Sunday, 11 December 2016

The LBRCC Cyclo Cross First Running 2016

Someday soon your name will be in lights

You could say a write up on our very own CX race is a tad overdue, what with the season now well under way. Well I have my excuses, heck I've not even ridden let alone written about riding.
So anyway the inaugural LBRCC CX
It was late 2015 when I was first approached by British Cycling and the Central League about hosting our own event. I didn't say no, but thought they meant maybe host our own event. After all when I was first approached I was actually on the starting grid of one of the MK Bowl rounds, so not an ideal time or place to make notes. I thought we could do it, but I know how hard organising a full on all singing and dancing BC race is, so time passed and I thought I'd just not mention it!
However I think it's was at the penultimate round of the 2015/2016 season when BC whispered into my shell like about hosting that race, so I whispered a erm err well hmm back. After all, I again was on the starting grid ready to race.
So there I am ready to go and the commissaire is giving the morning prayer. When all of a sudden he announces a new race and location for the 2016/2017 season, oh wow I think to myself more racing which is always good. Then we're told the LBRCC are hosting said round, location TBA. Fuck! really? Delegation spelt DUMPED. I turn around to greet the applause with a smile.
So anyway we get the 2015/2016 season over with. I'm happy to take seasons club honours in the over 50's as I'm already making private plans not to race the next one anyway.

The 2016 club year is well underway already by now. And organising this race isn't going to be easy. As well as overseeing all that goes on in the club whether it's my job to or not from how the G rides are going to who's riding with frayed brake cables. The sorting of new kit and an improved ordering system. And running my other baby the Lion Of Leighton.
I call on everyone to help. First of all the big one, LOCATION. Who's going to lend us a field that fits the bill, has car parking, all the facilities we'll need, and doesn't mind it getting ripped up by several hundred coffee and cake crazed CX riders?
Plenty of ideas come up, but only one fits the bill.
I had actually approached Cedars School from the start back when I was approached by BC, the feedback was good then. So after exhausting all other locations I returned there again to meet them in person. After receiving a very warm welcome from the schools groundsmen  I left with a firm location. We had a firm location and an almost firm date. In October 2016 the LBRCC would be hosting a full on CX race.
It was at this time, just as the clubs committee was going into overdrive to get this race off the ground that a number of personal issues fell upon me, some good some bad and some very very bad.
My riding almost stopped overnight, and sorting this race was going to become impossible for me to do. I needed a knight in shinning armour.

Darren Winfield might prefer a nice casquette to armour, but he was the man for the job. The committee now had a 'special branch' to organise and promote this race, anyone that had a useful skill was drafted in. Darren was by now on this project almost full time, and to be honest by now I could only stay updated through our committee meetings. I could see the effort he was putting in though.
After months of Darren putting things into place it was time to get troops on the ground, and get out there and turn Cedars from a school into CX race course.
This is where I could at least put something else into the project. I already had the course laid out in my mind and with the help of Rob Milton we went to work.
Flat very flat that's Cedars, but we walked out my plan whilst Darren and Ross rode it behind us, Ross taking care of course distance and mapping it for us to present to BC at our final pre race meeting. Happy was how I felt, we had a course that I'd have loved to have raced so I was happy to present this to BC. We even had a shortened course for the 'Unders'.
It was then that we christened our race the 'Crit Cross' due to it being fast and flat. And that Rob would also sort out race promotion artwork.

The meeting with BC, the calm before the storm. BC, Central and LBRCC present we got the final low down. It was all falling into place. H&S, catering, changing rooms, timing tent, marshals, medics, commissaires, stakes, tape, hurdles, car parking, radios, photographers, prize money, electronic timing, vehicle access, online entry, race day entries.....and much more. All done.
Then we presented them with the satellite images of the race course, going through the course with a fine tooth comb. With all concerns addressed with both the full and unders course, we got it rubber stamped. And we could just about afford it.

Saturday. Pre race day. A large contingent of LBRCC'ers turned up to help prepare the stage. Darren arrived with our hire van stacked full of stakes and tape and duly dished them out to all and sundry. Then of course I realised that only I knew where to place all the stakes and tape! Still the many hands made light work of it. The course was laid out in rough, then fine tuned afterwards. Temporary sections were put in so we could tape off a kids course. Then it was just a case of walking the course, collecting litter, highlighting roots and rocks and adding a crash barrier to the metal fence sections.
Job done, we all walked away knackered hoping that it would all still be there tomorrow on race day.

