Tuesday, 29 June 2010

What is Cyclo-Cross?

Cyclo-Cross (CX) has been around for over a century, but is still relatively unknown in this part of the world - here's a good description in Wikipedia. As I mentioned in my earlier WAR post, I borrowed a CX bike for that event - it's a true hybrid, a racing bike which is robust enough to be used off-road. It also seemed like a perfect commuting bike, so I've since bought a Specialized Tricross on the 'bike-to-work' scheme. It makes a huge difference, especially on the climb home.

I've also tried it from the house to the top of 3 Rock, a savage climb at the best of times, and have beaten the 30 minute barrier which was impossible (for me anyway) on a mountain-bike. Within reason, it's been possible to do many of the off-road tracks in the Dublin Mountains - but there is a threshold of steepness and 'rockiness' beyond which you need a mountain-bike - the CX just doesn't have the required traction, braking power or comfort which fat tyres, disc-brakes and a suspension provide.

Some of you may have heard of Robin Seymour who "has dominated Mountain biking and cyclo-cross in Ireland and has been Irish Mountain bike champion 14 times consecutively between 1993 and 2007 and 15 times the Irish cyclo-cross champion. Between 1991 and 2008, Seymour was beaten only twice in the Irish cyclo-cross championships...".

As it happens, the current national CX champion is Joe McCall who's a neighbour of mine - I've chatted with him before and met him when heading out for a spin last night. He modestly mentioned that he's leading the Elite NPS (National Points Series) in mountain-biking - round 7 this weekend on 3 Rock and a couple of us are planning to enter. On CX, he told me he reckons "it's the toughest sport in the world, great craic!". I'll have my excuses ready if he offers to take me out for a pedal sometime.

Here's an interview with Joe after he won the Nationals, worth a read:

After yesterdays victory in St. Anne's Park in Dublin we caught up with the new cyclocross national champion to ask him a few quick questions.

mtbireland: Well it's been a long time coming Joe but how do you feel now that you're National Cyclocross Champion?

Joe: Thank God that’s over, that’s how I feel! It is great being a national champ. It’s a niche discipline in a niche sport, but its still good to win.

mtbireland: I have to ask about the age thing, at 37 years young do you think it's age is an issue in cross?

Joe: Sure it is. Age is an issue now in everything I do, biking, getting out of bed, etc. Everything is just a little bit more tiring.

mtbireland: Coming into the race how confident were you feeling?

Joe: Very confident. You have to be confident in cross. Its so friggin hard that you cant have any doubt. I considered myself the favorite and rode the race that way.

mtbireland: Were the cross champs a specific target for you?

Absolutely. Time is limited these days and training for cross is not too time consuming.

mtbireland: What has your preparation been like the past few months?

Prep was ok. I’m not living the life of a pro, day to day things are all in there.

mtbireland: What about specific cross training?

Yeah, that’s where this year was different. I did Robins Tuesday night training and Marks ghetto cross races at the weekend. Also, riding in and out was work was great, every light, every corner was a sprinting opportunity.

mtbireland: About the race? Did you have any specific tactics on the day?

Fla’ ou’.

mtbireland: How do you think the absence of Robin, Roger and Conor affected things?

It made the race easier for me, that’s for sure. After the 3rd lap I was able to back off and maintain the gap. I would have preferred if the guys were riding, I think I had the form to be very competitive. I would have still rode the race for the win.

mtbireland: Cross has gained a lot more interest in this country in the past few years, why do you think that is?

Because people are finally seeing that its actually the best sport in the world. No other cycling disciplines are you so out of control for so long. If you rode like that in XC or DH, you would be in hospital. I was sideways everywhere for 1 hour!

mtbireland: You did your first cross champs in 1991 and finished 3rd. How has the sport changed?

Better bikes, better riders, INFINITLY better courses.

mtbireland: Stilly question but for the 2010/2011 season will you be back to defend your title?

Defo, should be up north next year so hopefully I’ll get to ride against Roger, Conor, Lewis, Glenn etc.

Friday, 25 June 2010

The 3 Wise Men

On a brighter note, I haven't even been able to read to the bottom of this - it's just too funny: RTE Panel Gems.

