Not just a road going club, some of our members enjoy getting extra dirty…
Billed as the UK’s foremost gravel race, the Dirty Reiver is designed to be along the same lines as a proper American gravel grinder. It wriggles through Kielder National Park and along the Scottish Border, taking in the delights of the Reiver Trail and Kielder Water. It promised beautiful scenery, 200km of gravel and forestry trail, nearly 4000m of climbing and a fun day out. I set out knowing that if I couldn’t hack it, there was an option to end the punishment at 130km, and punishment it certainly was. My bike for the event was a Mason Bokeh, running Hunt wheels (a popular choice) and 43mm tubeless Panaracer Gravelking SK (also popular). The suggestion was to run tubeless, and that proved to be sound advice.
I set out from Kielder Castle at 7:30am, after copious safety messages asking you to check you had your survival blanket and comprehensive first aid kit, and a reminder that this is “not a race”. It started with an untimed 1km stretch of road to take you to the entrance of the forest, and then it started; if you weren’t sure what you’d let yourself in for, you had a rude awakening. The first 20km consisted of relatively hard packed gravel and about 10-15 punchy climbs followed by descents. At this point you are surrounded by about 1000 other riders, so you can all share in the pain together. From that point, it was fairly smooth going for 30km, with a few longer 3km climbs, but not much else. A quick stop at the well stocked feed station at 50km was all that was needed.
The stop served to split up any groups, and suddenly you find yourself riding on your own, growing increasingly aware that you probably over-cooked it on the first section. The temperature rose, the terrain turned very rough and lumpy and the hills just kept on coming. About 80km in the road surface decided to turn to rocks and downhill. What felt like an eternity of terrifying descending later, I reached the bottom and passed through a cheekily placed banner from sponsor Lauf, who make suspension forks for gravel bikes. I was dying and deeply unhappy by this point, totally at the end of my energy and begging for it to all stop. I told myself that at the 100km feed stop, I could have a big long well deserved rest, and I didn’t need to worry about time because I could bail at 130km. I scraped myself there and collapsed for 45 minutes, eating everything from my drop bag that had been transported there.
I left the 2nd stop and it turned into the first really big climb, a descent where I was nearly vibrated off the bars and finally a 10km long drag over rubble and rocks where 3-5kph felt optimistic. Before long, I reached the 130km turning, and I’d already decided I just wasn’t having fun anymore, it was a ridiculous joke and it was time to stop. But it was only 1:30. And there was a man in a chicken costume ringing a bell. I listened to the chicken man and decided to continue. I regretted the decision almost immediately as a 15km unshaded climb in the midday heat suddenly appeared. As I was climbing I could see my tent in the distance, taunting me. I reached the final feed station at 150km, where the nice people were cooking cheesy potatoes on an open fire stove. That, combined with the obscene amount of flapjack and haribo on offer, lifted my spirits sufficiently.
I left the final stop and straight onto the final awful climb. People were walking, but I knew if I walked, I wouldn’t get back on. At the top, you are greeted with an amazing view of Kielder Water, with accompanying breeze and the most beautifully smooth fine point gravel. 25km to go and all you have to do is ride on this lovely surface round this lake. Lakes are flat, so the trail will also be flat. The trail was not flat. With 10km to go, my left leg stopped wanting to be a leg and cramped up so badly I had to lie down for a few minutes. Worried that it would prove terminal, I decided to nurse it home quite gently. 10km has never seemed very far in the past, but there was a glorious, albeit brief, section along a real piece of road, which definitely helped. A short sharp climb back to the castle and I was greeted with a “well done for taking part” medal and a beer, because what could be bad about rehydrating with beer.
All in all a truly horrific, brutal and punishing day of riding. My mood moved from despair on the climbs, to denial on the descents, to more despair on the bits that were meant to be flat. The surface went from passable to downright terrifying. The views were amazing (probably) and the weather was perfect (too hot).
Would I do it again?
Not a chance.
I could probably do it faster next time.
It can’t have been that bad?
If you are contemplating doing it next year, don’t. Only do.
In a break from the usual blog posts updating everyone on what’s been happening at the club, I’ve written this one all about how I got into cycling the first time around. This is quite possibly of no interest to anyone in the world apart from me, but please indulge me: I’ve been housebound for a month and will potentially be off the bike for three months in all due to a nasty muscle injury, so I needed something to do. I joined Lea Valley CC back at the end of 2008, but this was actually my second coming as a cyclist. The original story goes back to the old days when cycling had practically no public profile whatsoever.
When I was growing up I don’t remember ever seeing cycle racing in the newspapers or on the TV. Nobody ever talked about it at school. I couldn’t have named a single cyclist, not even Eddy Merkcx. My hometown (Harlow) actually had a velodrome that people travelled from far away to race on – I didn’t even know it existed. The only races I had heard of were the Tour de France and the Milk Race and the only thing I knew about them were the names. In my final years at primary school Robert Millar won mountain stages of the Tour de France and took the King of the Mountains jersey. I knew nothing about this. I didn’t even know they rode up mountains. Then in 1986 Greg Lemond became the first English-speaker to win the Tour. Again, not even remotely on my radar. The following year I became dimly aware that Stephen Roche became the first Irish winner, but I didn’t see any of it – I didn’t even know you could watch it on Channel 4. My world was all about football and music.
So how did I enter the world of cycle racing? I suppose the first step was when I was about 10 years old and accompanied my dad round to the house of one of his friend’s where his teenage daughter had a ‘racing bike’ for sale second hand. The agreed price was a fiver. The wheels were far too big for me at that time, so I stuck to my BMX and the bike stayed rusting in the shed for several years as a very cheap investment for the future.
I woke up on my 13th birthday to the surprise discovery that the rusting bike had been pressed into action (my dad had paid for it to be serviced) and I was given a work permit so that I could go and get a paper round. Imagine my joy. For the next three years I got up at 6am seven days a week, initially earning the princely sum of £4.50 a week. The bike itself was not fantastic: plastic grips on the handlebars, three Sturmey Archer hub gears, nothing that could be described as gleaming. When I rode it to school my friends asked me why I had stolen a postman’s bike.
I started tentatively heading out on rides of up to ten miles in the countryside to the east of where I lived in Old Harlow: Matching Tye and Green, The Lavers, no further than that. I would have been wearing jeans and travelling without a pump, or a spanner, or tyre levers or any idea what to do if something went wrong (and obviously no mobile phone to call for help in those days).
Mercifully, for my 14th birthday I got a new bike. It was still cheap and heavy, but definitely an upgrade. Gone were the plastic grips on the handlebars: instead they were covered in black foam padding. It had these weird dual brake lever things (I don’t know the correct term for them, but in addition to the usual levers there were horizontal ones coming out of the sides of the hoods which you could pull up when you were riding with your hands on the tops of the handlebars – not actually very effective). Excitingly, the bike came with a rear derailleur which meant I now had a staggering FIVE speeds to choose from.
I started riding further afield, going twenty or thirty miles at a time. Without any technology, the exact distance of each ride was difficult to calculate: I had to work out an approximation by getting a piece of paper and pivoting it on a pencil as I followed every twist and turn of the roads on the OS Map laid out on my desk.
As luck would have it, it turned out that my best mate at school also liked cycling. He was used to riding further than me as his dad took him touring. His bike was also considerably better than mine – it was lighter, it had a front mech (so a mindblowing TEN speeds), it had quick release wheels and his brake hoods weren’t made of metal so he could actually ride with his hands on them. One day early in 1988 he came to school in a mood after a row at home and declared that he was going to run away from home and live in youth hostels. This wasn’t a terribly good idea, but over the course of the day I managed to convince him to radically change this plan into me and him going on a youth-hostelling and cycling holiday in the summer. I was only 14 (turning 15 that summer) so I wasn’t sure if my parents would agree to this. However, it wasn’t out of the question: they had recently let me travel down to London on my own to watch Manchester United away games (and this at a time when football matches were a rather more dangerous affair than nowadays) so there was a chance. Sure enough, they agreed.
With the exception of a trip to Scotland when I was just 6, I had never had any reason to head further north than Milton Keynes. My first taste of The North had come in 1987 when we stayed in Sheffield and visited The Peak District. I thought it was amazing (The Peak District, not Sheffield) and told my mate that we should try to get there by bike. So, armed with a youth hostel handbook, we set off to Harlow Library to spread open a load of OS Maps and try to work out how we could do it. We came up with a route of Harlow – Cambridge – King’s Lynn – Thurlby (a tiny place in The Fens in Lincolnshire) – Lincoln – Edale (at the foot of Kinder Scout and the start of The Pennine Way). We had wanted to limit it to about 40-45 miles per day, but the final day was going to be 65 miles – much further than I had ever ridden before. It was impossible to borrow the maps (and we would have needed about ten of them anyway to cover the whole trip) so all we could do was write down directions on scraps of paper that we would then take with us. The unfortunate knock on effect of this was that we felt we had to stick to A roads and B roads the whole way as at least these were easy enough to identify.
As the next few months passed, I got fitter, rode further, saved up money from my paper round and got more and more excited at the prospect of a week of freedom and independence, leaving behind Essex and ending up in the heather-clad moors, only for my mate to break his ankle while rollerskating just days before we were supposed to set off. We hastily rearranged it from July to the October half term and hoped my mate would be physically capable of riding by then – fortunately he was.
The first few days were fairly straightforward, albeit a bit wet and cold and largely on main roads through boring Fenland. The final day was brutal, though. First of all, we shared our dormitory in Lincoln with The Incredible Snoring Man who ensured I got very little sleep. We had to contend with a headwind for the entire day, most of which was spent plodding past power stations and coal mines in Nottinghamshire. Then in Derbyshire we hit a small town called Eckington where the road went up and up and up. Coming from Essex it was something of a shock to find that a road could climb for three miles. We got later and later and it got darker and darker and we felt emptier and emptier. The last fifteen miles were in total darkness and when we finally made our way up the Pennine track to the hostel in Edale they told us we were too late for dinner and there was nothing to eat. Not quite the glorious return to the Peak District I had been dreaming of.
