Sunday, 21 August 2011

Marathon men

Dr Dawson called, his calls are usually pleasant affairs, good chat, catch up on how the family are doing, how was the holiday etc? Then, bang! 'Do you want to ride an mtb event this weekend?'. I hadn't even looked at my bike for 3 weeks and was pretty happy that the cyclist's tan had now merged in with the new bronze from the Turkish sun. The event in question was the 3rd round of the MTB Marathon series, location, Selkirk. To make it even more difficult to say no, the kids had plans of their own, so a pick up time was agreed, 6:45am ouch! The email that accompanied the call had the links for profiles, race info, race info!? The last time I raced in a MTB event was 2005 , the field went off like a rocket, totally different to my memories of road events. My efforts for the day where measured by tea mug with the number 3 proudly glazed on. I was pretty happy with the result, not much training and the field was pretty tasty. The event was held at the Sidlaws, just north of Dundee and it is a cracker with some great sections of singletrack and a WW2 bombhole.

The MTB Marathon events are organised by Chain Reaction Cycles and 'powered' by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport, both have to be commended for their efforts and organisation.  They also do a road event on the same weekend. Road Saturday, MTB Sunday, Sleep Monday.

So, how did the MTB trip to the borders work out? Well, it was bloody tough. The weather was excellent, so good in fact that the cyclist's tan is back. The route was a test that had me in bits 15k from the end. We decided to go for the 50k half-marathon. Thanks to Dr Dawson and a helpful push we crossed the line in 3.59 with a group of full-on XC racers. The lovely chap with the microphone at the finish was full of smiles, the mic was pushed towards me, then he realised that I wasn't one of the top XC guys that was racing to win the 100k route. 100k in under 4hrs is one hell of a pace, the route was tough, the heat was unforgiving and the climbs required the Granny gear quickly followed by foot wear.

Post event goodies where enjoyed and the chat led to an exploration of longer events and training. As for me, I'm thinking about joining the guys on Enduro motorbikes riding round the course, helping out riders and making sure no one was lost. One of the enduro riders was the course designer, a wise man, but has a tendency to make others suffer.

The bike chosen for the event was the Turner Sultan and this was its first real test. Riding the Sultan has been worth the wait. The bikes ability to cover ground is incredible, the large wheels obviously help, but the revelation was just how quick the ground moves beneath you on a descent. I honestly felt like apologising to people on some descents. There is nothing worse than someone breathing down your neck on a tight and technical chute, the Sultan didn't care for other's feelings and just wanted to get to the base and then be ready for the next section of Borders singletrack heaven. My concern with the big wheels is that they flatter a rider, remove an element of skill and lull you into a false sense of security. I've noticed this before when swapping between my Rig 29er singlespeed and a Cannondale Prophet. The Prophet (now sold) is a blast and can really roast descents. I've struggled to think of another bike that offers such a good package and punch for pound. Why on earth Cannondale decided to stop production is beyond me. It is one of their all time classic rides and everyone that I know that has either ridden or owns one just loves it's simplicity and effectiveness. However, riding a 29er and then a 26er did cause me problems. I struggled to readjust; choosing lines, deciding when to brake, position on the bike and frustration at my lack of overall confidence resulted in some major bruises and permanent reminders. 

The Turner is the do it all replacement for the Cannondale Prophet, on first impressions the decision could be a good one. Fair enough, it doesn't posses 'the rugged chuck me at anything' approach of the Prophet. It's more of  'if you hold on I'll get you through this'. This might end up being it's downfall, do I want a bike that holds your hand and smooths out the nasties? In short, yep. Responsibilities and less time to enjoy pursuits usually ends up in people buying something totally daft, just think about Born again Bikers. The end result can be awful. I'm positive that the Sultan has a few more tricks up it's sleeve, this will no doubt come to light once everything is dialled in. 

There is a growing disquiet within cyclesguff at what is bordering on profiteering of a few sportive organisers. I'm sure we expect more than a half banana, hot water and a crappy certificate for our £40+ starting fee. OK, logistics, websites, first-aid provision, stewards, land and plant hire etc all cost, but the fees are on the increase. It is also a bit cheeky having to pay to ride roads. I remember the day when rival clubs would organise Reliability Trials. You would turn up, ride the route and go home usually knackered. It was left to you where to stop for food and any mechanicals had to be dealt with and hopefully repaired by the kit that you had decided to carry. Now, I'm not out to bash Sportives; they are fantastic. Whether it be providing an introduction to our wonderful sport or pushing you to your limits. I'm sure we even know of a few that provide online training advice and logs. Further to this, there is subtle pleasure in fitting a transponder and feeling like a pro for the day as the bunch rolls out of town cheered on by 'fans' and watching the event make the news. Sometimes all for the wrong reason, just google 'Alexander Grosset'. Solicitor, Church Elder and the biggest headline maker in Pitlochry for years, twat!

The Drumlanrig event has a novel approach, you send a donation and you are in. The crew behind the sportive could not be more helpful and the mid and post event food is excellent.

Cyclesguff had the brave chat of hosting a sportive during the recent Ben Lawers, Aberfeldy loop. The addition of Glen Quaich, Amurlee to Aberfeldy would be close to the magic ton or 160k for the metric minds. Trivia moment, do you know that all UK roads during the design and engineering process are measured in metric? There would be no entry fee, you print out your own route and profile map, stash your gels and energy bars along the route (and of course, remove all evidence and litter), the only official pee-stop would be at Chez Grosset and if you managed to complete the route in under 4hrs we would give you a quid. How would we measure the accuracy of your claim? Trust, love of the bike and your expression of pain at the finish line. The cyclesguff Trustability Trial may come your way soon Mr Grosset. Then again, you have a good history with trials, for some reason you don't have to deal with them as all charges are dropped.

Just found this

looks like cyclesguff have a challenger.

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