Wednesday, 31 August 2011

SSWC 2011 Ireland

The Single Speed World Championships
By Mickey Regan

When you think of a world championship cycling event you may picture finely tuned athletes with one goal in mind, to win the gold medal. This event was so different and in so many ways. There still was the odd finely tuned athlete amongst the crowd and the very odd person that seemed to be taken it seriously. Even the eventual winner Niall Davis was so laid back he only converted the bike to single speed the day of the event. The biggest difference was the overall winner didn’t receive a Gold Medal they got a Tattoo. The one rule of this competition is “If you don’t want a tattoo, don’t win”

So what is it all about? I would describe it as a festival of one geared bikes. The event started for Ireland last year by winning the right to host this year’s event back in New Zealand. The proceedings started on Thursday night in the Locke bar in Limerick where the competition would take place to host next year’s event. Drinking games, hula hoops even a rendition of Riverdance was used to pick next year’s hosts. South Africa took the honours with an outstanding display on the night. I think judging by the remarks the organisers may have had to remind them the next day of their win. Sore heads all round and next up Kilfinnane Village for the event HQ.

With most competitors arriving in Kilfinnane on the Friday the town was electric. The local football pitch was used as a campsite with additional camping and dorm accommodation at the Kilfinnane Outdoor Education Centre. The village was small and I think this added to the atmosphere. Some riders took the Friday afternoon to go out the 7km to Ballyhoura trail centre to check out the course, others went straight to the nearest pub. Friday night there was a festival on the town street with traditional music, Irish dancing and singing.

I don’t normally ride single speed but with this event on my doorstep and having tried single speed in Catalunya during the summer I couldn’t say no. With my knowledge of single speed conversions limited I asked event sponsor Chris Butcher of Revolution Cycles formerly Unicycles for some advice. Chris told me that I could convert my bike to single speed but if I wanted I could take one of his shop bikes a Niner S.I.R.9 The offer was too good to refuse and I arranged to meet Chris at the event registration. When we arrived to register there was already a line of bikes sitting with Chris and his staff. Conversions, servicing and last minute mechanical issues were in full swing. With the lads doing a great job on the bikes and the fast turnaround time word spread and they were kept busy right up until the race briefing. I don’t think there was a problem to big or too small for the lads with everyone leaving happy. Great bike servicing and advice from a biker who just happens to own the shop is always invaluable.

Saturday was race day with the briefing at the Marquee at 13:30 I think the late briefing and 15:00 start time was to let the party on the Friday night continue into the early hours. There were definitely no complaints from anyone for the later start. The town was packed with colourful bikers. No not lycra clad cyclists, fancy dressed cyclists. With only a few cyclists in cycling gear they almost looked like the odd ones out. Scooby Doo, Storm Troopers, Leprechauns, a full wedding party including priest, Badgers (Yes 6 big Badgers – or to be more precise The atmosphere was amazing with photos being taken of the outfits and pleasantries exchanged. The race briefing told us we would all travel by Garda (Police) escort from the village to the Ballyhoura trail centre. The bikes were to be left upside down along the fire road and we should make our way back down the hill to the car park.

The briefing finished and everyone got on their bikes to pedal through Kilfinnane. Locals lined the streets cheering and clapping with more enthusiasm than a Tour De France town. The ride out was full of banter and excitement. Seeing different costumes and listening to stories from the previous night. The journey out was a laugh a minute. People drinking beer out of there water bottles, nearly crashing into walls, costumes falling apart. 7km done and already people were talking about their next beer. We reached the forest and bikes were left upside down as instructed and the beer tent filled up. With a DJ pumping out the tunes the atmosphere really lifted. The dancing started and this looked more like a music festival than anything bike related. A few last minute words from the organisers and it was time to start.

The starting arch lead us out through the car park were we would run up the fire road to the bikes. The race hadn’t started two seconds until complete madness started. Most competitors turned right and ran up the banked hill to take a short cut to the bikes. This was to the spectator’s amusement as they watched some serious competitor’s head of firstly away from the direction of the bikes on the actual fire road. It didn’t seem to matter though because unbeknown to us while we were at the start the bikes were being moved, hidden and stacked in piles. As I arrived to the bikes the same shouts were ringing out “where the f… is my bike” “That’s my bike at the bottom of that pile can you move yours” The laughter got louder as people stumbled over bikes and tried to get through the crowd. I was very lucky as mine hadn’t moved to far if any. As it wasn’t my bike I had a hard enough time trying to find it let alone it being moved. The race would be two 17km laps of a circuit that consisted of fire roads single track and northshore/board walk. The start was always going to be madness with the single track getting bottle necked but I don’t think anyone worried too much. We could see more locals at different junctions on the course cheering us on and shouting encouragement. The trails were brilliant and with people in such good mood riding together everyone seemed to have a smile on their faces.

The winner Irishman Niall Davis of blasted the course with last year’s winner not far behind. In the female category American Heather Holmes took the victory. Both went straight to the tattooist who was brought in especially for the event. What a great memory of your world championship win.

The weekend turned out to be brilliant. The locals really made it and the other competitors just made it one big laugh from start to finish. Well done to everyone from the organisers to the locals to the competitors. A weekend to remember.

I later Spoke to Chris Butcher about the event and about his plans for opening a new shop Revolution Cycles. Chris ran Unicycles but with his contract expired he has decided to set up a new shop. Chris told me "I first got into bikes as my parents were always cyclists, when I was only a few months old they went on a cycle tour around Asia with me on the back of the bike!" So how did you get into singlespeed? "Singlespeed I kind of fell into, I wanted a low maintenance bike to cycle to work so I converted an old beat up Trek to singlespeed and rode it to work. I loved it so much that I started using it on the group rides and then went and bought myself a Kona Unit singlespeed and my love of singlepseeds grew from there. Right now out of my 8 bikes only one has gears!" What did you think of the event? "The event was awesome, great event, loads of characters and I'd love to see something happen like that again.

Chris hopes to open the doors of the new shop mid September. If you are ever in the area call in and say hello. Keep up to date on the new shop at the facebook page linked in the logo above.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Monday, 15 August 2011

Aint no Mountain Adventure Race

Aint no Mountain Adventure Race

13th August 2011
Team: Surf N Turf
Andy Lyle and Mickey Regan
Race Report by:Mickey Regan

With a fantastic winter series complete all the talk was to have a one of summer race. Andrea Harrower of the Bikedock Belles said she had just the location. Andrea and the other Belles set about helping Ivan and the CCAR crew plot the course for a summer special. The location was Dromara Co. Down with the bulk of the race on and around Slieve Croob Mountain. There would be 2 class options for competitors, Sport and the Expert class.

We arrived at Dromara FC the HQ for the race on Saturday morning to a hive of activity. There was a great turn out for the race with a lot of new faces. With all the old faces and a fair few work colleagues doing the race I found myself talking and chatting rather than getting ready. We went into the main hall for registration and went to sign up on the Expert side. We would collect our numbered race bibs and our electronic dibber for timing. The dibber was labelled Expert (Sort of) they must not have any faith in our abilities. We would just have to prove them wrong. When everyone had registered we gathered for the race briefing. Ivan welcomed everyone including the guys who travelled all the way over from Scotland. Only to go to the wrong head quarters from a previous race in the winter series. Having realised their error while sat at Ballyholme yacht club just several months late they hot footed it down to Dromara and still got there in time. Well done Lads hope you enjoyed the race and hope to see you back for more.

We all lined up under the start finish banner and of we went. Starting with a road cycle we left the football club and travelled through the village. We turned right onto a rolling country road heading for lough Aghery. We were leading the group and going well as some teams stopped to check maps at the first junction. Billy and Gerry from passing wind soon were coming past us and we decided to sit in with them until we reached the Lough.

TA1 Kayak
We got timed out so I was in no hurry to get into the water. By this point there were 4 teams all battling for position on the lake. We waited until they had moved out then dibbed the time back in so we would have clear water to paddle. We followed the four other teams and on looking back had a good gap back to anyone else. One team partially over shot the checkpoint but soon realised and had just got in before us. A swift turn and dib we were on the return journey.

It was still a very close race at this early stage and the kayak section seemed to fly past. I think being fresh had a factor to play with the fast pace on the water. We reached the end jumped back on the bikes and looped around the roads picking up a check point before reaching the Harry Ferguson museum car park.

Special Task 1 Tyre roll and flip
The task was to first roll a lorry tyre out through the gates onto a foot path then lay it down and flip it end over end to the top of the path before returning it to the start. We didn’t hang about and as I dibbed the check point Andy “Geoff Capes” Lyle returned the Tyre. Back onto the bikes and a fast blast back to Dromara village. We turned into the school car park ignoring the car park beside because it was named Sports centre car park. Our instructions said school car park so as we hunted around we eventually seen Joan in the other car park.

Special Task 2 Basketball
As I had the dibber I got our time as Andy shot some hoops. Quickly it was back on the bikes and through the village in the opposite direction. Check point 5 read inside a pub. I immediately thought darts but on reaching the pub I realised that would be far too easy.

Special Task 3 Half Pint and a Pickled egg
On entering the pub we were handed two cups. One with a pickled egg and one with a half pint of Guinness. With me not drinking Andy ‘kindly’ handed me the egg. I downed the egg and with a couple of chews I finished it. Not pleasant on the stomach but we were racing needs must. I like eggs and I love vinegar but this just didn’t work for me. With a quick check at the map we continued along the road towards checkpoint 6. The egg wanted to say hello again but I wasn’t letting it. Trying to push hard and concentrate on pedalling didn’t I half swallow a fly. When I say half swallow it hit the back of my throat but I immediately blew it back out. Well the next part wasn’t pretty and I don’t think I need to describe what happened. I got away with it as I was going so quick on the bike. I took a quick mouthful of water and I washed my mouth out then it was back to business.

