Dunwich Dynamo 2016

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The Dunwich Dynamo and I have a fair amount of history, until this year I’d set off 4 times from London Fields in Hackney and had so far only made the beach at Dunwich in Suffolk a single time. For a variety of legitimate reasons, ranging from a glut of punctures using up all the spares to the early symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, somehow getting to the beach was a struggle.

The Dynamo is an overnight 110 mile ride leaving East London at about 8pm on the Saturday in July closest to the full moon and arriving at Dunwich shortly after dawn the following morning. The route is gently rolling with no proper hills, just a couple of leg warmers every now and again. All sorts take part, the club cyclists rush past early on, the decent roadies following them shortly afterwards and then onto a myriad of contraptions as varied as an antique butcher’s bike advertising a pub, a fleet of stepwalker bikes and some guys on a vintage singlespeed tandem.

Dunwich Dynamo Route

Dunwich Dynamo Route

The last one was us as it happens in 2015, an Ebay hunt last year made us find this tandem that looked like it had been in a barn for at least 20 years being somewhat generous. My friend George who joined me on the tandem, handed it over to his dad who shot-blasted it and painted it black (I believe there was only one colour) whereupon we got it back in bits and put it back together. The idea to build it as a singlespeed (that’s one gear to ride in, but not fixed) was partly out of laziness as it’s just much easier to build and a lack of time before the off last year. We managed to ride around 50 miles of the Dynamo before coming across an issue where the rear wheelnuts didn’t hold the rear wheel in place anymore so we had to keep getting off and re-tightening, only for it happen again shortly afterwards. Our night ended in the luxurious surroundings of Colchester railway station waiting for the first train back to London.

Onto 2016 – new wheelnuts to avoid the previous issue were in place, a test ride highlighted an issue with cranks but tightening some bolts sorted that. To start the day off, I had to ride the tandem on my own from home to Stratford upon Avon station, not a problem but you do look a lonely soul riding a tandem on your own, to meet up with my tandem-mate George and Rich, who was riding a sensible bike. To look the part, George and I had forgone the regular cycling apparel and instead had donned waistcoats and flatcaps, presumably in an effort to audition for Oliver on the West End.

Dunwich Dynamo 2016

Just will not take a photo properly

We were in high spirits as we left Marylebone station, only to find that Rich’s front tyre had decided to give up the ghost after being put on public transport. A new tube was put in but then George’s pump had an argument with the valve on the new tube where it unscrewed the valve and let all the hard-earned air out of the tyre. Some swearing and more pumping and eventually it was alright. We encountered the next issue straight away, in preparing for the ride, I’d put the Garmin GPS’s SD card in my laptop to upload the route…and then left it in the laptop at home. No route and no map is not a good situation, so we ended up taking the SD card from Rich’s phone and going to a friend of George’s who lived conveniently round the corner from the starting point in order to borrow a laptop to download UK maps and the route file onto the SD card to then put in the Garmin. This in itself was trouble, the Garmin is highly strung when attached by a cable so when an accidental touch happened, 25 minutes were spent trying to get it to connect again. Eventually, some food was had and we were good to go.

Dunwich Dynamo 2016

The strategy we had meant leaving at 7pm, before the majority, as we knew we were booked onto a Midday train from Ipswich the next day, this meant cycling the full 110 miles and then doing another 35 miles on top – 145 miles within 17 hours – in theory manageable, but fearing the worst and being comfortably the furthest George and Rich had ever ridden, some leeway was wise. Rich successfully made it past the 50 metre mark which was far as a friend of a friend got last year before trashing his chain to pieces and we were soon heading out of London with a loaf of Soreen falling out of a pocket at some traffic lights the only mishap. This whole stage was smoothly navigated, with not many people out yet we weren’t held up in traffic or at lights so much and the miles ticked by.

He won't take one properly either...

Dunwich Dynamo 2016

There are a number of pubs en-route and once outside of London, there are some nice village ones which are aware of the ride and set themselves up to cater for cyclists. Normally by the time I’ve arrived at them, so has everyone else and they’re rammed. This year however, we coasted up to the pub in the village of Moreton and were able to easily claim a table outside to relax at with a briefly earned pint after 20 miles. We ended up chatting with someone for a while who had slogged round on the butcher’s bike last year, which when shown a picture George recognised, this year however he’d chosen to ride a more sensible bike.

