Published: 17th October, 2011
Irish Marathon Champs: Ballyhoura Trail Centre 18th Sept (c65km)
Luckliy I have family near to Ballyhoura so this race was combined with the annual trip to see relatives. Most races feel like there is more grinding & climbing than descending. This one is the opposite … ace!
I had done this race in 2010 and some of the same protagonists were out in force. There was quite a long fire road climb to sort things out at the beginning. Four Elite riders whizzed up ahead. A group of 6-8 formed behind. As we entered the first decent back trail head area I was in about 10th. On the next climb the second group thinned out to two, me and James McCluskey (I think). I pushed on and found myself out on my own as we entered the rougher wilder non trail centre terrain.
It had rained overnight (as per normal in these parts of the world) & I was a bit too cautious and seemingly rubbish going through the peaty stuff. Aidan McDonald caught me. This wasn't good as he had pipped me to 2nd place the previous year. Aidan did a good job hauling along a flat fire road section where we passed one of the earlier escapees, Ray Shaughnessy, who was suffering from lack of energy/fluid.
The Flora & Fauna was interesting and needed a closer look.
Ultimately Aidan got a gap on the final climb as I misread another peat bog, and he descended to the finish very strongly. I came through in 4th overall, but 1st Vet. We were only 2-3 minutes down on 2nd overall. Ryan Sherlock with a season of Elite road racing under his belt was way out in front by over 15 minutes despite a puncture.
I'm really struggling to think of a better marathon course. The Ballyhoura trail centre network is excellent. I could seriously see me flying to Ireland just to ride around the miles and miles of singletrack. Will be back, for sure.
Kielder 100 3rd Sept
This was one of my top 4 key races in 2011 and was targeting the very big Vets category. The weather was quite wet and chilly so I knew it would be a bit of war of attrition on bike and body. About a quarter of those on the start list chose not to start.
At an ungodly hour we started. The usual happened as we hit the first big off road hill, the riders thinned out. I was able to hold the back of the lead group for a while but then the elastic snapped and I was on my own. Approaching the first feed station I figured there were 3 Vets ahead in the top 12. Ben Thomas (TORQ) and the AW Cycles (Tim Dunford & Steve James), last years winner Andrew Cockburn, and in form Vet Rich Rothwell all looking quite strong in the lead group.
The rest of the race was a story of chasing and trying to catch the riders ahead.
First up was Mike Blewitt who's brakes had already been eroded at this early stage. Next was Mark Spratt who temporarily took on sustenance at the first feed station and failed to hang on. 2009 Vets winner was the next rider I passed and seemed to be struggling with the conditions. I passed him and was now 2nd Vet in the race. Greig Brown has his usual punture which put him out of contention. Steve James had side wall split which put him out of the race.
I had big crash at about 35 mile in, a major bike summersault and massive buckle on the front wheel. It made me feel ill looking at it so I tried not to. I was lucky I was running a Cannondale Lefty as it probably wouldn't have passed through normal forks. Yep it was bad buckle.
At the cold windsweep border area Aussie Andy Fellows was weakening and eased up to take on some sustenance. At the Newcastelton trail centre I caught up to last year's winner Andrew Cockburn who was having break pad and body temperature problems. I was feeling okay, just about eating enough. The tyres were fast rolling Maxis Ikons, rubbish for the muddy bit at Newcastleton but absolutely flew for the 10k of fire road after the trail centre. Although I was lacking climbing power in this race I felt I made time up in this section. Indeed I started to catch a few glimpses of a rider ahead. It looked like Rich Rothwell, but I wasn't sure.
In the final run in my cables were seizing and I couldn't get to the top of the cassette. This was making the climbing a bit more leg frying so my late race surge was being thwarted. I enjoyed the final decent to the finish though. It transpired the rider just ahead was indeed Rich Rothwell and I came in only 40 seconds down on him in the end. This meant I was 2nd Vet and 6th overall. A good result.
Well done to Ben Thomas who came in on the 8 hour mark. Only about a quarter of the starters finished.
I climbed really badly in this race but it really was a case of riding smart, fuelling just enough and not pulling the brakes too much. The course was changed from last year, it was more technical and better. The reputation of the Kielder 100 will definitely build after the 2011 edition. Not too many midges this year either.
Brighton Big Dog - mid Aug
Wondering whether an old dog could be a Big Dog I entered this great event. The sun shone, everyone was smiling. Cake was out in force.
The key protagonists were likely to be my Cannondale team mate Ian Leitch (last years winner) and new local boy Josh Ibbett (Torq), and so it transpired. Ian and I pushed quite hard on the first lap Ian & we opened a gap on Josh. My drivetrain was pretty worn after recent races and as the race wore on I was struggling to find cogs that would work. On lap 2 I dropped my chain and Ian got a small gap which gradually increased.
Around lap 4 the inevitable happened, I snapped my chain. After a faff of a fix I struggled with leg power. I was getting mini cramps … the humid conditions and a deceptively tough course was taking its told. As the race came to a close I was told I was comfortably in 2nd. This was not the case and a couple of solo riders came storming through on the last lap. I did manage to win the old dogs (Vets) category though.
Photo credit thks to Dave Hayward
Well done to Ian who drinks from the top doggy bowl for another year.