggest eating before or taking something with you, there is a large supermarket next to the venue if you get stuck. Ticket prices are excellent, sporting events tend to overcharge but the Revolution and most other cycling events held at the National Track Cycling Centre are peanuts in comparison, it only cost £6 to attend the National Madison Championships in the afternoon! Revolution will set you back between £10 and £20 for a single standard ticket but discounts are available for family tickets, carers and pensioners, season tickets are the best buy, you get a British Cycling early bird ticket buying option if you’re a member. If you want to get up close and personal with the riders and teams then the VIP tickets or Track Centre Lounge tickets are for you.
There are some great stands from bookstalls to cycling brands and some things for you to have a go at including Watt Bikes and Rollapaluza, it would be good to see some more though.
We give the Revolution Series our Star Buy rating!
The next and final round of the 2012 series will be held at The Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow on Saturday 2nd February 2013
For more information on the series visit: www.cyclingrevolution.com
Standard tickets are sold out for Revolution Series Round 4 but Track Centre Lounge and VIP tickets are still available – buy Track Centre Lounge tickets here.
Watch Revolution Series Round 4 highlights on Thursday 7th February at 8pm on ITV4 and catch up in ITV Player
GB’s sprint team came away relatively empty handed, but it wasn’t through lack of effort.
National Madison Championships and Revolution 39 report.
Revolution 39 landed at the National Velodrome at Manchester on Saturday – the National Madison championships made an understated start to proceedings, run during the afternoon before the main event, with a surprisingly sparse crowd privileged to be present to witness some absolutely corking race action, the stadium maybe halfway full for the afternoon programme.
First on track was the qualifying time trial for the Revolution Sprint – Francois Pervis took pole on 10.130, a full tenth quicker than Robert Fostermann, Callum Skinner and Michael D’Almeida, with Philip Hindes a smidge off the pace down in eighth. The opening race of the day was the DHL Future Stars Girls Madison, a knock-out battle straight from the off, but Sky Procycling took the upper hand, putting themselves into a dominant position by winning the first sprint ahead of howies and Raleigh GAC. Sky took the second ahead of howies again this time with Rudy Project taking third, but already an ominous pattern had started to form – Maxgear Racing and FACE made a break but Sky went with them, howies crossing the gap to make a group of four, and with four laps to go FACE made one last big effort to break free but the pack shut them down and it was left to Sky to celebrate their overall victory by nicking the final sprint on the line.
British National Madison Championships 2013
Second race of the evening was the National Madison Championship, a 50km slugfest, and it was a battle from the off right the way to the line. Pete Kennaugh and Adam Blythe took the first sprint ahead of Russ Downing and Jonny McEvoy with George Atkins and Jon Mould right on their heels to set the pattern for the major players right from the pistol, but Atkins and Mould threw down the gauntlet with four laps to go to the second sprint – Kennaugh and Blythe went with them, but couldn’t close the gap, with Russell Hampton and Evan Oliphant third, and Downing and McEvoy back in fourth. The lead pair then made a break, putting a lap on the whole field bar Downing and McEvoy who had to work heroically to close the gap, sprint three being comparatively uncontested after the previous 20 laps of effort, Kennaugh/Blythe leading Atkins/Mould and Downing/McEvoy over the line after the catch. Ryan and Paul Whatmough made an effort to muscle in on the action by going early for the fourth sprint, but Kennaugh/Blythe and Downing/McEvoy went with them, Downing/McEvoy edging it on the line. By the halfway sprint five, the leading three teams were fully two laps up on the rest, but James McCallum and Michael Nicholson managed to grab one back with just over a hundred laps to go, Atkins/Mould and Kennaugh/Blythe separated by just 2 points at the halfway mark, 19 to 17, with Downing/McEvoy battling to stay in contention on 13. Kennaugh/Blythe made an opportunistic move as Downing/McEvoy switched but Atkins/Mould charged with just a lap left and managed to hold on ahead of
Adam Blythe and Pete Kennaugh reflect on second place in the National Madison Championship – ©Paul Harris
Kennaugh/Blythe and Downing/McEvoy, which put the two leading pairs on dead level terms. Kennaugh/Blythe launched an attack with 74 laps to go but Downing/McEvoy and Atkins/Mould managed to just tag along, dropping the pack but unable to make another lap up, and they were all back together with 65 laps left to run – four laps later Kennaugh/Blythe launched an assault on sprint seven but Atkins/Mould clung on and countered, edging it on the line to take the lead by two points, Downing/McEvoy then launching a doomed break to try and get on terms. With just three sprints left, Kennaugh/Blythe seemed to catch the others on the hop and took sprint eight with comparative ease to put the two leading teams on level pegging once more, with Downing/McEvoy and Hampton/Oliphant breaking opportunistically with 26 to go to try to get into the mix – the break ultimately failed but they took the penultimate sprint which meant that, with just the final sprint to go, Atkins/Mould led Kennaugh/Blythe by a solitary point. As the laps wound down, Kennaugh/Blythe made a late break that failed, and the pack was all together as they reached the final stages. Atkins/Mould took a very early leadout and it looked as though they might have bitten off a little more than they could chew with Kennaugh charging like a missile down the back stretch but with terrifyingly brave timing, Mould switched perfectly with Atkins on the final turn, driving across the line bare inches ahead of Kennaugh to take the first British National Championships of the 2013 season. It was an absolute belter of a race, and for the whole hour you never knew who the ultimate victors would be.