We trundled on, recognising places as we went from last year, each one was a mental tick of progression. The previous year we’d had to fix a puncture in Great Dunmow, this year we just sailed through it without a problem, other than missing the turn but realising the error within 20 metres. There were a couple of tealights out on the pavement which are an unofficial route guide and only seem to exist on this early part, in the dead of night you’re fully on your own. Our next pub stop was in the village of Great Bardfield which again is normally a very popular stop but we were able to go straight to the bar. Last year it was here that Luke waited for us when we’d had to stop, so it was very familiar.

By now it was around 11pm, properly dark but we passed the point where we had both got sick of the tandem as it became unreliable the last time. Past the point where we called Luke to say we were bailing and then past the point we turned off the route for good on our way to Colchester. Before we knew it we were in Sudbury, where Luke was (20 miles ahead) when we gave up. We were into uncharted territory! Incidentally the descent into Sudbury was where we managed our max speed for the night of 36.9mph, freewheeling at that speed on a heavy bike and two of us was fun and a real test of trust for George behind that his driver could handle it (obviously I could).

We had two stops close together around 80 and 95 miles in. The first was a food stop, a chance to eat a gel or two and replenish, as well as a chance for my hands to get a rest – despite my best efforts the handlebars were like a pair of crutches, all your weight going through the soft part of your palms. The second was a relievement stop, mixed in with some amateur photography to keep the spirits up. Figured a sturdy fence to lean the camera on with some time delay of passing cyclists and their lights might create a nice picture. It wasn’t too bad for a phone camera, but a proper camera would’ve done it more justice, that and some fancier more colourful lights passing us there.

Dunwich Dynamo 2016

Could be better…

We were now on the last stretch to the beach, the night sky was turning into an inky navy rather than the outright black of night, dawn was coming. We found ourselves in a bit of a back and forth with 3 members of West Suffolk Wheelers, on the flat and in particular the descents we’d come flying past only for them to come past on any uphill part (our lack of gears starting to hurt the later into the night we got). I also had a technique at T-junctions of cutting up the outside because no car lights shining clearly meant no traffic, whilst we did repeatedly overtake a lot of people it also meant we didn’t have to come to a complete stop and begin our starting procedure. The very final stretch I recognised through the dunes above Dunwich and upped the tempo, we went flying past them for a final time, round a couple of bends and then descended down to the beach and the finish. As we took our gloves off, the first sliver of sun appeared above the sea on the horizon.

A café on the beach opens very early and I took the chance to have a sausage roll and a bacon roll, absolutely perfect and very well earned. After eating we took a stroll to the beach itself and lay down amongst the other cyclists. We all nodded off at some point and had a very short nap. Being still though meant the cold had started to creep in and with a train to catch, we had around 7 hours to do the 35 miles to the train station. Should be easy.

Dunwich Dynamo 2016

Actually at the beach for the first time in 5 years!

The climb up from the beach was hard and we’d gone 10 miles when the Garmin said it had low battery. This meant an enforced stop in the village of Snape where we could sit down for a bit and let it charge from my battery pack. We all took the chance to have a nap on benches, looking like extremely well dressed vagabonds. 35 minutes later we on our way and didn’t stop again until Ipswich. We had a bit of a navigation error, where it wanted to take us onto the dual-carriageway A12 and I didn’t, so we ended up on a grass road behind some houses until it eventually ran out, we ended up cutting through an estate and onto a cycle path to Ipswich. We had only our second get off and walk moment up a steep hill out of Woodbridge, but we made it with plenty of time to spare. Helpfully the train staff allowed us to get onto an earlier train and we all slept on the way into London.

Dunwich Dynamo 2016

It just just about fit on the Stratford train

Cycling across London we had our final mishap, someone put too much power through his cranks and a bolt apparently came off from the cotterpin holding them in place. This was right outside Kings Cross station, I had to cycle the last 250 metres or so with very very offset cranks – instead of a 9:15 clock hands position, they were now at something like a 1:15 which felt very odd. They didn’t come loose so we managed to finish, I was the lucky one who then had to solo ride the tandem (with its unintentional new setup) the 7 miles home from Stratford station. I tried to stay awake, repeatedly failed, burnt a pizza by falling asleep and then eventually slept 12 hours that night.

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Dunwich Dynamo 2016 was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Warwickshire Wanderer 105km Audax – 21st May 2016

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An early start after sleeping on Rich’s deflating airbed saw Rich, George and I head down to Birmingham New Street to catch the train over to Hampton in Arden. Breakfast was acquired on the way (sausage and bacon rolls are excellent for cycling) and we rolled out for the short ride over to Meriden for the Warwickshire Wanderer 105km Audax.

Warwickshire Wanderer

I did this Audax in 2015, but the longer 160km version, however this time I was using it to help build up the miles for George and Rich ahead of this year’s Dunwich Dynamo and a planned trip to cycle from Brussels to Cologne in September. We made it to the start at the church hall, had a cup of hot brown, picked up our route cards and were on our way.

The beauty of the Audax is that most people are sensible, don’t rush off from the start and quietly plod along on their way at a leisurely pace enjoying themselves. There is a little bit of a climb straight away from Meriden however and despite trying to sit in the wheels, ended up dragging the guys with me through the groups (albeit still being sensible) until we found one going at a speed we liked. The route meandered through the Birmingham/Coventry gap before working its way past Hatton and into countryside that I recognised the look of – this naturally meant I ended up speeding up a bit before taking it easy to make sure we were all together again.

Norton Lindsey Windmill

The first control was in Norton Lindsey and was a simple matter of reading a road sign as we went past, later on seemingly everyone else was asking the answer as they’d missed it whilst making the turn out of a junction. The next stretch was windy and we’d ended up in a group that was spaced out quite a bit which meant keeping track of both the guys was difficult, I ended up losing them briefly on a descent before picking them up again the other side of the A46 after having a bit of a chat with another rider as he went past. We were heading for Wellesbourne and the road was kind and in our favour, allowing us to pick up speed for a bit. We entered the village and looked for the next control (a proper village hall, tea and cake stop) but after turning off the road we weren’t sure where to go next, until 30 seconds later another rider went flying past down a driveway, that confidence convinced us to follow. It had turned out we’d been the first riders to get there (just) so it wasn’t obvious with no-one else to follow (we were also spot on the earliest time of arrival allowed). We put a sticker in our card and treated ourselves to cake.

We allowed ourselves a leisurely break before setting off again, now properly into a stiff headwind. We took the back way out of Wellesbourne to Kineton rather than going over Spring/Fizz Hills and then started heading towards Edgehill. I teased Rich about us maybe having to go up the impending climb, knowing full well we were going to turn off right at the bottom of it, eventually I put him out of his misery. It was along here that someone ahead somehow managed to crash going over the railway lines that go from one part of the Temple Herdwycke army camp to the other. He seemed alright and turned down the offers of help from us so we left him to it. We began to see the Burton Dassett beacon and I let the guys know that we were definitely going up this one and that once it was done, we’d done the hardest climb.

Burton Dassett Climb

The climb up to the beacon

I’ve done this one a few times, the climb starts by going across the cattle grid before gradually rising itself up into a double figure gradient on the turn, a brief respite gives the legs chance before the short final kick up to the beacon. I’d gone at a fast but reasonable pace and figured that’d be enough to beat everyone, near the top I could hear Rich’s gears and breathing making a racket as he’d taken on the challenge of catching me up. On the top bend with a car for cover, I spun up the legs and across the top to the next cattle grid distanced him properly. I then had to go back because I’d missed the answer to the next control question which had been on the bend where I shot off. I told the guys to carry on and caught up with them again shortly afterwards.

We were now out of the worst of the headwind and plodded on quite happily together, eventually reaching the next proper control in the village of Harbury. Just like last year, they’d put on a good spread and we spent 40 minutes there relaxing out of the worst of the oncoming drizzle. Plenty started ahead of us so we’d given up on thinking we’d be one of the first pack and found ourselves attached to the back of 3-4 riders going at a decent sensible pace for the final part of the ride. As the legs began to tire, Rich was quiet and I presume heavily focused on following the wheel in front of him – he turned down offers to do his turn on the front. George found himself fine on the flat but each time the road gradually rose up, found himself dropping back, keen to keep the group together and it only being small moments of struggle, I helped by giving him a push up the gradients to keep his speed up so he could then stay in the group and hide out of the wind on the flat. Later on one of the older guys in the group queried George as to why I was helping George when he was much older – the best response seemed to be to suggest that the older guy was a better rider.

