Tag Archives: Cycling

Race Report – Bog of the Ring [2010-08-11]

Little late on the report but mainly as my Garmin decided to do a hard reset on the way back from the race, almost loosing all my stats. I have been able to rebuild them using the laps folder but come on Garmin, get your act together.

Anyway for this race I slightly worried being in group 3 and it being quite flat. I even offered to Marshall but was told there was enough people already. This left me choosing a goal of just to hang on and finishing in the group.

So the race began and it began fast. It was hard work just to stay with the wheels on the up and overs. Even the slight incline on the back half required some pressure to say up there. But we got there and kept pushing along until lap 2 when we caught group 2. Pace eased up a tiny bit and we were caught on lap 3.  I can’t remember when group 1 was caught, I think it was just before the second last corner on the last lap, but were were all bunched up for the finish.

It got hairy along the end. Spread across the whole road with the usual pushing and shoving. More than one person wasn’t happy in the group and I got shouted at for pushing back when he tried to force me on to the grass. Honestly. Grow up.

For the final, I did as I have done in the last few races. That is, go too fast too quick. Something I really do have to work on.

The Stats

Distance: 40.56km
Time: 1:01:34
Avg Speed: 39.52km/h
Calories: 1075
Avg Power: 291watts
Normalised Power: 329watts

Race Report – Swords GP [2010-08-08]

My first open race. My first introduction to real speed. Real racing. And it got off to a great start. Almost missing the A4 group going off while getting stuck behind some A3 guys waiting. Luckily the race was neutralised out of the village allowing us to catch back on the group before the speed went up. Not a good way to begin.

Pace did stay easy enough through the first lap although it did take some time before the pace line properly started and go settled. First time up the hill, another rider from another club moved to the front and looked like he was trying to pull out a gap. Being near the front I sat on his wheel and let the group behind pull up. We did loose a few during this ascent too, and I learnt after that quite a few burnt off on this lap.

Going on my experience last Wednesday, as soon as we were over the last hill I moved right the way to the front and took a wide line to go around at speed. This placed me second back from the front at the beginning meaning I was hanging on right the way down through the fast section. 1 Down, 2 and a half to go.

Lap 2

For this lap the pace went up quite a bit, at least subjectively. We pulled time out on the A3 group too during the lap so I guess things were really faster. The pace line worked quite well with most people taking turns although it did accordion a bit during the fast sections. For the second time up the hill I stayed near the back and sat in a much a possible. I knew it wouldn’t break apart this time so better to conserve energy. With a repeat of the last lap at the top, I rounded the corner at speed and held on down to the village.

Copyright Beasty

Lap 3

During the third lap, things slowed down quite a bit. I’m not totally sure why but  at some point people stopped working and the line strung out, but not at a slow enough speed that you could safely move from the middle of the line to the front to take a turn.

On the hill I sat near the middle but close enough to the front to see where people were. Same again over the top and around the corner where the pace went up a bit. Took some effort to stay on wheels although I was about 5th back. The gap did grow a lot more than I wanted during the descent and once again confirms I need a standard chainset for next season.
Once again things slowed after leaving the village on our last lap, but this time they really slowed, enough to let the A3 catch us.

Attacks started quickly now. People going quick and fast but without any real presence. When nearing the end of the road, three guys got away. Then a forth went. It looked like they were going to hold it and stay away until the corner so I went and sprinted up. Mistake number one. Gap was only maybe 5 seconds off at this point however we were chased down by the corner and the group bunched during the first little hill around the corner.

After coming around the little descent, I moved near the front and ended up right on the front. Even with slowing down, people weren’t coming around. It took about 30/40 seconds before someone pulled up beside me on my right but not past. Mistake number two. Leading the group up the hill isn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done and I was about to pay for it.

It stayed this way until just after the crossroads when the first real attack started. Try as I might, I didn’t have the pace to stay with them however they soon started burning out. Another one went and again I was near the back of it. As it started slowing again, I got boxed in near the left hand side of the road. Mistake number three. Somehow I managed to slow and go all the way across the road to the right and sprint up clear of those who had just burnt out. However I still maybe 20 odd back at this point. And having to sprint across the road to get space didn’t help. Too little to late, or too much to late.

When the last attack when, I’d used too much to really sprint to stay on them. I did hold a decent pace and passed a few riders in the last two hundred metres, but not as many as I should have. Each person ahead that burnt out was enough to let me go by without upping my pace.

The Overall

Finished maybe top 15 although I should have done better had I raced smarter. Lessons learnt. It now marks two races were I blew apart on the hills. All my training for the Marmotte has paid some dividends in making me strong on the hills, but I really don’t have it when the sprints go. Something to work on for the winter.

The Stats

Distance: 72.54km
Time: 1:57:13
Avg Speed: 37.1km/h
Calories: 1726
Avg Power: 246watts
Normalised Power: 288watts

Race Report – Corduff [2010-08-04]

Rolling up to this race, I was in two minds as to whether I wanted to start in group 3 or not. My warm up didn’t go well and my legs felt weak. Overall not helped by another return of the stomach cramps. The decision was made for me when I signed on and was told it’d be group 3. Oh well, it’d make good practice for the Open Race at the weekend. I’ll sit in and try to hold on as long as I could.

The race did prove to be fast. Most people took turns and the place line really did move along. Up the hill was organised too and at a handy enough pace. What did kill me was the descent. I’ve known I’m not fast on flats but the extra speed on the descent really caused some problems.

During the first drop down, I hung on. It took quite a bit of effort but I stayed with everyone. The next time around was different. For some reason one of the guys upped the pace. *Clunk*, *Clunk*, “Ok lets get back on”. *Click*. “Oh crap, I’m out of gears!”. And as much as I tried, for the next 1.5km I was 5-10m behind the group working as hard as I could to stay as close as I could.

Speed vs. Cadence

I had always thought it’d be a flat course that convinced me to switch my compact for a standard chainset, but there above was the moment. The values are double normalised remember, both by Garmin and Sporttracks. Speed was above 60km/h on the display and I spinning like roadrunner. It was only when it flattened out that I regained contact.

We rolled though the village and regrouped properly. As we rolled along out the road, I started taking a drink and decided I just need to hold on past the main road and I’ll be fine. Suddenly the same guy from the main road sprinted again. I’d be dropped!

I tried to get back on and started speeding up. As I started making up the distance everyone started stopping. The mistake of all mistakes. I’d gotten the finish line wrong. Oh well, lesson learnt.

The Stats:

Distance: 43.73km
Time: 1:10:31
Avg Speed: 37.2km/h
Calories: 1186
Avg Power: 288watts
Normalised Power: 302watts

Race Report – Garristown/Ardcath [2010-07-28]

Another week, another Swords CC race. And with all my SRAM failures of late, I was lucky to be able to start. But start I did and I was looking forward to it given that the profile looked hill and all the descriptions talked about the nice hills, and I like hills.

