• Scottish MTB XC Championships 2011

    Unlike previous years where the Championships were run as part of the SXC series, this year they were run as a stand-alone event. It was the first time since 2002 this has happened, and it’s good to see the Champs get to be their own headline. Having no series to contend for, means that everyone between 18 and 30 (and above if they choose) gets to race for the senior championship. So sport riders got to join expert and elite riders to see how they stack up. This results in quite a healthy field, unlike the last two rounds.

    I managed to sort out my knee niggles about a week and a half before this event, and with only one interval session in three months, I wasn’t expecting much. Even though I normally make the trip down to Drumlanrig, the venue, on the Saturday for a pre-ride, I didn’t feel my fitness warrantied the extra effort involved in the preparation. I didn’t even bother with a proper pre-ride on the day, riding only the first and last kilometer or so of the course. This wasn’t a worry as I know the ins and outs of Drumlanrig pretty well after racing there for ten years.

    The gridding was a bit lacking, the commissaries just left us in whatever order we turned up in. This meant that Rab Wardell was back on the third row. Luckily things got off pretty cleanly, and Rab was back up the front where he was supposed to be. I totally overcooked it on the first half lap, with a mega-high heart rate on the descents as well as the climbs. I told myself to settle down and lose a few places.

    The race was pretty uneventful, I was cruising the climbs and railing the descents with lots of confidence. After a few bad months it was nice just to be able to ride fast without pain. I was so chilled I even turned down Gary Macrae’s offer to get past him on a descent after he caught me on the way to the vets win (thanks Gary).

    I eventually finished in 7th, in what turned out to be my longest XC race of the year at 2:19. Roll on next year!

    Dave Henderson defended his title from last year, Grant Ferguson took the silver, and Rab the bronze.

    Full results are on the SXC website.

  • Arch Arm Linux on PogoPlug - Keeping Time

    I recently procured a PogoPlug V2 from Ebay, hoping to use it as a small linux server for various tasks. A PogoPlug is a small internet-enabled device that allows attached external hard drives to be accessed from anywhere, whether on the local network or on the wider internet, with minimal hassle.

    It’s architecture is open, and a flick of a checkbox allows you to SSH in. I decided to install Arch Linux for Arm, and found this to be pretty easy to do following their installation guide.

    Unfortunately the PogoPlug does not have a hardware clock, and will consistently think it is 1st of January 1970 after reboots. Not very handy, especially as I was planning to use it to report measurements to external services, and this was time-sensitive.

    So, to set the time on each reboot, I installed and enabled the Network Time Protocol client, ntp. Here’s how to do that, and how to set your timezone correctly.

    First up, update the package manager to have the latest packages available. You may be asked if you want to update pacman itself, and a bunch of other stuff. In my case it grabbed the latest linux kernel version, and took a fair amount of time. Run this command a few times to make sure everything is the latest it can be.

    $ pacman -Syu

    Next up, install ntp.

    $ pacman -S ntp

    To enable ntp on startup, edit /edit/rc.conf, adding ntpd to the DAEMONS array, and removing hwclock.

    # before: DAEMONS=(hwclock syslog-ng network netfs crond sshd)
    DAEMONS=(syslog-ng network netfs crond sshd ntpd)

    Next you should configure ntp by editing /etc/ntp.conf. A list of local ntp servers can be found at I chose to use the UK servers.

    Comment out any existing lines that begin with ‘server’, and add in those you want to use. Append iburst to the end, this specifies how the servers are polled.

    server iburst
    server iburst
    server iburst
    server iburst

    Next, set your timezone. A complete list of zones can be found in /usr/share/zoneinfo. I went with Europe/London. Edit the TIMEZONE variable in /etc/rc.conf, changing it to your chosen zone.


    Now restart.

    $ reboot

    That’s it! You should now have the correct time and timezone.

    $ date
    Fri Sep 16 19:58:09 BST 2011
  • SXC 2011 Round 5 - Perth

    After partially rupturing a thumb ligament in June, I had several weeks off followed by several easy weeks on the bike. I rode 10 at Kirroughtree, but was suffering from thumb pain and cramp. The week after I started to feel niggles in my right knee, similar to my left knee earlier in the year. I rode the Selkirk Marathon anyway, and despite a painful hour or so in the middle, I finished second senior and eighth overall.

    I planned to ride round the Perth SXC round, knowing it would likely involve lots of stops for stretching. Unfortunately the date I had in my calendar was still a provisional date, a week later than the actual event. 9pm on the Saturday night was very busy for me, giving the bike a quick wash and getting things together. Not ideal preparation, but then I wasn’t expecting much anyway.

    On race day I rode a practice lap with Eddie Addis and Megasmith. The course was awesome, as I remember it being last year (on that occasion I ended up not racing due to illness, watching other people race was torture). Lots of rooty singletrack, steep up and down, and multiple tough climbs made for a great loop. It was dry too, ignoring the huge muddy puddle near the end.

