Cross

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I have a mixed relationship to cross. Some days I wonder why I do it and others I wonder how I could live without it. Since coming home from the Single Speed Worlds in Japan I have been tired, really tired. I have trained very little and rides for fun have been few and far between. There has been a load of personal issues thrown in on top too so that when I left for the Christmas racing period in Belgium I was a little stressed, in bad shape and not reeeeeaally in the mood. After a nice race in Namur though I became sick and had to skip Zolder and Diegem. This resulted in three days sitting on Pieter’s sofa, feeling sorry for myself and trying to figure out how I could host a Minecraft server on my mac so that my son Loke and I could play together across the continent.

This was the side of cross that sucks. I have moved heaven and earth to be here, made all kinds of sacrifices, my friends are putting me up (and putting up with me), helping out as much as they can, and it all results in me sitting fatly on the sofa wondering what I am doing with my life. I was falling into a dark place.

As could be expected I start to get better. A morning riding in the forest proves that I can once again both go outside AND ride a bike. So we head off to Loenhout for the Azencross. The whole time I am still kind of sceptical. If we get treated badly, sent to a shitty parking spot, it will all prove that cross sucks and I need to move on asap. But then after getting a nice carpark (we tried stealing Sven’s without luck), checking out the course during the Juniors and U23’s I head off for a warm up lap.

I head out of the start straight in a group of riders, among them former and current world champions, national champions, all wearing kits that I normally associate with the front of the race, and I am blown away by how magic it all feels. The course isn’t too muddy and I manage to stick with them for the first lap but the magic feeling doesn’t leave me, even though they are long gone. Perhaps cross isn’t so bad.

While we sit at the car waiting for the race to start a large group of 15 or so people come out of the property we are parked next to and become curious as to who we are. They ask many questions, are amazed that I am from New Zealand, ask for my race number, wish me good luck and tell me they will cheer for me. Ah, that was nice.

I am called up to the grid. The next name on the list is Lars Boom. I am standing on the grid next to a guy in Astana kit that rode ‘the Tour’, that doesn’t happen every day. I am warming up to this cross thing.

I have what I call a ‘lazy start’. This means I don’t kill myself in the sprint and count on taking people in the first few turns when they start making mistakes. This goes reasonably well, and through some solid riding, no mistakes, and a couple of nice bunny hops I collect some places. Feeling good.

The crowd is warming up, I have spotted the 15 people from the parking place and they are cheering as promised.

The course is fast and has more opportunities for jumping than any other I know, this brings a smile.

I can see from my lap times which are between 45 seconds to 1 minute off the leaders each lap that I only have a round or two more to race. Time to jump a little higher and maybe give some high 5’s. There is one group of guys, they were extremely vocal from the start, they have sooo made my day (plus they actually know my name) that I try to shout to them that they should come by the car for a beer after the race. They are shouting too loud to hear me. This creates a funny scene and the screaming increases in volume.

I finish pretty tired, but not too tired, closer to the back than the middle, but all things considered not too bad. Everything went as planned, there were no mistakes, I had lots of fun. Maybe I will stick with it for just a couple more races, to see if there really is something in this cross thing…

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An Update…

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As I clear away the cobwebs on this blog here is a quick wee update:

Part of the reason things have been quiet is that when I have done any writing it has ended up here – http://blog.brooksengland.com/wps/racing-cross-in-china-part-1/#more-15393

This is the story of my trip to China, part 2 should be released soon (it is written, I am just waiting for Brooks to publish it)

I had my first Danish cross race last weekend and this weekend marks the start of my Belgian season. For anyone that is interested, we (Bender and I), will be here on Saturday checking out Niels Alberts race and here on Sunday doing the legendary Koppenberg. As an interesting aside we will also be here from 1700 on Saturday watching the All Blacks wipe the floor with the Australians in the Rugby World Cup Final, it’s gonna be epic. I am hoping to convince these guys to join us🙂

RRP-5346

A mechanics advice to triathletes

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Triathletes, roadies don’t like them cause they don’t follow the ‘rules‘ and they are are the bane of bike mechanics cause they show up at the 11th hour before an event they have been training for months if not years for expecting you to be able to drop everything and service their bike for them by the afternoon. I myself have a bike with bars that point forward so I feel I am allowed to rip on them, though I would die before you caught me riding in compression socks.

Having just spent 9 hours sitting on the back of a motorcycle last Sunday tending to the needs of unfortunate and or ill prepared athletes at the Ironman Copenhagen I feel like I have some pearls of wisdom to share. 
 
Pearl #1 

Compression socks increase blood flow in your legs and help aid in recovery. When you are out killing it on an ironman course your legs are doing everything they can to move blood around your body, socks aren’t going to change anything. Plus it will help cut down on the roadie-hate. While we are at it, lose the white kit, there is only one person that can pull of the white kit look and they have these lovely little rainbow stripes on them. 
 
#2 

Test your equipment before you need to use it. I have tried this one myself. Do the valves on your spare tubes match your rims? Does the head on your CO2 pump fit your valves? Do you know how to change a tube? Did you choose fancy lightweight tyres or something a little more practical? Are you running latex tubes, and if not, why not? 
 
#3 

You have spent months training, thousands of kroner on a race entry, for gods sake why don’t you buy a new set of tyres before the race? (And put latex tubes in them) 
 
#4 

Aero bike, aero helmet, nice tight suit, good position, and sporting the ZZ Top look? Beards aren’t aero. Enough said. 
 
#5 

Position. So many people sitting badly on their bikes. It made me wince. Get help, you need it. Gitte, #106, get some tri bars, you are missing out on free speed, 2km/h over 180km is a whole lot of time. But to the one guy I saw riding a flat bar city bike with mud guards and a carrier on the back, respect, that shit was mad. 
 
#6 

If you are going to ride tubulars then for fucks sake learn how to glue/tape them on! And if you don’t know (which is a stupid idea, learn that shit) then get a shop that knows what they are doing to glue them on for you AND prep your spare tyre with a stretch and a round of glue. I saw some tyres holding on to the rim by what the danes would call a ‘pussy hair’ and then got replaced with an unglued tubular, made me wince, again. 
 
#7 

Once more, learn to change a tube. 
 
#8 

If you would like your bike checked before you race then I suggest you put as much effort into that as you have everything else and BOOK A TIME.

n+1

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Everyone who is semi-serious about bikes has probably heard of n+1. It is the formula for working out how many bikes you should own. n being the number of bikes that you currently have. So you get the picture, the collecting never ends. There is also another version of it called n-1, this time n equalling the number of bikes that you can own where it results in your partner leaving you. I think it is a funny way of looking at it, but too often I feel it is used to cover up the materialism that underlies our culture. People use it to laugh off having among their other bikes, six steel race bikes with period components that they have found at garage sales that just need a finishing touch before they are ready to be put on display. That is where I start to distance myself and ask ‘why?’, are you starting a private museum? I am guilty a bit too. I own an undisclosed number of bikes stashed in 3 different countries. I used to look for those bargains that the local paper sometimes coughed up. Not because I needed a mint condition Gios Torino or a Klein Quantum Race but because I saw them as beautiful steeds that I wanted in my stable. Until I started to notice how the bikes I had once lived for riding on, my Cinelli Supercorsa, Santa Cruz Bullit, now collected dust. They weren’t made for display, they were made to be ridden. And so my collecting stopped. I still have a couple of bikes that it is exceptionaly rare for me to ride, but I like to think that I use what I have and I have put n+1 behind me.

Well, that was until not long ago…

Loke got a BMX for christmas and after we got home from New Zealand we finally got a chance to take it out. Now if you ever thought an adults bmx looked small then wait until you see a 16″ one for a 7 year old. They are very cute. We went to the skate park in Fælledeparken, the second largest of its kind in Denmark. Part of motivating Loke however involved showing him things. There weren’t any other BMXers to be inspired by so I had to step up. Wow, it was a lot of fun! I kept telling myself ‘you don’t need another bike, you don’t need another bike’ but by the end of two days in the park I could see that it was inevitable. One of the joys (read: dangers) of working in the industry is that it rarely takes long to go from thought to action (complete bike). In This case, text to Travis at BMX Butikken, Sunday night, stop by the shop to talk about it Monday morning, and then this Monday evening

 

And no, it wasn’t a fun ride home with both this and Loke on my singlespeed.

