Monday, 28 December 2015

2015 A Year With The LBRCC

As the clubs fourth year comes to a close, and I sit here with a dodgy leg unable to race in the best conditions of the Christmas break so far, I've taken time to have a  little peek through some old posts and tried to remember all the cycly? things I've done with the club. Not to mention some of the great things other club members did in 2015.
I always think a cycling year starts in Spring, not on the first day of the year. In fact the very first official LBRCC ride was in the Spring of 2011, when a staggering four members turned out. A far cry from todays turnouts, and yes 2011 so we're just about to be five years old.
Like the start of most clubs years the riding is always a bit disjointed while people make plans for the forthcoming year
Though stand out memories are those of Tom preparing to tour the States and Keith getting ready for the Paris-Brest-Paris. Whilst I admired them, I didn't envy them, but I did like to picture the club green jersey on an American black top and in among the thousands of international jersey's riding the PBP.
Some were very busy and hard at work because they'd applied for BC race licences, and the ideas and dreams born in the Black Lion over winter were soon to become reality. Grim reality.
Racing in 2015 really kicked off for the LBRCC with more members racing than ever before. And I was very pleased to see that our racers weren't pot hunting for points in easy short races, the club picked tough races, earned their points, but most of all earned the respect of those around them. Everyone of them was an ambassador for the club.

Whilst green jersey's were rolling across the States, riding non-stop across Europe or battling the peloton, something else was going on.
The day to day life of a club, the meat and bones of riding that bonds all members. Late 2014 saw many new riders join, and by 2015 many of those new members had new bikes and a new enthusiasm. I could tell 2015 was going to be a good year.
My plans were to simply race, a cocktail of tough open road races followed by a long summer on the Criterium circuit.  And throw in as much fun stuff between as possible. The first real fun of 2015 was the Rapha hell of the North, a homage to the Paris Roubaix but with beer and frites at the end instead of trophies.
Something else I noticed as chairman was the quality of the clubs riding, so much better. There were issues, but they were very minor. Behind the scenes it was decided that we'd get the most experienced riders to share their knowledge on the club runs even if it meant upsetting a rider or two, but I know that riders have more fun and enjoyment when they're part of a well oiled machine so it was worth cracking a few eggs.
We also had a 'Race Experience' day were racers old and new from the BC and LVRC shared their experience with newcomers on the safety of a closed road race circuit. That really paid dividends.

So members old and new on bikes old and new settled in for the summer miles. I was confident that we'd all hold our own and do the club proud.
The race lads were well underway. Clubs rides were finally sorted and free from issues for all to enjoy. And a whole host of LBRCC riders were spreading they're wings on the Continent, usually the Alps!
I'd had some races under my belt by the start of summer, but my trip to Belgium with Fraser was the highlight to the start of the year. We rode the Gent-Wevelgem, but then became tourists for the rest of the weekend due to the terrible weather (remember G being blown off he's bike? that was there and that weekend)
Summer 2015 went well for the club. By the end of the season the racers had gained points and moved up categories. Keith had completed his first PBP. Tom was back safe and sound from the US of A. Club runs were leaving the Black Lion every Sunday. Everything was how it should be.
By September my race season had come to an end, and so it was off to the Pyrenees with Fraser and Neil for our customary end of summer week long trip in the mountains. We met Phil there, our host from Belgium earlier in the year. If we weren't fit at the start of that trip, Phil was going to make sure we were when we went home at the end of it. We climbed every day, and there was always a HC mountain thrown in.

October is often a time when clubs wind down, but not us. I have a passion for cross and I was determined that as many other LBRCC members would be forced to share this passion. People that don't like cross are like those that say they don't like a certain food even if they've never tried it. No time for that nonsense, plus a few members had cross bikes sat doing nothing. We were going to have big numbers representing LBRCC in cyclocross.
Sadly it was about this time that the club had it's first bad news of the year. Star LBRCC cross riders Chris and Jules both broke bones. Chris off the bike and Jules in a mountain bike accident.  Similar bad news came later in the year when our youngest rider Nathan was seriously injured whilst out riding in a collision with a car.
When the cross season started at RAF Halton we had eleven LBRCC members racing, and more would later pin on a number.
The season is still underway, and it has gone very well for us, even further respect has been gained. And we've been asked to host a race in 2016.
As the year came to an end the cross races stopped being every single weekend. And it was a chance to all meet up again. I'd been racing solid and hardly knew the members that joined during 2015, so it was great to get out on G rides and actually meet people and be a bit chairman like.
But the ride that tells you it's time to take a break and enjoy the festive season is the 'Sausage Ride' or 'Sausage Rides' a mountain bike sod about in the woods with tea and sausage rolls afterwards. Always fun and open to everyone no matter what your riding background.

So that's about it. Awards at our, and I use the words loosely 'Awards Ceremony' went to all the right folk. A handful of crossers are racing as I type. And some are finishing with a final flourish by doing the 'Festive 500'

2016 is our fifth birthday, and it looks like the party will begin even before the champagne of new years day goes flat. Last few cross races, Lion Of Leighton and the Harp Hilly Hundred anyone?

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Pre Christmas Recovery?

Before it's even started, what a fecking stupid idea.
Problem is I have loads of my twenty one days holiday left, and it's a case of use it or lose it. Though that's not the reason for my recovery week.
I think for the first, maybe second time in my life I've suffered real stress (yeah I can hear you all laughing). I've never given stress any real credence, thinking no one has stress. Not like I'm in the trenches or anything.
But the signs were there, I'll only mention two as the others are far too personal, and I hated the way I was. Firstly there was losing a stone without dieting, and then staying off the road bike for over two months just because I didn't want to ride were but a few, not sure I've ever been off the bike that long?
So I set the week aside.
I fall at the first hurdle. I simply can't face racing. So I decide to ride with the club instead, but I look at the steady ride and it's fifty miles, I just can't do it. So I simply lay on my bed in my cycling kit and just think about riding instead.
I'm clearly fatigued from hardly any sleep the last seven months.
I spend the day cleaning my bike and my kit and think more about racing in 2016 rather than worry about rushing back before I'm ready.
I prep the cross bike and make plans to ride Monday. But hey ho life has other plans and the ride doesn't happen. Determined to do something I jump on the Watt Bike, and though it has a broken data screen it can still be used manually.
I shove Daft Punk on, the sound of the Pyrenees in 2013 and start an old 'Time Crunched' interval training session. Suddenly I feel alive like I've never been off the bike, three minute sessions at max are still in me. Though the Watt Bike is great and playing a big part in things, far better than the Turbo which now seems erratic in comparison. Forty minutes plus warm up/down and I feel pleased with myself. I make a promise to myself to get out on the Ridley the next day.
The next day and life shows up again and I can't get out. The Watt Bike beckons.
After taking my dose of Ginseng and something called Ginkgo I sit down to look at my heart rate, my maximum and average. I've only got a pulse meter, no power meter and it's been about three years since I tested my maximum going up and down the bypass, and I ain't about to do that again. When I did do those tests the result was pretty much the same as the old fag packet calculation for maximum heart rate anyway. So I'm going with that old one now. 220 minus age 56 equals 164 max heart rate.
Back on the Watt Bike, twenty minutes warm up. Forty minutes at 85% and ten minutes warm down. Done.
The Siberian Ginseng and Ginkgo must be doing it's thang. I've never used anything like this before and I'm desperate not to take meds. I hope it's not all hype, the hippy that recommended it seemed certain of it's powers. I said I needed a pick me up to undo seven months of stress and lack of sleep, and these two are what she advised. Also bought loads of ingredients to make up my own bars, and for my back pockets from her.  I'm determined to keep the weight that I lost off, and will be embarking on a good diet from here on in, not a strict one, I don't want to be a bore. Just good enough to actually feel healthy inside and drop the eat anything coz I work and train hard attitude.
So day three, will I eventually get out?
Day three. After two good days on the Watt Bike and supplementary weight training, and the most sleep I've had for nearly a year I've decided to rest and diet. Thursday 'will' be a day out in the hills.

