Friday, 1 August 2014

Sheffield Steel

Suddenly there’s lots to end the week with.

Some places have made a very reasonable point about this video, and in many ways I’m inclined to agree. Not least because there’s nothing much new in the riding going on.

However I have fewer scruples, I guess…

This weekend sees the return of the Downhill World Cup in Mont St Anne and you can watch it live on Saturday evening here. This is a home race for Steve Smith so look out for him. The dates for next year were also announced.

Talking of World Cups. There was a well-timed release of more from Steve Peat:

As you’ll have seen it looks like Santa Cruz will have a 650b bike in Canada and they must be amongst the last manufacturers to move over. Let’s see what that can produce under Peaty and Minnaar and the winner of the last round, Josh Bryceland.

Now you’ve brought up 27.5” bikes I’d better tell you about the last ride I had last weekend on my bike with that wheel size. It’s hard to resist the brand new and I was tempted by it on Sunday afternoon after reading about a route from Vertebrate Publishing, that you can download as a teaser to their new White Peak route guide, I wanted to go and ride bridleways that have been only recently opened up through work between Ride Sheffield, The National Trust and the RSPB (neatly linking back to Peaty as well).

After a restorative lunch in a pub I rolled onto this fairly non-technical ride at an easy pace, determined to cruise and enjoy it. It started tamely on wide grass tracks and then a fast loose descent, followed by a grass trail climb and continued to cruise across moorland where the boggier sections have been surfaced and you get to follow brand new bridleway signs. It was a big gear spin on what seem to be trails as old as civilisation. As I bundled along, perhaps inevitably, my concentration wandered to look at the wide views and a decidedly non-dramatic rut caught my front wheel and deposited me painfully sliding over the grass and gravel. This was a shame as it hurt and the best of the ride was to come.

Picking myself up and getting back on after straightening the handlebars I decided to concentrate from here and continued the route on wide trails. A bit of road and negotiation around highland cattle and it got more interesting with a singletrack, mildly technical bracken edged path rising sharply to a road, and then a short sharp road climb to pick up what I imagine the point of the ride was.

The Curbar path is dramatic for views and fun under-wheel and lets you blast through the crowds over jumpable rocks and fast gritstone as you glance to your left out over the cliffs. It’s a fun fast grin-fest and makes the brutal climb back to the carpark at the end worthwhile.


Thursday, 31 July 2014

Peak Playing

As I mentioned there were three rides from the Peak District to report back to you. The second was for Sunday morning. After a hearty B&B breakfast packed up and headed out into the hills again. I was torn about where to ride with so much choice. In retrospect I possibly should have headed out of Hope a different way and explored the classic that sits around Ladybower Reservoir that I’ve never ridden, but I had been too tempted by the hills from Saturday to resist hitting some of the climbs the other way.

I rolled out of Castleton into a less blazing hot morning and virtually straight into a steep climb back up to Hollins Cross. Instantly losing the bridleway I found myself pushing up a footpath that would be tough enough without a bike to drag along. Still, the views were worth the effort:

At the top and back on legal trails and on the bike I went back on my ride from the day before, climbing back up and round Mam Tor, sweeping round the shoulder on the sweet track that puts you back to the road crossing. Then it was on up Rushup again, with a realisation that the gradient was far more than it felt coming down the other way. The first big reason for doing it soon approached in the form of the rocky descent back to the road. Saddle slammed and suspension on full “descend” this was awesome fun as the bike let me get away with lines I have never considered before on a hardtail and simply made it a pleasure to ride. Grinning all over my stupid face I reached the road and settled in for a cruise to the next bit.

I deliberately kept this ride short and basically built around two downhills that I wanted to ride. So a bit of road and then a climbing trail that took me over the top of the moor and direct, with no messing around, to the top of Cave Dale. This drop is technical in the extreme, but I feel like the flowing approach to the main event is overlooked as it swoops down to the top of the rocky section, with natural lips and berms to keep you blasting.

Then it gets steep and wet. Last time I rode here I struggled with much of it and I feared the same would be true on the initial section, where wet stone and boulders make riding a real challenge. I negotiated this with a bit of help from some firmly planted foot dabs and lined up for the next sections with more confidence and trust in the bike. And it paid off. I rode pretty much all of the rest, with breaks for walkers coming up, but cleanly and solidly down over the technical terrain.

