Sunday, 2 April 2017

Battle on the Beach 2017

This past weekend we had the privilege to be part of Battle on the Beach, the UK's largest cross country mountain bike race in Pembrey Sands. 

I went along with Carl & Terri from Squirtlube and we were responsible for running the bikewash. 

Last year Squirtlube kindly sponsored two entries as prizes for the Tango Cycling Competition, so this year was my second opportunity to ride Battle on the Beach. 

We arrived at 12:00 on the Saturday and set up camp, gazebo, pressure washers, product display, pop-up stands you name it. People dropped in to get there chains lubed, degreased when they were worse for wear and others washed their bikes for race day. 

Squirtlube works best on a degreased chain, so when Carl offers to degrease your chain for you well then that is an offer you don’t resist, you take him up on that as you are investing in the future of your chain. You will NEVER have to degrease your chain again, you just apply Squirtlube and rinse it off with water when you are back from a ride as an added bonus you won’t have dirty hands or calfs from a black oily chain ever again. 

Sunday morning the riders of a Cannondale tandem arrived for lubrication on their chains. Carl offered to degrease their chains as he was busy doing that I started speaking with the lady. I asked how they decided to get into tandem riding on which she replied she had a serious spinal injury and can’t feel her right leg, so riding a tandem is the only way that she and her husband can still ride together. She starts with her left leg in the cleat and then her right leg just follows as they pedal forward. 

My sixth sense told me that there was more to this story and I somehow asked her if she went to the Olympics, she corrected me and said Paralympics, off course. I thought awesome and asked how did it go and was it amazing? She replied non-chalantly oh yes very well thank you, I actually one a gold medal in kayaking by 1.5 inches! Inside of me I thought, “What?????” How incredible here I was speaking so casually to a gold medalist at the Paralympics in Rio. 

Carl completed the degreasing work on the bike and we put Squirtlube on both chains, the tandem was now in top form and race ready! 

Terri and myself were so apprehensive about this race, all the people made us nervous. I hardly rode this year for various reasons and wasn’t coming back from my ‘training camp’ as Carl refers to it in South Africa, instead I’ve gone into this fat and unfit. 

Glorious weather at the start and the whole weekend! 

We were lining up just behind the start of the beach as the beach was already filled up and before we knew it the gun went off and we had to make our way through the lose sand onto the harder sand on the beach. 

I started off well by making it through without unclipping, accomplishment 1. 

The first 6kms are fast paced on the beach and breathtakingly beautiful, before you turn right and head into more grassy dual track! I don’t particularly like that part it feels like you are on a bad kids ride at the funfair, up and down over little bumps. 8km in you turn right onto singletrack, unfortunately this part gets very congested so we had to have an obligatory rest. 

Shortly after this part the first Dutch riders started lapping us followed by more pro riders, they thankfully give you plenty of notice so you have enough time to get out of their way. 

This race is for any type of bike, so you see people on fatbikes, regular mountain bikes and cyclocross bikes, anything goes. 

As a thoroughbred mountainbiker who loves singletrack I find the cyclocross bikes frustrating, it just doesn’t look like they can have any fun what so ever on singletrack. 

Doing a race is such a mental game, I usually try to motivate myself just to get over halfway, once I’m over halfway I’m like a horse who smells home apart from on Sunday my legs went on strike at the 36km mark the same as two weeks before. Everything in the sockets of my hips just freeze up.  

Lap one completed I headed back to the beach, my aim was to get through the sand without stopping. Job done! A lovely man local to Swansea offered me his backwheel on the beach as he was only doing a 2 laps, that was an offer I couldn’t resist. 

On lap 2 I had some recurring issues with my saddle post and had to stop twice to sort it out, on lap 3 though the singletrack was now clear and you were able to ride it all which was fun.

Lap 3 also had a new diversion which was quite nice and fast, well it could’ve been faster if my legs didn’t seize up. My legs were also threatening me with cramps at 500m before the Finish, I just though please not now, just hang in there legs. 

My personal aim was to complete the race in a similar time as last year and according to Strava my average speed was down with one tenth of a kilometer per hour, I’m satisfied with that considering the amount of riding I’ve been doing this year. 

Competing in Battle on the Beach make me realise what great athletes Cross country mountain bikers are. To maintain the speed they do on a technical demanding course along with the fatigue in your legs and your brain’s concentration through singletrack. Battle on the beach is perfect for my riding style, long steady climbs are not really my thing and I’m so grateful that there ain’t any real hills in this race, if there was any well then I’d be in big trouble. 