The traditional centre point of England

The traditional centre point of England

Having kept myself sensible on this final stretch and knowing the last short climb before the finish, I let George know my intentions and zoomed off out of the group to blast up the hill and then down the descent the other side. Surprisingly one of the group tried to come with me but I crested the climb ahead and stayed in front. Rich wasn’t far behind and George had taken it easy arriving about a minute later. The card was checked, had our paid for beans and toast and then we went down the pub.

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Warwickshire Wanderer 105km Audax – 21st May 2016 was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Liege Bastogne Liege Challenge 2016

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Liege Bastogne Liege Logo

So three years ago now (time flies) I did the Paris-Roubaix Challenge which went well (sort of) and frankly it was time for another challenge.

This time of year is the Spring Classics in Belgium and the Netherlands, with several iconic one day races. I chose Liege – Bastogne – Liege largely because it doesn’t have cobbles (done them, see link above) and because once you’ve ruled out the Tour of Flanders for that reason, it’s the next best race anyway.

Liege – Bastogne – Liege (from now on LBL out of my laziness) is known for its hills. There are plenty of steep, reasonably long climbs to negotiate with a spate near the finish which normally sorts out the men from the boys on race day. For the amateurs, there was a choice of doing a 76km taster route, a 158km route covering most things or the full race distance of 273km – I did about 273km cycling London to Paris and personally I reach a point after about 6 hours where I get bored more than anything and wished I was doing something else. I chose the 158km route, basically 100 miles, perfect.

Liege Bastogne Liege Col du Rosier

I was staying about 5 minutes cycling from the start point so I was able to almost fall out of bed and be there. This time nothing was forgotten unlike the infamous Paris-Roubaix debacle, I had pumps, tubes, the kitchen sink and filled water bottles. The weather however was just rubbish, it had rained all night, it was still raining and I was in shorts with no overshoes, I was definitely going to get wet so had to suck it up. Now I’m pretty sure if you google ‘how to get through a 100 mile sportive’ every result will tell you to take it steady to begin with, don’t over do things too early – I however like to blitz the first 30 miles if I can and get through a large chunk before the hurt starts…it’s also probably down to showing off. We departed our start and by the time we got to the ‘Depart Pro‘ 8km in, I’d gone past lots of sensible people and it turned out we were going straight into a solid unmentioned climb. I found a group I could sit behind that were pushing the pace along and zipped along with them past lots more sensible people.

Liege Bastogne Liege Challenge

The early first climb in the wet

I did learn a few things on the ride, early on I learnt that I am about as effective as Bradley Wiggins descending in the wet, a combination of brakes that seemed to work less well than others (note to self, upgrade the brakeset when I get home…and don’t be a cheapskate) leading to a couple of hairy moments where they suddenly dropped their speed and I was still ploughing on; as well as seemingly having a bit more self-preservation and cautiousness on hairpins whilst on the wrong side of the road. It meant that I lost the initial group I’d been with, but there were plenty more wheels to follow, that is until the split between the 158 and 273km routes happened, when all of a sudden there was hardly anyone. An unspoken alliance was formed as three of us began to ride together, rotating turns on the front. An American who didn’t speak and turned off at the first food stop (42km in, too early for me), a Frenchman and myself. Mr FDJ (all of the kit and even the team’s actual make of bike too) and I rode together for around 40km, him being better on anything steep but me being better on the flat so it always evened out.

The first marked climb was L’Ancienne Barriere and it was a long long drag, it felt like it went on forever. As was typical throughout the ride, you would descend from the top of one side of the valley, over a river bridge and find yourself with a solid climb to get back up the other side. This climb was 3 miles long averaging 4.7% (a relative baby on this route) but the length was the issue. We got overtaken by someone better and Mr FDJ went off with him only for a mile later to be back within sight. The next mile was spent reeling him in and we rode the last mile or so together with my pidgin French breaking the ice (c’est longue!). The descent over the other side of the summit was surprisingly dry, more or less, and it turns out I become a fearless descender in the dry, wooshing through corners on the racing line and barely tapping the brakes. At the bottom of the valley however, I found myself on the front of our twosome going into a headwind. We’d been overtaken by someone tanking along and the easiest way in my mind to get out of the wind was to speed up and reel this guy in, which I did by putting the power down. I hadn’t checked on my new friend but a couple of miles later I realised I’d dropped him, not being an actual friend I didn’t sit up and wait.

