Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Andy Irons

One minute we're full of excited anticipation that Kelly Slater is about to pull off his tenth world title this week, when news comes though that Andy Irons, his greatest competitor over many years, has died. He was returning home to Hawaii having pulled out of the Puerto Rico competition due to contracting Dengue fever. He was 32. Very sad. A huge character in the surfing world and truly amazing surfer, brilliant to watch.

A full report on Andy Irons -

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Kelly goes for Tenth Title

Exciting times - Kelly Slater, the greatest competitive surfer to have ever graced the planet is only a few heats away from securing his tenth World Championship Title. With two events left, it's pretty well in the bag. He has to be regarded as one of the greatest athletes across all sports. On the women's tour, Stephanie Gilmore has just won her fourth consecutive world title - it's all happening across in Puerto Rico!

You can check out it all out on the ASP site.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Exmoor Beast

And so it was that the Exmoor Beast reared it's ugly head. 100 miles on the road across the Moor - a tough test in anyone's book. I'd trained hard for 6 weeks - and I had this idea in my mind that if all went to plan I could nail a time of 6 hours and 50 minutes. That would mean no mechanical failures, no punctures and if possible, try and draft behind some of the faster groups to get a good pull. Six hours 50 minutes - it was going to be a real battle.

I started with the first batch of riders out of 1,400 going off from Butlins at Minehead at 7am - conditions pretty good. By the time we got to the first climb (there are two biggies in the first 35 miles) there were about 15 people ahead (it's a time trail not a race). At the top of Dunkery Beacon the mist was thick, visibility down to 30 yards in places. Over the top of the Beacon and a club group went by. I sat on the back and drafted for the next 6 miles - sweet, more pace, less effort! Down Lynemouth Hill and they pulled away. Memories of my fall a few weeks ago leading me to be more cautious. The road was wet and the leaves made it treacherous. Up the other side for the long haul to Simonsbath - a good 7 miles up hill. The group was a mere 50 yards ahead, but just out of reach.

Out of the shelter of the gorge and on to the top of the Moor - here you're exposed to the elements. The wind had picked up and it was tough going. The rider whose wheel I'd stuck to up the hill, decided they'd let me now do the leading. Damn! And then the drop down into Simonsbath to the first feeding station.
Last year, I decided not to stop at the first feeding station - and I suffered as a result. This year, I decided to make the briefest of stops, grabbed a flapjack and then back on. I'd arranged to meet Janey and the boys - but our timing was out. I was an hour up on last year's time (the weather was horrible in 2009). They were to wait over an hour for me, but I'd been and gone!

At the feed station the groups split - the 100 milers went one way, the 70 milers the other. At the 40 mile mark I was all alone - no-one around and up on the Moor. It was tough and I was feeling it. The ten miles went slowly and I felt for sure that the 6 hours 50 was quickly going away. Down the hill though and two other cyclists swung by - I tucked in behind and for the next ten miles we caned it through the wooded valleys. Fantastic. Back on the pace.

Three miles before the next feeding station we joined up with the 70 milers - a great lift. Overtaking is a real spur and we picked up the pace another notch. And then on the corner of the next climb, I saw the boys and Janey. Yippee. Great to see them and it provided another really cool boost. We joined up at the feed station where Billy helped fill up the water bottles and provide me with some peeled bananas!

With the biggest hills now done - the last 35 miles should have been a breeze but there were plenty of surprises. Really steep sections sapping the energy. I kept looking at the bike computer - this was going to be so close! Seven miles to go and you route starts to descend back towards Minehead. Time to be gained - there was going to be nothing in it. Two miles to go - I can do this. Then an unexpected turn left off the flat at Dunster Castle onto a really steep section, standing on the pedals to keep the bike moving. One mile, flat but into the wind. I could see Butlins, the seconds were ticking away. I saw Janey and boys, cheering me on. Out of the saddle again, one last push, around the roundabout and into Butlins and enthusiastic cheers from the supporters.

And this is where it all went a bit pear shaped! The finish you would think quite naturally would be when you cross the line. I crossed the line at six hours 49 minutes and 45 seconds (bike computer)! Stoked - totally stoked. To have cycled 100 miles on such a tough course and beaten a time that I thought possibly just beyond me, was wicked. I got off the bike, I was spent. I stretched off the back which was by now very sore. Then I walked into the building and down the corridor. It wasn't until I walked down the corridor that I notice these white markers - NO - the chip timers! The race was timed when you passed these sensors. How on earth was I supposed to know that? The official time 6 hours 50 minutes and 9 seconds! And that put me outside the time band! Gutted? Not really - the job had been done.

Anyway, really great day. Brilliant to have the family up supporting. A very tough challenge but really pleased with the time. Only 12 people had passed me throughout the 100 miles. Very happy bunny. Oh here we go, just seen the results - came 52nd! 52nd in the hardest Sportive on the UK Calendar. Really pleased with that.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool at Butlins. When we set off to go home we passed riders still out on the course - some 12 hours after starting! Good on them.

Last week I had to go up to Plymouth - whilst there I took my bike into the Specialized shop and I asked if they wouldn't mind giving it the once over before the race. The chap took down all the details on his form. "Do you think I might be able to pick it up this afternoon?" I asked. "No chance", he said. He took the form, held it up and ripped up in front of me as if I'd wasted his time. Hm, not impressed. I've spent a lot of money in there over the past year ("far too much" Janey!) and recommended others who have done likewise. Cycling is not cheap which probably explains why it's the middle aged doing it. Anyway the shop is split into two. I went into the other half to chat about something else. "Did you get your bike sorted?" - I relayed what had happened. "Really?" said the store manager. I didn't want a scene but I'd determined that as I hadn't felt like a valued customer I wouldn't be shopping there in future.

To cut a long story short - they took the bike off there and then and gave it the quick once over. The gears had been a bit temperamental, and on inspection it was no wonder as a bit had broken off! The result was a quick fix to get the gears back on song but a quote for £250 to get the bike fully overhauled. £250 on a bike that I'd bought less than a year ago! okay I've done some miles but that seemed mighty steep. It cost me £100 to get the minibus through it's MOT the week before! I took the bike away without any repairs and cycled the Exmoor Beast quite merrily without any issues. Moral of the story? At Surf's Up! we try our hardest to be inclusive, to ensure that everyone is 'valued' because clients are our life blood - without them we don't have a business. But it only takes the smallest gesture, the smallest action of even the most junior member of staff to completely ruin the good work of others. Despite the bike shop's best efforts to redeem the situation, I left feeling pretty bad about the whole thing and that's it, in this competitive market place I will go elsewhere from now on. Shame really as I loved going there.

I seem to be chatting more about cycling than surfing recently! Sorry. I guess being passionate about something, whatever it is, is a good thing. I think the comparison between the sports is how both make me feel. If a day goes by without a bike ride, my body just yearns for it. And you get that sense of euphoria from it. There's that sense of freedom - the same you get from surfing. I love it! The comparisons are there to be made. So if you're reading this and you live far from the sea - go and jump on your bike. I promise you'll feel much better for it.