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After a great early season 10 day training camp in Spain with Arrivee Travel, I finally got around to starting my 2017 road season last weekend at the FTR Spring Classic Road Race. All Terrain Cycles Race Team had five members racing, myself, Matthew Bulmer, Chris Emsley, John Cathy Chambers, and Julian Roche on the rolling Saxton circuit. The weather forecast was making for grim reading, and sadly for once they didnt get it wrong with the heavens opening and the temperature dropping to around 5c as we lined up for the start. A perfect opportunity for me to put the new team Endura Classics jersey to the test then!! As part of a big team effort to support the race, it was great to also see a whole array of All Terrain team members and Yorkshire Lads CC helping out the FTR lads and lasses with the vital roles needed to make these races happen, so from those of us who raced a big thank you to you all!

 

With the wind also picking up, I figured ahead of the race that it would be a difficult conditions in which to force a breakaway, and so I let the team know my thoughts and that we should try and cover any breakaways but save our legs for the last few laps. Now its normally Matthew Bulmer that comes out with statements like this pre race, and its not unusual to then see him jumping away from the front of the bunch in the opening miles!! But for once, other than a few little leg stretches we all sat tight for the opening lap. As the bunch turned back into the cross winds at Towton on the second lap, the KTM team tried to force a move with two of their riders forcing the pace and trying to create an echelon, and I made sure I was positioned near the front of the peloton. However it was too early in the race to force the move with too many fresh legs, and as they neared the top of the main drag they started fading badly. I rolled through to the front of the bunch as they swang off and just kept the momentum going for a few moments before looking over my shoulder and seeing I had a gap. I didnt want to force a break this early, so I just kept tapping along thinking I would be pulled back, and after a minute or two I realised I had a couple of hundred metres over the bunch, and one other rider, Danny Posnett of Squadra RT had jumped across to me. So we started riding together and slowly ebbed out a 30 – 40 second advantage over the peloton, with Matt Chris John and Julian policing any moves behind. We were riding well together, my legs felt good, and Danny and I quickly came to an agreement to share any primes that we managed to bag along the way so we wouldn’t be distracted from the task in hand!

 

I didnt expect to stay away, but for three laps of the seven lap race we stayed out front, until the race was Black flagged (effectively paused!) by the Commisaires, apparently owing to riders in the peloton crossing the solid white lines too often. We were stopped, and then the whole bunch rolled up behind us, giving everyone a breather. The race was then restarted after the bunch was given a stern talking to by the officials, and myself and Danny were given our thirty second advantage back. But as so often happens in theses situations, the pause in the racing had given the bunch a chance to reorganise itself and take a breather, while we had lost all of our momentum and rhythm.

 

One lap later and with renewed enthusiasm the bunch reeled us back in, and for me it was a case of sit back, try and recover in the remaining two laps before going again at the finish. Shortly after we were reeled in, Matthew Bulmer who was riding very strongly jumped away with two other riders in a short lived break, but again they were reeled in, and last time up the main climb the race was all together before Gavin Macintosh of Prologue RT jumped away on his own. In the very wet and windy conditions nerves were getting frayed. At the top of the climb, a crash on a greasy corner took Matt out of the race, and as we all fought to get back into contention there was another pile up in the last kilometres leaving all the remaining All Terrain riders out of contention. Disappointing not to get a result, and lesson learnt that I need to listen to my own advice! However i think its fair to say All Terrain team riders were the main animators in the days racing, and the form is there…. the results will come!

Following on from last Sundays FTR RR, myself Chris Sherriffs and Alex Barusevicus travelled over to Colne to race the first of this seasons CDPP circuit series at the Steven Burke cycling hub, which runs every Thursday evening over the next 14 weeks. The race was over 20 laps of the circuit, and had a strong field including riders from Team KTM and Team Brother NRG Pro Racing. The race started slowly, but after a couple of laps, Chris took off from the front of the bunch with Alex and one other rider close behind, while I marshalled the attacks in the peloton. However after some hard riding from the other teams they were all reeled back in.

With 12 laps to go I attacked with Martin Woffindin (Secret Training RT), and we got a small advantage, before we were reeled in, and then for the next few laps, Chris, Alex and myself took it in turns to jump away and cover the moves. But in the cold windy conditions nothing was sticking, and rather than a break being forced the bunch was being whittled down in a process of attrition, leaving only 9 riders at the head of the race.

