Rides & Reports

The Long Mynd 50 Audax (March 31st)

Another Saturday, another Audax. Today the Long Mynd 50 from Lydham, just north of Bishops Castle.

Not exactly an accurate name, whilst it was over the Long Mynd, it wasn't quite 50km, coming in at just over 45km. That said, a more challenging 45km I have not ridden in some time.

Firstly, it has to be said that the weather was not perfect. By the time we reached the summits of the 4 major climbs, we were in cloud each time, but at least it did not rain.

Spring is here, as evidenced by the leaves breaking out of trees, and the fields full of lambs along the roads to the base of Asterton Bank. Asterton Bank is the first climb of the day, and registers as 25% on the road signs. The locals would have you believe it is 33% just over the cattle grid at the bottom. I wouldn't argue. What's more, it doesn't relent at all as it clambers up the side of the Long Mynd, not dropping below 17% at any point on its ascent.

Granny gear was engaged before the first cattle grid, and I was standing on the pedals inside the first 50 metres. Much clattering of chains and gears let me know Tony was still there, but he eventually alighted about 1/3 of the way up when the Kinesis 'became a unicycle'. Certainly, I could feel the front wheel lifting almost all the way up, a sure sign the gradient is approaching 1:5 or worse.

By standing on the pedals for much of the bottom of the climb, and bending the laws of balancing at low speed for the rest of the way, I made it to the top still clipped in, along with 1 other rider. A tandem arrived at the top later, and we were the only 4 riders I saw not to walk. Tony managed to get back on when the gradient lessened to 1:7, thus proving he has the strength, if not the experience to handle wheelies. Photographic evidence is available:

Once over the top, we descended to Ratlinghope down the hill we had come up on the Wild Edric. Like most of the hills round the Long Mynd, I would prefer to go UP it, despite the gradient.

Another draggy hill followed, together with another mental descent before a tea stop in someones garage/garden in Picklescott. A truly lovely location.

Immediately after the stop, with cold legs as is the Audax tradition, was another climb with another stonking descent. These new Fulcrum Racing 3 wheels are ace!! Whenever the road pitches downward it feels like someone has lit the blue touch paper, and rockets are propelling you. Next purchase, I think, will be Swisstop Brake Pads.

The final ascent after Bridges is the one I think the rest of the Tour de Mercredi did two weeks ago. The sign at the bottom warns "Narrow Road with Passing Places and Steep Gradients". It does not disappoint with a posted gradient of 20% at the bottom, and several others that feel just as steep. By the time the road tops out the views are stunning, and the countryside wild. Just as well that there is another cake stop then.

After a few km of undulations, the road descends (fantastically) to rejoin the outward route for a gentle return to Lydham. Rarely have I been that tired after just 28 miles. Rarely has my face ached so much from having had a fixed grin during 3 hours cycling.

The Cheshire Cat Sportive (March 25th)

Being on the first day of British Summer Time, the Cheshire Cat Sportive is always a rude awakening in more ways than one. So it proved again this year, with alarm clocks going off at 5 a.m. (4 a.m. body clock time) for an early breakfast and drive to Crewe.

Chez Handy is the hotel of choice for the night before, and Clive, Brett, Bridge, Marcus, Andrew and the Colonel were all in attendance. A fitful night's sleep was 'enjoyed' by all for various reasons:
1. A lot of childish giggling (how I'm looking forward to France already)
2. Bridge suffering from a bout of the Consumption
3. Marcus replaying in his mind being knocked off his bike earlier in the day.

Thankfully by the time we reached Crewe all of this was behind us, and the other traditional aspect of the Cheshire Cat was evident. Glorious weather. This is the 6th year of the Cat (I've done them all) and the weather has been universally good with the exception of a bit of drizzle early on the first year.

At the start, it was evident that lessons had been learnt from last year's queueing, and we were all away smartly just after 8 o'clock. Even Marcus, who was due out in the second start group, got away at just gone ten past.

