Rider Diary: Sue Clarke
Interview with Sue Clarke - Brand New Sue - July 2009
Racing cross country and representing Great Britain since 1994 when she rode as a Junior in the World Mountain Bike Championships, Sue Clarke has been British Champion, competed in the Commonwealth Games and is now making a return to top level racing with help from husband and XC racing legend, Barrie Clarke. To find out all about Sue read her feature-length interview, and get the latest from her comeback right here.
February 15 2010
As another new season beckons, I have had time to look back on the highs and lows of 2009. Regaining my National title was obviously a high point for me, as well as sixth place elite in the Roc D'Azur HC against a full line up of World Cup stars. Low points were getting dog muck all over my helmet & face in the Hondsrung Classic in Holland last October, but I reckon it made me ride faster to get to the finish! Puncturing in Bromont World Cup whilst in the top 20 was a definite low point but less smelly :0)
Having been in negotiations with several teams for 2010, I finally made my decision and have signed with Cannondale. I am really pleased to be working with such a high profile company, riding the best bikes on the market today. Wearing the National jersey I hope to gain some excellent results for both myself and Cannondale.
My contact during these negotiations has been Mike Cotty, specialist in the world's toughest sportive events and head of Cannondale within the UK. Passionate about our sport, the Cannondale brand and helping athletes to reach their goals, he is a true inspiration. He has been invaluable to me during this period, never tiring of my questions and accommodating all of my requirements. I am really looking forward to the coming season with my new team. This week I will take delivery of my bikes for this racing season.
I feel very spoilt with a selection of training and racing bikes, among them a carbon Flash weighing in at 17 pounds! This will be the lightest bike I have ever ridden. Being a strong climber of low body mass, this is an important area for me, especially now I am a regular on the World Cup scene. Along with a super light hardtail I will also have the choice of a full suspension in the form of the Cannondale Scalpel. I have never been in this position before and am certain it will prove to be to my advantage on the more technical courses such as Offenburg and Mont Saint Anne. Upon delivery I will be hitting some of my favourite trails in the Lakes to test out both race bikes. I will again be supported by Schwalbe with their huge selection of race tyres. MucOff are again on board for the season and I will keep my ties with Science in Sport using their line of nutrition products during training and racing.
This winter I spent a lot of time revising things and trying out some new ideas. Along with a few cross races, I spent more time riding my MTB off road and also some more structured work using my Powertap. This has proved to be the best training aid I have ever used and I am a definite convert of training to power now. The numbers never lie and there is nowhere to hide! It has given both myself and my coach's valuable feedback from my training and also highlighted areas for improvement. I also cleared out our spare room and took order of a full set of gym equipment in October. I feel a much stronger athlete from my gym sessions and it has added variety to my program on wet, winter days.
As I write, I am flying home from Tenerife for the second time in six weeks, after a brilliant ten days training here with Barrie. A regular visitor to Tenerife in his racing days, Barrie has more knowledge of the routes than most of the locals. It has become one of my favourite training locations, with many road rides and MTB trails on offer. Also the chance to get in some training at altitude at the summit of Teide mountain. Today we spent many hours at over 3000m. The days have flown by filled with training, resting and not a great deal else. I have found it an ideal opportunity to focus on the task in hand with no distractions.
We were blessed with sunshine filled days and many hours on the bike. A few epic eight hour plus days were mixed with shorter days of interval training up the mountain. I am in much better shape this year than the past two years when we have visited Tenerife at the same time of the year.
We saw many fellow cyclists on our days up and down Teide. We hoped to see Lance Armstong as he was reported to be staying at El Parador on the plateau atop Teide. However, we did not catch him out on the roads. A severe storm up high early in the week saw many rock falls and landslides up Teide. Our last epic ride saw us almost complete a lap of the island! However, upon reaching Teide summit at 6pm with very little daylight time left for us to descend to the coast, we came across several huge boulders blocking the only route down. We managed to pick our way through with a bit of off road action.
We met up with close friend James Ouchterlony, now a resident of Tenerife and his girlfriend Cristi. James accompanied us on several rides which always added to the fun :0) We found the local riders very friendly, cheering me on during my hill efforts which always helps lift the pace a little more.
I have a little over a week to enjoy my time at home before departing to Cyprus to take part in the 'Sunshine Cup' race series held over three consecutive weekends from March 21. My friend Anthony and I will team up with several riders from the Orange Monkey team. We are staying in a villa close to the races. I am looking forward to pinning a number on my back again after several months away from the race circuit. This block of racing is the start of my build up to the Dalby round of the World Cup. Having ridden the Commonwealth Games in Manchester I am relishing the chance to again perform in front of a home crowd on home soil in such a high profile event.
My season plans are taking shape nicely. It will be a busy season with many races. I seemed to ride myself into some strong form late last season, with regular racing. With this experience I am looking to move further up the UCI World rankings were I currently lie 36th. I have several races were I plan to aim for a peak and see if I can better my own World Cup placings.
That's all for now, but I will be back soon with a report from Cyprus.
Have fun! Sue.