Back again

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Normally when I put on my New Zealand kit I feel pretty invincible. Today the weather was amazing (24 degrees) we got there in good time, there was no reason for things not to just fall in to place. That was until I started riding…

I felt like I had a good start to the season, feeling pretty confident, some nice Danish races under my belt. But I had forgotten what races at this level are like. Not necessarily the level of competition but the actual courses, and Valkenburg is no exception. That shit is fucked up. After my first half lap I got to the ‘swiss traverse’ part of the course, where you zigzag across a pretty steep hillside. I stopped after the first zig and walked back to the pits for a more serious set of tyres. I couldn’t keep the bike underneath me to even try and make some attempt at actually riding it. It left me pausing for a moment wondering what I was even doing there. I am just hoping after a good nights sleep and another look at it tomorrow then things will click a little better. Sometimes when courses are this committing then it is hard to just ride them half, you have to go all out, that will be tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be crazy.

There have been some budget cuts at BikeNZ and we had to go for a less experienced pit crew...

There have been some budget cuts at BikeNZ and we had to go for a less experienced pit crew…

On the bright side I do think that I participated in cyclocross history today. On behalf on New Zealand I got to actually select a pit at the managers meeting. Normally we are just given what is left or mushed together with another small nation, but today I was asked. I hope the Germans and the Swiss, out pit neighbors, prove to be nice.

Having a crack at the mechanic thing (Loke ditched me for Pokemon films) I think I could get used to this...

Having a crack at the mechanic thing (Loke ditched me for Pokemon films) I think I could get used to this…

The long drive

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I don’t normal blog about the drive to a race, well that was until today. The last few times I have driven through Germany, the home of the Autobahn and limitless speed, it has felt more like driving in England or the mainland of Denmark. One truck in the slow lane and all the cars in the ‘passing’ lane. Now this didn’t feel like it lived up to what motoring south of the border should be like. In fact I recalled when Emma and I drove to Hoogerheide two years ago we knocked more than an hour off the GPS time to Amsterdam from Copenhagen.

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Hamburg

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Bremen

Now I realise that today Loke and I had a ridiculous number of pee stops. In fact at one point I asked Loke what had happened at the last pee stop when 10 minutes later he is pointing out rest stops to me on the gps in the dash. But today’s drive took 2 hours longer than originally predicted by the GPS. It was so bad that towards the end Loke started to countdown (after having already asked ‘how much further’ 64 times) the kilometres we had left, ‘179, 178, 177…’ This was followed, an hour later by him preening himself in the mirror, experimenting with different hairstyles. Needless to say I was relieved when shortly after he passed out for the remainder of the trip…

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Errrr, a little last minute…

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The car was booked 2 weeks ago, bikes have been organised, a place to stay, you name it. Well almost… Friday after work while I was getting changed I suddenly thought, ‘Have I told BikeNZ that I want to race?’

Fuuuuuck!!

2.4 minutes later mails were sent off to every email address I had with the subject line ‘PANIC!!’ Monday morning I get a mail telling me that they had registered me and this morning I was greeted by a mail with this in it:

We confirm you that the following rider has been registered for : Coupe du Monde Cyclo-cross / Cyclo-cross World Cup – Valkenburg (NED).

UCI Code         : NZL19760203
Family Name      : EDMOND
Given Name       : Angus
Category         : Men Elite – ME
Race Type        : Cyclo-cross – CRO (new)

‘Phew!!’

Now time to relax with a nice little video from last weekends most excellent race…

 

Fuck I am tired

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Today was the first UCI cyclocross on Danish soil for 14 years. It was hosted up in Helsingør (home of the Hamlet castle) by CK Kronborg. I must admit it was the most grandiose setting for a cross race that I have seen in Denmark and quite possibly anywhere for that matter. They really did do an amazing job on choosing the course. Aside from the beautiful backdrop the course was fast, hard and fun. No, hard and fun can come in the same sentence. Good steep climbs, fast packed single track through the forest, steep descents, and some evil stairs and barriers. It had everything it needed for a race of it’s level. Even though it was a UCI Cat 2 race, and had brought riders from Germany and Sweden, just the fact that it was in Denmark gave it a much more relaxed feeling with less of those pre-race nerves.