In the meantime, in early September 1988 one of the customers on my paper round started getting Cycling Weekly…er…weekly. It caught my eye so I bought a copy myself to investigate. It was a window into a secret world. Little of it made sense to me. What was a time trial and how was it different to a road race? What were all these categories and codes? What did ‘st’ in the results mean? What was the BBAR? What on earth was a ‘Raleigh-Banana’? The results page listed things that looked like times and speeds and yet they couldn’t possibly be real. As if somebody could ride 100 miles in 3 hours 43 minutes! As if someone could ride for 12 hours (12 hours!) at nearly 25mph! This was just crazy talk. There was no internet then and I didn’t know anybody in the world who could answer these burning questions for me, so I penned a letter and sent it off to the magazine. The months came and went with no response, so I was left to try to puzzle it all out for myself.
Anyway, I was hooked, despite not really understanding it. Nowadays, with footage of every race on Eurosport or ITV and instant updates available on the internet, any race reports in magazines are cursory affairs because the writers know that practically all their readers already know what happened. But back then this was the only way you could find out anything other than the biggest international races. The reports were compelling reading with two or three pages taking you through the story of how the latest Star Trophy race unfolded. I was fascinated by tales of Ben Luckwell charging up The Tumble in Wales leaving everyone in his wake and Paul Curran doing the same up Winnats Pass a week later, even though I couldn’t see it. They also printed the world rankings and I saw that an Irishman, Sean Kelly, was number one. “Ah, he must be the guy who won the Tour de France last year,” I thought (wrongly).
I hadn’t picked the best time of year to suddenly get into cycling as the season was practically over. In those days the Vuelta was in the spring and the world championships were in August so there wasn’t an awful lot left. Once again, I had failed to watch any of the Tour earlier that year, but I was at least aware of it because there had been a big controversy about the winner, Pedro Delgado, testing positive for a banned substance that wasn’t quite banned after all (it’s a complicated story). But I did manage to get one taste of cycling on TV before the winter hit: some recorded highlights of the Nissan Classic stage race in Ireland which (I think) was shown on Grandstand on a Saturday afternoon in October. The only thing I can recall about it now, nearly 30 years later, is a solo breakaway by a British pro called Darryl Webster who did 100 miles on his own and at one stage got 20 minutes clear.
It hadn’t really crossed my mind that I could race myself, it was just something I liked reading about. I had been saving up my money for months to finally get myself a more appropriate bike, but my focus was very much on touring. Finally I had enough money to get myself a Peugeot Azur from Chris Grange’s cycle shop in Bishops Stortford. My dream machine with 12 speeds, quick release wheels, brake hoods you could ride with your hands on – I had arrived. It also had the all-important carrier for my panniers, mudguards, nice wide tyres and wide gear ratios to deal with climbing hills while carrying heavy loads. Little did I realise this would rapidly turn out to be absolutely the wrong purchase.
Christmas came and I got a Cateye Vectra computer with a wire that threaded down to a sensor on the fork. This was entering the space age alright: now I would know exactly how far and how fast I had ridden. I also picked up a Systeme-U top as worn by my new favourite, the bespectacled and ponytailed Laurent Fignon.
Then, out of the blue in the middle of January, a man called Ken phoned our house asking to speak to me. “Hello, is that Jamie? I saw your letter in the comic and thought I’d get in touch, not many Fakes in the phone book” he said. He might as well have been speaking Martian, I couldn’t work out what was going on. It turned out he was talking about Cycling Weekly – this was on a Thursday evening and my copy wouldn’t be delivered until the following morning (by me!), but Ken already had his and bewilderingly, four months after I had sent it, my letter featured prominently (under the headline ‘Jamie, 15, wants to know all about cycling’) along with explanations to answer all of the questions I had asked. Although Cycling Weekly had pointed me in the direction of Harlow CC, Ken was from Bishops Stortford CC and was trying to ‘poach’ me. I explained that we would be moving house in just a few months, but he still said it was worth joining and so I became a member a week later.
A man called Peter (who also lived in Old Harlow) kindly drove me up to their social evenings every week and I started going on the club runs and doing 45-60 mile rides every Sunday (at this point still wearing tracksuit and trainers and riding with panniers). Sensibly, they put me in the slowest of their three groups (they had quite a large racing contingent at the time), under the supervision of a man called Ian and his daughter Wendy, going at a rather gentle 14-15mph.
I had now become completely obsessed by cycling and was pouring all my money into it to try to get ready to try racing for myself – my next purchases were my first ever pair of lycra cycling shorts (with actual leather chamois) and my first ever pair of cycling shoes (old school black ones with laces) which had to go into toe clips and straps – not easy for a quick escape in an emergency.
In the Easter holiday I went on another youth hostelling and cycling holiday with my mate, this time heading south to recce the area my family would shortly be moving to. We went from Harlow to Holmbury St Mary in the Surrey Hills (which involved getting hopelessly lost looking for the tube in Stepney, taking the District Line right through the centre of town out to Richmond, and nearly coming a cropper descending the ridiculously steep White Down fully laden), then down to Arundel in the pouring rain, then across to Alfriston (wasting two hours getting repeatedly lost in Brighton and setting a new max speed of 45mph), over the South Downs to Eastbourne, up through The Weald to Crockham Hill, then home through the sprawl of London with a trip on the Woolwich Ferry.
On that final day we took a detour to Eastway, the cycle circuit near Leyton that was the centre of crit racing in the area. It’s sadly gone now, bulldozed to make way for the Olympic Velodrome. I had already ridden down there from Harlow in to see the ‘March Hare’ race meeting where lots of my club mates raced and there was a chance to see the domestic pros in action (in those days there was no ‘elite’ category and pro racing was completely separate from the top amateurs). Now I got to ride it for myself: I raced my mate round for a couple of laps and average 19.3mph – surely that would be good enough for the real thing?
I was to find out in the middle of April. I entered a crit organised by Crest on the Saturday and another organised by Lea Valley RC (as the club was then known) on the Sunday. I did my best to make my touring bike appropriate for races: the mudguards and carrier came off, but the tyres were still 28mm wide (at a time when most racers had just 19mm) and I had a pretty useless selection of gears. The restrictions on what gears under-16s could use in races coupled with the wide spread of gears that I had (for touring) meant I was left with just two cogs I could use in my races, an 18 and a 21. In those days, of course, the levers were were on the down tube (and weren’t even indexed) so I had a vested interest in avoiding changing gear if at all possible.
My most vivid recollection from the day of my first race is the smell of embrocation in the changing rooms – even today, when I get a whiff of that I am transported back to Eastway 1989. To say I struggled would be putting it mildly – I lost contact with the bunch of 15-year-olds on the climb on the first lap and spent pretty much the whole race puffing around on my own in the red. The younger riders (13/14) had been set off a minute ahead of us, so when they came round I tried to stay with them instead, but got dropped again. I didn’t actually come last (there were a few other stragglers I picked off), but I spent precious little time actually in a group and got lapped twice by the winner (in a race that was only 12 laps long). Ken (who had driven me down there) had to shout out to me to stop when I crossed the line shortly after the leading group – I thought I still had to do my final two laps.
Although it had been a baptism of fire, I was filled with enthusiasm and couldn’t wait to try it again. I got home bursting to tell my family all about it, only to find the Hillsborough disaster was unfolding live on TV. The shocking scenes there dominated my thoughts for the rest of the day, but the next morning after my paper round I had to head straight back down to Eastway to race again. This time I stayed with the bunch for the whole of the first lap but then made the rooky error of pedalling around the tight left hand bend at the end of the finishing straight. My pedal hit the ground, my bike bucked up in the air and I landed spreadeagled over the top tube with my feet still strapped into the pedals. I just about managed to stay upright, but soon realised my back wheel was so buckled that I had to abandon.
Over the next two months I crammed in as many crits at Eastway as I could (instead of revising for the GCSEs I was taking). I got better at sticking with the guys who were younger than me, but never got close to troubling the guys in the leading group. To be fair, one guy who kept winning my races was a youngster by the name of Roger Hammond – within a few years he was Junior World Cyclocross Champion and then later, as a pro, became National Road Champion and was something of a cobbled classics specialist with a 2nd in Gent-Wevelgem and 3rd in Paris-Roubaix, so it’s no wonder I was struggling.
My one moment of (relative) glory was when they had the regional championships. The BCF regions in those days were different to the BC regions now: Bishops Stortford was in the North London region. The top three riders in our regional crit would be selected to race in the national championship and, to my joy, there were only six of us in the race. Two strong guys dropped the rest of us early on. My bunch of four stayed together for the rest of the race and to my huge excitement I found myself taking part in a genuine sprint finish (with a place in the Nationals at stake for the winner) – I was 3rd out of the 4, so 5th out of 6 overall – not terribly impressive, but this was enough to get my name in the results section of Cycling Weekly, something that has never been and will never be repeated.
In June I turned 16 which meant I would have moved up to Junior category and done races of 25 miles against 18-year-olds. Given that I was being slaughtered by 15-year-olds over 10 miles, this wouldn’t have been worth it. On top of this, we moved house down to Sussex where there was no equivalent of Eastway. So that was that: I didn’t do another crit again for 20 years.
Before we moved house I also got my first taste of time trials. There were no tri-bars in those days (they were only used in triathlons) and most people just rode on normal road bikes (though the top guys had low-profile bikes and disc wheels). I don’t think anyone wore helmets either – pretty much nobody wore a helmet to cycle at that time. If you were doing a road race you usually had a token effort, a so-called ‘hair net’ thing which was basically just leather straps – only a very small minority had something that looked like our modern helmets instead, but outside of that I don’t think I’d ever seen anyone wearing a helmet. My first time trial was a 10-mile effort on the A12 to and from Mountnessing. Unsurprisingly, races are banned on this stretch of road now – even then it was like a motorway. My dad drove me there, saw what I would be racing on and insisted I wore the ‘hair net’ (which, frankly, wouldn’t have been much help if a vehicle hit me at 70mph). I did it in 29:00, which I was pretty pleased with as I’d never managed to go over 20mph in any of my training rides up to that point. I also did the midweek Bishops Stortford club 10s on a course between Hatfield Heath and White Roding – despite the dodgy turn (practically a U-turn) and the sapping climb about a mile from the finish, I managed to get my PB down to 28:42.
