David Conroy

David Conroy

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

HSBC UK Cyclo-cross National Trophy Round 1

This weekend was the first international race of my 2017/18 cyclo-cross season.  It was Round 1 of the UK National Trophy held once again in Derby (pronounced Darby).  This is my third year in a row coming here for the first round of the National Trophy.  The first year I made the fatal mistake of changing equipment the day before a race and it caused a mechanical and then in 2016 I double punctured.  So I was really hoping for "Third time lucky" to ring true.
2016 didn't go to plan

Derby has hosted the first round of the National Trophy for the last three years and has had a new feature added each year, this time it was a 60 metre sandpit that was rotovated before the start of each race.  Its not a course that suits me,  Flat, smooth and wide open corners meaning the speed stays high all race and it groups up more than a typical cross race.  It is more similar to a criterium than a cross race (And there is a difference as any coach will know).  This year there was rain on Saturday meaning the course was muddy and slippy for the morning races but had dried out for the elite races meaning I was running intermediate tires like the Challenge Grifo.

I was gridded 20th so was on the third row and got a good position on the inside edge of the track.  The start was fast but I made quick work of getting up into the top ten before we got to the sandpit, I went tight to the outside of the sand knowing the majority of the riders would steer towards the centre line,  I managed to ride the whole length of the sand while others were forced to dismount, coming past the pits for the second time I was up into the top 5 riders and once over the full 40cm boards I was up to third heading back towards the bridge and finish-line.  Onto the Tarmac and I moved to the back of the group of 10 riders leading the race, knowing that I was riding a bit faster than I could hold for the full race.
First lap chaos on the sand

Yorben Van Tichelt put in the first big attack on the second lap and left our group chasing hard, I dropped from the group as I was already too far into the red.  For the next three laps I rode with three other riders as we worked to try to close to some of the first lap group who were starting to struggle after their initial effort.  Early on the fifth lap I put in an attack on one of the off camber, muddy sections as I could see two riders about 20 seconds ahead and I felt I could ride across to them.  Encouraged by a supporter who notified me that the riders ahead were 10th and 11th I momentarily lost focus and cross rutted on an easy part of the track, I got caught up in the tape and panicked as I tried to not lose too much time.  Unfortunately my rush did not help and I was passed by the group of three I had attacked and two other riders as I lost around 25 seconds.

 I made it back to two of the riders who had passed me and we worked well for a lap before one of the riders dropped off leaving two of us to chase down the group I had attacked which now had four riders again .  The rider I was with was James Madwick who would end up third U23.  We worked well together for two laps getting to within 10 seconds of the group.  James then attacked me through the sand pit to make it to the group ahead, I didn't have enough power to respond or follow him and rode the last lap and a half on my own with the group ahead in sight but unable to close the gap. 
More Sand

After 9 laps/1 hour and one minute of racing I ended up 15th in Elites and 4th U23.  I was 3 minutes off the winner, Ian Field and 2 minutes off the U23 winner.  I'm a big believer in Performance based success instead of Results based and this weekend was most definitely a success.  While I didn't make the U23 Podium which is my goal for one of the first three rounds to qualify for the Irish team going to the 2018 Cyclo-Cross World Championships in Valkenburg, I definitely performed at my best and despite one little mistake the whole weekend was flawless so I'm very optimistic heading to round two in Abergavenny on the 29th of October. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Cyclocross World Championships

The last race of my Cyclocross calendar was this weekend's UCI World Championships held on the infamous Huesden Zolder course.  This time I was delighted to be representing Ireland and wearing Irish kit instead of my usual Scott/Eurocycles.com kit.  I was racing at 11am on Saturday while David Montgomery was racing at the same time on Sunday in the U23 event.  Also with us were Andy Layhe (my coach all season) as team manager and Simon Curry as mechanic.  We also had great help from Donal O'Brien who provided spares, a team tent and was at the start and finish to look after my kit.  Martine Verfaillie also helped, she has looked after Monty all season and provided some great photos of the races and she cannot be thanked enough for what she does for Irish cyclists in Belgium.