Liege Bastogne Liege Challenge

I took a tow from this new rider to the next food stop in Stavelot, I definitely wanted to stop here, the food on offer was amazing (waffles, honey cake, stroopwaffel, wine gums, bananas, all sorts). I was happily munching on a well earned waffle when Mr FDJ appeared and gave me a bit of an earful in French – I understood the gist, he wasn’t happy I’d sped up and dropped him but all’s fair and that. I don’t recall seeing him again after this point. Coming out of the food stop was a shock, second waffle in mouth, straight onto a short, sharp, cobbled climb – but I thought there were no cobbles! Once that was over it was time for the second named climb – Col de Haute-Levee. really steep to begin with (making me definitely not suited to it) and then a drag as it slowly began to flatten out. I didn’t do it especially quickly.

Liege Bastogne Liege Challenge

Not looking happy here…

The route went back into the hills and valleys, 10km further on was the Col du Rosier which on a sunny warm day is probably beautiful. Not too steep but very long, there was a switchback section that was like it had been designed for bike riding, with the forest around you and the fog in the trees; I even caught a glimpse of a deer lurking in the trees, a sure sign I wasn’t putting too much effort in and was wildlife spotting again. The Rosier got hard near the top, with the legs already drained it got nasty. The descent on a newly tarmac-ed road was amazing and the lower down you got the drier it became. Long wide easy hairpins made for great fun leaning in. I was about 45 miles in at this point and absolutely frozen, my feet were wet and felt twice their normal size (not that I could feel them) and my left hand had gone numb. Frankly I was miserable, cold and on my own. This was my mental wall of the ride, where I had to really dig deep to plough through – the lack of any alternatives is a good motivator, but when a group of 6 came past I sat on the back of it down the valley and before I new it the left hand worked again and we were 10 miles further on.

The next bit of drama was in the town of Sprimont where the event route signs caused something like 50-100 riders (just from what I saw) to go the wrong way – we’d reached the middle of a figure of 8 and this is where the split was earlier. Lots of us followed the signs again for our route only for it to start looking very familiar – I had a quick check of the Garmin and realised I was about 3km into doing another lap of what I’d already done, sod that! I turned around, tried to point people back but most ignored it, can only guess at what point they put two and two together. Almost straight after the island causing the problem was the Col de Redoute, containing the steepest sections of the route and it was an absolute killer. I’m honest that steep stuff is something I’ll never be quick on, but I know I can grind through it – there were plenty of people walking up the sides, including a 5 year old girl (who I’m guessing wasn’t on the 158km route), those walking were going the same speed as her, a harsh comparison to make!
Being a popular climb, there was a flotilla of caravans and motor homes on the lower slopes, all proudly declaring their support for riders and teams, mainly Belgian, but there was a definite Team Sky fan too. With so many people milling around and clapping, it gave a flavour of what it would be like the next day when the pros did it. Halfway up, with each pedal stroke barely moving me forward, my Garmin decided to start acting up going into test mode and moaning that it had an incorrect adapter fitted. I thought it was something to do with it getting conflicted with something on another rider’s bike (I did overtake a few) so turned off my heart rate monitor to give it a chance. Despite resetting it over and over, it kept throwing its tantrum and went into test mode – after cresting the Col, I decided to give the thing a blow through thinking maybe some of the gallons of rain had worked its way inside. It seemed to do the trick, with a few warnings continuing to pop up throughout the rest of the ride and 24 hours later it sorting itself out.

Liege Bastogne Liege Challenge

The look of a broken man not enjoying things any more

Another fun dry descent followed and a short bit of flat before the next named climb of the Col du Roche-au-Faucons – this turned out to be steep, long and after getting to the top was followed by another steep part to the real peak where Carlos Betancur had a stab at attacking the next day. This one was timed by the organisers so we could all see how we did compared to others, I was in something like the 66th percentile so not amazing, but my back was killing (core muscles need more work!) and the legs were not happy either. I don’t remember too much of it, just the start and end so I must have been spaced out trying to cope.