Just before we left Essex forever, I got a pair of custom-built Campag wheels for my 16th birthday. I joined Central Sussex CC and immediately put the new wheels into action doing their club time trials on dual carriageways outside the town of Horsham. Obviously first time out I didn’t know the roads at all and there weren’t any marshals – annoyingly I took a wrong turn when I was on track for a PB and ended up riding 12 miles before I got to the finish line. But I came back four more times and finished the season with a new PB of 28:00 (which I was furious about because I made it 27:59).
While this was going on I finally got to see my first Tour de France on TV. The 1989 Tour was an absolute classic, from Pedro Delgado missing his slot for the prologue and losing minutes on the very first day, the epic battle between Greg Lemond and Laurent Fignon through the moutains, Robert Millar breaking away with Delgado and Mottet and beating them up Superbagneres, and of course the final day time-trial where Lemond (with his newfangled tri-bars) snatched victory from Fignon by just 8 seconds. I was actually gutted for Fignon, but I think I was in a very small minority in this country. The Channel 4 show was a long way from the fantastic job that Gary Imlach, Ned Boulting and Chris Boardman do now for ITV: just 30 minutes of highlights with commentary from Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen that sounded like it had come down a telephone and the hairy-handed Richard Keys (later of Sky Sports Football) as a fairly clueless anchorman back in the studio. The one thing that was better than now was the theme tune:
I got to see some of the stars of the Tour up close in real life when I went to watch the final stage of the Tour of Britain later that summer (which was a crit around Whitehall). Robert Millar won the overall that day. There was no separation between the fans and the teams so my brother went and grabbed loads of autographs (including, bizarrely, that of Richard Keys).
My other big chance to see the stars was the following summer. For a few years Britain hosted a ‘classic’ race in the summer called the Wincanton Classic. In 1989 it was based in Newcastle, but in 1990 they moved it to Sussex. I rode down to Ditchling Beacon (just 15 miles from where we now lived) and had the fantastic experience of sprinting up the top of the climb over names like ‘Millar’ and ‘Kelly’ chalked on the road and surrounded by hundreds of spectators.That high was shortlived – I turned around at the top and started freewheeling back down to join my friends at their vantage point, nearly shot past them and slammed the brakes on, then toppled over sideways and become stuck lying against the steep banking with my feet unable to unclip from the pedals while dozens of people laughed at me until somebody finally rescued me. We saw the peloton make easy work of the Beacon (when interviewed after the race, Robert Millar dismissively said “What hill?”) as they did several loops, then we rode down into Brighton to watch the finish on Madeira Drive right on the seafront in brilliant sunshine (Gianni Bugno won, if anyone was wondering).
After moving to Sussex I rapidly had to learn how to climb as Ditchling Beacon was far from the only hill around. We lived in The Weald which was hilly enough in its own right (if you’ve ever ridden down to Brighton, you’ve probably gone down some of my old training roads around Warninglid, Handcross, Balcombe and Ardingly), but we were also within easy reach of both the North Downs and the South Downs. The worst of the latter for me was not Ditchling Beacon, but Steyning Bostal. You’ll find it described in Simon Warren’s 100 climbs book (climb #21), but the version he uses (which is also the version used for hill climbs every October) is actually the easier one with a nice stretch of flat between the two ramps. If you’re looking for a challenge, start on Newham Lane instead of the Bostal Road – not only is there no flat if you go this way, but you have to make a right turn while climbing a 17% gradient (just pray there is no traffic coming).
My new club was smaller and only had one group for the winter training club runs so I was thrown in at the deep end with the strongest guys. To make matters worse, the club coach (who was a 1st cat road racer) insisted that I could only use my small chainring during the winter months (to help me get used to riding at a high cadence). This might have made some sense if I was intending to do road races (which I wasn’t) and if I was on a racing bike with high gears instead of a touring bike. I was left spinning like a lunatic. I only managed two of their 60-mile training rides – one went up Leith Hill, the other somewhere on the South Downs near Arundel (I had no idea where I was), both of which left me utterly destroyed and demotivated. Then fate intervened: my Saturday job at Fads (‘The paint and paper people!’) suddenly turned into a Sunday job which gave me a face-saving excuse for not being on the club runs. Even better than that, no other town centre shops were open on a Sunday in those days (I’m not even sure if it was legal for my shop to open), so hours could pass without a single customer coming in: I got paid time and a half to basically do my A-level homework on the counter.
At the start of 1990 I finally got a bike (or frame and components to go with my Campag wheels) that could be described as a racing bike, a black and white MBK with Colombus steel tubing, indexed gears (obviously still on the downtube) and concealed brake cables. Combined with the Look clipless pedals I had got for Christmas, and the special sunglasses I bought, I felt I really looked the part at last. The only thing spoiling the look (from my perspective) was the helmet that my parents were now insisting I wore. These were just appearing on the scene, but were still very much a minority thing and I just couldn’t see the point myself. Nowadays almost everyone wears them and we take them for granted, but at the time I thought it made me look like an alien. It wasn’t very sophisticated either – it was literally a lump of polystyrene with a detachable lycra cover and a strap underneath.
Over the 1990 season I reached a level of fitness I wouldn’t see again for nearly 20 years. I was out all the time training on our local circuits trying to outsprint my brother or club mates to the tops of the hills and the village signs. I went on two more touring holidays with rides of 70-80 miles (at that time my furthest ever): one around Suffolk and Norfolk at Easter and one heading in a big C-shape from Harlow-Oxford-Overton-Southampton-Hindhead (the Devil’s Punchbowl)-home. On the latter of these we tried to get a ‘moody’ photo of the barbed wire security fences around the Greenham Common air base (scene of the protests in the early 80s). The security guard saw us, satisfied himself that we weren’t peace protestors and then invited us in to pose for a photo where he pretended to arrest me.
I did lots of time trials – in the summer months I was sometimes doing three a week, with Central Sussex club 10s on Tuesdays, Crawley Wheelers club 10s on Thursdays and then an open event (usually on the A24) at the weekend. I got my 10 PB down to 27:15 and tried a few 25s with a PB of 1:12:57.
And then….I lost interest. I had bought an electric guitar and wanted to be in a group. As the season finished in the autumn of 1990 I started going to more and more gigs in London. I grew my hair long. I wasn’t remotely tempted to get out training through the winter. So, I hit the start of the 1991 season with practically nothing in my legs and a misplaced belief that this didn’t really matter as I had some kind of magical natural fitness. I entered a 25-mile time trial on the A27 somewhere out between Worthing and Chichester. The weather wasn’t great, but it was the same for everyone and nobody else seemed to be affected like me. As I went round I looked in horror at my average speed: at my very best in a 10 I would be looking for 22mph, for a 25 more like 20.5mph. I soon realised 20mph was going to be impossible and hoped that 19mph could still be considered respectable in the circumstances. But that slipped away and then so did the chance of even hitting 18mph. In disgust, I didn’t write down my time or keep the results that were posted to me so I am afraid it is lost to history, but I remember it was bad. Very bad. Far worse than anything I had done before, I might even have come dead last.
I quit racing on the spot. I didn’t want to get up at stupid o’clock in the morning any more to go to a start line in the middle of nowhere, didn’t want to force myself out in all weathers to train and train and train. I didn’t feel that I looked right any more: my long hair was poking out from under my alien helmet, my legs looked very hairy compared to the others and there was no way 17-year-old me was going to shave them, and I had got so short-sighted I had to wear my round John Lennon-style glasses instead of my shades. My enthusiasm for cycling ebbed away and most weeks I couldn’t even be bothered to ride at all.
There was one final hurrah when my friend and I went on one final cycling tour in July 1991, ending up in the Peak District again, but this time via a zigzagging longer route. On the final day we went up Winnats Pass – at least that’s what the route was, but I can’t remember anything about it. I rode up there again in 2014 and it was absolutely murderous – 25% in places and my heart rate hit the highest ever recorded while I ground up at about 6mph barely managing to keep the pedals turning. I simply refuse to believe I could have ridden up there wearing trainers and with full panniers – we must have walked.
Anyway, almost as soon as that holiday was over I was off again, Interrailing around Europe, and then off to university without my bikes. When I came back home the following summer my dad tempted me out for a training ride (he was now doing triathlons). He dropped me within a couple of miles – oh, the humiliation – and I turned around and went straight back home. That was it, I’d had enough. There was no way I was ever going to get involved in such a stupid masochistic sport ever again. Sixteen years passed before I changed my mind.
Happy New Year and a belated Merry Christmas to everyone! There
hasn’t been a club blog since mid-August (which feels a lifetime ago in the current
weather), so it’s time to write about what happened in the rest of 2017.
As usual, the end of August saw our outgoing President’s
traditional long-distance ‘Summerhayes Summer Saunter’ bank holiday ride, this
year to Southend. In addition to this, the weekend before I organised a
car-assisted ‘East Anglian Adventure’ using this 82-mile route which starts and
finishes in Thaxted and takes in some of the most picturesque places in that
neck of the woods (Lavenham, Cavendish, Finchingfield, etc): https://www.strava.com/routes/6175019.
I was joined by Huw, Caroline, Alex and Tim. We set a decent enough pace in the
sunshine, despite the fact that Alex’s front mech immediately stopped working
and he spent the entire ride trapped in the small ring. One of our village sign
sprints (to Radwinter) was a bit more dramatic than usual – just as Alex, Tim
and I opened it up we were overtaken at high speed by a never-ending convoy of
motorbikes which added a bit more danger than anticipated. We stopped at a pub for lunch just outside Lavenham and then rode
the remaining stretch into a headwind. In the final miles Huw (who had
cunningly avoided all of the sprints over the previous hours) left us all for
dead and disappeared out of sight.
It’s nice to get out and explore some different roads every
now and again like this with the aid of a car or a train. I’ve just bought a
‘Lost Lanes of the south-east’ book (http://lostlanes.thebikeshow.net/)
with about thirty rides in it – I intend to try to do one a month in 2018,
which obviously means getting a train or driving to the start/finish of each
ride. Hopefully we can organise some unusual club runs in Kent, Sussex,
Suffolk, The Chilterns and maybe even further afield.
September saw David Veitch break a club time trial record
yet again and in some style. Back on the E2 25-mile course again, he smashed
through the 50-minute (30 mph) barrier and then some, setting an incredible
time of 49:07.
Meanwhile some of us
were racing at Hog Hill. This video is cunningly edited to make it look as if
Charlie and I were always at the front of the 4th cat race:
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case when we actually got to
the finish line. The same afternoon Tim took part in the 3rd cat
race and also finished in the bunch. Racing with rather
more success that month was Patrick McGrath who took just two races in quick succession to
amass enough points to move up to 3rd cat, with a 3rd place in just his second race. One to watch next season!
Late September / early October always sees our ‘Crescent 30’
and ‘Comet 25’ open time trial events. These are named after the two clubs that
joined together to form Lea Valley CC in 1969 (so the events have been running
longer than our club has been existence). I was marshalling for the 30-mile
event at the roundabout by Duxford Imperial War Museum. To our surprise, there
was an airshow on that day and the roads became increasingly clogged with
traffic that at some points was stationary around three-quarters of the
roundabout, and one of the two lanes was coned off just to add to the confusion.
Nevertheless, the riders managed to pick their way through and still set
impressive times. Colin Ward of Essex Roads CC won again with a time of
1:03:17. The fastest Lea Valley rider was Colin Ross who came 13th
overall in 1:11:25 (25.2 mph). Full results here: https://leavalleycc.microco.sm/conversations/311505/
The following week’s 25-mile was held in typical end of
season conditions: strong winds and loads of standing water from the overnight
deluge. David McGraw of Cambridge CC won in 54:52 while Chris Parker was the
fastest Lea Valley rider with 1:03:55. Again, full results are here: https://leavalleycc.microco.sm/conversations/311506/
Then came our ‘Gordon Atwell Tourist Trial’ event. As last
year’s winner, Alex Sweeting was charged with organising it this year. It’s a
bit difficult to explain this event if you haven’t done it. It’s kind of a
mixture of a sportive, an old-fashioned reliability ride and a mystery tour.
You aren’t given a route to download and stick on your Garmin – instead part of
the challenge is reading instructions which you are given at the Burton End HQ
beforehand and trying to plot them on a map. You then have to aim to get back
at a certain time which corresponds to a particular average speed. Whoever gets
back closest to their allotted time is the winner.
This is more difficult than it sounds – if you don’t know
exactly how far you will be riding it’s difficult to judge how fast you should
be going. Things were further complicated this year by a savagely strong west-to-east
wind, which meant the return leg of the ride would be much harder than the
initial miles. I rode with James Morris and we made the task even more
challenging by repeatedly getting lost to the extent that during the first half
of the ride we were scarcely ever on the official route (and at one point when
we did finally get back onto it, we rode it in the wrong direction for several
miles before realising something had gone wrong). We also lost a good ten to
fifteen minutes in a Good Samaritan act helping a man who had somehow managed
to wrap his chain round and round his pedal. Actually, I say ‘we’ helped him,
but it would be more accurate to say James single-handedly removed the chain
and the rear mech and got covered in oil sorting everything out while I stood
around saying useful things like ‘how did you do that?’ and ‘I think you’ll
need a lift home’. Anyway, needless to say we didn’t win. That honour went to
Rosie Sweeting (who had recently married the organiser – I’m not saying that
interfered with the judging, but some people might smell conspiracy there) and
Following this came the annual hill climb on Mott Street.
This has been getting bigger and bigger in recent years and this year it was as
big as possible: we had a full field of 60 riders and had more who wanted to
ride that we couldn’t offer a place to. Our numbers were boosted by CC London,
who had decided to hold their club event on the same day, and various other
local clubs, especially Shaftesbury CC.
It was a very close-fought battle for first place with two
Lea Valley riders a good ten seconds clear of the rest of the field. Last
year’s winner David Veitch set a blistering time of 2:12 but that was only good
enough for second place. Michael Krukov took first with a time of 2:11. We had
about 25 riders from our club taking place – far too many to give a detailed
account of everyone, but it’s worth pointing out very impressive debut
performances from Steven Boyle, George Kemp and Lewis Miles and a significant
improvement from young Aidan Kerrigan. The full results are here: https://leavalleycc.microco.sm/conversations/312632/
Tim Stout of Shaftesbury CC took many photos of the event
which you can find here: https://keepsnap.com/timstout/gallery/3500
They are available for download for approx £1.50 per photo (part of which will
be donated to Children In Need) – the photos will be online for about one more
month and then deleted.
The week after that
was our club’s annual circuit race, the Len Cooper, at Hog Hill. The weather
was cold, but much sunnier than last year’s foggy edition. As is traditional,
we started off with a neutralised President’s lap and kept the pace relatively
gentle during the unofficial ‘truce’ after that:
Then the pace lifted as the hooter went to signal a prime would be held
at the end of the next lap and this is where the race split apart:
In the second video clip above around the 1:30 mark you can
hear the hooter and my rear cam shows Michael Krukov and David Veitch, the top
two from the previous week’s hill climb, sitting just behind me at the front of
the bunch. This was the shape of things to come (apart from me, obviously – as
you can see from the rest of the clip I expertly slid from the front of the
bunch to the back just in time to miss all the action). Michael won the prime
and a front group of five emerged, initially closely followed by a second group
of about six or seven. Before too long Michael and David had shaken off the
rest of the front group and they spent the rest of the race in each other’s
company, while Alex Sweeting, Paul Roberts (who already had a race from the
previous day in his legs as he desperately searched for the single point he
needed to maintain his second cat status) and Steven Boyle slowly dropped back
to swell the numbers of the second group on the road.
David won the second
prime and, as Michael freely admitted, was the stronger of the two of them on
the day, but he was unable to get rid of Michael. The two of them lapped even
the second group before going clear again to contest the sprint, in which
Michael surged off David’s wheel to claim victory for the second week in a row.
When the second group came round, Paul Roberts won a close sprint for third
place from Steve Boyle.
At the end of November we had our annual lunch / prize
giving at Wanstead Golf Club. This year we were treated to Michael Hutchinson
(multiple time trial record breaker and national champion) as our guest
speaker. He did it as Q&A session and dealt well with our questions on
topics ranging from the relatively safe topics of his own career and his Cycling
Weekly column to more controversial issues such as the reputation of Wiggins
and Team Sky in the wake of the TUE and mystery package revelations. Michael
brought along some copies of his latest book (https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/recyclists-9781472925596/)
to sign and sell – I bought it myself this summer and can recommend it.
As always, a lot of silverware was dished out – so much that
it would be impossible to list every single prize here, but here is a taste…
picked up multiple prizes including Club Time Trial Champion, Club Best
All-Rounder, Club Time Trial Handicap Champion, Best 30-mile TT, Best 50-mile
TT and Best 100-mile TT
picked up prizes for Best Women’s 10-mile TT and Best Women’s 25-mile TT
(breaking both club records in the process)
David Veitch won the Best
10-mile TT and Best 24-mile TT setting new club records of 19:29 and 49:07
Paul Roberts became both
Club Road Race Champion & Club Track Champion
Michael Krukov won the Len
Cooper circuit race, the Hill Climb and became Senior Road Race Champion
riders: Jemma Taylor & James Morris (who also won the Betts Trophy for the
ill-fated first day of his ride up to Edinburgh)
Winners of the Gordon
Atwell Tourist Trial, Rosie Sweeting & Jeanette Degiorgio
The club runs are still going strong, despite the wintery
weather. Alice Cutter has taken over running the Women’s Rides from Chrystyna
(who has now had her baby, we’re glad to hear) and these are still happening
once every couple of months. Here is their Blackmore café stop on the November
ride – the next one is coming up in January.
Meanwhile, the usual
reminder that ideally everyone should have a rear mudguard during the winter
months, otherwise you will end up looking like these guys (Lewis, Simon and Simon):
Even more extreme, this is George Kemp’s bath after he decided to try
off-roading in Epping Forest with James Morris and Chris West:
Over the festive period we had about 15 riders on the
Christmas Eve club runs – some doing 45 miles with a supposed coffee stop at a
pub that was actually closed (and which we only discovered wasn’t going to open
after we had sat outside it in the cold for 15 minutes), and some doing 70+
miles with a loop around Hanningfield Reservoir. One week later only 8 of us
braved the weather on New Year’s Eve – not surprising given that there was
something of a storm going on when daylight broke, but in the end it wasn’t
that bad on the ride.
Away from riding we had a good turnout at The Castle in Walthamstow
Village for our drinks to celebrate Christmas and also a multitude of birthdays
– by a strange coincidence about half a dozen members have their birthdays
either on or just before Christmas Day.
Less successful was our AGM the week before. In order to
actually pass any votes and elect club officials (including the new President to
replace John) the meeting has to be quorate. Given the ever-growing membership
of the club that now means we need about 30 members to turn up on the night,
but we only had 12 and so nothing could actually be voted on. We have had to
reschedule the AGM to have a second attempt: it will now be on Tuesday 9th
January from 8pm – 10pm. (Edit: No, it won’t! It will now be the following Tuesday, i.e. 16th January). Please make every effort to attend if you can,
otherwise we’ll be in administrative limbo (and John might have to remain club
President for eternity). In case you didn’t know, club nights are no longer
weekly, they are monthly, and they aren’t in the church hall any more. We are
now based in the Scout Hall, 205a Wood St, Walthamstow, London E17 3NU. See you
there and have a good 2018!
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:
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!
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.
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.
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!).
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
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.
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/
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):
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:
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:
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.
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.
Hi again. Time for an update on what’s been happening since April before the Tour de France gets underway and takes all of our attention. First off, some good news: Alex Sweeting is back on his bike again after several months out following his nasty crash and recently got married to Rosie. In the meantime several of us have tried to emulate his crashing skills, including Adam Luck who was suffered a terrible crash in a road race, Harry Sewell faceplanting into the back of a car, Roland Karthaus wrecking his shoulder, Barnaby Barford hitting the ground with his pedal while cornering in the Nocturne Brompton race and somersaulting off his bike (while wearing a jacket and tie – the indignity!), and last (and definitely least) my slow-motion embarrassment as I rode into the kerb while stopping at Hatfield Heath in the club run.
Yet more club time trial records have been broken (subject to official ratification, etc.). Trudy Sharam set a new fastest women’s time for 25 miles in our open time trial on the E2 course in April with a time of 1:04:53. She then followed this up by breaking the club record for 10 miles the following month, again in our open event on the E2, doing 25:32. Congratulations Trudy! In the same event, David Veitch broke the club record for the men’s 10-mile, crashing decisively through the 20-minute barrier with a fantastic time of 19:29 (an average speed of 30.8mph). David also won the 10-mile event at the ECCA Festival. Chapeau again!
These are by no means the only good times that have been set by our riders recently – there have been PBs all over the place. This is not necessarily an exhaustive list (it’s difficult to keep track of everything with so many people riding for the club these days), but some of the highlights:
Colin Ross did a 20:49 in our 10-mile event. He also did 56:05 in the ECCA 25-mile TT in late May and managed 1:58:12 in his 50-mile debut.
Ellen Dyverfeldt was not far behind Trudy in the 25 with a time of 1:06:09.
James Morris has broken through the hour barrier a couple of times, with his best being a 57:55 in the VC Norwich event in May. He also managed 23:59 in an ECCA 10-mile event.
Adam Bishop (who recently saw a cat) also set a PB in the VC Norwich event with a time of 58:14.
Mark Freeman recently smashed his 25-mile PB to pieces with a 1:06:55 on the E2 course. He’s also done some good work with Karly Bunyan and Dave McCarthy in the three-up section of the Victoria CC 10.2-mile time trials.
And Neil Davies and Alex Galloway came a creditable 2nd* in the two-up 10-mile event at the ECCA Festival with a time of 24:59.
Apologies to anyone who has been missed out!
Sticking to the world of time trialling, our Tuesday Tens have been proving as popular as ever this year. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to make it to a single event this season as I’ve been working every Tuesday evening, but from scanning the results, it would appear that the fastest Lea Valley riders taking part have tended to be Paul Roberts and Tim Holmes, both racking up top ten placings with times of about 23.5 minutes. Well done to everyone who has been racing in these (or helping out – always appreciated. Some photos from the Velopark:
Talking of Paul Roberts, he has been quite consistent in road races this season with an 8th place at the Velopark in April, a 9th at Hog Hill in May, and another 9th in Milton Keynes the same month. Here he is in action at the recent London Nocturne event:
And here is Roland (pre-accident) also at the Nocturne:
Tim Holmes also has also scored some BC points this season with a 6th place at Hog Hill in May. Tim and Paul also raced together in a road race at the start of May, which meant they missed our club-members-only circuit race on the lower circuit at Hog Hill. This left they field open for Michael Krukov, our latest second cat racer, to dominate the race. The race took place on a grey and chilly Sunday morning and was unofficially neutralised for the opening laps until the first prime was announced:
With the prime announced I attacked hard near the turn halfway up the hill. Not long after, Michael caught and passed me and disappeared off into the distance never to return:
This left a group of about ten of us fighting it out for second place, occasionally lapping dropped riders, but never catching a glimpse of Michael until, with the race nearing its conclusion, he came round to lap all of us!
At this point I decided to latch onto his wheel in a cunning attempt to drop the rest of the bunch. Needless to say, Michael son dropped me (and everyone else) before soloing to victory more than a lap ahead of the field.
The final laps saw a flurry of attacks in the battle for second place. Aidan Kerrigan, Harry Sewell and Trevor Whittock all tried to get away, but I heroically and selflessly chased them down before being outsprinted by wheelsucking scum who had hidden all race (not that I’m bitter about it).
In all seriousness, Harry sprinted well to claim second place, with a close battle behind going (we think) to Lewis Dixon ahead of Aidan and George Kemp. (Edit: just seen the official results and Aidan actually beat Lewis!)
Another brief racing mention: well done to all those who took part in the Tour of Cambridgeshire event
And finally, some upcoming events. We have the ‘Bill Major’ 25-mile time trial on the E1 course (based at our HQ in Ugley) on Sunday 9th July. This is not an ‘open’ event so the field will be quite small (probably 20 riders). If you’re interested in entering or marshalling (help needed as always!), have a look on the forum: https://leavalleycc.microco.sm/events/3098/
One week later, on Sunday 16th July, is the annual reunion event at our other HQ at Burton End (near Stansted Airport). A great chance to eat, drink and socialise (plus some of us will be riding up there and maybe back again), get more details here: https://leavalleycc.microco.sm/events/3102/
Spring is here at last and the racing season is well and truly underway. One of the traditional ‘season openers’, on the first Sunday in March, is the Hainault Hilly time trial which follows a route a shade under 30 miles that takes in the climb of Theydon Mount twice. We had three riders entered for this, but things didn’t really go according to plan: the weather forecast was for hours of torrential rain, strong winds and temperatures of just 2C. Two of us bailed leaving just Adam Bishop to take part. He discovered that they had had to amend the route (so the hill was no longer in it), but he didn’t get that far anyway, puncturing after just 20 minutes. A resounding success for Lea Valley. The following weekend saw the first event that we organise each year: the Frank Truman 25-mile time trial on the E1 course which starts and finishes near our race HQ in Ugley. The weather forecast was pretty similar to the previous week, but fortunately this was wrong and the event took place in dry conditions and without usual killer headwind on the return leg. The E1 is not a fast course and you are doing well if you can get under an hour there – nevertheless, the top 18 riders all managed this and the winner, Stuart Travis (Team Bottrill / HSS Hire) set a cracking time of 51:49, more than two minutes ahead of the second-placed rider and only about the same margin short of Alex Dowsett’s course record. We had eleven riders from our club taking part in the solo event: Colin Ross, Barnaby Barford, Charlie Gregory, Alex Galloway, Adam Bishop, James Morris, Tim Holmes, Chris West, Jamie Fake, Neil Davies and Chris Pollard (in that order). Colin did a 1:01:05, 15 seconds faster than Barnaby, while Chris’s time was 1:08:07 which meant that even our slowest riders averaged over 22mph on a slow course in their first race of this season – a better sign than the previous week’s washout. This time trial also contained a two-up event. The fastest pair were John Mulvey (Cambridge University) and Sebastian Dickson (Thanet RC) who got a time of 52:52, while from Lea Valley our pair of Mark Freeman and Dave McCarthy did 1:12:31 and Trevor Whittock came out of semi-retirement to partner ex-LVCC Gary Boyd 1:08:51.
The following weekend there was a smaller ‘interclub’ time trial (between Shaftesbury CC and ourselves) on the same course but in brutally windy conditions. James Morris and George Kemp took part and both managed about 1:07:00 on a day which was probably two minutes slower than the previous weekend. On the first weekend in April, many of us were in road racing action. On the Saturday four of us headed over to Hog Hill for CC London’s ‘Hog With The Occasional Hill’ crits. This involved an unusual course: most of the race is on the lower circuit and in this edition it involved taking the lower cut-through (rather than the usual one halfway up the hill), but every twelve minutes or so we would be directed up the Hoggenberg to complete a lap of the full circuit. To be honest, the lower cut-through didn’t prove popular with us: the corner is really designed to be taken from the opposite direction which made it very tight. Unless you were at the front of the bunch you had to grind to a virtual standstill to squeeze round it which made everyone bunch right up and people got squeezed out every time. Anyway, there were just under fifty starters in the fourth cat race, including me (Jamie), Charlie and Huw Thomas. Charlie was most active at or near the front, although Huw did manage a short-lived dig off the front mid-race. The pack stayed largely together, though a few were shelled out early on and others lost contact each time we were directed up the climb. The riding was a bit sketchy and jittery and there were a number of small crashes, although thankfully most of the time this just involved single riders going onto the grass and managing to get back up again. The exception came when we were in the closing stages of the race – as we descended the full hill from the third and final full circuit it meant we were approaching the right handers at nearer 40mph (instead of accelerating up from about 5mph having squeezed round the cut-through). On the second and longer bend there appeared to be a touch of wheels between two riders on the outside just ahead of me and one went somersaulting off at high speed. As we continued round for our final laps we could see him lying on his back not moving while the organisers tried to look after him: a constant reminder of the danger of cycle racing.
After 45 minutes the race reached its climax and Charlie found himself in a good position for the sprint with space opening up ahead of him on the right hand side. One guy got a length or two clear to claim first place, but the battle for second was an incredibly close four-way lunge with Charlie being judged to have come fourth overall in the photo finish. With those early season points on his licence it shouldn’t be long before Charlie makes the move up to 3rd cat.
Huw finished mid-pack in 24th place and I was a second or so behind in 30th. After that, Tim was our sole representative in the 2nd & 3rd cat race. This was also over 45 minutes and on the same course, but whereas our race had average 24.4mph, Tim’s one showed the higher standard with an average of 25.6mph. I think this was Tim’s first race involving 2nd cats, so a bit of a shock to the system after the winter months off, but he coped well with it and managed to come in with the bunch in 31st place. The following day saw more riders in action in the two road races put on by Chelmer CC on a 14-mile loop in the Roxwell / Leaden Roding / Willingale area of Essex. The two races are run simultaneously (about ten minutes apart) with the ‘challenge’ event (which is mostly 4th cats with a handful of 3rd cats) doing 42 miles and the higher cat race doing over 70 miles. The challenge event is very rare in that it prioritises entries from 4th cats giving them an opportunity to race on the open road which can be difficult to come by normally (most 3rd/4th races are the other way round: 90% 3rd cats and a handful of 4ths). We hoped to have a team of six or seven riders in this event, but unfortunately it was massively oversubscribed (the organiser said he had over a hundred entries) and in the end only Barnaby Barford made the cut, with Tom Orr making it onto the reserve list. On the day, Tom did get a ride. He was with the bunch for the first twenty minutes, but then found himself suddenly losing contact: “Was badly placed going into a corner and wasn’t expecting the mega acceleration out of it, so found myself about 10m off the back, and couldn’t close. I knew it was over for me as a race when the commissaire came through I pretty much knew I wouldn’t get back on. Swept up a few other dropped riders, but none of them wanted to ride with me so I basically rode a 30 mile TT.” Barnaby, on the other hand, had a much more successful race (until the very end): “That was fun, classic Barford. I’ve been on tougher club runs to be honest. I didn’t listen to Uncle Trevor or Michael. It was fairly easy, put in 4 or 5 attacks, chased down attacks, kept in the first 6 riders most of the race. Wasn’t sketchy at all, quite polite actually, knew a few ELV riders so that was nice. Got to the final km or so and a Range Rover came the opposite way heard a big fall behind me, the clattering of carbon on road – ouch! Only a few left in the sprint I was super well-placed, I could almost smell victory, got up to sprint and my hamstring totally cramped – haha! Had to sit up for the last couple of hundred metres and didn’t contest the sprint at all. So all in all good fun, quite a bit of faff one way and another. I’m not very good at sitting in, I found that a bit boring so it was fun having a go, but to be honest each time it was difficult to get a cohesive through and off break and as the race wasn’t that fast I think everyone still had the legs to close things down. I guess I hoped to do better but for my first race it was fun.” A major improvement on last season when Barnaby’s race-ending cramp occurred in the opening seconds of his first race. Meanwhile, new member Michael Krukov was in the higher category race on the same course. Michael has only started racing this winter but has been making incredible progress and had already been promoted to 2nd cat status by the time most people started their seasons. He has been racing crits mainly, but is very keen to get involved in the ERRL road races and this was his first taste of the action. “My race was just over 71miles, covered at a 25.7mph average. If anyone wants a breakdown… There were some very strong riders/teams on my start list so I got paranoid that a break would go from the first lap, never to be seen again. I spent the first 30mins near/at the front, responding to everything and my Garmin showed 310W -5W/kg (normalized) so I was close to blowing up. Having wasted enough energy and it looking unlikely that a break would form, I went to the back of the bunch, where I sat for 90 minutes, soft-pedalling and averaging 180W, which felt amazing. With about 45mins to go, I followed the wheel of a rider overtaking the bunch and slotted in among the first 10 riders at the head of the race, a position I held until around 3miles from the line, when I started rapidly losing position because the rider I was drafting faded hard (possibly cramped?) and trains of riders moved up on both sides of me. Rolled in with the congested bunch despite legs wanting to sprint! All the big hitters I singled out before the race placed outside the top 9 so the finish was a bit of a lottery as the race wasn’t really hilly/windy, which would have rewarded those strong/brave enough to detach themselves from the bunch. A few lessons learned and absolutely stunning weather are the positives! Not too many negatives as it’s only my first road race and there’s a lot to learn!” Michael was back in action the following weekend in the CCA Primavera 2nd/3rd/4th cat race near Cambridge. “The race was a lap too long. I ran out of fluid/food early, which had a huge impact in today’s heat. Five went off the front with 2 laps remaining and the bunch completely gave up, almost coming to a standstill. I attacked on the last lap with another rider – we got a solid gap quickly and caught one up the road. Worked well as a 3-up before I got dropped on the long climb with around 10km to go. Happy I didn’t give 100% to stay in contact, as I would have likely blown up and been swallowed and spat out by the entire bunch. Dehydrated and dying, I have no idea how I held on solo to the line, before collapsing. 10 points in the bag though, but can’t stop thinking about what might have been if the race was shorter or I had just two more gels.” That same weekend saw our club’s second open event of the season, a 25-mile time trial on the fast E2 course up near Newmarket. This attracted a VERY high quality field and the times were superfast. Amazingly 24 riders went under 50 minutes with two riders managing 45s: Matthew Smith in 45:59 and winner John Dewey (both of Team Bottrill / HSS Hire) in 45:20. Until last year, this would have been the competition record! Our own David Veitch came 30th overall with a time of 50:23. This was a personal best, beating last year’s time by about 30 seconds, and means he has broken the club record again for the second year in a row! Rather than celebrating, David was bemoaning the fact his power was 25 watts down on last year. I recognise this perfectionist streak in myself: many is the time that I’ve sprinted to 31st place in a 4th cat race but instead of basking in the post-race glory, I’ve berated myself because I knew deep down that if I had focused more and tried harder I could have been 28th. Anyway, congratulations (yet again) to David and thanks to everyone who helped out with marshalling and other duties at the event – we will be looking for more volunteers for our next time trial, a 10-mile time trial (also on the E2 course near Newmarket) on Saturday 6th May. Other dates for the calendar: the very next day (Sunday 7th May) we will have a circuit race on the lower circuit at Hog Hill. This is for club members only: you should have received a newsletter the other week which told you about this – if you didn’t get this, your membership has probably lapsed so click here to renew: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/club/profile/1376/lea_valley_cc And following hot on the heels of this, our Tuesday Tens series of time trials at the Velopark circuit begins again on Tuesday 9th May. The club runs are still going strong and we have been able to split into more and more groups to cater for people wanting to go different distances / at different speeds. The ladies’ group rides have now become a regular monthly event and Monika is leading the next one tomorrow (Easter Sunday). Now that the evenings are lighter and warmer again the plan is also to revive the weekly Thursday evening rides on the Velopark circuit – this should happen later this month.
You might be thinking about racing on the road for the first time, but don’t really know how it all works. Here’s a little guide to try to explain it all.
First of all, the big divide is between road racing and time trialling. Road racing is where you all start at the same time and the winner is the first rider across the finish line, whereas time trialling is where you ride individually against the clock (usually the riders are set off at one-minute intervals to keep them apart). For historical reasons there are actually two different governing bodies controlling these events: road races are under the control of British Cycling (which used to be known as the BCF – British Cycling Federation) while time trials are controlled by CTT (Cycling Time Trials, previously known as the RTTC). Doing a road race in a bunch takes a certain amount of bike-handling skill and courage, plus, of course, you have to be strong enough to keep up with everyone else. For this reason, most people trying out racing for the first time start off by doing time trials – you are far less likely to crash and you go at whatever speed you can personally manage. So, we’ll look at time trials before road races.
The majority of time trials are held over a particular fixed distance. The most common distances are 10 miles and 25 miles, though there are also races at 30 miles, 50 miles, 100 miles and (for the masochistic) 12-hour events (where you ride as far as you can in 12 hours). Usually these courses go out and back on the same road: for a typical 10-mile race you would ride in one direction for approximately five miles, do a 180-degree turn at a roundabout, then ride back in the opposite direction to the finish line which is fairly close to the start line. Broadly speaking there are two types of courses. A ‘dragstrip’ is a course where you can expect to set a fast time – these are usually busy dual carriageways and are fairly flat. A ‘sporting’ course is slower and would usually be on quieter, smaller roads and be a bit more undulating. Time trials are not held on closed roads, so you will constantly have vehicles overtaking you and you may well have to slow down or even stop at roundabouts. There are marshals on the courses, but their job is not to stop the traffic – they simply point you in the right direction.
The CTT splits the country up into about 20 districts. We are in the ‘London East’ district (which extends into Essex and beyond), which means our courses begin with the letter ‘E’. All time trial courses have a code name (a tradition dating back many decades to when cycle racing had to be carried out secretly) which begins with the letter of the district. The courses that we use for our own events are the E1 and the E2 (in fact the names are a bit longer than that as they also include the distance), both up in northern Essex / southern Cambridgeshire. On the CTT website you can find maps of the various courses. Here is the E1/25b: https://cyclingtimetrials.org.uk/course-details/e1-25b . This is a sporting course on B-roads which we use for several of our events. We have our own Race HQ building nearby: https://leavalleycc.microco.sm/conversations/253853/.
To take part in a CTT event you have to be a member of CTT-affiliated club (which Lea Valley CC is). Perhaps a little confusingly, to pay your £25 annual subscription and sign up to the club you actually have to go to the BC website (even if you have no intention of taking part in any BC events). Follow this link and then click on the ‘join our club’ button: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/club/profile/1376/lea_valley_cc
Time Trials are usually either ‘Open’ events or ‘Club’ events. A club event is intended to be only for members of one club and can be quite a small affair with just a dozen riders or so. An open event is open to members of any CTT-affiliated club and can have a field as large as 120 riders. Riders are seeded according to their ability (when you complete the entry form you give your previous fastest times, if you have any, so that the organiser knows how good you are). The fastest riders are given the numbers finishing with ‘0’, the next fastest riders are given the numbers finishing with ‘5’, and so on. The idea is to minimise the chance of riders of a similar ability ending up riding together – you are not allowed to ride with anyone else. You are set off at one-minute intervals. If a rider catches you and overtakes you, you must not try to sit on their wheel – you have to let them draw clear of you and not take shelter.
The serious time trialists (or ‘testers’ as they are known) scour the country looking for the flattest, fastest dragstrip courses and live in hope of a ‘float day’ when the weather is absolutely perfect and they can set a personal best. Because of this, races on the fastest courses are usually oversubscribed and organisers only let the fastest 120 riders onto the start list. If you are looking to race for the first time, it would be best to enter a race on a slower course like the E2 or the E91 (in The Rodings area of Essex) as these don’t usually fill up – or, of course, enter a club event.
There are some time trials that are a bit different to these. Several are described as ‘hilly’ and follow a course which involves plenty of climbing and a series of left turns instead of just out and back. These are usually over non-standard distances (e.g. the ‘Hainault Hilly’ is about 29 miles long). Also, at the end of the season in October and the start of November there are a series of hill climbs. These are very short and involve just a few minutes of agony racing up the steepest hills in the area.
In terms of equipment, you can race a time trial on a normal road bike, but you will find that the fastest riders are using specialist time trial bikes with aero bars, aero helmets, disc wheels, etc. If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, you can spend less than £100 on some clip-on aero bars that will probably make you about 1mph faster – quite a good investment when every second counts.
Now we turn to road racing. The biggest road racing organisation is British Cycling*. To take part in their races, you need to become a BC member (gold or silver) and pay for a racing licence: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/membership
When you first get a licence you will be a ‘4th cat’ rider. If you manage to finish in the top positions of a 4th cat race, you will gain some points (typically ten for first place, down to one for tenth). Once you have gained at least 12 points in one season you will be promoted to 3rd cat status. Similarly, if you get enough points at 3rd cat level you can move up to 2nd cat and so on. Races can be held for more than one category to compete in, so for example a 2/¾ race is open to 2nd, 3rd and 4th cat riders. At the higher levels you need to earn a certain number of points per year to keep your status, otherwise you get relegated down to the category below, but 3rd cats can never be relegated to 4th cat status.
You are most likely to start out by doing ‘crits’ (or ‘criteriums’ to give them their full name) on purpose-built road circuits. Traditionally, the famous circuit in our area was Eastway, but this was bulldozed to make way for the Olympic Park. However, there are three circuits within easy reach which have opened up in recent years. The Velopark circuit is about one mile long and loops round by the Velodrome in the Olympic Park (near Stratford and Leyton) – this is fairly flat and not terribly technical. Hog Hill (aka Redbridge Cycling Centre) is a bit further afield near Hainault. If the full circuit is used it’s about 1.25 miles long and involves a vicious climb on every lap, but sometimes the races use a shorter version and avoid the hill. Hog Hill is more challenging than the Velopark, both in terms of climbing and in terms of technical cornering. On one hand, this makes it harder to race – it’s much harder to sit in the bunch than at the velopark and races are often quite attritional at Hog Hill, with the bunch getting thinned out every time it goes up the hill. On the other hand, it’s actually safer with fewer crashes – partly because the bunch gets thinned out and partly because the sprint finish is up a steep climb. Outside of London, but still easy to get to in less than an hour, the Cyclopark circuit is just off the A2 on the outskirts of Gravesend. This is 1.8 miles long: there are couple of tight bends and a long, draggy climb rather than anything steep. Although most people see the race season as running from March to September/October, you can actually find crits organised on these circuits all through the year.
A typical crit for 4th cats will be over a set time, rather than a set distance. So the race might be described as “40 minutes plus 5 laps”. This kind of racing requires a very different effort to a time trial. Instead of one constant level of exertion, you are constantly having to vary how hard you work: one minute you will be sprinting as hard as you possibly can just to stay in touch, the next minute everyone is free-wheeling and looking at each other. Initially it’s all about being able to stay with the bunch (it’s so much easier to ride in the pack than on your own, so if you get dropped it’s very difficult to fight your way back to the bunch). As you get better at that, it’s all about learning to maintain a good position or even being able join the right break and stay clear and, of course, being able to sprint at the end of the race.
Races on the open road are longer than crits. While a crit would usually be between 15 and 30 miles, a road would be between 40 and 100 miles or more (depending on the level of riders taking part). These races are based on circuits (usually raced anti-clockwise so that every turn is a left turn) between 5 miles and 15 miles in length. The roads are not closed, but you ride in a convoy, so up ahead of the bunch there will be at least two cars to warn oncoming traffic of what is coming up behind them, while behind the bunch there will be a commissaire’s car, a first aid car and (if you’re lucky) a car with spare wheels and so on. You must stay on the left hand side of the road when there are white lines down the middle.
NB – this was originally written in March 2017, some things have changed so I’ve added a few edits
When do you go? We have club runs on Sundays almost every week (unless it’s Christmas Day or the weather is truly apocalyptic).
Where and when do you meet? We meet at the gates to the Town Hall on Forest Road in Walthamstow: http://streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?X=537723&Y=189785&A=Y&Z=115 The idea is for the various groups to depart at 9:00 am. Inevitably, things can get delayed by 5 minutes or so, but you shouldn’t gamble on this – if you turn up at ten past you will probably find everyone has gone. A few meet up for a pre-ride coffee in the Winwood Art District café (just round the corner at the top of Chingford Road, near The Bell), but most just turn up at the town hall from 8:55 am onwards. The idea is to have a second meeting point at ‘Acorn Hut’ (aka the green tea hut) at High Beach in Epping Forest: http://streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?X=541127&Y=198305&A=Y&Z=120 There are often several different groups (more details below) – the more ‘social’-paced groups try to meet there with the intention of departing again at 9:45 am. The faster groups sometimes do this too (on these occasions they normally take a diversion to do a climb up Mott Street on the way there, while the social group rides straight up the Epping New Road), but on other occasions they will get there earlier and depart nearer 9:30 am, or some weeks not go through there at all. If in any doubt, it’s best to check on the club’s Facebook page for the latest plans.
How many riders are there? Obviously this varies from week to week, but I would say typically we might have about 20 when we set off from Walthamstow and pick up another five or so at High Beach. However, we don’t ride in one group – partly because different groups of people want to go at different speeds, and partly because of safety (a big group makes it very difficult for cars to overtake us and could lead to unpleasantness). Typically a group would have 8-10 riders in it. When the weather is bad, fewer people are likely to be out (although having said that, we still had over 20 riders when the temperature was -5C) and there are several weekends when the club organizes a race or other event and this means many people are not available for the club run – as above, check on Facebook to see what the situation is.
How far do you go and how fast do you go? Again, this varies from week to week. We have started trying to designate different groups/rides with letters to make it simpler: Group A: fast and hard, ranging from 19 mph to >20 mph chaingang, if you’re dropped no one is likely to wait for you (usually 50-70 miles) Group B: moderately fast, with an average speed from 17 mph to 18.5 mph, possibly a coffee stop depending on what people want (usually 50-60 miles) (Edit: the pace for this group tends to rise when the weather gets warmer. For a while in the summer of 2017 the Bs were averaging 20mph) Group C: social, 14-16mph, coffee stop very likely – distance as above, but depends on when people want to get back (Edit: this has now evolved into two separate groups, C going at 16-17mph, and Social going at around 14mph, generally following different routes) Introductory ride, gentle pace (12-13mph), shorter distance (maybe 25-30 miles) This doesn’t mean all of these groups necessarily happen every week, though: there should be a ‘B’ group and a social (‘C’) group almost every week, but A will only happen if there are enough fast riders around that weekend. Similarly, the introductory (‘D’) ride only happens if there is someone to lead it. We aim to put a route up on the club’s Facebook page by Thursday or Friday, which will be followed by the A/B groups, though not necessarily by the others. There is usually a discussion on that thread where people negotiate which groups they will be in and who will be the ride leader. There is now also a monthly Women’s Group ride which has been going since December. This is usually slightly shorter (more like 40-45 miles) with a café stop and the aim is to go at a pace that everyone can manage (perhaps 14mph). This is also announced on Facebook, usually several weeks in advance. Of course, women are welcome on the normal rides every week as well, but are normally outnumbered eight to one or more – the women’s rides redress the balance a bit!
If you are coming out with us for the first time, try to choose the most appropriate group. If you are new to cycling and haven’t ridden far before, the introductory ride is the best place to start. If you are more experienced, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution in terms of which average speed would suit you best (i.e. if you’re not sure whether to go with B group or the C group, try the C group first) – you don’t want to get dropped on your first ride.
When would I get home again? This depends on the distance and pace (see above), whether there is a café stop, whether you have to stop because someone has a puncture, whether there’s a horrendous headwind on the way back, etc. As a rule of thumb, the B group would normally get back to Walthamstow* some time between 12pm and 1:30pm. The A group is usually similar. If John is leading the social ride he often tailors the distance to what people say they have time to do – if enough people are up for a long one, they might not get back till 3pm, but if people want to get back earlier, then that’s what happens. You often get people who say “I have to be home by X o’clock” who peel off and turn back early, or who plough on when others stop for a coffee, so don’t feel obliged to stay to the bitter end if you’ve got other commitments. *not that everyone goes back to Walthamstow – as the ride leaves Essex and returns to the fringes of London the groups start splitting up as people head their separate ways to Leytonstone, Hackney, Chingford, Stratford, or wherever they live.
What do I need to bring with me? At the absolute minimum, everyone should have at least one spare inner tube, some tyre levers and a mini-pump. Ideally, you should also have a puncture repair kit, a little multi-tool and perhaps another inner tube. If it’s the winter or it’s raining, it’s best if you have mudguards (out of consideration for whoever is riding behind you) – race blades are fairly easy to fit (and remove) on most road bikes. If you’re likely to be out when the light is fading, or if the weather is particularly bleak, you should also have a front and rear light. Without wanting to sound alarmist, you also need to be prepared for the worst – you could end up being involved in an accident that completely wrecks your bike and/or leaves you in hospital. Make sure you have some money with you if you end up having to get a taxi or train and some kind of ID and contact details if people have to call your next of kin. Take your phone as well, so that you can call for a taxi / lift from a friend if you need it. If it’s going to be raining, make sure your phone is in one of those waterproof pouches (I learnt this lesson the hard way). Common sense says you should have at least one drinks bottle with you and something to eat (most people favour a banana and some energy gels), especially if your group is not going to have a café stop. When the weather is hot we often end up having to call in at a shop to buy more drinks. Also, you should know how to get home. If you aren’t familiar with the roads in Essex (or sometimes Herts) you should take a map – or, much more common nowadays, either a phone on which you can access a map, or better still a Garmin with maps on it. If you’re going on the A/B group ride and you have a Garmin, download the route we stick up on Facebook and put it on your device. We don’t want anyone to get dropped on any of the rides and try to avoid this, but you should be prepared.
What is a ride leader? Who are the ride leaders? The ride leader should know the route and either lead the way or shout out directions (though, hopefully, other riders in the group should also have the route on their Garmins). Ideally, the ride leader should also keep an eye on how many riders there are in the group to keep track and check if anyone has been dropped (especially as we can get separated at junctions / on climbs). The ride leader should also give a shout out if he/she feels there is a need to stop / slow down / go single file for whatever reason (though anyone can do this – it doesn’t have to be the ride leader). We try to negotiate ride leaders for different groups each week on Facebook. If there is an A group, the leader is often David or Barnaby, the B group is often led by me (Jamie), Karl often leads the C group, John often leads a social group, Edward is the person most likely to lead an introductory ride, and Chrystyna and Monika have been organising the women’s group rides (Edit: now Alice).
Where do you go? We have different routes every week, but the vast majority of the rides are in Essex. Broadly speaking, some routes head east of Epping Forest through places such as Abridge, Navestock, Ongar, Blackmore and Hanningfield. Others head north-east through places such as Theydon Bois, Toot Hill, Moreton, Matching Green and Hatfield Heath. Less frequently, we head north-west through places such as Nazeing, Roydon, Much Hadham, Broxbourne and Essendon. Every now and then there are train-assisted rides where we ride out somewhere and get the train back. In recent times we have gone to Saffron Walden, Cambridge and Brighton.
What kind of bike do I need? You should have a road bike. To be honest, unless you’re on an introductory ride, you would struggle to keep up if you were riding some kind of mountain bike or hybrid. Similarly, you ought to have cycling shoes and pedals that you clip into or you will find it very difficult. Although tri-bars (aka aero-bars) are great for reducing wind resistance in time trials, they are not appropriate for group rides so please don’t use them.