One of Martine's excellent shots
I won't bore you with our exact timetable and what we ate and where we were at every minute so I'll keep it short up to Saturday.  Thursday:  flight, Brussels, van, hotel, meet Donal.  Friday:  course practice while Donal sorts paperwork, meet Monty, more practice, bike swap, practice, hotel, swim, dinner, early night.

Martine capturing a dismount before the sand 

Photo credit: Donal O'Brien.  Team talk 

Saturday was an early start after a small breakfast.  It had rained all night and was still lightly raining as we drove to the course.  Due to being the first race the course had changed very little and it was mostly surface water,  I did my warm-up and was at the start at 10:45 as needed for gridding.  I was gridded 30th out of 80 so a pretty good position.  With a minute to go it was the usual chorus of zippers and flying jerseys.  Then the reshuffling started,  I thought it would be ordered and everyone would obey the gridding and rows........ I was wrong, everyone surged forward and into gaps that did not exist as soon as the commissaire turned his back,  everyone still had their foot on the ground and already I was fighting for places.

Photo credit: Donal O'Brien

The start was absolutely nuts, no words can describe the speed and the lunacy of some of the passes/pushes, we hadn't even made it to the first corner and already people were forcing themselves into gaps that didn't exist.  I made up a few places round the first corner by taking the inside line, by UCI rules the course has to be a minimum of 3 metres wide but we were all riding single file for most of the race.  I got caught in a crash on the corner after the pits, an American fell and blocked the line I was aiming for, I had to get off the bike and hop over him while 30 other riders tried to do the same (some even trying to ride over him), then it was up and over bridge No.1, making a sneaky inside pass on a Japanese rider.  Rounded a chicane, down a sand descent, back up through sand, tight twisty forest section, out onto the widest section of track.  Here I finally got over being stunned after the start and realized I needed to crack on.  I passed three more people between here and the pits, one on the grassy climb, one on the descent(a welcome place to recover) and one on bridge No.2.  Past the pits and onto the off camber turns above the start finish, I rode the high line all weekend as it was faster and held less water/mud.  Bridge No.3 shortly followed and seemed to be put in purely for someones twisted sense of humour, after this bridge was another quick gasp of air and then the craziest descent I have ever ridden on a cross bike.
Photo credit: Toby Watson 

After this descent it was the sandy run-up followed by the climb(wall) of screaming legs,  this was a forest climb of about 30% which was the talking point of the track,  running up leg sapping sand, trying to get clipped in in 10 metres and then attacking this climb is something even Mathieu, Wout and Lars dread.  Then the course slalomed down the hill to the start/finish.  I was 52nd after the first lap, just under two minutes between 1st and 52nd, that's a lot of riders.  I was at the max for the remaining 4 laps but only gained 4 places to finish 48th.  My goal was a top 40 and I am slightly disappointed not to get it but it was still a fantastic race and a great experience, hopefully Cycling Ireland send a bigger team next year and I hope to be back next year in Luxembourg as a first year U23.
Again: Toby Watson

That's it for my time as a junior cyclocross rider.  A great way to finish it off.  A big thanks to Paddy Daly, Scott/Eurocycles.com and all the team sponsors.  Also big shout out to everyone who has helped or offered to help me with anything over the year and to everyone who has supported or cheered me on at a race, especially at the weekend, the Irish support was phenomenal and it certainly boosted me on.  Thanks also to Toby Watson, Martine Verfaillie, Andy Layhe, Donal O'Brien and everyone else who documented this fantastic trip.  Bring on Luxembourg 2017.
Toby Watson capturing the Irish support

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Namur Cyclocross World Cup

This weekend I went to Namur in Belgium for a trip of redemption.  I was going to give this World Cup racing a second go, The course looked steep, muddy and technical.  A real mountain bikers course.

We arrived at our hotel Friday night and went for a small scout of the town and race course.  We had a lie-in Saturday morning and then walked to the course for a look at it in daylight.  Practice was from 2 to 4 so we went back and built up the bikes.  Practice went great.  I loved the course from the first lap. I rode 6 laps and a bit of sectioning with Monty.

My race started at 10 so it was an early night and start.  We arrived on course at 9 and I started my warm-up at 9:20.