We began to hit the outskirts of Liege, apparently past the Standard Liege football ground although I didn’t see it (based on the aerial shots in the pro race, it’s because I was head down chasing down a group at that point). Through a lovely picturesque industrial estate and we were onto the Col du Saint-Nicolas, not the nicest of areas and certainly no reason for tourists to normally go there. This was more my sort of climb – nice steady 6-8% where you could stick it in the one gear, stay seated and just work up a good rhythm up to the summit. Passing a guy in the World Champion jersey was a highlight.

A decent sized group had formed as we negotiated city streets and traffic lights, when all of a sudden there was a cobbled stretch (them again!). Everyone else seemed to slow down, whereas I clicked up a couple of gears, upped the power, sped over them and created a gap – the Roubaix experience clearly giving an upperhand on knowing what to do!
The group came back together on the final drag to the finish, a solid mile of 7% on which I just about hung on before having a race back down the hill (on a cobbled descent of all things, turns out all my best Strava times were on the cobbled sections) with the World Champion jersey rider all the way back to the start point where we finished.

Liege Bastogne Liege Challenge

A wry smile of sorts at the finish line

My reward for completing it, was a medal and a t-shirt and by handing in my race number (with the timing chip on it) I got a proper sized pot of sports drink. I paid up for a proper hot dog and a glass of Leffe – very well earnt. On my way out, ready to get back and go to bed, I was accosted by two guys who had spotted my Stratford club gear and gave me a welcome from the Solihull club. They’d both done the 76km ride and we had a chat about how tough some of the climbs had been and a shared acquaintance and happily parted ways. Once back, I did nothing but lie in bed.

All in all I’d done just over 100 miles with the brief diversion in 6 hours 53 minutes.

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Liege Bastogne Liege Challenge 2016 was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Fleche Wallonne Photos

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2015 La Fleche Wallonne Logo

So I’m over in Belgium at the moment as I’m going to do the Liege – Bastogne – Liege Cyclosportive on Saturday. I managed to come early enough beforehand to see the Fleche Wallonne spring classic race as it completed the three laps it takes as part of the long finishing course.

I took my bike and managed to get to three different locations, the first a hairpin bend where the smell of melting carbon wheels hung in the air, the second was near the summit of the Cote d’Ereffe and the final one was in the village of Belle-Maison halfway up an unclassified hill. On the way back into Huy I ended up riding behind 4 pro guys (3 Wanty and 1 AG2R).

Enjoy!

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Fleche Wallonne Photos was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Mad March Hare 2016 Sportive

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Mad March Hare Sportive Logo 2016

Last weekend I went out braving the cold to do the Mad March Hare sportive from Wythall, Birmingham. It’s one I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years but always sells out rapidly around the start of January as the New Year’s resolutions kick in and everyone looks for an early season target to complete. I’d managed to convince George to join me but we’d come to an agreement to do the ride at our own paces as the route was signposted so I wasn’t required for navigation – the idea being it’d give me a chance to see how I was going at ‘race pace’. I managed to find another Stratford CC rider to join but that didn’t work out particularly as planned.

Mad March Hare 2016 Route

Mad March Hare 2016 Route

Mad March Hare Sportive

We set off under the inflatable arch which housed the start point for our timing chips at the front of a group but already 2 groups behind John from Stratford CC who I’d been intending to ride a lot with. I set off at a quick pace in an effort to catch up and dropped George fairly quickly but it took the best part of 20 miles and 45 minutes for me to catch up the 3 minute advantage that John had. We’d been warned before about ice and there was plenty about at the edges of the road – it meant that corners were taken sensibly and there were plenty of maybe patches where there was water on the road that looked shiny so could’ve been an issue. Going at the quick pace it meant that I passed plenty of slower riders, probably the best part of 100, as I hunted down John.

Eventually I caught a group (containing John) heading into Great Alne where one of the signposts had been turned slightly (or caught in the wind) and wasn’t pointing where it should be. There was a bit of a conflab before it was decided that we would make the turn and the sign was righted. We headed on, getting closer and closer to the signature climb of the route, Dover’s Hill. The large group broke up on the climb after the Alcester Road with a number of Boldmere Bullet triathletes going backwards and there was a nice period of tempo riding as we reached the village at the bottom of the large climb.