As always, the early pace was keen with some fairly strong guys pulling us along at speeds of over 25mph. This is not always an advantage, as with about 10 miles gone, they blitzed straight past a signed left turn, dragging most of the peloton with them. I had turned, but by the time I was sure I was right, no amount of shouting would bring them back. Both Brett and the Colonel added on 4 miles here.

Within 50 minutes I found myself, in warming sunshine, at the bottom of Mow Cop itself. Steeling myself for the climb, I was halfway round the first steep section when I went for the lower ring on the front, only to realise I was already in it. Not a good start, but better than the chap who stood up on the first steep section only for his chain to snap and threaten his future marital performance. It looked pretty painful from where I was.

9 minutes later, and  was stood up grinding away on the 25% section, but for the first time ever looking up and ahead rather than gritting teeth and wondering if I could attain the top before passing out. One could never describe Mow Cop as easy, but it was certainly the easiest I'd ever found it. This was echoed by all 6 of us in the end, no doubt testament to the benefits of proper Winter training.

After Mow Cop, a rattling descent appears, quickly followed by the ascents of Blacky Bank and the Bridestones, both of which were sent packing pretty quickly with no sign of any other Tour de Mercredi riders. Indeed, it wasn't until leaving the first feed after Bridestones that I saw Marcus coming in as I was leaving.

Trying to keep ahead of him, I got up Gun Hill smartish, remarking on the descent that I passed the site of last years first feed in exactly the same time as last year. This year though we'd had an 8km detour and an additional climb thrown in by this point. Barlows Hill (Wincle) follows soon after, and I even managed a smile for the photographer at the top rather than just being a sweaty mess.

The descent from Barlows Hill is long and fast, and halfway down Marcus and Bridge caught me up, both going like the clappers. Within 5km however, Bridge was going backwards, the effects of a nasty cold having finally brought him down. In the end, he was last of us to cross the line, but did well to even get that far. Marcus pulled away, and I was left to time trial my way to the next feed, which I successfully did at about 20mph for most of the distance.

After the first 4 hills, most of the remaining 65 miles is very flat, and its important to get in a good group. Brett arrived at feed 2 having been in one, and we all set off together. Within 5 miles, it was apparent how difficult it is to stay in a good group as I bottled a junction (there WAS a car coming) and Brett & I got separated off the back (sorry, mate!). We won't have that problem in France with the closed roads. By this point the mental calculator was telling me that if I could maintain my normal Audax pace, barring mechanical or physical breakdown, I could actually get a Silver at the 6th attempt.

Toward the last feed, the legs started to go, and I started to yo-yo off the back of Brett's pace. I did manage to keep on until the third feed, where we regrouped with Marcus, but the damage was done, and they dropped me on the last climb straight after the feed station. I just concentrated on keeping going, knowing that it was only 25km to the finish, and I wouldn't lose too much time if I just kept pushing.

In the end it paid off, and I returned to Crewe just 5 minutes behind them on the road (further behind Marcus on time because he started later) and well inside Silver Standard. This is my first Silver with the exception of the Circuit of the Cotswolds, which has/had a very generous time allowance. Charlie turned up only 20 minutes later despite adding 4 extra miles on right at the start to claim his, and Andrew only 20 minutes after that, just 11 minutes outside a Silver Time.

Once Bridge arrived, massages were sought out, and we attacked the food stalls with a vengeance before returning to Tamworth for a swift and convivial beer before returning to our respective homes.

All in all, some very respectable performances.

The Tour de Mercredi finishers
Marcus        5:59:17   Silver
Brett            6:05:39   Silver
Clive            6:09:20   Silver  (how chuffed am I?)
The Colonel  6:33:47   Silver
Andrew        6:51:20   Bronze
Bridge          7:24:56   Bronze

Stunning weather, Great Organisation, Dreadful Road Surfaces


The Lakeland Tootle (29th Feb) and Kirkstone Pass (2nd Mar)