An attack from Adam Robinson (team KTM) with 2 laps to go drew a response from Wilson who dragged him back to the group, and as we hit the line for the bell on the last lap I swung across to the right hand gutter and looked around, which was exactly what everyone else was doing in the left hand gutter! For a few seconds I slowly pressed on the pedals before stamping down hard and giving it everything to try and get away. I glanced back and saw I had a gap so kept going, head down giving it everything I had. By the last corner I had a 50 metre advantage, which I held all the way to the line taking the win with Chris coming home in 4th and Alex in 5th. A great team performance and the first win of the season for Team All Terrain, hopefully the first of many!!

While traditionally there has been some snobbery from hardcore cyclists about the emergence of electrically assisted bikes, attitudes are changing and today’s e-bikes are appealing to people of all ages. As well as older people, increasingly, 20, 30 and 40-somethings who enjoy the thrill of mountain biking are turning to motorised bikes for some off-road fun.

 

Electric bikes have been rapidly growing in popularity in Europe in recent years with estimates that as many as 30% of cyclists on the continent have ‘converted’ and predictions that the craze is about to take off in the UK too. In Germany, 535,000 electric bikes were sold in 2015 alone.  Given their strong environmental credentials and the fact that they are a cost-effective way to get around, many commuters are now using them and they are proving as popular with motor cyclists as with traditional cyclists looking for a little extra power.  They’re also a great way of giving teenagers more independence – anyone over the age of 14 can ride them.

 

With a small, integrated electric motor engaged by pedalling or using the throttle on the handlebar, they have a maximum uphill speed of 15mph and riders can choose from different levels of power to assist them. They have rechargeable batteries that are charged at a normal mains socket; it takes about three hours to charge and they last for around 20 miles.

There is still an element of exercise involved as you have to pedal in order for the motor to run, making them ideal for people who want to get around without getting sweaty or for those who have an injury that prevents them from using a conventional bike. That extra boost of power saves the slog, particularly up hills – meaning you won’t get hot and bothered and can ascend at a steady, safe and consistent speed. They also have the additional advantage of not needing road tax, insurance or a licence – and you can park anywhere!

Providing a practical, cheap and fun way to get around, they are, of course, ideal for older people who want to prolong their cycling life. However, having originally targeted pedal assist bikes at the over 50s, the industry has been surprised to see the huge take-up from hip, young mountain bikers looking for the added thrill of having a motor, enabling them to tackle off road trails no matter how steep.

 

These e-MTBs offer all the benefits you would expect from a performance-orientated trail bike, but with the added boost of power. They’re ideal for mountain bikers recovering from injuries (knee joints don’t seem to copy as well with bouncing up stony trails on two wheels as we get older!); or for those who want to enjoy an occasional off-road blast without having to commit to a tough training regime in order to keep up with the pack.  An e-bike will help get you up those climbs faster and enable you to cover longer distances so they’re a real boost for training as well as helping you to quickly power through to more exciting parts of the trail.

 

Every cycling purist I know who has claimed that he will never ride an electric bike because it’s ‘lazy’ to have pedal assistance has changed their mind as soon as they’ve tried one – me included! There are now a huge range of e-bikes to choose from, whether you want a compact model for commuting or a high performance mountain bike with carbon frame, there’s an electric bike for you.

 

While the UK has been slower than Europe to see the light and embrace e-cycling (it’s been enormously popular in China since the 1990s!), I think the British cycling community is starting to realise that these clever machines offer a number of benefits. We’re finding that many of our customers who might already have three or four bikes to cover their on road and off road activities, are now adding an e-bike to their fleet.  Try one – you might be surprised!

 

Following on from my opening blog; it was my first race of the season a couple of weeks ago down in London at the Olympic Park for the Eastern XC series set up by the Mud, Sweat and Gears gang!

Nerves we’re already setting in prior to the race at least two/three weeks before he kick off as I was wondering on how many possible outcomes of the race were there going to be? Not only with these thoughts but also with dark thought on, am I going to be fit enough? Am I going to be on form? etc. etc.

Andrew Hinchcliffe , All Terrain Ride in Peace Rider , at Eastern XC series

 

I have done a few of these events set up by the MSG guys and what a day they put on!

For most of the races below Birmingham (usually generally I class anything below Sheffield as the South or southerners!), I tend to go down the night before to get myself fully prepared before the event; I know there are some guys who do the one shot hit, but for me it suits to head down the day before. I can usually pre ride the course familiarise myself, and set myself up for the following day. I have always believed in the four P’s! ( Poor Planning =  Poor Performance).