It was a group 2 start again this week, however right from the start the group started stringing out. As it turned out, this was due to the descent and we all bunched up after the first corner. Things generally stayed together too with most people taking turns. A few however only took turns on the descents which did start to get some of the guys shouting to work properly.

And we needed to work as the time gaps were not coming down quick enough. By the second lap, we got a time gap of 2:40. The next time gap being 3 minutes, it was clear that we weren’t doing enough. It was on this lap when I had gone to the front to take my turn, held the pace steady then looked behind to see why no one was coming through, only to see a 30+metre gap back to the bunch. Only one other rider has stuck onto my wheel. But we talked it over and since there was a long straight around the corner, it’d be best to wait for the bunch, so we sat up.

Best laid plans and what not

Well I was bound to make a mistake at some point and this may have been it. I was still near the front when we were getting to the pub to turn left and I didn’t brake. I took the racing line, stayed tucked in, and sprinted out of the corner. Once I hit the straight I kept the hammer down to see how much of a gap I’d pull out, test myself. After 45 or so seconds, I looked back and only the one guy from earlier was there, the bunch were gone. We’d broken away, on the mostly flat, straight section of the course. Honestly, what had I done!

We did up and overs along the road, keeping the pace high. But it became quickly apparent that the other guy was stronger than I. I was suffering. Really suffering. And just to hang onto this wheel. But we held it together and got around the next corner. I don’t remember the time gap but it didn’t seem to be coming down fast enough causing us to slow up. And since there was someone bridging up to us, we let him catch our wheel.

After passing the next corner, the marshall said 2 minutes when we shouted for a time gap. It didn’t seem right as she just looked like she made it up, but then we saw part of group 1 ahead. As you might expect, this egged us on and we kept going to catch them. But before we caught them, we knew that it must have split and this was confirmed when we got them. 2 guys up ahead in a break.

We powered through and around the corner leaving 4 of us ahead of that group. After a few minutes I instructed the guy from the original group 2 break to slow and let the other two take some turns. Guy who bridged up came through for a turn but the 4th guy (who must have jumped from group 1) was gone.

The next part is a bit of a blur. I remember asking where we were meant to go. For all three of us, it was a first time on the circuit and best we could figure was that at the turn we weren’t turning, but going straight towards Garristown. Marshalls confirmed this and a motorbike rider shouted that we were 30 seconds. Down or up, I don’t know. But another group of 4 or so riders caught up around this stage and the pace went up. With the flats and descents on this part, well I was dying. My heart rate was high 180s, pushing over 190 at times – well beyond my threshold. It was bound to happen. It did happen.

On what I think was the last hill, one of the guys jumped. He jumped at a speed that made me look like I was standing still. Trying to hold his wheel was futile. First guy from group 2 that broke away confirmed my original assumption that he was stronger and he held the wheel and went with him. But when the next guy went I had nothing left. I cracked. In a feeling that I haven’t had in a long time, my legs struggled to turn the cranks and felt like jelly. I clicked to an easier gear and tried to recover.

But when the next guy went I had nothing left. I cracked.

Somehow, and I really don’t know how, but I managed to recover somewhat and my speed went back up. Enough to let me catch the wheel ahead and the last 3 of us from this group sort of bunched up. Me straight behind someone and another maybe 5m ahead. But my problem lay in the fact that I had no idea where the line was or how long I could go. Given the mistake I made last week, I decided to wait until the guy ahead started sprinting so I could jump him and beat him to the line. It didn’t happen. Yes I beat him to the line, no he didn’t jump. When I went, I went too late. I missed the rider ahead by a few inches at the line, passing him as we crossed the line. It was close enough that I was asked after if I knew who was ahead, the marshal’s weren’t sure.

In the end I place sixth. And with scratch catching us it was a good result. But I’m not all too happy with it. I should of had 5th, I was able to get it too. But since the race started with my stomach threatening to cramp, finishing is a result to be happy with. Next week I’ll start in group 3 and see if I really can hold the pace. We have long straight slightly downhill, so who is to know.

The Stats:

Distance: 44.05km
Time: 1:14:38
Avg Speed: 35.4km/h
Calories: 1183
Avg Power: 266watts
Normalised Power: 312watts

SRAM and week of nightmares

So I have 2010 SRAM Force on my lovely Cervelo for the last 6 months and I have loved every second of it. Ok well every second except for the loud clunk noise it makes. This last week has changed all that.

Part 1 – The Shifter

Photo of said wheel

Last Saturday while out, my shifter suddenly started making noises when I attempted to shift up and just plainly refused to shift up. This quickly turned into a stiff shifter and it jumping down gears everytime I tried to go to an easier gear. Not good. I limped home and took off the shifter cover to look for the problem. It became quickly visible.

Part 02, the little wheel

The little wheel inside the shifter was the problem, a tiny bit of carbon. Oh and it isn’t one of the spare parts. Luckily it should be covered under the warranty so I contacted the shop where I bought it to find out.

And since I wanted to get back on the road, I order more shifters on Monday to ensure I could race on Wednesday. (Aside: if you want something quick have a look at Slane. Ordered at 11:47, dispatch confirmation at 16:36, delivered the following morning before 10am. Similar happened with last few orders too)

Part 2 – The chain

The Force groupset I had ordered back when I built the bike came with a PC-1030 chain. Since I already had 3 spare PC-1070 chains from a bulk order, I left it in a box to keep for my other bike. Well since Sunday was a day without real training, I decided to do some maintenance which also involved swapping the chain.

Well wouldn’t you know it, but the chain was one of those funny ones with the weak powerlinks. One SRAM also covered under a recall. Nice. If only it hadn’t broken on the damn chain.

Something is missing


Part 3 – The brake callipers

Lets set the scene. My new shifters had arrived. I had got them on the bike, threaded the cables, even adjusted the rear dérailleur. Now it was just do the brakes and the bike is ready to go.

Brake cable goes inside the clamp, I adjust the brakes to where I want them. Put my torque wrench up and start twisting when pong, something goes flying. Immediately I start scanning my torque wrench thinking, crap I’ve broken my torque wrench. But no, the brake quick release housing has decided to give up.

Firstly, the manual says tighten to 6-8nm. My torque wrench was set to 5nm. Yes I know it was light but I’d rather be safe on the initial setup of things, so I usually do a lower torque first then go back. Well in this case it didn’t matter.

Thinking I was cursed I did a google and came across another blog which seems to reference the exact same issue, just without pictures. Well below are mine. I’ll update this when I talk to SRAM tomorrow. One problem I could understand. Getting really unlucky with the chain too, yeh ok these things happen. But three faulty parts, at least 2 of which SRAM know of, and the 3rd which I know of at least one other person who had the exact same fault, well I’m slightly peeved now.

