25 Nov 2011

“the picture of Sam Jones in mid-crash tells the story of his broken pride, far better than I can”

This weekend, the group was made up of Sam Bennett, Sam Jones, John Summerton and John Eaton from RAF Coningsby, with Andy Harrison from RAF Scampton. The drive over was concerning to say the least. We forged our way through thick fog which showed no chance of clearing. Parking up in Hope, we set off for the first climb of the day. Passing through Castleton, we climbed up the old A625. This piece of road is famous for scaling the flanks of Mam Tor "The Shivering Mountain" which is prone to landslip especially after periods of heavy rain. The road previously wound its way up the south face of the hill but was in constant need of repair due to landslide damage. This makes for some interesting little obstacles that break up the climb. A steady slog eventually put us off-road onto Rushup Edge where we were afforded superb views into the Edale and Hope Valleys, looking down onto the rolling mist below it reminded me of a massive layer of cotton wool.

We then proceeded to descend down past Lords Seat onto nice ‘techy’ double-track before heading north onto the Mount Famine track. This classic route roller-coasters in-and-out of cloughs which have suffered from varying degrees of erosion from 4x4 vehicles and motor-cross bikes. This makes for a better ride, placing challenges in the way both on climbs and descents. The steep grassy drop slithered its way down to the foot of Coldwell Clough. A long steep climb, initially on tarmac then led to a technical rocky ascent all the way to Edale Cross. We took a breather here, again taking in the amazing view into Edale valley, still lined with a fluffy white bank of mist.

We battled our way against the flow of ramblers walking up Jacobs Ladder where we bounced a way through drainage bars that threatened us with snake-bite punctures. After a regroup at the foot of Jacobs Ladder, we rolled along the Pennine Way towards Edale. The long road slog back up to the top of Mam Tor gave us a sweet piece of single-track that led us to Hollins Cross. Here we dropped again, taking the opportunity to session a drop-off. It was all going well until John got his camera out. The picture of Sam Jones in mid-crash tells the story of his broken pride, far better than I can. A bonus climb put us back onto Mam Tor, where we then dropped down Windy Knoll, past Rowter Farm over the Limestone Way. It was then a very fast and loose drop on Dirtlow Rake before popping into Pindale. This particular gorge has an interesting mix of rocks, the size of babies’ heads – just the right size for putting you over the bars.

Finishing in a disused quarry, John had an opportunity to take part in his other favorite pastime of photographing abandoned shoes – don’t ask!

A great days riding with another new face - Cheers all.

9 Nov 2011

"first lap saw Dan Lewis take a tumble as he led into the arena"

GWR Floodlit Series
Submarine Rugby Club Swindon 25 October 2011
Finally the weather has turned to what cyclo-cross racing is all about in the winter as with a heavy down pour just 30 minutes before the race the dry course was turned very muddy and sticky in places to test the riders and bikes to the limit.
A reduced line up of 32 still consisted of a very strong field of riders with Matt Woods, winner of the Wessex League race in reading, and Luke Cowely, winner of a round of last year’s series, present. The race was run off in the usual darkness but with very little wind it was still very warm and the track was hard packed.
The first lap saw Dan Lewis take a tumble as he led into the arena as the grassy banks had turned very slippy due to the rain. This allowed Paul Lloyd to put some pressure on early and ride on his own a few seconds ahead of the chasing pack of Dan Lewis, Scot Easter, George Bate and Luke Cowely. The second group was made up of Matt Woods, Dan Smith, and Deacon Cutterham.
Midway through the race Lloyd was still leading and his gap was starting to increase as Easter and Lewis were struggling in the muddy conditions. The race behind was an every changing as both Bate and Cowely were suffering in the muddy conditions and dropped out of contention while Smith and Brown moved up into the top five.
In the final lap Lloyd was holding his advantage over his chaser which he held to the line, Easter in solid second place and Lewis came in for the final podium spot for third. Fourth place went to Steve Brown who took the first place for veteran rider. Joe Griffiths was first junior and Samantha Jones was first lady.
The race for the overall sees Lloyd in control but with Lewis eight points behind and a significant 62 point gap to Smith who is still in third. Lloyd will look to defend his lead at round nine to be held on the 1 November.

RAFCA Member Martin Jones trials Strava

When looking to track and monitor your cycling progress it is quite easy to quickly become overwhelmed by the vast array of options that are out there. Let me introduce you to Strava.


Strava at its core is another website/app that enables you to track your ride and relating data. You sign up for a free account (premium option available), download the app to your smartphone or garmin device and head out for a ride, uploading the data on your return. But, this is where Strava starts to come into its own. Firstly, it focuses on the most important elements, the data. With a netural colour scheme and a well laid out user interface it is a joy to analyse your data. The route is displayed in a map (similar to google maps) with your start and finish locations marked out. A gradient profile is displayed beneath with the option to overimpose speed, power and heart rate data.
Another interesting feature is Strava's ability to use an algorithm using a mixture of weight, speed and gradient to estimate power output. Although its accuracy pales in comparison to a dedicated unit due to its inability to factor in wind, it is still a fun feature that can be used to monitor rough gains and improvements. This power data can also be viewed in a 'Best Efforts' graph and table giving in depth analysis of power output over varying times. If, however, you are one of those lucky people who can afford a powermeter, you will be able to upload this data along with your ride, whilst still having access to the power analysis options Strava provides.

Most of the other contenders in this field offer similar features and, other than Strava being more user friendly, this alone would not deserve such a strong recommendation. Where Strava really begins to move away from the competition is the social element. You can follow other users, view their rides and even compare yourself against them on leaderboards. Climbs are automatically detected if they qualify for categorisation and a leaderboard is generated including all rides from all users that complete it. This inspires a degree of competition. You may find yourself targeting a certain climb with the intention of gaining the KOM award and feeling elated when you suceed or furious when Sally from Exeter pips you to the top.

