Hounslow & District 100 mile TT 2015

After riding in the Pyrenees, everything else seems a bit of an anti-climax. Today was a 100 mile time trial on the H100/8 over the A31. It meant five circuits of a dual carriageway circuit, which is quite rough and ready in places. As you might imagine -a bit different to climbing the high mountains.

There was a full field of 120 riders plus 10 reserves – a good field for another excellent Hounslow promotion.

My preparation was nice and relaxed. No need for an hour on the rollers before a 100. The main thing is checking food and hydration and get yourself sorted. I was able to lend a spare training wheel to number 92 Harry Walton from Cheltenham, who got a last minute rear wheel puncture.

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drinks-for-100-mile-time-trial

My bike was loaded with 2.1 litres of water and quite a few energy gels in that pouch on the top tube. (Though the gels were popping out of it on the A31 ridges – I lost one and caught another…) Continue Reading →

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British hills vs Alps / Pyrenees

The defining feature of British hills is that they are short and steep. Four minutes of a lung bursting effort of gradients up to 30%.

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Hardknott Pass (30%) – Lake District

British roads were not built with smooth cycling in mind. We throw a road on the hill and hope for the best; hairpins are a luxury rarely afforded – at best we may get a quarter hairpin so the gradient is kept below 25%. The gradient is never constant, but nearly always variable. You can’t get into a rhythm but will find you are constantly changing gear or wishing you had a lower gear to go into. To add insult to injury, the road surface is invariably rough and potholes create an added challenge.

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Luz Ardiden in winter. Photo James Burke CC

The Alps and Pyrenees by contrast are wonderfully engineered and manicured climbs. You can have a climb with an average gradient of 8%, but the maximum is 10%. In England, an average of 8%, usually means a maximum of 18-20%. On the continent, the road surfaces are usually something we can only dream of –  smooth and well maintained. The other defining thing about the Pyrenees is that the climbs are long  17km, 20km climbs. We just struggle to comprehend how long the hills are. It’s like doing a 10 mile time trial uphill at an average gradient of 9%.

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Luz Ardiden

Luz Ardiden is a ski resort built in 1975 and has featured several times as a summit finish in the Tour de France. It starts from the same town as the Col du Tormalet – to the north east of Luz Saint Sauveur in the Midi Pyrenees,  It is a classic Pyrenean climb – averaging 8% for a height gain of 982m, with frequent hairpin bends. It offers some stunning views from the top.

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Luz Ardiden near the top.

  • Distance 8.1 miles / 13 km
  • Average gradient: 8%
  • Height gain: 982m / 3,223ft
  • Summit height: 1702m / 5585ft
  • PB: 43.29 / 11.2 mph (18 km/h) 17 May, 2015
  • Category: HC

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Col du Tourmalet

The Col du Tourmalet was first featured in the Tour de France in 1910. Since then, it has featured in the race over 73 times and is one of the most prestigious climbs on the Tour.

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1926 Lucien Buysse on the Tourmalet

The early intrepid riders were climbing poor road surfaces on heavy two speed bicycles; in those days, to climb a Pyrenean pass like the Col du Tourmalet was a herculean task. With lightweight bikes and good road surfaces, it is a little easier than for those early pioneers, but it is still 2,100m to ascend.

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Eventual winner Octave Lapize walking up the Tourmalet in 1910.

In the Tour de France, the Col du Tourmalet is often the penultimate climb of the day. It is conveniently situated near many mountain top finishes like Luz Ardiden, Hautacam. There are no shortage of other climbs in this part of the world. One thing always guaranteed with the Col du Tourmalet is that the peleton will be split into little pieces with perhaps twenty or thirty minutes between the front and back of the peleton.

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The Col du Tourmalet can be climbed in both directions, and offers a similar gradient and challenge. Continue Reading →

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Charlotteville 50 mile TT 2015

It is the third consecutive year I have ridden the Charlotteville 50 mile TT on the Bentley (A31) H50/8 course. It is also the first standard distance, ‘non-sporting’ time trial I’ve done this year.

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Even for a relatively fast dual carriageway course, it’s still a bit lumpy – 1,545 feet over 50 miles.