    On the start line it was just Rab Wardell, Chris Pedder and myself, not exactly the turnout of the year. Injuries had blighted the field, with Gareth having a broken collarbone, Dave a bad back, and Rob two broken wrists. Oh well.

    Off the start line it was Rab that took the lead. I followed Chris’ wheel before jumping him into the first singletrack to get a clean run at the rooty climb. Rab disappeared about half a lap in, out of sight for the rest of the race. I could see Chris behind me for the first two laps, catching me on the climbs, with me putting a little time in on the descents.

    By the third lap I couldn’t see Chris, so had to just plod round at my own pace, stopping on the fourth and fifth laps to stretch out my sciatic and ease the pain in my knee. I rolled in for a second place finish, Rab taking the win. Turns out Chris broke his rear mech, completing his clean run of DNFs at every SXC round.

    I was pleased with second, but after trying for seven years to get on the podium, sometimes coming very close, it wasn’t the way I wanted to do it. On a more positive note the result meant that I finished second overall in the series, with Gareth taking the win.

    Full results can be seen on the SXC website.

  • Glentress Seven 2011

    As part of the Tweedlove festival week, there was a seven hour endurance race held at Glentress. Two days before the race I decided to enter the solo class, otherwise known as the nae-pals category.

    To course was the best endurance course I’ve ever ridden. A fast smooth up to the Buzzards Nest car park, a small section of muddy descent at Pennel’s Vennel, followed by a huge climb back up to do blue velvet. A natural link took you into one of the old race links, then down a natural descent before the final off-camber descent to the transition area.

    On the first lap I stayed below threshold, knowing there was a lot of riding ahead. I was in the first couple of riders, and took the front on the second big climb without putting an effort in. I came through the transition area in first, so it looked likely that my goal of getting the fastest lap was already dealt with.

    On the second lap I sat with Iain Nimmo who was riding pairs, usual great banter from him on the way round. It started to rain on this lap, just lightly, but enough to grease things up a little. Unfortunately leaving the transition area for my third lap I slid-out on the first corner at fairly low speed. I got back up, and with encouragement from the likes of Martin Graham I got back on the bike and kept going. I had lost some skin from my knee and elbow, by hip and shoulder hurt, and for some reason the opposite thumb was agony.

    For the third, fourth and fifth laps I went round with Martin Graham. We were doing good pace, keeping Rich Rothwell within striking distance. The rain continued, and things started to cool down. Before the sixth lap I stopped to put a Gilet on and take on more food than normal, so I lost touch with Martin. No problem, I was just riding to finish now.

    On the eighth lap I came across Martin in one of the feed stops, looking very cold and sore. He’d caught Rich, but then crashed on the final descent at the end of lap 7. Nasty. As I was talking to him I notice Barry Wilson riding by, but didn’t really pay that much attention to it. I continued on that lap, went out for a ninth, and finished in six hours and 51 minutes.

    Rich won the overall, and was first vet. Barry was second overall, first senior. I was third overall, second senior, plus I got the fastest lap.

    A great day out, I really hope they do it again next year as it is great antidote to all the dull endurance courses out there. I’ll definitely consider support next year, as having to stop on every lap to pick up food and the likes cost a fair amount of time over the whole race.

    The aftermath: The next morning I went to A&E to get my thumb checked out, nothing broken, but a partial-rupture of the ligament. Two weeks off the bike with a splint. I can ride again now, but certain situations make it pretty sort, I just have to be careful. Decided not to enter the British XC Champs as a result of this. These things happen.

    Full results.
    Photos from Ian Linton on the BBC.

  • SXC 2011 Round 3 - Comrie Croft

    Round four of the SXC series was at the fantastic Comrie Croft trails, a trailcentre, but none of that gravelled mince. A steep double-track to start, onto some grassy switchbacks (more headwinds here, what is it with races this year!). Another steep double-track up, then down a little. Then the real stuff started, a steep switchback single-track with some great little exposed rock sections, a fast descent to a burn then back onto a muddy double-track with plenty of line choice needed to stay out of the mire. Down some steep rocky single-track, then a fast twisty moorland descent before a super steep double-track section back to the start-finish.

    I got a good start, slotting in behind Gareth, Dave and Rab (the return of Rabulous!). On the double-track climb I passed Rab, but Gareth and Dave were already pulling ahead by this point. In a similar manner to Aberfoyle I had the mince dialed high for the first two laps, as I was hitting every bad line on the descent. I pulled over to let Rab past, but he’d had a bit of an issue so I was letting Rob past instead, no problem, he was on good pace.

    Rab made it back on the climb, then I lost the pair of them when I unshipped a chain at the bottom of the single-track climb. More time lost as I crashed on the descent avoiding a backmarker, I was on my own from then on.