Great to see everyone getting the training miles in over the last couple of weekends, some cracking routes and it looks like I missed out on one particular ride with glorious sunshine, not to mention the lovely photograph by the bridge (not Simon). Obviously the Rhino hasn't informed you I need to be in all PR stunts of that nature as the official face of the Ettapers!!! I'm not so jealous about the ride around the Malvern's as the weather looked a bit more suspect, however, miles are "miles in the bank" and its great to see all of us progressing.......this is just the motivation I needed after a couple of weeks out of the saddle.
When I say a couple of weeks out of the saddle, that isn't strictly true as whilst I was on my holiday in the lakes last week, with the wife, I did managed to get a couple of rides in: "The Lakeland Tootle" - 40 miles and "Kirkstone Pass" - 20 miles.
Both of the routes are attached below for your delectation, but in summary.....
The first ride took in two killer climbs of Redbank Wood (South side of the Grasmere Lake) at a mere 25% which nearly left my heart and lungs on the side of the road (yes it was that bad!) and "the Struggle" which is the hard way up the Kirkstone Pass where it ramps up to 20% for the last km or so. For those of you who have ridden in the lakes it is very difficult to find long stretches of flat stuff as the land is pretty undulating, but on this route I did manage to do a nice circuit around Esthwaite Water before heading back to Ambleside via Hawkshead and High and Low Wray. Weather was nice, fantastic scenery and very pleased with the 40 miles in the bank and the fact I managed to get up "the struggle" without stopping, even after Clive worried me to death about it!
The 2nd ride was more of a tester to see how I would fair climbing the Kirkstone Pass the easier way round, which is approximately a 6 mile climb. I thought this would be ideal training for the Etape as its probably one of the longest climbs available in England (I assume?), plus it will mimic similar gradients to those beastie Alps! Don't ask me about average gradients, I'm sure Clive will if you're desperate!

I look forward to getting back on my bike with my fellow etappers and sharing some more experiences of pain and joy over the forthcoming weeks!

Brian Camembert

Route: Lakeland Tootle - 29th Feb 2012
Activity: Cycle
Google Maps URL: http://maps.google.com/?q=http://share.abvio.com/d3b6/3b5d/4d9e/0b71/Cyclemeter-Cycle-20120229-0822.kml
Shortened Google Maps URL: http://j.mp/yF5kGZ
Import URL: http://share.abvio.com/d3b6/3b5d/4d9e/0b71/Cyclemeter-Cycle-20120229-0822.kml
Started: 29 Feb 2012 08:22:05
Ride Time: 2:46:39
Stopped Time: 27:59
Distance: 40.69 miles
Average Speed: 14.65 mph
Fastest Speed: 44.35 mph
Ascent: 3526 feet
Descent: 3587 feet
Calories: 2218

Route: Kirkstone Pass - 2nd Mar 2012
Activity: Cycle
Google Maps URL: http://maps.google.com/?q=http://share.abvio.com/d3b6/3b5d/4d9e/0b71/Cyclemeter-Cycle-20120302-1606.kml
Shortened Google Maps URL: http://j.mp/wtOI4r
Import URL: http://share.abvio.com/d3b6/3b5d/4d9e/0b71/Cyclemeter-Cycle-20120302-1606.kml
Started: 2 Mar 2012 16:06:31
Ride Time: 1:13:34
Stopped Time: 12:21
Distance: 20.44 miles
Average Speed: 16.67 mph
Fastest Speed: 48.66 mph
Ascent: 1636 feet
Descent: 1873 feet
Calories: 1041

