A blog, I offered and a blog is something I hadn’t really considered writing before. So what, why, how, who etc. would seem to be a good way to start? As an introduction, I am in my mid forties with a wife and grown up step children, who live away from home. I currently work away from home, living in Dublin from Monday through to Friday. 

As to cycling, which is at the end of the day what we are all here for, I have been riding mountain bikes for around 25 years not really seriously or especially competitively. Over recent years I have managed to lose some weight (about 3 stone) and achieve top third in local race series, mainly as a result of ‘just riding my bike’ with a local club the 'Tunnel Hill Trolls' (So nothing too spectacular or note worthy). Midway through 2014, my interest sparked the coming together of coffee, chat and having the means to do it in a stage race the BC Bike Race. I had long fancied riding in Canada and this seemed like a good opportunity. A few text messages later, I had somehow managed to secure myself a race partner, (you can race in pairs for BC Bike Race) and this seemed like a good opportunity to ensure my motivation didn’t slip in ‘training’ (still just riding the bike) and indeed the race. My partner for the race was my good friend Jo who had a reputation for being a pretty handy xc racer who dished out motivation, almost as quickly as she rides and is significantly faster than me. Incentive indeed!

So last year, the BC Bike Race saw a lot of preparation, including a new bike, skills session with UK Bike Skills, lots of riding and several challenging features conquered for the first time by me etc. The race itself, held over seven days, started hard and continued in much the same vein. The weather was hot, the trails we dusty and extremely technical in places but we started as a pair and finished in a, respectable for me, 6th place in mixed pairs. Meanwhile, Jo would have been on the podium as a female master, even dragging me around!!

My reflections from the race are definitely positive, could I have gone faster? – only with more training! What did I need to do better – pacing (I was pooped by halfway up the first hot 14km climb on day 1 but worked hard and completed the event respectably with only the one hissy fit). We even finished strongly in Whistler. Most of all though I loved the camaraderie/pairs racing, loved Canada, loved the event, loved the trails and was somehow motivated to sign on for the event next year, which I did as a soloist as soon as entries opened.

Over coffee and a ride a couple of days later another good friend asked me about it and soon enough he was also signed up-so pairs again – fantastic news, would I have an easy time of it for 2016 – ‘Hell no!’ from doing very little riding as a result of home improvement, children etc. my race partner for this year Andy has got back on the bike and back up to his race fitness very quickly. I will, I fear, once again be the slightly slower member of a race pair, this time in male veterans’ category.

[caption id="attachment_14871" align="aligncenter" width="3000"]Looking forward to it? You bet! Looking forward to it? You bet![/caption]

Since signing up in July 2015 for the 2016 event I have continued to ride my bike, fallen out of a contract working in High Wycombe, 40 miles from home and agreed to a new contract working in Dublin 5 days a week. Further, I have joined the Mountain Bike Association of Dublin, have been riding with AQR Holidays in Portugal and signed up for a personal trainer while I was there, in the shape of Kate Potter. I also attended the Legros Training camp in Mallorca. All of which seem to have served to see me in good condition, now at the beginning of June. Winter fat has finally fallen off and my pace, according to Strava has improved over last year.

When racing as a pair, there are additional things to work on and worry about which take time and real effort to get a good handle on. As a result Andy and I have made an effort to ride together as much as possible, not easy when you live 200 miles apart at the weekend and further during the week. We have raced as a pair in a solo event the Gorrick 100 and will do so again at the Gorrick Summer Monkey. We also rode together recently in the Peak District and North Wales which was great fun and really valuable in helping us recognise my limits!!

And so to other preparation and events, I somehow got carried away a few weeks ago and decided I wanted to do a stage race in New Zealand in February 2017, after a couple of approaches I found a race partner for The Pioneer (www.thepioneer.co.nz).

BC Bike Race is regarded as one of the most fun stage races with a clear emphasis on great singletrack, bacon, moving around some of the best trail areas British Columbia has to offer. This year’s event follows a similar schedule to last year which does at least mean I am less likely to be surprised. Gear is being assembled, another new bike has been purchased – this year I will be riding a Pivot Mach 429 sl with 120mm Fox forks and 1 by 11 Shimano gears – this should save me a couple of pounds in comparison to the Specialized Camber evo I was on last year and does not appear to have slowed me at all on the descents. One thing that is of real benefit, to me at least, is a dropper seatpost which just makes the very steep technical descents and chutes in BC less terrifying and more achievable. The rest of my kit will be much as last year – lots of lycra and a camelback which actually allows you to drink regularly something that can be a challenge on very tight singletrack which lasts seemingly for miles. Another investment for this year is a better inflatable airbed in the hope I will be as comfortable as possible, given the 6 nights we will be camping. I have also booked 3 massage sessions during the race.

So what does the next month hold in store for me as preparation for BC Bike Race?

Riding will of course be a regular feature, both on and off road I will be continuing with the MAD Hill Climb handicap in Dublin with bonus enduro riding on a Tuesday and likely the Epic MTB Handicap short course XC racing on Thursday nights. There is also the Summer Monkey just around the corner on 19th June which I am currently planning to ride as a pair with race partner Andy.

Further details on BC Bike Race can be found at www.bcbikerace.com



Next time – hopefully I will check in immediately before the BC Bike Race with an update on kit, Summer Monkey, general fitness and training etc.

Andy Smallman