Sunday, December 15, 2013

The great strava hunt

After a savage day riding with a couple friends and Florian Nicolai on Saturday (had to boast sorry), I decided I would do some strava hunting on the local tracks. For the uninitiated, strava is a GPS tracking app, which "gamifies" biking and basically turns all decent uphills and downhills into segments which you race on virtually. The idea is that you push a little harder even when you are alone, and if you get a couple of friends using it, it can be a lot of fun trying to beat them on well known loops. It looks something like this:

So around 11am I leave to go a descent which had been shown to me just last week, about 10km from my house. I took a different route up which turns out was steep... very steep. I set off riding pretty well, the track was a lot of fun and the conditions were stupidly good for mid-december. I got to the bottom of the track and thought "OK, that was pretty good, but now that I know the gist of it I can probably go faster and get KOM". KOM or King Of Mountain is the title of the fastest person down a particular segment on Strava, I had sized up my opposition, and knew that with a good run I could come out on top.

So back up I went, up the insane hill, going even further up to get a good run into the segment start. At the very top I opened up my bag, ate a cereal bar and then got ready. I had a pretty good run down again, maybe not much faster than the first one, but the 2 climbs and the previous day were starting to weigh on my legs. So I took a route I know well from the last 2 years living here, which zig-zags through the woods before getting to a nice little jump trail built by the local kids and finishes a few kilometers from my house.

Got back to the house around 2pm, off came the big bag from my back and straight away I realised something was off: why was the top pocket of the bag open? I checked it to find my car keys, big relief, but no sign of my phone!!! My Irish mobile has apparently been cutoff so I couldn't use that to call my phone. Without really thinking straight, I half filled a bottle of water and jumped onto my old bike which has a bottle cage. The idea being that I didnt want to carry around the heavy bag with all the repair gear, I was just going to head back out and look for the phone near the jump trail a few kilometers from the house.

A few minutes of swearing out loud to myself later, I got worried that I was more annoyed at not getting my strava results than about losing my phone and contacts! I also started to realise that the last time I opened the bag was at the very top of the climb to eat the cereal bar, which was literally the furthest place from my house. So I checked the jump trail first: nothing. At this stage I knew I would have to go all the way to the top of the first trail as there were a few jumps where the phone could have fallen out.

The problem was this: it was now after 3pm, I was starving and had already drank the water from my bottle. Worst of all, when I switched bikes at home, I grabbed the one with dodgy gearing, which has a larger cog up front than at the back even in the easiest gear. About half way up the climb (which according to the GPS has a 20% gradient in many places) the cramps started to hit. I pushed the bike up the last quarter... But no phone in sight.

Rode down the track like a granny, looking for my phone despite low light and poor eyesight only made worse from exhaustion. At the bottom I took the road back home, close to 8km with some climbs. I had to stop at one point and lie down on the footpath as my legs were aching too much... Finally made it home, took all the food out of my fridge, but before devouring it all, jumped on my scales: 5kg lighter than when I left my house nearly 6 hours before!!!

End of the story is that I tracked the phone via an app, but eventually I got in contact with a guy who picked it up from the bottom of the jump trail, where I suspected it had fallen out! Met up with him just a few hours later and gave him a giant box of chocolates as a thank you. But most importantly, strava had saved the ride, and I got my KOM, which is all that really matters :P.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Les portes du Mercantour 2013

A couple of photos from the Portes du Mercantour race. This race was exhausting with some huge climbs (one taking about 3h20) on saturday, followed by a pursuit race on Sunday which began with a 2 hour cycle +waiting around in the cold rain on top of a mountain while wondering whether the race was going to be cancelled or not.

I got lucky in that I was starting with a pretty fast guy in my group so I just followed him and ended up placing well (32nd out of almost 400!). Delighted with the result. Such an epic race physically, mentally and technically, it really was almost too good: regular spins and races just seem dull compared to it!

Awesome racing up front as the #15 in the world Nicolai chased down the #3 Barel despite being 18s behind on the last stage, and overtook him on a climb!

End of the 3h+ climb

Nearly there!

Stage 2

Start of stage 2


#1 this weekend!

Elbows out!

Seb dropping in

Antho hopping out

Nicolai in the chainless stage

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Accidental snow day

So it snowed last monday, but then it was sunny all week. From my house, it looked like the snow had melted. My house however, is on the south side of the hills. One of my favourite winter spins starts in a place called Bramafan. Well, I guess I never thought about it, but now I realise it is to the north of the hills. Today I learned about exposition, and how important it is in the mountains during winter!

What a day, starting in a place so small (6 houses) that my buddy Seb's GPS couldnt find it (this might have been a sign). I was expecting a little bit of snow at the top of the hill, so was a little bit worried when I parked next to a patch about 20cm deep! Not as worried as Seb who had only brought ankle socks and a pair of shorts. The previous day he had done a 4h cycle just down the road, on some dusty dry trails at a balmy 13 sunny degrees. 

"Dont worry, it's only a 2h spin". This it turns out was a foolish estimate, I had added 20 minutes to my personal best to account for the snow, turns out I should have doubled it!!! I carried my bike on my back about 90% of the way, Seb who doesnt like that approach pushed his through the snow, by far the most tiring approach. All the easy flat sections became nightmarishly hard. To be fair, we got some good pictures, and the descent was very doable, although this led to another disappointment: after about 4h of carrying, pushing, sweating and freezing our toes and ankles. The descent took a total of about 5 minutes...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Training in Levens

Covered in mud, wheels sliding about the place, tried to power up a climb, lost my balance, went to dab the patch of grass on the right, foot falls through a hole of briars where I end up stuck:

Great fun on a (rare) sunny day. Sneaky practice with Seb in Levens, although we bumped into a fair few other riders. Some great views, great trails, not too much snow, but some not so new looking bikes!