Monday, 30 December 2013

Cog Café Mini8 Sportive

Never mind rule #5 or remaining a die hard Flahute, Sunday 29th December at 7.45am wasn't the best time to be setting out on a road bike. The roads were covered in ice and the sun was still behind the rooftops. If it wasn't for the fact that I was to meet ten of my fellow club mates at the Cog café in Tring, I'd have probably taken the mountain bike out on a massive XC loop or a session on the cyclo crosser followed by a session on the turbos. However as a man of my word I set off to meet them. The roads were un-gritted and treacherous and the twelve mile ride became a scary epic mince. The cars on their roofs and the one that had gone over the edge of Ivinghoe Beacon were a reminder to go easy.
So I was pleased to arrive safely at the Cog, and even more pleased to see a full contingent of club mates had made it.
Due to the conditions I was in no hurry to set off, it was clear that the sun would eventually come up and work it's magic on the roads, but my club mates had other ideas and were already up the road whilst I was still figuring out my newly acquired Garmin, my first ever computer!
I followed, quickly catching up with Iain and Chris. The others were way ahead setting a high pace. I said to Iain 'I suppose you're wondering why I'm staying back'  Well I'll tell you. First I'm still getting over Bronchitis, and I don't fancy sucking up frozen Sunday morning air. Second, I've got one more race this season and I don't want to jeopardise my overall standings because of bumps and bruises. And thirdly I'm two and half teeth down already due to 1970's Winter rides before we all wore helmets. So steady Eddie.
Less than ten miles down the road we came across our first fall, it was our group. I said we need to spread out, we need time and space to react in these conditions. I pressed on.
At about fifteen miles I was alone and wondering what had happened to my club mates, I felt a little guilty about pressing on, though I felt safer to be alone and that over rode the guilt. It was then that two Tring Velo riders came by, they looked far more comfortable than me on the ice and I was happy to see them ride off into the distance.
By now the roads were very unpredictable some were wet, some were dry and some were still ice. I was however getting my mojo back by now, that is until Winslow. The slow moving traffic in the towns back streets had turned the place into an ice rink. So taking a page from racing in Belgium I hopped onto the pavement to avoid the hazzard, job done and back onto the main road. I left Winslow knowing I had to turn off to head towards Stewkley, but I couldn't see a sign. I knew I had to turn here, but went straight on down the busy main road. At this rate I would end up back in Whitchurch. Finally I found a left turn and doubled back to were I should have been. In the end it only proved to have been another two and a half miles added.
I was now on familiar ground, and ground that was drying out. I fell into the drops and gave it the berries to Wing. I was feeling pretty happy, only six months ago this was the road were I had been dropped in the National Road Race Championships, I hadn't felt so happy then.
In Wing I came across another rider! who hadn't been able to spot the next sign. I didn't need route markers from here on and pointed out the way. We were just about to hit Mentmore when we came across a very icy bend, my fellow rider seemed to speed up before he quite literally hit Mentmore. I couldn't stop, but I yelled out to check he was okay, he was so I pressed on up the hill. I saw the photographer on the bend at the top, but I forgot to tidy myself up; I have the most bandy legged riding position you'll ever see, and it looks dreadful in pictures. Round the corner to the cake stop.
At the stop the two Tring Velo riders were just getting ready to leave. It's funny how you can get so far ahead, but when you stop it only seems like seconds before the slower riders you left behind miles back soon appear? As I was scoffing a couple of lovely Magdelena cakes Miles came into view with another Tring Velo rider in tow. It was going to be nice to have company for the remaining twenty miles. However it seems I got ahead at the lights on the bridge at Cheddington and I never saw Miles and the TV rider again.
Things were now about to get all pointy. First we had Ivinghoe Beacon to contend with, the tougher way up from Ivinghoe Aston. Up the first part of the climb, past the rescue of the motorist that had gone over the edge, and then a left turn up to the summit. That was followed by the fast run from the top all the way to Toms Hill, which thankfully was free of ice and allowed for a fast descent into Aldbury.
From Aldbury you had a further flat run to the next climb that would take you up to Wiggington. By this point, thanks to my newly acquired Garmin thingy I realised that I was on my slowest ride of the year. Slower than my mountain bike 100km and half an hour slower at nearly fifty miles than I would do a 100km on my road bike. With that hitting home I just whacked it into the easiest gear I had and pootled to the top.
At the top in Wiggington I was glad to get back into the big ring and head for the finish. Down towards Champneys, past the lad on the BMX and left turn towards Hastoe? In all my years I'd never ridden this road, certainly not in this direction, and it seemed bloody heavy. I actually looked back over my shoulder convinced the BMX lad would be on my wheel. I pressed on as I knew this would lead to a downhill finish. Even with that in my mind the road was tough going, and I'm sure I wasn't climbing as it looked so flat. Finally I recognised the fork in the road that marked the downhill to the Cog....Yeehaaaa.
That was a great little ride, thank you.
Back at the Cog my club mates were waiting after cutting it short in favour of bacon sarnies at another well know cafe. We sat around the table catching up on what had happened whilst we waited for Miles who was still on the road. I think under the circumstances anyone who braved the conditions to ride no matter how far they rode are true Flahutes.
Miles arrived soon after and we both congratulated each other over a gratis coffee and a slice of bakewell tart, classic.
By now I was warmed and feeling slightly stewed and the last thing I fancied was another ride home. Thankfully Miles had driven over and was able to offer me a lift home. I can't tell you how nice it was being chauffeured back home past all the pink waymarker signs.
It was ironic that after all these years I finally bought a computer, and the first time it was used was to record the slowest ride of the year. A shame it can't record the fun I had.

Mentmore. Thanks to Simon Gill.


Sunday, 22 December 2013

Twelve months on two wheels

Okay there are a few days shoot me. Actually the way I've felt these last three weeks I wish some one would. Sadly a bout of Bronchitis has robbed me of my last few weeks of riding and racing in 2013, but I've got a fair bit to look back over.
To summarise. 29 races started. 3 races I didn't get to. 3 races where I got a great big DNF. I had one win, three 3rd's and a shed load of top tens. Five reliability trials. Four sportives and one Audax. I rode in three other countries. I went to see the pros race on the Continent. I pedaled over the pavé and I pedaled over the Pyrenees. And I pedaled up and down this green and pleasant  land. I rode through wind, rain, snow and sunshine, I even rode for hours in my garage! I raced my road bike, I raced my cyclo cross bike and I raced my mountain bike. I cemented old friendships as well as making new ones. I smiled, I grimaced, I felt euphoria, I felt pain, I lost sweat and I lost blood. And all fueled  by coffee cake and beer.
The highlights of the year? The win has to be up there, even if it was a depleted field in the pouring rain, I still had to battle for it.
Then the Pavé. Surprisingly in the four decades I've been racing I'd never been there. I can recall that upon seeing the sign for the Arenberg I got a shiver down my spine. I conjured up  images of Eddy, Roger, Bernard and Greg, the sense of being 'on' cycling history is immense. The surrounding areas are perhaps best appreciated only by the cyclists, not one for the family.
The most memorable trip was the one to the Pyrenees with Fraser and Philip. Trips away are always great, but this one was made better by staying at Frasers second home in Luchon. Quite simply a riders heaven. Wake, coffee, Patisserie, ride, thermes and walk to the cafés, arrange chairs to admire the mademoiselles drink, eat and repeat.