Being one of the few racers on the grid that has ever done a UCI race before put me in the front row, squeezed between Joachim Parbo and Kenneth Hansen, a formidable pair. Luckily I have sorted out my starts so that into the first turn I was in a now familiar 4th place. i continued to try and race tactically. Doing my own thing and trying not to get sucked into someone else’s game. This resulted in some good battles and helped distract me from how many laps I had to go. I lost a few places but I also gained a few, with streams of encouragement coming from the pit and out on the course, it felt like a really great race. I even managed to claw back a placing just a few hundred meters from the finish line.

Shooting the shit after the race

Shooting the shit after the race

All in all it was a great day and I hope that it is a sign of things to come, that more UCI races will be held here and that the sport will continue to grow as it has done in the last few years.

An important part of post race recovery

An important part of post race recovery

There is another race that we do up here every year. It is a Paris-Roubaix tribute race (ridden on the same day as the great race itself)  involving some interesting cobblestone sections. We usually ride home after it having gorged ourselves on post race pancakes. Christian and I thought it was a good idea to ride home today too. 48km later, one refueling stop at a kiosk, an attempted stop at the Coffee Collective (damn you winter opening hours!!) and I finally made it home with a very tired pair of legs. It was a stunning ride and I have no regrets though. I attribute the blood in my urine to the actual cross race and not the gentle ride along the coast…

Lovely...

Lovely…

Oh, and by the way, I came 7th…

The #Svenness is back!

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This is one of the things that I miss about the cross season, CXhairs‘ race analysis ‘#Svenness’. This one made me laugh out loud, I love it! I remember this race from last season, great course, nice mixture of speed, sand, and technique. But for me, without a pair of sunglasses, by the time I was finished I could barely see. The drive home was pretty interesting too and I was still getting sand out of my eyes a couple of days later…

 

Breaking News

Sorry, I didn’t know what else to call this post. It covers a bit of everything. To start with there will be no Hawaii this year.

hawaii-map

There are a few reasons behind this, the main one being money. I had a potential sponsor for the race drop pout because they too lacked to finances to back the venture, which I can totally understand, and though I vowed to continue onwards, in the end I just couldn’t justify it. There were other issues (like how much time I could take off work and how insanely long time it takes to get there) that didn’t help either. I am confident of qualifying again next year and I am glad to have just gotten a taste of the Xterra race series, so I am looking forward to next season and the possibility of trying all three of the Xterra Nordic races this time.

On the slightly more exciting side I have some sponsor updates. Sponsors, or the thought of having them can bring out envy in the best of people. the idea of being given free stuff, what’s not to like? Well lets start with the fact that things are seldom free, you might just get a really good price, or simply have to give it back at the end of the season, so the material gain is minimal. This is usually offset by the vast amount of money you spend getting to races. Then there is the emailing. I don’t like contacting people or companies where I don’t feel like there isn’t bit of a connection or that I really feel like I can offer them something. Also every mail is personal and written for each potential sponsor. So on top of trying to have a life, train and do stuff like maintain a blog, you sit and write to companies. More often than not you get a no, after a few no’s in a row you begin to wonder what you are doing. But every now and then the clouds part and you get a response in your inbox to the effect of ‘That sounds really interesting and we would like to talk more…’ Yesterday I had two such conversations. The first was with Brooks, a name most people interested in bikes know. They have been making leather saddles since almost before my ancestors landed in New Zealand (weird fact I know) and I have previously owned two of them. I received their new Cambrium C15 in the mail a few weeks ago for free as part of a product release. I was so excited about how it rode that I promptly wrote Bregan from Brooks (my silent saddle benefactor) and told him that if they were interested in sending me another then I would ride the coming cross season on them. I thought it could be fun. He loved the idea and very quickly one thing led to another. I am now going to be a guest writer on Brooks’ blog once a month, they will be helping me get to more races, and of course there will be Cambriums all round for my bikes :)

