Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Snow Pt1; Blood Sweat & Gears

I'm off this week, having to use up holiday. The idea was to get some good base miles in, but snow has put paid to that. Still as they say 'there's no wrong weather, just the wrong bike' so the mountain bike was pressed into service and a call put out on Facebook. Before I knew it we had a group meeting at Rushmere Park that Saturday at 9am. I left the house early trussed up in layers of kit and took the off road route to the meet point. Passing through Southcott Stud and Blue Bell Woods took longer than expected, but I just managed to meet the group on time, and not a bad turn out either; Keith, Tom, Ian, Stuart T, Stuart K, Miles and myself. I was self appointed ride lead and set us off on a classic XC route.
First it's a climb, that'll get the lungs working in this cold, then we can settle into some beautiful snow covered  singletrack, the snow proves to be ideal for riding isn't always.
Our second climb is longer, climbing in the snow is proving to be a good workout and I don't feel so bad about not being on the road. The climb leads us to the tight man made singletrack in Oak Wood, as it's man made, and made for fun whoops are had all round. The scenery is stunning, riding thick virgin snow on the hills among the Pine trees puts me in mind of the trails in British Columbia.
Next we have an 'old skool' xc ride over to Woburn woods, we take the old closed A5 for safety, then dart off road past Woburn golf club. The riding here is flatter, but more technical. We ride a few bits that have riders dabbing for fear of falling down the steep banks, then onto flowing trails before hitting another man made trail. You're safe on this trail, but it tests your skills to the max, Ian and myself clear it, but I can tell from the shouts behind that the others aren't flowing as well!
They were Triffids I tell ya
From here it's just great straightforward riding, but in just stunning conditions. We cross the Woburn Road and do a final loop before turning about and heading home.
Now why is when I warn other people about hazards it's me that always comes a cropper? 'Watch your heads' wallop. The injury is minor, but I have blood pouring off my head down my jacket and over my bike.
The return leg is always more flowing, so I know the guys are going to love it even more.
A great days riding is finished off with a stint along the canal to get us back into Leighton where we wave Stuart off who has another hours riding to do before he can put his feet up.

Sunday. More of the same has been arranged, but this time we're doing the Ashridge area, and we are to meet Stuart and matt at the start of the Beacon climb. We leave Leighton with forty minutes to reach Stuart and Matt, but the off road going in deep snow prove very very hard going. And is further compounded when I get a puncture. We stop under a canal bridge and promptly get it sorted. We are only a little further on when I crash walloping the trees and thankfully not falling into the water, Stuart K crashes on the exact same spot, but suffers a snapped shifter so has to return home rather than face the hills with no gears.
We get onto the road at Great gap, pass the local cycling club in Pitstone and finally meet Stuart and Matt an hour later.
At the start of the Beacon
We don't hang about and head up the Beacon. At the T junction we go ahead! off road onto a stiff climb. The snow deepens as we ascend, by the top it's near ten inches. Sadly the terrain dictates that we descend only to go all the way up again. Descending in the deep powder snow means hanging on tight, and well praying basically. The off road climb of the Beacon is massive and proves too much and we all have to walk. The snow is so deep the bikes stand up on their own in it.
Once at the summit we head into the woods for easy snowy trails. Unlike yesterday when the only riders we saw were those from twenty3c and Team MK, today has brought out loads, though mainly out for coffee, cake and jelly based energy foods. We pass the café for a fast flat loop thinking we'll have a stop before we head off home. We down the coffee and avoid the tempting cream burgers, and re trace our route.
At the summit of the Beacon we make a decision to descend by road, rather than face the inevitable face plants if we were to descend in the deep white stuff.
We complete what has to be the slowest ever descent of Ivinghoe Beacon in the history of cycling! and say goodbye to Stuart at the bottom as he takes the off road route home. We have decided to get home by road. The roads are soaked with melting snow and it's not long before any insulation we had in our kit is rendered useless by the wet, my hand are now hurting. The human sat navs in our brains are working overtime to get us back the quickest way, though I'm cheered up a bit as we pass cars unable to get up the hills we take with ease.
Once home I start to feel queezy as the blood rushes to my hands, but it doesn't last long and I'm planning the next ride.
Tuesday. I've arranged to go out that night so I spend the morning sprucing up the bikes, they're suffering with the snow and salt.
I have two hours on the turbos at steady endurance pace listening to all my Amy Winehouse stuff. I don't want to go mad incase the conditions are bad tonight.
I meet Stuart at Stockgrove park for a two hour night ride. Thankfully the snow is still soft and rideable and looks great through two thousand lumens of LED bike lighting.
As usual the ride starts with a climb, It's feeling a bit hard and I tell Stuart that I'm going to put smaller rings on, then at the top I realize I've had it in the big ring....I never use the big ring?
We zig zag through Stockgrove before doing the main climb out and into the Brickhills.
Snow is now falling quite hard, and although that makes it hard to see, you can still see enough to take in the beauty of riding here at night in the snow. We do a nice XC loop and take in some semi technical stuff before turning for home.
The roads back are shall we say fun? snow, slush and solid ice. I'm taking a line in the slush on the road downhill to the finish when I decide the other side looks better. Schoolboy error, never ever cross solid ice on tarmac going downhill. And onto the deck, thankfully the stuff that put me on the deck stops me from hurting myself as I slide down the road. Though all the snow compacted in my helmet as I've plowed along tells me it could have been worse.......always wear a lid kids.
We, well I, hobble over the hill and back to the car. Another cracking ride, but I'm looking forward to some dry tarmac.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Culham Park cyclo cross 2012