Perhaps the downside of the year was the National Road race Championships. The race itself was second to none, but I was training hard for half the season for something that was out of my league. I did my best, I obeyed the rules, but in the end I didn't have the legs or the attitude. I remember getting angry at all the riders I'd drop eventually catching me up by riding over the white lines all the time despite the commissaires constant warnings, I couldn't bring myself to what is effectively cheating, could I have stayed in longer if I had? After the race I had a long hard think and decided I didn't have the time or desire to work any harder to reach the levels I'd need to be at to compete at that level. In a way it was a weight off my shoulders, and it'll free up a lot of time in 2014. Perhaps the 3 Peaks or another mountain bike 24 hour solo?

So back to the end of 2013. And a season of (as yet unfinished)  cyclo cross has gone pretty well, I managed to cling onto 3rd overall in age for the first nine races, illness probably means a final standing nearer 6th?
I haven't let this get me down too much though, and decided to marshal when I could. Wrapped up like Scott of the Antarctic I marshaled the local round of the National Trophy. Field was amazing, watch out you Belges.  And I had a chat with Roger Hammond, which was nice! and it sort of took things full circle as I remember going to Leeds in 1992 to see him take the World Junior title, and now here he was managing a team.of his own.

So there we have it, just a few words, but it doesn't go anywhere near capturing the entire joy riding and all it entails brings to me, wrapping handlebars, fitting tyres, hitting the buy button, getting lost, cutting rides short, training, racing, talking bollocks, beasting your mates, getting dropped, getting in a crafty one after work, the wind on your back, just everything, good times or bad times without one the experience isn't complete.
On the Arenbergs pavé
Summiting the Tourmalet 

cyclo cross action

Criteriums at the MK Bowl
In readiness for 3 hours of XC racing
Audax with Fraser and Keith
Riding for the hell of it

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Central CXL Round 8 Harlington

Seven rounds to count, seven rounds have taken place and seven rounds have been raced. The hard work has been done, leaving three more remaining rounds left to improve your overall standings. So today is round eight, a brand new venue and possibly a chance to do well.
I have arrived at the new Harlington circuit feeling like I've shaken off the bad cold I've had. i take a walk up to the circuit and I'm delighted with what I see, well clipped grassy off camber banks, a long hill... longest I've seen in a cross race actually and two Somme like run sections. I walk back down to registration feeling pretty good.
However looking at the sign on sheet I see what is the biggest field of the year so far. darn. Number in hand I  go to get ready. I huddle behind the car quickly putting on my kit, I don woolen gloves and rain jacket and apply warming oil to my legs to fend off the freezing wind before making my way back for a practice lap or two. On my way to the circuit I meet Neil and Alan from my old club the LBRCC, they've just completed the novices race. I'm in a hurry and all I can say is 'Hi' and 'it looks grippy' All I hear in reply is hmmmm.
I dip under the tape and set off.  Feels okay, a little windy perhaps, but my tyre pressure feels spot on. Around what is the trickiest bend on the circuit and onto a long stretch of off camber zig zags, awkward but okay. Along a fast flat and into some very 'mountain bikey' ups and downs. Out of those and into a series of muddy drops followed by muddy climbs that call for a running dismount. Another drop into a waterlogged field. I can't help think of the 'fast Shows' 'bottom field' then a final dash to the long climb before hitting the finishing area. Phew, not easy going.
In trying to force out my cold I did a max heart rate session on the turbos the day before and my legs feel dreadful. Double darn.
We just all LOL'd

Nothing left now but to race. I get gridded which gets a round of applause after being left at the back the previous week. We get held up at the start waiting for the electronic timing system to sort itself out. We're freezing and soon the race faces disappear, and we start to fool about to keep warm. the Commissaire gets some stick and Chris slopes off to join the Juniors race. We talk about the start, is it a gentlemen's start?   are we having drinks pre or post race before Christmas? All to soon we're given the thumbs up, then we get the ten seconds to go, lips have gone dry and chests are heavy with pent up energy.
The whistle goes.
It's fast and single file right away. I hit the first and trickiest bend in fourth and come out fourth. There's chaos behind me at the corner with riders on their feet. If I was a good rider I'd have a great lead, but I'm not and all too soon better riders are on me. My legs are heavy and a group of seven are pulling away on lap one, but I'm still ahead of a few of my peers. I haven't got the legs to go hard, and by the second lap Tony is on me. I have to race a canny race from now on.

Run Oldgit run

During  a race isn't the time to think about ifs and buts, am I still carrying a cold, am I loosing fitness, are the others getting stronger? they've certainly turned the tables on me these last two races.All I can do is the best I can, which I know isn't the best I can do. Get every corner right. Get into the drops on every straight. Run like hell on every run section. Doing my best stabilizes my position roughly halfway  through the race, though with vets now on the course I have no idea where I lay.

I see a bunch of fellow V50 riders behind me, and I vow to stay ahead of them. Over the last lap the pressure of holding them off causes me to flap and I put in my most messiest lap of all. My Mojo has gone and I rely on brute force to keep ahead. I trail in to finish towing ten metres of barrier tape behind me.
I think I've done a lot better than the final results will eventually show. New riders caused me to get a little confused. Peers like Tony who beat me last week were just ahead. Chris I last saw in trouble sat on the track side, and multiple series winner Steve has just come in ten minutes later carrying his bike. Pete has won his first race fresh from  breaking his ribs and puncturing his lung at the 3 Peaks, staggering.
The results later show I was 15th, the worst finish ever. I now have three weeks to sort myself out, sort of make or break time. Looking back I was far too cautious, too worried about staying upright when less P.S.I and more risks would have paid dividends. Three weeks time we'll know when we are back in London.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Central CXL Round 7 Icknield Cross

Icknield my favorite cross course, and race number seven. Here in the Central league your best seven races count for your overall standing, so completing this round gives you your seven, it also gives you a chance to look back over your performances and maybe do something about it in the final four rounds.
So it's my favorite course, why? well it's super fast, it's well cut firm turf. The technical sections just call for good timing and old fashioned cyclo cross skills, rather than 'skilz', but today was a bit different. The main technical feature was a series of grassed over air raid shelters, sadly these weren't in use today. I actually thought I'd arrived on the wrong day as the familiar sight of the taped shelters was missing. Instead we had a very hard series of switchbacks which involved descending wet grass and turning sharply on greasy paving slabs before climbing back up again. The whole speedy aspect of the course had also been changed slightly by a very slippery surface, it was wet but not wet enough to cut up.
I had a good warm up, most of the course was the same old version so I spent a bit of time mastering the new technical section. Once happy I went off to warm up some more.
Now it was time to race. I waited eagerly to be called up, but nothing. This was the second time I was put right at the back despite my laying third overall. At the last race the commissaire had apologized  afterwards for the previous oversight, so I was surprised it happened again. hey ho.
The whistle went and so did I, in fact I burnt most of my matches in those first few yards taking myself from last to fifth before the first turn. the race was very quickly single file so I settled in where I was.
Before I go on I need to lay my excuses down!
I hadn't ridden for two weeks. First of all my Nan died not quite making 100, so that called for a lot of family  commitment. Then I came down with a heavy cold that floored me. Basically I couldn't ride for two weeks. Did I mention I hadn't ridden for two weeks?
So anyway I'm riding along, and the inevitable happens. I get passed, I go down to 6th then 7th then 8th then 9th then 10th. Then I think 'okay I'm not on form' but this is taking the piss. I decide enough is enough. The rider in front of me has clearly overcooked it to get ahead and is flapping on the bends. I bide my time and pass on one of the tightest corners and pull away 9th. The next rider is more savvy and we become locked in battle the entire race. He can corner far quicker than me, but I can pass him on the straights and we exchange leads all race. The key will be riding perfect laps, pace and timing. Then on the penultimate lap, just after the technical section he goes down. I pass and I dig deep to get a good gap. I'm holding the gap, but sweating like a pig with nervous energy. I'm racing to the technicals knowing that managing them well will see me to the line ahead of him. I clean the section and grab 8th.
Bitch slapped by a sapling 

It was another good race, a few were pleased to beat me for the first time, but I'll be back for vengeance  next week. I shake hands with the man I've been racing and we analyze the race 'bloke in the pub style' we were so caught up in our own in race that we didn't think about working together. Only seconds separated us from higher positions, we probably could have grabbed another place at least.
Still a great race, a superb course and a great crowd. Roll on next weeks new venue.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Central CXL Round 6 A5 Rangers Northampton

I wasn't sure how I'd go this Saturday after last weekends mauling. It had been a poor race and a painful fast club run the day after so the following day I decided.....risked taking a whole week off from any cycling.
Come the day  I certainly felt rested, and a quick practice on the course confirmed that at least I was no worst.
So the course? well we had off camber wet grass, more off camber ups and downs than you could shake a stick at, some mud 'steps', gravel, tarmac and a fine selection of half buried barge board that would have to be taken at a jaunty angle to enter various sections. Our initial thoughts would call this a slow course....errr!
We were called up for gridding, I was called up fourth man, which was good because the course just about took five men shoulder to shoulder. However I'd decided not to bolt for it this week, and I was going to fall back and watch the competition. When the gun went though I didn't have to make that conscious decision, the pack went off like an explosion. Just keep calm, keep an eye on those that matter. Sam, Chris, Tony forget Steve he is way up the league. Chris's Palmer Park yellow kit was the only one I could see, so upon hitting the first straight I floored it to gain my place behind them. Even though we hadn't completed a single lap we soon fell into the weekly race pattern. Sam had gone. Steve looked like he was having issues, but still kept ahead. Chris was just moving away steadily. That left Tony with a Long Eton interloper in front of me.
I should say that because this was a Saturday race we had a lot of class riders from other leagues among us, either training or building points, regardless of that they were lifting the pace. Because of this everyone's game was raised.
This race felt like a race, sounds daft but the course called for your best riding and the open sections  meant that tactics could come into play. At one point the Long Eton rider went down leaving Tony in my sights and in check. sadly I didn't have the strength to open the advantage on the fallen rider, and he went on to pass not only me but several other riders.
As the laps went by the course changed, clever riders  would take new lines to avoid the greasy cambers. And if you could bunny hop or wheelie even better otherwise the barge board marking the exit/entrance to sections must have seemed daunting?
I was having a good ride even if the days stronger riders had now since long passed me. I was upright and quite pleased with my efforts.
Then the bell which seemed to have come very time passes when you're having fun. And with the bell another surprise. I'd been chasing Tony but was now right on his wheel with less that a lap to go. And I mean right on his wheel, all I had to do was draught him and pop out for the points. Proper racing.

However someone else had other plans. A rider from the vets race came through on a bend and tried to get into a gap that wasn't there. I braked hard and the gatecrasher rode straight into Tony's rear wheel. We all kept upright. I wasn't happy, yes it's all racing but I wouldn't deliberately take out other riders, I certainly wouldn't arrive unannounced. Now I had the man in yellow blocking a potential finish line sprint out. Then our man in yellow slowed down too much for the final techy section, and without enough speed he went down taking us with him. Tony escaped the tangle first and what was only a few seconds back a few inches separating us had now become a hundred yards. It was game over Tony was heading for the flag while I was still running with my bike.
Regardless of the last minute debacle this race was the best so far, an opinion universally shared. The course bought out the best riding (in most of us) The Saturday interlopers brought class and pace to the proceedings  and in doing so gave us a race to remember.
I didn't fare well overall compared to my fellow V50 racers, but as far as the central league riders were placed I was where I should be. My overall placing slipped from 3rd to 4th last week, but even that flatters me. 6th would be a fair final standing, unless I can pull something out of the hat on my favourite course when we resume racing in two weeks time.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Central CXL Round 5 Alpha RC/Luton CC MK Bowl

You're going to have one! a race where it all goes wrong even before the whistle goes. Even before Saturdays race at the MK Bowl I was in trouble. During Thursday nights mountain bike ride I'd hit a tree and my arm was killing me, no amount of pain killers could ease it. So my heads already starting to wobble.
I decide to go anyway, after all it's right on my doorstep. As I enter the venue I can see the course, quite literally. You could see the whole course from any standpoint. Still it didn't look too bad.
I pootle about the course before prepping the bike. It's a mix of ultra bumpy turf and greasy climbs. I pick my tyre pressure and set off for practice. Then my head wobbles some more. I had ordered some brand new Eggbeaters prior to the season starting, but had yet to collect them. Now I was being paid back as the bumps were ejecting my feet from the worn pedals mechanism. Bad arm, faulty pedals.
Opting for a bit more pressure was a mistake as I couldn't make the climbs, so out went 10 PSI and suddenly all the climbs were doable.
So to the start line. At least my 3rd place overall standing will guarantee a front row gridding, but no. My name isn't called out. Keith jumps to my rescue, but the man say's no, I'm not on the list? so much for online entry. So right to the back it is. Wobble wobble wobble.
To make matters worst the cancelled races elsewhere around the country has meant that our race has drawn in some contenders in search of points.
Wobble wobble bonk my heads come right off.
I'm done in before I start. The whistle goes and I go off hell bent for leather determined to prove a point, something that gets pick up on after the race.

