Monday, 11 August 2008


Image from

My first experience of 'roller racing' was on Friday night at Rollapaluza XI. An excellent night of frantic leg spinning in a (night)club environment with my team mate Stuart. We made it to the second round of the Madison team event, and I scraped through to the quarter finals in the individual rounds (last race finishing just after midnight!). A good laugh, but my thighs are still hurting 3 days later!

The sun was bright down there (photo by Caspar of Rollapaluza)

Stuart awaits the start of his qualifying round

Check out this movie link to get an idea of the atmosphere.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Masters of Beastway!

For the past 5 years or so, Wednesday nights during the summer in London have meant one thing for me: mountain bike racing. Billed as “grass roots racing”, Beastway gets its name from its long term venue at Eastway Cycle Circuit, now sadly demolished as part of the 2012 Olympic preparations.
The Masters category at Beastway is probably the largest and arguably the most fiercely contested. 2 years ago (the last year at Eastway) I managed 5th overall in the series. Last year, the first at Hainault Country Park, I moved up to 3rd overall. This year my objective was to get on the podium again.

The Masters line up for Round 1 (photo by Rikk Cahill)

One change for this year was that the series was reduced from 10 to 5 rounds, with a race only every other week. May 21st was the first race, and the sun was shining. 132 riders were on the start line and I felt pretty good from the start, coming in 3rd behind Richard Craven (Ford CC) and Paul Delahunty (London Dynamo) in a very convincing 1st.

Round 2 approached, and the forecast was not good. Rain was expected and a slight overreaction on my part saw me lining up with 1.7” mud tires. The draggy grass sections were waterlogged, but under the trees, my narrow tires struggled to find grip on the wet roots. Combined with the appearance of very fast displaced Frenchman, Sylvain Garde (Addiscombe CC), I only managed a rather disappointing 8th place.

Round 3 was dry again, and a similar result to Round 1, coming in third overall, behind Gavin Williams in 2nd and Paul Delahunty in first (again). Richard Craven had a crash during the race and had bent his rear disc rotor. As I result, I passed him during the last part of the last lap and put the hammer down to make sure he couldn't come back at me.

Round 4. Instead of my usual 13 mile ride from work to Hainault, I saved some energy by driving out to the race, having taken the day off to attend my daughters' school open day. I don't know whether its better to save the energy or get a good warm up, but it was certainly nice not to have to ride home 16 miles afterwards. Although the weather had looked a little iffy, the race was dry and I was battling for 3rd with William Jones (CPH), swapping places a number of times. Towards the end of the penultimate lap I made my move on a short technical climb, and had pulled out 20m when I lost the front wheel in the soft soil on a tight left-hander. Other than a few scrapes, the bike and I were in one piece, but now I was 30m back and I just couldn't close the gap. 4th, but this time 1st and 2nd places were taken by riders who hadn't appeared in the series yet. Delahunty and Craven were on their hols, and Williams DNF'd.

Round 5. With 4 reasonably consistent finishes so far, I was sitting in 1st in the rankings by some margin, but my closest competition of Delahunty, Craven and Williams had only finished 3 races (best 4 out of 5 are counted in the series). A bit of rough arithmetic showed it was going to be pretty close. With a CO2 inflater strapped to my seatpost (just in case), I took to the staring line and looked around me. All of the usual suspects were there, including the 1st and 2nd places from Round 2, making their second appearance. Delahunty, Craven and Williams were all there, as was Jones. The objective was to improve as much as possible over my 8th place in Round 2. The race was very fast from the start, and I sat in about 6th on lap 1, having overtaken a couple of fast starters. However, my 3 nearest competitors were ahead of me. Delahunty finished first (again) and Williams came in one place ahead of me in 4th. Most significantly, Craven seemed to have faded half way around to 8th place.

The Masters line up for Round 5 (photo by Christian Pratt)

When it was all over, I improved on my 3rd overall last year to 2nd this year. I was very happy with that, and I enjoyed the close competition a lot this year. Bring on Beastway at the new Hog Hill Circuit next year!