Helen Findlay

My adventures in Middle Europe and The Colonies. This blog contains my own views and opinions and does not represent those of my employers, or any other organisation with which I am involved. Remember, just because it isn't Singletrackworld, doesn't mean it isn't shite !

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Battle of The Somme

Was away down in England last weekend for the British Cross Country Mountain Bike Champs. Travelled down with my friend Kieren from the Edinburgh Road Club. I was entered in the Masters Category (30+) and Kieren in the Seniors (20+).

The weekend started well, we had a good trip down and stayed in a village called Iron Bridge, the main tourist attraction of which was the (wait for it) first iron bridge ever built at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Hard to believe now, the main source of income seems to be tea-shops.

Kieren's brother Tom and his mate Adam came up from London to meet us. On saturday we went for a practice run about the race course, which was dry and fast and looking good. Adam and Tom hired some bikes to take part in the Open/Fun category early sunday morning. They immediately started beer-loading as preparation for the race.

It was probably a good tactic !! On sunday it absolutely chucked it down, and turned the entire course into a muddy hellhole worthy of a Wilfred Owen poem. Adam had pulled out of the race with a "hamstring injury" but Tom carried on and managed his two laps, the course being still rideable at that point.

I set off about 12.15, and managed one lap actually on the bike. The rain continued to get heavier and the course got muddier and more churned up as more riders went over it. Lap two involved a lot of falling off, sliding and running down steep bits carrying my bike. Was seriously considering pulling out, and was preparing my speech for the club committee (who had given us financial support to race) as I want through the changeover area.

Nae luck !! Was spotted by James Ouchterlony, best rider in Scotland and general all round nice bloke, who yelled out some encouragement as I went through. Couldn't give up then without looking really stink !! So I soldiered on. It was frustrating, was feeling good and fit on the climbs but just couldn't stay on the bike long enough and got wet and cold on the rest of it. Then I heard the start gun go for the Senior Mens race and it was all over for me. Put in a big effort to at least get to the last descent before they caught me, and mostly managed it. Spent the rest of the 3rd lap getting out of the way, which involved a fair bit of running alongside the course, so I could keep moving and stay out of danger. Snotty bunch they were too, only 3 people said thanks to me for getting out of the way. Elbows out next time...

So anyway, after 2hrs 54 mins (nearly three hours !! Spare it !!) I finished in 6th place out of 13 entrants, so pleased enough with that under the circumstances, but reckon I could have done better under better conditions. But I guess a race like that brings out the more skilled riders, which is only fair.

Tom finished second to last in the Open, but was a pretty heroic effort for his first ever XC race and having got in at 4am after drinking loads of cider the night before. Adam and Tom both reckon they will train up and come back next year....

Kieren finished 33rd out of 65 entrants in the Senior Men, which was a pretty good effort with major chain suck and only the big chain ring. The above-mentioned James O got 3rd, which was a brilliant result for him and the Scottish Team.

Off now to pack my mud tires permanantly in the back of the van...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Last day at the Museum and dangerous white substances

It was my last day of work today for a while, a busy busy busy day of emailing, following Le Tour on cyclingnews.com and eating cakes ! I have to admit to a few wee tears, I met so many good people, and although my job wasn't always easy it was definitely never boring.

Said goodbye to the Goldfish on my way out.

Busy packing up the flat now, and heading down to England for the weekend for the British XC Nationals at Bringewood. Feeling fit, but injured my hand in one of my trademark stupid little crashes at the weekend, so not sure how I will go. But who needs to brake anyway ? I'll just Single Speed it...

Joke of the week, courtesy of my mother:

"Dangerous white substance found at Lions training session today.

The Lions Touring Rugby team training session was delayed today for nearly two hours.

One of the players, while on his way back to the dressing room happened to look down and notice a suspicious looking, unknown white powdery substance at the end of the field.

Coach Clive Woodward immediately suspended practice while the Police were called in to investigate.

After a complete field analysis, the Police determined that the white substance, unknown to the players, was the try line. Practice was resumed when the officials decided that it was unlikely that the team would encounter the substance again."

