Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Pre-season update

My training routine has kept me sane this month! I've been doing well to keep up the mountain bike riding in the cold, windy and rainy conditions in January. I think I've been averaging around 50 miles a week, but I've done some really good long routes including a 4 hour trail ride which (Google Earth tells me) had an elevation gain of over 3000ft!

The regular post-work night time route which I do twice a week is a 15 mile-ish loop that crests Caerphilly mountain. Then I'm free to go for a nice trail ride on the weekend. Normally about 20 miles with some nice off road trails.

If I can keep this up, it should at least give me a base level of fitness for the first few races of the season. I have done about 4 hours riding on my EXC so far, and the first race is coming up in 5 weeks time. That will be the Brechfa Rally, the opening round of the 2014 All Terrain Rally Challenge.

I can't wait to see what the competition's going to be like in the >250cc two strokes class. If it's anything like the >350cc four strokes class of last year, it'll be highly competitive.

For those of you who don't know, the UK rallies normally have a rating system 1-10 for ability levels. You rate your own ability, with 1 being the experts and 10 being the beginners. If I remember correctly, at the start of last year, I started off racing my first full season of rallies at the Brechfa Rally at 5. Throughout the year over 6 rounds my results improved and I am now comfortably racing at 3.

Bring on the Brechfa on the 9th of March!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Dakar 2014 update: Stage 5

We're now on the morning of Stage 6. I'll stick to the bikes for this post, there's just too much going on! If you thought the first 3 days were eventful, that was nothing.

Poor Sam Sunderland suffered an engine failure of his HRC Honda CRF 450 Rallye at the start of Stage 4 and was forced to retire. He will be back, and I have no doubt he's capable of a top 5 finish, definitely one to watch and a great effort from him despite his misfortunes.

Stage 5 from a fan's perspective can only be described as bedlam! It seemed nobody had a clue what was going on, riders were missing waypoints all over the place, going back for them, running out of fuel as a consequence and all sorts.

While all that was going on, we also had riders with malfunctioning Iritracks, so some riders such as Helder Rodrigues appeared to be non-starters according to the live waypoint tracking, but popped up at the Special Stage finish with the others.

When I say others, there weren't that many. 196 riders started the Dakar, only 118 of them started Stage 5, of those hardy souls, only 92 will start Stage 6 this morning.

Paul Jay, our last remaining British rider and Malle Moto hero tweeted last night to say that he was out in the dunes with a bike that was failing to start (and had been for the last 8 hours) and a shortage of water. Needless to say we all hope he can stay safe and continue as soon as possible, very well done so far Paul, dig deep!

Up at the front, Paulo Goncalves (current FIM Cross Country World Rally champion) watched in dismay out on the stage, when his HRC Honda went up in flames. Well known as one of the nicest guys in the game, who always stops to help anyone, sadly no-one stopped to help him and he is now out. The same fate befell Farres Guell's Gas Gas - up in flames.

David Casteu fell yesterday and broke his collarbone. He still plans to ride, but how far he gets is anyone's guess. That's dedication!

Robert Van Pelt, the 20 year old Dutchman and Malle Moto rider had an outstanding run yesterday, finishing inside the top 10 for the stage. Riaan Van Niekerk, the South African enduro rider also finished very strongly, well done guys.

And so, onto the front runners. Marc Coma disappeared from the live tracking for some time, and amongst all the chaos of missed waypoints, we assumed he was caught up in it too. Not so, it seems Coma was one of the very few who managed to navigate successfully and in doing so amassed a huge lead over the others after the incurred time penalties for missing waypoints. Coma had in fact had a big fuel leak during the stage but somehow managed to control it and get to the end!

Amongst the penalised riders were Cyril Despres and Laia Sanz (Dakar heroine), who suffered heavily with a 1 hour penalty, but they weren't the only ones - a huge number of other riders were caught out too.

For whatever reason, Coma ended up winning the stage by over 40 minutes from his closest rival, Joan Barreda Bort, with 3rd place going to Chaleco Lopez, over 50 minutes down. Incredible stuff. The Dakar is a long race and we're not even half way through yet, so nobody can be written off just yet, especially not the likes of Despres, but it's going to be tough. There's no shortage of drama at this year's edition, who knows what will unfold over the next week (which will include another marathon stage).

The riders have earned their rest day, all they have to do, is get to Salta this afternoon...

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Dakar 2014 update: Stage 3

Where to start?!

Here we are on the morning of Stage 4, and the second half of the first marathon stage is due to begin in a few hours. The best word to sum up yesterday's action...chaos.

Competitors struggled in all categories on yesterday's stage despite the stunning scenery. In the bikes, the route was particularly tough, with very high altitudes (up to 4300m), the effects of heavy rain, very technical tracks and the usual heat and dust. Ruben Faria came off and received medical attention from the helicopter. Paulo Goncalves stayed with him and was therefore given his time back later on. Sam Sunderland, with a spectacular stage win under his belt on stage 2 was leading until CP1, but from then onwards made a navigational error which lead him (as well as Ben Grabham and others) down into a valley they struggled to get back out of!

Meanwhile, Helder Rodrigues had technical issues which lost him some time, Frans Verhoeven broke his arm in a fall after CP2, Peter Hardy's bike (and his rucksack) caught on fire. Chaleco Lopez's chain came off which cost him some time.

Frustratingly, both Sunderland and Lopez's Iritracks were on the blink while they were out on the stage, which made it almost impossible to find out what was going on! Live GPS tracking for the fans in future Dakar's surely has to be the way to go.

Despite having collided with a bull on stage 1, Barreda Bort had won that stage and continued to show his dominance on stage 3 with a well deserved win, having ridden intelligently and navigated well. All of which means that the front runners at the moment are Barreda Bort, followed by Cyril Despres and Marc Coma, who also had a good day on stage 3.

At this point, our British riders' time differences are: Sam Sunderland +02:28:06 and Paul Jay +02:37:48, well done lads, keep it going!

That's just the the cars on stage 3, Al-Attiyah had no less than 4 punctures, only to be out-done by Mr Dakar. Yes, Peterhansel managed to get 6 punctures! De Villiers is now out in front.

Big news in the quads too, Patronelli is out! He retired out on the stage, having damaged his quad beyond repair, also possibly suffering from dehydration.

More big news in the trucks, Mardeev rolled his truck into a gulley on stage 2 and is now out! De Rooy stopped to help and in doing so dropped 15 minutes.

Onwards to the second half of the marathon stage, riders will be trying to conserve their tyres, but something tells me they won't be hanging around.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

It's a sign

A magnetic one! I've just had this delivered and will be using it on my car in the paddock on race days. All in aid of Wales Air Ambulance.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy new year!

All the best to everybody in 2014. If you want some riding inspiration, be it race based or adventure based, have a little look at these to whet your appetite!