As the dust settled from the Madison, the sprint stars came out to play in round 1 of the Revolution Sprint. With just the winners to go through, Pervis had too much for Kian Emadi and Craig MacLean to win heat 1, whilst Forstermann just did what he had to in heat 2 to cross the line ahead of John Paul and Louis Oliva. Callum Skinner rode 10.755 to beat Hindes by half a length ahead of Julien Palma in the third, and D’Almeida cruised home in heat four ahead of Matts Crampton and Rotherham.
Race three on the programme was the DHL Future Stars Boys Madison, which put the first crash of the evening into the books in the opening laps. Once everyone was dusted down and the race got back underway, it was IG Sigmasport who took the first sprint ahead of Rudy Project RT, NetApp Endura, Rapha Condor Sharp and WD40 – IG Sigmasport then attempted a break but the pack worked to close them back down, before four teams went toe to toe for the second sprint, IG Sigmasport taking a second win ahead of Rudy Project RT, NetApp Endura and WD40. With four laps to go, Sportscover made a break, but IG Sigmasport were right there on a watching brief, Sportscover taking the final win and IG Sigmasport sealing a comfortable overall victory. Rudy’s brace of seconds was enough for the second step of the podium, whilst the hitherto-pointless Sportscover’s last-gasp win gave them bronze.
If you could squat 700kg, you’d need bottom bracket bracing like this. Robert Forstermann’s steed quivers in fear. ©Paul Harris
The DHL Future Stars Boys Madison concluded the afternoon session, and there was an hour or so to catch your breath before the action resumed for the evening – and in contrast, if there had been a few empty seats during the National Madison Championships, there was not a single free space in the house when it came to Revolution 39. Proceedings kicked off in suitably flamboyant fashion with the Sprint semi finals – semi one was a French civil war, Pervis going head to head with D’Almeida – the pair put on a trackstand demonstration on the back straight before battle was commenced, former World Champion D’Almeida leading into the bell but Pervis had gas in the tank to ride around the outside and edge it on the line. Semi two saw Callum Skinner, riding for Great Britain A, go up against another former World Champion, the imposing Robert Forstermann – the race saw Skinner lead out from the bell with the man with thunder in his legs right on Skinner’s shoulder, but if Forstermann had thunder, Skinner had lightning – and lightning was the quicker, the 20 year old Scot holding off Forstermann for the whole lap, taking the win and lifting the crowd to their feet. As a way to kick off the main event, it would have been hard to better.
Next up was the Elite Flying Lap, the first Championship event with the results going towards the overall team contest. Evan Oliphant was up first for Raleigh GAC, clocking a 14.765, followed by Jonny McEvoy (NetApp Endura) and Jacob Scott (Sportscover) who both failed to improve. FACE Partnership’s Tristan Marquet took the lead with a 13.912, but Ross Edgar was next up for IG Sigmasport and smashed it with a 13.541. A string of contenders did their best to top Edgar’s time – Adam Blythe (WD40), Adam Duggleby (MaxGear Racing), Franco Marvulli (Howies), Peter Kennaugh (Sky Procycling), Jasper De Buyst (Rouleur) – but it wasn’t until Marcel Kalz took to the track for the penultimate run that there was any movement at the head of the table, Kalz’s 13.798 enough to relegate Marquet to third. However, with Ed Clancy going last, there was always going to be more to the story – the Rapha Condor Sharp JLT man demolished the opposition with a 13.160 to bolster the leading Championship Team’s title assault.
Sim Parrott’s audio interview with Ed Clancy coming shortly
Event 3 in the evening programme was the DHL Future Stars Girls 6 Lap Dash. After a couple of cagey laps to start, things started to heat up, Lauren O’Brien (NetApp-Endura) and Grace Garner (Sky Procyling) jumping the pack to take a slender lead at the halfway point. With two laps to go, the pack had dragged them back, Jessica Roberts (Raleigh-GAC) leading Garner and Lucy Shaw (Rudy Project RT) over the line at the bell, but as they sprinted for the line, it was Garner who had the gas left to take the win ahead of Paige Millward (IG Sigmasport) and Shaw.
Callum Skinner beats Robert Forstemann in the Revolution Sprint… No thighs in this tongue in cheek picture – ©Chris Maher
Next up was the Revolution Sprint Losers Handicap Race – a fast-paced 6 lap battle of wits, with a pack of 7 riders there was no place for the normal sprinter’s stalking, it was all go from the off. Julien Palma led Hindes over the line first time round, the pair of them joined by Crampton as they tried to make a bit of a gap, but the pack were never going to let that develop. Kian Emadi tried another break at the halfway mark but again got reeled in, and as they headed into the last lap, Matts Crampton and Rotherham were at the head of the field and travelling fast. Matt Rotherham it was who had kept the most in reserve, taking the win by a length or more ahead of Crampton and Hindes.
The capacity crowd was then treated to the sight of top-class athletes beating themselves into the ground in the next championship event, the Elite Devil Takes The Hindmost or Elimination Race and it’s often called. With no place to hide, this brutal event (complete with sound effects) was compelling viewing all the way through, but as it drew into the final stages, it seemed Ed Clancy was on the cusp of being knocked out. For maybe the last six or eight laps, the Yorkshireman was amongst the scrabblers at the back fighting to stay in, but time after time he seemed to have just enough in the tank to squirt in front of some other unfortunate as they crossed the line. The last five standing were Clancy, Adam Blythe, Jon Mould (howies), Franco Marvulli (howies) and George Atkins (WD40), and you never knew who would go next. Atkins was first to tumble, followed by Blythe, then Mould to leave Clancy up against Marvulli for what looked to be a desperate final dash to the line, but the Olympic gold medallist had the gas left to ride away from multiple world champion Marvulli on the run in.
Next up was the DHL Future Stars Boys Points Race – Thomas Rotherham took the win for Maxgear Racing ahead of Sportcover’s Levi Moody and Gabriel Cullaigh of NetApp Endura.
Event seven was the first round of the Keirin. Heat 1 saw the on-form Pervis take the win ahead of Oliva and Crampton, with Emadi ahead of a Philip Hindes showing signs of not being fully on his game. Heat 2 was another collective victory for Team GB against The Man With Thunder In His Legs (©Hugh Porter), Rotherham beating Forstermann, Palma, Skinner, D’Almeida and MacLean, and yet again the crowd were cheering to the rafters – the affable German is a popular character, and it should be taken as a sign of the respect given to him that victories against him were so rousingly received.
The next event was the third championship event of the evening, the first round of the Elite Madison 1km Time Trial. Evan Oliphant and Russell Hampton were up first for Raleigh GAC, clocking a benchmark four laps in 61.677, but Downing and McEvoy eclipsed that for NetApp-Endura with a 60.415. Sportscover were unable to better that, but the FACE Partnership’s Tristan Marquet and Moreno De Pauw topped the leaderboard next with a blistering 58.184. IG Sigmasport and WD40 took a tilt at it, the FACE duo remained unbeaten to head the table before the rest of the teams took to the track in the second part of the event.
The DHL Future Stars Girls Scratch Race saw a second win of the evening for Grace Garner, the Sky Procycling youngster beating Jessica Roberts (Raleigh GAC) and Lucy Shaw (Rudy Project RT) to the line.
Pete Kennaugh’s ride in the points race was world class, the Team Sky rider putting two laps on the whole field. – ©Paul Harris
As we headed into the second half of the evening’s programme, the Elite Championship Points Race awaited –it looked an inviting prospect with the likes of Edgar, Clancy and Marvulli in the mix, but Pete Kennaugh came out determined to spoil the party. Kennaugh took the first sprint ahead of Downing and Tom Murray, then dug out blind and made a break, and inside 20 laps, the Sky man had put a lap on the field to the huge cheers of the crowd. Adam Yates took the next sprint but Kennaugh was right there in second ahead of Marvulli – the third sprint was between Clancy and Jasper De Buyst (Rouleur), and you wondered whether the effort had taken enough out of Kennaugh for it to become a race, but then a streak of black touched with blue left the pack again and with thirteen laps to go, Kennaugh had put a second lap into the rest. He even found the legs to lead into the final lap, but couldn’t quite hold off Adam Yates (Maxgear) for the finish, Yate’s five points just enough to stop Kennaugh from scoring double anyone else. Even so, at 28 points to Yates’ 15 and Downing’s 13, it was an incredible display in front of an appreciative audience.
The Revolution Sprint Final was our next show, Callum Skinner taking on Francois Pervis – Skinner led out a tense start, the Frenchman stalking all the way but as they took the final bell Skinner had put the hammer down and won himself the slightest of gaps. Pervis wasn’t going to gift it to him, however, and began to slowly work his way around the outside but it was deadly close and impossible to split the pair of them as they crossed the line to tumultuous applause. The riders had finished one warm down lap and were halfway around another before the picture came up on the big screen – Pervis had taken it by a whisker.
Event 12 was the DHL Future Stars Boys 6 Lap Dash – the pack was three and four abreast heading into the bell, but Tom Rotherham (Maxgear) took the long way round to lead into the final stretch to win going away from Jake Kelly (Rudy Project RT) and Joe Truman (Rouleur).
LtoR: Madison TT: Robert Bengsch & Marcel Kalz of Rudy Project RT blitz the opposition with a sub 50second ride, just shy of the all time champion pairing of Sir Chris Hoy & Arnaud Tournant who set a time of 54.549 in Revolution 20 – ©Chris Maher
We then had the final half of the Elite Championship Madison 1km TT. Clancy and James Macallum were out for Rapha-Condor, their 58.364 putting them into third. Maxgear were unable to make an impression on the riders who had gone before, but Marvulli and Mould managed to put howies into fourth. Sky were next up with Kennaugh and Martin Irvine, and they just managed to top FACE with a 57.934 to set the crowd off once more – Rouleur’s Murray and De Buyst put themselves into seventh overall, and we were left with just Robert Bengsch and Marcel Kalz to go for Rudy Project RT before another Sky win could be celebrated. However, no-one had told Bengsch and Kalz…. The two Germans absolutely tore up the track to clock an astonishing 54.922 to put themselves three seconds ahead of the rest. I’ll say that again – three seconds. The crowd went absolutely ballistic, Hugh Porter (exemplary as ever driving the microphone) almost had a fit, and if there was an award for ride of the night, this might just have been it.
Sim Parrott’s interview with Martin Irvine coming shortly
Next up was the DHL Future Stars Girls Points Race. Grace Garner took the first sprint by a mile, but the next was a tussle between Sophie and Emily Capewell (both of WD40), Sophie coming out on top. The third was a photo with Emily Haycox (howies), Garner and Lucy Shaw (Rudy Project RT) in that order, before Shaw edged the sprint to the line ahead of Henrietta Colbourne (Sportscover) to take victory by a point from Garner, with Haycox in third.
We then had the Team Sprint event – with four teams entered, they would compete in pairs with the fastest times taking the win. An All Stars team of Forstermann, Crampton and Dave Daniel lined up in the first heat against Great Britain B, Oliva, Rotherham and Paul, and it was a comfortable win for the visitors in 46.067. Heat two saw Pervis, D’Almeida and Palma as a strong French squad take on Great Britain A in the form of Hindes, Skinner and Emadi – GB A looked strong and it was in the balance, the crowd were hopeful of a home win, but the French rode an incredible final lap to take the heat and the overall in 45.012 in front of an appreciative crowd and a whisker ahead of GB A on 45.037 for second overall.
DHL Future Stars Scratch Race winner Team Sky’s Joel Partington – ©Chris Maher (www.chrismaher.co.uk)
The Scratch Race was the final event of the evening for the DHL Future Stars Boys, and like all of the Future Stars races it went to the wire, Joel Partington (Sky Procycling) edging Thomas Rotherham and Joe Evans (Rudy Project RT) to the line.
Next up was the day’s last Championship event, the Elite 10km Scratch Race – newly-crowned British Madison champion Jon Mould was out of the blocks early with Madison runner-up Adam Blythe trying to make a break, but after a long night’s racing they struggled to make it stick and when Jacob Scott tried to bridge the gap, he took the pack with him and the break closed down – Scott tried to push on, but was unable to make more than ten or fifteen lengths before being forced to concede to the inevitable. Early breaks contained, the pace dropped for a few laps before Downing and McEvoy injected some pace, making themselves some space with about five and a half K to go, Oliphant jumped away from the pack with 25 laps to run and managed to bridge the gap, the trio then managing to make a lap on the bunch. As Oliphant was bridging to the leading duo, Marquet and Duggleby also put in a shift to drop the bunch – it was hard going and Duggleby was himself dropped before they could bridge, but Marquet made it eventually to put four riders a lap ahead. Kennaugh tried to make a last-ditch attempt to put himself on the lead lap with 13 laps to go but couldn’t make it stick, but Kalz and Yates did manage to make it across at the death. The pack was all together for the last four laps and it was Marquet who took the honours after a fine ride.
NettApp Endura’s Russell Downing leads the bunch midway in the Championship Scratch Race. – ©Chris Maher (www.chrismaher.co.uk)
All that remained was for the last two Keirin events. The ironically-titled “minor” final was fought out between Hindes, D’Almeida, Skinner and Emadi. Emadi led Skinner and D’Almeida – the veteran of the field at 25! – into the final bell as Hindes trailed but Skinner had the power left to sweep round and take the win ahead of Emadi, the young Brits taking a quality scalp in the Frenchman. With the three GB A riders in the B final, it was left to the B riders to defend home honour in the final against France and the thundering German thighs of Forstermann – Forstermann it was who led early doors with Crampton, flying under the false flag of the All Stars instead of Union colours, holding a watching brief and even laying back with three laps to run in order to give himself running room, Pervis and Palma of France hanging back behind Rotherham and Oliva, but as they came to the bell, Pervis launched a ferocious attack past the charging Rotherham as Forstermann rallied around the outside, and it was the Frenchman who had his wheel in front, denying Fostermann and Rotherham at the line. As finales go, you couldn’t have written it to be much more of a spectacle.
Raleigh GAC’s Jessica Roberts & Sportcovers Levi Moody take over the DHL Future Star Champions Jersey at Revolution 39 – ©Chris Maher
With the conclusion of the racing for the evening, all there was left was to tot up the points. Sky Procycling took the championship win on the evening, three points ahead of WD40 who were just another two ahead of howies, which leaves Rapha Condor JLT still at the head of the series table, a healthy 25 points clear of Rudy Project RT who are themselves 20 points ahead of Rouleur in third. In the DHL Future Stars Girls table, Jessica Roberts holds a 15 point advantage over Emily Haycox, and 48 points over third placed Emily Nelson, whilst in the Boys Levi Moody is fully 22 points clear of Tristan Robbins, with Thomas Rotherham 39 points off the head of the table in third. In the Elite class, Ed Clancy holds sway on 88 points after round 3, John Dibben some 28 points in arrears in second and Marcel Kalz in third on 45.
The series leaves Manchester now to head north for the fourth and final round at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome on the 2nd of February. If the response of the crowd is anything to go by, sold out in Manchester for the third time this series, if you’re a fan of cycling and you can make your way there, you’d be a fool not to go…
Don’t forget to enter our howies Revolution Series T-Shirt Competition by clicking here.
You can catch the highlights show on ITV4 at 20:00hrs on Wednesday 09/01/2013 and afterwards on ITV Player in the UK, for those outside the UK you can watch an edited highlights show on the Revolution Series website and YouTube channel.
You can download the full event results in PDF format by clicking here.
Revolution Series 10, Round 4 is on 2nd February at The Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow.
To find out more about the series and to grab one of the few remaining tickets left for the Finale of the season at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow visit: www.cyclingrevolution.com
British Cycling National Madison Championship 2013 50km (200 Laps) – Race time: 59:16.510
1 George Atkins (USN) / Jon Mould (UK Youth) 36pts
2 Adam Blythe (BMC) / Peter Kennaugh (Sky Pro Cycling) 33pts
3 Russ Downing (NetApp-Endura) / Jonny McEvoy (NetApp-Endura) 25pts
4 James McCallum (Rapha Condor JLT) / Michael Nicolson (unattached) 6pts -1Lap
5 Russell Hampton (Raleigh) / Evan Oliphant (Raleigh) 7pts -2Laps
6 Adam Lewis (Wolverhampton Wheelers) / William Rudgard (Wolverhampton Wheelers) 0pts -3Laps
7 Peter Williams (IG Sigmasport) / Tom Murray (IG Sigmasport) 1pt -4Laps
8 Stephen Bradbury (Tomacc) / Jack Kirk (VC Hyerois) 0pts -6Laps
9 Ryan Whatmough (Shepherds Cycles) / Paul Whatmough (Shepherds Cycles) 0pts -10Laps
10 Jack Cracknell (V-Sprint Racing) / James Locker (V-Sprint Racing) DNF
Future Stars Madison Girls 15000m – Race Time: 20:09.486
1 Team Sky 12pts
2 howies 8pts
3 Maxgear Racing 4pts
4 FACE Partnership 0pts
5 Rouleur 1pts
6 Sportscover 0pts
7 Rudy Project RT 3pts -1Lap
8 Raleigh-GAC 2pts -1Lap
9 IG Sigmasport 0pts -1Lap
10 Rahpa Condor Sharp JLT 0pts -1Lap
11 NetApp-Endura 0pts -1Lap
12 WD40 0pts -2Laps
Future Stars Madison Girls 15000m – Race Time: 14:52.973
1 IG Sigmasport 13pts
2 Rudy Project RT 6pts
3 Sportscover 5pts
4 NetApp-Endura 5pts
5 howies 2pts
6 WD40 1pts
7 Rapha Condor Sharp 1pts
8 Team Sky 2pts 0pts -1Lap
9 Raleigh-GAC 0pts -1Lap
10 FACE Partnership 0pts -2Laps
11 Rouleur 0pts -2Laps
12 Maxgear Racing 0pts -4Laps
Elite Championship Standings after Round 3
1 Rapha Condor Sharp JLT 160
2 Rudy Project RT 135
3 Rouleur 125
4 Sky Procycling 122
5 howies 110
6 Maxgear 103
7 WD40 100
8 FACE 84
9 NetApp-Endura 72
10 IG-Sigma Sport 70
11 Sportscover 57
12 Raleigh-GAC 32
1 Ed CLANCY Rapha Condor Sharp 88
2 John DIBBEN Rouleur 50
3 Marcel KALZ Rudy Project RT 45
4 Simon YATES Maxgear Racing 44
5 Russell DOWNING NetApp Endura 40
6 Andy TENNANT Rapha Condor Sharp 40
DHL Future Stars Championship Standings after Round 3
1 howies 586
2 Sky Procycling 559
3 IG-Sigma Sport 536
4 Rudy Project RT 535
5 Raleigh-GAC 512
6 Sportscover 485
7 FACE Partnership 478
8 Rapha Condor Sharp 462
9 Maxgear Racing 435
10 WD40 434
11 NetApp Endura 409
12 Rouleur 402
Future Stars Girls After Round 3
1 Jessica ROBERTS Raleigh GAC 197
2 Emily HAYCOX Howies 182
3 Emily NELSON IG Sigmasport 149
4 Grace GARNER Sky Procycling 148
5 Lauren O’Brien NetApp Endura 126
6 Victoria KINRADE Rouleur 123
Future Stars Boys After Round 3
1 Levi MOODY Sportscover 206
2 Tristan ROBBINS Howies 184
3 Thomas ROTHERHAM Maxgear Racing 167
4 Joe EVANS Rudy Project RT 162
5 Jake KELLY Rudy Project RT 140
6 Maximilian STEADMAN IG Sigmasport 139
Race Results Revolution 39
Elite Mens Flying Lap
1 CLANCY Ed Rapha Condor Sharp 13.160
2 EDGAR Ross IG Sigmasport 13.541
3 KALZ Marcel Rudy Project RT 13.798
4 MARGUET Tristan FACE Partnership 13.912
5 DE BUYST Jasper Rouleur 14.090
6 BLYTHE Adam WD40 14.397
Elite Mens 1km Madison Time Trial
1 RUDY PROJECT RT 54.922
2 TEAM SKY 57.934
3 FACE PARTNERSHIP 58.184
4 WD40 58.264
5 RAPHA-CONDOR-SHARP Rapha Condor Sharp 58.364
6 HOWIES 58.745
Elite Mens Points Race
1 KENNAUGH Peter Sky Procycling
2 YATES Adam Maxgear Racing
3 DOWNING Russell NetApp Endura
4 MARVULLI Franco howies
5 OLIPHANT Evan Raleigh-GAC
6 BLYTHE Adam WD40
Elite Mens Devil Elimination Race
1 CLANCY Ed Rapha Condor Sharp JLT
2 MARVULLI Franco howies
3 MOULD Jon howies
4 BLYTHE Adam WD40
5 ATKINS George WD40
6 YATES Adam Maxgear Racing
Elite Mens Scratch Race
1 MARGUET Tristan FACE Partnership
2 IRVINE Martin Team Sky
3 OLIPHANT Evan Raleigh-GAC
4 MCEVOY Jonny NetApp Endura
5 KALZ Marcel Rudy Project RT
6 YATES Adam Maxgear Racing
DHL Future Stars Girls
1 SHAW Lucy Rudy Project RT
2 GARNER Grace Sky Procycling
3 HAYCOX Emily howies
4 CAPEWELL Sophie WD40
5 COLBOURNE Henrietta Sportscover
6 ROBERTS Jessica Raleigh GAC
6 Lap Dash
1 GARNER Grace Sky Procycling
2 MILLWARD Paige IG Sigmasport
3 SHAW Lucy Rudy Project RT
4 HAYCOX Emily howies
5 DENTUS Abbie FACE Partnership
6 KINRADE Victoria Rouleur
1 GARNER Grace Sky Procycling
2 ROBERTS Jessica Raleigh GAC
3 SHAW Lucy Rudy Project RT
4 BROUGHTON Charlotte Sky Procycling
5 HAYCOX Emily howies
6 DENTUS Abbie FACE Partnership
DHL Future Stars Boys
1 PARTINGTON Joel Sky Procycling
2 ROTHERHAM Tom Maxgear Racing
3 EVANS Joe Rudy Project RT
4 BAILLIE Karl Sky Procycling
5 MOODY Levi Sportscover
6 CULLAIGH Gabriel NetApp Endura
6 Lap Dash
1 ROTHERHAM Tom Maxgear Racing
2 KELLY Jake Rudy Project RT
3 TRUMAN Joe Rouleur
4 MOODY Levi Sportscover
5 HOLT Joe IG Sigmasport
6 STEADMAN Maximilian IG Sigmasport
1 ROTHERHAM Tom Maxgear Racing
2 MOODY Levi Sportscover
3 CULLAIGH Gabriel NetApp Endura
4 KELLY Jake Rudy Project RT
5 EVANS Joe Rudy Project RT
6 ROBBINS Tristan Howies
Revolution Sprint Events
Sprint 200m – Time: 10:662
1 PERVIS Francois France
2 SKINNER Callum Great Britain A
Keirin 200m Time: 10:536
1 PERVIS Francois France
2 FORSTERMANN Robert All Stars
3 ROTHERHAM Matt Great Britain B
4 OLIVIA Louis Great Britain B
5 CRAMPTON Matt All Stars
6 PALMA Julien France
Team Sprint Heats
1 All Stars (Forstermann, Crampton & Daniel) 46.067
2 Great Britain B (Oliva, Rotherham & Paul) 46.415