The Gospel Pass Audax 3rd March 2012

The 150km Audax is rated AA2.25 on the Audax Uk website. I’m not absolutely sure what that meant as an Audax virgin, but I think it meant we were in for a tough day. The route started at Chepstow, followed the Wye valley most of the way to Hay on Wye before heading back south to Chepstow via Abergavenny.
The route uploaded into Mapmyride showed 3 cat 5 climbs, 2 Cat 4 climbs, 1 Cat 2 climb and 2280 meters of climbing in total.
The forecast predicted a band of rain moving west to east with dry and showery weather following, and for once the forecast was correct. A heavy shower whilst we ate breakfast, clearing to the east, and only two further showers all day.
Following closely behind the band of rain, myself and Joe arrived at Chepstow Castle car park about 15 minutes after the allocated 8am start, by which time the rain had stopped leaving rain soaked roads in its wake.
By the time we started the Audax it was just after 9am and we were the last riders out of the 110 or so hardy souls that had entered.
A staccato first few miles ensued as Joe endeavoured to achieve optimum saddle height after fitting a new compact chainset the previous evening with a 172.5 crank length instead of the 170 he used previously (extra leverage for the hills!). I also had trouble with my mudguard rubbing on the rear wheel and was concentrating so much on rectifying the problem that I barely noticed the 4 mile Cat 4 climb of Tidenham Chase which started just a quarter of a mile after the start.
What can best be described as a ‘lumpy’ ride followed with short sharp descents quickly followed by short sharp climbs!
The sun came out as we reached the top of the climb and we continued up the English side of the Wye valley to our first control stop at Monmouth. Heading out of Monmouth via the ancient Monnow bridge we caught up with other riders who seemed to know their way and continued through the country lanes to Grosmont in a mini peloton of around10 cyclists.
Crossing the A465 we headed up the glorious Golden Valley passing the ancient ruins of Abbey Dore and the quaint villages of Vowchurch and Peterchurch. Unfortunately it was just after Peterchurch that we were soaked by a really heavy rain/hail storm, so bad that we had trouble seeing the road in front of us. Luckily after 10 minutes or so it subsided and we carried on to our next control at Hay on Wye.
It was here that Joe tripled the profits of the Granary Café on his own setting an all time record for takings on a Saturday lunchtime.
Suitably fortified we headed west from the Café for a couple of hundred yards before starting the hardest climb of the day.
The climb from Hay on Wye to Hay Bluff starts at 355 feet until the summit at 1,738 feet just over 5 miles later. The average gradient of 5.1% belies the difficulty of some of the sections which achieve a gradient close to 20%. The climb made doubly difficult by the strong north-west wind which had strengthened throughout the day.
Joe was off like a rocket (again) and we met up just after the summit at Gospel Pass where we posed for a photo and paused to catch our breath!
Every climb is rewarded by a descent, and a great descent past Capel y Ffin and Llanthony Abbey ensued. A few testing small climbs before our last control at Abergavenny at the Farmers Arms.
A pint was very tempting but we managed to resist, settling for tea and cake instead.
Back on our trusty steeds we headed through Usk to tackle the last major climb. A 2.5 mile Cat 4 climb towards Shirenewton which seemed to go on forever.
Passing the summit we were so enthralled by the view of the Severn estuary and the bridge that we missed our turning. Never mind, another 5 miles and an additional cat 5 climb at 99 miles is good for the legs!
We arrived at the Three Tuns pub at Chepstow at just after 5pm. Six hours 35 minutes riding, 102 miles and nearly 7,000 feet of climbing.
Didn’t that pint taste good!

Great effort Joe and Phil, nice to see you have broken the 100 mile barrier so early on in the year, unless I've missed another ride you've done!! Sounds like you had your share of ups and downs (pardon the pun) and I can only imagine how rewarding that pint at the end was :-) Well done and on to the next challenge!


Sunday Slaughters

Many thanks to Mr Cheshire, 5 of us (and Andy) enjoyed a splendid 103km in each others company around the delights of the sunny Cotswolds on Sunday.

Early departure from the Market Square was followed by a swiftish drag down to Mickleton and up Nineveh Hill into Chipping Camden. Conduit Hill was dispatched prior to heading through the Snowshill Lavender Farm, and onto the delights of Ford, Kineton and Grange Hill (by Naunton). A stonking descent into the Slaughters followed where the masses assembled for the obligatory photo call.

As you can see, the morning was truly the best that February had to offer.

Once arriving in Bourton on the Water, we helped ourselves to the best that Ginsters (and Cadbury) had to offer, before weaving our way out of the village amid the 10km runners, who looked considerably less comfortable than we.

After climbing Wyke Beacon, the descent through the villages to Moreton was a pleasure, followed by another Tea Shoppe in Moreton itself.

A return to Stratford saw us through Aston Magna and Ebrington before splitting up to make our own ways back into town.

