August 2017: miles and miles and miles

Summer’s still just about here and the members of Lea Valley CC have been racking up the miles all over the place over the last couple of months. In this blog we have reports from The Alps, Scotland, Yorkshire, the Dunwich Dynamo and Ride London. Plus reports of our own events including the Bill Major 25-mile time trial and the annual reunion at Burton End.

First up, Barnaby Barford headed to do battle with Mont Ventoux:

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I thought I would share recent experiences of cycling in Provence, including riding ‘Les Cinglés’ which is ascending Mont Ventoux three times in a day from three different routes.

We stayed at a lovely B&B called veloventoux (I would highly recommend them).  I went with a dear friend Tom from ELV who is a bloody strong rider and of course we didn’t take it easy on the first day doing a 110km windy smash fest. Lovely dinner and straight to bed, ready for an early morning departure at 6:30 the next day where we attempted Les Cinglés de Ventoux and yes, no surprises, it was ‘character building’ climbing it three times. I’ve certainly never done that much climbing on one ride: 195km / 5327m climbing.

So all in all moving time of around 6h30mins give or take, with an hour and a half break over all.  It was about an hour’s ride out to the start of the Bedoin climb.  We had decided not to hammer it up the first climb as we had a long day ahead of us but that went out of the window as soon as it got steep, each cyclist coming into view ahead a beacon to pass. Did the Bedoin climb in 1h27 average of 8% and ascent of 1539m.  This is the one Froome ran up last year, I couldn’t imagine racing up there, absolute hell.  It’s fairly easy for the first 4 km and then ramps up to between 8-12% for the rest. As you leave the forest you are totally exposed with wind swept rock all around you. As we anticipated gorgeous views of the valley below, we began climbing into a cloud of thick freezing fog and wind, as we reached the summit we could barely see 10m in front of us to be treated by balmy -1ºC! Luckily I had packed the club jacket (excellent piece of kit) but unfortunately no gloves. It was a teeth chattering, body shaking, exposed and very windy descent of 25 minutes until we reached a cafe at the bottom for a massive cuddle and rub to warm each other up!

Quick coffee and bite to eat and up the second climb of Malaucene.  Tough 1h51mins of climbing into a brute of a head wind (feature of the weekend the wind!) 20km 8% feeling more like 15%. The weather was getting warmer and it was truly amazing to see all sorts of people having a crack at this famous mountain, mountain bikes, electric bikes, even shopping bikes!

Unfortunately Tom’s knee went (old injury) late on the second climb but we met at the top refuelled and had a stunning descent into Sault where we had a longer break and straight back up.  Bit of a tail wind this time and a big ring ascent averaging about 5%, had to nurse Tom up this last climb for his knee but we made it up together in about 1h30mins.  This time, however, we were met with glorious views. It felt like we were in an aeroplane.  Absolutely stunning.

The next day whilst Tom was icing and stretching I went out with a guy from Stoke who helps at the B&B and I must say it was the most beautiful ride I have ever been on with views of gorges and mountains that I would like etched onto my eyelids, even got a view of Mont Blanc. We rode 168km at around 28.5km/h and by the next day i was absolutely spent, unable to turn the pedals. We did go for a short easy spin but I really could have stayed in bed with my feet up!

I would definitely recommend a trip down that way and would be happy to pass on any routes etc if you are looking for a cycling holiday, it really is stunning, wonderful food of course and excellent climbing.  

Having had our fill of Ventoux we headed back from Marseille only to meet some lads from Torquay who had just done it 6 times in 24 hours!……This is clearly now the challenge and planning has already started!