Sunday 16th October 2016, race day.
Normally I write about race day from the viewpoint of a competitor, and having done so since the birth of the Central League, and having raced as unaffiliated then for the Belgians and finally for my beloved LBRCC.
I'm kind of hoping that LBRCC'ers that raced this day might add to the comments.
I know in the grand scheme of things it's a small race. But as I stood there so early that morning watching the timing tent go up, the BC station go up, race officials arrive, marshals slot into place, and also listen to the sound of all the race vehicles coming and going it felt to me like a very big deal.
From this point on Darren was back in charge and running the show. I was given no duty, but it was my task to use my years of experience in cross to see that all was well as far as the course was concerned. It was whilst checking over the far part of the course that current World Masters CX Champion Dave McMullen stopped to talk to me, all I was concerned about was if he was happy with the course? He was, that as far as I'm concerned is good enough for me. If the Rainbow stripes are happy with what I've put together, then anyone who has something to say can do one.
Later that morning we were good to go. The kids were up first, the poor sods. The skies were black, in fact so dark the photographers were having issues. And then of course the skies fell in.
All I can tell you is that cyclo cross breeds some tough little buggers, those kids in those conditions were a real credit to the sport and their families.
Up next were various 'U' groups, the novices, Vet 40, Vet 50 and finally in the best conditions of the day, the seniors.
I can't write in detail about the racing. All I know is that everyone was very happy and loved the race, of course the deluge had changed the face of the race.
Injuries, we had one and sadly it was a pretty bad one, but thankfully our very own Angel Katie jumped in. Think she might have pulled as well!
All our boys and girls finished and were a real need to give me your images and words and I'll edit them in.

So yes proud and happy. Massive thanks to Darren and guest Keith Perry. Thanks to Katie for at least making me feel we had a safe place. Thanks to all the marshals, checker in and outers, car parking attendants. To the supporters and the cake makers. And finally to the racers of the LBRCC and visiting clubs.
Same time next year?   


Sunday, 20 November 2016

Lion Of Leighton (Summer Roar)

