Dads at dawn

I had another fairly easy week this week. Monday nights ride was fairly short, essentially only two of us were out and we didn’t fancy the dark lanes round Coven on our own with poor lights, good ride though, in clear cold conditions, pushing hard from Potal Pool roundabout tucked in behind Russell Falder was exhilarating. He is a very good Junior Road Rider about to start his first Senior Season.
After a steady ride on Friday my highlight of the week was a Mountain Bike ride on Saturday morning with some Dads from Holly’s School, Berkswich. Steve Cope invited me indicating it was an early start – 7.15 from punchbowl car park. I ummed and aarghed and went to bed on Friday night deciding it was just too early and that I needed a lie in. At 6.57 I woke up and thought I could just about make it. Well I was 2 mins late, but they were all still extracting bikes from cars and getting ready, though 4.5mins from home to punchbowl is a personal best. We climbed the German Cutting as the sun came up and were treated to a spectacular sunrise over the Sherbrook Valley. It was a fairly leisurely ride but I had a good natter to the other dads. 3 of them only had passes that let them out till 9am so off they went leaving Steve, Simon and Myself (who all had passes till 11) to do a bit more. Steve did incredibly well on an early 90s Diamond Back, with canty brakes and rigid forks, definitely a candidate for I showed Simon lots of secret singletracks in and around Abrahams Valley and Sherbrook which left a smile on his face as he had only done Follow the Dog in the past. He has only come back to MTBing recently and his bike was a great combination of new and retro bits, so lots of banter was had about components from the past that must have left Steve wondering what we were on about.

A bad day at the office.

Event report – Dark and White Winter League rd 2 – Hope / Castleton

My first 3hr event since my ‘proper’ training began in July of this year. To be honest I had high hopes of doing well, although I am considering the league as good training as opposed to a target for this year as 3hrs is much longer than a normal MTBO.  The weather was fine, with great views over the Peak District and beyond and I was looking forward to a good day out in the hills. The D&W events are consistently some of the best ‘Trailquests’ in the UK, which are well planned and use acceptable mapping on fairly accurate 1:50 thou OS maps. The controls are not hidden and are well marked on the ground with red and white tape. These differ to MTBOs by being score events, ie there are approx 20 -30 controls worth differing values are spread over a large area and the aim is to bag the most points in the 3 hr time limit visiting them in any order.
My normal technique is not to hang about at the start, just make a decision which control to visit first and get going, probably in less than 30 secs of getting the map, then plan my route on the fly. If you are going to be in the top few you really have to get most of the controls anyway, so this normally works for me.
BUT – Sunday was different; it was very well planned with lots of options. You would have had to been Superman to clean up, particularly with the condition of some of the tracks after the previous week’s weather, therefore I essentially blew it. I should have left out two lower value controls, towards the beginning of my chosen route at Mam Tor, which took in large climbs, rather than scooting around trying to get them all. When I realized this it was too late, I was already committed. I then compounded it by desperately trying to collect controls on the dash for home to improve my score when I was already late.
I could roll out some excuses about a dodgy bit of mapping by a dam which was obscured by the control circle which lost me a few minutes, or about the 20 or so horses I had to stop for, or the busy road I could not cross and the nightmare chain suck on the granny ring, but it was the same for everybody and it evens itself out over the 3hrs and is part of the event.
In ‘trailquest’ events with a fixed time you are penalised for being late on a ramped scale, i.e. a couple of mins late is fine, more than 10 and you start haemorrhaging points. Suffice to say I was 13 ½ mins late and lost 35 of my 205 hard earned points and ended up well down the field.
So time to take some positives forward, I felt I was very strong on the hills, particularly the climb up to Mann Tour from Castleton, and I’m sure if I had picked a different route I would have been up there with the leaders. Lesson learned, perhaps spend another 30 secs looking at the map before starting and don’t assume I’m going to get them all but a couple …..
Oh and to rub salt into my wounds I lost my Garmin 305 – GPS tracker and heart rate monitor – I had one small crash and some of the tracks were extremely rocky and it must have fallen out of its bracket – like I said, a bad day at the office….
Results available here….
Mark Stodgell












Mudguards and an unscheduled rest day!