Friday, 4 June 2010

100km M3 Cycle

Three weeks ago at my cousin's wedding, my uncle Padraic insisted that I join him on the M3 cycle - 100k on the new, yet to be opened motorway through the heart of Meath. Used to cycle with him 20 years ago, when the whole country was in a Stephen Roche / Sean Kelly frenzy. Haven't been on a bike since, but it was a memorial race for my brother in law Paul Healion who won a stage in the Rás last year but died tragically in a car accident last August - so where do I sign?


Borrowed a bike from a tri-athlete friend who also sorted me with all essential gear - clip in shoes, padded shorts, jacket, leggings and even cycling socks.

Reasonably fit with Bootcamp over the past couple of months - but event specific training consisted of 20km on Tuesday - out the coast road but cramped on the way back 'cos the saddle was too high. Wednesday cycled through town and up to Blue Light to meet McG and the lads for a few pints. 40km wasn't ideal prep but all the experts are saying that I should be resting before the race anyway!

Incredible sight at the start line - over 1700 cyclists taking part - over 800 of those doing the 100km. Took the concious, informed decision to ditch my uncle (sorry Padraic!) - he was hanging back and cycling with some punters doing the shorter leisure and family cycles. No way, only hope I have is getting into a big group and doing as little works as possible. Stuck on the wheel of a friend for the first 10km, then he ditched me for a faster pace. Jumped into a group of 14 which was a mix of serious cyclists and punters in GAA gersets who were out for the day. Worked well at times, with the obvious exception of a Galway gersey who was like a wrecking ball in the group - swaying from side to side and varying his pace constantly. F$%king leisure cyclists!

Group from Dundrum CC got annoyed and hit the front - I jumped in behind while at the same time thinking that it might end in tears if I kept up their pace. Alternative? Sit in behind Mr. Galway - no way - go for it. Fantastic feeling - two abreast - draughting and taking turns at the front - feeling good. Loved this back in the day. Great banter and chat - enjoyed telling one girl that I started training on Tuesday - she nearly fell off the bike laughing.

Into the wind on the way out, so looking forward to turing around. 45k and still no sign of the leaders coming back on the other side of the motorway. Surely we can't be that close to them. 46, 47, wtf? They must be taking a different route back? Then they tear by - incredible speed. How are we so close? 49, 50k, no sign of anyone turning or the feed station at half way - 51, 52K this explains how we were so 'close' to the leaders. Nearing 53k and getting pissed off - every km we travel we have to travel back. Long, steep hill and the station at the top - f$%k.

Meet Padraic at the station and head back with him - jump in behind a group of 12 and we're flying - consistently over the 40km speed limit for construction traffic. Past Kells, Navan, Dunshaughlin and a puncture means we're down to a group of 4 - another and it's just 2 of us. I have to apologise that I can't stop to help for fear that I won't be able to start again!

Kms fly by and we see the finish line at the toll booth. Wave of emotion hits me - had been firmly concentrating on my time and wheel in front of me - but crossing the line I realise that it was irrelevant - it was all for Paul. Say 'G'luk' to my companion and cycle around on my own for a few minutes - picked up the certificate that would usually find the nearest bin - definitely not this time.

For the record, excluding the half way break my time was 3 hours 50 minutes - about 40 minutes faster than my target and a very credible 18 mph average. Now it's just to convince McG and Padraic that it's a once off and I won't be eating Dave's dirt on a mountain bike at Ticknock :-)

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Tennis streak may never be repeated

So we have no classic Nadal v Federer final to look forward to at the French open this year.

Robin Soderling, whom Roger Federer beat in the French Open final last year in straight sets, beat Federer in the quarters this year in 4 sets. Soderling earned his first victory in 13 matches with Federer and when he was #1 too. Last year Rafael Nadal was #1 and Soderling beat him in the fourth-round at the French Open. The world #5 has some serious scalps under his belt. If Nadal wins his 5th French title he will reclaim the #1 spot.

Federer's loss ended his mind boggling streak of semifinals appearances in majors at
23, the 2004 Wimbledon to the 2010 Australian Open. The second best streak is 10, Ivan Lendl, 1985 US Open-1988 Australian Open.

If Soderling goes on to win his next two matches, Federer’s streak of 24 majors with either a win or a loss to the eventual champ also will remain intact.

Federer still holds the record for consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals, with 24. Putting this unreal consistence in context the second longest active streak is Novak Djokovic’s four quarters in a row. Federer keeps putting himself in contention - Jack Nicklaus won 18 majors but he finished second 19 times.

Source Wall Street Journal
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