Sunday, July 10, 2005


Just back from a brilliant 10 days in the Dolomites in northern Italy. Was away with a group from the Edinburgh Road Club, me, Andrew Sinclair, Niall Macdonald, Denise Lamond and Richard Garret, and joined for a few days by Hazel Sutherland and Cliff White who were bike touring. Also shared the odd glass of wine with Jackie Reid and her brother and friends who were there to do the Marathona.

It was a pretty gruelling trip over, drive through to Prestwick, flight to Bergamo, then collect rental cars and drive up to San Cassiano. Niall's workmate had assured us that "it's only a couple of hours drive" For Michael Schumacher maybe. Major schoolgirl error at Europcar when I realised I had carefully taken my driving licence out of my wallet the day before. Was about to start crying when Andrew stepped in and put it on his licence. Advice from the Europcar dude: "if you get stopped by Caribinieri you lost your licence in the hotel, OK ?"

I had drawn the short straw and was driving by myself, and after a small detour in the direction of Rome, and eventually got on the road up to the Dolomites. This was a traumatic drive, it was a dark and stormy night, with the scenery lit up dramatically every so often by fork lightning. Seemed to drive constantly uphill. At one point the rain got so heavy I had to pull over for a while, I couldn't see more than 5 metres and due to the switchbacks strongly suspected there was a 200 metre drop at the side of the road. I was right. Made the hotel by 1.30 in the morning, luckily the advance party had sorted out my room key and rang me to give directions.

A few days to acclimitise and it was the main event of the holiday, the Marathona dles Dolomites on sunday 3rd, a Grand Fondo type event with 3 routes, 50k, 110k and 147k. As opposed to the Grand Fondue events with Ham, Cheese and Steak. After much eating of pasta and a 10pm curfew the night before, we set off down to the start line at 5.30 am.

The race itself wasn't at all what I expected. I had seen the profile and knew I would be spending the entire day either climbing or descending, but had thought there would be some kind of atmosphere, a camararderie in adversity or something. 8000 people out on the road and it was deadly silent, as everybody slogged up the climbs or tore down the descents. Jackie Reid passed me on the second climb. After 55k had taken me three hours, and Jackie was the only person I had spoken to the boredom set in, and I decided I wasn't enjoying it enough to justify the physical toll of riding the full 147, which would have taken around 7-8 hours. So I wimped out and decided to do the 110k. Enjoyed myself much more after that, stopped to look at the awesome scenery and decided I was going to say hello to all the girls I passed. This was not as easy as you might think, as Italian blokes are quite small and German women don't shave their legs. Luckily our names were on our numbers which gave a bit more of a clue. Got a few replies, mostly not in English but it helped pass the time.

Headed down to Belluno on the monday and spent the rest of the week in a villa in a wee village called Castion and 1965. The villa had everything you needed, but none of it had been updated in 40 years. Did some road rides, sunbathed, shopped, chatted, ate lots, watched the Tour de France on the tele, perfect holiday.

Returned to a lovely sunny weekend in Edinburgh. Back to work tomorrow, but only for another 7 days, so I might just cope !

Chased by the Muffia and swimming with da fishes

Been away for a while and not had the chance to write an update. Event of note recently was the Scottish Cross Country Mountain bike champs up in Inverness. Was a bit worried as this was only my second race in the Elite/Expert category and having been utterly tanked and coming last in the race before, hopes were not high so I decided to relax and enjoy myself.

It was a great course, lots of variety and and some good fun descents. Made a much better job of this race, was in amongst it for the first lap, then had a comedy crash on the second. Totally my own fault, there was a wee narrow bridge over a river, and was going well so feeling confident I asked the marshall as I passed "has anybody fallen in yet ?" Stupid stupid stupid !! It was enough to lose concentration and go head first into the river. I was VERY VERY LUCKY, there was a river to catch my bike and a shrub to catch my face. Only injury a few bashes on my face and a bit of a black eye. Got back on my bike and everything seemed to be working. Lost a fair bit of time and was getting caught by the girl behind me, so dug in and did a faster 3rd lap to hold her off.

Finished in 6th this time out of 7, 7 mins back on the Scottish Champ Catherine as opposed to 14 mins back last race so more than happy with that. Oh, and I actually quite enjoyed it too ! The race was won by Genevieve Whitson, a fellow Kiwi, so a good result all around.