With another smile and feeling of satisfaction I rolled back into town and back to the car with plenty of miles left in my legs for the afternoon’s fun.


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Close Quarter Racing

There have been other things going on as well as the Tour de France and me riding in the Peak District. This seems like a good time to round up a couple of them.

Rachel Atherton is following in her brother’s footsteps and doing a Foxhunt, so if you’re a woman and you think you can hold her off all the way down a mountain then go for it. I’ll be surprised if anyone can do it as she is just the most dominant rider on the circuit. Perhaps if Manon Carpenter can be tempted to ride it.

In other news the BMX guys competed for the World Championships in Rotterdam. It was all go over the heats with the big news for Britain being this:

So that was one British defending champion out and Reade ruled herself out before the competition with a broken elbow.

Watch it all here and see the rest of the carnage as Sam Willoughby takes the men’s title with Mariana Pajon winning for Columbia in the women’s. Britain’s Tre Whyte took bronze largely thanks to being first back on his feet after a final crash that took out the field behind the winner. Worth a watch if you like big crashes and stunning elbow to elbow racing.

Finally there was mountain bike action at the Commonwealth Games yesterday where Cooper and Gaze took gold and silver for New Zealand in men's race and Canadian Caroline Pendrel won the women's, ahead of Briton Annie Last in fourth. That action (as exciting as it is) is here.

More Peak District action tomorrow.


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Peak Heat

Well I don’t know about you but I spent last night at a bit of a loss with no Tour de France highlights to watch. I guess my job is to fill that void and provide more cycling excitement until we can settle into the Vuelta and the Tour of Britain.

The best I can do is tales of my own riding, and luckily I headed off to the Peak District at the weekend purely and simply to have something to bring you (and definitely not just to have fun on a bike).

I slotted in three rides, all typically Peak classics in a way and finding a balance between pain and fun. The first of these was a loop I have ridden pretty much every time I’ve been up that way.

As you can see this is a Jacobs Ladder route, taking in that climb, skirting Kinder Scout, and putting in some miles on the Pennine Bridleway before Rushup Edge and Mam Tor.

Saturday was hot. Brutally so, and with no breeze even on the high points to relieve the heat, and that added a dimension to the ride. Rolling the valley to the base of Jacobs Ladder was an easy climb with the anticipation of the serious climbing ahead. I have never found the Jacobs ladder climb ridable and have a huge amount of respect for anyone who can clean the head-sized boulders and gradient, this weekend I was soon off the bike and pushing up the hill as sweat started to literally pour from my forehead. I tramped upwards leaving wet drips on the hot stone and with sweat flowing freely across my sunglasses, pausing to recover and enjoy the view.

At the top the gradient eases and I swung a leg over the bike to ride on, before letting the suspension out and the saddle down to blast, grinning, into the first long rocky descent. This was what I’d been looking for, taking the new bike up here to let it show me what it had over lines I would never have considered on a hardtail and gaining confidence in the ride all the time.

With the rocky miles dropping away I hit a track now treacherous with large gravel and then the road, and then slammed straight into the next brutal climb. Holding the front wheel down and right on the point of the saddle I was inching upwards when I caught sight of the mixed blessing of a rider ahead. I had been debating a little walk, but this decided me to stay on and climb harder. I wasn’t going to let them see me fail, or not catch them on the hill. I dug in, sweat pouring again, passed them. Was caught at a gate and then climbed away from them on the wider gravel track of the Pennine Bridleway. As soon as I knew I’d left them behind I started to deal with the effort I’d put in, now on the rolling rocky track that seems to climb way more than I ever remember.

After a fast drop to a ford and a tough drag up that had me pushing in the blazing sun again, I was onto the recovery cruise, before a left turn and the technical rocky stepped climb I wanted to clear up to Rushup Edge.

