Saturday 27 April 2013

Cheltenham, Cotswold & Thames 200

Only cycled twice this week. Both rides, however, were quite awesome. On each occasion I cycled with a good friend, who both coincidentally sported brand new bikes.

My first cycle was with Ron. We cycled an old route of mine that I liked to call 'The Urban Route'. This route is essentially a mix of on and off road cycling that makes use of lots of cycle lanes near and around my home village of Studley. For this ride, mountain bikes are considered a must. Ron's new bike was a Trek 29er and very nice it was indeed. The route is presented below:

On Friday, I hooked up with Chris and his lovely new bike (that he had recently built himself) and cycled the ‘Cheltenham, Cotswold & Thames 200’ event. This event was a permanent audax organised by Stephen Poulton. This route was considered to be a variation of the ‘Banbury Cross’ event.

Chris and I decided we would start (and finish) at the Chipping Camden control. This suited me as it was the control nearest to my domicile and would also mean that most of the hills would be tackled early on. We left Chipping Camden at around 9 a.m and were cycling on a nice spring day. As expected, we encountered a few hills during this stage – one almost straight away and the infamous Cleeve Hill too. Never mind the hills, we also had 2 super-fast descents where I reached a speed of over 70kph! This first stage was great and quite lanesy on the whole. On one of the lanes we passed a vegetable stand called 'Pauline's Veg’ which made me think of my dear mother. With Chris standing next to the stall it became ‘fruit and veg’!
It was during this stage too that Chris’s brand spanking new seat-post broke – it completely snapped in half. 
 Whether he rode without his saddle or not, I’ll leave to your imagination…

Once we hit Cheltenham we stopped for proof of passage (POP) purposes at a local newsagents. A fudge bar  receipt provided the necessary POP. It was here that Chris fixed his seat-post issue by fudge packing it! He used the fudge bar wrapper as a shim which worked very well. 
With issues fixed we continued on our way. Getting a little lost around Cheltenham before following roads that feature on the ‘Banbury Cross’ and climbing another hill to get out of Cheltenham. Once at the top of this hill, we were greeted by a rather funky bus stop shelter and then had a lovely descent all the way into Cirencester. 
We faffed about loads in Cirencester – first trying to find a suitable control and then at the control itself. The control staff at this cafĂ© we stopped at were ‘new’ and hence slow. My potato was over-priced. The toilet didn’t flush. Argh, on with the story…

Our route continued in favourable conditions, sunny and bright. We reached Faringdon in no time. Once in Faringdon, I figured we really were quite far out.
Next stop was Witney. We reached here pretty quick too – not surprising really, this stage was only 19k. The next stage was shorter still at 15k, so we only stopped here briefly to eat half an energy bar each. 

On route to the next control I could have sworn I was seeing double - it turned out to be a monkey clinging to a banana and not Chris after all!
We had a lovely stop once we reached Woodstock. I opted for tea cakes - yummers, it was delicious. Chris wasn’t so impressed with his bakewell tart.

The route to Brackley was awful. We spent much time on busy dual carriage-ways screaming with motorised traffic. We did the sensible thing and just sped along in single file at a fast pace until we reached the control. We stopped at the control and munched on Chris’s home-madeflap jacks before setting off on the final stage.

The final stage was similar to the first - nice lanesy roads and undulating in nature. The clouds we saw during this stage were impressive - all different shapes and sizes and colours too. Indeed, some clouds were pink, orange and red. One cloud was big and black and looked like it was throwing rain down. We managed, it appeared, to cycle all around this cloud without it inflicting heavy rain on us at all. A few drops of water hit us but nothing serious. We passed an interesting place name before it got dark and I was hoping Chris would pose for another photo - he wouldn't, so I had to oblige.
Shortly after this brief stop it started to get dark so we pressed on. We reached the arrivee in Chipping Campden feeling pretty great. This was a nice cycle and another great adventure. A map of our adventure is presented below:
Cycled a total of 233k this week. My LEL training target for the week was 300k but was not disappointed as last week I had cycled a 300k event. My total distance this year now stands at 3,283k.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Heart of England 300

