Top cycling experiences from 2015

On January 5, 2016

In 2015 I rediscovering my passion for two wheels after two injuries in two years. In the eight years I’ve been mountain bike racing, I’ve had so many mind-blowing events, but was becoming aware that there were so many cycling experiences still to be discovered if I focused less on competition. In 2015 I wanted to go higher, further and on the way even faster, but most of all to try new things and have fun. Here’s a few of my favourite experiences from 2015.

Belgium Mountain Bike Challenge

The year started late as I recovered from a wrist operation the previous October. My first event brought with it many new experiences. The Belgium Mountain Bike Challenge (BeMC) is the hardest mountain bike race in the Benelux. I targeted this race as a focus for my recovery. It proved to be three days of very challenging racing in the beautiful forest of the Ardennes. It turns out that not all of Belgium is flat. You can read the full account here – BeMC race report. A wonderful start to the year with the added bonus of 8th in category.

Fun in the woods

Midi Pyrenees

The next experience was not a race, but brought all the excitement of one and so much more. I’d never experienced the climbs that had made my cycling heroes. I’d always dreamt of climbing monuments like Col d’Abisque and the mighty Tourmalet. Now I had the perfect partner to make it happen in my younger brother, Keith. We had spoken many times of going to the high mountains, but had so far failed to make it happen. In 2015 the stars aligned and Keith and I headed to the Midi Pyrenees. This was to be the high point of the year. Each day held epic climbs followed by dizzying descents – all in great company. Each climb offered beauty beyond my wildest dreams. I was in heaven as a climber, and I wasn’t alone. We spent four thrilling, caffeine-fuelled days in Argeles-Gazost, which was the perfect launch pad for our excursions. We stayed at purchase Indocin online Au Primrose Hotel, which I can’t recommend highly enough. While there, we did:

Day 1 – Solour, Col d’Abisque and Hautacam

Day 2 – Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden

Day 3 – Hautacam and Col de Couraduque

Day 4 – Spandelles, Solour and Col d’Abisque

A total of almost 400km with 10,500 meters of climbing in just four days left us tired but ecstatic. Below Keith makes light work of the unrelenting Hautacam.

Hautacam

Bristol Bikefest

With legs flying from all the climbing, it was straight back to Bristol to do the infamous Bristol Bikefest 6 hours solo event, where I came 2nd overall again to Scott Cornish, who I caught momentarily halfway through. I think catching Scott only woke him up as he powered on to win. This is a must-do event for any mountain bikers – from novice to serious competitor.

First lap determined

The Monster

Next, it was another first: The Monster Sportive, organised by Matt and the crew at A-Cycling. I’d never done a road sportive. Road has never really been my thing, but I was intrigued by The Monster. With a cap on the number of entrants of 100, and a distance of 196km, with over 4,000 metres of climbing, through the most stunning scenery in Wales, including Brecon National Park, I just had to give it a go. I was surprised to roll home 6th in a time 7.50 for the 195kms. This brilliantly-organised event was tough but most enjoyable. I’d begun to see the appeal of a hard road event. This is one I’ll be doing again. Simply wonderful! Below ascending the Devil’s Staircase.
Proscar online

Devil's staircase

Bontrager Twenty-four 12

Then it was back to the mtb, and another first – the Bontrager Twenty-four 12 with the mighty Bruce Kerridge as my 12 hour partner. We were in second overall throughout the event, which started at 12 noon, until disaster struck at 11.30pm at night. Bruce broke his rear hanger and ended up running the last 7km. Luckily, Bruce is a talented runner, and I was ready to do another lap when he returned. We had only dropped one place to third by just two minutes. We were happy with third overall at this great event. With a dj in the woods banging out tunes throughout the day and night with lights, an amazing course that weaved through the camp ground with the smell of barbecues, and an atmosphere that’s second to none, this event I’ll being doing again.

The Rockies

Then it was three weeks in British Columbia, Canada with my family and my trusty Scott Scale for company. This was the most amazing experience from start to finish. The riding was varied and in some parts very technical. It put me on the edge many times, as we just don’t have anything like the length, height and technical level of the trails in the Rockies. Standout rides include:

North shore
Mt Seymour

Whistler
Comfortably numb
Thrill me kill me

Jasper
Medicine lake
Maline lake

Canmore
Numerous rides in the Nordic Centre

A lasting memory of Canada and the Rockies, apart from the amazing trails, is the threat of bear attack. The trail signs showed who you were sharing the trails with – walkers, cyclists and bears. I’m pretty sure one of those does not want to share.  Having to take bear spray (pepper spray) on every ride was something I found hard to get my head around. Having to yell before every blind corner to warn bears was also somewhat unnerving. Luckily, I did not disturb any bears and the trails were worth the risk.

Whistler

Torq in your sleep

On arriving back home, a little out of shape but totally reinvigorated, it was another new event for me – Torq in your Sleep. I struggled home in the six hour solo event to 2nd in the Vets category. It was fun to start an event in daylight and finish in the dark. The trails change shape when seen through just a white hole created by a bike light. At the beginning of September I did another of the Scott Marathons in Ryder, but took a heavy fall and badly sprained fingers on the same wrist I had broken the year before. This was the only low point of the year.

Exmoor Beast

After missing the Bristol Oktoberfest through my wrist injury, I was coaxed into doing only my second road event, the Exmoor Beast, with the good folks at True Digital. This feisty group had entered an remarkable 10 of their 55 employees. Offering 2 distances, I elected to do the longer 100 miles. With the Nire Valley Drop the following weekend, on home turf in Ireland, I thought the Beast would make a great kitchen sink ride. We all met up before the off and headed out together, until the first roundabout, when a few of us put down the power. I looked behind and I was on my own. I worked very hard to get into groups. Once in, I worked hard to drive them on as much as I could. I benefited from some super fast groups who were doing the shorter distance. I soon found that my legs were good – very good. The more I asked of them, the more they gave, all the way round to exactly 160km when they cramped. Luckily there were only another few kilometers to go. When I finished, it turned out I was the fastest in my category, but surprisingly, fastest overall. As the day ended, no one improved on my time, to my great surprise. As you’ll see from the picture, I had fun on the way round.

EXBST12

Nire Valley Drop

With good legs on the back of the fastest time in the Exmoor Beast, it was back home to see my wonderful parents in Tipperary (don’t say it), to do the Nire Valley Drop. This event had been on my bucket list for some years. Technically it is a mountain bike sportive, and is run for Haven partnership charity. The event is masterfully organised by the people of the Nire Valley and Ballymacarbry. I’d heard of and read this Nire Valley Drop blog post of this legendary place and event, where the community spirit can’t be beaten. As you see from the photo, even the mighty Sean Kelly took the start line. You can read the full race report here: Viagra online Race Report.

Start with King Kelly

The Nire Valley Drop was an excellent way to end a season of mountain biking and smidgen of road racing, where in nearly every event, I tried something different and new.

2016 starts early as I return to The Andalucia Bike Race for the second time in February. It’s a six day stage race, so will demand everything I’ve got, in addition to training over the winter. After that, who knows what the year will hold, but if it offers a new experience, then I’ll be there.
If you have any suggestions for events I should try, please let me know.

Ride safe in 2016!

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