Ever wondered what it would be like to spend a full year in the company of Tim Dunford? Well, now's your chance to find out as the Renvale - Revel Outdoors Race Team man recaps a challenging 2014 and looks ahead to 2015.

"As I sit here on a dark December morning, the rain lashing down outside, I thought rather then get wet and cold I’d put fingers to keyboard and reflect on the year gone by. It’s been a long year, that’s for sure. My first race was in early February at the Gorrick Spring Series. It was a bit of a shock to the system after a winter spent focussing on endurance for the longer events later in the year. It was a great first outing for the Mountain Trax –Vauxhall team though as we bagged the first 4 places.

[caption id="attachment_1812" align="aligncenter" width="470"]TD12014 Eeeeueww, it’s all muddy! February seems a long time ago![/caption]

Next up we headed north to the Whinlatter challenge. One of the best courses in the UK with some proper climbs and great descents. We were greeted with snow when we arrived on the Saturday but fortunately with the exception of cutting out a small section at the top of the course the race wasn’t affected. Unfortunately I had a bit of a nightmare with my chain falling off constantly on the bumpy course. After a bit of a sense of humour failure I got myself going and managed to sneak inside the top ten. Not really what I was hoping for but I cheered myself up by heading off into the mountains after the race.

[caption id="attachment_1813" align="aligncenter" width="470"]TD22014 Smile, you may be cold but you’re having fun, right?![/caption]

Fortunately there was no snow at the Gorrick 100. I opted for the full 7 laps and it looked like I was going to have a good tussle with Andy Cockburn until his race ended somewhat prematurely with a snapped frame, yep that’d definitely make it harder! It was a bit lonely out in front after that but I was super happy to win. The prize was amazing too, VIP tickets to watch the tour finish in London on the Mall. That was a very memorable afternoon, the wrist bands gave you the power to wander as you pleased and we passed the time sipping Champagne and scoffing posh snacks. Apparently there was a bike race too but the limitless free food and star spotting was way more fun!

Next up was a big one for me; the national marathon champs up in Selkirk. I’d trained really hard for this one and was really hoping for a good result with top ten being my aim. I felt great at the start and was able to stay with the front group which featured some of the top UK XC racers so was feeling pretty happy. Unfortunately I had a rather massive “off” on the second big descent, stuck in a rut, my front wheel headed one way whilst bike and rider went the other! It took a little while to get the bike sorted with twisted bars and brakes and I’d landed quite hard on my chest but I plugged on and ended up tenth. Given the opposition I was pretty happy with that. As is now customary we headed out for a nice chilled out group ride at Glentress the day after which was awesome as ever.

There was no rest though as we headed off to the three day Belgian Mountain Bike Challenge. Set in La Roche en Ardenne and with UCI XC points available the start line was a who’s who of World Cyclo-Cross! Well what else are you going to do as cyclo-cross pro in summer? The first day was the most memorable, featuring a much talked about super steep climb, I forget its real name but the mur de much pain is a pretty good choice. And if you didn’t make it the first time… well we got to do it twice! The race featured many other steep climbs, some quick smashes along farm tracks and lots of excellent singletrack. The racing was great but I felt super tired all weekend so it ended up being a bit of a slog.

Fortunately it was a bit closer to home as next up was the Summer Monkey. George Budd and I have had some great battles, we’d missed out at Gorrick 100 but it was on at the Monkey! As always George tore off at the start, knowing I take a while to get going, the cheek of it! I soon got warmed up only for a large amount of vegetation to take a fond liking to my rear mech. It was so tied up I ended up taking the jockey wheel out to remove it! I felt good and though and soon made my way back to the chasing group, George was long gone though so I was a resigned to second place. Turing a corner a few laps later though and who should I see fixing a puncture?! Now, George is one of the nicest guys I know, but he really was quite cross! Clearly, being the selfless type I did the gentlemanly thing and put the hammer down! The next few laps we were locked at around a two minute gap, our lap times being nearly identical. In the end I held on to win, I’d pushed really hard to hold on so was pretty chuffed. It was a bit of a shame as I think we’d of had a great battle as we were retty evenly matched.

Phew, onwards. Next I headed off to the Alpen Tour, a four day stage race based in the ski resort of Schladming in Austria. The stages might be quite short but there was still 8,800m of climbing in 4 days! When I landed in Munich it was 34C and it didn’t cool down much for the first stage. I’ll always remember running across the snow at 2,200m dripping in sweat! The time trial stage is infamous, a mere 14km with 1,100m of climbing. Subtle it ain’t! Ah, there’s a ski run, let’s go up it! You’d think a 42 sprocket at the back would be big enough, er, no. Being a top class UCI race with lots of points available the field was pretty strong. Again though I felt pretty tired after the first stage and just didn’t recover but I was pretty happy to hold on to my position and finish 26th and pick up some nice points (sadly points didn’t mean prizes, but I did have a big ice cream after the last stage!).

In early July I headed off to the Mont Blanc race near Chamonix. This is a great event as you can choose your distance during the event. The full race is 140k but if that’s too much you can stop at 70 or 100k. This is a really tough event and with the nature of mountain weather being what it is I think this is a great idea. This was sort of a mini Alpine holiday for me so although I was racing on Sunday I wanted to make the most of it. After an early flight on the Thursday I headed to the ski resort of La Clusaz in the afternoon, I’ve been there loads as a kid so know the trails well. Despite the summer season being only a few weeks away it was eerie how quiet it was.