Another interesting feature is the ability to view a climb as a second by second timeline and note where the strong guys start to pull away. Couple this with the latest feature 'Segment Explorer, allowing you to find the top 10 climbs in a specified radius, and you have a powerful tool for individual motivation and competition.

Most importantly, Strava has an effective support system in place with a strong suggestions community upon which they genuinly follow up. Resources are constantly being poured into the application by the owners to make improvements and ensure that future customers have an even more refined and useful product. There are occassional bugs to be found but regular updates ensure these do not become too frustrating.

The main problem with Strava is that, due to its social nature, its main strength lies in the friendly competition it creates. This, however, requires users. The more users the more complete the product. Currently the american share is much greater and offers an exciting insight into the potential of the product. Hopefully over the next year or so the UK market will blossom to match.

I believe it has the potential to improve the RAFCA presence internally. Enabling members to see what each other are getting up to, what training is taking place and even seeing who's around the local area. A RAFCA club is currently available on Strava to make this easier and just like the application itself will benefit greatest from a strong, enthusiastic uptake. There is nothing more motivating than seeing your colleagues training harder

8 Nov 2011

"My speedo touched 27 mph, Mel Sears was still happily in the wheels"

Read about how a small team of friends from RAF Benson enjoyed cycling in the Chilterns

The Build up
Paul Bucknall, the team leader took care of all pre-ride administration which involved liaising with RAF Benson Physical Education Flight and booking suitable accommodation along the route. We (the riders) had to have the correct fitness level to complete the ride of some 180 miles over two days.
The Route

This involved us joining the cycle way just outside RAF Benson in Oxfordshire. We then followed it in a clockwise direction with pre-arranged rendezvous points where we could meet the support driver, stock up on fluids etc. The route was challenging with plenty of short steep gradients to test the riders fitness followed by many technical descents. The majority of the route was based on quiet single track roads surrounded by the stunning backdrop of the Chiltern countryside.
The aim
Was to give road cyclists from RAF Benson the opportunity to ride and compete whilst being covered with by on duty status. The funding came from RAF Benson’s own cycling club budget and proved to be a great success, it was not only a great opportunity to make friends and enjoy the Chilterns, but has laid down foundations for more long distance events in the future.
Day one
We met at RAF Benson ready for an 09:00 depart. The weather was perfect, a clear morning with a subtle tail wind easing us out.
Armed with just his trusty map Paul Bucknall led the way, the short sharp climbs synonymous with the Chilterns started immediately causing the group to split up before the regroup at the top.
Twenty miles in we approached White Leaf hill climb which is well known locally and was much talked about amongst the group. Dan Toole was struggling with a knee injury and was advised to try a slightly easier ascent. The rest of us approached the climb following Jonny Heaton’s wheel, the difficulty of the climb was obvious to see, as Jonny began to swerve back and forth across the road while spinning a small gear up the climb. All riders were glad to make it to the top without any walking and were happy with the news that the hardest climb of the day over.
At midday we stopped at a café in Wendover for a quick cake break, with thirty miles behind us our next stop would be at sixty miles, there we would enjoy a more lengthy food stop.
The route remained challenging, it was either going up or down all the way until lunch which didn’t seem to be impressing Dan Toole. PTI Melonie Sears (Former GB road cyclist) was showing her calibre as she sat comfortably at the front for most of the afternoon.
The lunch stop was a pleasing sight for all and the weather was fine enough to sit outside and enjoy the sun, not bad for October.
“Twenty five miles to go,” was the brief from Paul Bucknall as we set out on the last leg of the day. The course actually passed our accommodation where we were to stay that evening with a soul destroying twenty miles to go, fortunately the last part was the flattest. We were able to coast home with no difficulties, apart for the cyclocross style track to the finish – job done.
Day two
Refreshed from a good night sleep the group were back on the road and once again the glorious Buckinghamshire weather was on our side. The first twenty miles saw us sweep quietly through country lanes at a respectable 15 – 20 mph. At this point we decided we had done enough to earn our breakfast so a quick café stop was called, morale was high and everyone seemed to really be enjoying just being out on their bikes “much better than being in work,” I thought.
We were back on the road again and making good progress before a pot hole put an end to my front wheel; cue the support driver, It was very frustrating for everyone as we had to wait at the train station in Amersham for around thirty minutes for the driver to arrive with a spare wheel.
Behind on schedule, we had time to make up, we lifted the pace and covered the next thirty miles in steady time. Now back on schedule we approached the Hughendone Valley which produced probably the hardest climbs of the day. The sun had come out by this time and spirits were high once again, one more food stop in High Wycombe before the last section of the route.
The last section saw us hit the highest speed of the ride with good through and off’s at the front. My speedo touched 27 mph, Mel Sears was still happily sat in the wheels, I suppose you never really lose it.
As the sun began to go down, we rolled back into RAF Benson happy with our two days training. I think everyone got what they wanted from the ride, for me it was just a good start to those winter base miles we all hate; my hope is to run another two day event in the spring.
The RAF through its many stations runs various cycling trips and outing, if you would like to get involved visit your local gym, ask for the details of your cycling point of contact or visit RAF Cycling www.rafcycling.org.uk

2 Nov 2011

Turner 5 Spot review by Sam Bennet

So the bike. It is a DW link, Turner 5 Spot with 5.5” of travel on the rear, coupled with a set of 150 mm travel, Rock Shox Sektor Coil U-Turn forks. She rolls on a pair of Hope Hoops Pro 2 Evo Hubs laced onto No Tubes Flow Rims. I have made my own tubeless kit by sealing the rim with aluminium airframe repair tape, cutting a Presta valve out of an old inner tube leaving a bit of rubber on and winding them into the rims with the knurled lock ring. I have made my own sealant from 1 part art latex, 1 part glycol anti-freeze, 2 parts water and a small dose of Slime to help it seal larger holes quicker. More on tubeless in another blog. I run a Maxxis Minion DH on the rear and a Maxxis Larsen on the front. The rear tyre grips well under power and braking on all but the most slimey surfaces, where as the front rolls smoothly giving plenty of controllable drift on the front. Stopping power comes from a set of Hope V2s 203 mm on the front and 180 mm on the rear. The chainset is an X-Type Middleburn RS8 through Hope external BB shells, 22 inner, 34 middle and a bash guard on the outer. groupset-wise, I use Shimano XT shifters and front mech with a durable medium caged SLX rear mech. The stem and bars are from Hope and FSA respectively with the seat post and Saddle being from Thompson and SDG. Finally, Ergon grips give great control whilst reducing fatigue on the wrists on the longer days out.

