HMS Turbulent – Heston Blumenthal

I’m feeling a little worried about comments made about me on the Heston Blumenthals “Mission Impossible – HMS Turbulent” diet reworking thing on the telly tonight. So far we’ve heard about

  ‘…weaning the sailors off their love of Stodge’


 ‘…they have a love of fatty Stodge’

Finally he admitted he was

‘trying to break the sub-marriners love affair with Stodge’

Summer hasn’t gone yet!

After a weeks rest I was desperate to get back on the bike. My back and glut were still a little sore, but I thought a little gentle recreational riding would do them good (not so, by the way). With friends up for the weekend, 5 kids under the age of 10 to entertain, and a great weather forecast it was bikes, scuffed knees, elbows and lots of sweet stops to keep them going.

We had two under 4’s on seats, a 5 year old, an 8 year old and a 10 year old on bikes and, of course, a few mums and dads itching to get out and play on Cannock Chase which was in perfect condition: leaves starting to change colour, blue skies and dusty, dry trails.

5yr old !On Saturday after entertaining the children around the Stepping Stones, the mum’s managed a cheeky ride on some of Follow the Dog before Sarah’s crank fell off, and Steve and myself even managed to get a lap of The Monkey Trail in before the compulsory BBQ. On Sunday it was a mass ride. After driving the bikes up to a car park in the middle of the Chase to gain some height, we all rode around Hednesford Camp before brunch at the Marquis Drive visitor centre. I then found some kiddie friendly exciting trails most of the way home to Milford. The kids even did Ewocks, an aptly named Star Wars singletrack, or ‘sniggletrack’ as Holly calls it, which flies through the trees below the Deer Lawns and above the Stepping Stones (apologies those who have know idea where I am talking about, but it’s all fantastic riding).

10 !It was then the Dad’s job to ride out and fetch the cars, of course just having to take in one more descent on the way. Although very tired by the end, the kids rode the lot – all 17km of it!

Orifix Mapboards – review

Well in the end I raced the whole of the European Championships with the Orifix. I used the extra spacers to get it higher above the handlebars which really helped with reading the detail. To start with it feels very odd having the board so high but it does force you to look further ahead which is no bad thing anyway.

The board frame comes to bits and packs flat which is useful for travelling (and delivery through the post) and the board itself goes on with plastic butterflies meaning it can be tightened easily or swapped for a different size without tools if it does come loose (as Mirys do from time to time)

It attaches to the bars with finger turn nuts which is very quick though I did have to do them up very hard to stop the extended mapboard from twisting when I got a little energetic with the bike flying down the steps in Vyborg. I will probably tweak them with a pair of pliers next time.

The clear plastic foil although causing me a slight phaff on the relay more than made up for it in its rejection of water and mud, the extra wrap around performing far better than the Miry hardly letting in any rain on the middle distance race where others were left with a soggy mess. The Velcro fixings also will allow flexibility for some of the bigger laminated maps found on adventure races.

The Orfix is also available with reducing shims for smaller diameter handlebars.

So I am a convert, my old trusty Miry will pass down the family tree to Cath and I will be swapping to Orifix…

If you want one get in touch with

European Champs – Mass Start Long Distance

The rain returned for the mass start long race. It just hosed it down for hours over night leaving every track covered in standing water, streams boiling and making the going very hard.

65 men lined up 3 to 4 abreast on a fire track with our maps suspended over us, Tio Mila style. We had 1 minute with the maps before the gun, and I spent all of this minute folding both of them really carefully so that I wouldn’t need to refold at all and so that at the end of the first loop I’d simply have to swap them over. The pace was frantic from the start , I overtook a few people and got into the middle of the pack as the gaffle (fork) I had piled off left towards number one. I was riding well, and keeping a close eye on the map, using the riders ahead to see where possible shortcuts through the forest would bring me up the field. There were lots of roots and the going was treacherous, sending many riders over the handlebars. The second forking really caught some people out, piling straight on following others. I got a good route choice, however, and from the lack of tyre tracks was in second place on that fork. Then came disaster on the way to the next. I made a mistake missing a junction and relocated with compass only when I saw the road coming up. I took advantage of the speed of the road and rejoined the group, except at the back of it, losing probably 2-3 minutes. I worked my way forward again through numbers 7-9 chuckling to myself at the curses people were shouting as they struggled with mistakes and drive train woes, chain suck seeming to be a real problem. I think I now know how to swear in Estonian and Russian. 9 to 10 took us through a very deep stream, up to my thighs, then through a huge gully some 10 metres deep, slipping and sliding up and down, bikes shouldered. Coming out I was aware of something dragging in my drive chain somewhere. To start with I thought it was the rear mech so stopped briefly to give it a yank. It didn’t seem to make any difference so just put up with it and pushed harder on the pedals. Number 10 was an in-and-out for me, so it was back through the gully and stream before a couple of kilometres on slippery tracks. I found it harder and harder to go fast, like someone was pulling me backwards. Eventually I stopped and assessed what was wrong. It was the bottom bracket, now dragging so badly it was difficult to turn the cranks with my hands. I jumped back on and redoubled my efforts but by the second last control on the first loop I was really struggling, the cranks almost seized. I stopped at the control and loosened the bottom bracket a little. I got going again and although freezing cold after stopping, sailed through the map change and started towards number 1 on the second half but something didn’t feel right. As I neared the control firstly the bottom bracket locked completely and then went to mush, grinding away. I stopped and realised it was all over as roller bearings spilled onto the floor.