My first day out riding was in this place

 

Port4130. Now I have done a lot of crazy things on bikes but it has been a very long time since I was this scared. There isn’t even a ‘nice’ way to get into this thing. For Andreas and I (the token rookies and evenings entertainment) we had to lower our bikes and slide in.

The rookie corner

The rookie corner

It is extremely intense and demanding riding. A lapse in concentration can cost you dearly and it pays to keep your runs short to avoid confusion. But wow what a feeling!! It is addictive and hard to stay away from, I want to go to the park more now than I do the forest. But for the next couple of weeks I can do neither. The story of how this new addiction lead to me breaking my arm, well that can wait for another day…

The advantages of being small…

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There are a few positive things about being the little fish in a big ocean when it comes to racing cross and one of them is getting to pick my sponsors. Ok, I am maybe making that sound a little more glamorous than it really is, but what I am getting at is that I choose who to contact first regarding doing a deal. So I start with the brands that I know and like to begin with and work my way down from there. If I am lucky I strike gold on the first attempt. This was case with Catlike. I have been using their helmets since we started selling them in Track Bike Shop. I liked the look and fit of them (good for small heads) So much so we had a batch of them made custom for the shop. I must admit they had some teething problems at the start with the retention systems at the back, but the service was always good and defects were quickly replaced. The Kompact Pro was such a favorite of mine that at last count I still have three of them kicking around (though two live in New Zealand).

My helmets and I have been some pretty good places

My helmets and I have been some pretty good places

So I was pretty stoked when their new helmet the Mixino showed up in the post. A better fit than the Kompact and the retention system has moved light years since the last time I bought a Catlike. I have been in helmet bliss since then and the Kompact Pro that I raced in last season has moved on to greener pastures (recycling depot).

My helmet was definitely looking better than me that day...

My helmet was definitely looking better than me that day…

Another thing I have been really glad for this season has been the Science In Sport energy products I have been using. Again I was a fan from way back and they were on the top of my list. I like the complexity of their recovery products and the thought that has been put into the ingredients. Ok, they still use Aspartame as a sweetener but you have to go pretty far to find a sports supplement that doesn’t. I like their recovery drink Rego so much that there have days where I have not been in the mood for finishing the workout where just the fact that another 15min of training will mean that I have ‘earned’ my right to have one. (based on the idea that extra protein is unnecessary after any training of less than an hour in duration) Their other hit with me is the Overnight slow release protein mix. For use again only during periods of intense training it also contains tryptophan which helps produce niacin and seritonin which in turn aids sleep. The irony often of many hard training sessions is that it can sometimes be even harder to sleep afterwards.

The shelf of goodness :D

The shelf of goodness😀

I’ll be looking forward to trying out their new mountain bike shoes this summer!!

The trip north

One of the things I love about road tripping in New Zealand is that you don’t have to necessarily commit yourself to anyone activity. In the ‘old’ days’ when I still lived here it wouldn’t be unheard of to leave home with a kayak and surfboard on the roof, and climbing gear in the trunk. Things have changed a little, I didn’t ride back then, but I most certainly do now. So when dad, Loke and I left Christchurch on a trip it was with 3 bikes and a surfboard. You never quite know what you will get up to😉

Our first stop was an area known just as ‘The Sounds’. This incorporates three sounds (a bit like a fiords) Queen Charlotte, Keneperu, and Pelorus. My dad has a summer house in Keneperu which (after a long and windy drive) offers amazing views, fishing, shellfish collecting, and amazing walks/runs.

The view from my bed

The view from my bed

It is a holiday after all...

It is a holiday after all…

One of the great walks of New Zealand, Queen Charlotte, goes almost past the back of his property. Whilst our fishing endeavors while we were there did not bear fruit, Loke and I had a great mussel collecting mission and besides we had bought lamb chops as a back-up. The trail running here is nothing short of epic. Not only are the forests, both flora and fauna (plants and animals) amazing but the terrain is quite challenging. Every time I run here I take photos as it always blows me away, but it is hard to capture quite how crazy it is on a picture.Dad and Loke hiked up to the highest point in the area and me not being one to say no to a challenge, after my usual rounds in Mistletoe bay, joined them at the lookout.

Trail running

Trail running

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The view from the top

The view from the top

The Queen Charlotte track is a pretty wide walking track but in recent years has been turned into dual use allowing mountain biking on it as well. When it was time for us to leave I took a bit of a head start and rode out on the track. It isn’t super challenging, but the scenery is stunning and the descents are looooong.

The way out

The way out

Our next stop was a bay called Kaiteriteri. The camping here is great, Loke always manages to make new friends and it has a Mtb park about 200m from the campground. Although I have ridden the park a few times before it did not happen this time. Instead I rode the Rameka track from the top of Takaka hill down into Golden Bay.This offers about 8 km of track constantly descending, first in native forest, then a little farmland, some pine forest, and at the bottom it just follows a river out to the flat. While the track is very ‘natural’ at the top once it emerges from the forest it becomes more designed. Some of the best riding is when it enters an area called Project Rameka, a private piece of land owned by mountain bikers, offering beautiful and well thought out singletrack. I will probably be repeating that sentence a few times here as I have yet to ride anything since then that ‘beautiful and well thought out’ does not aptly describe. The last time I was here the ride really ended after Project Rameka and you finished off rolling dirt road to get out. Now some lovely little trails have been put in, squeezed between the road and the river, that allow you to play all the way to the bitter end. 

The road into the trail

The road into the trail

It all starts here

It all starts here

Soooo nice!

Soooo nice!

The best riding was yet to come though. I had an ‘after work’ date with Dylan from Alton Street Cycles in Nelson, to go riding up the Maitai, a stones throw (short ride) from town. Due to my punctuality I just drove straight to the bottom of the trails. I ended up in what would be the 2nd car park as there were many others that had the same idea as us. F**k it was hot! Dylan was sweating buckets, from the heat I am sure, but the ride up was over surprisingly fast. I had requested ‘fast and flowing’ when asked what trails I would like to ride. We were two on single speeds and two on fullys, it seemed an appropriate choice, and boy was I not disappointed! Wow! I started with chasing Dylan which was good cause it pushed me harder than I had ridden until now. There is nothing quite like riding so close to the limit on trails that you are not familiar with, watching the local rider in front, reading his body language and reacting accordingly. When I led I could hear Dylan close behind on the descents, only losing distance when we had to climb a little and he used his gears. Beautiful beautiful trails, it was hard leaving there, next time I will simply have to stay a little longer in Nelson…

Mmmmm, summer…

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Our little adventure in New Zealand started in Christchurch. In spite of the devastation wreaked by two huge earthquakes there are loads of cool things happening here and it is still one of my favorite places. Christchurch also has some great riding to offer and this is but a sample…

Worsleys forest is a favourite of mine on the Port Hills and has had a ton of new trails put in since I was last there. Although I find that it isn’t super single speed friendly (well not with a 32×16 gearing anyhow) as it involves a pretty heavy climb followed by some rather fast descending. My adventures this time sent me off on trails that I could see were not dug with a rigid hard tail in mind, but were fun and challenging none the less.

Nice views to be had from Worsleys

Nice views to be had from Worsleys

Macleans island was a new one for me. There has been a bit of money sunken into about 10-14kms of trails out there but unless you are taking your kids out riding or like riding ‘singletrack’ on your road bike you won’t find it very challenging. I would even have trouble squeezing the word ‘fun’ into the description. Boring and monotonous would be better. On the good side it was a short drive from my dads and was very 32×18 friendly. Next time I might pop a 14t on the back though…

There was nothing worth taking a photo of at Macleans Island, so here is a random sign.

There was nothing worth taking a photo of at Macleans Island, so here is a random sign.

Haven Mtb Park, hidden way up a steep dirt road near Gebbies Pass, with almost no sign posting, nor instructions online on how to find it really is a hidden gem. Kelly was the only person I know that even knew it existed and I attribute that to her having had lived on the actual property until not long ago. So having met the guy behind it all at the pub, driven out there thinking I could find it, finding out I was wrong, finding out there is no mobile phone reception within 2km of the place, getting better instructions from two random guys out riding near it, I finally found the place. P.S. if you don’t have a 4WD then don’t even contemplate going all the way up the driveway. After you have passed these first tests then you have earned the right to sample some lovely little trails, 22km in all, that I think few others have tried. There has been done a lot of digging and trails have been carved, allowing you to climb and descend, on some very steep hillsides that would otherwise be impassable. There was good flow and variation in many of the places I went and it was well suited to my single gear. If I had one complaint it would have been that the one serious climb trail that there was had hairpin turns too tight for the longer turning circle of my Travers and it was impossible to ascend without putting a foot down. So if you are in the area then I seriously recommend going to the trouble of checking it out😉

A lot of work has been put in up here$

A lot of work has been put in up here$

The climb...