I was so stoked after talking to Bregan I decided to get a hold of Seamus from Synergi Sport. When I first started triathlon (many moons ago) Seamus’ advice on pacing myself, nutrition, and other small tips were very influential on me. As late as two weeks ago in the hills of Yorkshire as I focused on my own pace and not on that of the rider (or walker in this case) in front of or behind me I remembered his words. Anyway, he also happens to be the distributor of Catlike, who happen to be one of the only helmets that I like the fit of. They have also started a new line of Mtb shoes which I hope will agree with my feet as much as their helmet does with my head.

Now all I need to do is strike a deal with a trainer/coach and we should be looking at a pretty good season coming up!!

JC Cycle Club Post Cup, Round 1

I only managed one race in Denmark all of last season. Ironically it was this one. Hosted my my own club and within the city limits of Copenhagen it is a little hard to say no to. Also because it is so local I can race on a weekend where I have Loke, though he was more interested in roasting marshmallows than watching his old man race. The course makes excellent use of a small city park with a tiny hill in it. In spite of it’s size it offers lots of fast gravel, some nice boggy grass, the afore mentioned hill and this year included a really nice sand pit. When I say really nice I mean unrideable. Another difference with the race this year was a little more order at the start. Last year there was no attempt by officials to ‘sort’ people out at the start which left me mashed towards the middle of the grid behind guys that I technically wasn’t even racing against in my class. A much more discrete change too was a move on my part to Shimano pedals. This might make you think, ‘Aaaaand…?’ but wait. 95% of all cyclocrossers in Belgium and Holland race on Shimano pedals and it has taken me a long time (a season) to come around to them. Since my days of messengering I have been a firm supporter of Look pedals. Reliable, great entry and release and bearings that last forever. But I had some niggly problems with them last season that left me wondering if a change in allegiances wasn’t in order. I won’t give my nice new shiny pedals 100% of the credit but I lay in fourth place at the first turn after the first straight which was an unprecedentedly good start for me. (starts have never been my forte)

So now that I was in the front group of five riders I got to try something else that was quite foreign to me. I stayed there. With the exception of a handful of races, much of my cyclocross career has been spent riding on my own. So not only getting to sit in a group and ride, but to sit in the front group, was a rare pleasure.

(proof that I was up there, skip to 1:42)

I probably would have stayed there too had there not been a change at the front and suddenly for a lap or two the pace picked up beyond my expectations and I was dropped. Fortunately I managed to dig in and hold my position to finish fourth (I was 17th last year) giving me one of my best ever finishes on Danish soil.

Not all tents at cyclocross races flow with beer like the do in Belgium, but we are working on it...

Not all tents at cyclocross races flow with beer like they do in Belgium, but we are working on it… Photo – Stefan Lezuic

Another rider added to the Malteni ranks

Another rider added to the Malteni ranks

The Start. Photo - Stefan Lezuic

The Start. Photo – Stefan Lezuic

Photo - Christian Berg

Photo – Christian Berg

Photo - Christian Berg

Photo – Christian Berg

The sand. Photo Thomas Nyhus

The sand. Photo – Thomas Nyhus

Photo - Thomas Nyhus

Photo – Thomas Nyhus

When you are in a jam you will take any babysitter you can get ;)

When you are in a jam you will take any babysitter you can get ;)

3 Peaks

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The 3 Peaks cyclocross race in Yorkshire is in it’s 52nd year and is heralded as he hardest of it’s kind in the world. It is one of those races that are often talked about with reverence, many are curious to find out if you have tried it, but few have done so themselves. This year would be my first.

 

The countryside really is quite lovely in Yorkshire

The countryside really is quite lovely in Yorkshire

I had co-ordinated with Alexandre from Malteni and Clemént Shovel that they would pick me up at Gatwick Airport (They had driven from France) and we would head north to the Yorkshire Peaks District. I had persuaded them to leave a day earlier than they usually do (it would be their third race) so we could at least enjoy being up there a little longer and give us more time to explore the area.