1 Nov 2011

“The singletrack across Derwent Edge is a treat”

I am a great fan of the Dark Peak District. No matter what the weather it always rides well. Also, I like the fact you can start from one location and pick and mix many different climbs and descents, all coming back within a few km of the start enabling plenty of ‘bang out’ options. You can also string out some massive loops for that endless ride feeling when the days are longer and the weather more inspiring. Saturday had a group of six of us embarking on a nice little loop, setting off from Hope and heading into the Hope Valley for a couple of km before getting off road. We were made up of Sam Jones, John Summerton and myself from RAF Coningsby, Andy Harrison from RAF Scampton, Dave Hunt from Marham and my nephew Matt. For the first climb, we headed up what I have always called the Roman Road. It isn’t actually, but after a couple of km lumpy climbing it does put you onto one just under Win Hill. We followed this until Hope Cross before dropping down the wet and rutted descent into Blackley Clough. Here, we took just another small climb before winding out our forks to full travel ready for the fun to begin.
Up to this point, the beautifully tuned DW link had proven itself well. The Pro Pedal on the RP23 High Volume is redundant on this frame. There truly is no pedal induced bob – it just puts all the energy into turning the wheel. That said, it is still so plush that it gobbles up the square edged steps and small cobbles alike. With the saddle dropped, you feel like you are sitting in the Spot rather than on it. This inspires massive confidence when you point it back down hill. The descent down Blackley Hey went in a blur as I rocketed towards the A623. This is an old favourite of mine. At the bottom, whilst waiting for the rest of the gang, I had time not only to get the camera out, but also to reminisce when I first rode this back in 1993 on my old Giant Cadex with canti brakes and no suspension. I remember my eyes actually aching from the vibration and the sickening feeling of un-peeling my fingers from the brake levers and bars – who else remembers that?
The climb up past Rowlee Farm is steep. V steep. I was super-impressed watching John win the Polka Dots with his 1x9 gear set up winding his way up there. But, on the super fast descent to the Derwent Reservoir via Lockerbrook Farm, I won the
prize of op ening the gate for everyone at the bottom – again, having time to get the camera out. You see, this is the thing with this Turner – it’s no lightweight, especially with the durability build I have opted for. But it climbs so well on the techy stuff, it makes it fun. And descending, it truly is the best bike I have ever ridden. It floats and feels like it is never running out of travel, even when at the bottom, the o-ring on the shock tells a different story.

A tarmac transit around the Ladybower Reservoir put us at the foot of an awesome little challenge. The cobbled climb up to the National Trust mill under Derwent Edge is a killer. It starts off fine, but I always like to use it as my fitness benchmark, especially the last few metres which are punctuated with drainage bars, just as the gradient reaches near impossible. Again, the Turner lapped this up – I believe, the only bike to be pedalled the entire way to the first gate. No doubt though, had John had the granny ring, he would have done it, especially seeing the way he honked past me giving him enough time to dismount, walk the last few metres and open that gate for me just as I arrived, nearly bringing up a lung or two.

The singletrack across Derwent edge is a treat. Not fast, but distupted with mystery puddles that sometimes contain an unhappy ending – putting riders over bars and nice little drop-offs where you can practice your manuals and power wheelies in
preparation for the next bit. With a tail wind we booted it down Whinstone Lee Tor.
An amazing descent, with multiple line choices. You can go smooth or pick any of the many obstacles and use them to bounce from one to the next, clearing ruts, clumps of heather and tufts of grass. Again, the Spot showed just how adaptable it is, flicking from one line to the next, and getting me out of trouble on several occasions where I set myself up for a bee-line through a boulder field. After a short traverse, the descent to the Ladybower House at Ashopton provided another photo opportunity, although the group seemed to be moving so fast at this point, none of my photos were usable.

A peaceful transit on the road, over the Ladybower dam and then down through Thornhill to Shatton, left us with the biggest climb of the day. Starting with a log tarmac ramp onto Shatton Moor, the gradient eased as the surface became loose again. Behind the comms mast, it levelled out shortly ofter Matt, still getting used to SPDs had a moment and fell into the ditch still clipped in. Rolling round the head of Shatton Edge to Robin Hoods Cross gave us a chance to flush as much lactic out of our quads before it was again time for saddles down. The final drop was epic. It starts with fast double track which propels you into an awesome berm. Then, the gradient steepens and you are forced to control your speed as you work your way over marbles, babies heads, sand and slabby drop offs – all within 1.5 km. Simply great!
After an adrenaline fuelled debrief at the bottom, we took the off-road option from Bradwell, behind Castleton Cement works before dropping back into Hope for tea, cake and medals at the Woodbine Cafe. A great day, with some new faces, some great weather and a terrific bike. Thanks all!

Happy trails - Sam Bennett Exped & Touring Secretary

“I came in second after a horrendous tactical decision!”

