Man Not Hot: Getting back in the saddle

Neither the weather nor the form was hot at the Offcamber XC Enduro but that didn’t stop some winter fun being had in the woods.

It’s fair to say racing hasn’t been anywhere near the menu since the UK 24 hour champs in July as other more important life stuff has happened. I didn’t really miss racing that much as I turned my attention to other challenges (mostly of the diy sos variety). When I have ridden it’s been good to catch up with some mates and do some no numbers rides. This all of course has had a bit of an impact on fitness but I wanted to wait until I got the urge to race again before stepping up to the line.

The urge eventually came round. My coach Jon points out that every year I have a ‘I’d rather just go to the pub and ride with mates’ phase. This one has been a bit longer than normal but I’ve been enjoying my riding and still getting in a few hours each week commuting to work. Sit-ups and that kind of stuff has taken a hit but hey I can’t frankly be arsed to do that torture year round!

So I saw the advert for a long xc race thing not too far from home and on good reviews put it in the diary.

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The 2.5 hour xc Enduro was basically a long xc race format with a 5 mile loop near Blandford. Turning up at the holiday park venue made me wonder if we would just be hacking round grassy fields but sneaking in a practice lap revealed a little gem of a course that was mostly twisty and rooty singletrack. No grassy slop or fire road boredom. No major climbs either but enough to keep it interesting.

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There were even A and B lines on some sections including a proper sized gap jump that had me shit myself on the practice lap as expecting a piddler of a gap I needed to pull up hard to clear it with my lackadaisical approach! It could have been a very short outing. The course held up really well despite the wet weather of late and after new sponsors Taylored Cycles had done a little bit of last minute fettling the race bike was de-dusted and ready to rock.

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The race itself kind of went how I expected. My heart exploding with the shock to the system of the first lap. The accepting that I might die at that pace I found a more life prolonging speed to make it through to the end. Those pub trips mullered me on the climbs as riders poured past but I did manage to keep up on the flatter stuff. Early on there were moments of why am I doing this but they were quickly overshadowed by the good pain vibes that come with these things for me. My jaw was aching with the cold and hard breathing though! I managed to push hard all the way through despite being left in no man’s land for the second half. Was good to catch up with some friends including coach Jon.

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There was a great turnout of over 100 riders at all levels from National xc podium riders through to first timers. Tea and cake for £1 rounded off an excellently hosted event. I even managed to get back a couple of places as the end came. I wasn’t arsed about the result but finishing just outside the top 10 wasn’t too bad all things considered. I might actually try and sneak in another one of these things this side of our xmas day drop date!

 

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Ard Rocking

I do try and fit in ‘normal’ person activities around training for ultra slog fests. No more so than just after I’ve completed a major slog fest aka the ‘blowout’ period where I catch up on eating and beer activities.

Although possibly a little soon for the legs to be in one piece after the UK 24 hour solo championships I had entered the Ard Rock Enduro ages ago so without any of the usual pre race faff I rocked up totally unequipped for the weekend ahead but ready for some beer, junk food and awesome trials.

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Setup faff/ blowing the dust off the big bike/ waiting hours for mates to arrive

Our group got entry to the ‘Intro’ after missing out on the main event so that meant the last three stages rather than the full five. It turned out that we were somewhat out of place as even a 10 pint handicap group of mid speed riders ended up packing the top places. We hadn’t appreciated how many beginner riders there would be, great for the sport but maybe not so if you wanted a clean run down the stage. I didn’t really care either way as I wasn’t seeing this as a race at all.

My day changed quite a bit after nursing my hungover self to the top of the first major climb only for my mech to crumble in to pieces. Mech off, rear shock pumped up to 220psi, singlespeed full susser here we come.

It made the day a bit of a grind/ long walk but despite not being able to pedal properly from either spinning out after 2 seconds or the chain just dropping off and flapping around I still loved the descents. I need to work on my chainless racing skills though finding myself having to punt along at times. For good measure I got a flat right at the end of the last stage. The stages were a mix of what I would basically call proper mountain biking taking in moorland trails some fun rocky quarry sections and sheep tracks. Not as techy as some made out but if you were flat out I guess it would get a lot sketchier. Some off camber fields with jumps through walls was pretty good fun.

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Somehow I ended up in 13th (definitely unlucky!) although we were somewhat out of place in the intro group with lots of beginners stacking the ranks. Smiles on everyones faces though despite the hold ups. Great to see lots of ladies out there in the hills, probably the biggest turnout I’ve seen at any bike event in fact.

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Big ups, big downs. Hard work on one gear!

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‘Team Gnarr Shredding’ aka sandbaggers

The terrain in the Dales is awesome and some of the climbing is a walk on a big bike. Next year I’ll definitely be up for the main route if we get an entry in time. I had a crazy thought of doing all three events across the weekend so that would total 125km of hard terrain, hmm might need to stay out of the mosh pit the night before for hat one.

 

Write ups from around the web

Here’s a bit of a summary of some this year’s race blogs from around and about that I hadn’t quite gotten round to putting up on here yet. My favourite picture of the year so far is from Charlie Lees:

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Early year XC racing

https://www.teamjmc.uk/2017/01/mid-winter-madness-for-matt-jones/

Ridiculous winter challenge ride

https://www.teamjmc.uk/2017/04/matt-joness-moors-madness/

Musings about racing and looking after yourself

http://www.e3coach.com/blog/119-looking-after-yourself

Dyfi Enduro Double

https://www.ukxcnews.com/race-reports/make-best-event-year-even-better-twice/

MTB Marathon double dodgy stomach affair

https://www.teamjmc.uk/2017/04/matt-joness-weekend-goes-down-the-pan/

Singletrack 7 hour event

https://www.teamjmc.uk/2017/05/singletrack7-report-by-matt-jones/

Midweek 1 hour xc thrashing

http://www.e3coach.com/blog/121-mad-thrash-midweek-xc-race-report

Racing bikes

https://www.ukxcnews.com/news/race-bike-focus-matt-jones-24-hour-racing-machines/

WEMBO 24 hour world champs

https://www.teamjmc.uk/2017/06/wembo-24hr-mtb-world-champs-report-by-matt-jones/

UK 24 Champs

https://www.teamjmc.uk/2017/08/mudfest-for-matt-jones-at-the-uk-24hr-solo-champs/

Next up after I wean myself off the massive eatafon is a little challenge ride around london, 200 miles around the ‘smoke ring’ in a oner, watch this space

 

Winter Racing and the next ‘epic

As now traditional for me I’ve had a dabble at a couple of wintery short xc races of late in a desperate attempt to kick start the hard training ahead and post xmas festivities ‘getting back on it’.

Keeping things local(ish) first off I headed an hour south to partake in the last round of the Gillingham and District Wheelers winter xc series. This was definitely grass roots racing and on arrival at the car park in the woods by St Alfred’s Tower about an hour before race time there was only me and one other chap in sight. Have we got the wrong location, we both looked at each other and asked?! There were certainly no rollers or easy ups here. Eventually the organiser turned up in a van with a lunch box to receive the fiver entry fee (A FIVER!!!) and a few more cars arrived to make up the numbers.

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Pay man in van fiver, have fun in the mud, simples

With plenty of time for a test lap of the short circuit through the woods it was clear this was going to be a muddy one. The technicality came from trying to keep things in a straight line down the gloopy forest road shoots whilst there were a few really sharp punchy climbs to keep the legs in check. I’d gone out for a few hours the day before so this would be a good chance to test some high speed endurance. Once I spotted Kim Little (Merida Factory Racing) on the start line I knew my lungs would be tested even trying to keep up for a lap. As it turned out I don’t think I even managed a lap as he shot off up the first climb. We did have a brief coming together whilst getting temporarily lost which allowed the rest of the field to catch up. Despite only being a small gang of us there were a few decent riders and I settled in 2nd but was getting hunted down by others from the off. I eventually ran out of beans on the second to last lap with a chap coming past me. I had gone full mudguards which is almost a never in a race but I reckon everyone else had about 1kg of mud stuck to their backs compared to me!

Next up was the last round of the MAD XC series up in Gloucestershire. Based again at the National Trusts Ebworth Estate where forest roads are linked with nice little bits of singletrack. The organisers had to abandon most of the singletrack to preserve the woodlands after yet more disgusting weather had left things Somme like. Jon at E3 coach had really upped the pain for this weekend scheduling a 4 hour ride the day before then a couple of hours after the race to really finish me off. I knew during the practice lap that I was pretty empty and sure enough once the gun went I didn’t really get going. A few points at the front were fighting for the series overall prize so were off like a shot and I just slowly slipped back. After a couple of laps I really felt like throwing in the towel, this was not fun, let me curl up in a ball somewhere. I hadn’t been sleeping very well either which meant I was a bit zoned out. I kept on plugging though as it would have been easy to just call it a day but I reckon if you throw the towel once you know what it feels like therefore know how to do and it are more likely to do it in future. Tapping in to my 24 hour racing stubbornness I just got my head down and got on with it. DON’T EVEN TOUCH THE TOWEL I told myself let alone get hold of it. Weird that such mental battles can even happen in such a short race. Mercilessly I approached the start/finish line a minute before the cut off for a final lap, DON’T EVEN SMELL THE TOWEL and off I went for then final lap of trudging through leg sapping mud. I noted a couple of fast finishers had hunted me down and were within site so this gave me a bit more motivation to actually pull my finger out and put some more effort in for the last lap. I held them off and came in 10th. I did pick up a trophy, last year’s overall 2nd place in the series. Character building part 2 commenced straight after the race heading off on a mix of local bridleways (more boggy hell) and backroads to spin the legs for a couple of hours. I had stuffed loads of food in my back pocket so was able to take comfort in that at least.

I made it back to event HQ just as the organisers were leaving and probably thinking “who’s this idiot?”!

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‘warming down’ for a couple of hours post xc thrashing

 

I’ve got a bit of a mission lined up next weekend to do the first 180miles of Aidan Hardings EWE mountain bike route www.aidanharding.com/ewe/. I’m aiming to make it across bleak Dartmoor on day 1, Plymouth to Barnstaple (100 miles) then Barnstaple to Bridgewater on day 2 heading across the steep climbs of Exmoor and then the Quantocks covering 80 miles. It’s a mix of bridleways, singletrack and national cycle network route. I just wanted something as an early season challenge to keep me motivated and I’ve always wanted to do a route across the two moors. I expect it to be fairly grim but a good mental challenge at this time of year, at least I’ve got a half way curry lined up with a mate in Barnstaple and a bed for the night to recharge. I’ve been trying to figure out how best to strap kit to my bike to keep things nice and lightweight but as a total amateur I’ll probably just end up stuffing a load of kit in my back pockets to avoid a rucksack.

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The Moors! From behind local ripper Sam Pantling’s bars

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180 miles over 2 days 

 

 

 

 

2016 review, bring it on 2017

It’s been a great year for me and I feel totally lucky to have pulled off feats I would have never in a million years thought possible. After taking the European 24 hour solo title in somewhat less that entirely satisfying circumstances I wanted to have a good ride in the Nationals to see how I measured up to the best in the UK. Everything went brilliantly and with a bit of luck in some testing conditions I came away with the win, whoop! This was even more incredible given the preceding weeks of life getting in the way. Read about that one here

With the year drawing to a close it’s always the time to work out what next. I’ve had some quite deep and thought provoking conversation with Jon @e3coach about 2017. His obvious thought is to notch it up another level whereas mine was more like how on earth do I maintain that level with all the new life changes on the horizon. Jon proved he understands me far more than I give him credit for breaking down my current mentality and recognising how to harness this. For example it might come as a shock to many that I genuinely don’t go in to races wanting to win as my main goal!

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Jon from E3 Coach

Keeping the fun in riding is important to me and keeping true to why I started riding, getting out there with mates having a laugh. This is increasingly difficult with a busy life and fitting in training but my mates are generally not (that) abusive if I fit in a couple of extra hill reps whilst out on a ride with them!

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5 days before the Euro Champs it was the annual mates BBQ ride…not to be missed

 

So what next then… well firstly with some things that will be the same. I’m mega chuffed to say that I’ll be continuing will long term sponsors M Steel Cycles with some updated race weapons. Bristol’s Community Bike Café Roll for the Soul will be life saving again next year with spannering that avoids me breaking things myself.

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Roll for the Soul workshop support= life savers

 

Exposure Lights will be keeping me lit on the trails again, simply the best lights out there bar none, I can’t actually quite believe how far they are ahead of the competition and there’s a reason why most people’s lights at 24 hour races are supplied by these guys. USE components will be mounted to the new race machine to keep things light and racey. I’ll be using Torq Fitness products again as they are the central element to my race day nutrition strategy and are always good to have a chat to about racing.

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The most important sponsor in action

The main new thing for next year with be joining up with Team JMC. I’ve known and respected some of the main guys behind setting this club up for some time. The experienced racers involved have always been happy to share their knowledge and it’s a testament to our sport that such a strong camaraderie exists between competitors. The club was originally started as a work place thing but has grown and expanded and is now a UK wide group of people who get together with a focus of fun and encouraging members to get involved in races and challenges across different sports. The club’s heartland also happens to be where I grew up so it feels even more special to be signing up. I’m looking forward to getting to know this group even more and pitting with them at races next year.

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Kielder 100 2011 Matt meets team JMC! Jason and Phil using distraction by garmin to avoid my chat

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Team JMC’s newest member

As for races, after packing in way too many last year I’ll be doing a few less but the main goal will be the World 24 hour championships in Finale Ligure with is probably the best 24 hour course out there. The UK 24 hour champs are only 8 weeks following Finale so I’m going to play it by ear as to whether or not I indulge in that one. Other than that I’ll dabble in a few marathon events but we’ve got a DIY marathon on our hands with our new old and in need some TLC house so that will swallow up a fair bit of time. Painting is good core strength work right?

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This this is going to take a bit of work in 2017

Triple Trouble

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It’s been a mad year of races races races. At the start of the year I had loads of stuff I wanted to do and I knew packing it all in would be tough. With the last race of the year, the UK 24 hour solo champs just round the corner I decided to go three weekends back to back endurance racing to get some good hard miles in the legs.

First up was Torq in your Sleep where I wossed out and entered the 6 hour event given the weeks of training and racing ahead. It was awesome to be pitting with the E3 Coach gang and a good chance to catch up with buddies.

 

I went of pretty hard at the start with fast lad Scott Cornish knowing the fast and flowing singletrack fun of Minley Manor which I was riding for the first time could easily see you slip back if you got caught in traffic. Sure enough, I got caught in a bit of traffic but in fairness Scott was too quick for me anyway. I didn’t really know who else I was racing so just cracked on and enjoyed the tight singletrack and reminded myself I should practice more riding this sort of stuff as I struggled to keep smooth and solid momentum at some points. After a couple of hours having settled in, splat I found myself face first in the dirt with a hefty OTB, looking back down the (flat) trail in wonderment I spotted the offending stump I had caught a pedal on. I dusted myself off feeling some pretty sore ribs only to find that I had snapped my carbon railed saddle (ouch on body and wallet!). It was only a third way round the lap so I stood up for the rest of it. Fortunately I had brought a spare bike so my stand in pit crew (thanks Ingrid) and coach Jon quickly helped me hop about back up bike.