Day four and I'm out. All Belgian'd up and on the Ridley, and heading for the hills.
It's wet and it's windy and my first marker on my ride is a canal side ride parallel to the 'proper' road I'd normally take. The 28c road tyres just hang on, keeping me upright until I turn off and head up Ivinghoe Beacon. As I've been going steady there's no need to drop out of the big ring, instead I stand on the pedals all the way to the top. I'm already feeling good about being out.
I have to put the good feelings on hold as I turn into Ashridge and into a headwind. Gripping the bars near the stem I begin to embrace the conditions and pick up a meandering rider on my way along. Sadly for him I have to turn right and head off for a descent of Toms Hill. Going down Toms today is a bit hairy, my canti's are wide open for cross use and are only just scrubbing off speed as I sweep down over the wet greasy leafy road. So it's with some small relief when I turn off towards Wiggington.
The route from hear is plain sailing, just a small climb up to Wiggington and a series of undulations until the Crong. The Crong was a bastard of a descent today, absolutely filthy and my canti's provided only token braking, I was missing my Campags.
On the Lion of Leighton

Before heading for home I took an off road detour to check the conditions of the route we're using for the upcoming Lion of Leighton. They were okay BTW.
Home and job done. Just a good evening out to de stress even more, Duvel and curry and I'm not paying. The week of rest is working.
Helps wash down the Belgian toothpaste

Day five, bit of a beer and curry head. So time for some basic spannering on the race bike, and an overdue clean up of the mountain bike in readiness for Saturday's XC blast. I've also used all five of my cycling shorts and it's too cold to ride in Speedo's. So the soggy kit means a Watt Bike session later today.
Sessions on the Watt Bike done. Time to get ready for another session, the Black Lion-Pizza Express-Black Lion classic. Or the LBRCC Christmas drink/awards night...awards/drink night? never quite sure. Absolutely great night, all you need is two LBRCC riders and a drink and you have a party. Get a whole load of us together and you have a PARTY. Even the other diners and drinkers got in on our festivities. Top night of the year for me.
It's Saturday and I ain't moving. Pants and flip flops all day long.

Sunday and the last day of my break, and I'm on a long overdue club ride. I have trouble recognizing some of the guys it's been so long. The blasted cyclocross season has put a massive three month dent into my club runs. I've not been very chairmanny.
We also have three rides going out again which is nice. I've opted for G2 with Tom D leading and old route of mine. Forty Five miles on some right ropey roads. We set off on a mixed bag of bikes, modern carbon racers, aluminium winter hacks, cyclocrosser, 1960's clubmans bike and whoahhh a stunning loaded Ridley, my favourite brand. I'm a little bit sentimental when it comes to bikes, but when they're Ridley's I'm just plain mental. If you own a Ridley you are duty bound to ride it and never cut a ride short to head home.
Anyway the route was a little bit sketchy here and there, we had rain, but in the end it all dried up a treat. Even the Crong seemed to be fighting back nature. All in all a good six man ride out to finish off a much needed break.

   Ready for the Festive 500 now. Though I'm not going to bust my balls for a badge. Happy Xmas.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Eric De Vlaeminck RIP

A sad loss, the man and the facial hair

Central CXL Round 9 GS Henley CX

Round nine marks an important time in the CX season. To start with every rider needs nine rounds under his or her belts to get a final standing next year. Out of fourteen rounds your best nine count. That said I don't think any LBRCC racer has managed to complete, well finish all nine. Though a good few are on eight.
The other? it marks the end of a continuous two months of racing with a welcome two week break.

Round nine is in deepest Berkshire. Hosted by local boys GS Henley, it's a course that runs though country park and a derelict golf course.  I'm not sure if this was planned or not, but the sandy Henley race coincides with the day of the famous Koksijde cross race over in that there Belgium. If you know about Koksijde you'll know what I mean.