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Meanwhile Neil Davies and Alex Galloway did L’Etape. Neil tells the tale:

It’s 6am.  I’m out on a bike, in the Alps shivering in my summer kit as we descend to the start line for the 2018 Etape du Tour.  I’m nervous too.  I always am before big events (this includes Tuesday 10s)  but I’m particularly nervous today because there’s a hell of a lot of climbing on the route, which takes in the upcoming stage 18 of the Tour between Briançon and the Col d’Izoard.   Here are the vital statistics: 181km of riding (plus 40km to get there and back); 3,529m of climbing over three categorised climbs including the 1st Category Col de Vars (9.3km at 7.5%) after 120km and the HC Col d’Izoard, set to be the scene of the third and final summit finish on the Tour in a few days’ time (14km at 7.3% with the last 10km averaging a brutal 10%).  I don’t get to do much climbing on our club runs – other than the 3 minute efforts up Mott Street and Banks Lane and I had no idea how my legs would handle it.

The whole thing was incredible. The weather was spot on, although baking up the climbs. The roads were newly surfaced and ready for the pros.  Alex Galloway and I rode together for most of the way, although he did a Landa on me up the climbs. We gave the first 100km plenty of respect, keeping our powder dry for the big climbs. We still managed 31kph/19mph. After the long drag up the Col de Vars, the 20km descent to the valley floor was mind-blowing – I’ve got my top speed recorded at 66kph. Thankfully, I had received some emergency descending tips from Barnaby the previous weekend which worked a treat.

After that descent, we started 15km of false flat valley floor before the big climb of the Izoard began.  Alex and I rode along chatting, preparing the legs, only to look behind and see a massive group hanging on. No one came past when I gave it the elbow so we pushed on.  The scene was set as we approached the early slopes of the Izoard with 15km to go.  My Garmin recorded the temperature at 33c on the climb before it cooled off at the top. It was a scene of devastation on the climb – people were pushing, collapsed at every hairpin with heatstroke, puking, the works. There was the option of the Broom Wagon at 15km and 5km from home and plenty took it. We saw one poor bloke’s chain snap in sight of the finish.

Pushing a solid 36-29 gear for 1 hour 44 minutes (apart from a short downhill burst in the middle where Froome launched a counter-attack against Bardet) I made it to the top.  Alex had been there for a while, which is amazing given the amount of cheese he ate on the way round (Strava clocks him at 1 hour 13, easily in the top 10% for the day).

With water and food stops we beat 9 hours: 7 hours 44 minutes riding for me and 7 hours 14 riding for Alex. The winner managed 5 hours 15. With a team car to hand out bottles and gels and a peloton to draft for most of the way, Warren Barguil managed 4 hours 40 to win the stage.  What a guy.

Stick the Etape on your cycling to-do list. You will not be disappointed. But buy the biggest cassette your bike will take first.

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A little bit closer to home, I headed up to Scarborough to do a sportive in the North York Moors in late July. I had never been to that national park, but I knew it was well-known for viciously steep climbs, the most infamous of these being Rosedale Chimney which maxes out at an eye-watering 33%. When I was signing up for this ride I noticed that this climb was used about halfway through the 120-mile version of the route and I’m not ashamed to say I bottled it at that point. I opted for the 100-mile version instead which took a different route out of the village of Rosedale Abbey.

It was a long old drive up to Yorkshire on the Saturday and then an early start the next morning without any breakfast. As I lined up on the start grid and listened to the final instructions, I realised I had left both my drinks bottles back at the inn I was staying in so I had to hastily ride back and retrieve them (meaning I missed the official start slot for my distance and had already done 7 miles before I started). At first it was sunny and wooded, but as we got further north the sky turned a grim grey and the trees gave way to vast expanses of open moorland with purple heather and sheep and the hills started in earnest. Again and again and again I found myself either grinding up or plunging down slopes of 15%, 18%, 20%.

The worst of these was the ‘easy’ road out of Rosedale Abbey (which is only easy in comparison to the Chimney) which was a nightmarish 25%. As I approached the steepest bend a car up ahead stalled, rolled backwards and then stopped causing the rider ahead of me to unclip and I had no choice but to copy him a few seconds later. “What on earth am I supposed to do now?” I asked the riders straining up behind me (or words to that effect but a bit less polite). I didn’t fancy the choices of either descending and starting all over again or of walking the remaining half a mile in cleats, so I gambled everything on being able to get going again on a 25% slope. By going sideways, clipping in, turning 180-degrees, desperately getting a bit of momentum, then turning 90-degrees, I just about managed it.

By the end, I was a broken man. In fact, scratch that – I was a broken man long before the end, but I had no alternative but to keep grovelling on until I got back to civilisation. All told I did 3,250 metres of climbing, the majority of which was ridiculously steep. Without a doubt the hardest ride I’ve ever completed.

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A week later it was time for Ride London. As always, it had proved very difficult for many of us to get accepted onto the ride through the ballot (only about half a dozen managed it this time) so when British Cycling offered the club one place for a team of four, nineteen of us had put our names down for it. In a rare stroke of good fortune, I found myself being one of the four names drawn out of the hat along with Adam Bishop, Mehrdad Safaieh and Glenn Prime.

We had a horrendously early start. I was up at 4:20am and met my near neighbours Adam and James Morris at 5:00 to ride down to the Olympic Park together in semi-darkness without lights (as the organisers had made everyone put a number on their bikes that went around the seat post and stuck out behind). James was in a later start wave than me and Adam, about 12 minutes behind. We looked around but couldn’t see any other Lea Valley kit amongst the people in our wave and wondered what had happened to the other two. However, not long after we had started, as we were making our way down towards the Blackwall Tunnel, we came across Glenn and rode with him briefly before leaving him behind.

Adam and I were trying to ride within ourselves in the opening section with the intention of blasting it back to London at the end. However, somewhere out near Chiswick I decided to latch onto a chain gang that was passing by and we upped our pace for a few miles. This came to an abrupt end when we hurtled towards a sharp right hand bend somewhere in south-west London, blinded by the low sun reflecting off the wet road surfaces (it wasn’t raining any more but it had tipped down overnight): people underestimated it and then realised a bit late that they needed to brake and this caused a ripple effect. The guy behind me lost control and skidded over, hitting my back wheel as he crashed. Luckily I managed to stay upright (and Adam saw the other guy later and he seemed to be fine), but this disruption spelt the end of our group.

Not long after this, as we went through Richmond Park, we spied more LVCC kit up ahead: it was Jemma Taylor, who had been given an even earlier start slot. Again, we had a brief chat and then left her to go at her own pace. Then, as we crossed the M25 on our journey deeper into Surrey, it was our turn to be caught as James suddenly appeared having already made up the 12 minute deficit. I tried to stick with his group for a little bit, but soon realised they were going at a pace I didn’t want to try to match for another 65 miles. As we hit the Surrey Hills I went solo as Adam is a bit less keen on climbing, but realised with some disappointment that I wasn’t going to hit my target of breaking the five-hour barrier. On the return leg I did my best to time trial and drag my average speed back up to the 20mph mark, but ended up agonisingly stuck at 19.9mph by the finish line (plus I had eight minutes of stoppages from a combination of the Newlands Corner and Leatherhead feed stations and three or four occasions when marshals stopped us riding so people could cross the road, so even 20mph wouldn’t have got me under five hours).

Feeling increasingly empty and rapidly going through my gels, I was surprised to hear Bob Mannion speaking at my shoulder somewhere near Wimbledon and looking fresh as a daisy. I asked him when he had started and his answer made no sense to me at all as it appeared to be three hours or more after me. It turned out that Bob was doing the 42-mile version instead and the routes merged on the return leg – he soon disappeared.

Then finally I was caught by Harry Sewell and Lewis Dixon who were speeding along having started maybe half an hour behind me. I spoke to both of them separately: Harry said he was suffering and hadn’t stopped at all and was riding faster than he felt comfortable with and blamed it on Lewis, while Lewis said almost exactly the same thing and blamed it on Harry. Anyway, I joined forces with them and we hammered the final miles back to Whitehall at an average of 24mph. I was hoping we could have a grand Lea Valley sprint finish on The Mall, but was a bit thwarted: first Lewis nearly took me into the barriers on the final left hander at Trafalgar Square, then our path to the line was blocked by many riders easing up and coasting home. Nevertheless, I tried to make a break for it up the left hand side, but the other two spotted it and reeled me in at the end.

As we regrouped for photos in front of Buckingham Palace Bob and Adam
arrived and then Mehrdad, the invisible fourth member of my team crossed the
line and joined – he actually had been in our start wave after all and had
somehow ridden for five hours at more or less the same speed as me and Adam
without ever bumping into us en route. After this we headed into Green Park to
chill out with a gang of club mates – some who had done the 100 like us, some
who had done the 42, and some who had just come along for the post-ride picnic
(thanks for that,Chrystyna!).

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Despite doing the best part of 120 miles that day, James wasn’t finished. After a brief rest on the Monday he set off on an adventure:

I set out on my trip from London on the Tuesday, with a train booked from Edinburgh on the following Monday. My plan was to do around 100 miles a day and find somewhere to camp up. I loosely used google maps as my guide, but as my main concern was battery power, I largely relied on Garmin’s compass pointing north. Day 1: first stop was Cambridge for lunch, but disaster struck 30 miles in when a badly strapped down gilet wrapped itself in my rear mech and snapped the hanger. After spending a significant amount of time attempting to find a single speed combination that worked, I made my way to Cambridge in search of the part… and on a train to Kings Cross to pick up the only one I could find. Several hours later, I’d fixed my bike and managed another 10 miles til dark. Only 70 miles in the day, but could have been terminal!

Day 2: Easy and flat with a massive tailwind most of the way. I left Cambridge and went north through Boston (surprisingly pretty town) and up to Grimsby. Had my first encounter with hills in the Lincolnshire Wolds, which at my total weight were pretty tough going and anything above 10% impossible to turn the pedals. 125 miles that day and I camped up by the sea in Cleethorpes

Day 3: I discovered how much you have to start eating when you’ve had a big day the day before. The aim today was Whitby – nestled down a hill in the middle of the North York moors. With my tailwind slowly turning into a crosswind, I left Grimsby and crossed the Humber (amazing views) to Hull. I took a disused train line across to Hornsea and then up along the coast through the York Wolds to Scarborough – a fair amount of climbing, but fantastic scenery. From Scarborough to Whitby was 22 mile route on a disused railway – rough, muddy and rugged terrain with long ascents, but a lot of fun. 110 miles and I camped in Whitby

Day 4: having gone to Whitby, I now had to cut in West for 30 miles into what was now a giant headwind, through the North York Moors. I took a mixture of road and trail and it was very hard going – I was genuinely concerned I wouldn’t make it through this section! Amazing view when I reached Danby Beacon but a very hard day. I eventually made it through, and limped my way through Stockton up to Durham where I called it a night having only done 70 miles, but feeling deserving of a rest!

Day 5: I needed a big day, and my aim was the border and hopefully a bit further. Up from Durham through “the greatest city on the planet” according to two older geordie gentlemen. Form there I went to the coast near Blyth and followed NCN route 1 up the coast through Alnmouth, Bamburgh and Berwick. At times the route was pretty rough going, and consisted of a single line of bike wheel mark through a former military target zone and a cow field. Incredible views up this stretch of the coast with plenty of castles to see. I made it to the border, and then did 10 miles of climbing up to a campsite for the night. 125 miles that day and a long day in the saddle.

Day 6: Got bitten to pieces setting down my tent, but fuelled by 2 McDonald’s breakfasts, I made it to Edinburgh in time for lunch and spent a day seeing the sights. It was a great trip and I enjoyed seeing all the cities and towns that I’d never been to before. I used every bit of kit I took with me aside from my first aid kit. 545 miles / 878km total 14.5mph / 23.3kph average speed 18212 feet / 5551m climbing 37.5 hours travel time 5.5 days total time 119 bpm average heart rate 127kg total bike/luggage/me weight 1 puncture 1 catastrophic mechanical 25,000 calories burnt 100 miles trail and singletrack 9 times I questioned my sanity

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Yet more long-distance fun was to be had on the Dunwich Dynamo. Dave McCarthy, Nestor Salazar and Pedro Lopes completed the 111-mile overnight ride from East London to the sunrise at the Suffolk coast. You would think that would be enough suffering, but Nestor and Pedro then immediately set off and did another 81 miles headin back west to get to Saffron Walden. The mind boggles.

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July also saw a couple of club events on consecutive Sundays. First up was the ‘Bill Major’ 25-mile time trial on the E1 course and based at our race HQ in Ugley. Ostensibly a club event for Lea Valley CC riders, we actually had a sizeable field of 20 starters, boosted by a large contingent of Shaftesbury CC riders and a few from other clubs. Fastest Lea Valley rider and the winner overall was David Veitch with a time of 55:47, about a minute faster than Matt Steel of Shaftesbury who claimed second place. They were the only two riders to go under the hour – full results are here: https://leavalleycc.microco.sm/comments/13740943/

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Thanks to Trevor Whittock for the Bill Major photos.

The following weekend saw our annual reunion event at our Burton End ‘hut’. This was well attended with a mixture of young and old from the very new (some people had only joined the club that very month) to people who have been in the for decades. I particularly enjoyed looking at the old club scrapbooks and photo albums – seeing pictures of some of the people our various events are named after to commemorate them and also seeing how people like the Keen brothers have changed over the last five decades. As a taste of this, here are very youthful looking Trevor Whittock and John Summerhayes in the club hill climb back in 1985 (Trevor won the event with a time of 2:15):

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A sizeable group of us made a day of it by taking a long route on the way up and then riding back through the rain afterwards. Thanks to Roland Karthaus for this video that he took of us:

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Another club event, the evening before Ride London (which impacted the number of us who could go) was a bike fitting session organised by Racer Rosa. Here is Rosie getting involved:

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Alice Cutter has taken over running our regular women-only rides and in July led a group on the Rapha 100km. They did a route out round Hanningfield Reservoir and back – hoping to get a report from Alice in time for the next blog.

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Back in the world of racing, several riders have set new PBs in time trials: at 25 miles Trudy Sharam did 1:03:50 (and rode in the national championships in Wales), Neil Davies did 1:03:03, Alex Galloway did 59:01 and Adam Bishop managed 58:12. Meanwhile, Colin Ross did his debut 100-mile time trial and finished with a time of 4:08:45. In road racing Paul Roberts, Michael Krukov and Tim Holmes are still regularly finishing in the top twenty and occasionally the top ten of the higher category races, while me, Charlie Gregory and George Kemp have been finishing anonymously in the bunch of 4th cat races.

And finally, what’s coming up soon?

I believe El Presidente will be organising the ‘Summerhayes Summer Saunter’ once again for the upcoming Bank Holiday weekend.

On 24th September we have our 30-mile time trial organised by Mark Freeman and on the following Sunday (1st October) we have a 25-mile time trial organised by Dave McCarthy. Both events are on the E1 course and use our Ugley race HQ (north of Bishops Stortford). If you want to enter or want to volunteer to help out with marshalling etc follow these links (which include contact details for the organisers):
https://www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk/race-details/16010
https://www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk/race-details/16056

Alex Galloway has been taking part in duathlons at the Velopark on Tuesday evenings – if you’re interested in joining him take a look at this website: http://capitaltri.com/events

And last but not least, if anyone wants to do some mountain biking, get in touch with lonely Tom Orr.

Jamie, 21 August 2017

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