    The later laps went a lot better, the last being pretty tough as the course had taken it’s toll on me. I rolled in for fifth, nine minutes down on the winner, another solid result. Gareth took the win, a nightshift tired Dave second, Rab third, and Rob fourth.

    More at the full results.

  • Nutcracker 2011 Round 2 - Aske

    The second round of the Nutcracker was held on the same course as is to be used for the 2011 British XC Championships, and is within a ten minute drive of Emma’s dad’s house, so accommodation was sorted.

    The course itself was pretty disappointing. A bumpy grassy start into a headwind, a small descent to a burn crossing, some fast flat grass, a steep grassy climb of about two minutes, followed by a fast descent on grass, through some fields, a few sections of wiggly, loamy singletrack, and a finish into the headwind. I hear there have been some changes for the champs course, but short of adding another climb or a few weeks of torrential rain, it’s going to be a course for the powerful boys.

    The expert and junior categories start together, a few minutes behind the elites. I got a decent start, sitting in about fifth before pushing to the front for the little descent. On the flat section I lost contact with two small groups that formed at the front. An ill Niall Frost followed me round on the first lap, filming for his XCRacer report, but sadly the camera was pointing the wrong way and the footage was a right-off.

    On the second lap I caught the second group containing Hamish Fletcher-Cooney [expert], Joe Home [junior] and my teammate Scott Lynsey [junior]. I thought Joe was riding expert, I’m sure he was wondering why I let him work lots into the headwind then jumped him into the singletrack. On the fourth lap I decided to really push on and try and catch the front runners, but this just resulted in Scott blowing his doors.

    On the final lap I popped a little at the end, and Joe put around 30 seconds into me. I finished 2nd expert, just over two minutes down on local lad Tom Stewart. I was pleased with the result, but a bit disappointed in the course.

    Thanks to Emma and her dad for the support.

    Full results are available on the Nutcracker site.

  • SXC 2011 Round 2 - Aberfoyle

    Aberfoyle is a bit of a classic venue on the SXC circuit, having seen a number of different courses on it’s steep hillside over the years. This year saw the return of the dreaded Heart Attack Hill (HAH), a steep bottom-gear climb of several minutes, mostly on slippy surfaces. Those of a weaker demeanour could opt-out, and take the forestry road itself, though this came with a small time penalty due to it’s distance.

    The first section of descent was down an off-camber technical loamy section, lots of roots and rocks to put the unwary offline. There was a short forestry road sprint after this, followed by a super-fast rutted descent, across the forestry road at the bottom, and onto a supremely hard off-camber traverse before joining the forestry road again. A minute of high-speed big-ring gentle descent took you to the last section of singletrack, being fast singletrack with some tight turns and plenty of line choices in it.

    At the start things went pretty steady, a group of six at the front; Gareth (GT Racing UK), Rob Friel, Si Ernest (AW Cycles) [who I initially thought was Chris Pedder after a growth spurt], Niall Frost (XC Racer) and James FM (Pedal Power). On the first lap we were to avoid HAH and go round the forestry road. Once we got to the steep sections Gareth started to float away, with James and I giving some chase before Si finally engaged the after-burners and gave Gareth a proper chase.

    Down the first few descents James was apologising profusely for getting in the way, not that I was bothered as I for some reason had the mince dialled up high for the first two laps, before finally getting it together on the third lap. Niall came past me on the second lap, mentioning something about me getting him back on the climbs.

    By the fifth lap I could still see Niall, and could see he was having a bit of trouble on HAH, as he got off then managed (much respect for this) to get on and get going again. By the end of the lap I had caught him, had a bit of legsplosion related banter, then dropped him along the forestry road to the bottom of HAH.

    Gareth took the win, Si was second, Rob third, James fourth, myself fifth and Niall sixth.

    Thanks to Emma for doing my bottles, and I-Cycles and Innerleithen MTB Racing for the help and support. Also thanks to Norman and the rest of the chaps at Squadra Porcini for the great course, and the SXC volunteers for the great event.

    Full results are on the SXC website.

    Other reports can be had from Si and Niall.

    Technical Aside: When building my new bike I had a lot of concern for two races on the calendar with respect to gearing; this one, and the Selkirk Marathon. For as long as I’ve run 9 speed I used the standard 44-32-22 chainset and 11-32 cassette. Switching to a double limits both the top-end and the bottom end. The top-end isn’t a worry, but the bottom end is. HAH was only really doable for me in the granny ring last year, though I did manage it in practice using the middle ring, but decided it was too hard on my legs for six laps. I ended up going for a 40-28 chainset and a 11-34 cassette. This gave me a 21.41 inch gear as opposed to the 18.56 inch gear on the double. Turns out that this was more than low enough, worst fears averted. Much respect for Si Ernest who raced on a single ring, giving him a 36:36 lowest gear.