 At 9:45 I rolled down to the start line and rolled around the start/finish there until the gridding started.  I was gridded 69/77 so lots of work to do.  We weren't trusted with the lights this time so we went on a whistle. With a minute to go there was a chorus of zips as warm-up leggings and long jerseys came off and were flung left and right.  On the whistle the madness started again as everyone rushed into a tapered and ramped start.  I was on the left hand side luckily as a crash happened within 100 meters of starting on the right.

I was about 40th after this climb and held this position until the technical off camber rutted section, there is no safe or easy line here.  It's like trying to ride tram tracks that were laid to be as hard as possible to stay in.  The most consistent part of this section is its inconsistency.  I stayed high to stay safe, that way no-one could fall on me and if they did fall they would fall down the hill. It was carnage but my plan worked and I moved up to about 35th.  Over the next few laps I held my position well.  The Belgium B team were gridded last so some of them passed me but I also passed some riders.  I changed my bike twice over the race, the course was dryer than most other years allowing for less bike changes.

On the last lap there was me, one Italian and one Dutch rider fighting for 38th place.  When we came to the off camber rutted section I took the high line while the Italian led the Dutch rider through the low line, about halfway along the Italian fell and the Dutch fell over him, this allowed me to open a gap and I held it until the line.  Coming onto the finish line I saw an American rider, we had a photo finish for 37th, unfortunately I lost and had to settle for 38th.  Still delighted to make it halfway up the results.  The riders are on another level over here and the racing is so close any mistake anywhere loses you places.

Looking forward to a good block of Christmas training and can't wait for the Nationals on the 10th of January.

Update between World Cups

So.... moving on from Koksijde.  I went to Ipswitch for Round 4 of the British National Trophy on the 28th of November.  The course was flatter than flat and gale force winds of 40km/hour were howling across the course.  I got a great start and was around 8th for the first lap, over the next few laps I lost about 10 places but came back strong on the last two laps and got back to 15th.  The course did not suit me at all so happy to have finished in 15th but still a disappointing result considering my aims.

 Next up was the Leinster championships in Swords River Valley, I love this course with its off camber switchbacks steep climbs and deep, deep mud.  I got a good start and took an early lead until I rolled my rear tyre(pattern appearing) just before the last tarmac climb.  I ran around to the pits where I put on my spare rear wheel and came back on track around 4th.  I was about 2 minutes down on the leader so had a lot of work to do.  I got it back to a minute in the next lap and passed the leader (who had got a puncture) with just over one lap to go.  I played it safe for the last lap and won with just under a minute to spare. 

Next up was the last Fixx race in Kilternan.  I had a brilliant race there last year so was hoping for a bit of a repeat.  Got a good start and rode off the front allowing me to ride my own race.  I was joined by Sean O Tuathail for a couple of laps until I lost his wheel on the flat and open field with 3 laps to go.  I was on Robins wheel for the next lap and a half until I had a major bonk, I suffered really bad for the last lap, losing a lot of time to the leaders.  Still really happy to take third behind a brilliant Sean who managed to beat Robin for first place.

Next on the list is the Namur World Cup in Belgium.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Koksijde Cyclocross World Cup

This weekend I was in Belgium for the infamous Koksijde World Cup, I flew out Friday morning to Brussels and spent Friday in Ghent watching the 6 day track cycling event.  Combining a 166 meter track with 24 riders (including many world tour riders and ex World champs) is something that everyone should see.  I would have loved to see the remaining two days but I was here for some racing of my own.

We arrived at the track around 3 p.m. so I only had less than an hour to practice as the gates to the military base where the race was being held were being shut at 4.  The first lap was.... interesting, I think I rode 100 meters of sand out of the whole lap.  Every time I hit a sandy section I fell off.  It is impossible to describe in words what sand riding feels like.   Imagine trying to pedal uphill in your biggest gear while the hill keeps getting steeper and steeper, also the surface keeps changing, not even each lap but each minute and there's only one safe-ish route up,  and to stay on this route you have to be loose on the bike while making sure none of you movement gets transferred to the steering, somewhere in all this you also have to find traction.