I finished in second with a time of 1.43.59. I was a little surprised with the time; it was quicker than expected. I have many memories of doing 50 mile time trials on this course and really struggling over the last couple of miles. Today, I seemed to have a little left in tank to go even harder in last 10 miles. I think it was a pb for a 50 mile TT, (if you exclude the superfast A50 course) Continue Reading →

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Amateur cycling

One of the attractions of sport and time trials in particular is the amateur ethos. Doing sport – not for name and fame – but for your own individual sense of satisfaction. Seeing sport not as ‘win at all costs’ but an opportunity for self-transcendence. How far can you push your mind, body and spirit, using your own efforts?

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Martyn Roach of the Hounslow and District CC. Resolute club man, and national champion.

The amateur / Corinthian ideal is not about money. But, the attitude with which you do sport. In the 1950s, sport tied itself in knots – banning people from racing who accepted so much as an inner tube from a bicycle company. This made a joke of amateur sport and, inevitably over time, the line between pro and amateur became blurred. I don’t think anyone mourns the loss of strict rules about not accepting money. But, whether pro or amateur, whether well paid or competing for just honour – an athlete always faces the choice of how to compete and with what attitude. Continue Reading →

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DHB Aeron Shorts review

DHB Aeron shorts are a ‘mid range’ cycling shorts from DHB (Wiggle) that were sent to me free for review. I’ve now used them for a few weeks, and they are a decent pair of shorts, which offer good comfort whilst in the saddle (whether TT or road bike)

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dhb-aeron-chamois

The chamois is made by an Italian firm CyTech, who over the years have produced pads for brands such as Assos, Gore, De Marchi, Rapha and others. This padding is one of the higher end ones. It has up to 10mm foam in areas where it is needed most with air pockets to enable the shorts to breathe. I’ve only used for 3 and half hour rides, but it is quite comfortable even with wafer thin saddle. Continue Reading →

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Shap Fell hill climb 2015

For the past few years, May Bank holiday Monday means the Kent Valley R.C. hill climb on Shap Fell. The attraction of riding Shap Fell has increased now I’ve found Great Dun Fell, a few miles away. So I can come up north and do two hill climbs for the price of one. This year, I ended up riding Hartside too, so I kind of got three for the price of one this year.

The first thing about Shap Fell hill climb is that you pay close attention to the weather forecast (or more accurately the wind direction) The first two times I rode Shap Fell were into roaring headwinds. After riding it with a tailwind in past two years, it doesn’t take a genius to work out which is more enjoyable.

Last year I rode a road bike on the basis that aerodynamics probably don’t matter with a tailwind. But, this year I thought a time trial bike would be quicker. So I brought two bikes – the Trek Speed Concept and my road bike for riding Great Dun Fell later. Continue Reading →

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Guide to cycle lanes

Cycle lanes come in many different forms – the good, the bad, the ugly and sometimes the downright bizarre.

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Cycle path Oxford

In recent years, the number of cycle paths in the UK have increased substantially. In theory, they have the potential to make cycling safer, more enjoyable and reduce friction between different road users. However, because of the haphazard nature of creating cycle paths, there often seems little continuity in design and implementation. It means we have cycle paths ranging from the good to downright bad and some just silly.

More than anything, we need road planners to be bolder in actually designating more space for cycle paths. We widen roads to make dual carriageways, often all we need is a couple more feet to create a really good cycle path. Also a good cycle path is much more than painting a white line on a pavement and hoping it all works out fine.

Segregated Cycle Paths

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Bi directional cycle path enables commuters to avoid crossing road and congestion.

This cycle path is separate from the road. It doesn’t conflict with pedestrians and is wide enough for dual way. This is an ideal cycle path for an inner city path. It is the kind of path which would encourage a huge range of new people to start cycling.

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Tour de Yorkshire a great success

The Tour de Yorkshire seems to be a great success. An estimated 1.5 million spectators lined the roads. You don’t see those crowds when watching monuments like Liege Bastogne Liege. Despite numbers of spectators they seem very well (compared to Tour de France standards)

The lumpy terrain of Yorkshire provided interesting racing on all three days.

The scenery is great.

Some photos from Stage Three

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East Chevin 30 mins before the race arrived. It was packed with people. The sun turned to rain when the riders arrived.

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Lawson Craddock and Nicolas Edet on East Chevin. The two were out front for a long time.

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