Looking more impressive than I was!
Round 10, the final counting round. The race was to be held in Aylesbury, and hosted at RAF Halton, but things didn't go to plan for the organisers. So in stepped a gaggle of clubs and supporters to make sure the show went ahead. The planned venue was lost, so it was back to Culham park, the scene of carnage and mud plugging and much falling off (not by me though) earlier in the season.
To be honest I was really looking forward to this, the venue is a classic and I was looking forward to a good old ding dong with my season long friend and foe Keith Perry. Sadly though Keith was ill and not racing, and the formidable Pete Smith was there so it was a done deal in the over 50s.
They lined up on the start, I say they because I was in the bog and had to sprint like crazy afterwards to even start the race!
The four of us from LBRCC all got a good start. Stuart T, Stuart K, myself and Jools in that order. We hung on and we were all close. Then I hit a problem that went on to cost me each lap. The first climb was a wet grassy slope and I couldn't manage it, the 36x25 didn't give me enough traction and it called for a leg sapping  time wasting dismount and run each lap. Later on the first lap I was hit by an idiot trying to pass on the only section of the course where overtaking was impossible, and I was floored left floundering still clipped in. It was gutting because I could climb and pass others on the gravel climbs.
On the second lap I was passed by Jools as he twiddled up the grassy slope for a second time, leaving me stood looking at my feet.
I was now having a shit time. I'd forgotten my watch so I didn't know where I was in the race. I'd left my preferred race thermals at home as well and my back was killing me. For the first time all season I wanted to step off the bike. But it's a poor reflection on yourself if you can't suffer the hurt for a mere hour.
In the MX moguls
I decided to sit up, not cruise, but go steady. To some extent it helped and I passed a few riders in the technicals and on the gravel climb. But still the bloody grassy slope was doing for me, I'd get on someones wheel and they'd slap it into 28 and slip away.
I'd not seen the others, except a brief glance of lime green mid way. So when the bell came it was a relief, and it spurred me on to do a good final lap
Pedal-brake-dismount-run-pedal etc etc and minutes later I was going under the chequered flag.
Honours on the day went to Jools, Stuart K, Stuart T and myself all finishing within three minutes. That was a proper tough race and a fitting end to the official season.
Got to give a big shout to the clubs that stepped in to give us all a race, and to Keith for lying about how well I was doing from the side lines
Oh and bigger gears for next year.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Chairman's choice January 2013

For January it has to be the Harp Hilly 100 reliability trial
This is the big one in the 'Chilterns Classics' calender. Riding this is taking part in local cycling history, everyone know's the 'Hilly'. For any clubman new or seasoned completing it will give you the sense that there's nothing you can't ride.
The original HHH started in the mid 50's and the distance was then 100 miles, so chapeau to the old fellas that did it on heavy steel clubman's bikes. Nowadays we just ask you to cover a manageable 100 kilometres.
The ride, although the work of the harp Road Club, starts from Hemel Hempstead CC's club rooms in Nash Mills. The route? all you need to know is that it's hilly. Think of a hill.....yep you're going up that. They're all included, Bison, Ivinghoe, Aston.
I should say, I won't be riding it this year as it clashes with my final cross race of the season. Though I have ridden this since the mid seventies, when it rode out from Amersham, starting under the railway viaduct.
As a final incentive Harp Road Club present a shield to the club with the most finishers covering the full 100km. There's no reason that one day we can't hold that prize.
On a further note I have been in touch with the Harp  to see if details of the original 100 mile route are still known. I have received a reply and hopefully will get the details in time for us to retrace it's original path this year.