Started the week by completing both my 'CS SR 1' and 'AM SR 1' routes as fast as I could. Have never  really been a 'racer' (too fat) but for some reason am enjoying racing these 2 routes. The first route is quite short (less than 30k) and I liked to race against myself (and beat my previous best time). At often times, I don't race because I tend to use my single speed bike for this route. This week however,  I used 'Slinky', my road bike - and raced it! I think I completed in my best time yet. Both routes were stolen from Strava users. The second route was just over 40k long and has a 23 mile segment on it entitled 'Bill and Alex's 23 miler'. It was this segment that I liked to race. On my second crack at this event, I had the fastest time and was crowned 'King of Mountain' (KOM). I was only king for a day, Bill quickly grabbing his title back. On Wednesday, I raced with the voices in my head shouting 'Kill Bill' and yippee - I had the crown again! I just wondered for how long?!

The 'big cycle' this week was a calender event audax entitled 'Heart of England 300'. As the name suggests this was a 300k event that started and finished in Cirencester. A map depicting my route is presented below:
Had hoped to ride this audax with my buddy Chris, but at short notice he decided to bail. Thankfully, there were others here that I knew and I was able to cycle with them. Most notably, Jamie and Andy (his friend) had rocked up. A whole bunch of riders were all congregated at the start and before I had chance to help myself to some free breakfast we were off. The event started at 6 a.m and was initially a little chilly. I set off with Jamie and Andy, but had lost them quickly after only a few k. It later transpired that Jamie was having Garmin issues. 

Stage 1 started to look familiar and as it passed through Salperton, I knew exactly where I was. I had cycled these roads a few months back during my 'Poor Student Permanent'. This time, I found the 'missing' park or 'grounds' and had a lovely zoomy cycle through them. A short while later I cycled right past Broadway Tower and then down the famous Saintbury Hill. This hill was one of those ring-twitching sorts - both my cheeks and brakes being pulled in as I raced down it. The route then continued through Bidford and it was here that I met Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop was a chap that I cycled part of the PBP with in 2011 - he was the chap who rode straight into me. Augustus (so called because he looks like that Willy Wonker character) and I chatted for quite a spell, all about bike related nonsense and the nature of our halllucinations on PBP. Our conversation was cut short when I hit a pot hole that punctured my rear tyre (and buckled the front wheel). Grrr, that was the second pot hole I had hit. In addition, I broke my mudguard as I flipped my bike over to repair issues. As I stopped to fix my puncture issue, Jamie and Andy Rocked up! I told the guys to carry on, hopeful to meet them at the control. Sure enough, I caught up with 'the boys' at the control in Alcester (just 4 miles away from my abode). The official control (Lakes Cafe) was so busy that I went next door and purchased croiisant and sausage roll for fuel. After eating our breakfast, we removed a few layers (was hotting up nicely) and started stage 2.

Stage 2 was much easier than stage 1. This was a relatively flat stage, whereas stage 1 had at least 3 hills of note. The route we cycled briefly passed over roads I often cycle on my shorter training runs. We were blessed with the weather today and the sun continued to shine bright. Stopped and ate beans on toast at the Winnie's Cafe control in Atherstone.

Stage 3 continued with great weather. If I remember rightly we passed over roads that feature in the '2 Battles Permanent'. This was a long stage (about 70k) and I pretty much cycled it all with the boys. At often times I would have a quick chat with a cyclist that had caught us up or that we had passed. We were forced to stop for a while at the Roso Cafe control in Daventry because the service was so slow. At least I had time to re-charge my Garmin and eat more beans (plus jacket potato and carrot cake). As a small group we were pleased with our cycling thus far and figured we would finish between 10 - 10.30 p.m. Other folk weren't having such a great time - we saw a cyclist through the shop window who must have had a fall as blood was trickling from his knee.

