Here’s a chance to catch up with what’s been going on in pro racer Rab’s world…
The last few months have been hectic! In fact it seems like almost half a year… Maybe it has been. I’ve become that guy who apologises at the start of a blog for not updating recently. My aim is to make this swift, relevant and interesting. Here it goes.
2013 – how it finished
The last part of my season was amazing. I got the opportunity to travel and race in some special races which is what makes me tick as a racer. First of all I was competing in China in the Guiyang International Mountain Bike Invitational. The trip was mental, for want of a better word. It started with a 6 am flight which I wasn’t even sure was booked. The race was organised at the very last minute and racers were being flown in to race from around the globe. I made my way to Edinburgh airport and was grateful to hand over my passport and get a ticket to China back. My flight had been booked about four hours earlier it transpired. And epic journey of about 30 hours included waiting in airports, discovering the amazing city of Guangzhou by hire bike with Fabian Giger for the Giant Pro XC Team and meeting my very own assistant for the race. She met me at Guiyang airport with a ‘Robert from Scotland’ sign which was nice.
The race was held on a course specially built for the event. The race organisers are aiming for a World Cup at the venue in the coming years. A short track race preceded the Olympic XC. The short track race was great – a brilliant format for fast, exciting XC racing and far better format than the current eliminator format in my opinion. I was 13th in the short track and back that up with 17th in the Olympic XC. I suffered with jet lag in the seconds race and barely slept the night before the race! The temperature was also incredibly hot. David Fletcher was even brought to a standstill on one of the climbs as it was so hot. He was the top British Finisher in 14th position.
The next day I flew to Kuala Lumpur where I spent a day before continuing to Langkawi for the Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge (LIMBC). I was racing this event for the second year in a row. LIMBC is ‘the hottest race in the world’ and is always a great week of racing. The hot, humid conditions with wet and muddy singletrack is really challenging. I was staying with Nick Craig for the week which is always a laugh. Stages can be pretty long but usually there’s some time in and around to go and grab some tasty food and a coconut to drink, head to the beach or enjoy a coffee at one of the local bars. I still had some late season form and raced to 11th overall by the end of the week, with a 9th in the prologue and 11th in the cross country race. I was held up by a kamikaze crasher on the final stage short track which sucked somewhat, as I like the short, fast races.
I was back home in Scotland for about a ten days before taking on another epic journey to Brazil and one last stage race, ‘Brasil Ride’. I love stage races. You get a real feeling of achievement after racing for a week, covering miles and miles and riding on trails for the first time, without practice. Proper mountain biking. It was my last race for Trek Factory Racing and I was partnered with Rich Weis, an American endurance specialist. It was amazing to race with him, such a nice guy with a ton of experience. He kept me under control and helped us pace out our effort each day, and he was super smooth on the downhills. We didn’t have a single puncture all week and no mechanicals, partly thanks to the Shimano neutral service team keeping our bikes running smooth. We had a solid race in Brazil and an amazing adventure. The biggest stage was upwards of 145kms, 3,500m of climbing at temperatures of 40 degrees celsius. Rich battled bronchitis on the last two days to finish and we exceeded our own expectations to finish 10th overall. An incredible week of racing and a real life experience. The after race party went down as one to remember as well…
When I was home from Brazil I took a full month off from training. Instead of training I managed to head to some gigs in Glasgow, including hip hop producer Madlib and Arcade Fire, mascerading as ‘The Reflektors’. I was also busy with team negotiations as well as working on a new project, Costa Cycling Experience, a new Scottish based cycling holiday company specialising in road and mountain bike trips to Marbella.
I was pleased to sign with the Orange Monkey Pro Team for 2014 and kicked training off in December with a four day mountain bike camp with the Scottish Cycling downhill and XC team. This included the Innerleithen MTB racing ‘day and night enduro’ which I managed to get 8th place in on a borrowed bike. I was pretty pleased with that. Joe Barnes won the day with Greg Williamson second and Lewis Buchannan 3rd. Following this I had a four day break to Marbella to make the final plans to launch Costa Cycling Experience in the new year. I followed this with a ten day training camp in Girona with Scottish Cycling. This camp was exclusively on the road and I was training with the likes of World Tour riders David Millar and Andy Fenn as well as top UK pros Evan Oliphant, Ross Edgar, James McCallum and Tao Geoghegan Hart, among others. In ten days we rode just under 800 miles. I got to put my feet up over christmas!
2014 – things are just as busy!
This year has been just as busy as the end of last year and I’m really excited about all of the developments. Signing with Orange Monkey has been amazing and I feel at home in the team. I’ve been riding the Polygon Bikes for a couple of months now and they are really impressive. I raced the British Cyclocross Championship in Bradford on the new Helious CX bike with disc brakes. I didn’t have much time to prepare for the race and was a little out of my depth with the off camber, slimy mud and running. I survived after some Bambi on ice moments. David Fletcher did the business for Orange Monkey with a silver medal.
I made another trip to Marbella at the end of January with two Orange Monkey team mates Ben Roff and Billy Harding. I’m racing the ABSA Cape Epic with Ben in March so it was great to train with him and spend some more time together. Ben was really impressive in Langkawi at the end of 2013 and I’m looking forward to taking on the ‘Epic with him! Billy is the team junior rider and is such a great kid – motivated, down to earth and really enjoys riding his bike. We had a good week of training with amazing weather and roads. Billy and I finished off the week with a 100 mile ride, the first Billy had ever done. Not bad!
Most recently was my final training camp of the year. I’m just back from Girona where I spend another ten days with the Scottish Cycling team. This time we rode proper bikes with fat tires and took in some really cool trails. The best trail we rode came off the side of El Mont, an iconic road climb in the area. The track was littered with ‘baby head’ rocks and steep, tight switchback. We were all wishing we had our trail bikes but we managed to pick our way down on 29er hardtails. So good!
I’m currently back home in Glasgow and having a couple of weeks trying to tie up any loose ends before heading to South Africa for seven weeks with Orange Monkey. Ben, team manager Paul (Beales), Mariske (Strauss) and I have a busy month with two XC races and then the big one, the ABSA Cape Epic at the end of March. We’re racing the ‘epic with support of team sponsor Paarl Media and I’m looking forward to working with them while we are in South Africa. In April the rest of the team will join us for the team launch as well as the first round of the World Cup in Peitermaritzberg. Once we’re back in Europe the focus will return to the British Cycling Cross Country Series and the World Cup, as well as some other marathons, stage races and maybe some enduro.
It’s going to be a crazy first few months of the season but I’m confident of good performances and hope to seal qualification for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Selections for the Scottish Team will be made in June based on results before the 15th of May. I aim to do the business and earn a place on the team but competition is fierce. Wish me luck!