SRAM Brake Housing Problem

Edit 1: I’ve tried calling SRAM who directed me to the UK distributor, Fisher Outdoor. I have mailed the SRAM rep through them to try get some answers. Cosy Beehive has another post with more pictures of the brakes failing in the same way. Oh and a quote from an SRAM rep saying the brakes still work. Well yes the brakes do work, but what happens when the brakes fail because the rest of the plastic snaps off and the cable comes loose? More will follow.

Edit 2: I spoke to someone in Fisher Outdoor who was very helpful. For problem 1, he confirmed he had seen this on a handful of shifters and that yes, it’ll be replaced under warranty. For problem 3, he confirmed that there is a batch of about 1000 units worldwide that has this problem. Given that I got mine in December 2009 and there are people who bought in the last month who are having this problem, I’d say the number is probably higher. However once again this is a warranty replacement. However I really don’t fancy buying another set of brake callipers while these go off to be replaced. I wish they’d just send out a replacement plastic piece. Oh well.

Edit 3: My new shifter arrived last Friday from Fisher. They also included a full 1091 chain as a replacement for the broken power link. Honestly a lot more than I expected in that respect.

Edit 4: It took some time, all due to me, but I got a new brake calliper from Fisher. The Quick Release plastic section is noticeably thicker than the previous model.

I did also suffer another SRAM Shifter failure, this time the four pillar posts holding the gear shifter came apart. I knew this was already a known problem so the shifter went back and was also replaced. The new one is from a different batch so hopefully that is the end of the problems. It also shifts much smoother too.

Even though I’ve had troubles, my dealings with Fisher have been one of the best RMA experiences I’ve had without anything really. I do like SRAM and bar building a long distance touring bike, I’ll be stick with SRAM. Knowing that if there is ever a problem, the fix is quick, simple, and painless, well that is something.

Race Report – Bog of the Ring [2010-07-21]

Race 2, starting in group two from the result from last week. And not being a fan of the flats I thoroughly expected to get shot out the back on the first lap. Luckily for me the corners were taken slow due to the rain allowing everyone to bunch up again. And the is two slightly uphill sections which I could recover on. Yes I recover on uphills!

Right from the off the group worked well with almost everyone taking their turn. The few occasions where I looked back to see if the last guy was going through, the person a head of me went through. The guys not taking turns started burning off too. Overall though it held together nicely and we kept a steady pace of near 40km/h on the flats. I did think I was in trouble during the second lap when my heart rate spike up above 180bpm but looking at the garmin, it was at the top of the fly-over that I went too far over.

By the last lap guys were shouting at we were 2 minutes down on group 1. By the last corner however it has somehow grown to 2:40? That was enough to slow things down a bit, at least in perceived effort, the speed was higher for that lap, although possibly due to the sprint at the end.

The final sprint wasn’t as fast or well what I expected. Along the straight to the sports clubs, about 5 guys moved to the front to take positions. I moved my way up and ended on the front as we passed the first corner. Things slowly starting winding up around this and I kept it calm waiting for the jump, a jump that didn’t come? About 100-150m from the line, I clicked up and just went for it. No point in dragging everyone to the line. The speed went up and people beside and behind me starting falling off, all the time I was looking out for someone else to start sprinting and come around. It wasn’t until the last 20m that someone did and he came by much to far to my right for me to grab his wheel, ending the group sprint with him crossing first followed by myself.

The Stats:

Distance: 40.89km
Time: 1:06:50
Avg Speed: 36.7km/h
Calories: 1010
Avg Power: 253watts
Normalised Power: 303watts

The final sprint

Race Report – Springhill – 3 Sisters [2010-07-14]

Today marked my first start in a race. I’d planned to start last week after finishing La Marmotte. But alas, some licencing issues meant I didn’t start and got to enjoy marshalling.

For today, being new, I started in group1 and was first off. As much as people tried, only half the group were willing to take any turns. It made for a very organised pace line with people mostly spread out. It was interesting to watch people suffer on the small up-hills and it became quickly apartent that I won’t be in group 1 next week.

On the second lap near the finish line, a young guy in red (Paul I think) took off. The group mainly held together after letting him hang out in front. He did start making a little group as the pace stayed relaxed. However on the next lap, something happened near finish line causing people to speed up. I’m not sure what but the group spaced out quickly. One of the Swords CC guys ended up out front with two others ahead. Remembering back to some advise about not going hard enough, I through caution to the wind and jumped onto the wheel of the two ahead. If I went too fast it’d be a good learning experience.

After passing the finish line, I confirmed that we only one lap remaining and it was finishing here. (We started half way around the course). With that sorted, I went to the front to take a turn and up the pace slightly to try catch the Swords CC rider ahead. Strangely the two behind didn’t follow and dropped off. Instead of waiting, I clicked and upped to force myself to catch the wheel ahead. It took about 2km, 2km on flats and I hate flats, but I got there. As I rolled up beside him, he looked like someone out on a leisure ride, just taking in the scenery while I’m sure I looking more worse for wear.

He suggested we do some up and overs until we are caught which I agreed to.  Just before the turn at Baldwinstown, I looked back and am nearly sure I saw the scratch group rolling up. We both sat up and slowed up waiting for the group to power through so we could do our best to catch the wheels. But 30 seconds passed and nothing. Then 60 seconds and still nothing. Looking back on the straight, still nothing. Yes the scratch car was ahead of us, but the group weren’t visible behind. It became now or never so we went for it upping the pace to catch the last man out front. And we did just before the hill a Mallahow.

From here, we kept the pace up but low enough to recover properly, just in case we were actually caught. It took some effort to force the guy in red to the front for some turns. And with it looking like things were going to break down, the Swords guy agreed not to sprint if we pulled him to the line ahead of the other group. This somehow got us all working together again for another while, each taking our turns.

On the hill at Forde De Foyne, I decide to do a little sprinting up the first part to see if I could break away. Low and behold, the red guy stuck to my wheel like glue, so I sat up and recovered and again tried to force him through to take some turns. Obviously he wasn’t as tired as he was making out.

For the last hill, straight to the finish, I moved to the front. It was slightly up hill and we could see the end. Soon my first race would be over and it was looking like I’d actually get a good result, little did I know what was about to happen.

The red guy came to left side and started accelerating, all I could do was try hard to stay with him, and strangely I did. It was pretty much neck and neck until about 25m before the line. A gear shift didn’t go properly for him causing his chain to jump or catch, thus letting me pull ahead and get a decent gap before the finish line to cross in first. I had won my first race.

A few more from group 1 stayed away but most were caught by scratch earlier. I also found out that scratch had, for some unknown reason, slowed down before the long straight. But either way, luck or not, I had crossed line first. A win is a win is a win. Lets see if we can repeat this because it was fun.

The Stats:

Distance: 42.45km
Time: 1:18:54
Avg Speed: 32.3km/h
Calories: 1076
Avg Power: 231.7watts
Normalised Power: 287watts

La Marmotte 2010 – Race Day Review

1 day

174km of cycling

5000m of climbing

An event like no other

Finally, after over 9 months of directed training, 11 months of waiting, the Marmotte has been completed. It is done. We got around. Completed.