So a bit late with this write up, and after four months I can just about recall the details! But I thought I'd record the event for future reference. That and I've just found out that this blog, though dormant for the past six months is still getting hundreds of views a month.
So then, finally a summer running of the Lion. We'd done the recce's and we'd even run due to popular demand a mid winter version (for hardy souls only)
We had chosen August in the hope that it would be the driest month, and therefore offer the fastest run. And thinking that even if it did rain the ground would be to baked to get boggy, unlike the winter mudfest that previous January.
So it was then that we rolled out from the Black Lion on a not that summery day! By now my riding was already on the way down, so I let the fast boys form their own little group and sent them off ahead. I happily set off with group B.
The first part to this ride is a long steady road section,  heading to Wing with the first sector near Winslow your objective. The ride gets you warmed up and gives you time to decide if a road or cross bike was the right choice, a very broken Well Lane helps confirm your decision whatever it was.
Then after clearing said road section, that during the winter run was a ball breaking, puncture fest in the pouring rain we arrive a the first sector unscathed. This sector is a peach in the dry, flat fast and dusty with even a little pave thrown in. Midway through the sector group B comes across group A who have suffered a puncture. And in true 'Top Gear' style a group of us bugger off leaving the stricken club mates to sort them selves out......if done with a smile it's okay.
So now I'm in group A, all warmed up and ready to go and in  my element. We give it the berries. Our fast moving road group on this dusty rough track provides entertainment/bewilderment to the Sunday family bike riders we pass.
Sector one over with we hit tarmac and turn right for the next. Through Newton Longville (where I point out the place I go dancing to whoops and cheers, mildly offended as I do dance there, it's not a euphemism) And then into Stoke Hammond. The sector here starts as a residential road that narrows to a traffic free lane, over the Grand Union and towards what looks like a dead end, but is the start of the rough stuff. I'm sure someone asks if this is right.......yeah it's like the whole point dude.
We turn to climb what we have christened the Gravelberg, a steep broken tarmac, gravel and mud climb. Only one way to climb this mountainbikers favourite and that's seated and steady with eyes front. Flip a gear or change direction and you'll be walking. I'm pleased to say I cleaned it with road bike and 25c's. From the ****ity ****s I can hear behind me some didn't.
We regroup at the top and head for Heath and Reach via Rushmere.
We descend into Rushmere with a mix of speed and caution, and I'm very glad my boys are handy racers as this road is pretty dangerous. Constantly twisting, broken up, shady, wet and mossy in some places, dry and covered in deep sand in others and often frequented by WRC wannabes.
We land at Heath and Reach and stop to replenish food and drink. Ash still hasn't given us the reason he wasn't there with bacon sarnies this time?
Going by the amount of food and water purchased we must have been going some! The local convenience store will be our only pit stop, unless anyone wants to peel off for a pint. Though I think the thought of being towed by this, what is now a fast group around the rest of the route a far more appealing one than a solo wobble back after a pint.
Once back on the bike it's just a few yards before you're climbing out of Heath and Reach up a hill know to us as 'Roubaix Hill' mainly due to it's cambered surface being permanently wet and broken. from the top it's a fast group ride to Stanbridge via Eggington, passing the quarries on the way. On a hot day in a slower group the 'Five Bells of Stanbridge' would be a very welcome stop, but the fast moving bunch passes it by without even a glance. We turn off just before the bypass into a village cut off by the 'new' road. We pick up the third sector care of Sustrans route 59. This is a long one that leads to the bottom of the Dunstable Downs climb. The first part of the sector is a gentle incline onto a bridge over the bypass and onto a hardpack gravel  path. This section of the path always seems a favourite and offers views over the chalky Downs. Though today I only get a glimpse whilst blowing out of my ****. You need to look out for the timber bridge over the village of Sewell. It's an obvious find as gravel gives way to the wooden structure. Here you drop off the gravel to your right and onto a very broken steep road, only a thin strip of tarmac remains so the group splits and is stretched out at the top. This lane/cutting puts the group back onto the sector. A strange track network very reminiscent of Holland, flat and windswept. The only difference is that I've never seen a another bike up here in all the times I've ridden it which is rather sad. Being so open and traffic free gives the groups a chance to hammer it, road bikes remain on the gravel whilst the crossers take to the rough stuff and we race each other in parallel lines to the paths end.
The path eventually spits you out onto a busy road in Dunstable. Directly ahead of you is a the climb to the top of Dunstable Downs, but we go right from here and onto a road that'll let us push it into the high 20's so we can get out of the town as quick as you like. The London Flying Club marks the point at which we'll turn off and drop down into Totternhoe. The lanes here are peachy, so the group eases off and turns up the banter and it's very welcome. We've worked hard and considering the amount of off road we've tackled the average speed is very very high.
We turn and point for the church on the hill in Eddlesborough. Crossing the ford on the way. A cautionary note to anyone who fancies riding not take the central line through the ford unless you've packed swimming trunks!