I had ummed and aahed over yet another new bottom bracket before I travelled out but instead stripped it completely and rebuilt it with fresh grease. Perhaps, in hindsight, this was a mistake but it did do the sprint, middle and relays races OK, and with bike components it is easy to spend many hundreds of pounds constantly replacing part worn components.

So my bike bag is slightly lighter on the way home as I have also ditched my now worn out chain. Its my first DNF at international level which is a real shame and will also mean I am joining the singing group on the stage tonight at the banquet. I was riding really well up until that point and there was simply nothing more I could have done out in the forest except start running for about 15 km.

European Champs Photos

Lots more photos today

European Champs 2011 – Relay

Relay day was back in the same forest as the Middle race of yesterday, this time though we went by car, thinking we would like to avoid the drenched rat look on the start line. Luckily in the end the rain stayed away until after lunch and yesterdays standing water had mostly drained away.

Team GB was Iain Stamp on first leg, Andy Douglas on second with me on the anchor.

Our game plan was not to come last and to try and beat a couple of the less able MTBO countries.

Iain got a good start but could just not stay with the pace of the Russians, Czechs, Finns and Swiss. Just before the spectator control he had a spectacular off and bent his mapboard which eventually fell off. He had to ride one handed carrying it in his hand for the rest of the course…

Andy took over just behind the Danes and the Portuguese. The Danish second leg rider pulled away but Andy stayed with the Portuguese and together they caught the Swiss B team. Andy handed over to me just in front of them.

I went off as hard as I could, seemed to phaff for ages trying to get my map into the board before gunning it towards number one on the tail of the Swiss rider. We had slightly different gaffles but we duck and dived through the first 7 controls taking turns at the front but the Swiss guy was slightly fitter than me. Finally he made a mistake and I got away, two controls before the spectator loop. I was riding really fast, heart pounding, legs screaming, but I managed to back off through the spectator control enough to ensure I razzed the last few. Just as I screamed down through the houses to the last control I saw the Slovakian team just ahead. I gave it everything but could just not catch him finishing just 6 secs behind.

I always seem to be able to pull it out of the bag on mass start events and relays, my time of 24.01 mins just 1-2 mins down on the best riders in the world. Perhaps on normal races I just don’t make myself hurt enough ! but the navigation was very easy today having been on the same area yesterday.

In the end we were 14th, a great result beating a Swiss, the Portuguese, Italian, Lithuanian, Ukrainians and of course a couple other teams who mispunched.

Tomorrow is a rest day with a fun sprint 2×2 relay. We are then heading into St Petersburg with the Danes to do a little sightseeing.

Euro Champs MTBO – Middle Distance Race

Around 3am on the morning of the Middle Distance European Championships I awoke briefly to the sound of torrential rain pounding on the roof above my head. It was forecast but none of us expected the complete hosing we got on the way to the start. The roads were running like rivers, the sandy tracks a quagmire. We were worried, the organisers had confirmed the night before that the maps were not waterproof and no plastic bags would be provided. We had even tried running a spare under the tap to see its effect. Suffice to say those with non wrap around foil map boards went hunting for plastic bags…..

The Orfix I was using wrapped right around so was fairly confident it would stay dry and didn’t take a bag with my crossed my fingers.

I started strongly riding well, the bike squirming on the slippery terrain but I was also nailing the controls. The rain continued to pour until we entered an urban gridded section. Looking at the splits I seemed to have lost time here to route choice, it will be interesting to see the winners routes when they come out.

I continued to make no mistakes having a great ride seeing no other male riders until a major wobble after the spectator control when I pulled up short on a track thinking I had gone too far. I doubled back and committed to a decent but soon realised what I had done. I relocated quickly but lost 2 mins getting back on track. After that I went clean again and finally got a tow through the last few controls some faster riders coming through in a pack. I was 47th overall, not too bad but nearly 13 mins down on the winner Eric.

Chatting tonight looking at our maps we are wondering why we make mistakes. The answer is, try map reading whilst shaking the map up and down and ask someone to throw a glass of water in your face at the same time !

The Orfix mapboard performed brilliantly and the map came out in one piece at the finish just a little damp in the corners – result.

More photos in the Gallery

Russian MTBO Sprint Video