This was an attempt at exploring the local offerings on the coffee front. Next year I will be bringing my own...

This was an attempt at exploring the local offerings on the coffee front. Next year I will be bringing my own… Photo – Alexandre

The area was stunning, a cyclocrossers dream. There are ancient footpaths crisscrossing the landscape in every direction giving unparalleled access to off-road riding (for the most part bikes are allowed). Luckily Clem and Alex had a reasonably good knowledge of the area and when they didn’t know where exactly we were were happy to ad lib it as long as an adventure was to be had.

The road to nowhere

The road to nowhere

We also took a little time to check out the parts of the course that we were allowed to ride on, the famous and ominous ‘Peaks’ of the race looming above us. Just standing at the bottom of one of them it was hard to imagine having not only to climb it but two more just like it.

Checking out the course gave us some time to take in some of the sights that we would otherwise be too busy to notice

Checking out the course gave us some time to take in some of the sights that we would otherwise be too busy to notice

I could see from the beginning that 3Peaks isn’t a race you just ‘show up’ and pull out a good result (unless you have a team of helpers behind you). Not so much the fact that you need to know the course itself but you need to know what you are up against. Only one water depot for example. Both Clem and Alex had drink systems on their backs. I had chosen bottles on the frame (and had only bought one) not the best of plans especially given how much time the bike spends on your shoulder. Tyres need to be extremely durable and preferably brand new. Me choosing not to change out the worn Kenda’s on Milton’s wheels for something a little fresher proved to be a very bad idea. Freeride/hybrid shoes, made for walking in, not carbon soled race shoes. Running tubeless would have been a good idea too. These are all things that in hindsight could have changed my race and my result. As it was the race was very educational and I have gotten even faster at changing tubes, and become less squeamish about the combined smell of swamp and animal feces than i was before.

Nope, no coffee here...

Nope, no coffee here…

The race starts with a 4 mile master start. The Master car pulling off just before the beginning of the first climb. The first section is quite rideable and it isn’t until you get really close to the bottom of the hill that it is time to dismount and start walking. If you have only ever seen one photo from the 3 Peaks race then it is quite possibly of this first hill. It is ridiculously steep and the trail basically just follows an old stone wall going straight up. Any line up is permitted but should you choose to stick close to the wall then you will be placing your feet in foot steps worn in the hillside by 52 years of madmen throwing themselves up the slope, bikes on their shoulders. I got a little nostalgic at this point. It helped distract me from the number of places I had already lost in the first few hundred meters of the climb by nimbler more enthusiastic racers. I had decided from the beginning to do my own race. Find a pace that I could climb at and stick to it, not getting distracted by what others were doing. This started to pay off already on the 2nd half of the climb as I quietly plodded past some of the more over enthusiastic of my competitors.

The first climb. Photo - Alexandre

The first climb. Photo – Alexandre

The descent, once I got some of the rockier sections out of the way and the first puncture of the day, was off the hook! I had soooo much fun! The Shimano hydraulic disc brakes on the bike allowed me to ride so much faster and more recklessly than I otherwise would have and I just had a blast blowing down the hill. I already began to see the attraction of this race and why it brings riders back year after year.

Cutting across the countryside

Cutting across the countryside. Photo – Unknown

The next climb was quite different, with stone steps laid in the hillside the choice of line was more obvious. In fact the stony nature of the climb gave an idea of what the descent would also be like. A thing I had really started to notice was the fact that these trails had been made by and for walkers. This often meant that we were met by the most ridiculous stone gardens filled with sharp rocks all pointing up towards us, it was a truly inhospitable environment. A good portion of it was more of those stone steps, horrible things to ride on. This is where a little previous experience came in with other riders choosing quite different lines, careering down the hillside, cutting their own path through the grass. At least I made it down without any flats this time.

