Category Archives: Racing

Day 7 – The final ascent

Today was a mixture of emotions standing on the start line I felt elated to have made it this far, with no serious mechanicals for both me and the bike! But unhappy that it was to be the last 54 km ride in this beautiful race.

IMG_3868 (1)

After a dry start leaving Trento, we started the gradual climb up from 200m to 1700m. The climb started on road turning to forest tracks and gravel paths as we steadily made it to the top. I was feeling great today, no aches and pains and was actually enjoying this demanding climb. (Clearly I’m getting used to the Alps!) Some sections were pretty steep and with all the rain over night rather slippy too and had to be walked. I joined a trail of silent cyclists pushing their bikes with a feeling of accomplishment that we all shared being there on the final day. Once the terrain was rideable I enjoyed the forest trails which were very like home in a way and the rain was certainly not dampening my state of mind as I looked for the lines ahead. The Era has been fantastic, apart from a few gearing issues caused by the 42t sprocket I put on for climbing. The low stand-over height and rear shock have given me confidence to try lines and go down singletrack which I know I would usually not do. I have relished in pushing myself out of my comfort zone and have found this whole week has been one long learning curve on bike handling, climbing, scrambling, nutrition and positive mental attitude!

sportograf-84432104

The rain soon set in hard and I was so glad to have my Gore Tex jacket. The feed station at 19km was full of chilly cyclists sipping hot soup still with smiles on their faces.

I didn’t stop for long just grabbing some pineapple and a drinks refill before continuing climbing to the summit at 24km.

When I reached the top I felt relieved that my last big hill climb was behind me, but sad that I was nearly half way through the final stage. During this race there has been many highs and lows and I have learnt so much about myself, met some wonderful people and have fully immersed myself in the adventure, one that I am already looking to replicate by taking on another stage race, these thoughts filled my head as I soaked up the downhill. The first part was grassy paths through steep sided gulley’s, which in the dry would have been great fun, but the rain had made them like ice rinks and together with a group I cautiously made my way down these steep parts. Once we hit fire road, I enjoyed the sweeping corners singing songs with the word rain in them, as I made my way down to try and keep my spirits high as the rain tumbled from the sky.

sportograf-84432445

The feed station at 32km came with a very welcome hot tea and waffles. I had two cups and carried on. Just up the road was my Dad, like a hot water bottle angel, he stood with dry gloves and arm warmers. I have never been so happy to pull on a cosy warm layer and this really helped get me up what was now my final climb in the Alps!

At the top of the climb Michelle was waiting huddled with Tom (her boyfriend). We finished the final downhill section together down some rocky singletrack which I really enjoyed. Now we were not as high, it was warm and damp, a little bit like a summer in Wales, so I felt really at home whizzing down the trails looking for the lines which avoided any slippy roots.

Racing into the back roads of the town, full of puddles and pot holes and through the final finishing archway was incredible, I felt like I was dreaming. After thinking of this moment for the last 10 months, visualising what it would feel like to have accomplished my dream it was difficult to describe how I felt, relieved to have finished climbing mountains for a while, exhilarated to have pushed my body out of the comfort zone both in descending and climbing and overwhelmed to now be able to say I completed the toughest Stage race in Europe! WE DID IT!

IMG_8908

Thank you to all my family and friends who supported me. Thank you to Specialized for letting me use the Era, Thanks to Bike Fixers, Grip Grab, Food for Thought and Dogtag for supporting us on this journey of a life-time.

IMG_8942

 

Advertisements

Day 6 – Team work, tunnels and thunderstorms

Day six started with some nerves, I was worried about how my back would be after yesterday and felt rather emotional about being so close to the finish line.

Luckily sleep, Pilates and painkillers seemed to work okay and after the congestion created by the downhill start the long climb was okay and I felt alright if I stayed at a steady pace. Michelle is a better climber than me and at this point had disappeared into the distance; it was nice to see her walking back down to help me with my bike on a steeper section when I was struggling to push up. In a team event it is these little moments of support that keep you going.

After the feed station the fun stuff began, with an enduro challenge section through the forest on steep woodland single-track it was challenging yet fun, you had to keep an eye on your line to avoid boulders hidden in the leaves.

IMG_3864 (1)

I enjoyed this section a lot and felt good by the end of it. Our path then stayed mainly off road and wiggled through valleys with short sharp climbs and descents, one of the highlights was riding through a very long dark tunnel where the temperature was so cold it took my breath away. It was really eerie riding from bright sunlight into such a dark place. It seemed to go on forever! A small group of us stayed close together and you could tell no one wanted to be alone in this tunnel!

The path then continued to wind through apple groves and vineyards until the last final descent which was more like a scramble than a bike track! We had to carefully make our way down the rock face with our bikes it was super steep!

My body is handling the long days well so far as long as I stick to a steady pace and refuelling regularly before I came away i asked Sally Bigham for advice which has been absolutely brillaint as I have been eating little and often fuelling with between 70 and 90g carbohydrate an hour to keep my energy levels high.

So far my bike had been amazing I changed my brake pads yesterday but apart from that no mechanical issues bar a few jumpy gears. Thanks Specialized.

The climbing has been a lot tougher than I expected but having never bike more than 4 days in a row before and the fact I live in such a flat country its been hard to train for such monster climbs, I am really pleased to make it to day 6! Bring on the final stage I can almost taste Lake Garda and Prossecco!

IMG_3850

Distance: 88.24 km
Metres of climbing: 2,364 m
Saddles: Passo le Fraine (1,705 m)

Day 5 – 3,000m of climbing

Today was tough! I didn’t get the best start as my chain jammed 800m from the start once I had fixed it took ages for me to get going again because of the sheer number of bikers squeezing down this small Italian road.

This bad luck continued throughout the day, my back which has been fine for the last four days, really hurt sending pains down my leg and into my foot, not ideal on a day when you have 3,000m to climb!

I kept it steady and tried to break the day down into sections. I would not think further than the next water point or saddle summit this helped a little but it was one of those days when both mentally and physically I felt pushed to the extreme and had to dig deep to just keep going in the right direction.

By the top of Passo Gavia at 2,600m I was really struggling and there still seemed so much left in front of me. I got off and stretched out my back while Michelle kindly waited this seemed to ease the pain in my leg and foot.

IMG_3854

Michelle and I then descended down the road to the Enduro challenge which was a mixture of dusty steep trail and rock gardens. I have been really enjoying the singletrack its been such good fun and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Today I got over confident at one point and ended scrapping my ankle down the rock which was not pleasant and reminded me that I needed to go careful with two days left to complete the race.

After the enduro challenge the route climbed steeply once more. By the feed station at 45km I was again in a lot of pain and felt overwhelmed by the fact there was still over 40km to go until the finish, I just didn’t see how I could keep going. It is in these moments we all find out the strength of our character, it was a lonely climb to the top of the pass and I battled a lot of negative feelings in those 5km!

IMG_3860

I was relieved to see Michelle at the top who then helped me with my bike up a few steep climbs as she could tell I was in trouble.

The path was undulating and continued to climb further we passed a emergency helicopter and then were rather shocked when we turned the next corner to see a cyclist ready to be air lifted out, it put into perspective how even though my body was hurting I was still able to ride.

We pushed on once more every kilometre seemed to go by so slowly I was relieved to see the finish!

Distance: 86.32 km
Metres of climbing: 3,073 m
Saddles: Passo Gavia (2,621 m), Alta Via Camuna (2,393 m)

Day 3 – The picturesque stage

Day three – The picturesque stage

Today has to be my favourite stage so far! Yes the climbs were brutal and steep but this was compensated in the most stunning single-track I think I have ever ridden!

The race started with a climb (something I am getting used to!) for 23km it was tough work but mainly on road so it was a case of getting in a good gear and keeping a rhythm.

IMG_3822

The route followed the river and climbed gently to start with before getting steeper, the descent from the top was steep and rocky but good fun and led to a well-earned watermelon stop!

The next section was a brutal climb so steep that in places I felt like I was going backwards, I had to hop off and walk on several occasions.

IMG_3826

This gruelling uphill effort when on for what felt like an age, waiting at the top was my Dad with a much needed water bottle refill before the fun stuff began!

The enduro section today was rocky to start with wooded single-track, I loved it apart from the scraping of my hand against the rock which was not much fun.

One of the best parts of today was riding along the side of the reservoir up high through a waterfall and through wooded singletrack it was brilliant fun and the views were out of this world!

IMG_3830

I really enjoyed today the climbs were challenging but the singletrack was brilliant and made up for the pain I felt climbing.

IMG_3832

Today was the hottest day so far and the heat is starting to drain my energy!

The journey so far… Trans Alp

We arrived in Imst, Austria for the start of the Bike Trans Alp on Thursday evening very late after a 17 hour journey from the from home. Dad was amazing and drove all the way do So I would have ample time to get used to the climate and altitude.

IMG_3793

We spent Friday and Saturday playing around on the trails which was great fun and Dad got to use his new cameras which he was super happy about!

IMG_3760

Day one – the long one

The start was exciting and full of people buzzing around, Michelle and I were gridded right at the back as we had never raced any stage races before, but that was fine with me I was just happy to have made it this far!

Just after 9 we rolled over the start line for a day of highs lows, ups and downs.

The race started with a tar mac climb through the village it was great with people cheering and ringing bells it reminded me of the start of Ride London.

The day started cloudy but soon the sun shone brightly down making the hill climbing hot and dusty work!

The climbing was rewarded with the most amazing scenery through the mountain passes. At points after climbing we would sweep back down into the valley and through picturesque little towns full of people cheering which really lifted my spirits and kept me going.

It was in one of these little towns I turned the corner and bumped into Dad it was great to see him and also good timing as I had run out of water!

Tom and Dad supported Michelle and I with bottles along the route which was fantastic thanks guys!

The vertical challenge was a timed stage, it was an unrelenting climb which went on forever! The climb went on and on after this vertical stage until we reached the top of the mountain pass. The reward was a sensational downhill through woods and out into open pastures through the valley.

IMG_3804 (1)

We were making good time and the hours were flying passed, the final 20km was tough. We had worked hard on a road section to stay with a bunch and I paid for this on the hill climb later, luckily just before the climb was a water point where I indulged in cucumber dipped in salt and water melon my new favourite snack!

The last 9km was almost all up hill and seemed to go on forever! The finish line in Nauders was even up hill!

It feels good to have completed the first day I learnt a lot and we had good fun as a team once we settled into a rhythm.

We finished the first stage in 6 hours 16 a great first day and 89km ticked off!

Day 2 – Three countries, lots of climbing

Today was exciting we made our way from rank D to B! feeling very impressed with ourselves we made our way up out of the start with maybe a little too much speed!

IMG_3809

The first 10km was up. The up was on gravel track most of the way which was loose making the climbing arduous. We climbed under lift stations and im pretty sure when there is snow this is probably a blue run!

We made it to the water point at the top, passing groups of cows who I think thought we must be mad! The water point was a light bit of relief, it was good to stop stretch out and have some much needed water melon!

The next descent was loose with great sweeping bends but was over too quickly and we were climbing yet again!

IMG_3816 (2)

My favourite stage today was the Maxxis endure challenge although I found it difficult and walked in places, it was great fun and being in wooded single-track reminded me so much of Wales and after a tough climb it was nice to remind myself of why I was here!

You can probably already guess but after this came yet more climbing! Today has been really hot and the heat has got to me slightly so I had to pace myself on this second long climb, the view from the top was incredible and well worth the sweat to get there.

Today we have ridden in three countries, climbed to the dizzy heights of 2270m, ate a shed load of water melon, and enjoyed stunning views and blistering heat!

All in all a good, but tough day in the saddle. The end was tough for me today, the heat sapped my energy and I was glad to finish. 5 hours 01 minutes, 56km and day two completed!

Tomorrow we ride from Scoul to Livigno. Stick around for more on our Alpine adventure.

Thank you to my amazing Dad for supporting this trip and to everyone at home cheering us on!

Thank you also to Specialized for my super Era which has been a dream to ride so far, thanks to Bike Fixers, Dog Tag and Grip Grab for all your support.

IMG_0141

 

 

Gorrick Summer Monkey

Yesterday was the Gorrick Summer Monkey, the race that introduced me to endurance racing last year. I was excited about going back to Ceasars camp and trying out my new endurance legs on the course!

IMG_3586

On Saturday I had a long ride with Michelle and then went home to prepare for race day. I packed my snacks making sure I had 60g of carbohydrate per hour. I was trying a new snack my dietitian had mentioned taking which were pretzels instead of peanuts as peanuts high fat content can affect my performance. I also packed bananas, dates, malt loaf and some Torq energy gels.

Race day started at 6am getting up to have porridge before packing the car and setting off. I didn’t ride the course but instead spent my time making sure my feed so was stocked with water and snacks in an easy to reach place. I also had my second breakfast of mixed berries and Greek yogurt.

The race started at 9 and the new course was full of surprises, starting with a long drag uphill on fire road it soon turned back into the forest, where a bumpy downhill section dislodged my water bottle from the reverse rack, with riders behind me stopping was not an option, so I continued making a plan of how I would survive on small water bottles.randr-photo-1550288-1500px

The course climbed further this time up to a high point near the reservoir, this was for me the hardest part of the course the sharp left bend at the bottom of a bumpy descent before a sharp climb up seemed to give me gearing issues every lap!

After this was my favourite part of the course as the singletrack twisted through the tress with loads of great corners, jumps and long descents, my top speed was 26.5mph.

Although the lap had been shortened it was really good fun because you would notice something new or find a new favourite section each time which you could look forward to next lap. Thanks guys for a brilliant course!

Eating every 45 minutes was hard as you could never guarantee whether you would be on a trail section where eating was possible, I think this led me to have a little energy dip at around 4 hours, as well as physiologically being around lunch time it is always slightly harder to focus.

I had an energy gel which seemed to cause me more issues than giving me needed energy. Instead I just got stomach cramps, I made a decision to slow down slightly which seemed to relieve my issues and then picked it back up again on the next lap.

randr-photo-1549044-1500px

All laps had to be completed within the 6 hours, I came through after my 9th lap on 5 hours 22 and felt like another lap was impossible, let along a fast one (I had been thinking my lap times were around 45 mins, turned out they were faster) But  I had set out to ride for 6 hours so that is what I was going to do I started my tenth lap steady but soon was being overtaken by people clearly trying to fit their last lap in, this spurred me on to do the same, I was delighted to finish at 5 hours 55 just getting my tenth lap in. I had to really dig deep for this last lap and was proud to have achieved it.

I lost time having to faff around with re-filling water bottles after I ran out of small ones; this is something I need to work out before the Trans Alp! I also found out that pretzels are no good as they suck all the moisture out of your mouth, new savoury snack hut begins!

Altogether I did 59.69 miles over 5 hours 55. My average heart rate was 149 and max was 180. I think what yesterday showed me is,  when I feel like there is nothing left in the tank its always worth having a deeper look, because I found the strength and speed to turn out another fast lap, as fast as my third lap of the day when I was at the beginning of my race.

IMG_3598

Thank you so much to Bike FixersBike Fixers for getting my bike ready for the race, thanks to Specialized for my amazing Era and to Grip Grab for the most comfortable gloves I’ve ever worn over 6 hours.

Lap Times:

  • Lap 1 00:33:31
  • Lap 2 00:33:56
  • Lap 3 00:34:31
  • Lap 4 00:35:25
  • Lap 5 00:35:43
  • Lap 6 00:36:04
  • Lap 7 00:36:41
  • Lap 8 00:37:48
  • Lap 9 00:37:02
  • Lap 10 00:34:19

 

Scott MTB Marathon – Rhayader, Wales

On Sunday I took on my first Scott marathon of the season. Michelle and I travelled together to Rhayader in mid-Wales on Saturday in the pouring rain hoping that the sun would shine on the race day!

The morning brought dry cloudy weather, as we lined up in the mass start the sun was trying to come out but dark clouds loomed above us so I decided to take my waterproof, just in case.

IMG_3418

I always find mass starts challenging and yet again as we pulled off Michelle easily seemed to slip through gaps between riders whilst I struggled to find my own gaps! I had to push harder than I would usually push at the start of a long race to get back to Michelle and then set into a steady rhythm up the last road climb before the fun stuff!

After the descent the course turned onto fire road, as I turned to my side, I expected to see Michelle but she wasn’t there, looking back I couldn’t see her and thought she must have got caught up so I gradually made my way up the hill expecting her to catch up.

The course was very wet and muddy with huge puddles and a lot of slip sliding around on the grassy descents. I enjoyed the challenge this presented as the steeper decents were made more technical and pushed my skill level where if they had been dry they would have not been an issue. The course was packed with good climbs but the most challenging and best climb was a steep rocky climb that seemed to have a lot of people walking on it, I started the climb behind a guy but once he wheel spun and moved out of the way I was free to pick my own line through the walkers, this was a rather nice feeling to be slowly edging past lots of people, by the time I got to the top my heart rate was sky high but I felt a massive sense of achievement for beating the hill climb.

_DSC8347_1700x1131

I was going well fuelling wise I started with dates at 45 mins then another 45 mins later had salted peanuts then when I reached the first feed station I had a banana, handful of nuts and got my water topped up. It was at this time that a crack of thunder rumbled through the skies and the heavens opened, not just drizzle a torrential downpour started for what seemed like ages, I was glad to have packed my waterproof! It was tough going in the wet and cold every time I went up hill I got too hot followed by freezing on the downs. I tried to keep drinking small sips but my water bottles were so caked with mud I ended up with more than just a drink.

After the course split and the half marathon went one way there was another long road climb, it was on this climb where I heard the sound of my name being called! Looking round Michelle had caught up. It was great to ride with other people again after being on my own for around 43km.

This next part of the course was the worst after a fire road climb the single-track became almost un-rideable due to massive puddles and so much thick mud that my tyres wouldn’t go round. We ended up walking lots of this section slowing down meant getting cold so I ate some more dates to try and get some extra energy. It was a short while after we left the single-track back on a wider path that Michelle fell off and sliced her knee on something, we still don’t know exactly what!

This meant a walk back to the marshal point and a long 45 min wait for the paramedic, after they washed out her wound they decided she shouldn’t ride on it so I finished the course on my own.

Michelle was okay luckily but had to have three stitches.

Although I didn’t complete the full 75km I am super happy with this result I kept a consistent pace fuelled well and felt in a good place, I didn’t feel tired at the end which I feel is a good indication I had more in the tank. I will be back to finish this race next year! For now onwards and upwards towards the Alps…

 

A test of endurance – Gorrick 100

On Sunday I went to the Gorrick 100 endurance event.

I had really been looking forward to this race as I felt it would be a good indicator on where my fitness levels are and how my preparation is going for the Alps.

Frustratingly I have had a stomach bug and generally not been feeling on top form so didn’t decide to race until Saturday afternoon when I was feeling moderately better.

I have done 100km a few times on the road on my mountain bike and find it hard but I was not prepared for how hard 100km off road was going to be!

Race Day.

I laid out my snacks and water bottles in the feed zone and lined up at the start at 8.30. My strategy was to pace myself stay steady and enjoy it.

The course was a lengthened cross country course a great mix of singletrack and fire road. There was not a great deal of climbing but the course was relentless there was no recovery periods apart from two road sections the rest of the time you were having to push the bike hard.

The first three laps I felt good and able to push hard where I needed too. It was a lovely hot day and I was drinking plenty. When I came back round to the feed zone for lap 4, I had run out of small water bottles so had to spend time re filling them. This is something I then had to do for the rest of the laps wasting valuable time!

The 4th lap was good I was trying to stick to around 15km per hour on the flat, my heart rate was in a good place roughly around 150/160 so I knew I could keep pushing.

I came round for the 5th lap and decided to up my snacks and had a malt loaf and more salted peanuts. I think in hindsight I should have had more snacks earlier on because during my 5th lap I started to feel tired. I slowed my pace slightly hoping that I could pick myself back up. I also had a few mechanical issues with my chain on this lap which slowed me down.

One of the hardest things about long distance bike racing is the lack of ability to pedal and chew at the same time. Even on flattish ground chewing, breathing and pedalling don’t mix! This was made harder during this race because the ground out of the feedzone was particularly bumpy and by the fact I had picked hard to chew salted peanuts and malt loaf both of which take some chew time.

These are my snacks of choice for training but struggling to eat them in this race brought up the need to find other snacks for the Trans Alp which can be eaten quicker and have the same energy hit that I am looking for.

The final stages.

Lap 6 was exhausting I had entered survival mode and didn’t know whether I could do another lap I kept pushing forward thinking it’s only another 12/15km, but I knew I was in trouble my heart rate was really low around 130bpm but my legs where giving everything they had I had hit the proverbial ‘wall’! I was relieved when I reached the long straight gravel section before the entrance to the arena this was my que that the lap was nearly over and I stuffed in another malt loaf for good measure!

Lap 7 was so hard my body was done in physically and I felt too tired to make it up some of the hills which earlier I had found easy. The bomb holes had also become hard and I found myself making silly mistakes another sign that my body was finished. It seemed like a life time before I reached the long gravel straight and I knew that this was probably my last lap.

65553995-Gorrick+100+2016-524

I had a love hate relationship with this course, I loved the first section cornering through the trees and the big bomb holes and little jumps it was hard work but good fun, the second part of the course had lots of twists and turns doubling back on yourself all the time and the ground was loose making it tough going, I didn’t enjoy this so much!

This race was far tougher than I was expecting, I think I felt every emotion going in 6 hours 54 mins on my bike from enjoyment through to dread at the idea of doing another lap!

From the race.

I learnt a lot about my fuelling strategy which I need to work on over my next few long rides to make sure I’m eating enough and early enough for it to have an effect on my ability to keep going.

I need to also look at pacing and how I can improve this. I am really delighted with my first four laps as my timings were consistent. It is hard to tell my riding time from lap 5 as I had to stop to sort out water bottles and also had chain issues.

Overall I am super happy with my performance this is the longest I have ridden this year nonstop and after the past two weeks of feeling powerless and not being able to complete a cross country race this is a great turn around and has shown me that I need to really use my recovery days to recover properly.

Lap times:

  • 51:02
  • 54:41
  • 55:25
  • 55:39
  • 1:01
  • 1:05
  • 1:10

 

Mud, Sweat, Gears and over training

At the weekend I travelled to Henham in Suffolk for my first cross country race of the season. I have not been feeling great for the last few weeks, my body and mind have felt tired and I have found things have been getting on top of me in all aspects of my life.

Training between 6 and 12 hours a week, working full time and running your own business does not leave a lot of recovery time, and I think I have now officially burnt out!

I have been ignoring the ‘warning’ signs that this was coming. I have been really tired even though getting plenty of sleep. I had a few little colds, not felt like training and training was certainly not going how I wanted it too and to top it all I felt mega emotional!

This all caught up with me at Henham. I did a practice lap and after the great inspiring session with Steve Manser the day before I felt confident on the course.

My start was not great I missed my pedal and everyone else shot off. Where I can usually recover from moments like this, this time my head was telling my body it was game over and my legs were in complete agreement.

I finished my first lap knowing that the first lap I usually find hard, but this was different. When I pushed down on the pedals I had no power, I felt like I was going backwards, after another lap I decided that I should listen to my body and stop.

I have never pulled out of a race and this was such a hard thing to do I kept wondering whether I made the right choice, was I just being a wimp?

Looking back on my decision it was the right one. My body needs some recovery time and trying to push it too hard on Sunday was just going to mean I would need more time off.

My plan now is a training free four days when I can concentrate on letting my body recover fully.

It has been a steep learning curve for me, I have been training so hard spending every spare moment I have on the bike, working on my endurance doing 5 hour rides and dedicating my time to becoming the best mountain biker I can be. So it is really frustrating when you get to the start of a race not feeling your best and not able to perform in the way you feel you should.

What I have learnt from this is to look out for the signs of overtraining and workout a way with my coach that I can focus on training for the Trans Alp in the most efficient way possible.

Part of my challenge is I am always pushing myself, which isn’t a bad thing, but part of that is I am not very good at saying no and take on too much.

Anyway in every situation there is a chance to learn and improve. I am now on my last recovery day feeling a lot happier and rested.

I look forward to what tomorrow brings….

 

Race report : Battle on the Beach

 

On Sunday 20th March around 700 mountain bikers descended on this quite coastal country park for the UK’s one and only beach race. Now in its third year this race has grown in popularity year on year with 2016 being its biggest and best so far!

Battle on the Beach is run by A Cycling who also organise the UK’s only stage race Epic Cymru. The idea of a beach race came from the Dutch & Belgian races, although these are nearly all beach the Battle on the Beach packs in 6km of beach racing on a 15km course.

Battle on the beach 16 (66 of 713)
The start line. Photo thanks to Anthony Pease @Pease971

The 3 lap, 45km course has remained fairly similar since it started with a few tweaks here and there. The battle starts on soft sand at the top of the beach, while the DJ pumps out motivational music and gets the riders ready for what’s to come with riders jostling for positions close to the front. The soft sand start is hard work with so many people in a compact space picking your bike up is pretty impossible so when the gun goes off its about pushing as hard as you can whilst watching out for other people’s pedals and flying wheels of those who have picked their bikes up!

Battle on the beach 16 (99 of 713)
Photo thanks to Anthony Pease

Once on the hard packed sand cyclocross skills come in handy as you launch yourself onto your bike and charge out to catch a group moving fast, the key to the beach is to get in a bunch and work together to make the 6km beach stretch less taxing on your legs.

Lungs bursting, once you reach the MOD turn off the beach it’s another run in the sand up the hill to the dunes. From this point on its single and double track until you reach the beach once more.

Hannah 2
Photo thanks to Anthony Pease

The double track through the dunes is soft sand in places and the best advice is to keep looking forward and let the bike slide beneath you. It is hard going through these dunes with lots of lumps and bumps overtaking can come with the penalty of a puncture as the scrub land to the side is littered with thorns and twigs.

The singletrack sections are brilliant! Through tress with some hard sandy climbs and great loose descents which make you push harder just to come round and have another go!

Battle on the beach 16 (331 of 415)
Photo thanks to Anthony Pease

The air is full of excitement at Battle on the Beach with lots of spectators cheering you on and other riders always giving their support. It is a fantastic race for riders who are looking to test their speed and endurance and also those who just want to do something different with friends. It is organised very well with sign on the day before and a well-marked course.

This year Karen Brouwer was back to defend her 2014 open title. The Dutch rider left the rest of the field in her wake finishing in an eye watering 1 hour 49 minutes showing that the women are as fast as the men!

The men’s open was a hard fought battle between Richard Jansen the Dutch beach racing champion and fellow Dutch rider Bram Imming the race was fought right up to the line with Richard Jansan taking the win by a second, finishing in 1 hour 35 minutes and 8 seconds.

Hannah 4
Photo thanks to Anthony Pease

For the first time the day race was accompanied by a night race. Battle in the Dark took place on the Saturday evening and was a shorter loop of the main course taken on in time trial style.

Overall I am really happy with my result (16th) it was my first race of the season and with a new bike I just went out to see what was possible. There are things I need to improve on my overall my stamina has improved so much which makes all those winter miles worth the effort!

My top tips for beach racing are:

  • On a mountain bike turn your forks off
  • Practice running and jumping on your bike before you arrive at the race
  • Practice carrying your bike, great upper body work out and a lot quicker than pushing it through sand
  • Get into a bunch on the beach to make life easier but don’t sit in a slow group push on to the next faster riders

Thank you Anthony Pease for the brilliant images! Check out his stuff here.