  • BMBS 2011 Round 2 - Dalby Forest

    I’m a big fan of the course at Dalby. If they made the descents actually technical rather than just scary-looking and bumpy, I’d be even more keen. Again the course followed the World Cup course, but with some shortening near the beginning of the lap, and missing out the pointless BMX track near the end. I believe it is going to get this way for the World Cup in May, in order to come under the UCI 6 km course length limit (Dalby just makes this, being 5.9 km).

    I was in the third row for the start, after my poor performance at Sherwood Pines a few weeks before. The rider directly in front of me missed his pedal, and stopped dead, so the entire field went past on the line. With some elbows out I managed to get back into the top 30.

    Down the first little descent a cheeky inside line saw me overtake Nick Evans (see Sherwood Pines post). Up the first climb I took another couple of riders, then took about 7-8 riders on the grassy section back past the feed zone. There’s a 8ft high steep rocky slab you ride up early on in the race, if you hit it with speed off the forestry road you get some air at the top. Some numpty cut up a group of riders in front of me, then failed to make it over the top, so it was a case of running up this for me due to the knot of riders. The climb out of Worry Gill (the first time) saw me make a few more places on the super-steep climb, then a surge at the top of the Medusa’s Drop climb saw me take another few riders.

    I settled down after this, though my second lap was the fastest just because there was no-one in the way. I cleaned the rocky steps out of Worry Gill (on the second time, going back to the arena) only on the third lap, every other time people running got in the way. Seriously, if you can’t ride it, take the chicken route. Your technical inferiority should not put me off when there are alternatives available.

    A few little battles later on in the race saw me on my own for the last lap, and I can in 8th, around 5 minutes down on the winner. Super happy with this result, definitely a sign that things are back on track. A lot of it is the course, it’s so easy to get my head in gear when the course is challenging and I know there is more than just pure horsepower at play.

    This was the second (third if you include the Pentlands Trailquest) outing for my 2011 race bike, the Rocky Mountain Element RSL. On this course it was the business (Geoff Kabush won the senior race on a very similarily specced one), light and well-behaved enough for the climbs, and able to swallow up anything on the descents and flat sections. I’ll have a full post on this soon.

    Full results courtesy of TimeLaps.

  • BMBS 2011 Round 1 - Sherwood Pines

    Due to knee issues in February, I was never going to repeat my stellar result from 2010, but did hope to do at least get a top-10. The latest iteration of the popular Sherwood Pines course was shortened and had lost anything that you would call a climb. It was a pure dirt crit, all accelerations, with little on the course to benefit less strong, and more technically adept riders.

    I was gridded on the front row, but was losing places fast off the start. I tried to settle but was having a hard time winding things up on the forestry road sections. One amusement in the first lap was having someone pass me into one of the twisty-bombhole sections, and then slow right up. I shouted at them to get a move on, stopping short of making some sort of roadie-scum comment. They pulled over and let me past, result! Turns out they thought I was a junior, and couldn’t make out what I was actually shouting.

    I slowly faded throughout the race, not really feeling the love for the course. I knew I was having a bad day when on the fourth lap I was passed by Nick Evans, at this point, all enthusiasm was gone.

    I rolled in for 27th, 9 minutes down on winner Lee Westwood.

    Full results courtesy of TimeLaps.

  • SXC 2011 Round 1 - Kirroughtree

    Arriving on the Saturday to pre-ride the course, we were met with dry and pleasant conditions. The course was bone dry, with the majority being man-made trails or forestry roads, with some natural linking sections. I found it pretty dull, and was not-so secretly hoping for rain overnight to spice things up a bit.

    I got my wish, it bucketed it down overnight, so much so the first singletrack climb was now a run, around 250m per lap. I missed my pedal at the start, but managed to get on the back of the pain train, AKA Gareth Montgomerie, Dave Henderson and Kenta Gallagher. I only held them for about the first kilometer, and out of the top of the running section they shot off. Rob Friel came past about halfway through the lap, using his power on the forestry road sections after a slow start. I settled in for a long one.

    On the second lap I slid-out as I rejoined the forestry road after the running section, there was a lot of mud dragged out onto it, but only lost time and kept the impact on my side to a minimum. I dropped my bottle a bit further up, this lap was not going well. I was then with James Fraser-Moodie for the rest of the lap, before getting dropped by him the next time up the run on the third lap.

    By the time I got to the fifth and final lap I managed to pick things up a bit, cutting a minute off my previous lap time, even though I stopped to pick up my earlier dropped bottle. I rolled in for fifth, not bad considering my knee issues in February.

    Gareth took the win in an exciting sprint with Dave. James had overhauled Rob to take third. Full results on the SXC site.