Stage 4 started with a hill. Not a massive hill but one that required a wee push with bellies full of food. To be fair this stage was quite undulating in nature and despite the weather being largely great it was a little windy. Talking of wind (no, not the beans) we saw loads of those giant wind turbine things dotting the landscape. I also spotted some strange AT-AT looking things. Reached the control, 'Sturdy's Castle' pub and it was still daylight. We stopped here for a while and I ate a lovely sticky toffee pudding with ice cream and washed it down with a further pint of coke (was drinking same throughout the day). We layered up here and headed for the arrivee, the final control.

Stage 5 was great. I think the pudding I had just eaten had given me a sugar buzz. I started to lead out our little group but had this obsession almost, to catch up the flashing red lights in front. Before I knew it I would catch up a pair of said lights and then want to catch the lights in front of that. The more I cycled, the (strangely) better I felt. It was dark now and was using much lighting to show up the path in front of me. With about 30k to go I decided to race this last section which was mostly on lovely country lanes. I lost count of how many red lights I passed. Before I knew it, I was back at the arrivee, with 306k in my legs and feeling pretty great (had completed this event in just under 16 hours). About 15 minutes later, the boys rocked up too! Good job and a great days cycling! My prediction was accurate, we had all finished by 10.15 p.m!
The Heart of England 300, in my opinion, was a fantastic ride. Nice lanesy route and most of the hills conquered early on. The company was great (shout out to Jamie and Andy - hope to see you guys on the 400 Welsh thing). The only downside was much waiting at controls (felt 'open' controls would have been a better choice) and the absence of my buddy Chris!

Cycled a total of 376k this week. My yearly total now stands at 3,050k. :)

Friday 12 April 2013

Low mileage, low quality

Cycled only a short distance this week and only had 2 trips out. I didn't really mind cycling not-so-much as this was a 'rest week' according to my LEL training program. In addition to that, I had been working nights which always makes cycling the more difficult. On the occasions that I managed to venture out, I cycled my 'TTT 20' and 'CS SR 1' routes on my single speed bike. Nice. Cycled a total of 62k this week, which brought my yearly total up to 2,674k.

Sunday 7 April 2013

Bill's Hill / Sam Weller's April Foolery (April 2013)

My first ride after Easter was a route I had named ‘Bill’s Hill’. This was a route that I stole from a user on ‘Strava’, that had a particular hill of note. The ride was lovely and headed to Bidford via roads I have often taken. From Bidford the route continued in a lanesy style all the way to the mid-point (on some new-to-me roads).  The mid-point was  the hill. This hill was officially called ‘Bakers Hill’ and was near Chipping Camden. Not the biggest of hills (road sign stated 12%) but enough to get the heart beating, the lungs working and the lactic acid pouring. After tackling this hill, I was on high ground where snow was still heaped up alongside the roadside from Springs crazy weather. The return was great, along more lanesy roads, where the route crossed other routes of mine including the ‘TTT 20’, ‘Deer’ and ‘CS SR 1’ routes. I published this route on Strava when I returned home. Bill commented ‘impersonisation is the best form of flattery’. I retorted ‘Ha! I’m on my way to becoming a fully fledged doppelganger’! A representation of 'Bill's Hill' can be seen below:
My next adventure, the big adventure for the week, was a calendar event audax. This event was 'Sam Weller's April Foolery', a 200k event scoring 1.75 AAA points. I think this event followed the same route as the 'King's, Castles, Priest's and Churches' audax that Aid, Chris, Ron and I cycled earlier in the year, only it had different control points. My GPX track is presented below:
Aid, Chris and Ron didn't join me on this latest adventure. Not to worry, I had 'other' cycling companions throughout. The route started from Tewkesbury and the first control was after about 45k in Bromyard. Almost straight from the start a cyclist called Julian rode alongside me. He raced to catch me up to inform that my bottle cap had come off about 1k back. That was real nice of him, but he didn't have said cap. Julian was a nice chap and we spoked about bike related nonsense all the way to the control. At the control I stopped for egg on toast and Julian bounced this control and sped off. I didn't see Julian again but he says he is cycling LEL and 'The Heart of England 300' so our wheels may cross.
Leaving Bromyard was awesome. Nice long roads, easy to navigate and essentially down hill. Zoomy! I didn't stop to eat in Ludlow, instead I popped into the museum and got a stamp for POP purposes.

Leaving Ludlow I didn't feel so great. I was finding the hills harder than usual. Perhaps this was because it was real hot compared to recent days. I was layered in winter gear and the sun was shining bright. I felt like I was boiling in the bag. Or, perhaps it was just because I was fat and the hills were hilly!
Was pleased to reach the tea room in Kington. I remember stopping here before with Chris and company. This time around I got chatting with 3 cyclists that I have ridden with before on different events. Their names were Roy, Paul and Clive (I think). We had a good chat and some nice food once it finally arrived. I spent the rest of the audax cycling with these guys. Below is the only photo I took all day, which shows how lanesy the roads were and how much snow was evident in our Spring!
From Kington, the route appeared to get a little easier again. Maybe this was because the hills had gotten easier. I did notice that my saddle post had slipped down a few mm (again). I couldn't be bothered to stop until I reached the control. Beautiful weather continued. What a great day. The penultimate stop was at Wormelow Tump. So hot and thirsty, I drank 2 bottles of water.

The final trek was about 50k back to Tewkesbury. Not a lot of climbing involved but felt tired all the same. Was good to ride in out little group of four, taking time to pull the group for a while. Due to my weight, I would roll faster down hill and then as a consequence find myself at front of group and having to pull. Argh! We reached the arrivee in daylight and had quite a quick pace really. Completed this 202k audax in 10 hours and 55 minutes. Pleased that this ride early in April had scored me the necessary credentials for my RRtY and AAARtY this month already.

Cycled a total of 388k this week. My LEL training target was 200k so was real pleased with this effort. My yearly distance to date stands at 2,641k. Other folk are using more specific training methods for LEL rather than just distance. I was put off after seeing the cyclist below work on his calves!

Monday 1 April 2013

Cheltenham The Vale 100k Permanent Audax (April 2013)

Managed to squeeze one further ride in during the Easter holidays. This ride was a permanent audax entitled 'Cheltenham The Vale 100' and was just over a 100k. I was not the only April Fool to ride this event, my cousin Aid joined me on this adventure. Our route is presented below:
We chose to start this audax from the Alcester control, which meant we had to cycle about an extra 16k or so because we started from my parents house in Studley. Aid chose to ride his Specialized Roubaix, whereas my weapon of choice was my single speed bike 'Florence'.

Reaching the first major control in Broadway was no real bother. We cycled some tasty descents during this section and only 1 menace short sharp climb. I spooked a runner as I shot past him just before Bidford.

From Broadway we cycled to Winchcombe. The rides through Stanton and Stanway were very lanesy and this was such a pretty area. We even witnessed a steam train (billowing steam) steam along. Nice.

From Winchcombe we had Cleeve Hill to climb. Cleeve Hill was not the biggest of climbs but enough of a climb to get us out of puff before the summit. The 'Hunters Breakfast' we had in Broadway was weighing heavy in our stomachs. After the climb came a fast descent which took us to Cheltenham. So fast was this descent that if I had not had braked I would have hit the caravan in front of me. Zoomy!
The route from Cheltenham to Pershore was familiar - I had cycled much of this last week when I rode that RRPCC route I stole. There were numerous errors on the route sheet we were following but I had cycled this before so no mistakes were made. Some might say I should have informed the organiser, paralysis of will will most probably have prevented this.
The route from Pershore to Alcester was a bit of a push. I think Aid had started to feel tired, hungry and a bit sick. This is not unusual when one has not cycled for a number of weeks then goes out on a relatively long run. Thankfully, Aid wasn't sick and we stopped briefly at the Alcester control for a bite of chocolate. This chocolate provided us with the necessary energy to get back to Studley. Woo hoo, job done! We cycled a total of 123k. Sweet.

Happy New Year 2022

Happy New Year folks. I wonder what's in store for 2022,  - something crazy, something new? It's a shame Covid is still here and I&#...