getting on with it
I can't last.  The race is hell. Too slow and the bumps stop you in your tracks. Go fast and it smooths out, but going fast all race is easier said than done. The hills are okay, I can do those pretty well. The hurdles though fill me with dread as soon as they appear, each time I lift the bike the pain in my arm makes me want to vomit. Lap after lap of pure agony. This one I want to end. Which after what seems the longest race eventually does. I'm 9th, the worst result of the year so far. It's some little relief to find a fair few of my fellow racers looking a little broken.
This race has to be my worst one of the eleven I'm racing this year. All I can do is chalk it up and prepare for the next one. The first step being to collect the new pedals and bin the 'self ejecting' ones I have at the moment. And perhaps rest all week and gain back some of the 9lbs I've lost this weekend.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Central CXL Round 4 Zappi's Oxford

If  it's wet, sandy and you can hear  opera and hip-hop booming out of the PA you know you've turned up for another Zappi's cyclo cross race. This is my third outing to the Culham park venue, and I'm hoping to do better than other past visits. I was telling people I needed a bit of luck, but the honest truth is that I needed to prepare properly for this race. It's the hill, it gets me every time. last year the 25 tooth cassette was useless, so I went mad and fitted a 27 tooth one, went for a warm up and still couldn't ride it. So it's not luck I needed, it's more teeth and less belly. still I was in good company as the hill seemed to attract a fair few ramblers.
However as they say in football 'it's a game of two half's' and Zappi's is a race of two half's. One half flat good draining turf on a sandy soil base. And the other half up down off camber muddy sandy hillside. I know which half I prefer.
So to the racing. I've been gridded again on the front row which is always good, though as I look about me I can see that all these guys can beat me, no pressure. We get the usual 15 seconds to go, a quick check of the cleats and we're sent off. I've realised that it's not best to be the first man so I settle into fourth. That's fine until we hit the first small climb and I find it quite easy to move up. I'm now in second place behind Chris McCleod so far so good. Next is the big drop before 'the climb' I take a silly risk on the descent to be first on the climb, but as soon as I dismount for the run I'm overtaken in numbers. At the top the chase starts, I'm desperate not to lose any more places so I push a gear that takes me outside of my comfort zone, but I'm solo and I can't catch the bunch up the road. I riding pretty well, but everyone is very close, my mind can't make itself up, do I chase or avoid capture? I'm at the hill again, this time the only man to pass me is the eventual winner Simon Tottle who just glides by as if he is out for a Sunday pootle.
At this point I'm just doing my best, a few guys go past and I hope they're in the younger vets race. If I can see someone up ahead I just try to catch them, it's all got a bit messy by now. The hill is demoralizing me, and I'm cursing Keith and his Trisports team mates for having 'running' legs. And to top it off I can see that my long term foe is making ground on me.
Ding ding ding, sometimes that's a very welcoming sound. I've still got the hill to do, but I don't want to be lapped before I get a chance to get the bell myself. So an effort is put in on the hill, and I fall into the drops for the flat section that follows. I've got the lap so I give it all I've got and pass a rider under the nose of the DJ who encourages me on. The last lap always feels good and with the PA blaring out 'Here come the Belgians.....nice one' it soon passes, I even feel a bit guilty passing the lady rider just before the line.I've come in, in sixth place again. And my race mate for the day Andrew Martin racing in East Grinstead colours has come in in eighth place in the vets race. We're both happy, but a bit of variation in results wouldn't go amiss.
Going home

Monday, 14 October 2013

Central CXL Round 3 Hemel Hempstead

What is it about abysmal weather that brings out the crossers by the coach load? Oh please keep raining, oh yes here we go. Actually it's a bit bloody cold, and after being blown about on the playing fields I scuttle off back to the car for full gloves. lets have a quick practice lap, oh okay climbing gear for the flat, this'll be a laugh. Practice over the commissaire doesn't hang about. we know we have to look after each other and he sends us off quick sticks.
On the front row with Chris McCleod

I take advantage of my first row gridding to make up early ground, but the usual suspects are soon off in the distance, that said I've made equal space between myself and my chasers.
I have issues on lap one, the week prior hasn't gone well and I feel sluggish so decide there and then to sit up, take it smoothly and go for the long race. That means I'm soon overtaken by the vets race front runners including a strong team mate in Andrew Martin.
Andrew Martin

The second lap see's me in a on and off race with a North Roads rider, it's even Stevens until I fall passing a walker on the left while the North Roads man passes without incident on the right. The resulting gap is too big for me to ever make up. I think I'm eighth at this point and I don't want to drop back further. so I keep it as smooth as possible for lap three. That pays off as I catch a rider from VC10 towards the end of lap three and just before the bell.
Andrew making the catch

Not just mud, ditches and fallen trees.

I lead the VC10 man for the first half of the final lap, but he then passes me and starts to get away. I feel a bit resigned to eighth until I notice the VC10 man flounder on the final section of singletrack. I have to dismount behind him, but unlike my fellow racer who is trying to re mount and ride, I decide to run the final section of deep claggy singletrack I emerge into the fields leap onto the bike and press it. One right hander, another right hander and I can afford a glance over my shoulder just to check I'm ahead before the flag.
That was proper tough, but the support from Iain and Ashley deserved my best efforts.
So not 6th this week, just a lowly 7th in the vets 50's. And Andrew claimed a great 8th in the vets.
I'd liked to have stayed to give LBRCC's Julian my support, and God those boys needed it. I think the deteriorating course was now adding two minutes to each lap!
Good eyes and bodyline into the singletrack

I should mention Neil from the LBRCC who put in a sterling performance in the mens novice race, and who next week will be racing in the seniors at the Oxford round. Very Belgian is the Oxford course, deep sand, deep mud and steep hills. Bring it on....again.
Needs no comment!
Massive thanks to LBRCC's Iain and Ashley for the support for all those riding, and the greatest pics, cheers.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Central CXL Round 2 The National Bowl

Saturday 5th October, yep Saturday and not the usual Sunday slot. We're at the National Bowl in Milton Keynes and it's a corker of a day. A recce of the course shows it to be in fast dry condition. I've raced this course for years both in cyclocross and in mountainbike racing and this is the driest I've ever seen it. Which I can tell you is a pretty good thing, for this course is off camber central. The Bowl is an amphitheatre and the course follows it's curving and sloping lines, when wet either your front of back wheel will want to travel sideways. But today all is good.
I'm in the V50 race and I'm looking for a better placing than my 6th of last week. I'm given a helping hand with a front row gridding. The Juniors have gone and we're next. I had hoped that we'd be off after the vets so I could chase my old club mate Andrew, but it's the other way round today so I'm going to have him breathing down my neck.
The whistle goes and we're off, or rather everyone else is while I fumble with my cleat. My head start is blown and I have to chase like mad. I move through, and track down Chris from Palmer Park and settle into the racing. Try as I might I can't bridge the gap, but there's space between me and the rest, with the exception of Trisports Tony who is closing in. I shake of the panic and concentrate on getting through the considerable amount of technical trail as smoothly as possible. When I pop back out onto the grass I see I've made some more space between myself and the chasing Trisports rider.
The racing goes well lap after lap. The only issue I have is getting stuck behind some walkers on the only stiff climb, the dismount costs me time.
Next it's time for the top vets to come past, I know most of them so we can talk and the passes go without a hitch and little time is lost.
Dusty trail, a rare treat in cross