We regroup by the church and single out for sector four. This is the one everyone loves. Long and arrow straight, first over cinder singletrack then across a railway sleeper bridge and onto chalky double track. It just begs to be ridden at full tilt, big ring and full berries. In fact ride it slowly and it's a bumpy and wheel grabbing nightmare. But at full tilt the bike gets a little lift and 'glides' over the surface. (remember that first sector at the Hell Of The North Ross?) The long sector is broken up by a road crossing at the base of the Ivinghoe Beacon climb. The fitter faster youth get here first, but we regroup and hit the final part of the sector together as one. This time it's plain old mud, but thankfully it's bone dry and we ride it fast choking in the ensuing dust cloud thrown up by our wheels. We're now in Pitstone.
The road out of Pitstone is a bit dull and has a gradient on part of it that is a pet hate. A section of road that climbs and drops for no good reason? It's not just me who slows as we go over it. Soon though we're in Marsworth, crossing the Grand Union and looking for the right hand turn into Watery Lane, everyone loves watery Lane. It's not a sector, but it's a dirty road, but in a good way, super narrow with a few very tight turns and it crosses the Grand Union a further two more times in it's short distance. The crossings offer a some steep pulls and the third pull to the lanes end makes for some competitive riding. We turn left crossing the Grand Union once again!  Now we're heading for Long Marston and our turning to Astrope for sector five.
I want to say something about the zig zags in the Astrope carefull, a mix of mud and red diesel thown up by tractors makes this small section treacherous. Add wet leaves and the first rain and it's lethal. I've seen more 'offs' here than anywhere else in all the decades I've been riding. That includes me, riding home with two less teeth and covered in blood from puncture wounds that still itch to this day, and another old boy that barely made it out alive. Please take care. In fact when I recced the ride the week prior to the Lion, there was a trail of wet diesel along the entire length of the road.
However sector five is worth the passage. At Astrope there's an obvious left hander, it's here that we go straight ahead and onto said sector. Again it calls for speed and throwing caution to the wind, worry about bumps, rocks and punctures and basically you're ride will be just one of pure misery. I think now that a few of the sector 'virgins' are realising that bikes aren't made of cheese and can handle this stuff in their stride. At this point I think about the pave through the Trouée d'Arenberg, I'd love to see the look on their faces. Finally everyone is happy to go for it, berries are given along the flat hardpack, then it's a right hander into pure cyclo cross territory before being spat out onto tarmac.
Time to head home now. There's a short section of road here that will take us over the Grand Union for the umpteenth time, but this time we hit the brakes standing and drop onto the canal side path, it's just a short slippery sector six to the next bridge, and with a heave on the bars we're back up on the road. When we did this ride the previous January we crouched behind the walls of this bridge sheltering from the freezing sideways rain and sleet, not this time thankfully.
Sector seven is another fast flat one, and you're upon it after sector six almost immediately. First of all it's a wide cinder track, then a tight right hander has you retracing the sandy hardpack of sector five.
It's the first call of puncture since the first sector back near Winslow, a few of us ride on to a safe place to stop and wait for our deflated group member. At this point a lone Wout pedals into sight, the only remnant of the other group. See these Belgians are made of sterner stuff, true flahutes. It's good to see him, the fastest hardest riders are full of admiration. 'Has he sorted that puncture yet' When he has we leave the sector retracing our path, thankfully on the other side of the road to the river of diesel, but we throw out warning shouts to riders coming the other way.
Into Cheddington and into the big ring and drops gassing it for Mentmore. This road is always quick and has the tiniest of gradient just enough to bite into. The group rides in perfect formation, silent and quick with no need for verbal or visual communication. Age dictates that I can come off the front just in time for a tow to the base of the Mentmore climb. Always a hurter this one after a long ride, but we're all together. No one on this ride has taken a back seat and waited until the last few miles to show us what they can do, so I'm happy. Actually just typing this makes me seethe, nothing makes me more annoyed than towing someone for 55 miles of a 62 mile ride only for them to pass and drop you at the sight of the first Leighton Buzzard sign. Everyone's worked hard, so there will be no sheepish walks into the pub at the end.
We dart down past 'Train robbers bridge' into Ledburn and head right, I think they all know I love this bit of road so I'm happy to pull. We're near home now and just about to hit sector eight. It's a dog leg turn off the road and down a rough path that runs parallel to the good old Grand Union. It's taken with ease and we ride past the lake at Tiddenfoot and turn into Mentmore Gardens cul de sac. The weekend DIY'ers must wonder where this sweaty dust covered mob are heading. There's a cycle path at it's end, usually the domain of the work a week cycle commuter, but today it's the penultimate section of the ride for us road and cross racers. Once off the cycle path we're in Leightons industry, but only a few yards later we turn left and back onto another cycle path, the final leg. We warm down and roll over the Grand Union for the last time and up through Parsons rec, passing the church at a respectful speed before looping around and unclipping. Without a word someone enters the Black Lion and opens the gates for our group. We clip clop in, helmets, gloves and shoes are soon off  and we're sitting down with our beer of choice in hand.....mines a Duval.
Just one last thing before we can call it a day though. We're all looking at the door waiting for Wout. He doesn't let us down. And relax.         

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Hanging Up The Race Wheels.

So what's that....about forty one years of cycle racing in one form or another. Now the time has come to call it a day, possibly a few days too late?
Why? Many reasons. and I mean the good life is getting in the way. I was thinking just the other night, a Friday night in fact. I was sitting in a club, I had my arms around a beautiful woman, there was a great R&R band playing, and the dance floor was empty just beckoning us to jive the night away, which we did. Somehow the thought of turbos and the ensuing stats just didn't seem that attractive anymore!
Then there's the enthusiasm. I still have it, but it's clear from my posts of late that it's waning. I mean I still ride, and still enjoy fact slightly more than before, but there's no desire to go any further than the ride.
I can also see that fresh enthusiasm in my younger peers, or club mates new to all of this, and my own pales into insignificance. And once there was a time I fought hard within myself to keep going, but kicking back has been a blessed relief. And I now take in great amounts of pleasure watching all my fellow riders progress....have fun and add to that little private palmares of their own.
And a very close friend said just the other day 'enjoy created proud'
So there we have it.
Forty one years. Longer than that if you count the years that John 'Gino' Goddard took me and my first riding and racing partner out, before we were deemed ready...nay allowed to race!
That was with Kenton RC, when shorts and jersey's were wool or silk and crash helmets were leather.
Gino gave me a good grounding in 'how to ride' to to hold the to dress...and even how to look at your opponents.
He must have taught me well, winning my age group in the Afia Memorial in my first year. And I soon had a short 21 minute 10 mile TT, and a sub 1 hour 25 mile TT under my belt, all on a 10 speed steel racer and not an aero product in sight.  
Moving out of London I joined the Hemel. Even back then you had to serve a probationary period with the club before you were allowed to race in club colours. I think more to just see if you were a liability or not.....lesson to be learnt there?
I never did race with the Hemel. There was a new club on the block the Bossard Wheelers. BWCC was a club at the right moment in time, it was small, but we had six lads....yes I was a lad that could race. Another lad was Miles Walker now with me/us in the LBRCC. None of us had kids, and we could race whenever we chose. We were a tight outfit in a sport that was getting super competitive. For example, the Milk Race used to come by here and it wasn't unusual for the Elites from the race to pop down and race amongst us at the MK Bowl evening races. We used to pose for the TV cameras.
Then there were the names I raced....and obviously I use the word race loosely, never the less race them I did....Chris Boardman, Roger Hammond, Malcom Elliot, Jeremy Hunt. And while I chose a career  in the electrical industry, they all went on to ride in the Tour de France.
Kids came along for all of us at the same time, and eventually the club became just a name on a list somewhere.
I had a little dabble in Triathlon, competing in the first ever UK full Ironman, but the jack of all trades aspect of Triathlon didn't appeal.
Then followed a decade racing Mountain bikes. Road racing was in decline at this stage, so many riders took this path. Though the popularity of mountainbiking grew the industry and later that would create the strong base for UK racing to return in the future.
I enjoyed my years racing fat tyres, I never had a win, but did podium a few times. I rode countless enduros, eleven 24 hour races, four 12 hour races and broke..fractured....sprained....and twisted more bones and muscle in that short period of time than the whole of my life put together.
By late 2000 and something local road racing was on the up again. I hastily bought the only race bike in the local shop (yes not many shops sold road bikes at that time) I took it up the Bowl to race.
That went okay, so I tweeked it a little and kept racing.
Some things had changed. Now you could get 10 points for a win at the MK Bowl and instantly move up a Cat. This I found had an adverse effect as it made the racing short fast and pretty dangerous. Previously you needed 30 points to move up a Cat, and a win at the Bowl back then only offered 3 points i.e you'd need ten wins.
Still I raced on without a club. The Bossard had disappeared, though I knew two guys were keeping it going and racing only TT's.
I put up notice in the shops and on media about reforming a local road club. And  I had a few guys interested. It was also at this time that the local council organised....created several riding groups, including one for sporting road cyclists. The council road group had a profile, and I and my riding partners had vast experience. During a mixed ride we stopped at the top of Well lane near Wing and I suggested we form a proper BC affiliated local road club. And after a quick meeting in the Bottom Bell the LBRCC was formed. So proud of that.
The LBRCC has done me well these last five years. Even won a race at the Bowl in 2013. Had some good years racing CX, but I think I have a successor now. Took some time out in 2014 to ride my only Super Randoneur. And managed to ride some iconic roads and mountains at the same time.
So I'll rest on that.......for now........and the race bike isn't up for sale.
Gone Dancin


Monday, 11 April 2016

Paris - Roubaix 2016

Camp 2 Cancellaras crash site

Monday, 28 March 2016

Saturday, 19 March 2016

You Don't Need An Accountant To Tell You How Poor You Are.

