Monday, April 7, 2014

Enduro Sospel Rider

Huge race in Sospel out near the Italian border last sunday, with a ridiculous amount of climbing in between stages. Sospel is an amazing little village with small mountains (or big hills) all around with an incredible trail network for hikers and bikers alike.

It was a very weird day for me overall, as I spent the day racing a bunch of guys I hadn't heard of who had traveled down from a different region of France. In the first, massive stage (13km of road with 600m ascension to get to the start) 4 of these guys annihilated me, I simply couldn't keep up with them and had to pull over to let guys who started a minute behind me pass by. I wasn't feeling too fast, obviously, and it didnt help that as I crossed the finish line a friend told me my time was worse than my teammate's (incorrectly it later turned out). I couldnt keep up with these guys even on the last stage when one of them had his chain in his backpack... But then it turned out they were all just very fast guys and I was holding my own in the overall up in 28th!

Overall the race was perhaps too physical, or at least more time was required for the average rider to make it to their start times. A couple of my teammates and some big enough names in the local scene couldnt get to the second stage on time for their start, this meant the clock started as they were ascending up the road to the stage, leading to a bad result and a lot of racers giving up at that point.

This is a bit of a talking point at the moment, enduro is meant to be the people's race format, where you chat with your buddies on the climbs and have a laugh on the descents. But the organisers are pushing the limits each year, so on the one hand France remains well ahead of the curve with all the best athletes, but on the other the events get harder to enter, harder to finish and a lot less fun to do. Thankfully, the local races here are still a blast, but I am a bit worried about some national rounds I have signed up for later in the year.

On a positive note, this was my first race on a 29er, the Specialized Enduro. I may become one of those annoying 29er proponents, although it could just be that I bought a size L instead of M for once. All in all an excellent bike. If you are in the market for a new mountain bike, definitely try and test ride this one.

So a good day overall riding some amazing trails. Big winner of the day was Florian Nicolai who crushed all opposition as he has been doing all early season, here's hoping he carries the confidence into the world series and gets onto the podium as he surely has the skills. Check out this insane line choice on the last stage, as he cuts a corner by jumping it, passes 2 switchbacks with barely a wheel touching the ground, then gives a quick look back boast to the crowd: facebook link 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spring Season round 1: Oppidum Bike

So I somehow managed to sign up for a race for nearly every single weekend of April and May. Luckily I'm about as fit as I've ever been and feeling quite fast! So might as well resurrect the old blog.

First race in a long string of races: the Oppidum Bike which took place about an hour down the motorway towards St Tropez (ish). Headed out with Seb who continues to be fast despite apparently never training, and after some dodgy organisation even managed to get a race plate in the same wave as him, so we would be racing each other directly!

The race itself was very physical with an exceptional amount of sprinting required, but tons of fun overall as the tracks were freshly groomed! There were 4 stages, I came out on top of the group of 3 in the first one by quite a large margin as Seb crashed. This first stage was pretty much a 10 minute sprint session with steep as hell climbs that many people had to push up rather than stay on the bike. The second stage was more fun and I was leading again until the last 4-5 corners when I crashed out losing a good 10s in the process. We then rode pretty much the same pace in the next 2 stages which were a bit less physical, and even more fun!

My name doesnt appear in the results as I effectively took someone else's race plate due to some misorganisation. So I'm down as Bruno Petra in 38th place, a good step up from 58th last year, but there are still some fast guys in front (and far in front at that!). Winner of the day was Aure Giordanengo who is switching from DH to enduro and surely aiming pretty high at the world series level! On the seniors podium was this Killian Bron guy, if you havnt seen his videos, definitely check this out: link


Top photograph from

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The great strava hunt

After a savage day riding with a couple friends and Florian Nicolai on Saturday (had to boast sorry), I decided I would do some strava hunting on the local tracks. For the uninitiated, strava is a GPS tracking app, which "gamifies" biking and basically turns all decent uphills and downhills into segments which you race on virtually. The idea is that you push a little harder even when you are alone, and if you get a couple of friends using it, it can be a lot of fun trying to beat them on well known loops. It looks something like this:

So around 11am I leave to go a descent which had been shown to me just last week, about 10km from my house. I took a different route up which turns out was steep... very steep. I set off riding pretty well, the track was a lot of fun and the conditions were stupidly good for mid-december. I got to the bottom of the track and thought "OK, that was pretty good, but now that I know the gist of it I can probably go faster and get KOM". KOM or King Of Mountain is the title of the fastest person down a particular segment on Strava, I had sized up my opposition, and knew that with a good run I could come out on top.