After about 45 minutes of practice I still wasn't confident in the sand, it was a 50/50 chance if I could make it through the section, but I had to leave and hope everyone else was also struggling.  Off to the town hall then for sign-on, managers meeting and dinner then back to the hotel for an early night.
Sunday was an early start and a quick breakfast as we were staying in Brugge, so had to drive about an hour  to the track.  Despite all the added security and marshals we still ended up in V.I.P. parking close to the track so that suited us.  There was no pressure for results so I wasn't as nervous as I normally am.  I got a good warm-up and lined up with all the other juniors in the holding pen.  Because of UCI points and rankings I wasn't gridded last which was a welcome change. We got a 3 minute warning, one minute warning, then lights, green light and all hell broke loose.  I was completely unprepared for the spray off the wet tarmac, the crunch of gears and the sheer speed of the start.  We reached the end of the straight and the speed turned into 1,000 screeching babies as everyone grabbed a handful of brake.

The speed didn't slow at all for the first lap, I made up some places in one running section and a few more in the sandy descent, shortly after I rolled my rear tub going round a relatively easy corner.  That was my race over and watching everyone ride away from you as you pick up the bike and start running is the most disappointing thing that has ever happened to me.  I ran for over a kilometer to the pits where I jumped on my spare bike and set off in an already lost battle to try and regain some time.  I struggled round for another 3 laps before being pulled with one lap to go.  On my own over the course of the race I got better at riding the sand, even though the spare bike had mud tires that kept catching the sand and trying to throw me over the front of the bike.  I came to the race looking for an experience and I can't say I didn't get that, so overall a disappointing but enjoyable trip.  Sand is definitely now one of my favorite riding conditions.

Huge thanks to all involved in this trip, my pit crew for looking after me all weekend, David Vaughan for lending me his file tread tyres which made the sand and speed easier to deal with, Daniel Brickenden for the loan of his bike as a spare and to the team and all the sponsors for the ongoing support.  Check out all the action here.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Update Part 2 (CX edition)

So Cyclocross season is well and truly underway. My prayers for mud have been answered and so its time to do another update.  So far I have competed in two rounds of the Fixx Supercross cup, one round of the North Dublin CX league, one Ulster CX race, two British National Trophy rounds, one north east England round and the Pi cyclocross race held in Mallow.

The first Fixx race was held in Grange Castle on a flat, fast and super dry course.  It isn't a course that suits me and I'm only building form, so to get 5th after a hard battle right to the line for 3rd was a great start to the season.  Results: Here

Next up was the second round of the Ulster CX league. It was held in Lady Dixon park on the 11th of October.   I have a Love/Hate relationship with this course and turning up with a perished semi slick was never going to work.  I had a decent start but already a group was forming off the front, trying to bridge across on a techy section I had an off and was quickly engulfed by the main bunch. I proceeded to fall off a lot more over the next few laps as my determination to make up places made me push too hard.  Still a good day out in proper cylocross conditions. Results: here

The next event was the PunchesCross race run by NDCX. It was run in Punchestown race course with lots of fun quirky features.  Overall the course did not suit me, however the last 500 metres did, so if it came down to a sprint I felt I could make it work.  The race went well. I was riding with Anthony "Zippy" Doyle and my team-mate Sean for the first few laps until Robin came through and we never saw him again.  In the end it came down to a sprint and I took a slightly different line and surprised the others and got a gap, Sean closed it near the line but I held out for second.

The following weekend I went to Derby in the UK for the second round of the National Trophy races.  I had bought a new set of carbon tubular wheels and my dad picked them up Saturday night.  I rode one lap practice on Sunday fine and done my warm-up no problems.  1:30 race start, 1 lap fine, 2 laps,  nope.  I made it one and a half laps then my chain went into the spokes just as I stood on the gears so it was well jammed in.  I lost a lot of time and never got back within sniffing distance of the top 10. Result: here

Moving on, it was back to Ireland for the PI cyclocross race in Mallow town park.  It was an excellent course, excellently run and a good turn-out for a first event especially in the kids races(the most important ones) I won the A race after a solo ride which was good training for the following weekend. Results: here

