The biggest race of the year is almost upon me, yet just a few weeks ago I was doubting weather or not I would be taking part.
After returning from Canada feeling a little despondent after a mixed trip I lost my mojo for riding, so took a few weeks off training and was ready to pack the racing in, once and for all. Organising events of my own is starting to take up a great deal of time and training was becoming a chore, which is never a good thing.
Roll on a few weeks and although I had been riding in the mean time, no proper training had been done in August, which a massive drop in my hours riding compared to a “normal” month. The events I organised, “The Monster” and the “Grimpee Mynydd Ddu” which were on subsequent days came and went and were heralded a success, which was a big relief! The idea of a killer sportive has been in my head for years, so to finally get it done was great. 2015 is set to be enough tougher, so watch out!
With the events past, the weather superb and the trails bone dry I headed to Cwm Rhaeadr, somewhere I haven’t ridden since moving house months ago. I did 4 laps, all at a steady pace and the 4th at a slightly quicker pace. To my amazement, I beat my PB, which I set in May 2013, a time when I was riding there 2-3 times a week, totalling around 10 laps a week. It gave me a boost to continue, as a month off had obviously not been too bad for my fitness it seemed.
A few days later I entered the Ben Carroll Memorial Gower Road Race, my first and only road race of the year. I used it as a killer training session, pushing hard from the start, sticking with the main bunch – although missed the early break. I kept pushing hard, mostly to give myself a workout, but also keen to get in a break, if one happened. On the penultimate lap, I was in a poor position when a small break got away – I could see from who was in it that it would succeed and I was kicking myself. That group bridged the gap and the two top groups filled the first 10 or so positions. I just drilled myself on the final lap – knowing there was little chance of getting back, but knowing I was pushing harder than I had in a long time. Up the final climb to the finish I didn’t have much in the legs. I should have sprinted for the line, as a guy who I let roll across in front of me finished 15th and took the final ranking point – not that it would have made any difference mind, I would stay a Cat 3 regardless.
The days following I was feeling pretty sore, the effort was a good one and will no doubt pay off with a boost in fitness. A few short, sharp rides in the week and another PB around Cwm Rhaeadr have given me more confidence.
Right now, I am in Switzerland and preparing for the final overseas trip of the year, racing the inaugural Swiss Epic stage race. Considering its year 1, the event is very high profile, having UCI status and more big name riders than I will ever line up against, including:
Nino Shurter – Olympic silver medalist (London), 2014 World Cup winner, multiple World and National Champion.
Jaroslav Kulhavy – Olympic gold medalist (London), 2014 World & European Marathon champion, multiple World Cup and World Champion
Florien Vogel – Nino’s team-mate, series top 10 finisher at World Cup.
Ralph Naf – 2013 XCE World Champion, Swiss team Olympian in 2014, regular top 10 at World Cup XC.
Alban Lakata – Former World & European Marathon Champion, 2013 and record holder for Leadville 100.
Christoph Sauser – Former World Marathon and XC Champion, 2014 Leadville 100 winner.
The list goes on and on, maybe not so well known to those who don’t follow top flight XC and Marathon racing, but I think it would be safe to say that outside of the Cape Epic (South Africa), the Swiss Epic has the toughest competition. Just like the Cape Epic, all competitors are “teams” racing in a pair and for this event I am racing with Stu Spies and together we are riding for MarathonMTB.com. We have never met, so riding together for the first time in a race will be interesting I am sure, but there is no pressure to get a result, so we can both enjoy the experience.
The primary objective is a media role and we will be updating the MarathonMTB.com website and I will be writing for mostly overseas MTB magazines. Hopefully a UK magazine too, given what an amazing race this should turn out to be! It is hard to believe that despite having some of the best riding in Europe and some of the biggest marathon races, this is the very first stage race in the country that I know of.
It is 6 days, with a prologue. Most stages are 60-70km with one stage around 90km. It isn’t Iron Bike, but it will be technically and physically demanding. A German friend I met at the Crocodile Trophy last year has spoken to race organiser (and former pro and absolute legend!) Thomas Frischknecht who said “Do not take a hardtail, it won’t be fun!”
I’m listening to the man in the know, so have built up a brand new Pivot 429 Carbon bike. It was a bit rushed, finishing the build tea time the day before I left and not having time for a test-ride, but having ridden the same frame before I am confident it is the right bike for the job. It will also be the main bike I use for WEMBO and prove a good shakedown before the big event in just a few weeks time.
So although I am in Switzerland and Swiss Epic is at the forefront of my mind, the big race just around the corner, 24hr World Champs or WEMBO is looming. The first time it will be hosted in the UK and all the big guns are coming out to play. Jason English, current champion is coming over and its going to be a showdown. But more of that nearer the time, right now I will enjoy the amazing riding and hospitality in Switzerland.
Race timing and updates via Datasport, with links to live GPS tracking from Tractus with Smart phone app.
58km, 1400m climbing
After a great day yesterday we were treated to another days racing in Golden. Despite 2 days here we haven’t even touched the surface of the riding on offer as there are over 150km of singletrack on offer around the town, it really is a special place for Mountain Biking and yet I had never heard of it.
Yesterday we were on the new trails around Mount 7, although it is a classic venue for MTB and today was on the same hill as the Kicking Horse ski resort, all be it a bit lower down than the pistes. Read more
Read the reports from Stages 1 & 2
Radium Hot Springs
48km, 1000m climbing (official stats)
Today was pretty much a disaster. It started well enough, a fast start that disappeared into singeltrack fairly quickly. I was doing OK, but not brilliantly. After 23km I missed a trail marker – no idea how as I was following a pair of riders, but I got back on track and had lost 6 places. Soon after we hit a gravel road climb – the first of the race. I pushed hard and after 1km or so to the top I had regained all the lost places. Read more
After a week of fantastic riding around the Rockies, it was time to race!
The setup for ST6 is a little different to most stage races. There is no “camp”, instead all riders organise their own accommodation. Given a large number are local riders, this obviously works very well for them, but can be tricky for overseas riders. Read more
When I was younger I never really wanted to travel the World. It wasn’t something that appealed at the time, although that has changed dramatically with a long list of places, or rather events that I want to tick off the to-do list but even then there were two countries that I wanted to visit:
Canada & New Zealand.
I almost visited Canada back in 2012, but when the event was cancelled the trip was shelved and I was absolutely gutted. It has taken another 2 years and a totally new type of event for me to travel here. That event is Singletrack 6. Read more