Tony and myself chose Bakers Hill on the route, and this saw my highest speed year-to-date of 77.4kmh. Feeling good. Clive, Tony, Marcus, Joe and Colonel Charlie were all looking various degrees of good. Despite the reducing number of weekends before the Etape, we can all hope to complete, even if we can't all hope to complete it tomorrow without a lot of further training.

The Poor Student Audax 7/1/2012 - Clive

Clive's traditional New Year opener, this is a basic level 200km Audax event starting and finishing in Oxford. This year's event was on Saturday 7th January, and thankfully the weather relented from the grot of the preceding week and granted us fine weather.

Arriving early at the Park & Ride, there was only limited faffing and we were ready for an early getaway. Sneaking off a few minutes early, we were noticed by the Audax Gods who, frowning upon our 'cheating' dispatched the Puncture Fairy to enact their vengeance upon us. A puncture after just 400 metres is NOT the best start to a year.

Patched up, we headed through the 'official' route under the Bridge of Sighs and through the ancient University Buildings before heading West into the fresh and persistent wind. The first indication that "weight loss is good" was that I arrived at the top of Cumnor Hill in the main group, and without the customary lung hanging out. Ray, who was accompanying me, was already struggling after being ill all week.

Shrivenham and Swindon came and went, the wind remained. Long draggy bits were climbed more easily than normal, but Ray went off the back a couple of times, normally he's another one who is a nightmare to keep up with uphill. As we arrived in Malmesbury after 80km, we caught Marmite Geoff who had started even earlier. I was up for a quick "grab and go" stop at the garage control, Ray decided completing the event with Geoff was far more sensible, and let me go. Despite the wind, the first leg had only taken 3 1/2 hours for 80km and I was keen to see what time I could finish in.

Having refuelled at the garage with the obligatory dirty pasty (Cheese & Bacon Ginsters Mmmmmm) and first of the day's 3 cans of Relentless (really must check if that stuff is on the UCI list of banned substances) I left quickly and was soon blasting along the main road. I credited the refuelling with my speed increase, but it was probably due to the fact that the first bit of the second section went East with the wind.

Flashes of brightly coloured lycra could be seen way ahead on occasions and through the Cotswold Water Park to Cirencester, I managed to reel in many of them. Even when we reached the long drag of the WhiteWay no-one came past. Approaching the "Compton Abdale Alps", 3 steep climbs one after the other, I could see a largish group near the top (probably 5 minutes ahead). On each climb, they were a little closer, and it may have taken 6 miles, but eventually I caught them up, and we cycled into Chipping Camden together. I realise now that no-one overtook me on the second leg over the Cotswolds. Previously, I've been on my own, save for the few seconds of respite when passed by others.

Equally, last year I left Chipping Camden in the dark, this year we were in and out by 2:45. Fuelled by double Relentless intake our group of 5 stayed together over the lumps and bumps to Moreton-in-Marsh, and I climbed Dorn Hill near Draycott for the first time on this event without walking. It helps to be doing it in the daylight, and to be able to see how much of it is left. We arrived at Shipston-Under-Wychwood, only ??km from the finish before stopping to put on lights, and had the energy left to sprint up the chevronned climb in Finstock in the big ring after 180km ("weight loss is good"). The last few kilometres is gradually downhill or flat, but I was still amazed (and dead chuffed) to arrive back at the start at 17:03. A personal best by three hours ("weight loss is good").

My phone threw a wobbly about operating Endomondo in low power mode, insisting that I had travelled to and from London several times in the day. However, my trusty GPS functioned well, and I managed to upload the stats here. A great ride made better by an unexpectedly good performance.

Ray & Geoff finished too, by the way.

Giuseppe & Fillippo 26/12/2011

Joe came down to sunny South Wales on Boxing Day and we managed to fit in a ride on Tuesday as the rain had relented enough to allow us out. We ventured out via the lanes in the Vale of Glamorgan up the Rhondda Valley to tackle the Bwlch and Rhigos before returning to Cardiff via Pontypridd.

The weather was dry, about 10 degrees, light west wind , roads very wet in places. The link on map my ride is here - http://www.mapmyride.com/workout/83362836

No comments:

Post a Comment