Past - Present - Future

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BY: Rob Smith

Published: 10th February, 2015

Past – Review

Winter is the time to take stock, review and recharge for next year. Time to complete all my chores and retreat to the garage; tided up, do all those jobs that have been put off for ages and finally get round to sorting the garage wall Palmare.

Second picture covers the last couple of years and whilst quantity is down quality is up. There are 2 wins represented, a trip to Australia to represent the RNRMCA as well as my first 24hr solo attempt at the Worlds back in Oct. Also I've been to new events trying out the Race Face mini GE and a weekend of bikes, bands and beer courtesy of the Big Bike Bash.

So what does that all tell me? Well it explains why house is in such a state and why my bank balance is constantly hovering around zero. It also marks and sign posts a lot of fun times and fond memories of time spent with good friends and great company. It also tells me something; I should have been more honest about my own ability.

I'm actually quite good at riding a bike and I like challenging and pushing myself and if I'd been that honest at the WEMBOs then maybe I could have got an age related medal.

But that's the past and all that that can do is help shape the future.

The future or in racers terms next season. I'm going to continue to seek out new challenges and goals. I've finished reading Joe Friel's MTB Training Bible and I'm already using what I've read to shape my plan for the year. So now 2015 is underway and I’m focused with SMART goals to aim for, I’m training hard using Friel’s book, I believe in my own ability and I think that has made me stronger than I’ve ever been. Only time will tell but early indications are good.

Present – race reports

I’m not usually one for “he went this way, I went that way” reports mainly because:

A I usually can’t remember what happened
B I’m normally on my own with the main contenders already gone over the horizon which doesn’t make for very good reading
C there are plenty other out there that write a lot better than me.

However on this occasion I might make an exception, as despite the year being only 6 weeks old I’ve already managed to get 2 CycloX races in and the first 2 rounds of the Soggy Bottom XC Series.

CycloX – Not sure why I do it. They hurt, you’re riding an inappropriate bike and it always takes ages to get all the grass out of both derailers and yet if there’s a race within distance I’ll go along for my hour of pain just because. What I do like about “cross” is the fact the courses are tight and often loop back on themselves so there are plenty of opportunities for heckling fellow riders and throwing banter around which in someways eases the pain.

Race 1 at Plymouth Motopark went reasonably well I had fun didn’t crash (admittedly difficult to do in Cross) and finished in the Vet’s top ten.

Race 2 was slightly different; I’d spent the Sat night building a frankenCross machine using an old HT frame, ridged forks, 1.5 tyres and whatever gearing I could find ending up with 28x11-34. Annoying on the way across the gear cable mount decided it had had enough and parted company with the frame leaving me with a 28X11 single speed! But don’t worry, Dave Fletcher of Velosmith offered me the loan of his very nice 9er CycloCross bike! I was going to fly, finally riding a CycloX bike at a CycloX race except I managed to puncture without completing even one race lap on what was clearly a very capable machine. Not giving up, I’d paid for my hour of pain so I was going to get my money’s worth I jumped back on the now single speed FrankenCross bike and rode, ran, rode to finish somewhere at some point. It’s OK CycloX isn’t my sport, the sun was shining and the Life Center sells pretty good Sausage rolls.

XC racing, however, is my sport. All that training over the winter, getting my hours ridden and doing all the sessions that Joe had prescribed were they making a difference? Would I be able to hit my goals for this season?
Like many other racers coming out of hibernation, these early season events are good indicators of not only ones own form but those around you. We may dismiss them as training rides or “C” races but 10/10s is the only way to ride once you’ve tied a number to the bars and lined up waiting for the whistle.

Round 1 of the Soggy Bottom winter XC series, didn’t go quite as planned with the race starting as a single line I’d hoped to get off the start well and settle at the back of the front bunch which I achieved. BUT just as the field narrowed to head over a bridge I got caught up in a crash undoing the good start I had managed and the front group headed off up the first climb whilst I was still re-arranging my saddle. Only one thing to do, head down, bum up I set about recovering lost places. 13th at the end of the first 1/2 lap I finally finished 7th despite a last lap somersault into the brambles pictures below which resulted in the scrapes.

On further inspection it appeared that the first crash also caused the rail to pop out of my seat, which Sella and Fizik have since replaced! Top service. A look at the lap times suggest 4/5th was possible if I'd not got tangled so I was happy with my form in that race.

Soggy 2

This time I wanted to get away at the front to secure a top 5 finish, so I had a plan to line up next to serial race winner Southfork's Pete Dawe with the idea of grabbing his wheel off the start, hopefully giving me a prime position going into the first Tech section.

For once the plan worked and off the line I slotted into Fifth spot behind guys I usually watch disappear into the distance. As the race progressed that fifth became fourth and for a while it was actually third as I’d managed to sneak past both Nick Butler (another member of Southfork’s Strong senior team) and Graham Sheldon (Clive Mitchell’s Cycles) on the major climb up to Blue Bell woods. I couldn’t hold Graham on the tech section and he snuck past me before we headed into Cottage return on lap two, and Nick obviously regrouped on his ridged HT over taking me towards the end of lap three demoting me back to fifth.
I made a few mistakes on lap 3 and dropped my chain starting the last lap but I gave it 100% and 5th felt like a victory. I was on the tail of some very strong competition rather than rolling in “best of the rest.”


It’s a month & a half until the first round of the Nationals, I’m the lightest I’ve been since I don’t know when, owning my own training means I’m hitting the hours and doing the sessions and I know what I wish to achieve.

At this point I should list the events that I intend to compete in and my goals for the season but sadly as a member of the Royal Naval Reserves I get to race for the Royal Navy and because of the current situation it’s better that I talk about where I’ve been rather than where I’m going to be.

As well as the support I receive from the RN I’ve also been lucky enough to have had assistance from the following:

Jay & Maddie Horton (fullysussed) – These two are the reason I can say I’ve raced in a world Championship, their friendship, guidance and encouragement has pushed me to go from having a go to this point.

Bikewise Plymouth – All of the training would be worth nothing is the machinery didn’t work, bikewise took time to ensure I had bikes that could last the distance in Scotland and that are ready for a full season in 2015.

Dave Fletcher @ velosmith – as well as lending expensive rides to shady looking characters, Dave also builds a mean wheel, just if you go to see him don’t expect a quick trip, he does like to talk spokes and nipples!

Certini - They're all about the youth these days, supporting the next generation of up and coming racers but they've always been very supportive to me with advice, support and time for a chat.  

Snapper Chick & Wild Dodo - For a friendly face, cheery word and some excellent photography 

Jane – she always gets a mention. Putting up with the fact none of my clothes fit me any longer, the continual lyrca washing in the machine and the “oh I've just seen another event I’d like to do.” But it’s not all one way you know apparently we will be out racing pairs at some point this year so look out!

Click any of the images below for a larger view / slideshow

More on the Soggy Bottom 2015 R2:
Event Calendar Listing

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Rob Smith

new racer trying to fight his way through the masters pack.

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