So back up I went, up the insane hill, going even further up to get a good run into the segment start. At the very top I opened up my bag, ate a cereal bar and then got ready. I had a pretty good run down again, maybe not much faster than the first one, but the 2 climbs and the previous day were starting to weigh on my legs. So I took a route I know well from the last 2 years living here, which zig-zags through the woods before getting to a nice little jump trail built by the local kids and finishes a few kilometers from my house.

Got back to the house around 2pm, off came the big bag from my back and straight away I realised something was off: why was the top pocket of the bag open? I checked it to find my car keys, big relief, but no sign of my phone!!! My Irish mobile has apparently been cutoff so I couldn't use that to call my phone. Without really thinking straight, I half filled a bottle of water and jumped onto my old bike which has a bottle cage. The idea being that I didnt want to carry around the heavy bag with all the repair gear, I was just going to head back out and look for the phone near the jump trail a few kilometers from the house.

A few minutes of swearing out loud to myself later, I got worried that I was more annoyed at not getting my strava results than about losing my phone and contacts! I also started to realise that the last time I opened the bag was at the very top of the climb to eat the cereal bar, which was literally the furthest place from my house. So I checked the jump trail first: nothing. At this stage I knew I would have to go all the way to the top of the first trail as there were a few jumps where the phone could have fallen out.

The problem was this: it was now after 3pm, I was starving and had already drank the water from my bottle. Worst of all, when I switched bikes at home, I grabbed the one with dodgy gearing, which has a larger cog up front than at the back even in the easiest gear. About half way up the climb (which according to the GPS has a 20% gradient in many places) the cramps started to hit. I pushed the bike up the last quarter... But no phone in sight.

Rode down the track like a granny, looking for my phone despite low light and poor eyesight only made worse from exhaustion. At the bottom I took the road back home, close to 8km with some climbs. I had to stop at one point and lie down on the footpath as my legs were aching too much... Finally made it home, took all the food out of my fridge, but before devouring it all, jumped on my scales: 5kg lighter than when I left my house nearly 6 hours before!!!

End of the story is that I tracked the phone via an app, but eventually I got in contact with a guy who picked it up from the bottom of the jump trail, where I suspected it had fallen out! Met up with him just a few hours later and gave him a giant box of chocolates as a thank you. But most importantly, strava had saved the ride, and I got my KOM, which is all that really matters :P.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Les portes du Mercantour 2013

A couple of photos from the Portes du Mercantour race. This race was exhausting with some huge climbs (one taking about 3h20) on saturday, followed by a pursuit race on Sunday which began with a 2 hour cycle +waiting around in the cold rain on top of a mountain while wondering whether the race was going to be cancelled or not.

I got lucky in that I was starting with a pretty fast guy in my group so I just followed him and ended up placing well (32nd out of almost 400!). Delighted with the result. Such an epic race physically, mentally and technically, it really was almost too good: regular spins and races just seem dull compared to it!

Awesome racing up front as the #15 in the world Nicolai chased down the #3 Barel despite being 18s behind on the last stage, and overtook him on a climb!

End of the 3h+ climb

Nearly there!

Stage 2

Start of stage 2


#1 this weekend!

Elbows out!

Seb dropping in

Antho hopping out

Nicolai in the chainless stage

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Accidental snow day

So it snowed last monday, but then it was sunny all week. From my house, it looked like the snow had melted. My house however, is on the south side of the hills. One of my favourite winter spins starts in a place called Bramafan. Well, I guess I never thought about it, but now I realise it is to the north of the hills. Today I learned about exposition, and how important it is in the mountains during winter!

What a day, starting in a place so small (6 houses) that my buddy Seb's GPS couldnt find it (this might have been a sign). I was expecting a little bit of snow at the top of the hill, so was a little bit worried when I parked next to a patch about 20cm deep! Not as worried as Seb who had only brought ankle socks and a pair of shorts. The previous day he had done a 4h cycle just down the road, on some dusty dry trails at a balmy 13 sunny degrees. 

"Dont worry, it's only a 2h spin". This it turns out was a foolish estimate, I had added 20 minutes to my personal best to account for the snow, turns out I should have doubled it!!! I carried my bike on my back about 90% of the way, Seb who doesnt like that approach pushed his through the snow, by far the most tiring approach. All the easy flat sections became nightmarishly hard. To be fair, we got some good pictures, and the descent was very doable, although this led to another disappointment: after about 4h of carrying, pushing, sweating and freezing our toes and ankles. The descent took a total of about 5 minutes...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Training in Levens

Covered in mud, wheels sliding about the place, tried to power up a climb, lost my balance, went to dab the patch of grass on the right, foot falls through a hole of briars where I end up stuck:

Great fun on a (rare) sunny day. Sneaky practice with Seb in Levens, although we bumped into a fair few other riders. Some great views, great trails, not too much snow, but some not so new looking bikes!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Impulse buy

Someone must have stolen my credit card info, this arrived yesterday: