Watching Le Tour de France in Yorkshire + Photos

It was a really great day watching the Tour de France in Yorkshire.

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Despite near saturation media coverage, I still find it difficult to get my head around the notion that cycling in the UK is mainstream. But, today it was all about cycling. It was surreal cycling along roads I used to train on with virtually no cars, just hundreds of other cyclists. Even when I did see a car, they were kind, courteous and patient. I know it won’t always be like this, but it was something to experience for a day.

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On Ripon bypass

Even at the best of times, it seems cycling in Britain is something to be tolerated – ‘OK, you’re a cyclist but can you please keep in that segregated cycle lane, thank-you very much‘.

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King of the yellow jumpers. The Black Knight – He is famous for crippling the French army at the battle of Crécy in the 14th century!

I’d never thought I’d see the day, when my county of birth (1) would come to a virtual standstill to give 100% attention on a cycle race passing through. Such enthusiasm and excitement I haven’t seen since the 2012 Olympics (and that was pretty special). I went to see the Olympic road race in the centre of London, but to be honest, the Tour de France is on a completely different level. The Olympic road race was just one of many unbelievable events – The Tour de France demands and fully receives centre stage. They don’t fly 60 French gendarmes in, just to taste the local Wensleydale Cheese. It is all a bit surreal, almost unbelievable. I think many in Yorkshire are proud that we’ve helped add something quite significant to the Tour de France.

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Yorkshire! Yorkshire! Yorkshire!

I thought I’d take the train into Ilkley four hours before the race was due to pass by. I couldn’t get the train because it was full. This is a 600 capacity train running four times an hour. I’ve never seen a full train at Menston before. I walked home and got on my bicycle.

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The peleton

The Peleton in full flight

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I went to watch in two places.

First up was Burley bypass. A few miles from my parents house in Menston. Normally 10km from the start on a flat stage, and spectators are pretty thin on the ground – even at the Tour de France. But, this was the day for everyone to be there. I met some old friends from Otley CC. My whole family had turned out to support the race.

Read moreWatching Le Tour de France in Yorkshire + Photos

Oxenhope Moor

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Oxenhope Moor climb (Cock Hill) from Oxenhope – south towards Hebden Bridge.

  • Length 2.1 miles
  • average gradient – 6%
  • Max height – 432m
  • Height gain: 709ft (216m)
  • Category 3
  • Max gradient: 10%
  • Time: 9 mins
  • OS Map 104
Oxenhope moor
Oxenhope moor – Release your inner cyclist – route of stage 2

Oxenhope Moor is a long steady climb from the village of Oxenhope to the top of Oxenhope Moor. It sometimes goes by the less well known name ‘Cock Hill’. Though when the Tour de France came through town, they decided Côte d’ Oxenhope Moor had a better ring to it.

Oxenhope moor

I’ve been up Oxenhope moor a few times. There is some great hills around the Keighley and Worth Valley (e.g. Thwaites Brow and Hainworth Lane). Keighley has some of the best cobbled climbs this side of Belgium. But, Oxenhope Moor is less strenuous than some of those short steep climbs, but at over 2 miles, it makes a good test, and if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, it can be really hard work on the exposed slopes.

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Oxenhope moor looking towards Howarth

After leaving the village of Oxenhope (At the end of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway) It passes the Wagon & Horses Inn on the left. Also after a few hairpins, you can take a left turn to take a harder and steeper minor road over the moor past the Holline Hill wind farm. This takes you down to Luddenden. By the main A 6033 is probably a better route to take – it doesn’t get too busy.

The climb is hardest as you leave the village of Oxenhope, but eases off towards the top.

There is a great descent from the top of Oxenhope moor into Hebden Bridge. Long and sweeping, though parked cars on the road mean you have to take care. From Hebden Bridge you are spoilt for choice if you want to keep cycling uphill – you could take in Cragg Vale or if you want something very steep try Mytholm Steepes or Halifax Lane from Luddenden.

Oxenhope Moor Tour de France 2014

Oxenhope Moor is one of the many climbs on stage 2 of the Tour de France

Hebden Bridge to Oxenhope Moor (north to south)

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Oxenhope moor on descent to Hebden Bridge

From Hebden Bridge to Oxenhope Moor, the climb is even longer, with over 300 metres of climbing. It is steep at the bottom as you come out of Hebden Bridge but gets less steep the further up you go.

  • Length – 3.5mi
  • Average gradient: 5%
  • Height gain: 1,018ft (310m)

Tour de France fever hits Yorkshire

I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting a lot of traffic in recent days for the Google search ‘Buttertubs pass’, Grinton Moor, Cragg Vale’ – You could almost guess the route of the Tour de France by the popularity of keyword searches.

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Ilkley from the Cow and Calf – you will be able to watch the Tour from a distance snake its way along the A65 from this vantage point

The Tour de France is a big deal for the Yorkshire; we haven’t had this much excitement since the Yorkists gave the House of Lancashire a good thrashing in the old War of the Roses (And if history buffs claim the House of Lancashire won the war of the Roses, it’s not the version we remember here in Yorkshire.)

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But, it would be churlish to bring up old conflicts from the dark ages, the Tour de France is giving the old county the kind of uplifting excitement and inspiration – not seen in Britain since the 2012 Olympics. Like the Olympics, the Tour de France is another vehicle for creating a spirit of international friendship and goodwill. It is an unexpected benefit of attracting a big cycle race to your shores.

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Goodness me, all the pubs in Otley have translated their names into French. This is the greatest outpouring of British-French unity since British pubs started serving garlic bread! in the mid 1980s.

Leeds Grand depart
Leeds Grand depart

In a country struggling to deal with the growing influence of the European Union, you may think Britain was primarily beset with trying to regain it’s Anglo Saxon independence. But, even in the heartlands of our EU bashing county, there’s been an outbreak of French lingo, and appreciation of most things Gaelic. The Tour de France has done more for British-European relations, than a whole string of EU directives and speeches.

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Read moreTour de France fever hits Yorkshire

British time trial championship experiences

The British time trial championship has been held annually since 1997. Originally a joint CTT / BC promotion, it was for a while it was also called the Circuit championship (to distinguish with long standing CTT championships of 25 miles, 50 miles e.t.c) In the past few years, it has been run solely by British Cycling to ensure the best spot in the calender so that Pro riders can make sure they can enter, and pick up any precious UCI points on offer.

In the domestic time triallist calender, this is the big one. A chance to compete against all the pros.

This year there was a certain logic to me not entering the British Time Trial Championship in Wales this July – My bike is of dubious UCI legality; I sold my only UCI compliant tribars, and it’s a hassle to get another pair. Then there is the cost of BC license, new tribars e.t.c., and I’m up in Yorkshire that week e.t.c., e.t.c. Yet, although there is a logic in not entering, I still feel a pang of regret when I see the startsheet.  – especially after learning how hilly the course is.

The startsheet shows the strength in depth of British cycling; even in the absence of Chris Froome, it’s probably one of the strongest time trial line ups in Europe.

It also shows the unique nature of the sport of cycling, that you can still rock up alongside people who you watch and admire on tv and get to partake in the same race as them.

These are some past experiences of riding the British Time Trial Championships, now organised by British Cycling under UCI rules.

2005

In 2005, I finished 14th, five minutes behind the winner Stuart Dangerfield in Penistone, Yorkshire. It was very hilly race and my first season of racing. After the first lap, I was in a ridiculously high position after storming up the hill as if it was a 5 mile prologue. I blew up spectacularly, but for one lap out of three I was riding with the best. In the absence of any expectation, I enjoyed it all tremendously. It was the first race my mother came to watch and she said unlike everyone else, I never braked to go around a corner she was watching from. I’m not sure whether she said this as criticism or as a complement.

2006

I finished near last in that race. I wasn’t in good form, and not racing much that year. I also got lost and took a wrong turn at a roundabout; at least it was a good excuse for a dismal performance. The only thing I remember about that championship was that I even turned up on the wrong day (arrived on Sat, to learn it was on the next day Sunday). Fortunately, it wasn’t too far from Oxford.

2009

The third championship was on local roads near Buckinghamshire. Bradley Wiggins, after finishing 4th in the Tour de France in July, stormed around the course to win in 1.02. I was a good nine minutes behind in 28th place; it was one of the few races I managed that year, but it was still good to participate.

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A pre wind tunnel position. There’s a minute right there.

2010

Wiggins, Hutchinson and an unknown club cyclist riding together.
Wiggins, Hutchinson and an unknown club cyclist riding together.

Read moreBritish time trial championship experiences

Cycling and health

Cycling offers significant health benefits from the increased aerobic fitness. Given the rise in health problems associated with physical inactivity and obesity, cycling could play a major role in improving the nations health.

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Health benefits of regular physical exercise

  • Reduces the risk of dying prematurely
  • Reduces the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease
  • Reduces the risk of developing diabetes
  • Reduces the risk of developing high blood pressure
  • Helps reduce blood pressure in people who already have high blood pressure
  • Reduces the risk of developing colon and breast cancer
  • Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Helps control weight
  • Helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints
  • Helps older adults become stronger and
  • promotes psychological well being

However in cost-benefit analysis of transport, health issues are often ignored. Unfortunately, concerns over the safety of cycling deter many from one of the most accessible forms of exercise. The tragedy is that as people lead increasingly stationary lives this causes hidden problems such as rising levels of diabetes and heart disease.

The rise in motor transport and decline in cycling / walking

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The post war period saw a sustained fall in pedestrian and cycle transport. In the post war period, transport policy was driven by the attempt to accommodate the growth of motor transport. However, combined with a decline in manual labour, this era saw a sharp fall in physical exercise and a resultant increase in health problems.

Rather belatedly, transport policy has begun to acknowledge wider issues such as health, quality of life in determining transport policy.
For example, in 1998 the Integrated Transport White Paper A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone made the acknowledgement that

“The way we travel is making us a less healthy nation.”

Cycling and Health Statistics

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Perceptions about the dangers of cycling deter many from cycling. But, in perspective, mortality rates from cycling are much lower than the ‘silent killers’ , such as heart disease.

UK Deaths in 2003

  • All Cyclists – 113
  • All road users – 3,471
  • Cancer due to inactivity – 28,016
  • CHD / Stroke due to inactivity – 57,322

Source: McPherson, Klim. (2002). Coronary heart disease: estimating the impact of changes in risk factors; Klim McPherson, Annie Britton and Louise Causer. – London

Despite cycling often being perceived as a ‘dangerous’ exercise. Society is arguably ignoring the hidden dangers of sedentary lifestyles.

Net health benefits of cycling

There have been various studies which show the net health benefits of cycling.

One of the largest was the Copenhagen Center for Prospective Population Studies It involved 13,375 women and 17,265 men aged 20-93 from a population of 90,000 living in central Copenhagen. Of this group 14,976 cycled regularly.

  • The study found that even including risk factors from cycling (injury), those who did not cycle experienced a 39% higher mortality rate than those who did. (Study)

Copenhagen has a low accident rate  helped by good cycling infrastructure. But, the size of the study shows the great potential for health gains from a city which encourages cycling.

Risk factor of mortality depending on levels of fitness

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Source: Risk death

Another study suggesting an inverse relationship between mortality rates and levels of fitness.

Read moreCycling and health

Mountain high review

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Mountain High is a compilation of 50 of ‘Europe’s greatest cycle climbs by Daniel Friebe and Pete Goulding.

Mountain High arrived through the post at a fortuitous time. It was the day the Giro d’Italia was due to ascend the legendary Mount Zoncolan, in northern Italy. I went straight to the section on Mount Zoncolan to read about the mountain.

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Mount zoncolan – Serafino

 

Widely considered one of the hardest climbs to be used in procycling, Mount Zoncaolan is one of the epic climbs of European racing. Hopefully, it will be remembered for it’s steep slopes and dramatic backdrop rather than for the ‘stupid spectators of 2014’ – who seemed to have a field day on that particular stage. (youtube video of closeup)

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Mountain Zoncolan from Priola – av.gradient 13%. Heigh gain 1,140m – length 8.9 km.

The book gives us lots of fascinating insights into the riders and climbers. For example, In 2007, Gilberto Simoni said climbing Mount Zoncolan was a like a slow, steady execution. ‘Mortifying’ was the adjective he used. He used a 34*27.

For each 50 climb, you get a good overview of the climb and also rich snippets of history and racing, which give even more drama to the climbs.

Read moreMountain high review

Bike maintenance tips

Firstly,  there’s an excellent article from Bike Radar here – top 10 bike maintenance dont’s

The advice may sound obvious. But I’ve been guilty of most of them over the years. If you speak to anyone who works in a bike shop, you will learn never to take it for granted that people know how to do the obvious – like blow up tyres.

