Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Roll over Rapha; The end of 2013 as we know it

This week started with a 200k audax. This audax was the Banbury Cross perm organised by Steve Poulton. Have now completed this audax a number of times but perhaps not in weather as dire as this occasion.

I needed to complete a 200k event to keep my RRtY award going and I still had to cycled about 250k to complete the Rapha (menace) Festive 500 Challenge. The things cyclists do for a pathetic woven badge. On with the story…

Started the Banbury Cross Audax from Broadway on a dark, wet and windy morning. Was so hard cycling as the roads were water-logged and the rain would beat hard against my face. The wind and rain was hitting me sideways. I kept telling myself 'at least the wind isn't head on' and 'it'll be sunny later'. This was a good mantra as I climbed Cleeve Hill.

Reached Cheltenham and was soaked through to the skin. It was a menace taking wet gloves on and off just to buy a chocolate bar for POP purposes. Not long after leaving this control another climb had to be beat. The rain and wind continued to beat hard against me but from the other side now. Had started to get worried about time, my average speed was only 17kph. Oh, and the hills appeared relentless in this weather. I suppose now is a good time to demonstrate the hilliness profile of said route.
Big hills at start and end of Banbury Cross 200
Was pleased to beat these 2 first hills as I knew the route should be gentler for a while now. The profile might have been gentler but the weather got worse. Once I reached Cirencester I decided to stop. I was not at a control but the last so many k were fighting into a headwind and I was soaked through to the skin. A convenient McDonald's was found. So better I felt after a breakfast and after I used the hand drier in the gent's to some-what dry my shoes, socks, gloves and buff! Left McD's and battled the weather again. On all previous cycles of this audax I have always taken a wrong turn before Latton, this time I nailed it and followed the correct route perfectly. Decided to bounce the control at Cricklade (due to time constraints plus my eat at Cirencester).

From Cricklade to Witney the weather had started to improve. My feet were still wet but at least there was no rain and wind beating against my face. Perhaps I was in a tail wind as my average speed had picked up to 20kph by the time I reached control. Was great to reach Witney because I was now half way and had reached a favourite cafe of mine. I sat down to eat a mini (but trust me it was huge) breakfast and phoned my wife. Is always good to hear SJ's voice.

Left Witney and cycled straight to Banbury, bouncing the control at Bicester. Always amazes me how many airfields are passed on this route. I guess it was too windy for most air craft to fly but at one point I saw army helicopters overhead. As is my usual practice, I took a picture of the horse at Banbury Cross next to my steel carbon horse. (The horse is more spectacular than the cross).
The return leg from Banbury was the most undulating section for sure. By now it was dark again too. I deliberately chose an alternative route back and didn't follow the route sheet (following road signs to Broadway instead). Distance-wise there was little difference. By taking this alternative route I had a big hill to climb but… (drum roll)… this led to the top of Fish Hill! From the top of Fish Hill came a super fast, ring-twitching descent all the way back to the arrivee! Is nice to finish a tough ride in this style! Below is the GPX track of my route.
Ride 6 Rapha Challenge - Banbury Cross, 203k
By completing the Banbury Cross audax meant that I had only another 45k to go to complete the Rapha Festive 500 challenge.

My final Rapha ride was with Ron. We cycled a good old jolly ride that kinda formed a figure of 8 pattern. The route is presented below.
Ride 7 Rapha Challenge - Roll over Rapha, 57k
Woo Hoo! Had completed the Rapha Festive 500 challenge. What a menace that was!
The fat lady sang! Indeed she did. Not only was the Rapha challenge complete, so was my cycling for the year 2013. My total distance cycled during 2013 was 12,498k (7,766 miles).


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At the start of this year (2013) I had certain goals I wished to complete. Am very pleased to say that I have achieved them all. My biggest and best achievement was that I became a dad! My beautiful wife (SJ) gave birth to our beautiful daughter Lunar in February. How blessed we both are.
Our beautiful daughter Lunar (minus the elf suit)
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On the cycling front, I had wanted to cover more than 4,309 miles (the total distance cycled in 2012) and hoped to cycle 5,200 miles (about 100 miles a week). I shattered this and cycled a total number of 7,766 miles, the most I have cycled in any one year to date. That's about 1,000k a month! For the audax geeks (of which I am one) I completed my SR, RRtY and AAARRtY series and successfully completed LEL.

For those that like stat's, below are my cycling distances in km's since I began recording them (figures in brackets are miles).

2009 - 5,086 (3,160)
2010 - 8,509 (5,287)
2011 - 8,378 (5,207)
2012 - 6,935 (4,309)
2013 - 12,498 (7,766) 


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A big thank you to all those who have read my blog and/or joined in any of my adventures over the past year(s). I hope you all have a wonderful new year. Hopefully wheel catch up in 2014!

