Monday, 22 December 2014

Another twelve months on two wheels

Well it's all mince pies and steady rides for a week now, so I thought I'd go over the 'rides wot I done' in 2014.
To be honest I thought it would be a very quiet year, as I'd decided not to race, well not road anyway. And racing has always been a big part of my year. Instead I wanted to have a go at Audax, I'd done some many years ago and had become reacquainted with Audax again in 2013 riding with Fraser and Keith. At the back of my mind was the Super Randonneur.
So no racing.
First important ride of 2014 was....well a race! The last cyclo cross race of the 2013/14 season.  And just to make this one a bit spicy we had the honour of the current World Masters Cyclo Cross Champion racing with us, 2014 might be interesting. In fact the last race was the best of the season.

The rest of January and February were spent just riding along, and converting my well seasoned cyclo cross bike for a life of Audax.  Happy with the finished result and having become better acquainted with my Garmin I formerly announced my intent to go for it to Keith. The 'go for it' being the SR....the Super Randonneur. I...we had a calender year to complete the four must do distances to get the award, 200km 300km 400km and the 600km all of course to be completed non stop. They could have been done in any order, but it seemed logical to do it in order as we were learning on the hoof.
Our first Audax was the Stevenage start of summertime special 200km.  Joning Keith and I were Gail, Fraser, Steve and Ross.  G, Steve and Ross were doing their first Audax  and a distance that would take them past anything they'd done before. The route was a flat to undulating affair heading out in the direction of Suffolk and back.  Sounds easier than it actually was, as most of the undulation was on the return leg when we were laden down with tea and cake from stopping too long.
Lesson from the 200? less stopping.
Check point Charlie on the Stevenage
The following weekend it was the 300km, another crowd but different faces this time. Keith, Steve, Vince, Trevor, Tim and myself. We all set off from Chalfont and set course for the New Forest. Leaving the warmth of event HQ was a bit of a haul as it was still dark and pretty cold, but off we set. The route pretty well goes as the Crow flies, and we managed to stay together and route find very well. Rain set in on top of the Hampshire Downs and it would be with us all the way to our turnaround check point in Fordingbridge, though it was horizontal by the halfway mark. The return leg sees me buckle a wheel which is eventually repaired. And it also sees us say goodbye to Trevor and Tim who both suffer show stopping mechanical. Keith, Vince, Steve and myself all finish later that night.
Lessons from the 300? stop even less.
Another event the following weekend,  This time though it's not Audaxing, it's the Hell Of the North Cotswolds a tough 100km off roader. I'm with Miles for this unique event, one we are both veterans of. This event has always been marked by weather of some kind, heat, driving snow or for today hurricane winds. We complete this toughie together in just over six hours.
Hell  Of the North Cotswolds

May comes, and I'm alone for my 400km Audax attempt. A route out that'll take me over Symonds Rock before heading South to cross the Severn bridge and back into England. It's hard going near the Welsh coast, but I complete this 400km ride solo and without issue. Just my 600 to do to be come a Super Randonneur.
Lessons from the 400? not a lot.
A great turning point on any ride

I have my first bike fit late May.
In June I join old friends to ride and eat in France.

July, July 12th it's the biggy. The Buzzard 600km. Keith, Steve, Tom and I are riding this, though we will all go our own way if we have issues. Long and short? We loose Steve and Tom very early on. My crank falls off soon after. Keith waits for me and we complete 'the' longest ride I've ever done in horrendous conditions. To this day I still don't think the magnitude of this ride has sunk in! Really big thanks Keith.

Off to Ghent, Belgium with Fraser to meet ex pat Phil.  Superb Flandrien riding including the Kwaremont, Paterberg the brutal Koppenberg and the famous Muur.  And as good as the riding great company, good food and Belgian beer. And the start of my interest in European ladies in tight jeans, they just do them so well.
Steep? look at the fence line

October soon comes, and with it the first of the seasons cross races, yes I know I said  wouldn't, but reading all the race reports over the year from the young club members whetted my appetite.  And we're racing in Milton Keynes so it would be rude not to. I've talked loads of club members to join me, they don't hate me for it and become hooked.

September. Quite simply why I ride. Fraser has kindly offered to take me to Luchon in the Pyrenees along with Neil. What can I say that I didn't say about last years Pyrenean ride? Famous climbs? they're all here. Tough climbs, descending bat shit fast off a wet mountain, descending bat shit fast of a sunny dry mountain. Scenery........mademoiselles in tight jeans. Food the beers! All the ups and downs including the one that got away.....again, Superbagneres I will get you. Fraser you're a star.
Especially for Iain

Back to Blighty and into the cyclo cross season, and a season head on with Miles who finishes the year one win ahead of me.
So no racing then! and not such a quiet year, just a different one. I doubt if I'll go back to Audax, but I'm glad Keith found his 'thang' in Audax. As for the racing? I missed it, as my boss at work said 'it's in your blood' So I'll be back racing in 2015.
And three countries again, four if you include Wales!

I consider myself a very lucky bloke to have such a great interest and mates.  

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Central CXL Round 8 Hillingdon Cycle Circuit

Back on the bike after missing two rounds, well it was either this or a gentle club ride. I'd been very ill since October and hadn't (and still haven't) ridden on the road, so with only one ride, a mountain bike ride under my belt I felt fit and ready to race.......not.
The plan was to follow and not race, just get my mojo back. Then if it went okay I could start riding again.
Hillingdon isn't a techy course, but when wet it can become akin to riding through wattle and daub, a bike breaking combination of London clay and cut dried straw. Today it was wet, but drying which is the worst.
So considering the distance we had to travel and the conditions it was good to see eight LBRCC riders racing. Miles, Kevin  and me in V50+. Andrew, Jules and Darren in V40+. And Chris and Ross in the Seniors.
One lap of practice was all I needed, all rideable except one bloody section where the straw had been cut and was lying on the mud. My bike clogged up here, everywhere else it was great. I wasn't the only one V's canti's and Discs all clogging, and yet some weren't plagued at all? I would have to run this section.
I tried something new this time in warm up, and probably made Ross think WTF. Hitting corners as hard as to see how far they could be pushed and easing back to find the limit, seems to work.
So to the start.  It was a small field, so being called up didn't count for much. Hillingdon is unique in having a road start so the entire grid is only two rows. A brief chat from the commissairre and we're off. I don't try and move to the front Like I would usually do and the field passes, Miles is already ahead and Kevin soon overtakes. I settle in to follow and hassle. The first lap is going okay. We come to a switchback near the end of the lap and I can see Miles is within striking distance and kevin is a few bike lengths ahead, all of which is very encouraging considering my health..
Miles and Kevin ahead, so is everyone

Then! it's the mud and reed section, the bike slows so I shoulder it and run (Pick it up and run) I run though the problem section and then slam the bike down onto the tarmac to go under the flag to complete lap one.
Within  yards of lap two Kevin is off the bike and trying to sort out clay induced mechanicals. I go past. I can't see Miles now so I assume he has ridden 'that' section. The bike cleans itself allowing me to press on thank goodness. I think it's somewhere here that Jules passes, I don't recall seeing Andrew. I get on with it, finding some better lines, even overtaking five in one go. I feel so good that when I arrive at the 'problem section' I decide to ride it. BIG MISTAKE,  as I leave the deep mud my bike becomes so clogged up it stops sending me over the bars.
The spectators are yelling at me to run, but the wheels have jammed solid, I'm rocking the bike back and forth, slamming it down, but the clay and straw is sticking fast. With hindsight it would have been quicker to take the wheels out. I finally get it moving.....just. I get a shout SIX MINUTES, it didn't seem that long, but I lost count of the people that passed me. Keith comes past just as I'm setting off again.
alone again, not shit but not good either

The bike starts to clean itself again. The gong is much better and the mud is drying, those bloody seniors they'll get a much cleaner run. The bell goes in the distance, this is just a three lapper! To make things even better four of the tight switchbacks have gone and now the course runs through in a straight line, those jammy gits that'll follow in the next race.
Just the 'problem section' left. I follow  a fast lady, she takes a different line through it. And #### me it's the line I should have taken all race as the bike cleans it. Well you live and learn.
Race over and I'm almost jumping with joy and relief happy to be riding again and with two more rounds to look forward to.
Mile won prize money which we spent on tea and cakes, very Rock N Roll.
Afterwards we watched Chris and Ross go. Standing on the sidelines us oldies where cursing their clean bikes as they came round lap after lap. Bitter?
Well done to all Miles, Kevin, Andrew, Jules, Darren, Chris and Ross, and welcome to possibly our newest and youngest rider, little Miss Darren.