The climb…

The Worlds

The real blog post from the Worlds can be found here

A really nice write up and photos by my manager Pieter can be found here (in Dutch)(not the photos though)

This is a collection of some of the photos that didn’t make it to either😉

When in Tabor

When in Tabor

Camp Team New Zealand

Camp Team New Zealand

Lunch

Lunch (Kiwi ingenuity at it’s best)

Belgian Fans

Belgian Fans

Swiss Fans

Swiss Fans

Early morning fans

Early morning fans

They do it a little differently in the Czech Republic

They do it a little differently in the Czech Republic

A bit of U23 action

A bit of U23 action

Photo - Tom Prenen

Photo – Tom Prenen

Photo - Tom Prenen

Photo – Tom Prenen

Photo - Tom Prenen

Photo – Tom Prenen

Photo - Tom Prenen

Photo – Tom Prenen

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Souvenir

Souvenir

The road home...

The road home…

What a day!

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It has been a fantastic day of racing today at the Cross Worlds in Tabor. First Simon Andreassen killed it in the Juniors, to quote the American commentator, ‘it was almost a human rights violation’. Then came the most heavily contended women’s race I have ever seen. The crowd was good, not as crazy as I have seen, but maybe they are saving themselves for tomorrow. Then there was the commentator. He was in Hoogerheide last year too. That time I just appreciated being able to understand what was being said during the race and even be able to follow some of the action at the front. But today because I was watching I got to enjoy the barrage of cliches, similes, and metaphors that just streamed out of his mouth. Here are just a few:

‘Her face is looking like the bank just rang’

‘She’s keeping her powder dry’ – in response to a rider shouldering her bike a little earlier

‘He’s sliding all over the place like Jerry Lee Lewis’

‘This is almost a human rights violation’

‘She had a 5lb hammer and now she has gone in the shed for a 7lb hammer’

It was golden! I wish we had more of it in Europe.

Managed to squeeze in next to the Danish team in an overfilled carpark :)

Managed to squeeze in next to the Danish team in an overfilled carpark🙂

Team Malteni/Niner reaching new levels of professionalism

Team Malteni/Niner reaching new levels of professionalism

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CX hairs

CX hairs

Tomorrow bids a track with about 1cm of mud covering frozen ground. This means it will be very slidey with frozen ruts telling you where to go all the time. The forecast is for lots of crashes, with me trying to avoid having to change bikes cause I only have one set of mud tyres. If it snows it won’t be enough to change the game, just enough to be really annoying and make you wish you had glasses. If you are looking for predictions of who will win, my money is on someone in light blue or orange kit. The guy wearing black and white will be busy focussing on keeping the two in white with green and yellow stripes behind him😉

 

But why?

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Bender and I have just gotten back from a managers meeting in Tabor. There were a record 24 countries represented and I was proud to be one of them. First we were welcomed by the head of the race committee in Czech, which was then translated. After came a short stint in english and then we went on to the main part of the meeting, in French. French is the language of the UCI apparently and is seems that if you don’t speak it then that is your problem. Now I have been to enough of these meetings for this to not be the first time that I have encountered this problem. I would also say that World Cup manager meetings are quite standard and there is seldom anything new. This isn’t the case at the Worlds. They compensate for the unfortunate few that don’t follow by putting the main points in bullet form on a projector. This is how it goes:

On the projector:

  • Maximum tyre width 33mm
  • No spikes or studs allowed

What the dude says:

No frigging idea but he spoke for a whole minute about tyres alone (I think) He even paused a couple of times and scanned the room to see if everyone understood.

For the start of the race they seem to have strict guidelines for who can be on the start grid and what time they have to leave, but again I am a bit of a blank on that one too.

It is just frustrating and leaves you with a ‘you don’t belong here’ feeling…