We arrive on course after a hour and a half drive. From the car the course looks like a little gem, undulating, cropped grass and willows overhanging the lines.
Despite it's locale all the usual suspects are here, along with a strong London League contingent. A nippy race is right on the cards. So how it looks isn't going to factor one little bit when we're underway.
Like the previous week we opt to walk the course and warm up instead on faster paths and roads.
Technically this course is a piece of cake, though not for all.  There are four sand pits, single and double hurdles, a ditch and some changes of under tyre terrain.  The walk once again proves invaluable in particular where to jump off and run are spotted, it's so easy to think that you have to ride everything after all it's a bike race, but this is the cross in cyclo cross.

Next we stand track side to watch Andrew and Colin set off in Vet40. We wait until we've seen them get round lap one safely before setting off to get race ready ourselves.

The air is still, but it's bitterly cold so like last week it's all going on. And a liberal dollop of heat spray and warming oil is applied like undercoat.
After some hill warm ups and sprints track side we saunter off to the start area to await our call up.
Myself Darren and Miles are pretty well next to each other on the grid, with new boy Barry at the back yet to earn any race credits. The thirty second countdown is announced  and we wait ready to tackle the climb that starts right on the start line!
It goes and I get a perfect start. Up the hill I go following the green line. After just a few yards of flat the course heads off on a twisty undulating  path. At the first turn there's a crash, Darren goes past as I trackstand waiting for a clearing in the maelstrom of fallen riders. The crash has put a nuisance distance between us, but it's early days yet. I ride on with Darren and a few others ahead. At the first set of hurdles, the doubles I gain a little. Then at the double deep sand pits a perfect dismount and remount reverses the gap.
Strangely it's not comfortable being ahead. Like the Ickneild race I'm alone and Darren is in a small chasing group behind.
It's not comfortable anyway. I can't find it on this race. Whilst I know I'm handy in the singletrack and the sand offers no problem they're only a small part of the race. I'm like a car stuck in third. No matter how hard I try I can't find any pace.
Darren is however behind, the way I'm feeling I can only hope the status quo remains the same.

The course isn't suiting me. There isn't anywhere I can dig in. It's one turn after another. One obstacle after another. It's pedal brake turn, followed by pedal brake dismount. It is of course the same for everyone. The only place to get some in is on the climbs!

We're coming up to the penultimate lap and bad news. Darren has launched from his small group and is closing at a speed I can't out run. He goes past and I latch on like a heat seeking missile. The wheel is welcome, though I'm sure it wasn't meant to be
We're both having an awkward race. Darren has gone past, but hasn't dropped me. So he's either got something saved or is spent after chasing. I think though we're both just plain old fashioned knackered and can't think straight.
The course has dried out somewhat so that's making life a little easier, but if either of us were to slip or fall off the other would take honours.
Side by side we approach the final hurdle, a real bitch of an obstacle. At the bottom of a descent, hit it too fast and it'll end up messy. It's also high and over the other side there's a ditch to negotiate. Now neither of us are tall fellas and we hit it steady sharing mumbles. My extra 1/2" height advantage gives me the edge clearing the hurdle and ditch in one go. I hold Darren off through a back breaking muddy section, but Darren's back as we hit the climb to go over the line for the bell lap.

Despite the tiredness you have to have your wits about you. And never more so than now.
Locked in a slow motion battle with Darren on the climb, I spot the Rainbow jersey approaching with the eyes in the back of my head. We're about to be lapped with twenty metres to go by the current World Champion. I actually shout across to Darren the exact words 'here we go' as the Champion cuts us in two.
Race over with the chequered flag within smelling distance.

I take honours again, but when the results came out later that night our lap averages were exactly the same Darren and myself both at 11.05 per lap.

Cold and tired and wrapped in all I own I watch the start of seniors.
Just want to say at this point that as the club chairman I have never been so proud. Standing trackside I saw my boys all holding their own well within the first half of the pack. Three green jersey's looking good and business like with some of the very best from two leagues.
I couldn't stay until the end as I was so cold, but well done guys.