[caption id="attachment_1814" align="aligncenter" width="470"]So many trails, so little time at La Clusaz.. So many trails, so little time at La Clusaz..[/caption]

Friday I headed up to Megeve, spent the day riding one epic trail after another, till after 7 hours I blew my box. Spent €4 on a coke (!) and rode back. Good day! The MB race itself was awesome. It’s still quite a young event, I think this was the fifth running but the organisation was superb and it had a really nice relaxed feel. Not having done it before I wasn’t gridded so started around 200th but the start was pretty relaxed so after a few cheeky manoeuvres I’d reached the front before we left town. I was pretty relaxed about the race, I knew it was long and would be super tough so as everyone tore off I didn’t take too much notice. With lots of rain overnight some of the going was a little gooey to say the least. At the first feed there were quite a few gears that had separated themselves from their bike! As the day went on I felt better and better. I was loving the long climbs (think hours not minutes!) and the descents were amazing, ah a rock infested rooty chute, let’s go down there! At the 100k mark I had a decision to make…I was feeling great and really wanted to do the full 140k, but my flight left at 9 and it was now 4…and I had no rear brake pads left..I decided to call it a day at the 100k mark. To my surprise I’d won the 100k race, bonus! Though I did then have to wait around until 6pm for the prizes… I was well pleased to have won a pair of skis though not having much use for them in Southampton I did a deal with the guy in second!

[caption id="attachment_1815" align="aligncenter" width="470"]MB race..going up! MB race..going up![/caption]

From the Alpes it was on next to Plymouth and Newnham Park for TwentyFour 12 and what is probably my favourite UK endurance event. The venue and course are brilliant and there is a really great, relaxed atmosphere. I love the support you get riding round the campsite –“ go on do a wheelie”, I’ve been racing for 10 hours, I can’t see properly and you want me to wheelie?! The weekend was one of the hottest of the summer and I was doing 12 hour solo, hmmm! I felt good though and built up a nice lead. Around the 6 hour mark though I blew my doors, I was hot, disoriented and a little bit of a mess! I had a sit down for what seemed like forever whilst the guys from Rotor cooled me down with the wet flannel treatment. I really wanted to stop, I couldn’t face another 6 hours but after a bit of a rest I continued on. I barely made it out of the arena and had to stop again at the top of the hill out of the arena. I just focussed on completing a lap at a time after that, until finally the end came. That was without doubt the hardest 12 I’ve ever done, it wasn’t pretty but I was really pleased to take the win. I couldn’t have done it without the help from the guys at Rotor who were incredible.

August was a huge disappointment. Two big races, the Brighton Big Dog and Torq in Your Sleep and two DNF’s. I hate not finishing, it’s a terrible feeling, before these two races I can’t remember the last time I didn’t finish a race. I had a bit of an issue with my rear shock leaking at Big Dog and smacked my knee badly at Torq in Your Sleep. Normally, I think I’d have pushed through but I just felt completely empty and there was no fight left.

[caption id="attachment_1816" align="aligncenter" width="470"]In action at Torq in Your Sleep.. running out of puff! In action at Torq in Your Sleep.. running out of puff![/caption]

Things picked up in September as I headed off to La Forestiere, a round of the UCI marathon series where I finished in the top 20 and so qualified for the 2015 Marathon Worlds Champs. That weekend was probably my favourite of the season. I had a great weekend riding with Chris Peddar and Rach Fenton, we were blessed with amazing weather and had a cheeky day’s riding in the Alps on the Monday before we headed home. Qualifying for the Worlds was also a great way to head into winter. We rounded the year off at the Roc d’Azur. Super riding and some much needed sun before heading into the UK winter.

Since the end of the season I’ve been feeling pretty smashed. After much prodding and testing I’ve been diagnosed with Chron’s which probably explains why I’ve been feeling less than super at times! So, first priority is to get sorted and healthy before looking ahead to 2015. Next year the Marathon World Champs is a big target, it’s going to be amazing racing in the GB kit again. Apart from that I’m going to concentrate on getting to as many UCI marathons as possible. I love the single lap format and that you ended up visiting some really cool places you probably wouldn’t go to otherwise. I’m also looking forward to getting back into XC a bit, so I’ll be heading to as many of the Southern XC’s and Gorrick Spring Series events as I can. The Gorrick Spring Series celebrates 20 years this year, I was there at the first event, racing Youth on my rigid Orange Clockwork complete with 1.7 IRC Geo Claw tyres, 50 psi, yeah! Bikes have come on since then! I think us old timers should get a loyalty headstart on the whipper snappers!

For 2015 I’m really pleased to be part of the Renvale – Revel Outdoors team. We’ve got amazing backing with Cannondale bikes from Cycling Sports Group, Fizik saddles and shoes and Crank Bros pedals and Clif bar products to keep us fuelled from ExtraUK. The Cannondale Flash 29er has been my favourite bike from the last few years so I can’t wait to see how good the new one is! I’ll be reporting on all my adventures including my run up the Marathon Worlds here on UKXCNews so please tune in and see how we get on!"

Why not keep up with Tim as he tackles 2015 via Twitter - @TimDunford1