Mountain Bike Shenanigans

Highs and Lows of International Travel
July 30th, 2006

I’m in a rather lovely hotel just off Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. Yesterday I hopped off the subway just north of the river and walked up Main Street through the MIT campus and onwards into Harvard. What a contrast between the two University campuses. Both like Manchester are very much integrated into the urban area, but there are vastly more big name chains and shops integrated into them. MIT has many ultra modern buildings, whilst Harvard seems to have many more that share the classical architecture that the older Oxbridge colleges offer.

After a bit of wandering I managed to find the hotel and after checking, I headed back out into the sweaty night iand wound up in a top bar called Grendel’s Den. This little gaff served the local beer, Sam Adams, and some too sweet for my palate stuff called Magic Hat #9 from Vermont. Factor in some top food outside on the terrace and live music from a band just sitting on park benches playing to folk on a humid, warm summer evening and it was a great way to spend the evening.

Of course actually getting here was rather more complicated. I recognise in the wake of 9/11 that they Americans are rather more security conscious but… The UK side of things was fairly normally. Getting frisked before boarding doesn’t seem that unnatural anymore. Having to give index finger fingerprints and have a digital photo taken at the passport control in Philly did feel like a bit of an invasion. From landing to getting to my connecting flight (which involved getting through passport control and then customs) took an hour and a half of standing in big old queues. I know it took exactly this long because I only just made it onto the plane. They literally shut the door behind me and started taxiing off.

Perhaps predictably my luggage (which I intrusted to an Ice Cube lookalike at baggage re-check-in in Philadelphia) still hasn’t arrived. The fact that the luggage carousel wasn’t working and everything was being stacked into a fairly big heap pehaps wasn’t a good sign. That it’s current whereabouts isn’t exactly clear is a fact that didn’t go down to well with me when I enquired at reception a few minutes ago. It might turn up today. If I’m lucky… I literally have what I am wearing – an issue that can be sorted with a trip to Gap or some other store shortly. My concern is what else is in my suitcase – namely all my stuff for the conference and the power adaptor for this laptop. Arse.

Going Stateside
July 28th, 2006

Right then. This time tomorrow I’ll be in Boston, Massachusetts. A week of work and a little bit of time to check out what New England has to offer. Of course there’ll be a visit to Independent Fabrication whilst I’m in town and hopefully an opportunity to do a little bit of riding too.

Looks like there’ll be an answer on the Floyd Landis case by the time I get back too. As has been discussed elsewhere, who’s to say that Floyd doesn’t have above average testosterone? Maybe in this one instance he did, but it seems unlikely. If he had a naturally high level of Testosterone, surely this would have been picked up a lot earlier in his professional career? As Armstrong was always very clear to say, he was like a pin-cushion with all the tests he was having to take.

It may be that there has been some lifestyle change that has led to a recent increase, or maybe this year the UCI have lowered the threshold value. I sincerely hope that there is no foul play involved, but at the moment I can’t see how his body would suddenly produce a significant increase that has led to this positive test. I guess the world will find out soon enough. Keep an eye on cyclingnews for more news.

Finally there’s this. Maybe something to add to the to do list:

From: Tom Purvis of greatdividerace.blogspot.com
Subject: Great Divide race ends with only one finisher

The grueling Great Divide solo, self-supported mountain-bike race, run on 2,490 miles of trails that dissect the United States from Banff, Alberta, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, ended last week with only one finisher. Matthew Lee finished in 17 days, 22 hours, 30 minutes, just missing Mike Curiak’s record, which still stands at 16d 00h 57m.

Lee encountered lots of rainy weather and had a couple of key mechanical problems, otherwise he might very well have beaten the record. Matthew won the race last year in 19d 04h 17m.

In all, eight riders started the 2006 Great Divide Race. The next closest finisher, John Nobile, made it as far as Steamboat Springs, CO July 5 before dropping out. Kenny Maldonado made it to Rawlins, WY. on July 16th when he too stopped.

Good work by Matt Lee. If he’d had a more reliable bike, it looks like he’d have broken Mike Curiak’s record. I don’t agree with some of the riders trying to do the route by getting back to the ‘roots’. They weren’t trying to ride the GDR on bikes in the 1800s. They were too busy trying not to get killed by lots of nasty North American predators to be buggering about in the mountains on bikes. Mountain Bikes these days are the product of various cycles of design, testing and development which has actually let to all kinds of wonderful technological advances like cycling shoes and clipless pedals. When a custom frame builder tries to ignore all of this you have to think that they’re a bit off the wall.

Euro Road Trip Report 4
July 24th, 2006

The final selection of photos from the Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route trip with Ride the Alps are now up on the site. I also set up a Flickr group for the trip so you can see the photos from the other members of the group. Check it out.

Yours truly on the Fluealp Moraine Trail.

I like the sound of this. It appeals along similar lines as the trip across France to Luzern did. Not quite sure if I’ll ever be in a position to do what Mark, Ruth and a pair of Pompinos did:

It’s a dull day in the office. It’s winter. In London. I haven’t been out on the mountain bike for months. The only redeeming feature of sitting here with no work to do is having Internet access. Since finding Singletrackworld.com nearly 3 years ago I think I have spent more time in the forum than I have asleep. But even the flood of junk that appears there can’t make today seem any more interesting.

I decided late last year that following our partial move away from Landaan back to my home county of Worcestershire that I would eventually leave my salaried job and go self employed. At the same time, Ruth and I could take the opportunity to go on a trip. A long one. One that stretched from one end of the summer to the other. And it was going to involve bikes.

Most people who come and read this blog will have got here either through a link at STW or by following a link I will have emailed you which makes you either a cyclist of some sort, related to me, or fully versed of my cycle addiction problem.

The plan was to ride the length of the Danube but the obvious topographical predictability of riding along a big river’s flood plain and the fact that most of Germany try and do it each year lead us to change our plan into something a little more adventurous.

Our itinerary is not over planned as the unknown will be as important as the trip, but the gernal plan is to ride along northern Spain, down the French side of the Pyrenees, across into Provence and then northern Italy. From here we will either turn left up through teh Alps and Bavaria back to northern Europe, or south down through Tuscany and into the Mezzogiorno of Italy. When we work it out, you will be the first to know…

Finally, just to add a little quirkiness we are going to be doing it with hardly any gear. R and I always travelled light anyway, but one thing I have no intention of doing is dragging a bike laden with bar bags, low riders, rear panniers and rack packs, weighing 100lbs up a col or mountain pass. So we are only taking bar and saddle bags. For the technical junkies around the first few weeks of this blog will bore for Britain about the gear we are taking. R will almost certainly write something more interesting a little later. Once we are on the road of course, it will be much more of a journal and a photograph repository.

Oh, and the bikes only have one gear. Each.

We like a challenge.

24/12
July 24th, 2006

Five riders: Cris, Paul, Phil, Tyrrell & Gilly, the latter two of whom had never raced mountain bikes let alone raced a 24hr event. One goal: To finish the first ever Bontrager 24/12 event as a mixed fun team. The result: 2nd place in class (finishing just minutes behind the 1st place team too) with 30 laps. If we’d entered in the mixed team category we’d have placed in the top three too. Everyone’s really pleased and it was a good course and event.

First lap sprint - photo by Simon Barnes

The Indy and me lovin’ the tech. First Lap photo from Simon Barnes.

It wasn’t without glitches. When there was a water pressure problem in the night and I ended up drinking beer (it was a tough call) rather than waiting in line for people to fill 100 litre containers, there were sensitive sleepers sleeping in the noisy campsite (why?) and part of the course ran over a former landfill site, as a consequence there was a lot of glass on the woodbark covered trails (fortunately we only had one puncture as a team all race).

During Gilly’s second lap the heavens opened, with a 30 minute cloud burst which turned a technical course into a sliptastic mudfest. The course spent the rest of the event drying out and it didn’t take long for those people with the right tyres on to be able to ride the whole course again. By noonon Sunday the rain plus hundreds of riders taking the same lines had probably actually improved the course in some places, ironing out the tractor treads and bumps in the sun baked clay fields, it might have been faster, but I think my legs were a bit too tired to make the most of it.

Landis won the Tour. I haven’t really followed the event this year what with being away for two weeks and being really busy before that. With the scandal and all it’s fairly amazing the race went on. I suppose there will be a lot of European people wondering how in the vacuum left by Armstrong it has fallen to another talented American to win the most prestigious bike race in the World. Meanwile Ullrich and Sevilla are a bit miffed about being booted out of T Mobile…

Update

My handful of photos from the race are up here. My photography skills seem to have gone out of the window this weekend so most of them were pretty crap. Fortunately we had a residential camerameister in the team. Ace shots courtesy of Chilly (and Imogen) are over at Giant Pygmy.

We’re in. Better start training…
July 21st, 2006

Congratulations! Your lottery entry to ride The Cape Epic 2007 was successful.

Kind Regards
The Cape Epic Team

The race is the largest full-service mountain bike stage race in the world. The Epic, presented by adidas, will kick off for the fourth time on 24 March 2007 in Knysna and lead over 900 mountain bikers from across the globe through the magnificent scenery of the Western Cape. Finishers will have to ride more than 900 gruelling kilometres and climb some 16000 vertical metres during their adventurous eight-day journey ending on 31 March 2007 at the Cape Winelands just outside Cape Town.

IMBA: Long Live Long Rides