The most important tips of bike maintenance I’ve learnt from bitter experience

  • Learn how to repair a puncture without getting a pinch flat. (use hands, not tyre levers. After putting on, go all the way around both sides of rim to make sure no inner tube is stuck between rim and tyre.) Alternatively – go tubeless
  • There’s no shame in taking your bike to a bike shop. Something like wheel truing is a fairly rare job. You’re better off taking it to an expert rather than trying to do it yourself.
  • If you take your bike on a plane and have to redo stem and handlebars, make sure you learn how to tighten the headset. In the words of Bike Radar ‘Never tighten the top cap without loosening the stem bolts’
  • After rain, speedplay pedals need greasing like mad – unless you want to keep forking out £200 for a new pair.
  • For a bike you race on, it is worth changing chain every 1,000 miles to get better efficiency and make expensive cassettes last a longer time.
  • Never rush bike maintenance. You will pay for it in the long term. Take your time, use the proper tools. Don’t work at awkward angles which will round the screws. Avoid disasters like this stem fitting

Confessions of an amateur bike mechanic

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You wish there was some kind of natural law which meant that when you increase your cycle fitness, automatically your mechanical competence increased in equal measure. You feel that if you can cycle 50 miles in under two hours the gods of cycling should, at least, give you the capacity to change a tubular or adjust a gear without losing the will to live and contemplating becoming a cross country runner just to avoid bike maintenance.

But, alas, life is not so straightforward; not only do we cyclists have to train through wind, rain and sleet,  but we also have to learn the intricacies and challenges of bike maintenance. Give me a 20% hill and I’ll cycle up it all day long, but give me a Shimano Dura Ace 10 speed group set and, for the life of me, I will never be able to remember whether tightening up the front chainring position is anti-clockwise or clockwise.

Instead, I will mindlessly keep turning the screw in all different directions until by a random chance of fate, it nearly aligns like I want it to. This is assuming I haven’t given up and taken it to a bike shop.

Over the past 20 years of cycling, I’ve become a reasonable descender, a competent timetriallist, and a pretty good hill climber. But, whilst my cycling capacity has risen from rank beginner to good amateur, my bike maintenance capacity is still languishing in the ‘might be able to manage 10 miles, if the weather is nice’ kind of category. (i.e. he can change a puncture, so long as the tyre is sufficiently pliant and malleable.)

Nevertheless, despite years of frustration, broken allen keys and gear shifters which resolutely fail to shift, I still have some wisdom to pass onto those who find themselves in a similar situation.

  • Your best bet is usually to take it to a bike shop who know what they are doing. You will save yourself time, money and you won’t have a large dint in your carbon fibre frame because you hit it with a spanner in frustration. Now, this is not exactly scintillating advice – but, it’s always been my great saviour. No matter what you start you know that when you fail to finish it, you can always take down to bike shop. In 20 years of having my bike repaired, only once have I felt bike repair was expensive; often it’s embarrassingly cheap – at least compared to motor car maintenance, which seem to have a £50 minimum charge just for turning up at the garage. Here, I will give a shout out to Reg Taylor Cycles on Iffley Road – they have been doing a good job for 10 years.

Read moreBike maintenance tips

Rectory hill climb

The Hamptons Rectory hill climb will be part of the Chiltern Cycling Festival. It looks like it will be a good event with many cycle events lined up for the day. By the afternoon there could be a good crowd watching the pain and suffering of the hill climbers. The hill climb will be on closed roads, which will be good for riders and spectators. There are quite a few prizes, such as Solo clothing, and I hear a good entry.

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It will suit the short sprinting type of hill climbers. Depending on where the start and finish are, it’s not that dissimilar in length to Monsal Head / York Hill (Catford CC)

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It is steep, with a gradient of 14-15% at the bottom before levelling off near the top. Ironically, the hill climb finishes by the underground line (Metropolitan line from Amersham). There can’t be too many hill climbs where you climb to a London Underground train line.

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During a long ride yesterday, I did 2.05 up the 0.5 mile hill. And two and half minutes up the longer 0.6 mile version.

But that was after 50 miles of trying to find “Old Amersham” without a map. I would imagine a winning time of something like 20-30 seconds quicker.

As much as I love hill climbs, it will be a tough one for me. It’s a day before national 100 and I might be in with a shout of a good placing in the national. 3 efforts of 2 minutes are not quite my forte.  It will be good to wear the national jersey – though using a granny ring will be very tempting. It’s looking like a good one to come along and watch.

Cycling facts

A random list of cycling facts – from the invention of the bike to the fastest time circumnavigating the world.

When Was the Bike Invented?

No one really knows exactly. The Frenchman Ernest Michaux invented a bicycle with pedal and rotary cranks in 1861, but it is doubtful this was actually the first design.

Early precursors to the bicycle include:

1817 – The Running Machine. Invented by the German Baron Karl von Drais, this had no pedals, no chains, but two wheels. It was propelled by pushing  your feet on ground. It was sometimes known as human horse. It was largely a form of entertainment for aristocratic families with their own estate. It never really caught on, but is important for giving idea of bicycle shaped objects.

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The Running Machine. Photo by Gun Powder Ma wikipedia

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The Velocipede – 1860s. In the early 1860s, two Frenchmen Pierre Michaux and Pierre Lallement put pedals on the front wheel and introduced the velocipede, which looks more like our modern bicycle. It had no chain and was very uncomfortable due to the wooden wheels. The velocipede helped the spread of the bicycle.

penny-farthing-classic

The Penny Farthing. A development of the Velocipede, this was faster due to the larger diameter of the front wheel. But, considered dangerous because of its height. Nevertheless Penny Farthings became quite popular and the first cycle races were on these high machines.

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1890 Humber Safety Bicycle

1885. The Safety Bike. It was around the 1880s, that the first safety bikes appeared. These are considered the first real bicycles. With their standard two triangle frames, pedals and chain, the basic design has remained unchanged. Starley’s 1885 Rover is considered the first real bicycle model.

When was the Pneumatic tyre

In 1846 Robert William Thomson  patented a pneumatic tyre. But, he was never able to make it a practical reality. In 1888, Scotsman John Dunlop invented the first practical pneumatic tyre, which created a much more enjoyable and comfortable ride. A year later, in 1889, the racing cyclist Willie Hume won 4 races using Dunlop’s tyres in 1889  The bicycle was ready for mass participation and the first puncture repair kit was invented pretty soon after.

Innovations for bicycles which later appeared in motor cars

  • Pneumatic Tyres
  • Precision ball bearings
  • Tension-spoked wheels
  • chain-drive,

Motor Engineers who started off producing bicycles

Henry Ford, Wright Brothers. Dunlop tyres, The Rover Cycle Company, Morris Motor Company.

Who were the first group to campaign for better roads?

Cyclists. In the US in the 1890s, it was cyclists who were prominent in the Good roads movement. A magazine Good Roads Magazine was founded in 1892 by cycling advocates. It reached a subscription of 1 million within 3 years. A year later (1893) after Good Roads magazine was founded, Charles Duryea produced the first American gasoline-powered vehicle, and within 20 years cars had replaced bicycles as the most popular users of American roads. But, those early motorists befitted from the campaigning by cycling groups.

Read moreCycling facts

Everesting Beeley moor and more

Firstly, well done to Pee Jay for successfully ‘everesting‘ Beeley Moor over the weekend. I believe he was 3rd UK rider to complete this unique challenge.

If you want to see a decent interval session, have a look at his graphs for his ride on Strava

 

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Peter Johnson with Dave Brailsford who happened to be in the area.

  • 195 miles
  • 30,000 + Ft
  • 13 hours
  • If you want to donate to PeeJay’s charity

Other news

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Shopping baskets allowed. One for Dave Brailsford’s marginal gains.

I had a weekend off racing. I was marshalling at the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence ‘tri a  triathlon’ in Portishead.

Because I wasn’t racing, naturally enough it was a float day with pb’s set across the country.

One pb of particular note was Movistar Pro Alex Dowsett smashing the 10 Competition record taking a whopping 25 seconds off to reduce the 10 mile TT mark to 17.20. That’s an average speed of 34.5 mph or something suitably ridiculous. A great ride by a top pro.

 

Today I did seven * one minute intervals up Boars Hill.  That’s 7 minutes of training, but my mind was wandering to the idea of everesting something.