Mad March Hare Mathew Mitchell

With John somewhere, cannot remember at all where this was!

It’d been well over a year since I’d last tackled this one and with plenty of climbs left in the route I didn’t want to bury myself mid-sportive, a bit of a gap appeared between John and I as the climb ramped up around the right hand bend and it was never closed. I kept up a solid rhythm, distracting myself by looking down at the Garmin which seemed stuck on a 15% gradient for ages before the top came. I’d managed to overtake two riders and not be overtaken myself and wasn’t too far behind John at the top. The descent down into Mickleton is always a fun one, it lasts a long time and allows you to power along having given you a helpful push. We went up over the back of Meon Hill and then down into Lower and Upper Quinton for the feed stop.

There was a great selection, I helped myself to a banana, some flapjack and a bottle refill before heading off. Strava tells me that George was only about half a mile away once I set off from the stop, the closest we managed to get on the ride. John and I tagged onto the back of a group of Beacon riders, but on the long drag up into Binton my right leg was threatening to cramp and I couldn’t keep up and that was the last I saw of those guys until the Mad March Hare finish. I ended up tucked in behind a Stourbridge rider and another unidentified rider for a 10-15 mile stretch as we went into Alcester and out the other side before the gaps on the short climbs were getting harder and harder to close as the legs reached their limit. I kept catching up again on the descents and the flat but each time the road went up, I couldn’t keep up.

Mad March Hare 2016 Dover's

Looking gormless with my mouth open on Dover’s Hill

I ended up finishing the Mad March Hare on my own, a few minutes behind John, exchanged my rider number for a bacon roll and sat with some of the guys I knew and had a natter about the ride for awhile. As people started leaving I set out retracing my steps with the plan to find George and ride with him to the finish, after around 7 miles and post-toilet stop I gave him a ring to find out just exactly where he was. It turned out he’d got himself into a group and someone had a missed a sign so they’d gone well off route and were in the process of doing an extra 5-6 miles – I eventually met him at Earlswood lakes and we finished the final bit together. Being a great friend I bought him a pint of the Fixed Gear Brewery stuff that was in situ to help him recover.

Mad March Hare Mathew Mitchell

Looking a bit better…but not rushing. I was surprisingly well colour co-ordinated on this ride.

The official timing says I finished the Mad March Hare in 77th place out of 688 riders on the day with a time of 4 hours and 22 minutes.

Strava: Mad March Hare Sportive 2016

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Mad March Hare 2016 Sportive was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

World Track Championships – London 2016

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2016 London Track Cycling World Championships Logo

Being a great son I recently bought my mum tickets to the World Track Championships which finally came about last week. We went to the opening first session of the championships which encompassed the Women’s Individual Pursuit, Men’s Team Sprint, Women’s Team Sprint and Men’s Team Pursuit and a chance to see names such as Bradley Wiggins, Elia Viviani, Gregory Bauge, Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny, Ed Clancy, Anna Meares, Kristina Vogel, Rasmus Quaade & Silvan Dillier.

World Track Championships 2016

The Men’s Team Pursuit qualification came first, where four riders ride as close as possible together in a line before swooping up the track as they take turns riding on the front of the line. The discipline and accuracy required to keep this together in order to achieve the best times just under 4 minutes is tough and most countries found themselves dropping a rider as they found themselves on the limit. With the rules saying the final time is set once the third rider crosses the line, teams weren’t overly penalised for losing a rider. Great Britain achieved the quickest time through the impetus of Bradley Wiggins on the track and despite losing a rider relatively early on. Australia finished a close second and went on to win the Gold the next day.

This was followed up by the Women’s Individual Pursuit – a 5km (effectively 16 laps round the track) ride against the clock which saw Australia Rebecca Wisiak post the quickest time which was comfortably ahead of the rest of the challengers. Riders set off on opposite sides of the track and a couple were able to be caught by the other rider, the speeds noticeably picked up once a rider was in the sights with the temptation to catch and overtake seemingly overpowering any fatigue in the legs.

We finished with the Women’s and Men’s Team Sprints with Great Britain finishing a surprisingly bad 6th place with a strong lineup and the British women finished in 5th which meant they didn’t qualify for the Olympics due to not getting enough good results. New Zealand ultimately won the Men’s competition with the Dutch surprisingly getting themselves a qualifying time good enough to make the final. The French with former world champion Gregory Bauge ended up 4th overall.