Check point 6 was in a chamber in a Souterrain. This is a 9th century underground stone lined tunnel system with chambers for shelter, storing food or riches. It is believed the Narrow entrance was a security measure and as you move further along the tunnel the passage widens and the chambers are bigger again. Anyway enough of the history lesson there is a race going on here. We jumped off the bike and I ran down the steps into the Souterrain. It was a hands and knees effort at the start but then I got up onto my feet and found the second chamber. I dibbed the check point and made my way back out. I was glad I still had my helmet on as I hit my head a few times. Back to the sun light and onto the bikes to pedal to TA2. On looking at the map we made the decision to stay on the road. We could see two lane ways that looked like the most direct route but we played it safe taking the longer road option. Other teams took the direct route and we were kicking ourselves as it was clearly a lot quicker.

TA2 Run to the Mast
We arrived at TA2 and were instructed to leave the bikes and run on foot up the hill to the mast. We reached the mast dibbed check point 7 then ran hard down the hill to pick up the bikes. With a fast descent down the road and three teams side by side myself and Andy took the lead. Tucked in and absolutely flying. We were going so quick we over shot the turn off to the left. Wasting a few seconds we got turned around and followed the other teams back up the moat pad. Pedalling up this grassy path was tough on the legs. We past one team and got to the check point 8 on the next section a guy had crashed in front of us and we stopped to see if he was o.k. Thankfully he was fine and told us to continue. Back onto the road for a steep climb up windy gap. We turned right onto the windy gap pad picking up check point 9. We followed the road to check point 10 which was under the legananny Dolmen Chambered Grave (Pictured above)

Andy wanted to eat at this point so we took a few minutes to get fuelled up. I took a gel and some high5 liquid and Andy took a sandwich and some nuts. Some day he will eat on the move but not yet ;-) We had another road section on the bikes that took us to the car park on the foot of Slieve Croob.

TA3 Orienteering
The next section on foot took us around, over and on top of the mountain itself. We had a number of checkpoints to collect on all sides of the mountain and on top. This section was really tough and seemed to slow everyone down. Long mountain grassy and boggy land made the going very slow. We didn’t have too much bother finding all the checkpoints on the first section. When we went over the top we seemed to lose a mixed team that we had been trading places with on the first section. Then we could see we were catching another team. Unfortunately this wasn’t due to the fact that we were going quicker big Mark Young had injured his back and was slowed right down to almost a crawl. As we picked up the remaining check points there must have been 7 teams together coming into TA3. Thankfully there was water on offer at this point as we had all ran out by this stage. Andy was on the food again and we watched as the other teams headed of on the bikes to climb the tarmac road back to the summit of Slieve Croob for a second time. I try to look at it as refuelling rather than losing time as we have learned from past events if you don’t eat you can lose even more time if you blow up. (I will have him eating on the move soon though ;-)) As we started to climb I could see teams in front get off and walk. I got the head down and pedalled hard I wasn’t for stopping until I reached the top. I will admit I wasn’t looking forward to the climb on the bike when we were running the mountain but the more I pedalled the more I enjoyed it. Reaching the cairn I dibbed and returned to the bike for the fun part. We descended a bit of the road then turned right onto an open mountain section. The start was a bit boggy but with a bit of pace we got through and started picking off teams that were struggling. We crossed a fence and the real fun started. The path zigzagged down the mountain but with slower teams in front I decided to take a straight line. I was flat out down the grassy mountain, jumping the paths and passing other teams. This bit was one of the most enjoyable sections of the race for me. I just managed to get stopped at the gate at the bottom. Unfortunately Andy didn’t see the turn to the gate and in his excitement kept going straight. I waited a few seconds then heard someone shout. Another team give him a shout and soon he was back tracking up to the gate. With both of us grinning from ear to ear with the descent we dibbed and followed the roads to TA4 picking up check point 26 on the way.

TA4 6km Trail Run
We dropped the bikes off with Steve. He told us we were sitting in around 5th with the 4th place team just ahead of us and we knew another team were hot on our heels. We had a forest trail run with two check points to collect along the way. With tired legs we tried to keep running on the downhill and a fast walk on the uphill sections. We didn’t seem to be catching the team in front and on the last straight they were know where to be seen. We could hear the team behind us so decided to waste no time getting back on the bikes. Thankfully the remaining cycle only had two more check points. These were on off road paths that really suited us. We finished very strong and just missed out on third place. If you asked us before the event if we had taken a top 5 finish we would have jumped at it. Looking back we could see were we lost time but we can learn from this and enjoy our well-deserved 4th Place.

The expert class and overall win went to: Passing Wind - Gerry Kingston and Billy Reed
Another great race from Gerry and Billy with a blistering pace throughout.

Once again Causeway Coast Adventure Racing Club has hosted an outstanding event. Tough and all as it was everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Thanks as always goes to everyone at CCAR for the hard work and time on the race. Also a big thanks to Andrea Harrower and the bike dock belles for scouting out a great course.

If you want to know more about this type of race or find out how to take part follow the link below:
Winter Series Details :