I missed a couple of training rides this week and had to cut one short. Monday night’s Mammoth road ride was going well when I managed to break the battery mounting bracket with my knee. I couldn’t face the dark lanes with just a small flashy light so went home via the middle of Stafford under street lights. It would have been safer in the lanes, 4 times I got cut up on that little stretch by inconsiderate drivers.

I decided it was about time to get some mudguards onto the road bike. I got some on Tuesday and decided on Wednesday evening to get them on before I went out. 2 hours later with an electric drill and pliers brought to bear they finally succumbed to my frustrations, hence no ride that evening as I didn’t fancy going out at 9pm with an early start the next morning.

Thursday night was spent at Alan’s new house in Shap, and as normal the two of us ended up having more beer than was strictly necessary. However out we went on Friday morning for a 2 hour ride through the mist and drizzle and worked it off. The mountains were very eerie and the roads quite scary at 70kph on some of the descents, I could hardly see anything through my specs.

After my Saturday morning spin session I spent an hour making sure my mountain bike was still working after last weeks X-race. Two new sets of brake pads and copious amounts of lube later it is now ready for Sundays Dark and White Trailquest… will follow tomorrow!

A Week of Contrasts

My week started with great news, my first sponsor, Eat Natural have given me lots and lots of bars ( I do tend to go through them), so thanks to the Eat Natural Marketing people. Please follow the link on the right to their website for more info on their tasty bars.

Anyway back to racing and training, Wednesday evening ride was great with fireworks going off everywhere, some bangs a little too close for comfort and a little scary to be honest though.

Fridays ride brought sunshine and a fantastic display of Autumn colours so I put the camera in my bag and stopped a few times to get some piccys. At the top of my first climb there were at least 20 deer wandering about, but it was too dark in the forest to get any decent pics. I then followed a circular route of the chase going down as far as Gentleshaw. The thought the best leafy displays were in Birches Valley and on the road from Longdon up to the Wandon cross roads, with the Beech orange’s almost glowing in the sunshine.

I had been looking forward to doing another Cyclo Cross race, and Sunday gave me the opportunity in Bromsgrove. Cath and Holly were off at the Yvette Baker Trophy Qualifier near Tamworth so I had a relaxing morning templating the new kitchen worktops and a quick blast down the motorway in time to see the Vets / Women’s race at 12.30 in which fellow Walton Chasers Neil Lawford and Beth Clayton were competing. It was getting very muddy and the rain came just before the end. At 2pm when we started it hadn’t got any better and there was a cold wind blowing from the SW. I had decided to keep my bike clean and didnt ride a recce lap, just walked parts of it. Even on the first lap it was very muddy, with parts of the course becoming unrideable. I had a good start and then started picking my way up through the field. The bike was becoming harder and harder to ride with the mud balling up round the gears and brakes. Then came a very painful hailstorm (well it is for me being bald as a coot!) whilst I was out on the most exposed part of the course. It only lasted a few minutes and then turned back into heavy rain. The great thing was that it seemed to clear the muck off the bike and from then on, although the going was harder and it became very slippery, the mud didnt ball up on the bike and the gears worked well again. I was very pleased with the 24th place but my legs started to tire on the last lap and my heart rate trace for this time was noticeably lower which reflects this. Getting changed in the car afterwards was a challenge with filthy clothes and I didn’t notice the state of my my face until after I had called into a petrol station for a choccy stop, no wonder the chap behind the till was giggling ! – Thanks to Neil for the X-photos
Mark Stodgell


Mirrors, Sweat and No Gears

My first spinning class….
A lack of a working rear light (I think the wet got into it on Wed), and no dry bib-tights forced me to try a spinning class at Stafford’s new leisure centre instead of my normal Mammoth road ride. On Sunday night with my parents on duty to look after Holly  I got dragged to Cath’s Pilates class and whilst there I picked up a timetable for spinning. With the onset of grim weather and dark nights now Winter is upon us I have thought for a while an indoor session would be a pleasant change.
Other than sweating all over the floor it was very good. Apparently the session (run by Graham) is much more ‘dancie’ than others, but the arm waving and lunges didn’t worry me and in fact I thoroughly enjoyed it. HR monitor showed I could have worked harder and now I know what to expect Ill be able to keep up a little more momentum between efforts. I will definitely try and exchange one of my road rides this winter for a spinning class from now on, or perhaps add a session if I have time………

Mark Stodgell

Stafford Leisure Centre

More Snow and a visit to the World Cup Races

The day started with a much more successful ride up over the same col as Wednesday, still lots of snow around but amazing views and sunshine. I returned via the Moel Authur pass (granny ring and out of the saddle most of the way) and then ended up being a bit late back as I got stuck behind a huge herd of misbehaving cows which were being driven up the road to Cilcain. Lots of poo all over the road means the bike will have a good clean tomorrow.
After lunch Holly and I drove to the Velodrome in Manchester for the UCI World Cup. (Cath and her parents followed later) Its the first time ive been and I was amazed to see quite how steep the banked section was. We had a great time watching the keirin, the sprints, points and scratch races, and Holly got to see a podium ceremony with Vicky Penddleton on gold. There was also a demo of the new British Cycling endorsed WattBike. I had a go and it is very very good, and a bargain at £1650. I was quite pleased with my 1107 Watts max power output, but I’m a little short of Chris Hoys 2200 Watts, mind you bet I could beat him at an MTBO 😉

Commitment or Madness

Wednesday night and we are over at Caths Parents in Mold as it is half term week and the comute to work from here is about the same as from home. After a rest day yesterday I thought it important not to wimp out of training tonight just because it was a bit cold and wet.
I put Holly to bed and then went out planning to stay on the main roads and intending to do the climb to the pass that goes over to Ruthin next to Moel Famau. It was very cold – 3 degrees and raining and very dark. I was OK going up, keeping warm but was having second thoughts when it started snowing. I was near the top so carried on, crested the col and looked down over the Ruthin lights shining out below through the driving snow. It looked quite enchanting. Turning for home I then realised that the reason it wasn’t too bad coming up was because the wind was behind me all the way.
I ended up with the brakes on pedaling down hill trying to keep warm and not being able to see much at all in the driving snow and rain, particularly when oncoming drivers do not dip their lights. Grrrrrrrrrr……..
I got back and undressed straight into the washing machine, poured water out of my Gortex winter boots and dived straight in the shower to warm up.

why why why did I not bring my Turbo Trainer with me !!!!!!!

Sunshine and wildlife

With legs still very tired from last Sundays efforts at the Compass Sport cup I have had an easy week. Work has been tough with a huge presentation on Wed, then working till 3am upgrading 60 odd workstations. Thursday nights club run from the Garsides house had a great social feel to it, with Ray getting the Spam award for running the wrong course last weekend.
The weather today was amazing, bright sunshine, with only a little of the promised wind. I decided to just go out and enjoy riding round the Chase on my roadbike as I am out on the mountain bike with Alan tomorrow.
Within 15 mins id seen 5 deer, a fox and countless squirrels. The fox ran straight out in front of the bike near Chase Road Corner, probably the closest I’ve been to one. The views into the valleys were great with the Autumn leaves and bright blue skies above. Views out towards The Peaks and The Wrekin also spectacular, with no haze at all.

I stopped for lunch at Birches Valley Cafe, which is now very good, and then bimbled home, legs still struggling on the hills. Cath was back so we grabbed the camera and headed out into the conservation area where Chasers are holding the British Orienteering Champs in 2010 to get some publicity shots.

Having designed the logo I have got to put together a basic flier in the next month so it was fortunate to get some good weather.