Sunday 31 October 2010

Freaks in the Peaks

The title 'Freaks in the Peaks' refers to myself and my cycling buddy Clive. This week saw us both complete the Verenti Tour of the Peaks sportive, which most normal people of sound mind stay well clear of. This was the second cycling adventure I had completed with Clive since our introduction during LEJOG 2009.
Prior to the sportive event, I went on one training run with Ron. We cycled familiar routes. I think Ron will need to change his tyres soon - the muddy, wet conditions were causing him to slide all over the place.

No further training took place. This was a combination of poor Cayo being in the bike shop, work menace and 'paralysis of will'. John V kindly offered to lend me his road bike, thanks John.

This week was largely a catalogue of catastrophe's. The first catastrophe being the deal with poor Cayo. The bike shop did a complete service and changed brake and gear cables, replaced the bottom bracket, replaced chain and cassette, fitted new tube, gel tape and tyre - at a cost of about £250! The real menace though, was the fact that they discovered the front mech had become loose and was moving inside the frame. This mech problem, they say, is a manufacture problem, ie a 'warranty job'. Contacted Wiggle (from where bike was purchased) who want me to send them poor Cayo in a box so that they can inspect problem themselves before reaching a solution. Hmmm.

Cayo looked pretty awesome with all her new gear as I picked her up from the bike shop. I had no time to take her for a test run. She was promptly put in the back of my car and I made my way to the Peak District ready for the impending sportive.

I stayed in a B and B overnight. This was to prove another mistake. It was noisy, cramped and finding a parking space proved difficult. I asked the staff what time breakfast was and they informed '8 o'clock at the earliest'. My sportive began at 8, so I would have to miss breakfast. The staff informed they would make me a packed lunch in this case and put it behind my door. They agreed to put my bike in a shed overnight and promised they would place it in the reception hall at 7 a.m ready for when I had to leave. I made myself a hot chocolate, burning my wrist on the kettle, and then attempted to settle down for the night.

In the morning, I got ready and looked behind my door - no packed lunch. I went downstairs and no bike. I phoned the emergency contact number - no answer. Grrr. At this point I was getting stressed. I found another number (on a board outside) and constantly kept ringing until, about 30 minutes later, the idiot staff answered and came and gave me my bike. This staff member (the very same who promised to sort my bike the night before) said, 'don't worry, I take full responsibility'. I will not comment as to what the voices in my head were saying. The idiot handed me a packed lunch and I raced off to meet Clive at the start line of the sportive.

I got to the start line just in time but was ill prepared. I had no water in my bottles and had not eaten. To make things worse, in my rush to get ready the night before, I had forgotten my road bike helmet and packed my mountain bike one. Clive kindly gave me a bottle of lucozade and I checked out the packed lunch I was given. I think it was tuna sarnies - Clive reckoned it was cat food. I didn't care what it was, I needed to eat and tucked in whilst we were queuing at the start line. There were hundreds of riders at this event and we all set off in groups of about 25 after a very short race briefing.

Hooray, we were off! It was a very chilly start but the weather looked promising. It was great to catch up with Clive and was awesome to start my first ever road sportive. What could possibly go wrong now? Pssss, yup, you got it - I punctured after just 2 miles. On closer inspection it looked like the tyre was not completely inserted inside the rim. I told Clive to carry on whilst I fixed said puncture. I had only just started and felt like quitting already. My fingers were frozen and changing a tube was exasperating. Still, changed it I did and thank goodness I carry those gas cylinders for a speedy tyre inflate. Have no idea if I put the tyre on the correct way round or what pressure I was running. With puncture fixed, I felt better and sped off again in an attempt to catch Clive up. Again, I was so ill prepared that if I punctured again I would be in trouble - I had used my only spare tube.

The route proved quite undulating from the start, more hilly than I had imagined. This was good though because it was helping me warm up and the more I cycled the sunnier it was becoming. After a short while, I spotted Clive, he was waiting for me at the bottom of the Cat and Fiddle. The Cat and Fiddle is the Macclesfield to Buxton road and more importantly our first major hill. This hill wasn't so tough to be honest, but it was long, nearly 7 miles in fact. Going up this hill was great, the views were amazing - a long chain of cyclists could be seen in the distance and we were heading into moving cloud. To top that, Clive had a 'lavod' on his bike, which is essentially an mp3 player for a bike. We were bopping up this hill listening to Indigo Girls, Dream Theatre and Pink Floyd. This lavod was certainly a good conversation starter as nearly every passing cyclist would comment. We stopped at the top to take obligatory pictures of our first conquered revered climb. I stopped to finish off those cat food sarnies too.
Our next stop was at a feed station. There was no real food here (save a slice of malt loaf) but we were given lots of free gels and a bar. We were also able to fill up our water bottles with diluted 'High5' energy drink. Clive proved a real gent again here and equipped me with a spare tube.
We continued our cycle, the whole time viewing awesome sights of the Peak District. We passed a place called Devil's Arse which provided much amusement as we headed towards Winnats Pass. Whilst looking upwards from the bottom of Winnats Pass, we could see why some folk thought this was Devil's Arse. Clive and I took pictures at the sign and then started this notoriously steep climb. Still towards the base, a professional photographer was there, and took pictures of Clive and I pushing each other up the hill. I left Clive here and struggled up this incredibly steep hill. The cyclist in front of me fell clean off his bike. As I continued up this hill, all the cyclists in front of me had dismounted and were walking with their bikes. With determination I continued to climb and all the folk pushing their cycles were shouting 'good effort, keep going, well done, nice one mate'. I know this was a tough hill, my heart rate monitor was showing a max heart rate of 189 beats per minute! I made it to the top and was awarded with such a pretty sight with it's gorge like topography. I felt great.
After a short while Clive had caught up and we set off together once again. We weren't together too long before we had to part company, at about the 40 mile mark. Clive was doing the shorter 65 mile option (perhaps he has more sense than me), which he pointed out is the more desirable route for cyclists aged 50 and over. As I turned to follow my route, I felt alone, there was no cyclists to be seen.

My solo cycling was still great fun and the views continued to be spectacular. I passed the odd cyclist who had stopped to fix punctures but it seemed like miles before I passed cycling cyclists. Indeed, the next few cyclists weren't cycling, they were pushing their bikes up yet more incredibly steep climbs. These climbs felt as tough as Winnats Pass (but heart rate was telling otherwise) and had switch backs before climbing ever higher again. The passing cyclists were again shouting 'nice one mate' and these words of encouragement did indeed help push me on. The more I climbed, the more fellow cyclists I would meet. Eventually I had caught up with a great number of cyclists and reached the final feed station before the cut off point.

This food station provided a banana and soup. After all the energy gels I had consumed and that particularly nasty energy bar I was feeling a little sickly with food stuffs. I had a few swigs of soup and just decided to head off again, eating said banana whilst cycling.

As I left this feed station I was cycling alone again but could see a cyclist in the distance ahead. I made it my mission to catch this cyclist. Mile after mile I was getting nearer, and then I saw a van stop and pick this cyclist up! I continued and after a few more miles could see a whole bunch of cyclists climbing a hill. Before long I had reached these cyclists and were climbing said hill alongside them. It was great here because we were all sharing stories about earlier events in the ride. Everyone would ask if I had to dismount going up Winnats Pass, and I felt so proud to answer 'no'.

Before long I was at the foot of Holme Moss, another must do climb. This climb has been used several times in the Tour of Britain. I was cycling up the seriously steep twisty side. Again this climb was tough, real tough, and was made harder still by the head wind beating against me. I think all cycling this hill were hardened cyclists because not a soul was walking with their bike and this hill was just as hard as the others. I really enjoyed this hill and surprised myself with the number of cyclists I passed as I climbed to the summit. Once at the top, I took photo's to prove proof of passage.
After the breathtaking climb of Holme Moss it was a super fast descent with even more spectacular views and scenery. This descent was so fast, I was starting to feel the chills and stopped at the bottom just to tuck everything back in. The final leg back to the finish was difficult. I was tired, back was aching, knee was niggling, belly was aching (hunger) and I just wanted to finish. I was expecting a nice easy run to the finish, knowing that the 3 major hills were completed, this wasn't the case... There followed 2 more big hills to the finish, in fact it was mostly an upward journey right till the end. Once the end was in sight, I instantly felt better again and had such an awesome feeling as I passed the finish line.

A number of folk were present at the finish and were all clapping and shouting nice remarks as I finished. For finishing I was awarded with a box of energy gels, a head scarf and a bike floss. I checked my race time and tucked into a proper meal of rice and chilli.

My race number was 1298 and I cycled a distance of 97.28 miles at an average speed of 12.4 mph and a max speed of 44.6 mph. My average heart rate was 135 bpm and my max was 189 bpm. My official race time was 8 hours, 53 mins and 27 secs.

Weekly totals: Cycled a distance of 116 miles.

1 comment:

    The last 25 miles on my 'over 50's' route felt pretty tough to me but that Holme Moss looks awesome
    Hungry & knackered I was too


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