Back at camp I just needed to sit down which I did. Two guys came round to wash their bikes whilst Carl went to the Finish line for Terri. They were able to use the Bio-Bikewash on their bikes, the bikewash is solvent free and completely bio-degradeable. The new improved nozzle creates a foamspray onto your frame and when water is added dirt just falls off and leaves your bike shiny. I explained the benefits of using Squirtlube to them after drying their chain before then lubing their chains. 

As we were almost finished packing up shop, the tandem riders arrived around the corner of the van. They just wanted to thank Carl for the work he did on their chain. The Paralympian, now identified as Anne Usher also brought her medal along for us to look at. What an experience and honour to hear about her journey not just to Rio but even coming back from  Rio, the events she has had access to including receiving an MBE from Queen Elizabeth on the Friday before the race! Thank you Anne for popping past and sharing about your profiling, training, lifestyle and even doping control. All the best for your training to go to Tokyo, we will be watching you!

With Anne Usher and Carl Hutchings, Anne wanted me to wear her medal, I had to decline as I couldn't wear something I didn't earn! 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Cape Epic 2017

It doesn't matter how I disappointed I felt at the news that Ironman took over the Cape Epic, I can't but help myself to be totally engrossed and excited for this year's race. 

The women change in combinations in the women's field will bring an exciting race. I would still love Ariane Luthi to take the overall title. She is an incredible rider, down to earth and races her heart out! This year she will be teaming up with Adel Morath from Germany who rode her first epic last year with Sally Bigham. Adel is quite light and got blown over when the helicopter followed them closely last year. Annika Langvad is finishing her studies in Denmark so Ariane and Adel will compete as Team Spur! This will be the first year that Team Spur will have a back-up team in the race. 

Malcolm Lange team owner of Team Ascendis Health flew in the legendary Sabine Spitz who competed for the first time last year to race with Robyn de Groot. De Groot raced with Jennie Stenerhag last year, Jennie had to abandon the race after experiencing an extremely high heartrate which she later needed an operation for. The combination of De Groot and Spitz signals danger for all of the other teams. De Groot has been hungry for victory and Spitz's appetite got whet last year as she finished on the podium last year and got the hang of stage racing towards the end of the week. She also loves the heat which will definitely count in her favour!

Jennie Stennerhag is racing for Meerendal Cape Town Brewing Company with experienced and previous winner, Ester Suss from Switzerland. It will be interesting to see what the two of them can do. 

Team Dorma Kaba features local girl and Olympian Candice Lill and Namibian Vera Adrian. They have been racing together before and did extremely well in the Tankwa Trek which serves as a good training ground for the Epic. Lill also won the Tour of Good Hope road tour two weeks ago. They are in good form and it will be great to see what the all African team will do in this year's race. 

The men's field is back to the Epic battle for 6 Epic victories between Karl Platt and Christoph Sauser. Sauser is such a force to reckon with that even being retired from racing puts him right up there in contention again. Jaroslav Kulhavy asked him to be his partner and Sauser couldn't resist the challenge. My question is, why not? He has won it five times, twice with Jaro and he rides actively with the young guns he coaches and is an allround walking legend. My heart skipped a beat of excitement when I saw the news. 

Manual Fumic will be back racing on their Cannondales with Brazilian, Avancini and I think they might have their eyes on a stage win or 2. 

Jose Hermida, the funniest Spaniard and great character are back after a year's break to race with road cyclist Joaquim Rodriguez from Bahrain Merida (also the new team of Vincenzo Nibali and Louis Meintjes) road team.

Team Scott SRAM brought Nino Schurter current Olympic Champion and rising star Mathias Stirnemann as their lead team. If they can win the overall title we will have to see, but they will surely fight it out! Mathias is in my opinion Nino's strongest team mate for the Epic and that makes me excited. 

Since Erik Kleinhans joined Team Topeak Ergon I really hope there bad luck has run out now and that Alban Lakata and Kristian Hynek will get a fair shot at the podium. They have the charasmatic team of Jeremiah Bishop and Erik Kleinhans to support them. 

South Africans Phil Buys and Matthys Beukes are now racing on local designed Pyga bikes and they will sure hope to mix it up in the African Jersey race with Waylon Woolcock who will be teaming up with roadie HB Kruger this year and NAD Pro Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck. 

Further exciting news is that young Jenny Rissveds, Olympic Champion also from Scott SRAM will be racing with legend and team manager Thomas Frischnecht. 

No-one can say that the Epic doesn't have an exciting line-up. 

Good luck to everyone racing! Hang in there and keep on pedalling! 

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