I'm pretty well on my own now and start to wonder where Andrew is. Judging my pace is hard without anyone to compare to, so as it's all coming to an end I just dig in until it really hurts. Then to my dismay I see Andrew and a bunch of other vets approaching, they go past pretty swiftly. It's less than a lap to go so I try and limit the gap, but I'm feeling it and Andrew looks strong. No matter what I do now it won't effect the result so I race to the line without worrying about blowing. I cross the line in 6th place again. I catch up with Andrew, Chris from Palmer Park and the Trisport guys and girls, the course has set a real buzz amongst us and we while away the time in the hot October sun! talking about upcoming races.
Before we set off we watch Julian go in the senior race. The poor lads right up against it, but when I leave he is midfield and ahead of the Winymilla rider, don't know why that pleases me but it does.
With the racing done on the Saturday I can go out on the mountainbike Sunday morning for a nice steady three hour XC ride, a steady ride after a race always feels good and this one feels good.
I get home and devour my lunch and immediately think about riding again. A few calls later and soon I'm out with local fast lad Tim Edwins and Simon of the LBRCC on the road bikes. Steady? yeah steady, my arse. My legs are tired, I haven't showered, I've raced the crosser, ridden the mountain bike and now I'm flat out in the hole punched in the air by Simon. I'm a bit up and down, I have a few good turns, but mostly sit in. Tim kindly points out (with a huge grin) that an 'Interval session' is just what I need, before leading us up Ivinghoe Beacon at full tlit. I have a great ride even though I'm knackered, and I still want to play even near the end. The right company always makes a ride.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Central CXL Round 1 Hillingdon

Here we go again, it's another season, it's the same old place, but there's a new format to the racing this year. The Central League had grown, such is the popularity of cycling, that something had to be done. With some races attracting  near to 200 riders last year, that something was done at the last AGM. The changes that affected me were the shortened race, now 40 minutes. And the separate start for vets, vets 50 plus and women. Being a V50+ this was very welcome as I'd now be racing on a level playing field, which is an ironic phrase considering! I should say I was a bit peeved about the shorter race, more about that later.
First it was hellos and handshakes to all the  old faces not seen since the end of the 2012 season. And a chance to compare expanding bellies. With the pleasantries done it was off for a warm up. The recce confirmed it was pretty similar to the last race here, with the exception of an extra hurdle on a hill. The going was dry, and the air was warm with a stiff little breeze. Pretty welcoming for the first one of the year. barring a puncture this would be at the very least okay.
So to the start. In our race there are Juniors, the vets, the vet 50's and the women's race.. The juniors have been sent off, the vets are sent off a little later and we are waiting. I get gridded front row..yeah. The Juniors and vets are out of sight, we get a few seconds then the whistle goes, we're off.
It's 40 minutes, I rag that on the turbos. In the space of a second I decide to go for it. I get right to the front and I'm the first into the off road.
into the lead

 Already I realise the error of my ways, I'm leading the whole race into a headwind and on a course where you can over take at any point, I don't want to be on the front so I weave about, but my wheel is being well and truly sucked dry. Eventually three riders pass, I've effectively launched them. I can't grab a wheel and I need time to put my lungs back, so I hold on. I'm now locked in a battle with a Palmer Park rider, it's proper racing and we both know it. At the time I thought we were fighting for 4th place. The two of us close and open, and all the time I'm aware of a Finchley RT rider baring down on us. The pace is taking us past the vets that started before us and we're neck and neck, but ride very differently. The Finchley RT rider catches me, but over cooks the over take and crashes and doesn't really bother again, though I know he will at other races.
Milton Keynes, Belgian and Palmer Park

Next is my second and biggest mistake. I mistake the bell lap for the final lap. Convinced I'm racing for the chequered flag I catch my man and pass him just before the line, but instead of the flag i hear the bell. The Palmer Park rider is now on my wheel on part of the course where I don't want him to be. I'm lost and know it. I tow him along until he quite rightly pulls out and goes for it. I clean my last lap and cross the line in 6th.
So the 40 minutes? much better, proper fast and furious racing. And anyway we were out for 53 minutes.
For 2013 I have new guys to race, and I've never been so excited about my season. With a few tactical tweeks I hope to do better, or at the very least remain consistent.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Five Bells of Stanbridge charity cycle ride

Just a big thanks to all those that organised, helped on and rode the event. I hope every mum dad and kid had fun, I know I did. Moments like racing along with the little kid in his wonky crash helmet and fury parka where magic, the look on his little face after 'dropping' his mum and dad was a look to match the famous 'The look'
As this was just for fun I went out on my mountainbike, I couldn't be arsed to make any concessions to the fact I'd be on the road, so the massive knobly tyres stayed on. As did the cow bell. On the cycle to the start I soon realised two things, massive squirmy knoblies running 35psi don't roll on tarmac and a big old 29er isn't aero no matter how hard you try, think shed with handlebars. That said it was comfortable and quick if you just kept ticking over.
So out on the road and into the headwind, oh dear! And out of the headwind, ah that's better. I'm riding along with the core of the LBRCC guys and girls, happy to chat and just ride this thing. Sadly not far into our ride we're passed by a group of club riders, and I bite. They slow on a gradual gentle climb and I pass them. Then I hear the familiar click click click and they pass again, I sit ain't gonna drop me. Soon roadie and MTB'er differences are put aside and we ride chatting together. Then comes the first little hill, the Aston Hill climb, I drop the slowest of the group I'm with, their club mates have to wait, I pass and don't see them again.
Then I'm overtaken just after the top by a very well equipped group, but they slow so I pass. These guys seemed properly miffed by a guy passing them on a mountainbike. They pass again, and again they slow. I select my big ring and lift the pace and tow them. I'll be very very honest, I'm showing off. They think I'm just a guy that doesn't have a road bike, but I've trained hard all year, I've raced and raced and I'm fresh off a week in the Pyrenees. Eventually they split up, the strongest starts to talk to me, that's when I tell him I don't usually ride a mountainbike in this sort of thing, it's just a one off. We ride into Tring and the rain. They slow in the wet so I press on leaving them behind.
From then on I hardly see a soul.
As I approach the last hill, Bison Hill I see Rob from the LBRCC he has already climbed it, descended it and  on his way to the finish. I'm with a gaggle of riders on the climb, I sit in and pootle, unlike me they can haul their bikes up. Everyone is within touching distance until the descent towards Dunstable, they plummet out of sight whilst I have to pedal this monster just to get down the hill. I have a quick WTF moment as I pass Fiona of the LBRCC on the summit, turns out she took a wrong'un and got ahead. Off the hill it's plain and very very fast sailing to the finish. I'm in a fast and tight bunch of various clubmen, I pass a few of the LBRCC fast guys that left me near the start, and roll into the finish. Robs at the finish, but I've passed the other LBRCC race guys and my ego has gone through the roof. Fact of the mater is that the mountainbike though being as heavy as a very heavy thing and as aerodynamic as a shed, has thirty gears all of which simply canceled out the hills and left me fresh as a daisy, with the exception of the sorest butt I've ever had, and that's coming from someone with eleven 24 hour solo's under his belt.
Congratulations to everyone taking the distance on for the first time, it was a tough course, and to all those mums, dads and kids mixing it with the uber serious Stravanistas. And more importantly I hope a great deal of money was raised for such a good cause.
Next year... 48lb 3 speed 1958 town bike?