Monday, 30 December 2013

The (menace) Rapha Festive 500

This week began on Christmas Eve. Not sure why but I decided I would enter the Rapha Festive 500 - a challenge to clock 500 kilometres between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. By completing said challenge I would receive a Rapha Festive 500 woven badge to commemorate my achievement.

Ride 1 of my Rapha challenge was wet and miserable. I cycled just over 60k on my single-speed road bike. The average temperature was about 2C, so I didn't stop to take any pictures. A GPX track of my route is presented below.
Ride 1 Rapha Challenge - a single-speed Xmas Eve jolly, 61k
Did not cycle on Christmas day, despite it being dry and not windy at all. Had a great day with family and felt truly blessed. My little Lunar the elf provided ample entertainment!
Lunar the elf, Christmas 2013
Boxing day was spent at work to start with then a trip with my little elf to see more family. Obviously did not cycle today. With only 12% of my challenge covered was beginning to think 'oh why did I ever enter this'.

Back on the bike on Friday. Decided I would take the single-speed out for a blast before my wife woke up. Didn't quite work - SJ shouted a request from the bedroom that I didn't go, just before I reached the front door. The wind was howling like crazy. I assured SJ the weather wasn't too bad and cycled in some strong winds. The winds were blowing at about 25mph (which was nothing compared to the 80mph gusts reported on the news over recent days). This was a tough ride and to top that I was feeling out of sorts and was sporting an unsightly cold sore. Ugh! Was too windy to take any pictures. I cycled about 68k and my GPX track is presented below.
Ride 2 Rapha Challenge - Windy Single Speed Menace,  68k
Saturdays ride was great. SJ suggested that I cycle the back road to Evesham - so that's exactly what I did. I stopped at Raphael's cafe and better yet, was joined by SJ and Lunar for brunch.
SJ, Lunar and Doo at Raphael's Cafe
The cycle home covered similar tracks to yesterdays ride. I cycled to and through Bidford. For a change I cycled through Coughton which was somewhat flooded. My GPX track is presented below.
Ride 3 Rapha Challenge - Rapha Raphael Route,  71k
False start to Sunday's ride. I got up quite early (about 6 a.m.), dressed in my cycling gear and readied my bike. However, once out the front door it was game over - Jack Frost had covered the roads in that thick white stuff. Not sure why but I ventured to the top of the road to see if it was any better. Of course it wasn't - ride abandoned. Later in the day when the frost had disappeared, Ron and I went for a jolly. Aid initially said he was free this afternoon but we heard rumour that the fair weather fairies had gotten hold of him. Ron and I cycled a good 50k plus. Just as we were nearing home, Jack Frost came back out which caused Ron a wee skid. Our GPX track is presented below.
Ride 5 Rapha Challenge - Rapha Ride with Ron, 53k
At this juncture I had completed about 50% of the Rapha Challenge (all on a single-speed bike) which basically meant that I had a further 250k to cycle. A 200k ride was needed to keep my RRtY award going too. Did I complete these challenges?! - read the next blog instalment and find out! 

Have now cycled 12,238k to date.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Winter Solstice 2013

This week, I mostly been a single-speedin', just like the super-hero Kermit the Frog. No long distances were covered and no audax event was completed. Still, 3 enjoyable rides were had.

My first ride was a lap of my BG SR 2 route. The second outing was a MTB jolly and a few new paths were ridden. Final trek was a completion of my BG SR 3 route.

The only real wow factor of the week was that I cycled on the shortest day of the year. That's right, I cycled during the Winter Solstice. Kermit celebrated the Winter Solstice in style...
Cycled a total of 114k this week. Am just 5k off my target of 12,000k! I hope to beat my target, especially as I have signed up for the (Rapha) Festive 500. Let's just hope the weather is kind!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Yatmon and on and on ….

Only cycled on one occasion this week. It was a good cycle, however. I completed the Yatmon 150 audax for a 4th time.
Would like to have been cycling here (New Zealand) but I wasn't
Black Sheep HQ was my starting point. It was worth my while starting from here as I was able to covet a brevet card from Lou and a stamp from Mark. Neither of the Black Sheep folk cycled this event with me, it was a solo affair. It was nice to be wished well from the pair at the start though.

Left Tewkesbury on a foggy December morning. A beautiful red sky graced the horizon. Temperature wasn’t too bad. The traffic was initially very busy though – I followed the original route sheet and made no plans of avoiding the traffic. The traffic didn’t last long – as soon I neared Apperley very little traffic was encountered. Had only cycled this ‘original’ version once before so it was nice to compare my routes. I was initially confused as I reached Mitcheldean because I entered it from a different side compared to my last ride. The co-op shop provided me with my necessary POP (after I purchased a lovely red apple). Some random chap started talking to me about bikes, triathlons and sport at this stop.

Reached Goodrich in no time and was pleased I could see the castle despite the fog. Stopped for a fudge bar at the P.O. (every good boy deserves fudge) and then headed for the Yat Rock climb. Not sure why but I found this climb harder than usual. Maybe the over indulgence of pre-Christmas chocolates had something to do with it?! I was pleased to reach the summit and found the trek to 5 Acres garage nearly as tough. I purchased more water from the garage and then headed for Monmouth.

Felt much better heading towards Monmouth. This was probably because of the super descent and the knowledge that the next control was a ‘spoons pub! Suffice to say, the breakfast at ‘spoons was a winner!

The next stage led to Grosmont and back. Lou describes this leg as the ‘horse shoe circle’ because it’s kinda horse shoe shaped and one virtually circles back on themselves. The GPX track of this part of the route is presented below.
A prominent white house can be seen on either side of the horse shoe. Better yet, each white house can be viewed from the opposing white house. Just for fun, I decided to photograph each white house as I passed it, plus photograph the opposing white house from where I stood. The first white house was aptly called ‘Whitehouse cottage’. Was pleased the opposing house could be seen (just) despite the foggy conditions. Before I reached the second house, I stopped at the control in Grosmont.
Whitehouse Cottage
Aptly named cottage
Opposing white house as viewed from Whitehouse cottage
The Grosmont control was a P.O. Had stopped here before on my first ride (used cafĂ© on second two) but the P.O. was not able to give me a stamp because it had been stolen 2 days prior and they didn’t give receipts. On this occasion my card was stamped with a temporary stamp. This temporary stamp had the wrong date and didn’t state ‘Grosmont’ but am sure it would suffice. I also purchased some liquorice all-sorts to keep my energy up.

After the Grosmont P.O. the route turned on itself and I cycled the other side of the horse shoe. Stopped at the second white house. This house was (disappointingly) called ‘Beech lodge’. Like before, I took a photo of the opposing house. Oh, things you do when you only have yourself and the voices in your head for company…

The other/opposing white house
Not-so aptly named
Whitehouse cottage viewed from (white house) Beech Lodge
Continued on through Hoarwithy and finally reached Much Marcle. Despite the ground being damp, the mud wasn’t too bad and my bike stayed relatively clean. No ill sounding chain either – bonus! Had a pepperoni at control before embarking on the last leg.

Was not sure if it was before or after Much Marcle but at one point I was stopped by what I thought was a group of gaggling geese. I took a photo as presented below. Can any bird spotters tell me what they really were?
Gaggling geese? Christmas turkeys?
Moments later, 2 guys could be seen running after these birds. They explained that the birds were escapee’s from a local farm. I raced on during the last leg, wanting to reach Tewkesbury before it got dark. My Garmin went into night mode about 10 minutes before I reached the arrivee in Tewkesbury, so job nearly done.

The arrivee was, of course, Black Sheep HQ. It was nice to finish here as I got congratulated, ate mince pies, saw recent decor and shared stories. One such story involved a rescued cat who was called ‘Lunar’. Lunar is the name of my daughter. How cool was that?! What a novel way to end my blog. J

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Tinsel and Tings

First ride of the week was a lap around my 'stolen' BG SR 1 route on my single-speed road bike. Had been so long since I last cycled this route that I had trouble remembering it as I went along. Such a great ride - very scenic, relatively flat and fast.
BG SR 1 route, 46k
BG SR 1 profile, relatively flat and fast
Second ride of the week was a bit of a disaster. Had decided to enter the Tinsel and Lanes 200k audax. Initially my mate Jamie was cycling this too but had to pull out a while back due to family commitments. My buddy Chris was also hoping to ride and I was looking forward to his company. However, at the 'eleventh hour' the Southern Fairies got hold of Chris and put pay to his plans. Two DNS's (did not starts) and some say 'bad luck comes in three's'...

There may be some truth in what people say. Despite the DNS pair, I figured I would complete this audax all the same. Once at the start there were a fair amount of folk I knew from previous rides. Left the Pretty Pigs pub in Tamworth at 8 a.m. and I felt fine cycling at the front of the pack chatting with a random other. After about 3k in and I heard a 'click, click, click..' and damn, blast - I had a broken spoke on my rear wheel. Grr! 2 DNS's and now a DNF (did not finish). This was my second DNF to date. At least this mis-hap was right at the start. Continuing wasn't really an option as now the wheel would rub against my brake pads and goodness knew what might have happened next.

With my road bike momentarily out of action, I decided to take my single-speed out for a shorter spin. And what better ride than another trek along my BG SR 1 route?! I took this ride more leisurely and stopped to take a few photo's to help paint this ride with pictures.
Edstone aqueduct
The largest aqueduct in England
The biggest little evil
Always makes me think 'Grand Designs'
About half-way
Pennyford Lane (though no ford down this lane)
Cycled a total of 100k this week. Pah! Yearly total now stands at 11,719k.











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