The next race was the third round of the British National Trophy series.  It was held in Durham on a cricket grounds.  I traveled over with Sean O Tuathail and his mechanic Gareth. We had entered the local North East league race on the Saturday as a bit of warm-up/practice for Sunday.  I won my race and Sean was 11th.  Sunday came and I was nervous as to how I would ride, my last experience not giving much hope yet I had had a good race on Saturday. The start was the usual affair of elbows out and bottlenecks, I managed to move up into the top 10 by running around one of the bottlenecks.  I rode well for the rest of the race riding slightly faster in the corners than the guy in front and losing out slightly on the flat straights.  Mistakenly thinking I had another lap I swapped bikes on the last lap and in a sprint to the line snapped the rear mech. I ended up 9th which was a brilliant improvement on Derby but I felt like I could have rode better and more tactically and gotten two or three places higher.

And the race to bring you up to date.  The third round of the Fixx Supercross cup. This was held on the 15th of November in Tymon Park, Tallaght.  This course is defined by a stream the first half of the course is fast, flat and suits the road/power rider, the only part that suits me is the boards where I can save a bit of energy in the approach and the exit as I hop the boards. But once we go over the bridge its my kind of course.  There are sweeping off-camber turns, a spiral of awesomeness, a steep drop and some techy woods section.  As cyclocross gains in popularity the starts become more important, I got an alright start, not great but I wasn't engulfed either.  I held onto 10th or thereabouts for most of the first lap until the spiral of awesomeness where I rode right up to third place behind Robin and Squeak who had put in an early attack.  After another lap we were joined by Glenn Kinning who then put in an attack of his own with 4 laps to go, Robin chased leaving me and Squeak alone.  The next lap squeak had to pull into the pits leaving me alone chasing Glenn and Robin. With two laps to go I passed Glenn who had broken his hanger and was running for the pits leaving me in second with squeak chasing hard. On the last lap me and Squeak were together until he put in an attack and got a gap, he held it for half a lap to claim second, I came home 3rd.  Results:here

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The blog lives!!!

Ok, I'm back, well I never left, but when I last wrote here it was the end of the 2014 mountain bike season. Well its been over a year, so a big update needed but i'll keep it brief.

I spent the winter of 2014/2015 racing Cyclocross.  It was my second season racing it but unlike other years it was pretty much the only training I did all winter, very little road and mtb.  I raced a full season of the Fixx Supercross Cup and a couple of Ulster races. The highlight was going to the Milton Keynes round of the world cup and experiencing a world level course and race.  It was a revelation.  It was the event that drove home the fact that cyclocross was my favorite discipline.  And to top it off I got 13th in my first year as a junior(U18)
Milton Keynes. Happier than a pig in shit!
2015 was a very dull season results wise but not by any other measure.  I broke my left collarbone racing my first stage race, the Gorey three day.  It was a great 3 days until the last 3 km of the last day where I learnt that tarmac hurts a LOT.  This was eight weeks before my first entry into a round of the Enduro World Series which was held 10 minutes down the road from me in Carrick, Glenealy.  To speed up my recovery I got my collarbone plated and was back riding my road bike in two weeks.  The race couldn't have went better considering my training(lack of) and injury and I came home in 11th place.  The next weekend I was in Scotland for the next round of the Enduro World Series where I came home 12th place.
I wasn't smiling afterwards
Yes! Dust in Ireland.....

Then it was back to Ireland for some Cross Country races.  I got second in the second round of the National Points Series on my home track.  Then onto the National Championships.  Biggest disappointment of my career so far, I came down hard on Saturdays practice session and broke my right wrist, I tried to race but had to pull out within a lap.
2nd place NPS Rnd 2
I ended my 2015 mountain bike season and celebrated my 17th birthday with a 13th place in the final round of the Enduro World Series in Italy.

Right now that you're all up to speed, the real season can begin.  I'm hugely excited to announce that i'll be working with Bike Pure founder and cyclocross coach Andy Layhe for the 2015/2016 cyclocross season.  I will be competing in the Fixx series, the Ulster series and hopefully all the British National trophy rounds (excluding the first as its over) and anything else I can fit in.
The more of this the better
I'll do another update soon telling you about my season so far.  I'll be keeping the blogs concise and doing regular updates from now on so please do keep checking in.  Also check out the team facebook page for shorter again and more regular updates on me and the rest of the team HERE!