Your mates, heart, head, legs and lungs can do that for you.
It's that time of year again when the books have to be in, and mine seem to say that I'm making a loss.
The accountant wants to know where all that profit I made last year has gone.
According to the books I had a pretty good road and circuit season.  They also show that I invested in trips to Belgium and the Pyrenees. And finally the accountant is querying the balance between the start and end of my cross season.

Truth is I got a bit tired, tired of having to get up early every day of the week. So I needed a break and had to do something different.
Problem is the five month long cross season has eaten away at my profits. Fear of being tired for a weekends racing has meant something like just two long rides in six months. Getting dropped on a climb you lead up last year tells you all you need to know.

So the first thing I did when I got this news was to act like a kid and say #### it, done this long enough so #### it. I've won races and there's no way that's ever going to happen again so double #### it.
Then I went to my room and spent some time reflecting on my attitude and realized that actually I did want to keep on doing this. The problem is that between getting dropped and deciding I did want to race again in 2016, I'd developed a taste for late nights dancing to bands in places frequented by ladies with tattoos that drink whiskey and dance. Which, by the way is still better than freezing your nuts off at 8am on a fast 100 with a load of blokes.
Still I wanted to race.
The bathroom scales show me at 68kg so not too shabby. The dancing has it appears kept the weight at bay. My core seems to be stronger, again the dancing? But my legs can only just about ride me out of Leighton Buzzard! Plus they're hairy for the first time in years. I can't shave them yet. That would be like writing a cheque your legs couldn't cash, and we know how bad the books look already.
The second problem is that I seem to have been a little casual about checking race dates. Thinking two months is enough time to salvage something for that very first race. So when exactly is that race that's about two months away......ah in a months time.
How I want Sunday to be

How it'll probably be!

Right it'll have to be the club fast rides, I'm going to get dropped. I'll definitely grumble like ####. And it WILL hurt, but I need that investment right now.
I've just looked at the GCN video telling people how to deal with getting dropped it's that bad.
But it's cards on the table time.
And you can't cook the books. Well you can.
So I meet the board this Sunday, the truth will out.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

All Quiet On The Home Front.....For Now.

Nothing says Spring like Belgium & cobbles

This is bloody great. Weekends in not worrying about tomorrows race, only what coffee to have or pants to put on.
A chance to clean machines and inspect the damage accumulated over the year. And boy has some been accumulated! Got a nice big list, cables, cassettes, chain rings, pads, chains, bar tape, wheels, tyres, even a new groupset.
The year is planned already, so each bike gets set up accordingly.
The race bike gets the most attention. Stripped and cleaned. Then to have the carbon race wheels fitted, new tubs glued on and a set of yellow Swisstops added before being put away ready to race.
The training bike gets some upgrades especially a set of decent wheels so it can be press ganged into racing duties in the foulest of weather. The thought of my dollar dollar Lightweights grinding away in the wet makes me wince.
The crosser gets all new running gear. I'm sticking with canti's, but moving over to 1X and tubulars.
The mountain bike gets some long overdue attention as it might be my holiday bike this year if we go to the Alps as planned.
Finally the old old Claud, new tyres and cotton bar tape to carry this aging hipster to work!

So I pretty well have about three months where I can do what I want. Of course all the time I'm aware I need to be ready to race come late Spring.
Though right now I can afford to mix it up. Sundays are the cycling mainstay and still a bit fast, but always ridden. I'm getting off road, it makes a nice change to stuff everything in the camelback and just head off out, sometimes I stop and just sit under a tree. The turbo is a consistent in my cycling, and yes every week I leap on it. But the pressure is off and everything now seems so much easier? 

So until I pin a number on later this year I can pretty well do as I want, and that is such a relief that I have to wonder why I do the hard stuff at all.
A ride I will do is the Rapha Hell Of The North (London), I pretty well always do this barring a once a decade foray onto the Hell Of The North Cotswolds.
Then there's the clubs very own 'special' rides
Perhaps I might grab a final Chilterns Classic reliability ride. Whatever, there's nearly always a ride you can jump on. And often they're a freebie.
And Belgium this time of year shouldn't be missed,  another outing to ride the Gent-Wevelgem would go down a treat.

So for now it's time to kick back and get ready to crank it up. #wintermilessummersmiles