The atmosphere throughout was great with constant noise and cheering for all the teams, obviously the British team received the loudest cheers with a Mexican wave of sound following the riders around the track, encouraging them to do their best and live up to expectations. Ultimately bar the team pursuit, Great Britain had quite an off day with later results in other events earning them gold medals.

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World Track Championships – London 2016 was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Redditch CC Reliability Ride – 28th February 2016

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Redditch Road and Path CC Jersey

Another weekend, another reliability ride somewhere across the West Midlands! This time I’d managed to convince both George and Adam to accompany me to lovely Redditch for a 45 mile ride down to the very edge of the Cotswolds and back up again.

Redditch Reliability Ride

Driving down, we managed to find Adam in the car park surprisingly easily, touched base, took the bikes off the car, paid our £4 entry and upon the promise of a track pump, decided to pump up the tyres properly. Getting to Adam’s car it became clear that it had either wandered off or more likely had been left standing proudly to attention in the kitchen back home.

We set off tagged to the back of a group I knew would be quick (with many black and gold clad Sette Dodici riders from the Saturday morning sufferfest), only to immediately drop back at our own pace as we went straight into a decent leg warmer of a climb in the first half a mile. We found ourselves behind 3 or 4 riders as we left Redditch – the only drama being when one of their bottles decided it didn’t want to go for a rider and jumped out of its holder into the road, narrowly avoiding my wheels.

Redditch Reliability Route

Redditch Reliability Route

We found ourselves on top of The Ridgeway, a 3 mile long ridge (unsurprisingly) that stretches south from Redditch with great views for miles around and being slightly downhill in this direction, we were tanking along. We kept that speed up for awhile, tucked out of the wind because our two leaders whose pace we were happy to follow. We eventually went past them at Bidford upon Avon, where I used my local knowledge to tell the story of the tractor that took out the bridge, with the new stone clearly visible.

We took one of my unexplainable least favourite roads, the long straight road into Honeybourne, which always seems to be a headwind no matter the day or direction. I took the front and tried to keep a sensible pace, only forgetting when I saw a couple of riders up ahead which meant my competitive spirit kicked in…plus I’m a terrible pacemaker. We reached the turning around point at Willersey, had a bit of a conflab and then headed back to where we’d come from.

Bidford Bridge

Bidford Bridge

The route was nearly an out and back straight line, but we chose to do the optional loop for a bit of variation (and because I don’t like that aforementioned road). The road to the top of Marcliff was a long long not remotely steep drag, but the headwind made it feel far steeper than it was. Riding with two skinny guys, headwinds are where I have a bigger advantage being able to generate more power to push through them. The average speed began to drop and disappointingly the headwind made the descent back into Bidford rather tame as it made it feel more like flat than a drop.

The other side of the village, Adam began to drop back which was the start of a grind to the finish, as despite the obvious checks, nothing appeared to impede but Adam’s feedback was that all flats had begun to feel like they were uphill and even downhills weren’t offering a respite. Consensus seemed to be that it was rear wheel bearings, a tough one to fix on the road and we toughed it out to get to the finish together. George and I had a bit of a race up the hill into the village of Dunnington, he started off quickly and as I pegged him back, I reckoned he would pop before the top, at which point I would shoot off. Strava says I won by 11 seconds, but we both finished well above the average that day.

Toll House

Heading back up onto the Ridgeway, Adam’s speed really dropped as the effort required to keep his bike turning over started to hit the legs and the power disappeared. We were averaging around 10-12mph at this point with just under ten miles to go to the finish. We stuck together and tried to diagnose whilst riding but the bike was giving no clues, not even loosening off Adam’s back brakes (without him knowing) at a set of traffic lights seemed to help. We got ourselves back through Redditch and enjoyed the swoop back down the starting hill into the rugby club we started from.

Our £4 paid for a cup of tea and some cake at the end, we’d definitely earned some and the cherry sponge thing I had was frankly amazing! A nice ride, the fun of which taken a little bit by some bearings and once again I fell into my old habits of not taking photos again, bah.

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Redditch CC Reliability Ride – 28th February 2016 was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling