Archive | cycling

Stop start season

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I’ve been waiting for something good to write about, but at this rate I may not post anything at all.

It has been a stop-start season, but mostly stop – if not stuck in reverse gear. Sometimes, I can get a few days of training, but then take 2-3 weeks off the bike.

It feels like always going back to the starting point. It’s easy to lose inspiration to ride through injury and keep starting from the same low level.

I went out a few times in Yorkshire, getting as far as Grassington.

In New York, my longest ride was 26 miles during a marathon as a lead cyclist. 26 miles at an average speed of 9.5 mph. I was knackered the next day from looking behind at the lead runner. Took days to recover.

Compared to my three-hour 26 miles, these days there are riders who can ride 25 miles in 43 minutes (35 mph) (with a little help from suitable downhill dual-carriageways).

The hill climb season is upon us but I will probably give it a miss this year – perhaps one or two local events; the national is very unlikely at the moment. The only positive thing about the hill climb season is that at least I am at racing weight – an American diet of donuts and fried breakfast has not shifted any weight despite little exercise. But, being light is only one part of the equation. I went to Brill on Saturday and felt suitably slow and unfit. It was a reminder of how much hard work it is training for hill climbs.

Of all the hill climbs, I fancy doing the Monsal Head. I think you can do one minute hill climbs without any training. I’m not sure whether this is an observation that would be supported by sports science. But, in New York, I do one hill and have trained on it every year for the past 12 years. Training involves trying to race up it as fast as I can and have kept personal best times.

This August, I set an all-time pb (since 2005) of 1.34 for Sanitation Hill – faster than 2013,2014 and 2015. This was genuinely after doing hardly any training. Maybe the tail-end of Hurricane Harvey reaching New York helped a little…

 

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Long flat stages and Shibden Wall

This year we have the privilege of seeing a full stage in the Tour de France from start to finish – five hours of men pedalling bicycles. It can work both ways – on ‘hilly stages’ the start of a stage can be quite exciting as breaks form, break-up and new riders try to go across. On flat sprint stages, it’s mostly a long procession of castles and vineyards – if you’re lucky. The decision to go

The decision to go into the break on a ‘Marcel Kittel sprint stage’ seems to be about a few reluctant riders pulling the short-straw over breakfast. The main entertainment is seeing the faces of the odd rider who shoots off the front and despairingly looks behind to see if anyone else will come and share the workload for the inevitable doomed 190km breakaway. The Tour de France is the pinnacle of the sport, but there is no cycle race in the world where there is so little interest in going in a breakaway. Continue Reading →

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Trapping Hill and Nidderdale

I’m up in Yorkshire, so have been taking the opportunity to cycle up some ‘proper’ hills. I can’t do as much as I would like. Rather like an old man, I seem to take a few days recovery after any effort with ongoing issues. Still, something is better than nothing. After watching the Tour de Yorkshire on tv, I couldn’t resist visiting Lofthouse and Trapping Hill. (I’m not really keen on all this Franglais stuff –  Cote d’flipping steep hill sounds a bit weird). Trapping hill brings back memories of my first bike rides, aged 14 – when I  went camping at How Steen Gorge and being amazed at how difficult Trapping Hill and Greenhow Hill were.

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View from top

Trapping Hill isn’t quite as invincible as it felt as a newbie cyclist aged 14. When I visited on Saturday, tather fortuitously there was a tailwind up the climb, and the road had been newly repaved. If this smooth road was due to the Tour de Yorkshire effect, I hope it becomes a three-week grand tour. With a three-week Tour we could even afford to have stages across the border in Lancashire.

Continue Reading →

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Touring in The British Isles

At the moment, it seems all my cycling friends are going off on epic cycle tours around the British Isles. PJ is live blogging from his solo tour from around the abandoned medieval hamlets of Leicestershire and the like.

“Once you get out of the towns and cities, weaving a stitched line along the OS map, it’s quite startling how English everything becomes. The rural landscape, imaginative, physical, demographic and imaginative, is very much middle England, punctuated by the flag of St George, villages in thrall to a vision of the past that is at once bucolic, refreshing, but clearly at odds with the more modern subjectivity of the city dweller.”

Traumradfahren

When I went racing around England, I found a similar observation, in places such as Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Leicestershire – you came across all these villages which were quintessentially English in a way you felt only existed in 1950s Mrs Marple films. For me, cycling around the countryside was the best education there was more to England than Bradford and the inside of Oxford pubs.

I took this photo driving back from Nat HC 2010. But I have cycled up here a few times.

However, no matter how impressive consecutive days of 91 miles may sound, there’s always someone with a bigger ride. My team-mate Vilas Silverton writes an entertaining account of a 400km ride in the middle of March. – An early season 400km All night Audax rides in freezing winter seem to attract a particular breed of rider. A rider who revels in sleeping in bus shelters with the height of luxury being popping into a petrol station to ‘borrow’ a few plastic bags to try and keep warm. Silverton sets the scene for a frosty night ride. Continue Reading →

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Riding through injuries and niggles

Last weekend, I spent three days with no bicycle in Germany and my leg problems got worse. When I got back I actually had to take another day off the bike, at that rate I was despairing of ever seeing an end in sight.

But, at the same time, I was hopeful that I could just ride through and keep going. This weekend I’ve been up in Yorkshire, and it’s been great for a few reasons. The weather is excellent. Yorkshire in spring with the sun out takes some beating. But, at least this weekend, the more I cycle the less I’m getting bothered by old injuries and niggles. Saturday I made a visit to Pateley Bridge for one of my favourite climbs – Greenhow Hill. All told it was 50 miles and just short of 2,000m of climbing. After an easy day going to Grassington, (an easy day in the Yorkshire Dales can still mean 1,000m of climbing) I went south-west towards Silsden and some steep hills around there. This year I’ve done relatively little in terms of volume of training (compared to previous years), But, in the past week, I’ve started to feel in good shape. The top end fitness has come back quite quickly. It is also a psychological boost to get the summer bike out of the loft.

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Ellers Road looking back towards Sutton-in-Craven near Keighley.

From Sutton-in-Craven, I went up Ellers Road – a tough climb of 1.4 miles at 10%, with a particularly difficult beginning. It’s a very good test. I also found a new climb just to the south of Ellers Road. It is a climb called ‘Dick Lane’ or the ‘Cote de Dick’ if it gets in the Tour de Yorkshire. It is a very nice climb, 1.4 miles at 7% (and unlike its near neighbour Ellers Road – never too steep.) It is a smooth gradient, decent road surface and outstanding views across the valley to the left. I’ve been cycling in Yorkshire for 25 years but it’s still surprising how you can come across a new climb less than 15 miles from your house. Continue Reading →

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Eileen Sheridan – Wonder Wheels

Wonder Wheels is the autobiography of British cyclist Eileen Sheridan. Originally published in 1956, it was republished in 2009 by Mercian Manuals.

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Eileen Sheridan was a female cyclist who turned professional in the 1950s and successfully broke all 21 long distance time trial records – including a new record for Land’s End to John o’ Groats.

This is an excellent cycling book and gives an insight into the spirit of amateur time trials and the ‘golden age’ of British cycling in the 1940s and 1950s. Sheridan’s autobiography is fairly short, but it conveys her love of cycling, intrepid determination and cheerful disposition.

Like many people in that era, Sheridan got into cycling after becoming a leisure cyclist – joining a local club, taking part in touring rides and then graduating to racing. It was on these long club rides that she started to surprise both herself and other male cyclists with her unexpected capacity for maintaining high speed on these long rides through the Warwickshire countryside and beyond.

At the moment, there is a good degree of nostalgia about the 1950s, a nostalgia which can be misplaced. But, reading Sheridan’s book you do get a glimpse of a simpler time, where the joy of cycling and the Corinthian ethos of club life were well embedded. It’s hard not to read without an appreciation for the old style Sunday Club Run and touring – even if it is hard to relate to the austerity of the age.

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After outperforming many male club members on long rides, Sheridan was encouraged to enter her first time trial – a club 10 mile TT. She almost wasn’t allowed to start (failing to meet strict the RTTC rules about all black clothes) Fortunately, a club mate lent her a regulation black jacket. And despite the oversize jacket billowing in the wind, Sheridan won her first time trial. From there, she made rapid progress becoming 25 mile and 50 mile champion in 1950. She won the newly created Best All Rounder 1950/1951; set a new record at 12 hours and was given the prestigious Birdlike Memorial Prize in 1950. Continue Reading →

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Yorkshire

This weekend I’m up north. This was during a cycle from Pateley Bridge towards Grassington. A good 50 mile ride with quite a few hills. Furthest I’ve cycled for quite a time. The ride was good.

The top of Guise Edge gives a good view; you don’t always spend too much time appreciating this in the hill climb season.

The back road between Bolton Abbey and Ilkley.

Cyclist.

A good cycling road.

The Yorkshire Dales at Easter is great, especially when the weather was good like on Sunday. March/early April is lambing time. This lamb seemed quite interested in my bicycle, though his parents more suspicious.

 

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Broken chain and broken chain tools

The other day I was riding up Brill hill, with a nice tailwind at my back. At the steepest point of the hill, I stamped on the pedals and promptly broke the chain. Fortunately, because I was going quite slowly I stayed upright and didn’t fall on the ground.

broken chain

I would like to think it was due to an extraordinary transfer of power, but it was nothing that should have broken a chain. It is the third Dura Ace chain I have broken in as many years. It is possible, I am not fixing them correctly. But I don’t think so. There was a bad change of gears just before, and then the increase in power snapped through.

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I always carry a chain splitter with me. Usually as part of a multitool. I got a new multitool for Christmas and this was the first time I’d taken it out on a ride. The problem was the multitool didn’t work at all. It couldn’t move the pin in the chain even an iota. Despite standing on the multi-tool to try and get more leverage, nothing worked. I gave it up as a bad job and called a taxi. £45 for a taxi from Oakley to Oxford was an expensive bike ride. I think it’s the first time I’ve called a taxi whilst cycling, I can’t remember a previous occasion. At £45 a pop, I hope it’s another 20 years to the next one. The one crumb of comfort is that I had a tailwind on the way out from Oxford – I didn’t have to ride back into headwind but that is really clutching at straws to try and look on the bright side. Continue Reading →

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Cycling bits

Usually, by this stage in the season, I have a few hilly time trials under my belt. This year the only thing under my belt is a very slightly expanding waistline. 2017 has been all about pies, peas and stretching exercises, so far.

I have been able to get out every now and then. Spring threatened to break-out last week, with some very enjoyable riding conditions. I’ve been cycling up a few hills, just to remind myself how hard it is. I realise that to reach your top potential, you need to be in good shape physically and mentally. With a few aches and pains, it holds you back in more ways than one. I haven’t entered any races yet, though I have started to compare times on hills to previous years. This process of comparison has brought some dispiriting realisations that you have to work really hard to get up climbs in short time. Continue Reading →

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Start of the Cycling Season

Last week I turned on Eurosport for the first time since last October. It was the Tour of Dubai, a flat stage over the deserts of Dubai –  reminiscent of the rather forgettable World Championship in Qatar.

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Echelon

As I turned on, literally the first piece of commentary of the year was Carlton Kirby talking about how to tickle a camel on the top of the head. This mind-blowing piece of advice lasted a few minutes as the riders trundled through the dust and bare environment. I like Kirby’s esoteric commentary as much as the next person, but it didn’t seem an auspicious start to the cycling season. A flat stage to Dubai, where the greatest excitement is ruminating over the ticklish parts of camels. Why do I watch cycling anyway? Continue Reading →

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