SAC Tim Robinson aka ‘Greatshepini’ targets the National Masters Track Championships, the Scottish Track Championships and the National Sprinters League with a ride in the World Masters Track Championships just for experience, with a view to having a proper go next year. Unfortunately for me the only true opponent this year was the weather! The sprinters races I entered this year were either rained off before the event or spent sitting in the rain staring at the track.
The National Masters Track Championships took place in the first week of July at Newport Velodrome. The sprint competition on the Friday began with a 200m TT qualifier in which I posted the fourth fastest time of 11.7 seconds. My first race was a three rider affair, always difficult, this time I came in second after a horrendous tactical decision! The next race was a four rider event, one of the others decided to go from the start, so it basically turned into a Keirin, by the bell his legs were dead. I popped out of his slipstream from the back of the group and blasted past for the win. The day then progressed into the evening and I finished up in the ride off for the bronze medal. Once again, my ‘ring rusty’ tactics shone through, seeing me edged out and into fourth place. I was reasonably happy with my speed, but I had a lot to do before the Scottish Championships in a months time, my lack of racing had taken its toll.
August this year saw me travel down to Meadowbank in Edinburgh for the Scottish Track Championships. I wasn’t racing until the Saturday but I went down to the track on the Friday to watch the mens kilo race and the womens 500TT. This was a great night of racing in which Bruce Croall; came only two thousandths of a second off of Chris Hoy’s record kilo time.
The following day was a sprint competition accompanied by the threat of rain. With only the top eight riders from qualifying going through to the quarter finals, things were going to be tough against a field of quality riders. I qualified fifth which I was happy with; though felt I could’ve gone quicker.
Having progressed to the quarter finals I came up against Kevin Stewart, Science in Sport for the best of three rides. He was my opponent is the Scottish team sprint ‘man 1’, so I decided on the tactic of trying to get him to lead me out. He must have had the same idea, as race one and two turned into very slow and cagey affairs; testing one another’s track standing abilities to the limit, I tried to get the other rider in the front. I was unfortunately edged out in both rides; but I was happy with how the races went from a tactical point of view, simply, he was just too powerful! Traditional for the year, rain came with the forecast being the same all weekend, sadly the rest of the championships were abandoned. The results were declared some weeks later and I was given a fifth place.
The World Masters Track Championships took place this year at Manchester and was contested by over four hundred riders. The atmosphere and racing was very intense and the first couple of days saw Manchester Accident & Emergency visited several times. Day four was the 35-39 sprint competition and started with the usual 200m TT qualifying in which I posted the 11th fastest time out of twenty-four riders. Times were really close with only one hundredths between most riders and racing was going to be tight. Racing wise I was dumped out of the first round, although this wasn’t one of my main goals for the season, I was very disappointed.
All in all, quite a good year...

27 Oct 2011

Chasing a cat...

My main season objectives being to improve my ten and twenty five mile time trial times, to start road racing for the first time and to try and get points and get my 3rd cat licence, also to try and improve my hill climb PB’s and go to the national hill climb again.

I started my season in early March with two hilly time trials and a crit race. I managed to PB on both hilly time trial course by five minutes on each and scored my first season road race points by gaining a 8th place in the crit.

My training was still geared towards time trials aiming to be going strong in may for the interservices, and towards the end of April I PB’d over ten miles doing a 24:30 a PB by 20 odd seconds. I arrived at the Inter Services time trial in good condition which is more than can be said for the weather which I feel was the worse winds I have ever raced against, I did a 25:09 for the ten which was a disappointment but then PB’d on the twenty five by just over three minutes so it was worth starting despite the conditions.

It was from then that I decided I would concentrate on my road racing as I was still chasing points after a few more races with 9th and 10th place finishes. I tried to train to be able to sprint just a little faster to be able to finish just a few places higher to get them all important points.

I entered a race in the South West a 4th cat only and felt that the course was to my suiting as it finished on a small incline, I had the confidence and the form and the belief of a win, after numerous attacks on the hills to wear the opposition down and break the group up it ended with a group of about nine of us so I was guaranteed points, however, my positioning was poor in the finale with people riding like mad men. I took a back seat as an accident was the last thing I wanted, subsequently I started my sprint from eight back and finished second and was gaining the whole time on first but ran out of road this was a valuable lesson and a season defining moment.

I had my 3rd cat licence and it was only may, I had achieved all my objectives apart from the hill climbs by May, this is where I decided to adapt my objectives and aim towards my 2nd cat licence , I knew it would be a hard task but I needed something to aim at rather than giving up in May. By getting beat in the sprint I realised that yes I was fit, yes I can ride a bike but I was just not aggressive enough, over the next few races I concentrated on how the better riders moved through the pack and asserted their authority on the race.

My next points came at a 3rd and 4th cat race in Brentor a very fast but lumpy course finishing on a hill, I knew who the people were to watch a I rode a good race a small group got away the 2nd to last time up the hill, but still a key rider remained and on the next hill he attacked everyone who was strong jumped but I was the only one that managed to go with him but as the hammer went down the other side I just didn’t quite have the legs to go with him again and was left in no mans land, turns out the guy was luke gray apparently very handy at cyclocross and a sponsored rider, so no disappointment there. I filtered back into the pack and with an uphill finish I positioned correctly into the final corner and with 200 metres to go went as fast as my legs would carry me and I managed to win the bunch sprint and got 6th, yet more points.

I was growing in strength and experience and awareness with every race that passed. Which lead me to the race where I was beaten in the sprint in a 4th cat race, I returned for a 3rd and 4th cat race with the ambition of winning, I rode a tactically good race and was fresh on the last lap, had a good wheel for the sprint and I jumped early to surprise everyone knowing I had the fitness to climb strong in the sprint, and with twenty metres to go I was still leading I look back and I had gone, no one was coming back at me now, apparently I kicked once and got a gap and as they got back onto me I kicked again and went away all I remember is pain, pain, pain and then the joy of crossing the line first. My first win and yet I still wanted more I knew I had enough to get my 2nd cat licence if I kept trying. Again I returned to the same circuit two weeks later tried the same plan and it so nearly came off I finished 2nd just piped in the sprint but still yet more points towards my 2nd cat. In the meantime I had had poor performances at both Interservices and RAF road races with my tactics and the wind playing havoc with me, it was a very steep learning curve.