We arrived the night before nice and relaxed, recce’d the course and completed basic admin tasks, and then settled for dinner in London with friends before a nice night’s sleep.

Course

The course was fantastic, man-made but great! A fast flowing single track course with many opportunities to overtake and take the lead! Not amazingly technical which suited me, but nonetheless exciting! We had a number of rock gardens to contest with nice following berms which when perfectly dry can gain some speed out of!

Race Day

Race day came along too quickly! Before knew it, we were up and having breakfast and away to the event!

Once parked up I went through my normal routine firstly signing on followed by checking bike, checking gear, preparing pre-race, race and post-race fuel and getting my post-race clothes ready!

I started off with my warm up and gently jogged for ten/fifteen minutes followed by a couple of warm up laps to gauge myself against the others, I met up with a couple of guys form my previous season racing who I went around with which helped relax my nerves.

 The start was soon approaching…

14:00

I was on the start line right at the front in prime position to take the first corner.

14:15

The claxon went and we were off! I flew out of the start line like a bullet; I shocked myself. I hit the corner flat out straight onto flat open single track where I powered down. I focused purely on keeping myself out at the front; it was short lived!

The first lap went really quickly and I was nicely placed in the front group, with the 2nd group following closely. I stuck with the guys as long as I could, but unfortunately my handling skills let me down a few times in the corners and I started losing time. 5seconds here 5seconds there!

The second group swallowed me up quick but I was in a good position.

I was happy, It beat being at the back! Laps three, four and five went quickly. The aim for me was to stick in with this second group. It was a great battle taking the lead, dropping back but great in terms of finding out where my skills were, where and what I needed to practice and concentrate on for the future

Lap six came along and my energy started to dwindle. I held on as long as could to the finish.

I came in at 9th in the Elite/Expert category. Probably the best result I have ever had!

It was a positive for me; I learnt a lot but also had shown and proved that my fitness and skills were better than the previous season, and that my training hadn’t been to waste!

Roll on the 19th for the Midlands XC series opener at Sherwood Pines!

January & February is a good time to round up and reflect on your previous season and the entry back into base training following what is believed to be a well-earned break! (He says lightly!!!)

The 2016 season has been a very interesting and big learning curve for me with some massive highs and more than enough lows; for some of you, you may not be aware that this is my first semi-professional season racing just purely mountain bikes in the XC arena as my background was originally racing Cross Triathlon for GB. It’s certainly a massive transition from the two disciplines without stating the obvious!

For those of you who are not aware, Cross Triathlon involves an open water swim usually in the sea or a lake, followed by a mountain bike section typically a marathon type single track circuit and not very technical with the final discipline being trail/fell running.

The MTB XC arena tends to be laps of a particular technical circuit lasting usually no more than 1hr 30minutes whereas CrossTri could last a competitor up to 3+ hours dependent upon the course.

“Where does this all lead?” you might be saying?

Well my career in MTB XC started roughly at the middle end of 2015 (August 1st to be specific!) following a shoulder injury which I was incredibly lucky getting away with no need for invasive surgery in my right shoulder.

The MTB-XC career plan started when I began losing motivation and drive for triathlon and after long discussions with my coach decided enough was enough and to make the transition early into MTB XC. This is where the big plan came into effect!

The BIG plan.

So the big plan, which came to fruition in 2K15, was to have a 3/4 year race career in XC with the ultimate goal in chasing the “Elite” category status with my current placement in the Expert category

Adam Hinchcliffe in action for All Terrain Cycles

The aim of the first year (2015/16) was to ultimately get me racing and used to this discipline. I lacked experience in this arena!

The 2016/17 season is going to be my developmental year, so to build on my past experiences and develop the skills and weaknesses I found last season.

I started the 2015/16 season at a weight of around 85/86kgs which for a 6ft racer wasn’t particular ideal. Not only this, I was putting out wattage around 235. For the amount of work I was putting in was absolutely nothing?

Having started with James I went from 235watts to 330watts with then a steady increase to 347watts! I aim to be hitting 390 by the end of the season. This just proves that, with the ight coach and training plan suited to you, you can change very quickly.