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Pyrenees - Pan Y Agua

Just recently back from a great weeks cycling in the Pyrenees with a few friends. Though for some reason I'm struggling to write down some words that'll do the trip justice. So I've come to the conclusion that it's because each day 'just' comprised of cycling up a mountain or two and rolling back down them! Therefore I thought I'd just put down a few words and pictures diary style, so here goes.
Arrived Tuesday afternoon at Bagneres de Luchon with fellow Belgian Phil and Fraser who's apartment we would be staying in.
Phil and Fraser went out for a late afternoon ride, while I stayed back nursing a bad eye. Good start.
Day 1; Coffee and croissants followed by a half mile warm up and straight on to the Col de Peyresourde (1569m) at the summit we had a quick coffee and a few crepés. We then donned gilets and arm warmers and descended out of the damp mist into the warmth of the valley bellow. Your first Pyrenean  descent reminds you of how important a good working bike is. They don't do barriers here, one slip and you could be joining other cyclists in that great road trip in the sky. Once down you can savour the warm sun and pocket your cold weather gear.  Next up was the Col d'Azet (1580m) This is a stunner of a climb, that once out of the tree line gives you superb views down onto the lake below. It was on this climb that I started to use my HR monitor to judge my efforts, it's amazing what you think is easier and what actually is. Out of the saddle I was in the early 160's sitting and spinning and moving faster it was in the early 140's.
Once over the top we enjoy an equally rewarding descent and stop in the valley for lunch. We extend the ride to cover some of the flat lands, warmth, corn fields and fine roads what more could you want? That was a long hard 85 miles.
Day 2; Again a climb from the doorstep. This time up the Col de Portillon (1293m) a mere baby compared to yesterdays climbs, but this baby kicks and screams and proves that size isn't everything. Some of the hairpins are followed by vicious  kicks upwards. Once at the summit you are on the border with Spain and the roads change. The descent is great twisting and turning through warm pine forest. And a gentle run in through Spanish villages brings us to the valley floor.
What follows is a bit of a disaster. We were supposed to be tackling another climb before lunch, but the whereabouts of the said climb eludes us. The road we're on becomes a path and that in turn becomes a rock strewn scramble. It's not long before we decide that however good our cyclo cross skills are, that we are on the proverbial road to nowhere. We turn back for lunch. We'd already scoped our lunch stop, a great café in   a cobbled square serving Pintxos...yum yum. I'm yet to realise that the several fresh chili options were to be a big mistake. With the day lost we head back over the Portillon where the chili atom bombs decide to explode! We leave Spain behind and descend into the welcome warmth of Luchon. We cap off the afternoon with a few hours in the local spa sweating in the 42 degrees of steaming heat.
Day 3; Coffee, croissants and onto the big one. Col du Tourmalet (2115m) oh hang on, first we have to get up and over the Col d'aspin (1489m) two absolute cycling classics. Today Fraser isn't riding, and instead is indulging in his passion  for photography. Phil and myself abuse the moment and get Fraser to ferry up our helmets, gilets and warmers, allowing us an air cooled ascent of the summits. The Col d'Aspin has a lovely steady start, I refer to these as 'free kilometres' Prior to us starting on the climb three locals rode past, I guess they've got a good kilometre on me, in other words fair game and I give chase. The first rider is caught as the mountain shows it's teeth for the first time. The other two are ahead and working together, I settle into a tempo that allows me to make ground on them, and once on their shoulders I kick down. I keep up the pace for a few hairpins and soon they've dropped back out of sight. Next is the descent to the base of the Tourmalet. The descent is massive, how can any road point downwards for so long? We stop at the base of the climb for a quick coffee and to fill our bottles. No gels, energy bars or magic potions have passed our lips this whole trip. We fill our bottles with mountain water from the village fountain just as those pioneers would have done a century ago. Next we're on the climb and I'm savouring every pedal stroke, every great racing cyclist has passed this way. The heritage is like a drug and the climbing is easy. Well until the ski resort of La Mongie on the Tourmalets slopes were the gradient kicks in. This part is made doubly hard by all the construction vehicles working here. My rear wheel is spinning in the mud and dust and I start to suffer. It's then I realise I've climbed the Col d'Aspin and most of the Tourmalet on a coffee and a croissant. But as good fortune would have it Frasers on the next bend taking pictures and has a buscuit to give me, it's enough to get me past a few riders ahead and to the top of the Tourmalet. After a quick lunch of cheese ham and coffee it's helmets on and back down again. However we car it back to Luchon from the base of the Tourmalet.
Just metres to go

Day 4; Rest day with a cable car trip up to the summit of Superbagneres. From the top I recalled 'retro' finishes of early Tours up here. I think one day I'll ride it in lurid lycra smoking a cigar like the mulleted hardmen of yesteryear!
Day 5; A day with the crazee French. We've signed up for the 117km La lapébie sportive. A ride that takes you over four Tour De France summits finishing with the Hors catagorie Port de Bales. We line up with some very serious looking guys, in serious kit on serious bikes. I got the feeling that this wasn't going to be the usual British Sunday bun run. The mayor sends us off. The roads aren't closed 'technically' but in practice they are. The Gendarmerie keep us safe as we hurtle down both carriage ways stopping all traffic, not that that bothers the average French motorist. As much as I hate to mix my units of measurement, the first 20km are ridden at an average of over 26mph. They are mad, nose down slipstreaming any motor vehicle in their path, you can actually smell burning rubber.
Then we hit the first climb, the Col de Menté (1349m) and it all quietens down. Strangely this boy from the flatlands of Bedfordshire is passing every rider he can'd have been proud. A couple of young guys pull up to me and start a bit of banter, they're clearly miffed that it's a Brit pushing the pace and a 53 year old one at that. I carry on after dropping them. Now if you'd have been proud of my climbing, you'd have face palmed at my descending. Well actually I can descend pretty well, but these lads are either brilliant or raving mad. Still it's only a handful that pass.
Next up are the lumps of the Col de Buret (600m) and Col des Ares (797m) I hook up with some fellow senior riders for this long section of the ride. You can instantly tell when they're a good rider, you can fit in without a word being spoken, they might have been from Mars but you can ride with each other as if you've been together since you were kids. It's all the little nuances.
As much as I enjoy their company I start to drop them as we begin the final climb of the day, the 'without' category  Port de Balés (1755m) This is real leg buster. So I work with my monitor to keep things under control. It's on this climb that I get passed for the first time, there is a longer tougher option running at the same time and the Elite/professional class riders from that event pass me on the early kilometres of the climb.
I still pass everyone in my event, even if it hurts on the near 11% slopes. Some are now walking, a few are off their bikes on the floor in agony. Their pain is my gain...sorry! I summit without stopping to put my warm gear on, I can see the valley bellow is sunny and I hope to be down there pretty damn quick. Still a dozen or so crazies pass me on the descent. Some are risking death by cutting off the corners, they can't see around the hairpins and people have been killed doing this, absolutely fucking stupid.
The descent is fast and difficult. The parts where it passes through the tiny villages on it's slopes are worthy of your best attention. How a whole Tour gets down here in one I don't know.
As we ride to the finish in Luchon one of my old buddies from earlier joins me and we cross the line pro stylee.
Day 6; Superbagneres, or it should have been. I started on it's slopes but started to feel all biked out. That and we had to fly back on this day, so I about turned vowing to ride it first next time.
All in all it was a great trip. Fraser and Phil were a pleasure to ride with (good luck in the 3 peaks Phil). The food was excellent, the Fondue being the highlight and it's cheese induced nightmares. Belgian beers every day, good coffee and croissants to die for. And the Spa, I'd recommend that after a tough day. Hopefully Fraser will invite me back another year?
Textbook piccy Tourmalet with Phil

Friday, 23 August 2013

Cyclo-Cross 2013/14

Bring it on
In Belgian colours for 2013/14

LVRC/MKCA Circuit Races Round 15

So that's it then, the last road race for me anyway of 2013. The day brought the now customary good weather and with it good numbers. And was especially good to see some old friends back for the last race.
Tonight's race format was the usual, half an hour racing the inner oval, then out through the gates and into the twists and turns for the last half hour plus. And tonight was anti clockwise, just how I like it.
Soon we were off and settled into the familiar steady starting pace. Pretty well everyone hangs on here, but of the forty or so only about ten of us do any work. So at about twenty minutes it was time to get things going. Here come the Belgians...straight down the outside and keep going. It's a signature  move and slightly suicidal, but as long as I can fall back in I know it's safe to do it. One lap on the front and I swing out to let someone else take up the work. Someone else goes and I fall safely in.Now the pace is higher, a few are falling off the back. We are now racing.
The field cut to size
We then get the 'Gates open' next lap and there's the usual frantic push to be near the front to ensure the safest passage through the tight turn. We all squeeze through in such style it brings applause from the marshals. The 'gates' have cut the numbers further, a quick head count makes it thirteen, so a top ten isn't out.
We race tightly, the strongmen are trying to use the series of turns to drop riders, but we're staying together.
Then up comes the three laps to go sign and with it a slight drop in the pace. I'm pretty happy with were I am, nothing splits me from the guys on the front yet I know that the winner will be one of the first through the turns. Five single file turns spit you onto the finishing straight, so you have to be up there to stand a chance. I move right up to the front before we hit them, but we're all thinking the same and the group is three abreast.
Then BOOM through the gates, a rider in front of me over cooks a turn and skids the back wheel. I brake and dive under him and four go past me. Into the straight and I catch three. The LVRC only count the first three, but I estimate my position at worst 10th.
So yep that's it for another year. It's off to the Pyrenees now for a week. Then a few training rides before the cross season starts.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Classic Restoration E W Hannington

I purchased this old 'Barn find' frame a little while back, to be honest I didn't really know what I was buying as the Ebayer was into agricultural machinery. Anyway a deal was done and I bought it. The old boy said there were some wheels with it, he dug out a mismatched set of old sprints, the front an old Mailard large flange had no internals. Luckilly I had an old Mailard in my garage. Bolted to the frame was a worn Campagnolo headset, now bagged and stored. A campagnolo GS chainset that had laminated, that went on Ebay. and a set of early nutted 105 calipers and non aero levers. These were cleaned and polished and kept.
The frame was a 531 Professional E W Hannington, a builder better known for his racing trikes and tandems.
The frame has lovely shot in stays, Suntour vertical drop outs and weight saving cut outs in the fork crown, the cut outs are plugged with alloy discs to stop ingress.
When stripped down I found the rust treatable - just. However the 531 Pro is a delicate frame and will need care when being blasted and painted. Put it this way, although it's old and steel it's waaaay lighter than my modern Ti frame with carbon forks.
As for the kit, well it had Shimano brakes already, and I had some very nice barely used Shimano 600EX kit sitting about. So a Shimano build it was. I sourced some NOS Shimano down tube levers, a 600EX aero post, Stronglight SL headset, 3ttt bars for the stem I had and a repro Concor saddle, finally some clear Bennotto tape came up.
Today I loosely hung some parts on the frame to check for alignment, and all's  well, though the rear wheel just misses fouling the front mech; it's that tight even with the Conti Giro tubs fitted.
Trial fitting of parts

Now I have to get it painted and an aluminium plug made to cap the crown. Paint will be one of three colours, Eggshell Blue, Pastel Green or the palest  Pink. Decals can't be bought so I might just have the letters E.W.H made in Red White and Blue.
Looking forward to a ride on it to the Hub for coffee so I can sit back and admire.

LVRC/MKCA Circuit Races Round 14

Round fourteen and the penultimate round of this series. To be honest it's was a bit of a mleh day. Andy had gone to the trouble of riding up here to race, but felt shit and promptly rode back home again. Everything was same old same old.
As usual I told myself to sit back, been telling myself that all year and as usual I did a bit too much. By the time the race got to that slightly nervous moment, the bit were the ones that are going to go mass near the front, I was a bit heavy in the legs. I made the gap when it went, well I actually judged it and went to the front so I didn't have to chase.
All went well for a few laps until the elastic went on the exit of the bends. I think I've cracked it now though, I've been going too fast and tight and braking when I should be accelerating. Slow in fast out.
I huddled in with a few A/B racers and we ate up dropped riders and lapped others, and avoided the humility of being lapped.
That said I still finished somewhere between 7th and 11th, the organisers   only count the top three.
So one more road race and that's it for the year. Then the bike goes off to Chamberlaine Cycles who'll be looking at making it/me more aero and converting it to tubeless, anything to squeeze out the extra few seconds and feet.
Leading out in fading light

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Rutland 200km Audax

Good weather, not too hot, well not hot at all. Bright, but not breezy in fact still as a mill pond (is that a saying?) Perfect weather for a 200km/130 mile Audax. We, myself,  Fraser and Compass Keith assembled in a car park somewhere in Bedford with a small gathering of Audaxers? for the 2013 running of the Rutland Ramble. On paper the event looked a breeze, a slow old affair - well all Audaxes are aren't they! We collected our Brevet cards, had them stamped by the....whatever you call an Audax official and set off. Set off the wrong way. I like to think we looked cunning like we had a plan most cunning, but an Audax lady came after us and pointed us in the right direction, we didn't fool her with our cunning plan.
Once we'd cycled a few yards the Garmin made a little bleep to let us know it was a happy Garmin. We caught up with a pair of Audaxi and settled down with Keith and a chirpy Garmin at the helm.
This was already very agreeable. I hardly ever changed a gear and the scenery was stunning. This was a navigation heavy ride so I can't really mention all the places we rode through, but for now we were on our way to our first control (ah ha that's what an Audax official is called, a controller) at Blisworth. This was plain sailing, until Keiths tyre started to go down. We gave it a highly technical squeeze and decided to ride it out to the control. However it went down pretty soon after, and I went into a tyre and tube changing masterclass. Sorted we moved on and before long we were at our first control. The three of us were suckered into becoming life long Audaxers at this control after being offered huge Chelsea buns, bananas and water for free. Brevet cards stamped, fingers gunked up with icing we cycled off for control number two at the Wistow Rural Centre and our 100km marker.
We were warned that this part of the ride was bumpy, and boy they weren't kidding. This was relentless up and down, nothing big, but 39...53....39.....53 ring all the way. I just wanted a flat section, even a hilly section if it was long enough anything so I didn't have to keep switching from one to the other. Still the route was bloody stunning and we were getting giggly with the silliness of the bumps, the sound the Garmin kept making and our crap jokes.
Some interesting architecture earlier that day
We cycled through Naseby towards control number two continuing the up and down theme, until a jarring the cattle grid at the rural centre gave us signaled the end of section. We had a Brevet cards stamped and set off for control number three at Elton Hall. However first we had a lunch appointment at the tea rooms in Hallaton.
We were in the zone now, even my failing eyesight seemed to get better and I could read the route sheet on the hoof, soon I'd be eating.
What happened next had to be seen to be believed. A diesel patch caught Keith unaware. We didn't see what happened, but a local announcing himself  as Mr Denzel Groat said that Keith looked as if was about to go down, but somehow got his knee down hitting the tarmac with it and bounced himself up again without stopping and rode on with just a cut to the knee, it seemed unbelievable!
We saw the cream tea sign and pulled in. Coffee, pasties, salad and cake - nice. This was truly civilised cycling. The stop seemed popular with the other riders as well. I was enjoying the 'family' feel.
Purchasing Speedo's online
The route was now more varied. Keiths navigation took us alongside lakes, through Forests, up and down hills, along flood plains and sometimes just a little bit the wrong way, but right on target.
We arrived at control number three at Elton Hall at 151km. This control was unmanned so we had to make a purchase to provide a receipt to prove we had passed through. 79p packs of Tomato seeds purchased for the receipts we set off for the finish.
The final leg of the ride was the easiest to navigate, fairly flat and straight, through Bedfordshires agriculture. The sun was also out, sadly so was the wind which knocked a bit off the what had been an increasing average speed. We had a final short stop at a village store that had thoughtfully put out chairs in the sun for it's patrons. I'd been gagging for something sweet, I'd only drunk plain water and a coffee since the start, so I savoured the classic Lucozade in the sun. Keith dished out some special tablets and told us to put them in our water bottles and say nothing. Fueled by the fruit flavoured wonder tablets, we soon hit the finish. The best finish I've ever seen in a cycle event - the organisers own kitchen, what a most welcoming sight. Bikes on the drive and strangers eating your food and drinking your tea. Classic. I'm hooked.
Always worth a piccy, Frasers handbuilt

Thursday, 8 August 2013

LVRC/MKCA Handicap Round 13

Mleh my first DNF at the MK Bowl. All due to a severely twisted bollock.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The quintessential Southern Shandy drinkers XC ride

Not sure what the distance of this little 'Old Skool' XC loop is, but it takes about four to five hours to complete. And to be honest I'm only posting this because I've been asked so many times about it. The ride starts for me from my front door, I just cross the road and I'm already on a bridleway on the Rothchilds land heading towards Woburn. It's just gone 8am and I'm getting hot already. Off the Rothchilds land and into Blue Bell Woods, I descend towards the Grand Union and I get soaked by the early morning dew being thrown up from the close cut grass, wasn't expecting that.
Once across the canal it's a short spin on the road to Rushmere, a fantastic hilly country park and the scene of much cycle way building, including downhill runs. Rushmere is a great stop for coffee, but I'm too early this time.
Nice views overlooking  the park and lake
I'm now heading towards Woburn, and the trails turn from deciduous woodland to coniferous forest. I'm on the Greensand Ridge and the sand is deep and dry and has to be taken at speed just to stay upright. This whole area is one of my favourites. I tear through the Pines, drop down to Woburns 'play area', through the ancient sand pits and out towards Lidlington.
I have a long arrow straight exposed path to ride, it's so firm I'm reminded of my trip to the Arenberg earlier this year - I realise my suspension is locked out!
On the tarmac again and riding past the mahoosive Amazon warehouse. I take advantage of the cycle lanes which oddly just become natural trails once past the huge building. I tear arse down the path praying no one is out for an early stroll. More road, and I can see the next section of off road looming 'Up' in the distance. From Lidlington I climb a nasty loose ascent towards the Millbrook testing ground, it's a bit surreal up here, I'm riding typical English singletrack, but a glance to my left I see what looks like a mini Switzerland that is Millbrook. I have a very steep loose descent that seriously caught me out in pre disc brake days, I don't get it wrong today. It starts to undulate so much I can feel each little climb sapping my strength, riding in the 'granny' I have my nose over the front wheel trying desperately to keep the front wheel planted. I top the last little hill and plummet down towards the site of the latest Center Parcs.
I'm now on the return leg and on another great little sandy trail. This one is shared with proper 4X4 enthusiasts and on a bike it's fast and furious. The key is to stay on the sides of the path, hit the middle and you fall mercy to the deep sand and once in it, it's hard to get out without ending up on your arse. I then exit the sandy forest and continue on field side paths that take me almost back to Woburn.
My next section of trail follows a stream, I'm pretty confident I won't be getting a 'booty' today. I exit the creek and pootle through Woburn Safari park.
As I pass through the park I notice the sign that tells me only 3 deer have been killed this year, that's low IIRC.
I'm back in Woburn woods and I can't avoid the climb or any climbing, I slowly climb up onto the ridge and once on top I know it's all downhill, well mentally anyway. The Brickhills are still standing in my way. At this point I should be almost home, but I noticed two roadies about to take the hilly Brickhill route, and foolishly I decide to chase. I catch them, but they're not proper roadies just sports riders (one day I'll write about my snobbery) oh well it's a few extra miles.
It's shortly after this that I rejoin my outward leg, feeling pretty good and still carrying a bit of fluid I decide to up my pace. I take care as I hoon along as it's getting to Sunday walk time. I exit Rushmere without upsetting a soul and start my ascent of Blue Bell Woods. Passing through here earlier I was soaked by the morning dew, now my arms and legs are glistening with sweat under the afternoon sun.
I exit the woods and roll down the road to my house, job done. Four hours it's taken, come winter that'll be closer to five.
Brambles were a pain today