Monday, 6 December 2010

What I really want for Xmas...

With the festive season appearing to be in full swing down at the shopping centre, I've been wondering what I really want for Xmas this year, then I cam across this from Pigeons on Pdoium Cafe:

Top Trumps: Cyclocross style

check it out here

There are a few other Top Trumps packs available from Pigeons too, just search for Top Trumps @ It takes me right back to my school days in the early eighties...

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Fall back ...

Since the clocks went back, just over three weeks ago now, commuting has continued but with an increased awareness and concentration.

The mornings are still good for an hour or so, and although usually starting off in the dark before 7am, it's soon getting lighter and I'm still able to take the quieter lanes round the long way to work. Coming home is now a much more focused affair. Increased levels of concentration are required to watch the road ahead for pot holes and other hazards, even with good lights like the Hope One. Still trying to keep the dash home at around 14miles means I can get a decent workout in, but having to carry the laptop on my back more times than I'd like has taken it's toll and resulted in tight lower back causing some trouble. Hope the next few weeks will see me able to leave it at work rather than having to lug it each way.

There have been only a couple of really cold and frosty mornings so far, but there is the threat of snow showers looming for the weekend - always a bit of fun with the cross bike.

Last year saw plenty of snow and ice, resulting in me hitting the deck on rather more occasions than I'd have liked, so hopefully I can stay in the saddle more this time around. We'll see.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

What's happening out there?

After the cold, icy conditions of the start of the week this morning had me wondering what's happening out there?

Monday morning was zero degrees, yesterday and this morning was back into double can that be. Seems like a change in the wind direction is the cause, with it blowing warm air in from the SW rather than the cold Arctic air from the our friends in the North.

This means that the commute into work is now into the wind, so I am looking forward to some assistance on the way home. It's still quite dull and I doubt if it has warmed up much from the morning so I won't need to shed any layers for the return trip, and with the intention to do a couple of shortish race intensity intervals will mean I'll be plenty warm enough anyway.

I'm still trying to keep focus for this weekends 'cross race which will be the last before a two week break, and hoping I can hold form to get another top 10 placing. So far the racing has gone really well, improving each race and picking up 2 top 10 placing in my Vet40-49 age category.

Fingers crossed then ;D

Monday, 25 October 2010

Dark, cold, icy

This morning was well dark, with requirement of the Hope One to be on beam 2 for the early portion of my commute - it really does light up unlit roads enough to ride at 18mph even at half power!

Even though it was dark and temperatures were only just above freezing I still chose the long route into work. Some 25 miles down dark and frosty country roads. Many would wonder why but when the shortest commute is about 12 miles and 40mins then that extra doesn't really take that much more out of you. Also, at the moment I've been racing every Sunday so I need to keep my endurance up and the only way is to put in some longer rides so my 3 morning commutes a week need to be a good length. This means that whilst many are not looking forward to the clocks going back at the weekend, my view is that at least my long morning commutes will be a bit brighter even tho the return rides will be in the dark.

The frost and ice became worse as I got closer to work for some reason. Plenty of crackling ice beneath the rubber and a couple of times the back wheel moved more than expected meant that the last couple of miles were taken with a lot more care than usual. My track record last winter of 3 falls means I'm sure to hit the deck again shortly!

Friday, 8 October 2010

More than a change in the weather?

This weekend I'm hoping for more than just a change in the weather. I'm hoping to get rid of the gremlins that have bugged my last two 'cross races and finally have a race free of mechanical problems.

I'm not sure if it will work out but I am hoping that tomorrow I can run the chain on the 46 ring and set the front mech to act just as a chain keeper similar to the Paul Components below:

This will allow me to make sure there are no problems with the front mech and hopefully the 46 ring isn't too big - I should be ok unless there are drastic changes to the course from last year where I ran a single speed 38-18 only running thru some of the stickier sections.

With the first round of the National Trophy series starting the same day, I'm hoping that most of the fast guys won't be there :D

On the commuting front, the dark mornings have been rolling in and this week has been quite cool and foggy. This afternoon is expected to be warm, I guess I'll be getting damp again this week but this week it will be due to working up a sweat and not because I'm doing my intervals in pouring rain!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Results and a photo from Sunday

The results for the latest round of the WMCCL were issued yesterday. I managed 23rd overall in the J/V/W race, and was 13th in the V40-49 category, which was ok considering the mechanical problems I had for at least half of the race. I'm hopeful that this weekend the bike will be trouble free.

There is also a nice photo on the British cycling website here which is a much better resolution that the copy below:

Monday, 4 October 2010

Mud, sweat and knackered gears ...

Yesterday saw the WMCCL round 2 move over to Firary Grange Liesure Centre at Lichfield.

After Friday's torrential rain to soften the ground we had more of the same on Sunday on the way to the venue, as well as before,during and after the race. With the hedgerow being cut earlier in the week the organisers re-jigged the usual course to keep the riders away from the worst of the tyre piercing thorns. This also severed up the opportunity to add the sand pit into the mix. It was truely a great course and I would have really enjoyed myself had I not had more front mech problems. This time dropping the chain on to an inner ring that I didn't intend to use. I realise now I should have stopped and put it back on the big ring as for the next 3 laps I had problems trying to run the chain across to the small cogs with the chain locking up frequently and so after a reasonable start the mech problem and the build up off mud, RedGra, sand and grass put paid to any hope of improving on last weeks result - tho the official results are still to be published as the organiser is having problems with soggy lap sheets!

So no results or photos at the moment but it was a real full on cross race, favouring those with multiple bikes and pit crews and was really well organised.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Next year already

I am always planning something. Whether it's my training and racing schedule for the coming season, months, weeks and days or looking further ahead to next year and family holidays or weekend works rides.

My training and racing plans are pretty much done and laid out for the next 4 months, with goals and objectives defined, training periods building to specific races, and sessions set out progressively to take me through the season.

So now my thoughts wander to next year. Holidays are already booked or penciled for Easter and the Summer.

I have some personal cycling goals/challenges that have been on my "to-do" list for a long time. These included; The Raid Pyrenean, Hell of the North Cotswolds, The Pennine Bridleway (in particular the Mary Townley Loop as I used to walk parts of it when I was a boy), The Trans Cambrian Way, The Fred Whitton, Alpe d'Huez Triathlon, go and sample the experience of a World Cup CX race. There are are others that I have done and know I could do some what better, like The Helvellyn Triathlon, The 3 Peaks Cyclocross and The Tour of the Corn Fields.

So what can I choose to knock off the list next year? HoNC is possible as I should be available that weekend. The Raid and The Alpe are out due to other holiday commitments. The Mary Townley Loop or the Trans-Cambrian Way could be built into a works cycling weekend in July if I can get enough interest and enough time off family duties. Probably top on the agenda at the moment is the 3 Peaks Cyclocross but it will mean a lot of planning and dedication as I will only be retuning from touring Europe with the family 3 weeks before the race and I would need to make sure that it doesn't clash with one of my wife's races again.

But at the moment I need to focus on the CX season ahead. I will now be racing every weekend in October and then if I put myself into a National Trophy race in November that'll be 3 weekends out of 4 - or put another way, one weekend off for bonfire night between now and December! So this afternoon is lactate tolerance reps, in the rain by the looks of things - so bring it on!

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Commuting fun

Commuting this week has been a mixed bag of fun in the rain and fog, to noticeably more dangerous driving as the morning darkness hangs around far to long.

Monday's commute was quite a damp affair which gave me the opportunity to try out my new sealskinz all weather glove, in a nice shade of red. I can safely say they did the job well, being waterproof without being bulky. I always seem to have cold extremities for the first 20mins of a ride in cool and cold conditions and to be honest there was no difference here but after that my hands were very toastie and overall I was please with their initial outing.

The other item of note on my Monday morning commute was the White Van Man who decided to overtake me coming off a bend with on-coming traffic which meant he had to squeeze passed. As he was so close I gave the side of the van a bit of a rap with the side of my fist, only to quickly check I hadn't picked up too much road dirt on my new sealskinz. Weather he was oblivious to this I'm not sure, as he just continued on his way but hopefully it gave him a bit of a jump.

This morning there was quite a bit of fog rolling off the fields after yesterday's downpours. It was a chilly ride in with heavy due collecting on my helmet and gloves. Once again traffic seemed a bit oblivious of me, even tho this morning I had my day-glo hi-viz wind jacket on and flashing light to front and back. I have a feeling that as it wasn't really dark, just a bit dull, and the fog wasn't anywhere near a pea-souper, that they just didn't like me using THEIR piece of tarmac - but hey it's there for us all and I can't get to worked up by them.

Hopefully my homeward journey will be a much more enjoyable affair now that he sun is out and my planned route will take me up the bridle path and thru the local park for a quick bit of technique training ahead of Sunday's CX league race in my new team kit.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Reflections of ...

With the first of the West Mids Cyclocross League events under my belt it's been a time to reflect on how things panned out.

There was a new format for the Vets/Jun/Wom race this year, with the Juniors and Vet 40-49 starting 2 mins before the the Women and Vets 50+. It seemed to work well on Sunday with less of queue at the first bottle neck with the 100+ field being split into 2.

The two things that I have been mulling over since the race are to do with race strategy and technical gear. The race strategy this time around was changed, instead of my usual hell for leather flat out start and then usual grovel to recover I decided to try to throttle back a little at the start and then hopefully be able to increase my effort throughout the race picking my way through the field. I think now that I chose the wrong course for this tactic as many folks after the race were suggesting that the course was more akin to a an MTB race with lots of wooded, single track which made it difficult to overtake and make up ground. Also, with the more reserved start I ended up lower down the field on the first time up the steep, slippery stepped section and possible blocked my more riders than usual.

The other thing is a technical decision to go with a single chainring. About midway through the race my front mech decided to no longer want to change down on the the inner ring, so I ended up riding half the race totally on the big ring, which wasn't too bad as I was only using the inner ring on the steps and a couple of other steep sections. I'd thought about this at the end of last season and I know it's probably a good idea as most of the course don't have too many really steep sections, and I was finding myself riding whole races on the big ring and even using a single speed for a couple of races without too much detriment to my performances. so the only thing now is cost and time, and really I should have done this before the season started.

However, the season has started. Now racing under the colourful banner of Team Here Come the Belgians I will have to knuckle down and see what the winter months will bring, both in terms of weather
and racing success. Unfortunately no pictures from last Sundays race, but I managed to finish 25th overall (J/V/W) and 16th V40-49 which is ok for starters, with only one incident requiring an ambulance this year!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Course Reccie/Commute

With the first round of the West Mids Cyclo-Cross League at Redditch just 2 days away, decided that it would be a good idea to incorporate a ride over to the course on my commute to work. this would mean I know how long it will take for me to cycle over to race HQ and give me the opportunity to have a ride around the course (if my memory recalls the route).

The route was ok, with only a minor mis-navigation and took me 50mins. However, the ride around the course (complete with laptop in my ruck sac) served to remind me how hard it is going to be. The starting lap misses out the steps and heads straight up a very steep hill before hanging left to descend thru a bomb hole, which took out a few competitors last year. I'm going to be struggling to recover after that start, and there is more of the same to come as the route ascends and descends the hill at various points around the lap. On the second lap, we switch to using part of the hill that has a section of steps, which if not too crowded can be ridden up along the edge of the steps, but is again very steep near the top.

So after doing a couple of laps, I was feeling pretty knackered, initially a little down beat and not really ready for it. However this is the first round and my first 'cross race since Feb so I shouldn't expect too much and just try and start kicking things into gear.

The home this afternoon will have to include a few loops thru the local park to practise some dismount/mount drills as I haven't had chance this week with having builders in and car issues. Hopefully it will gee me up along with the sunshine that seems to have arrived. :D

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Warming up for a Winter of Anticipation

Over the last month my commutes to and from work have been interrupted somewhat, with nice things like lounging around on the shores of Lake Garda for 10 days and not so nice things like having to get car repairs done which means a lot more driving around than I'd like.

As a means of a warm-up to break me into the forth coming cyclocross season, I entered the Warwick Town Centre races after returning from Italy. With only about 3 outings on the bike in the previous 3 weeks I wasn't really expecting to much on race day. I have raced at Warwick once before, about 3 years ago, and said then it would be the last time as the idea of riding hell for leather round a 1km circuit that includes half a dozen 90 degree turns, a short drag, and iron works was a stupid one. Now I had convinced myself it would be good training for the initial cross races after the openers being so fast and furious last year. This time around however instead of the circuit being nice and dry (as forecast) the heavens opened about 20mins before my race (novice and 4th cats). As expected the racing was fast and I tried to keep things under control but as usual the adrenalin got the better of me and I just went all out for as long as I could, which wasn't long enough as it turned out. I did mange to be up there for the second intermidiate sprint after 20mins but then paid for my efforts when held up by soome lapped riders, eventually finishing 11th. I actually enjoyed myself more this time around and can only wonder how I might have performed if I hadn't had 2 weeks off just prior.

So there are now only 3 days until the start of the West Mids Cyclo-Cross League, and the anticipation within me is building. I can't wait to ride over to the series opener at Pitcher Oak Woods and do battle against my fellow 'crossers on one of the more technical courses with lung busting ascents, steps, wooded tracks and technical decents. A brief reccie of the couse later this week to check how the going is, and what tyres might be best, then ..."Let battle commence"

Thursday, 12 August 2010


This morning's commute was meant to incorporate some cruise intervals, best done on the road bike and on a largely traffic free circuit in between home and work. However, I am still having issues with up and down levels of lethargy, although the blood tests haven't turned anything up, and really didn't feel like hammering anywhere near threshold with a 5kg pack on my back. I decided to change my shoes at the last minute and take the 'cross bike and do a little off-road route that includes some nice bridle paths and broken white lanes.

En route, I not only encountered the usual rabbits, squirrels and pheasants but came across a family of deer in the lane that were much too quick for me to snap with my camera phone. I realised at this point how lucky I am to not only be able to cycle to work but to also have many varied routes that all low me to stumble on such scenes.

With the recent bouts of showery rain the bridle paths have soften ever so slightly and there is a little more standing water around, which makes for a more technical ride in. Getting towards the end of my ride I was suitable motivated to take one section of bridleway at around 15mph, leading to a lane with a 35mph decent.

With only the ride up Moss Lane to the bridle path behind work left, I was swinging. A quick dismount at the gate and then down the path I could hear someone call there dogs. Rounding the bend I was confronted by a Rottweiler, fortunately muzzled, and a Terrier which seemed to be more interested in the hedgerow animals than me, thank goodness. So I passed nice and slowly expecting the chase to commence but it never did, nor did I see the owner.

With the last drop off the hill side completed I was pleased that I had chosen the 'cross bike and taken a mix of off-road riding to get to work, I certainly feel I made the right decision.

Now looking forward to the ride home, and I can leave the backpack at work.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Tiredness continues

Even before our 300 mile trip across the North I'd been feeling pretty tired, lethargic and lacking in energy. Since returning 10 days ago I am seemingly on a roller coaster, one day feeling fine and rolling along strongly, only to be wasted and wanting to sleep all day then next.

Not sure what's up, and neither is the quack. Blood pressure is up, but pulse is low as usual. I'm finding it hard to motivate myself to get out riding during the day, even though the league has just released the dates for the coming seasons races (which does excit me) and I should be starting to build up my intensity on the bike.

Still, ridiing to work 3 times a week will help keep the fitness ticking over until I come out of this tunnel I feel to be in and on the good days it's great.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The cavaly has arrived...

To assist my fellow work colleagues during our Coast 2 Toast ride over the Pennines and back in 96hrs, today we have taken delivery of a Ford Galaxy, which will mostly be used for carrying some £300 worth of energy drinks, bars, gels and our Service Course workshop.

Just heard that full team kit, including arm and leg warmers (they know we're going North), has just arrived from Giant UK!

An early start tomorrow of around 7am will hopefully see us in West Cumbria for lunchtime. An short warm-up day to start goes over Whinlatter Pass to Keswick, then 3 long days in the saddle. Day 2 is over the Penines nealr to Newcastle, taking in about 7 main climbs including the Old Coach Road and Hartside. Day 3 is down to the coast at Tynemouth, before turning North west and heading to remote Kielder Forest, some 95 miles in total. Day 4 will take us briefly into Scotland enroute back to Cumbria for our last stop at Cockermouth. Sunday morning is a gentle run back to Whitehaven along the coast, and if we're not toast by then I'll be Belgium !!!

Friday, 25 June 2010

Trial Run

In readiness for my C2C challenge ride next week I have spend the last few days sorting out "Oom Johan", so now I have "pimped my ride" tourist stylie.

So yesterday I took him out for a spin to work, down some old lanes and bridlepaths to see how he handles. Effortless took all the rought stuff thrown at him, but will need some adjustment to the brakes to give a more positive response when braking on the hoods.

The panniers on tha back catch the wind just lovely, but the low 34/29 gear will hopefully handle the Old Coach Road out of Keswick and across Thelkeld Common to Dockray - my only fear for next week.

Back to yesterdays ride and the return home wasn't back at all. A quick stint up Moss Lane, over the potholes and road debris, then up the bridlepath to Pink Green where I met a padlocked gate. Even in tourist mode, Oom Johan was easily thrown over then I followed.

Here are a couple of pics of Moss Lane and the bridle path.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Mid Summer's Day

This morning I took the long way into work, firstly going 5 miles in the opposite direct before swinging round in a big loop. Funny thing, after about 7 miles I noticed another rider in the French tri-colour coming the other way - I think a jolly Bonjour! is in order, then notice it is Rob from work doing the same as me but the opposite way round. Rob will be riding the C2C with me next week, however as I was in "the zone", riding tempo it didn't occur to me to turn and ride with him until about 2 miles down the road!

As the clouds rolled away this morning and the sunshine flooded out, I happened to be passing an old "broken" lane that I often used last year when doing some 'cross training. So in my new Team HCtB jersey I took the turn into the track, the closest thing to cobbles around for a bit of rough stuff fun :D

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Wind, hills but no rain

The Sunday just gone was the last group training ride for our little team of work mate who are attempting the C2C and back at the end of the month. The plan was to meet up near Burton-on-Trent and ride north into the Peak District, take in a few climbs and circle round back for an 80ish mile ride. The route to be taken was similar to the Midland Monster sportive, and the aim was to get some serious hills under our belts. The forecast was bad, real bad. How wrong predictions can be. The torential rain came early, and all though we did have a stiff head wind to contend with as we headed north we made reasonable progress, until we got into the foot hills of the Peaks.

After struggling into the wind and up some long drags north of Waterhouses, we decided that it would be prudent to cut out the top corner of our route, about 10 miles and some seriously undulating terrain. After see the field of the Polka Dot streaming passed us in the other direction we cut across and headed toward Grindon and on to the "Wall at Wetton", measured at over 22%! After folks had recovered fromo their bouts of cramp and lack of oxygen we ambled thru the rolling countryside, taking in some spectacular views before taking a stop ate Ilam to refill bottles and scoff 99's before the ascent out towards Mapleton and Ashbourne. It was here at one of party could take no more and called for a the broom wagon, in the shape of his brother-in-law, to meet him by the chippy in Ashbourne Market Place. The rest of us only had the torturous climb out of ashbourne the a wind assisted run back to Burton, where we met up with our weary collegue again, who bought us a well earned pint.

The folks now have their eyes well and truely opened in readiness for our trek over the Pennines, where we will be taking in most of the major climbs in one made day from Keswick to Edmonbuyers - may the Madonna di Ghisallo smile upon us :)

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Terrible goings on up North

Yesterday a tragic incident unfolded in West Cumbria, 4 weeks to the day before we will be arriving for our big cycle ride across the country and back.

By mid afternoon over a dozen people lay dead and almost the same were injured after a gun man had gone on a shooting rampage around the countryside. I am thankful that this type of incident is very rare in the UK, and I'm sure that the Great British public will do what they can to help this rural community come to terms with what has happened.

It makes you wonder why folks feel the need to have firearms available at home...

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Only 4 weeks to go...

In four weeks time, myself and 7 work mates will be heading north to ride from the shores of the Irish Sea over the back bone of England to the North Sea and back via the borders country. Yes, another C2C but this time with the added twist of also riding back and all in aid of charity.

Covering 320miles, hopefully there will be no getting lost en route, in less than 96hrs we are hoping to raise £2000 for Birmingham Children's Hospital. Most people do just one way in 3 or 4 days so this will call for some speedy pedalling or some very long days.

Most things are all set to go; accomodation is booked, travel arrangements, even a support vehicle and driver.

We have a final training ride on Sunday riding 80 miles through the hills of the Peak District from Burton, and then we will see how everyone is fairing at this point and who can make a ride into work on Monday morning.