I now needed just six points for my 2nd cat and only three more road races planned, I wanted to get it out the way so I could concentrate on my hill climbs. I turned up to a crit in cornwall hoping for the best , 3rd and 4th cat crit but we got stuck in with the elites and 1st and 2nd cat because of falling light, this was going to be tough but I knew I was strong and a result was possible if I could just stick with the elites for a bit I assumed the majority of 4th and 3rds would get dropped meaning good points on offer as although we started with the elites 1sts and 2nds our points were separate, now it has to be said with two elite riders and numerous 1st cats this race was possibly the toughest I have ever done, and hang on was all I could do but that’s what I managed to do an elite rider broke away and won but I finished in the chase group with 1 elite, two 1st cat riders and a few 2nd cats and only two of us 3rd cats managed to survive the onslaught I was confident in the sprint and so I should be I had won a few recently, with the prospect of a win and my 2nd cat I laid everything down beat the 3rd cat and a 1st cat rider and won my race, but also if I had been in the elites race etc I would of got 5th, that to me against that opposition meant more than my win, it said to me that I had deserved my 2nd cat and all the hard work put in was worth it. So from 4th cat to 2nd in a season finishing with fifty four points , now all I had to do was put the icing on the cake with the hill climbs.

I've never hurt like I did in training for the hill climbs I just prayed it would be worth it, with my local club hill climb being my first of the season and my form was building I knocked nearly twenty seconds off my PB and was ten seconds away from the course record in horrible conditions, I moved onto the Shropshire championships with the win being my objective, I gave it everything and won by a huge forty seconds and only sixteen seconds outside the course record, I am Shropshire hill champion and a nice trophy is on its way.

I had to enter an open to qualify for the nationals, with work being busy I needed to have a good ride as I didn’t have time for a 2nd open event. I chose the Warwickshire two stage hill climb knowing some good opposition always attended. I was disappointed Matt Clinton, Tejvan Pettinger and James Dobbin were in attendance, the first climb I didn’t get a chance to ride before the race I went in blind and I don’t think it went bad but it wasn’t perfect I was disappointed until I got back to HQ and saw I was 7th overall out of fifty odd riders , I was shocked I didn’t think I had gone that well , I was buoyant for the 2nd hill climb, Dovers hill I had done this at nationals last year and suffered and wasn’t overly looking forward to the prospect again but 7th overall I knew I had to try. I've never pushed so hard in my life the pictures show it , Pain like never before but when I looked at my result I was 50 seconds quicker than I was at the nationals and was 9 seconds outside James Dobbin time (ex National Hill Climb Champion) , I had secured my 7th place by a big margin , that is possibly my greatest achievement so far , yes its no win and yes its only 7th but against my opposition and looking at my times in a single year I had progressed so far it really was an achievement to show just how far I had progressed even got my name in cycling weekly for the first time. And then the following weekend I did a local 10 and PB’d with a 24:26 on a poor day.

Now just one race left the national hill climb, now since my hill climb heroics I've been on exercise for three weeks with no bike and no training and unfortunately it shows I've tried my best to arrive at the national ok so I'm not laughed at but I don’t expect too much from it to be honest I'll go there for the enjoyment and experience and maybe next year I'll shine more there. I got 109th last year if I break top 100 then I've done a good job. If any of you are passing by feel free to stop at the Nationals and give me a shout of support or abuse, either way anything to mask the pain .
So all objectives for the year achieved and smashed. After the nationals a well earned rest, but not for too long. I'm also looking to start cyclocross in the winter, just to maintain a little more fitness for spring, so I don’t go stir crazy.
A few thanks I would like to say, one to all at RAF Cycling who have welcomed me at races, sorted out administration for me to race and accommodation etc.

The biggest one to Mark Griffin, frankly without him, I wouldn’t have achieved what I did. He coached and mentored me through the winter and early season; setting me up for all I have acheived. Massive thanks to him for his depth of knowledge, he was always there at the end of the phone for advice and morale and it certainly made the difference, I owe you one or maybe a few.

One final thing, as I'm the only RAF representative at the Nationals, does that mean by default I'm RAF Hill Climb Champion, again?

Dan Watts

19 Oct 2011

Mike Page Starts The Season With A Howler

RAFCC Cyclo X 2010 Vets Champion targets the Yorkshire Series 2011/12

Yorkshire Points Series Round 1 Oldham Page started towards the back of the 60-strong field including Zepnat Racings Matt Denby. Climbing to around 25th by the end of the first lap; Page felt quite strong. However, before reaching the climb at the end of the first lap he suffered a broken chain! Unbelievably, he endured a sprint back to the car park to get a quick link in order to carry on. Once back in the race he was making progress quite nicely, but then managed to pick up a front wheel puncture and head planted at the bottom of a fast descent. Stopping racing at this point, he can be commended for his tenacity, however – he had obviously upset the Gods of ‘Cross at some point. When interviewed, Page had this to say “Luckily, it's a 'Best 6 results from 9' league so I can ignore this terrible result.” “I got home and beasted myself around the local playing fields for 45 minutes to get rid of my frustration and to get some training in (without any punctures or breakages).

RAF DownHill Coaching day a gr8 success!