1 France (Pervis, D’Almeida & Palma) 45.012
2 Great Britain A (Hindes, Skinner & Emadi) 45.037
Stranger in the night – dipping a toe into the dark
There’s a lot of buzz about night riding at the minute – what with the massive national increase in cycling since the summer of Wiggo and the Olympics, participation has skyrocketed both on and off road. With our balmy, breezy summer evenings, cycling through August, September and even October is perfectly do-able, but the switch to Greenwich Mean Time rather spoils the party unless you’re somewhere lit. That’s where quality lights come in – but quality can be pretty pricey. If you’ve never done it before, how are you going to know whether it works for you without taking a punt on a bunch of expensive kit. What you need is an understanding shop and an agreeable light manufacturer.
Luckily for me, I live not too far from such a shop. Run And Ride at Hednesford are literally right on the doorstep of Cannock Chase, which gives them access to miles of trails, and they took it upon themselves to hook up with Exposure Lights to put on a tryout evening – the incredibly accommodating Exposure sent along a massive crate of their finest off road light sets, and Run And Ride invited the world to pop up to Cannock one chilly November evening, where they would strap on some serious lighting kit and lead you on a night foray.
I chucked the bike in the back and packed some cycling kit in the car that morning, and headed straight up there after work. Even early on there was a decent turnout, and it was simplicity itself to get signed up. As a nightriding newbie, I put myself at their mercy as to what to try out, and was both startled and pleased to be given a Six Pack to try, a self-contained handlebar mounted light that lit up the trail not unlike a police helicopter search light. I was impressed.
Once everyone was sorted, we were split into fast and steady groups and set out for a trawl around the Chase. Having not ridden off road at night before, it was a fascinating experience – the nature of the visibility makes you hyper-focused on the spread of light before you, and it all seems much, much quicker, the flickering of shadows on uneven ground keeping you on your toes the whole time. I loved it – I can definitely do the winter cycling thing, which has opened up another six months of riding for me. Happy days.
Six Pack is an incredible bit of kit – a single unit with the battery included, on full power it’ll kick out 1800 lumens for about three hours, with medium (up to 10 hours), low (up to 24 hours) and flash settings, the indicator on the back will change colour to indicate the remaining charge, and it’ll drop itself down through the modes as it reaches the end of the battery to make sure there’s always a bit of get-you-home light in there. Riding with the Six Pack alone was great on straight or flowing tracks, with the beam plenty wide for most occasions, but when we got into the nadgery stuff, very tight and twisty, I found myself turning into corners blind, my eyes tracking the path round the next corner before I needed to turn the bars. If you only ever rode on fast, open trails, the Six Pack would be great on its own, but if you’re likely to face any tighter turns, I think you’d have to go for a helmet-mounted light as well.
I learned a lot that night – I had a great 12 mile ride out on a Thursday evening, and I found out that riding needn’t stop because the light goes. I even found a great new shop – it must have taken a lot of time and effort to organise, and thankfully they had a good turnout to reward their efforts. The staff were friendly and approachable and incredibly helpful (one poor chap in front of me had his chain snap when he got out of the saddle at speed, resulting in a big swap one way, then a big swap the other way, ending in an oddly graceful flying W into the ferns – thankfully he was fine and one of the Run And Ride crew had the chain back together, (oooo, I’m going to say about 90 seconds after the crash happened, impressive stuff), and there was no hint of a hard sell afterwards, just good banter and useful advice. There’s a reason why people are both proud and protective of their local bike shop – that’s another thing I learned, too.
Massive thanks to Run And Ride and Exposure Lights for a great evening and an extra six months riding a year!
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Bristol Oktoberfest – Better than Munich…
Aaa, summer. How beautiful while it fleetingly lasts, and how sad to see it go. Still, if there’s one thing to look forward to when the nights grow shorter and the ambient temperature drops, it’s the approach of October, because when the tenth month starts, that means Oktoberfest is not far away.
The Bristol Oktoberfest is the second of two classic annual events held at Ashton Court, a stone’s throw from the mouth of the Severn – an eight hour mountain bike endurance race, there are categories for teams of four, pairs, or (for the truly masochistic) solo entries in male, female and mixed forms, with further subdivisions for single speeds and old git racers. As such, it attracts a wide variety of abilities, including the returning Team NTG MTB, back to have a second crack at the excellent single track on offer after our great (if tough!) endurance debut at June’s Bike Fest.
Instead of putting ourselves through the grinding pre-race endurance test of camping, we set some early-morning alarms and charged down the M5 first thing. An early start, to be fair, but given the fairly grim weather in the build up, it was the better choice – on arrival we were greeted by a cheerful Oktoberfest-hat-type-wearing-type who guided us to park on the access road as the camping field was having some hydration issues. Team captain Jonno stepped up to the batter’s plate first of all, taking his place for the Le Mans style running start amongst the hundreds of other riders – I held his Stanton as the galloping hordes charged back up the hill, with more than a few entrants somehow accidently arriving a little late and giving themselves somewhat less of a distance to run. Strange how that happens.
As nine o’clock passed us by, the race started and a great torrent of riders came sprinting past me, a train that ran for maybe ten minutes before the last stragglers pottered by. Jon got a solid midpack start and battled his way through the traffic to complete lap one in under 43 minutes, a lap quicker than some teams who ended up 20 places or more above us – Steve went after El Capitan and logged an even quicker lap, with Luke putting a great performance in position three and me pottering nervously about on the peripheries as the anchor number four. By the time Luke handed over the team scrunchy, I’d been watching bike racing for almost ninety minutes and was tortured by a mixture of performance anxiety and a sense of gagging to get involved. No matter – time to suck it up and get stuck in.
Job number one was to charge through the rock garden, and I wasn’t in there many seconds before a most welcome experience occurred – I caught someone up. This was a bit of a new one for me, as I spent most of Bike Fest getting out of people’s way, and the rock garden’s not an easy place to pass. Consequentially, as traffic backed up behind the pair of us, I felt the onset of a needless touch of pressure and ran ride on a slick section, out of everyone’s way. Cursing under my breath, I joined the back of the snake as we pedalled out of the woods and into the field that loops up to where the finish line was or Bike Fest – and I overtook a couple more riders. Me! Overtaking people! It was just great.
Ashton Court was every bit as wonderful as it had been earlier in the year, the flowing single track largely impervious to the wet weather – the sole concession to the elements was the rather impressive construction of a wooden bridge over a particularly marshy section of trail, but the track rode really well and was little the worse at the end of eight hours of racing. Team NTG MTB’s one lap stint policy worked well once more, the 5.7 miles round the course plenty for the likes of our legs (although again, there were lunatics doing the whole thing on their own – madness, I tell thee) and working out so that we each had three laps, but by the time I rolled into the transition area for the final lap, we were up against it. In a desperation move, I left the saddle bag, Camelbak and pump at the van to save weight and took off needing to lap about five minutes quicker than I had done all day. I gave it everything, I swear, I left it all out on the track – by the time I
started the last climb, I was done for. Then some clown , with a dazzling sense of humour, shouted out that there were ten seconds left – gritting my teeth, I turned myself inside out over the last 200 metre climb, came close to stacking in front of the crowd on the finish line jump, then had to invest five minutes or so in serious hyperventational recovery mode. I’d missed the cut by, oooo, five minutes or so which made the last minute or so of torture entirely unnecessary. Thanks, Mr Clown Man.
Final climb idiocy aside, Oktoberfest was every bit as much fun as the Bike Fest earlier in the year, with an easygoing atmosphere and plenty of riding on a wonderful course. I said it after Bike Fest and I’ll say it again here – if you’ve never done an event like this, don’t be intimidated, your fellow competitors are all lovely people (even if some of them are much, much quicker ), the track is superb, and you will have a brilliant time. Can I add a proviso? I was a bit fitter for the second race, and it definitely made it more fun, but you absolutely do not have to be Thomas Frischknecht to enjoy it. I was more like Thomas the Tank Engine, and I still survived….