From start to finish, it really is an epic event. Everything from the scale of the mountains to number of cyclists to the amount of water I had to drink (somewhere about 10 bottles I think excluding what was dunked over my head).  But even with the massive numbers, things were well organised. Everything moved pretty quickly and didn’t leave us waiting in the sun too much – which was pretty hot for a lot of the day. Reports of 39C on the Alpe d’Huez yesterday!

Bourg d’Oisans to base of the Glandon

The day begins by hoarding everyone into different gated sections for the start. I had heard that is was like cattle pens, but these expanded out pretty far for our group. For the front group (1-200), they were in a small area like a cattle pen but then it is a smaller group.

It begins by people ahead moving slowly forward and everyone around you slowly shuffling ahead. As you get closer to the start line, you hear the band, pass by it about the time you get to cycling, then across the timing mats and the day begins. Immediately groups begin forming, some fast, some slow. Then there are those that seem to cycle like they have rocket packs.

I did manage to stay with a group and bridge up at different times all the way to the Glandon. Even on the Glandon, right up through the first climb section, groups and pace lines stayed together. Actually it was my first time hitting a roundabout in a large group at high speed, and it is amazing how it strings out around the roundabout, then bunches back up straight afterwards.

Col du Glandon – Alt. 1924m

We had been warned that this would be 3-4 cyclists deep the whole way up the climb when we hit this, and it was for the most part. Coming past the EDF electricity station, I was on the front of a group for a bit but obviously I hammered it a bit too hard and they dropped off my wheel for a while. I hadn’t fully gotten everything together on the subsequent descent when I locked up my rear wheel momentarily. Not a fun thing to do. It actually happen again at the first descending bit of the Glandon climb. I once again locked the rear after overtaking a Tandem and ended up a foot into the grass. Quite a few others did similar things around the course.

Other than that, the climb was pretty much a case of just keep pedalling and watch the heart rate so as not to over cook it, which is surprisingly easy to do if you stay on the wrong wheel for a while.

The Glandon descent was meant to be removed from the timing so just after rounding the hotel before the summit was the timing mat. It took a few minutes to figure out how the water works. At one section there is cups of water, and another taps for bottles. I spent a few minutes trying to get a bottle to fill my bottles before someone said this. The stop had some food, soft jellies which were amazing, but not as amazing as the cut orange pieces. They really are super to much on and get juice from at a time like that. Very refreshing.

Col du Glandon Descent

Being neutralised, a lot of people were taking it slow. Very slow. Some weren’t and we ripping by like we were standing still. After a bit, I jumped in line with a group and picked up the pace with them and even though we were doing 40-50km/h, guys were still flying by occasionally.

The downside to the slow people was that the rims heated up. And for those that have never seen this, rims on long descents can heat up quite a bit. Enough to cause a blowout. And blowouts there were a lot of. Yet another reason I didn’t take it all too fast as the smell of brake pads was pretty strong.

Col du Glandon to Col du Télégraphe

The not so flat bit. Advise for this section was take it easier than you think you need to. And if you are on your own, sit up, wait for a group. One will come.

Luckily I had been in a group from the descent and they were going at a descent enough pace. It allowed me to sit in for the first 5 or so minutes and get some much needed food into me. It immediately became apparent the differences in ability on the first little uphill. No more than 25m of climbing but the rate at some people went backwards was insane. Almost like someone had pulled their brakes.

The most interesting part of the descent would have to the speed bumps on a long straight road where it flatten out. While on any other day these would have been up and over, at the speed we rolled onto them, well I got airborn coming off them.

For about half of this section, the group held together. I think I lost contact or the group split a bit mid way through. But for whatever the reason, I was in a smaller group for a while, then behind only one person, then bridging gaps and watching people fall from my wheel.

The Télégraphe did come all too soon in some respects.

Col du Télégraphe – Alt. 1570m

If you were to stand all four climbs on their own in similar situations, the Télégraphe is probably the easiest of the lot. Not so in the Marmotte. We hit the bottom sometime before 11 meaning things were starting to heat up, and heat up they did. I later heard that the village below the Télégraphe was 35C at 11am. A sign of things to come.

About half way up there was a water truck at the side of the road with some jellies. A quick stop and another bottle fill and back on the road. By this stage things felt hot but I was still managing pretty well. The worst part was the road works near the top. Yes the organisers had people there directing traffic, but we a solid stream of cyclists for however many hours, things did bunch up for a while. This gave me a chance to walk by bike for a little bit while waiting for traffic.

Another fill of the bottles at the top and it was on to Valloire.

Col du Galibier – Alt. 2645m

When we climbed the Galibier on Tuesday, it became overcast and cooler when we passed through Valloire. Not so today. Yes there was some drizzle for a short period while climbing, but it was a very strange cast of ah cold rain drops, but everything else is still burning hot. Even upon reaching the top, I was standing around for a few minutes with the jersey unzipped before I even started to cool down.

Unfortunately there isn’t much else to this climb. It was an hour and half of slogging away and keeping the pace. The most memorable point was passing one of the corners were a few dutch cyclists were sitting on deck cars outside of a camper van that was there to support them. They all looked very refreshed and were enjoying their ice cold cans of coke. Really, the only way to live.

Col du Galibier – Descent to Bourg d’Oisans – Alt. 719m

A 40km descent may sound great, but when that 40km descent has some rolling roads and a few smaller climbs, it becomes a bit harder than you set yourself up for, as I found out on Tuesday. Luckily, doing these in a group is a fair bit easier and once again allowed me to relax some for the first section.

The relaxing stopped about 12km when some not so good riders caught up. Descents are not fun when guys pull in front of you, pull the brakes, and then start weaving. This made me hunker down and up the speed a little leaving them behind. An aside, passing cars at 50km/h isn’t always as scary as it seems. A group of faster riders then began forming leaving us about 20 strong by the first uphill section. Unfortunately for me, almost all of them had started 20 minutes after I did and were a fair bit faster on the hills. This resulted in some of my highest heart rates for the day while fighting up the hills after them, usually having to catch them again on the descent after the climb when everyone started bunching up again.

It held together until the flat section rolling to the bottom of the Alpe, the pace drifting off somewhat. But onward, and upward to hell!

Alpe d’Huez – Alt. 1880m

I’ll start by echoing the advise given to me by others.

The Alpe will be hot. It will be hard. You will suffer. And you will NOT go as fast as you have on other ascents up the Alpe.

Little did I know how much I’d suffer or how hot it would be. My initial plan for the day was the leave my timer on and not stop it. That way when I got to the Alpe with less than an hour to go before the 8:27 Gold cut off time, I’d take it easy and enjoy the finish. Not so. I rolled to the bottom with 7:10ish on the clock. This made me push through the food stop and along the short flatish part, exactly like I said I wouldn’t.

Immediately on the climb something became very apparently. People everywhere were suffering, and suffering badly. My fast pace made me look like I was going well as I past a load of people during the first 30 seconds, presumably as they were smart and had just come out of the food stop. I stopped passing people as we hit the steep section and I settle down somewhat. I do say somewhat as I still was pushing a little hard as I knew this was where I’d make up the most time due to my climbing style. So push I did.

The heat really became apparent when I took a drink somewhere along the road, a drink of warm water! And I do mean properly warm water. It was at this point I realised that if I kept my current pace, I’d burn off all the water I had well before I hit the first tap I knew off on the flat section near where the road forks at the top. This is where you should ALWAYS read the race book properly before hand. As we got to Huez, there was a water stop on the side of the road. For the first time of the day, a water bottle was emptied, filled, then thrown over my head. One of the ladies at the stop also poured a few glasses over my head before I filled the bottle back up and went on. Onward and upward with some lovely ice cold water. Or so I thought…

Within a few hundred meters, the water had heated back up in the bottles again, and I was almost bone dry. A litre of water over my head and I was dry within 5 minutes. I later found out that it was 39C at the bottom of the Alpe when we rolled on to it. Something that explains why everything was heating up so much.

The rest of the ascent, including another water stop at a waterfall at the side of the road, was just a case of push hard, but not too hard as too burn up. So two water stops, one pee stop. Not too bad.

The Last 2km

This will probably remain the hardest few minutes of my life for quite a while to come. And all because I didn’t read the race book properly. As any cyclist knows, there comes a point when you start doing some mental maths and realise you are tired because simple things are taking way way too long. For me, the mental maths started early in the day on the Glandon when I realised I was well up on the pace I was expecting. On the Alpe however, it became nearly constant. Always trying to multiply or divide something, seeing if I’d get that magically cut of time of 8:27. Rolling up at the bottom, I really felt confident. 75 minutes to do the ascent, one that had taken 61 previously. One I now knew I could push harder in certain sections.  Yes, I was quietly confident.

As the water stops rolled through it did begin to change, and I remember getting along the faux flat near the top, the section where the road forks. I was trying to work out how fast I needed to go compared to what I was doing. It was taking minutes to do the maths. More so, the ascent was to finish at 175.3km, not the 174.4km I had been planning. This could only mean that the ascent was longer, something that was confirmed at some corner with a nice sign telling me the summit was Xkm up.

The graph above is that of my speed along the Alpe d’Huez. I had realised it would be close. A matter of seconds to reach the time cut off for Gold. My HR was rising so I decided to click up and push harder. And harder and faster I went. Luckily the top started flattening out letting me continuing upping the pace.

I rounded the last corner and entered the gated area. All the time watching the precious seconds tick away. Then finally I crossed the line – hitting stop as I did. La Marmotte was done. I’d finished.

They say a picture says a thousand words. This says it all

4 Seconds

4 Seconds was what it came down to. The training, the suffering. All for 4 seconds. Yes I’d get my gold due to the Glandon descent being removed, but it wouldn’t be a real gold. All for 4 seconds. A quicker pee stop. A quicker water stop. Pushing through the roadwords on the Telegraphe quicker. Not breaking as hard during the Gliber descent. Pushing just that tiny bit harder on the ascent. Anything.

I was too sore to be annoyed. My back was stiff and I needed something to drink. Luckily there was a stand with more recovery drinks just over the line which helped.

After putting the bike in one of the stands, I lay down for a while. Resting. Trying to take in everything that had happened. Trying to understand how 4 seconds could influence everything. I think I was up the Alpe for around an hour and a half. Ate the food they gave us, got my cert and returned the timing chip. My friend Peter hadn’t arrived up so I decided to head on back to the house.

Success comes in strange things

Upon returning back, one of the first things I did was pull out the page with the time cut offs. Mainly I was trying to figure out if the cert said Gold or Silver. I honestly couldn’t remember which was which. But once I opened the page, I saw it. Cat C, 8:29. I had actually made it and not known it. I did what I had hoped for and earlier in the week doubted I could. I had made the real gold time.

The Aftermath

Right now it is just over a week after the event. On the day of the event I had publicly said that I didn’t think La Marmotte was as hard as everyone made it out to be. I still stand by this. My point being that the heat pays a monumental part how hard the day is going to be. Now for someone who doesn’t handle the heat well (i.e. me) to say this, something has to be up. Calorie wise, the Marmotte wasn’t much beyond the Wicklow 200 I had completed a few weeks before. And while it was definitely harder, much harder, La Marmotte wasn’t as truelly hard as I expected. Yes the heat made me suffer, but not as much as I did during an ascent of 3 Rock the week previously while training.

Maybe the event and its magical powers helped me feel it was easier, who knows. On the Sunday after it I went out for a training spin. For the first time in as long as I could remember, my muscles were still a bit sore and stiff. Cycling was also hard. The kind of hard I get when I don’t train for 3/4 days, except this time my heart rate was not going up. No matter how I pushed, my legs were giving out before it went up. Sprinting on a hill raised it to 158 but then my legs gave out and said no more. It was surreal. Honestly something I had never experienced before.

The following week I remained tired. But more just the kind of tired you get from lack of sleep than anything else. We hadn’t been sleeping properly during the week in France and it was starting to catch up with me. It finally hit home on the Saturday after when I didn’t get out of bed until 12:30. Part of this may also have been due to one of our neighbours having a party during the night and waking us up multiple times, but I still felt tired so I’m putting it down as a bit of both.

Would I do it again? Simple answer is it depends. I don’t think I’d just do La Marmotte by itself. If I was to go back, it’d be for La Grande Trophie, a series of events over the week. I know I’m strong enough for a Marmotte Gold so I’ve nothing left to prove in it.

Would I recommend it? Yes. Yes. Yes. It is an epic event on a scale like nothing I’ve seen. Make sure you can climb before you go. And bring a compact and a large rear cog (I had a 34×28 on my Cervelo) or else you will suffer. Apparently lots of people go over every year to do the event, see the hills then realise the event is insane, and then go home. One of the guys staying near us did this. He arrived over on a standard crankset with a 25 on the back and he did suffer some.  But once you have some real hill climbing experience, you’ll know what to expect and you’ll love it. Even if you are one of the people who spends 3 hours walking up the Alpe at the end of the day, you’ll still love it. Getting around is an achievement no matter how you do it.

My Stats

Distance: 175.25km
Time: 8:27:04
Stopped Time: 24:05
Avg Speed: 20.7km/h
Fastest Speed: 65.2km/h
Climb: +4557.4/-3565.1
Calories (PowerTap): 5889
Avg HR: 149

La Marmotte 2010 – The prologue week

The event draws near…

The realisation of what is to come starts to dawn…

Day 1 – Dublin to Bourg d’Oisans (via Geneva)

Flights at 12, day begins at 7am – because it is a Sunday and buses decide to be in frequent. I guess it is better than last trip where there were no buses. It was made slightly better as Burger King has a Double Cheese Burger, small fries, small drink for the grand low price of €3.50. At 10am, it becomes the breakfast of kings.

Things were continuing along their path of general goodness when we landed in Geneva. I was of two minds about the car however we ended up with a 5 door Toyota Auris. This meant no unpacking of the bikes to fit them into the car – seat folded down and away we went. AC too.

The landmark behind the house

5 minutes from the car park, things did start down hill when the GPS decided it didn’t know the road we were on. Even the main motor way was a different area. Quick food stop sorted it by reselecting the maps. I guess its a case of check PROPERLY before you go.

Food is where things started to fall down. We built up the bikes and went off to find a restaurant. Pizza and chips ordered – pizza arrived. After we finished the pizza, we reminded them about the chips only to be told, sorry forgot to put your chips order in, and the kitchen is closed. Can do desert. I guess they were saved by the Cart D’or ice cream. Very very nice.

Day 2 – Col du Glandon / Col De La Croix De Fer

Today started hungry and tired. Yesterdays mishap with food didn’t sit well. And it seems it gets ridiculously bright here ridiculously early. So all in all, not a good night.

Breakfast consisted of some corn flakes, scrambled eggs and orange juice. Not really the cycling feast we were preped for back in March at Vamos Cycling. (Those guys rock – should want a cycling holiday, look at them in Cadier Spain. Food was amazing as was the cycling.)

The cycle rolled out around 10 and continued down a long straight road until we start up the Col du Glandon. Being me, I really hadn’t spent all that much time studying the profile so the climb mostly worked out easier than expected. It goes up, down, up, down again, back up to the top. With breaks to re-group, it was handy enough.

The heart rate was one difference. First climb, I started by holding my pace to see how I was feeling, wait for the legs to start to burn a little. This stopped quickly about 200m along the road at the first corner. Looking at the Garmin, HR of 175, with no burn in the legs. Stopping at the first corner, we waited for around 30 seconds to re-group after maybe 1km of climbing. Strangely I hadn’t recovered, at all. It took another minute or two before I was back to normal. Immediately my pacing strategy changed to one based on HR, not power or perceived exertion.

Col du Glandon
The road a head becomes visible

While the climb itself was a near sustained 10%, it wasn’t physically hard per-say, it was the heat that caused the problems. Lots of constant sweating meaning lots of constant drinking, and lots of nuun.

I generally held my own which was nice, actually held my own all day. A Scottish guy who is staying the B&B did beat me up every hill but other than that only two other cyclists passed us. They were fairly milling it along too. Both in the drops working hard. Yes it doesn’t mean much but it is nice to be doing the passing. And yes it’ll be different on Saturday.

The descents were mostly ok however I need to look at my brakes. Rear isn’t working as well as it used to meaning I nearly cooked it on the second corner of the first descent. Loose rocks on the road too. Anyway it is better to relax during the descents and recover.

Overall a nice easy enough ride. Need to watch the water tomorrow. Think it was 3 and half bottles today however the mountain fountains are very cold and very nice.

Food – A nightmare begins

So it turns out no one here eats until 7pm. Yes we had a bit of after ride pasta but it was stressed that it isn’t lunch, and it wasn’t. Walking around the town, restaurants were open, just not serving food. Like honest. A trip to the supermarket resulted in some cans of coke, crisps and jellies. They helped but not enough.

Google came to the rescue in a way by finding a bigger supermarket. This gave us bread, ham and cheese for rolls. By now it was 7pm so off for a burger and chips, mixed tapas to start. However tie in that I normally eat regularly and this was no where close to regular, I didn’t finish the meal, something slightly worrying. Even now, a few hours later, my stomach still hurts a bit and my head hasn’t recovered. I’m also tired from the lack of sleep last night. Overall, the worse I’ve ever felt after a days cycling – last years Wicklow 200 included.

Tomorrow we have sorted some cereal and more bread to food after the ride. Hopefully sleep will work better tonight. And the restaurant we were at again tonight has a restricted food menu during the day. Only hours they don’t serve is 5:30 to 6:30 which I think we can work around.

Time will tell.

The morning shall be interesting.

Day 3 – Col du Telegraphe / Col du Galibier

Luckily today began in a slightly good way. Last night gave way to more sleeping, a bit with the waking 2-3 times for toilet breaks, but that is one of the side effects of drinking so much water. And honestly, I’d not change it. Waking up in the morning without sore legs, or stiff legs, or tired legs really is something.

The morning started downhill from there. My pre-existing stomach cramps / pains decided to make an appearance meaning I almost delayed us leaving in the van for the trip to the Galiber. Our drive took us along the route yesterday and up the Glandon. Strangely it seemed a lot harder in the van than it did from memory yesterday. The descent from the Glandon, well that is another story. While it looked a bit nuts while viewing the first bit, when we started driving it, the insanity hit home. Steep sweeping roads with no walls or barriers.

A photo doesn't do justice - it is a bit drop over that edge

The road from the descent to the Telegraphe, reported by many to be the hardest part of the event, is, well rolling. Ups and downs along the motorway. A group will be useful but pacing more so. Staying too hard along here and you will not recover on the Telegraphe.

Conversation in the van also alluded to how the day might work out position wise. The two new guys who joined us yesterday seemed fit – was is in the UK Navy. However just how fit became apparent when the conversation turned to Ironman events. It wasn’t a case of oh different people have done an Ironman, but just how many they had done. 6 to be exact, including Kona, and posting a time of 9:03 in one, enough to shock one of the other guys who had done 2 Ironman events.

Our day cycling day began in St Michel De Maurienne. Short 2km before we were on the Col de Telegraphe. I remembered some of it from the few ascents I did on the Tacx Trainer that I have. While it was months ago, we did remember there would be trees. Unfortunately, we did the climb between 12 and 1 and well, trees on the side of the road don’t help give shade when the sun is directly above you.

About 4km from the top, I had one of those moments. The times when your life looks like it may end. Luckily I was not in a coherent enough state to fully realise things but basically a truck decided to overtake me on one of the bends. He got the front of the truck up beside me when a jeep coming the other way came into view. This forced him to brake and start quickly moving to the side of the road. But this was a hill, so I wasn’t going fast, and I was at the side of the road. So yes, he started moving right towards me. Not something I ever want to repeat.

Climbing the Telegraphe got easier near the top too. Be this from it levelling out somewhat or the temperature dropping, I’m not sure but it went faster and felt easier.

A familiar sight from the turbo sessions

The descent to Valloire went well. Nice and relaxed, decent pace. Exactly how you want it. We did get slightly lost at the round a bout taking a few spins around before some more cyclists arrived to direct us along the right path.