 

The 2016 race season was a big eye opener for me. I struggled massively with keeping and holding the pace with the front groups at the beginning of the season however by the end of my season In September I was holding quite close! I wasn’t always a podium potential but I was close too and actually finally got onto the podium in my second to last race which finished off the season quite nicely for me! I took part in over twenty races this season and had a positive incline all the way through

My season started with a race down at Cannock Chase, the “Cannock Winter Warmer” in the elite/expert category. This wasn’t just a winter warmer in was a WARNER! To what my season was likely going to be like! The race started off fast, I didn’t stand a chance! I held on for dear life at the back of the pack. Out of 25 I came in at 20. I knew from this there was to be some hard changes to my training.

I knew what I was going to be up against this race year!

The next race began the Eastern MTB XC Series (Mud,Sweat and Gears – more like tears in my case) down in Hintlesham in Suffolk. A long old journey! This race had a few more positive outcomes compared to the last despite the fact the whole course was a quagmire. I settle in tenth place in the mixed Elite/Expert category which was better than the last event.

The following races ensued; Midlands XC Series, the Nutcracker XC Series (Northern) the Southern Series etc. but nothing prepared me for the looming National Series.

The National Series started down in Wales at Pembrey Park outside of Swansea. The journey down was uneventful but incredibly long. Despite having a relief driver I was till tired by the end of the journey.

Having got there unfortunately a little late there was no time to practice which meant an early start the next morning!

The morning came quickly; my brother (pit man/driver/dogsbody) and I went to breakfast where I couldn’t stomach anything. Following this we shot off to Pembrey Park where I, I donned my team kit and shot off for a couple of laps. What a great course! It flowed, limited technical sections and fast. Perfect! Except every racer there was super-fast. I came in at 46th not the last I hastened to add but not great.

The season just got better and better for me which was great. I started getting in to small packs and actually racing rather than sustaining! I came away from the season relatively happy but with a lot of hard lessons learnt and a lot of areas to work on; but mainly still motivated and enthusiastic!

The end of 2016 start of 2017

Following the race season I had a couple of weeks off, more like three! Just to get my head and thoughts back. I wrote a summary on where I needed to and what I needed to do to get better.

The main area to concentrate on was to lose more weight. Having finished the season around 86kgs, I started to look at my diet, and started focussing on losing it!

The second area to concentrate on was improving my power output and sustainability of it. Which hopefully with the weight loss my wattage/kilo would soar up!

Then thirdly and which would come with experience was my MTB technique and skills.

The off season training has gone great, my weight has dropped massively including through Christmas, and my base output has improved.

Once December/January hit we started working on higher end outputs and power started soaring. However half way through January I hit a massive downer. We think potentially I over trained.

We’re still positive!

With the 2017 season looming; first race 26th February in London at the Olympic Park, nerves are setting in!

Let’s see how it goes!

Cull Cup and Duncan Sparrow Road Race, my first race of the season, and more importantly my first race for All Terrain. The start sheet was pretty intimidating with Team GB and a few of the other big women’s teams featuring on the list.

Melissa Greaves All Terrain Ride in Peace Rider in the mix at Pimbo

 

On the day there was a field of around 60 riders, not put off by the torrential rainy conditions. The big names were already lined up at the front when I rolled to the start taking my place at the back. Luckily I was able to make my way up to the front of the group easily and without any panic. Straight away this gave me a confidence boost and I settled into the bunch. The race was fast with both Team GB and Team Kuoto Torrelli riders continually jumping of the front. Some of the moves stuck for a few laps but nothing stayed away.

With the rainy conditions it was difficult to keep track of how many laps we had left. I love racing in the rain, but with no mudguards and heaps of gritty surface water visibility was very limited. I just focused on keeping myself in a good position near the front.

When the bell eventually rang on the last lap everyone seemed to panic, and what had seemed to be a pretty well behaved bunch became a bit frantic. I lost a bit of confidence and gave up my position. By the time we got to the final corner there were multiple screams of ‘hold your line’ with riders barging into invisible gaps and undertaking some dodgy manoeuvres to get to the front. At the end of the day that’s racing and hopefully as I get into the season I’ll become more confident in handling myself in the final stages of a race.

The finishing straight at Pimbo is quite long so I held back on starting my sprint, with hindsight I definitely left it too late. Although I managed to make up some places I could see a lot more girls in front of me than I’d have hoped. I was disappointed with my final position of 23rd because I had felt really strong. However, overall I was happy with my race, as I haven’t really raced at this level before or in a field of that size, it was a good start. I can come away with a good indication of my fitness and some learning points to take away for the next race.