A combination of determination and perhaps some skill got me up there mostly clean and onto the rutted peat moor over the top. A quick smooth peach of a climb up from the road over the shoulder of Mam Tor set me up for a blast back to Edale along the ridge through the summer crowds, then doubling back down the hill to let the bike do its thing again over rocks and big grass ridges while I hung on and enjoyed it with the odd hint to the machine about the way I’d prefer to go.

Back to the car dusty, sweaty and well up for the next day’s riding I gave myself the afternoon off to recover and put together a mini pub-crawl around Hope.


Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Tour Wraps Up

The last weekend of the Tour might have sounded dull as with two sprints and a time trial no one was going to close the seven minute advantage that Nibali was holding. However there was still a whole lot going on. First there was a righting of the disappointment that Garmin Sharp had felt when Jack Bauer was caught on the line in an earlier stage. In torrential rain Garmin went in a break and then manufactured a late attack by Navardauskas who held on for the win, helped in no small way by a crash in the last three kilometres that looked to be caused by Sagan and took away what was almost certainly his last real chance to win a stage this year. Still Sagan takes home the green jersey but no wins, and Garmin got to make a chancer win against the sprinters.

Rolling out of Bergerac again on Saturday the individual time trial would sort out the minor podium places as Pinot, Peraud, and Bardet looked to ensure the French were there, and Valverde and Van Garderen tried to gain time back to prevent that dream. Tony Martin went out early and surprised literally no one by putting in a ride worthy of his world champion’s stripes and leading the stage. There wouldn’t be another rider all day who would touch him and so he set the time for the GC contenders to measure themselves against.

Valverde looked to be losing time to Van Garderen, but still retained his buffer even with the American’s 6th place finish on the stage. The race seemed to be between the French pair of Pinot and Peraud, with Peraud’s luck looking to not hold as he had to change bikes due to a puncture, as did the other AG2R rider, Bardet.

That problem dropped Bardet to 6th place overall behind Van Garderen, and, with seconds between them on the road the French duo of Pinot and Peraud pushed on, while Valverde dropped out of contention, with tired legs pushing him back to 4th overall. Peraud powered home and sat to wait the three minutes for Pinot to come home, and when he did he had lost the few seconds he needed and finished as the 3rd placed overall rider, giving Peraud the second place he was hoping for, and France two men to stand on the podium for the first time in 17 years in Paris.

Behind them Nibali underlined his dominance by finishing fourth on the stage, therefore extending his lead in a race that he has bossed. So the podium places were sorted and all that remained was the sprint on the Champs Elysees to provide a finale for the race. From a British point of view it has been the least successful Tour in recent time, with no wins for Sky and only one finisher in the shape of Geraint Thomas who rolled in 22nd, actually a place ahead of his de facto team leader, around a minute ahead of Porte.

The most famous road in France is the domain of the real sprinters, so that meant the likes of Kristoff, Greipel, Renshaw, possibly Sagan and most likely KIttel to win a consecutive year’s race after he beat Cavendish in 2013. Kittel was off the back of the pack early on and so it might have built into a bit of an upset. There would be attacks, just because there have to be, and the first was from Chavanel, to make it an even more French race. The next attack was Jens Voigt, who rides his last Tour this year, and he was chased by Horner and Thomas for a second. A crash took out most of the AG2R team, including Peraud, who had to then get back on terms for his podium place. He was helped by work at the front by Nibali and Chavanel to slow the pace and save an embarrassment.

Next up was Richie Porte to have a dig and remind people that he was there while Tony Martin had to change a bike and chase back to the pack. Porte gained about 12 seconds but was pulled back hard for the traditional bunch sprint. The only person who didn’t think this was Simon Clarke who went on a bit of an attack on the last lap, but Lotto Belisol were driving the peloton back helped by Giant Shimano who struggled to keep control at 1km to go. Kristoff opened the sprint but was overhauled by Kittel on the line to give the German the win ahead of Kristoff and Greipel. Weirdly Eisel was also in the mix, but it went as the script suggested.

So another Tour wrapped up with French riders on the podium in the form of a rider towards the end of his career in second, and a definite name for the future in the shape of Thibault Pinot. It was a very interesting race, enlivened by the battle for the podium behind a dominant Nibali. Bring on the Vuelta where many of the favourites who crashed out of this race should return.