2010 RAF DH Champs/Discovery Day held at Aston Hill on 3rd Nov 04/11/2010
Report From Barry Fenton RAF DH. See Video...
The leaves have just settled on the 2010 RAF DH Champs/Discovery Day held at Aston Hill (www.rideastonhill.com) on 3rd Nov. The day was a resounding success with a good turn out (given that most of the DH regulars seem to be out of the country!) of 21 riders. In a huge boost for the event, Ian Warby and Richard Abbott (CTC and Firecrest Mountain Biking) were on hand to provide top level coaching for the participants. As coaches to world class riders and experienced racers, they were able to provide an impressive insight into the skills essentials and mental focus required to shave seconds off a downhill run.

Rather than using a normal downhill race format, the participants were coached in the morning before completing a timed run on a section of downhill track. After lunch, the techniques learnt in the morning were developed with the aid of more coaching and to finish the day, a second timed run was completed on the same section of downhill track. A quick glance at the results from the second run quickly confirmed that the coaching had clearly paid off with the vast majority of riders being anything from 0.5 to 26 seconds faster than their first run.
All participants took home extra skills and techniques to use and develop on all future rides and races which was the main aim of the event. The RAF DH Champs results are below but they are very much of secondary importance to the main outcome. Hopefully this event is the first stepping stone on a path to improvement for all RAF riders next season.
There were many highlights and stories from the day so I won't cover everything now
- Most importantly, there were no serious injuries despite the slippy conditions. There were plenty of crashes and a few grazes, cuts and bruises but the First Aid kits remained unopened which is a result!
- Special mention goes to Nicole Way who was on parade at RAF Benson at 0830 on the day but was still able to turn up and shave almost 3 seconds off her first run time (and beat her husband by 0.84secs!) taking the Female DH Champ title.
- Best Newcomer Award goes Matt Verrier (RAF Lyneham) who came 4th on a borrowed bike but could so easily have been on the podium if he hadn't crashed on his second run in fading light conditions!
- Most Improved Award goes to Craig Jenkins (RAF Benson) who was 12.22secs faster on his second run demonstrating that smooth is quick.
- Henry (the Hungarian Vizsla) posted a blistering first run time of 35.64secs but was subsequently disqualified after allegations of course cutting!
- Well done to the RAF Halton XC riders who gave it a go and posted some very respectable times. Si Taylor is now the (un)official RAF Halton DH Champ and I'm sure Joe Owen still has a sore bum after a spill on the 4X track!
- Despite attempting a "just clipping into my SPDs" rolling start, Jon Gates could only improve by 0.52secs securing 2nd place.
- It was good to see a strong turn out from the Army and quite amusing to watch Tank sprinting the last 50m of the track with his bike on his shoulder after crashing on the last drop off (still 4secs faster than his first run though)

18 Oct 2011

Trumpets at the Swindon Cross for Lewis

See image here
& here

On the second lap the leaders came into the woods with James still leading Doyle and Cotty. But he slipped which allowed the others past, and this is when Cotty attacked. He was third into the trees but first one out and with a small lead.
The first major casualty was Steve James who was felling unwell and retired at the end of the lap.
As the race progressed Cotty opened up a gap of over 30 seconds with the rest of the chasing bunch all together. The chasing group of five were all together for a couple of laps, until Doyle saw his chance to attack and pulled away from Lewis, who in turn could not chase him down because he would have pulled all the others along with him.
He had to wait for his chance, and with a lap to go he made his move and pulled away. Doyle then had his work cut out to keep Lewis at bay. Bjergfelt had to have a bike change when his shifter lever became loose, but was soon on his way quite quickly, but Matt Macdonald passed him and took a fine finish in a very hard race.
As Cotty started the last lap he rode hard on the grassed area so he could go carefully through the single track and wooded sections. He came across the line well clear of the others, with Doyle next up followed by Dan Lewis in third.

15 Oct 2011

What is the best way to develop talent?

Well this is how - take some talented cyclists and put them on steep development curves. this is what happened to one such individual, RAF Bensons Gary Sparkes was recently introduced to RAF Cyclings Head Coach the hard way! During a recent coaching session at RAF High Wycombe Gary and several other talented cyclist were put through their paces during Maximal Aerobic Power or MAP testing. This involves gradually incresing resistance on a turbo trainer until the body cannot continue - the data is then used to populate specific training plans and act as a benchmark for future progression. Sparkes said "this was brilliant initiative and was pleased to have been invited" RAFCC hope to develop riders like Sparkes over a three year period in order to dominate both the Army and Royal Marine/Royal Navy in future Inter Service events. Featured in the video are RAFCC Head Coach Dave Green, triathlon coach Marc Preece and Steven Brealey one of the top performing surprises from Air Command.

13 Oct 2011

9th for the 'Paceman' Paul Mace

A very respectable 9th for the Paceman at Milton Keynes seen here adopting an unorthodox yet smooth lift.

Results here

Wessex League Round 1

Lewis Secures 5th

The Wessex Cyclo-Cross League got underway at the newly named Oxford Spires Academy near Cowley on Saturday, with the Bikezone Cycles 'Cross.

GWR Floodlit Series Round 5

Full race report here

Paul Lloyd took the win at the 5th round of the GWR team Floodlit Winter Cyclo cross Series, beating Crispin Doyle and more significantly Dan Lewis, now leading the overall series.

With the warm autumn weather continuing 52 riders were attracted to the venue, a new record, for the 5th round of the winter series.A very strong field of riders lined up on the start line, with Dave McMullen, recent winner of round 2 of the Wessex league, and previous GWR round winners Dan Lewis and Paul Lloyd. The race was run off in the usual darkness but with very little wind it was still very warm and the track was hard packed.The first lap saw the leading group of four riders pulling out a small gap between themselves and the chasing pack. The first rider to lead through the technical section was the previous round's winner Dan Lewis closely followed by Paul Lloyd and Luke Cowely, who was returning from a knee injury. The chasing group was made up of Dan Smith, George Bate and Matt Hargrove.On the second lap, the leaders came into the woods with Lewis still leading Doyle and Lloyd. These three went on to pull away from the chasers and the battle for the victory in round 5 was to be fought out between them. On lap 6 of 11 Lloyd pressed a slight advantage over his chasers which he held to the line, Doyle took a very close 2nd and Lewis who suffered with some bike trouble claimed third. The battle for 4th was a constantly changing struggle between Smith and Bate. Bate was to climb into the 4th spot though, as Smith flatted on the last lap exiting the wooded section. 1st Veteran rider to finish was Gary Clarke, 1st Junior was Matt Woods and 1st Lady was Caroline Goward. The race for the overall is still to be decided but seems destined to be a two horse race between Lloyd and Lewis, with only 4 points separating the riders and a 50 point gap to Smith who is now third.

GWR Floodlit Series Round 4

Dan Lewis back to his very best

Round 4 of the GWR Team Floodlit Winter Cross League saw 40 riders signing on, greeted by late evening sunshine (before the darkness arrived) on a warm night reminiscent of the Summer League series, held at Supermarine Rugby Club in July. The track now completely dried out from the previous week’s mud bath, was now like a fast off-road crit circuit.
With only 2 points separating the leading two riders in the competition and seven races from ten counting for the overall, the series is beginning to heat up. For the second week in succession the new start line, allowed for a long grassy sprint into turns near the club house. From the gun it was series promoter Dan Smith who headed the field, only to crash out in the early turns next to the club house. Dan Lewis took over at the front before, when on lap two Paul Lloyd assumed control for one lap, only to have a mechanical and required a quick visit to the pits. Lewis took over the lead on lap three and never looked back during the 45 minute race to take the win. Behind him a chase group of Lloyd, Scot Easter and Peter Kench forced the pace trying to close the gap to Lewis.
By Lap 9 of the 11, Lewis was still out in front, with Lloyd gaining a gap on the two riders behind, Kench put in an attack along the rugby pitch to make contact with Lloyd and dropped Easter. These two pulled away from Easter, but could not close the gap to Lewis who took his second win of the series. Lloyd maintained his consistency of not placing outside of the top three in the four rounds by taking 2nd place, with Kench coming home in for 3rd place (his 2nd in two weeks).
Dan Lewis has now regained the lead in the series, with only one point separating the leading two riders.

GWR Floodlit Series Round 3

Lewis manages a respectable 5th to stay in contention

At round three of GWR Team’s Winter, Floodlit Cyclo Cross Series on September 20th saw 45 riders signing on for what was to be a very wet and muddy race at Supermarine Rugby Club. The course saw a change to the start and finish line, with a new section created in the top woods to further extend the lap.

With seven events of the ten race series counting for the overall prize of a holiday to Joyriders in Spain, it is still very tight at the top of the table with the top three leading riders separated by just 12 points. The new start position allowed for a long grassy sprint into some turns near the club house. From the gun it was series leader Dan Lewis, Paul Lloyd, Harvey Lowe and Dan Smith forcing the pace, in very slippery conditions. Lewis and Lloyd gained a gap on lap two along with George Bate who had moved up to assume the lead, from a chasing group. Behind there were many positional changes as riders struggled with the changing conditions, as the circuit became very slippery late on. Bate held the lead until lap four, when Lewis made his bid for victory, unfortunately he was to suffer from a fall on lap eight and Lloyd took advantage pressing home for his first win of the GWR team winter series.

Paul Lloyd now leads the series with 2 points separating the leading two and only 20 points separating the top 5 riders it’s still all to play for and the prize of a holiday to Joyriders, Spain.

GWR Floodlit Series Round 2

Lewis heads the field

Round 2 of GWR Team’s Winter, floodlit Cyclo cross series had another record entry of 48 riders signing on for a surprisingly fast and dry race that was held in windy conditions at Supermarine Rugby ground. With seven events of the ten race series counting for the overall prize of a holiday to Joyriders in Spain, riders were keen to get a strong result in the 2nd round. So it was all guns blazing into the first woodland section. With round 1 winner Matt Denby not making the trip south this week, it was left to 2nd place Dan Lewis and 3rd placed Paul Lloyd to try to make headway at the top of the table and assume the overall lead. Leading the field into the first of the woodland sections was Lewis, leading the field for two laps. Lloyd remained in contact and took the lead on lap three, only to relinquish it on lap 6 to Lewis who went on to take the victory in the 13 lap race.

GWR Floodlit Series Round 1

RAFCC Dan Lewis takes a season opening 2nd to Zepnat's Matt Denby

See full report here

GWR Team's Winter floodlit Cyclo cross series started with the largest field yet, as 48 riders lined up for the first race of a ten race series; making a strong starting sprint all the more important. Earlier in the day there had been the typical winter cross weather, of heavy showers, but due to the circuit being based around the well drained rugby pitches of Supermarine, the course remained hard packed and fast. Leading the field into the first of the woodland sections, was Weston Summer Series winner Dan Smith who took the hole shot and led the field for the first half lap. As the riders hit the main drag through to the finish line, for the 1st completed lap, Paul Lloyd led, with Dan Lewis and Matt Denby in contact, the latter two riders starting slowly from the back from the grid, making their way to the head of the race.

With 15 minutes to go, Denby had built up a sizable lead to take the first win of the series making the most of an advantage over Lewis that he held until the finish line. Lloyd came home in a conformable third.

Visit Royal Air Force Cycling here

10 Oct 2011

45th for Paul Mace in 49th Three Peaks CX

At the start line on a wet Sunday morning, someone joked 'this is not cyclo-cross race, it’s a walking race carrying your bike up three big hills'. I tend to agree.
Leaving Helworth Bridge I managed to be in the top 60 or so riders, quite important to be near or at the front when approaching Craig Gath, trying to squeeze a few hundred riders into a narrow track causes bottlenecks, chaos and a lot of swearing. I was held up briefly by someone unshipping their chain, but not to bad a start.
It has been raining in the Dales over the last few months, making the ascent of Ingleborough very muddy, it left many of the early sections unrideable, which in previous years has not been the case. This made it tough going to the top. A mixture of walking and riding before the real steep section starts, I found it tiring getting on and off the bike just to cycle a few yards but its where I could rest before the real action started.
At the steepest part I was using the fence to pull me up, my calves’ and lower back screaming at me to stop. Getting to Rawnsleys Leap is a strange experience, one minute there are a number of riders around you, then the next minute over the stile you are on your own, just the odd rider disappearing into the mist surrounding the top of Ingleborough. Reached the first check point in 75th place.
The descent was a little trickier, I am not good at this, crashed once and lost a few places, and I arrived at Cold Cotes in 84th position and in one piece. That was as bad as it got.
Just a rolling road section to Bruntscar, picked up a few riders on the way, we worked well together before the ascent of Whernside, this was not a bad climb, paving slabs have been placed over the years, saving on the usual scrambling up any way you can. Got there in 65th place.
A take your brain out descent followed. There are paving slabs to the stile about halfway down and I had real problems negotiating them, basically my nerve had gone. Louise Robinson looked impressive as she whizzed passed. I crashed once. I wore two jerseys, providing with extra pockets. I kept my food and water in the under jersey and spare tubes on the outer one. The point is I landed on my back and squashed the 500ml water bottle causing the bottle cap to come off and empty the contents down my back, I hadn't opened it yet.
I was running, walking and riding just before the stile, after which its case of picking my line and avoiding the rocks. Reached Ribble Head in 65th place.
A headwind on the road section to Horton, I was in a group of five riders we were all sharing the load, making short work of the 5 miles to Horton, then the start of the last ascent, Pen-y-Gent, most of this is rideable and suits the cyclist rather than the runner, made up a lot of places on this hill, passed Louise Robinson. When I got to the walking stage I caught up Keith Murray, he was just about to start riding but it was little bit steep for him to get started, so I gave him the push he required, he thanked me and peddled off.
Many spectators, helpers and walkers cheered you on, I heard several cry’s of 'c'mon the RAF' and 'you should be flying up here', that was shouted quite a few times; still any encouragement spurs you on. On nearing the summit, a rider coming down did a spectacular crash, he had a front tyre blow out it and it came off his wheel, he was riding tubs, he went straight over the handlebars, luckily he landed on grass.
I reached the last check point in 50th place. This descent is the easiest of the three, many parts of it are point and go, not that technical, which suited me, just avoid the riders coming up the hill. Steep in places, I was glad when it levelled off as my hands were aching from the constant braking. I passed Keith Murray, who looked to be carrying an injury. I passed the unfortunate rider who had had a blow out. It would be a long run for him to the finish.
It is quick near the bottom and you are riding on a path made up of big pebbles, I felt like my eye sockets were going to pop out, you just need to hold your nerve and avoid the riders coming up the hill, pinch punctures are frequent here. I passed one other rider who was with us on the road to Pen-y-Gent. Approaching the final road section, Keith Murray and a Yorkshire Velo rider flew past me, which was a surprise as I was not hanging about.
Two miles to the finish from Horton to Helwith, I was closing in on the two riders in front, (Keith Murray and Yorkshire Velo rider) I managed to bridge the gap just before the final rise and sat in for about 30 seconds, as soon as I saw Helwith Bridge on my right, I went for a long one, sprinting on a cross bike is funny, its like its in slow motion, Keith responded and passed me, I was able to react then went again just before the right turn and then it was over the bridge then another right to the finish. I came close to catching another rider but it was not to be and finished in 45th place.
My time of 3hrs 42mins 34seconds was 6 minutes quicker than last year, but 10 minutes off my best. I am content with my performance; I was after a top 50 place. I had no punctures which is always a bonus.
I have competed in this race on numerous occasions and this is the first time that I have not eaten any food or taken on any fluids, only through circumstance regarding drinks. I was quite thirsty at the finish. Next year is the 50th anniversary, one I shall hope to ride.

9 Oct 2011

Armed Forces Day

I now know just how hard it is for a photographer to get just the right picture for a portfolio! When I was asked to contribute to RAF Coingsby's Armed Forces day campaign by Gary Beezer, I never expected I would have to cycle 20 miles just to get 'the shot' Still any miles are good miles -right?

8 Oct 2011

Lee Simpson meets Chris Boardman and Russ Downing at Stoke

Wow, not only did I have the chance to work on this years Tour of Britain thanks to the RAF and Sweetspot, but I also got to meet a life long cycling hero, not to mention Sky pro rider Russell Downing to name but a few.

RAFCC Dan Lewis Reviews Schlamm Jacket

The Schlamm jacket has served me well for the 2010/2011 Cyclo-cross season. Its fantastic thermal properties has been a great benefit when I have been pre-riding & warming up in the National Cyclo-cross series & the National Champs!
I partically like the high collar & the zips on cuffs. This ensures my neck & wrists are kept warm. On some cases I even got too warm in the jacket, as its wind protective properties also help to keep that chill out. The Large 3 pockets on the rear came really useful to carry water bottles, as if any keen cyclo-cross rider knows. There are no water bottle cages on a cross bike. So when warming up it is essential to carry fluids & energy drinks. The Jacket was ideal for that! The Two zipped pockets were also useful especially to keep my car keys in, whilst racing. The zipps are also good as if I had gloves on I could easily get hold of them.
The only down side of the jacket was its colour. Mainly white & red wasn’t ideal at muddy races, as it got pretty grubby. Even when washed, it didn’t really come out as white again. But it was great to be seen in! The only benefit of this colour would be commuting in, during the depths of winter. 
All in all this is a great winter jacket which keeps you warm. So if it keeps my Girlfriend warm whilst wathcing me race, it definitely gets a double thumbs up !