Starting from 1400m, it really wasn’t all that hot on the Galiber. But this suited me. It was a few km up the road before I needed to start zipping up the top but I never felt cold. Keeping the pace steady is actually easy enough on hills like this as the grade stays constant.

My stomach did make a grumble about 6-8km in, not sure exactly where. But I took this to eat a bar. Out it came and then the grade dropped down to 4-5% for the duration of my eating before going back up to 9%. Honestly, couldn’t have planned it better. I did have to pop a gel further up the hill too, about 40-50 minutes later.

Climbing long climbs like this is strange however. I remember rolling by 10km to go and being like, yeh, getting there. Less than an hour to go. Then I remember rolling by 5km and thinking hey, only a few minutes ago I was going by 10km, but I also remember 9km which is strange.

2km to go was one of the first times I looked up to see where the road went. It took a few seconds to register but the tiny signs at the top became visible. Everyone else in the group actually made a similar comment too. You think you are nearing the top and then you see another 5 or 6 switchbacks. To top it off, the top 1km was closed off to cars due to snow / snow damage to the roads. Local council guys were up their sweeping some stuff from the road surface which was slippy stuff. Fully seated and the rear wheel lost grip at one occasion. I wasn’t the only one either.

That last 1km was the hardest of the lot too. I had stopped for a bit at the fence wondering what was happening before picking up my Gilet and arm warmers and going on up. Didn’t help the legs.

Altitude is a funny thing too. My HR was down. My power was down. My speed was down. My breathing was UP. And quite a bit. During the descent to Lautaret, I could feel the air getting heavier and my breathing getting better. Strange feeling.

Sitting at the hotel in Lautaret, dark clouds could be seen in the distance. Phil (our guide) said there was heavy rain in Bourg d’Oisans. I decided to push on and try miss as much of the rain as possible.

I knew something was up when it started to hurt my head through the
holes in the helmet. I really knew something was wrong when my spokes
started to make a pong noise every now and then. Stopping at road works
and looking down I saw the problem. Pea sized hail stones.

Now the profile from here to Bourg is mostly decent on just about every profile I’ve seen. The reality is that it isn’t a descent all the way. It levels off in places or sits at 1 and 2% which is up hill. Multiple sections were at 5 and 6% too. All told, it was bloody hard. To make matters worse, at one point it started raining. But heavy rain. I knew something was up when it started to hurt my head through the holes in the helmet. I really knew something was wrong when my spokes started to make a pong noise every now and then. Stopping at road works and looking down I saw the problem. Pea sized hail stones.

Pushing on because well what else was there. Luckily I guess it stopped and I started to dry out. Just as I was almost fully dry, it started to rain again. Once I was nice and wet, it again stopped. Again leaving enough time for me to dry out again. Then it decided to really open up. The last 15 minutes to Bourg were wet. Really wet. Similar to the Swords Sportive a few weeks ago wet. Even now, a few hours later, my shoes are still soaked. I ended being able to squeeze my gloves and watch water drip out.

Lets hope the weather on Saturday behaves itself…

Day 4 – Alpe d’Huez

Sometimes a picture say a thousand words...

Today was to be a run up the Alpe d’Huez. We all were of two minds as if we should go all out, or should we relax and enjoy the climb. As the graph above shows, I decided to hammer it.

First think to comment on, something the profile graphs miss, the start is meant to be 10% and then drop to 8% after about 1.5km. Well it doesn’t. It kicks up to 13% from what I saw on the Garmin. So me hammering it along the flats and up the hill a little really backfired for the first while. Took a good 10 minutes to feel settled on the hill.

Overall it isn’t too bad of a climb. Yet I say that while ranking today as the hardest day of the week so far. In the hour climb I took two gels and nearly finished both of my 800ml bottles. 1 had nuun and the other a High5 sachet which also had caffeine. While normally my High5 is great, the caffeine did not sit well causing my heart rate to go up everytime I drank some. Not something you want when you HR is sitting high already.

My time was 1 hour, 1 minute, 10 seconds. And I did try harder near the end to try push when I was nearing the hour mark. On the one hand I am slightly annoyed about the time, I did want to break the hour mark, on the other, it was a good time. (For reference, time started at the zebra crossing after the round a bout at the bottom, then stopped at the Arrive Sign beside the Tourist office and the top)

Alpe d'Huez finish

Edit: My time makes me the fastest Irishman who stayed with Tour d’Oisans.

Day 5 – Rest and Registration Day

Today looked like it was started good. I woke at 5am ish, which is the longest sleep I’d gotten so far. Thought I’d be able to get back asleep too until my stomach started at me. Ended up having to go downstairs and eat a bowl of cereal before it would pass. Really a case of not eating enough, and eating enough is strangely hard here in Bourg d’Oisans, a town for cyclists.

Due to the stomach parts, I opted not to go with the other guys out on the cycle they were doing. Had hoped I’d get out later in the day but it was around 12 by the time my stomach had cleared itself. The time was spent washing clothes and giving the bike a good look over, including replacing the rear brake pads. Descending the Alpe yesterday, I could smell the pads during the middle section until I started over taking the cars.

Registration took place at the top of the Alpe, and instead of driving up direct, we decided to head up via the Col de Sarenne and down to Alpe d’Huez. I won’t say much about this climb as it was done in a car except that it was almost as hard in a car as the Alpe was on a bike. It goes on and the road surface near the top isn’t the best. Then from the top to the Alpe, it has small sections of pavé in a deep V like section, used to channel the melt water from the mountain. Not something I’d like to cross on a bike.

As for the registration, it was surprisingly smooth. Not too big of a queue and what there was moved very quick. Once inside, we took a look at some of the merchandise available (I got a Marmotte Jersey and T-Shirt), then signed in by giving the form and medical cert in exchange for a bag. On the way out you scan the timing chip to ensure it is working and then you are done.

Day 6 – Recovery Day

A short spin, less than 15km with a small gentle uphill near the end, then back the same way. 30km Total. Or so they said.

I did my usual sit in to warm up for a few minutes then started some shortish, fast speed buildups. Then onto two larger sprints. One of them allowed me to set yet another Personal Best for power output, this time in the 30 second grouping (according to PowerAgent for my PowerTap). Below is one of the sprints. Small downhill allowing the speed to go up before a slight uphill. I built up the power and give the final push near the end of the cycle before relaxing out.

Power vs. Time for the sprint

There was also two or three high cadence drills before we turned a corner and started uphill on switchbacks. For those of you who have never climbed in big mountains, switchbacks mean steep. Immediately we were climbing at 10% leaving me slightly suffering due to the above output. Not fun. Lucky the climb only lasted about 5 minutes before we reached out stop point.

Stats for the Prep Week

10:04:10 of cycling time
22.3km/h average speed
9559 (PowerTap) Calories
5142.6m of climbing

Roll on to the day. Starting. Finishing. Celebrating.

M3 Sportive

The M3 Sportive was to be a 100km trip along the M3 road before it opened. Most likely being a very fast, very fun day working in pace lines. And things looked up right from the start with the amazingly quick turn around from applying on-line to getting the welcome back. Things really started looking up upon reading the welcome pack. A neutralised start, the usual broom wagon, and the first food stop at 7km! Yes, this was shaping up to be good event.

Along came the morning and with numbers of 1000 cyclists, then 1200 cyclists being floated, we determined heading a little early to the number collection point was in order. Don’t want to miss the start while queuing for the number. As it turned out there was no queue, and with 6 or 7 people doing the sign on, we had our packs and were out in less than five minutes. After sitting around being quite bored, we headed on down to the start area. And this is where it started to go downhill. Instead of being let in on the ramp at the start, we have to continue on up the road for 2km, go over a bridge, and return 2km back to the start. Annoying to say the least. Over the next hour of waiting, we started to notice a worrying pattern of cyclists arriving. Quite a few came along with tri bars and there were even 2 or 3 in full time trial gear, helmet and all. Events normally have rules against this kind of thing for a VERY good reason. The number of people with head phones in was also a little shocking.

The event progressed with the usual speeches and golf clapping (cyclists with gloves can’t really clap) before the timer started and we began slowing rolling through the toll plaza. However within a few seconds of going through, it became obvious that a neutralised start this was not. Gaps were already forming and I began sprinting to try bridge between groups. This was the order of the day for the first 5km when I started trying to make it through to the front group. Some guy decided sitting on my wheel was the best choice of action and after another 5km of not taking a turn, and me not being able to pull in the 20-30 seconds the group ahead had, I sat up, looked behind and waiting on the next group to roll up.

This group remaining slightly organised with a bit of a pace line going. You can’t expect too much from groups like this and it is always nice when things work smoothly. However this group was not working smoothly. Two guys were intent on shouting orders at everyone while not following them themselves. After a few km of this I got sick of it and decided to up the pace, burn off some of the stragglers and let whoever came through to come through. Instead, once I hit the front and upped the pace, one of the shouters began shouting at everyone who tried to come through to stop and get back in line, ended my attempt after a km or two.

With that attempt over, it was back in the pace line to conserve some energy and get to the 50km food stop and decide from there. However Mr Shouter seemed to have other plans. He didn’t stop shouting orders at people to pull in quicker, not let gaps form, and not go so fast on the front. This resulted in people getting to the front and then braking off all things. For those of you who have never ridden in a fast pace line, braking it the last thing you want to do. Slowing down can usually be handled by slowing pedalling down for a little bit, or if you need more, simply standing up and letting the wind do the trick. However with the guys getting to the front and braking, the group started to feel like an accordion, really destroying the mood.

And then it happened…

The Crash

For some unknown reason, someone near the front of the group slammed on the brakes, and I do mean slammed. We went from 35km/h to a near dead stop in a matter of metres. In my case, my wheel made contact with the quick reason of the bike in front. My Mavic Cosmic Carbones held up, possibly a little too well and the spoke held locking my wheel. This sent me over the handle bars some how onto the ground. I remember the sudden braking and trying to move out to the left to avoid things, the sound of spokes ponging, and then lying on my back trying to get up. Apparently my first words were “I took that on my head”.

We did all stand up and start getting ready to move again. At this point the damage to the bikes became noticeable. On my bike, the bar tap on the left side of stripped, a chunk from the bars, marks on the shifters with them bent around the bar. A slice mark on the right of the fork with two spokes on the wheel damaged. Some plastic was gone from the quick release too. However some work with a multi tool and a knife, and it was able to be ridden again. Not so for the guy in front. His wheel lost 8 spokes and the wheel wasn’t turning. But as was said, any crash you can walk away from it a good crash. And this kind of thing is part and parcel of cycling. What was annoying was that the group had just started to fragment, so another km or so and it’d probably have settled down.

I don’t blame the event or event organisers for the crash. How could you. What I do take issue with is what happened over the next two hours. It was 15 minutes before the first Marshall was seen – who didn’t even bother to stop. Next one did stop but said he’d call someone at the next stop. Another 20 minutes and a van rolls up but say can’t help, broom wagon is on the way. 15 more minutes another van, again unable to help, but broom wagon definitely behind. 1 hour 10 minutes after the crash, we started walking back. It was 5km down the road at the stop when we meet some more Marshall’s. These hadn’t seen a broom wagon and the organisers were arguing with them that they needed one. He did end up getting a lift with one of the Marshall’s in their personal car which was nice of them. While we were cycling back, we passed a few other broom wagon candidates who were walking and obviously had bitten off more than they could chew.

To top all that off, the food was crap. It consisted of water and some elevens bars. The end did had some sandwiches but no one was going near them as no one could tell what was in them. Oh and some biscuits but not great ones.

And this is why I held off writing this for two weeks. I wanted to somewhat calm down about the event. Sure if we’d have gone through without crashing, we’d never have known about the lack of a broom wagon. We’d have cycled more than we walked, and it’d probably just have been confined to an event that had some bad organising food wise and contained some idiot cyclists. Note to anyone ever organising an event, tri bars or anything similar to them should be BANNED. They are not safe.

Funnily too I heard that people on the other distance cycles also have some issues. For the 50km (55km?), someone had moved the sign saying it was the turn point letting a few of them continue on past it. We met a few of them while we were walking back. The 15km also had to stop at their turn point before heading back. And the pace actually slowed them down, a bit too much from what was said.

The lessons

The end of the day, some lessons were learned, so not all is lost. For one, I’ll probably not be taking part in one-off events ever again. The organisers really don’t have an incentive to do anything but cut corners. I did weight up saying I’d never go into the first round of an event but going on other experiences such as the Tour of Meath last year, I probably will. For reference the ToM was the first run and had some issues with the placement of the last food/water stop. It was about 10km further than it should of been. None of the Marshall’s close to it had been told either. However everyone we spoke to after, including the guys at it we very apologetic about it, and were very quick to explain that the mobile water truck had to be used to help with a crash that had happened earlier. Since we weren’t in the main group, I really can’t say anything bad about that. It was more than made up by the friendly nature of everyone there and the huge amount of food. Never had I eaten so well at an event!

The other lesson learnt it that next time I attempt to break up a group, say it to someone before attempting it. Two or possibly three people is enough to pick up the pace, create a few seconds gap, and basically burn off those who were struggling to begin with. While I would have been one of those burnt off last year (Edit: who am I kidding, I’d have been out the back long before this point), it is necessary to do this every now and then.

The conclusion

Almost a complete waste of a day. Really. It was a huge amount of money spent on an event that was badly organised. Yes it was for charity, but that does not excuse some of the things that went on. When your own Marshall’s are arguing with you, you know you have some issues.

Start to finish time of 3 hours 51 minutes on a distances of 51km cycled.