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The E3 Family

 

I got going again and pedalled through the pain to a reasonable 4th place. Hey ho, it was the second fourth in a row after the Manx 100 but it was onwards next weekend to my old stomping ground to the Kielder 101. Kielder was a great weekend and truly epic scenery, you can read about that one here: https://www.ukxcnews.com/rider-blogs/matthew-jones-kielder101-2016/

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After another 4th place at Kielder but having had a great day out I was looking forward to finishing things off at the MTB Marathon Ruthin weekend where I would do the usual double night ride and marathon the next day. This time though I had planned to do a double lap of the long course on the Sunday for good measure and to round of the three hard training weeks. After great fun on the night ride testing out the new Exposure Lights Six Pack and coming in second rider back on the shorter course I still felt relatively fresh the next day and was ready to take on a big day out.

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I had laid out all my nutrition and clothes ready for a quick turnaround once lap one was complete. Lap 1 didn’t go to plan though. After feeling good and solid on the first few climbs I was ploughing down a wicked fun rocky descent when I cut my tyre a bit on a sharp rock. After a while faffing with tubeless worms and CO2 I managed to make it down to the road crossing where I stopped to find that the slash was too big for the tubeless stuff to work so I popped in an inner tube and started pumping away with the marshall’s track pump. Up she went, down she went. I love the fact that in every MTB event you learn something about yourself or the kit you are using. The lesson here kids, check your tubeless tyre for thorns before putting an inner tube in…

 

I then had to patch the tube which was now covered in tubeless gunk, by which time all but the back markers had trundled past. Ah well still plenty of daylight left as I wizzed past hoards of riders enjoying the day out to make some progress again. I stopped to recharge at the food stations for much longer than normal and eat loads of fig rolls to cheer me up and give me a boost for lap 2. About half a mile up from the last feed station, that sound appeared nobody wants to here, gush another puncture on the now tubed tyre, FFS. Walked back down to the feed stations, bought a tube, debated how much a lift back to HQ would cost, more fig rolls, carried on again. The day was getting on by this point and given that I would want to sort the tubeless setup out again for lap 2 I was rapidly thinking I should change plans or quit before anything more drastic happened. Still debating what to do on the final road decent, a wasp sting on the face made my mind up, this wasn’t my day! Philosophical I returned to base and after chatting to the organisers earlier about my plans they were keen to find out if I was on for another lap, talk is cheap so I headed back to the caravan for some ponderance and called it a day. We then had time for a much more socialable walk back in the woods where we had ridden through earlier which was a nice change of pace.

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Matt vs Ruthin wasn’t entirely over though and I got up at the crack the next morning to do most of Lap 2 which turned out to be great fun on the excellent course with a real variety of terrain.

So the triple header weekends were completed and I was relatively unscathed (despite sore ribs from Torq) getting some decent miles in along the way.

 

Davos European 24hr solo champs aftermath

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A few more photo’s and things from Davos and the ensuing stag do carnage. The full write up is on singletrackworld here

I definitely had a bit of a blowout after the race drinking loads of beer and accompanying French produce in Morzine and I’ve struggled to rain it in since. I had an awesome time at the Manx100 but only being a few weeks after Davos it was never going to be a full gas event. I really noticed that extra 5kg of blubber! That box of meat I won must have been really fattening (or perhaps it was the daily ice creams…)!

Reflecting on the race it was certainly the most consistent I’ve been and I’m pretty chuffed to have done well on a course that traditionally wouldn’t be my cup on tea. I would have liked to have had some more competition but I guess you can only beat what’s in front of you. I’ve got a few middle ultra distance things coming up if there is such a thing this summer with, Torq 12 6hr and Kielder 101 on the menu. These should be good for keeping the legs on form without creating the same fatigue that a 24 hour beasty does.