The end of the 2nd descent

The end of the 2nd descent. Photo – Grit.cx

Another one of those bits that went up… Photo - Richard Ellis

Another one of those bits that went up… Photo – Richard Ellis

The final peak and the only one I really know the name of, Pen y gent, would prove to be my undoing. The climb went well. Again a steady pace proving to be the way forward. Note that on this hill the path down is the same as the path up so we would get to see the first riders as they made their descents (a loooong way in front of us) I made it to the top in 33rd place, a nice recovery after my first puncture that moved me from 28th position at the top of the first climb to 59th by the bottom of the same hill. This is where it all started to go sideways. I had only bought one tube and one co2 cartridge with me so my 2nd puncture didn’t go down too well. I was saved by a lovely man on his way up giving me both a spare tube and a pump. This held for about 20m more down the hill before flatting. By this time I was a little beyond frustrated but luckily I ran into Clem who provided me with both a pump and a another tube. It was while changing this that I realized that I had torn a rather large hole in the side of the tyre. (Sorry Milton but your wheels won’t be coming back with any tires on them :/ ) Thank god for gels! Having quickly sucked back on a GU sachet I soon had a tyre patch and could continue down the hill. Dan Treby had just ridden past on his single speed and I saw this as a good opportunity to give chase. I had to bomb it down to catch him, probably going a little faster than was sensible, this, with about 500m to go till the bottom, resulted in my 4th and final puncture. I gave up on the idea of changing any more tubes at this stage, just threw the bike up on my shoulder, and proceeded to run the rest of the way down the hill. I thought that the end of the race was at the bottom, so once I hit the asphalt I just kept running. A nice man ran up beside me offering me a tube, I asked him how far it was to the finish, and when he said about 3 miles i decided that my first plan probably wasn’t the best and stopped. At this point Jon Clay made an appearance with the bike he had bought as Dan’s spare offering me it to ride to the finish on. I have never been so grateful to see a Singular before, albeit with a rather low gearing on it.

Yeah, we are smiling, now...

Yeah, we are smiling, now…

And so ended my first ever 3 Peaks experience. A crazy race covering quite improbable ground, with a strange combination of self supported riders carrying everything that they need with them to those that have bough support crews, dotted across the landscape with spare bikes, wheels, drinks, you name it, helping their riders along the way. DEFINATELY going back next year, who is with me?

Belgians, they are every where...

Belgians, they are every where… Photo – Russell Ellis

While you were sleeping

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Because I am so behind in my blogging I never got the chance to say that I was going to China. Bender and I got invited to come on an all expenses paid trip to race the Qiansen Trophy C1 cyclocross race, in Yanqing, just outside of Beijing. I managed to break my arm 3 weeks before our flight left and almost ruined it, but thanks to a little luck I had my cast removed the day before we left and it all worked out. Well almost all. I was naive enough to think that after not having moved my arm in 3 weeks I would be able to do things like go swimming the day I got the cast off. In fact the first few days of having no cast was worse than having one on. If it had not been for Emma’s help with my apartment I never would have made it out the door to the airport in time. The other challenge was that Niner had been short changed on build kits for their new BSB frames (another detail, I am now riding for Niner) and I had to order all the parts for an Ultegra Di2 build from 3 different distributors, borrow wheels from my boss, and first build the bike once we got to China. No worries.

State of the art electronic 9 speed bike!

State of the art electronic 9 speed bike!

Once we landed in Beijing we were picked up at the airport and transported to the hotel we would be spending the next few days in. It was in Yanqing, 2hrs from the airport, just a 10 min ride to the mountains and 25km from the Great Wall.

Not a bad place for a hotel

Not a bad place for a hotel

One of the things I loved the most about the coming week was not so much what happened but who it happened with. Elite sport can be pretty snobby and there is not much mingling that goes on at events, but luckily here we had a much more mixed bunch than the usual faces that crowd the podium. Many of them had not seen a race of a higher level than a C1 and thankfully few objected to a beer or wine with dinner which made for some good nights over the next week.

The course was a 10min ride from the hotel (a bit longer if you are Swiss and like riding into road barriers) and was in the middle of what is to be a pretty amazing bike park and recreation area. It was fast and bumpy, which my newly freed arm just loved. Over the course of the next three days I only rode one lap each day. It was too painful to do more. I concentrated on seeing the surrounding areas by bike and doing a little shopping with Bender. The countryside was spectacular but unfortunately riding into the hills does not provide you quite with the view that you expect.

Exploring the area

Exploring the area

The view from the top. No, those aren't clouds...

The view from the top. No, those aren’t clouds…

If you rode far enough then you could get away from it all...

If you rode far enough then you could get away from it all…

The organizers were kind enough to arrange a little culture for us, the day before the race, in the form of a trip to the Great Wall. I of course had to see how far I could get in the time that we had while making the climbs up, some of the insanely steep slopes that the Wall went over, look like child’s play for the suffering Chinese tourists.

The extent of my touristyness

The extent of my touristyness

It really was quite stunning

It really was quite stunning

Selfie heaven

Selfie heaven

Great Wall finisher medals

Great Wall finisher medals

Race day. It was nice gutting to go through the motions of doing a race but not really having to care about it. My plan was to do a lap and then pull out. I was certain the pain would make it unbearable to do more than that and I wasn’t in the mood for DFL.

Team tent

Team tent

New sock sponsor :)

New sock sponsor :) Dirty Sox

Of course once my pulse got up and I found that I wasn’t in last place by the end of the first lap my dignity wouldn’t allow me to just pull out so I kept going. Slowly one lap became two and then three and so on. I actually started to gain places rather than lose them. This did lead me to wonder what the people I was passing were even doing there, but hey.

Post race debrief (I had run out of Malteni's)

Post race debrief (I had run out of Malteni’s)

In the end an ok 45th out of 61, time to celebrate with a little rice wine liquor :)

This will get you in trouble, especially when the Latvians are involved...

This shit will get you in trouble, especially when the Latvians are involved… (or your name is Scott and you are sitting in the back of the bus trying to impress older women)

When not racing, then there must be shopping to be done!

Yes, they are everywhere!!

Yes, they are everywhere!!

Gutted I didn't get one of these for Pieter

Gutted I didn’t get one of these for Pieter

Lunch?

Lunch?

No, this is not in a pet store

No, this is not in a pet store

Tempting?

Tempting? (Stolen from Bender)

Aside from the cross race we were also invited to ‘lead’ an amateur race in a city about a 5 hour drive from where we were currently staying. The bus drive was long but thankfully not uneventful. Chinese motorways will keep you on your toes, and if they don’t succeeding that then the bus driver passing cars using the emergency lane on the far right while doing about 125km/h certainly will.

????

???? (Bender)

Could not get enough of the signage in China, this time above a urinal at a roadside stop (Bender)

Could not get enough of the signage in China, this time above a urinal at a roadside stop (Bender)

Awaiting us was a 5 star hotel!!!

(Bender)

(Bender)

This place left pretty much everyone wandering around with eyes like saucers :) Oh the buffet!! But we had business to get on with…

The Niner got slick.

The Niner got slick. (Bender)

The road race was pretty interesting. It was an unlicensed race (which I had kinda sworn off) that we were to just supposed join in on.

I saw a couple of Dutch national kits too, just with Chinese text on them… (Bender)

Check out the Dutch national kit in the background, just with Chinese text on it… (Bender)

It was only 60km, where the first 50 were on a 3 lane motorway that was closed down for our benefit. I had no idea how I did (there were no results for us) but it was an experience getting to have that much road to ourselves, and boy do the Chinese like to attack, they just aren’t very good at following up on it. It was a bit like a criterium, just in a straight line.

This marked the end of our trip. Well not quite, we had one more dinner, more rice wine liquor.

The French Canadians… It's 57%

The French Canadians… It’s 57% (Bender)

This time ending in a night in Beijing with the Swiss that I don’t quite remember and Bender and I spending the entire of our last day in China sleeping it off.

This bit I remember

This bit I remember (Bender)

Don’t worry, we totally plan on having another crack at it next year, though maybe with the omission of the last night…

 

 

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