What do I need to know about group riding? We have to share the road with other users, so be considerate. Unless we’re out in the middle of nowhere and we can clearly see that there’s no other traffic around, we’ll be riding either single file or two abreast, not sprawling all over the road. Two abreast is generally preferred – it means you can communicate with each other more easily and it also means any cars don’t have to travel so far to overtake us (i.e. a line of five pairs of riders is half the length of a line of ten individual riders) – but there will be times when it’s safer to ride single file (e.g. approaching horses, or approaching a tight bend on a narrow lane, or going at high speed on a descent). You want to ride close enough to the wheel in front that you get the benefit of riding in their slipstream, but not so close that if they suddenly touch their brakes you crash into the back of them. Ride alongside the person next to you – i.e. your front wheels should be level with each other. Don’t ride with your front wheel level with someone’s back wheel – they can’t see you and could swing out and knock you down / slice your spokes. Bear in mind that lots of people are riding close to you and they need to know if you’re going to do anything unpredictable. Whoever is at the front of the group should make people aware of hazards. If there is a pothole or something lying in the road, people will point at it – those behind should copy this so that the instruction filters all the way back (if it’s a serious hole, people will shout out ‘hole!’). If there is an obstruction on the left (e.g. a parked car, someone walking a dog, a jogger, a slower cyclist about to be overtaken), people will put their left hand behind their back and point to the right (before moving out that way). If someone wants to push in the line in front of you (perhaps when the group is changing to single file) they will point to show that’s where they want to go. If you’re at the back and there is a car (or other vehicle) following the group and looking to overtake, let the group know by shouting ‘car back!’ or ‘car behind!’. If we’re on a main road with lots of cars, don’t feel the need to do this for every car, but if we’re on a narrow country lane and the car can’t get past unless we go single file, it’s important to know. When the car starts to overtake you can shout ‘car through!’. Again, if it’s a narrow country lane (especially a twisty one) and you’re at the front of the group, you should ‘car up!’ or ‘car ahead!’ if a car is coming towards us**. Whoever is at the front should also shout ‘slowing!’ or ‘stopping!’ if we approach a red light or a traffic jam. When we come to a junction, those at the front should say if we have to stop – if not, shout ‘clear!’. See also: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/knowledge/article/izn20121221-group-ride-0 Be careful around horses. Slow down and go single file. Give a shout to let the riders and horses know you are coming. Pass as wide as you can. More tips here: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/knowledge/skills/article/izn20150106-Horses-on-the-road-0#wimtWI78eQXPPAg1.99
**a long-time club member has pointed out that the traditional shouts around this part of the world are ‘oil up!’ if there’s a car behind and ‘oil down’ if there’s a car ahead. To be honest, you will hear several variations (not least because the riders on the club run will come from all over the place), but if the shout comes from the front of the group it’s almost certainly a car ahead and if the shout comes from the back of the group it will be a car behind.
Will I be eaten by bears? Bears have been extinct in Britain for more than a thousand years, so this is very unlikely to happen.
What if I don’t use Facebook? Unfortunately, a lot of the communication about club runs between members currently takes place via Facebook. Hopefully when we have revamped our website the forum will get more use. This thread on the forum is sometimes updated with the route – you could try posting a question there: https://leavalleycc.microco.sm/conversations/289309/
The period of hibernation is almost over with the start of the season just a month away now – time to look back on what’s been happening over the last three months. The last blog told the story of our annual circuit race, the Len Cooper, which was held at Hog Hill and won by David Veitch: http://leavalleycc.tumblr.com/post/153824557288/len-cooper-2016
This time we pick up the action one week later with the club’s annual Hill Climb up Mott Street in Epping Forest. As always, the event was held on the first Sunday in November and this year it was sunny, but cold. We had a great turnout: 13 riders from within Lea Valley CC and nearly 40 in total with several from Hackney CC, Islington CC and Shaftesbury CC joining in the action (in Shaftesbury’s case this was because the event also counted as the 32nd Association Hill Climb). There’s not much you can say to report a hill climb: everyone set off at one-minute intervals and put in one big effort for two to four minutes that left them with their lungs burning, but then at least they could relax. Well, apart from one poor bloke who got 90% of the way up the hill and then found his way blocked by a combination of vehicles and horses – he had to go back down to the start and do it all again.
This video gives a flavour of what it’s all about:
Harry Sewell was back on photographer duties again, here is a selection of his photos:
In the 2015 edition, David Ross was the fastest rider with a time of 2:20. David isn’t actually in LVCC (although his brother Colin is) so the club champion in 2015 was Pedro Lopes (third overall with a time just under 2:24, with David Veitch and Carsten Meilandt bunched up within 3 seconds of him). Carsten wasn’t around to challenge this year, but Pedro and the two Davids were. This year’s winner (not only for LVCC, but overall as well) was David Veitch with a stunning time of just over 2:11, about two seconds ahead of David Ross in second place. There was no real competition to David from within the club this year: Nestor Salazar was our next best rider over 20 seconds back and Pedro sank to fourth overall within LVCC behind Tim Holmes. Well done to everyone who took part – a special ‘chapeau’ to Trevor Whittock (previous winner of this event on many occasions) who has not raced for a couple of years and hardly rides now, yet still turned up and beat me by five seconds to my dismay.
Full results here: Rider / Time / Club / Overall Position / LVCC position / 32nd Association pos 18 David Veitch 2.11.42 Lea Valley CC 1 1 1 15 David Ross 2.13.67 Velo Club Motel 2 33 Matt Steel 2.20.98 Shaftesbury CC 3 2 10 Logan Moncheux-Irons 2.24.67 CC Hackney 4 19 Nestor Salazar 2.33.13 Lea Valley CC 5 2 3 26 Blake Gravenor 2.33.70 Islington CC 6 31 Dan Ryan 2.35.01 North Road CC 7 34 Samuel Thienel 2.35.95 Shaftesbury CC 8 4 20 Richard Parrota 2.36.39 Shaftesbury CC 9 5 22 Tim Holmes 2.36.70 Lea Valley CC 10 3 6 17 Pedro Lopes 2.39.95 Lea Valley CC 11 4 7 21 Johnathan Sutcliffe 2.42.82 Islington CC 12 08 Joshua Willis 2.43.07 Lea Valley CC 13 5 8 30 Serakhsa Kuthn 2.43.98 Islington CC 14 25 Trevor Whittock 2.47.32 Lea Valley CC 15 6 9 07 Colin Ross 2.50.20 Lea Valley CC 16 7 10 04 Andy Hodkinson 2.50.36 Shaftesbury CC 17 11 23 Jamie Fake 2.52.57 Lea Valley CC 18 8 12 02 Richard Johnson 2.58.09 Shaftesbury CC 19 13 27 Hannah Wylie 3.00.01 Islington CC 20 03 Aidan Kerrigan 3.01.54 Lea Valley Youth CC 21 01 James Morris 3.02.09 Lea Valley CC 22 9 14 05 Chris West 3.08.32 Lea Valley CC 23 10 15 13 Connor Dash 3.08.67 CC Hackney 24 11 Kat Wates 3.09.30 CC Hackney 25 09 Neil Irons 3.09.92 CC Hackney 26 16 Adam Jones 3.23.36 Hub Velo 27 37 Lucie Mouler 3.24.45 Private 28 39 Laurence Bellamy 3.25.07 Shaftesbury CC 29 16 06 Stewart Weston 3.34.18 Shaftesbury CC 30 17 32 Gary Jackson 3.36.82 Shaftesbury CC 31 18 28 Kath Hibbert 3.40.82 Islington CC 32 38 Derek Trangmar 3.40.86 Lea Valley CC 33 11 19 29 Alice Honetson 3.43.32 Islington CC 34 35 Mark Freeman 3.54.73 Lea Valley CC 35 12 20 36 William Green 3.54.95 CC Hackney 36 24 Dave McCarthy 3.55.61 Lea Valley CC 37 13 21 14 Jessie Feeney-Davies 3.58.09 CC Hackney 38 12 Charlie Dash 4.10.70 CC Hackney 39
In December we had our annual awards lunch in Wanstead – another great event. No surprise that David Veitch picked up a tonne of silverware after his annus mirabilis (in addition to winning the hill climb and circuit race in consecutive weeks he also broke the club record for the fastest 10-mile and 25-mile time trials), but there were plenty of others in on the action including Paul Roberts as the best road racer (he managed to move up to 2nd cat before the season was over), Adam Bishop with the fastest 50-mile TT (amongst others) and Neil Davies with the fastest 30-mile TT. Mike Keen was surprised to find himself winning the Betts Trophy for his trike-related foolishness. Special mention also went to Nicola Toms for her stunning performance in the track World Masters this year.
The club runs have been going strong through the winter, despite the conditions. Two weeks ago it was so icy that we had to stick to the route of the old A11 up to Sawbridgeworth and back – the temperature hit -6C on the way up and never climbed above zero for the whole ride. Despite this, we had over 20 riders and had to split into three groups. December also saw the first of the women’s rides organised by Chrystyna and Monika:
The next one is coming up next weekend (12th February). The whole idea of the women’s ride is that nobody gets left behind, so don’t worry about the pace. Check our Facebook page for details or if you want to ask Chrystyna or Monika any questions.
On the subject of club runs, the feedback we had from the survey last summer (see here: http://leavalleycc.tumblr.com/post/146913040653/july-2016-survey-results ) made it clear that people would like a designated ride leader and agreed average speed before they set off. We have been trying to implement that: this post on the forum explains the intended system with A / B / C / D groups: https://leavalleycc.microco.sm/conversations/298206/#comment13398460. Where possible, a post will go up on Facebook / the forum by Thursday or Friday with the intended route and any ride leaders who have already stepped up. Please respond to these posts to let us know if you will be out, if so – in which group, and if you want to be ride leader. Every week we get newcomers contacting us through the Facebook who ask about joining the rides – often people are worried about overdoing it on their first club run so they want to know if there will be a slower/shorter group they could join. It’s a great help to us if we know exactly which groups will be out on the weekend coming up so that we can give people the right advice.
If you’re reading this on Saturday evening, you might like to know that tomorrow’s B-group are planning to go to Cambridge. Some will get halfway there and turn back, some will ride Cambridge and get the train back, and a hardy few are planning to do over 110 miles riding there and back. At some point we should have another train/car-assisted ride to take in the vicious hills of Surrey/Kent, especially seeing as Pedro has moved down there.
Our second wave of new club kit recently arrived – people were able to pick up their winter gear from the church hall on Havant Road on the Monday evening. Emma will be doing this again the coming Monday (6th Feb) so it’s not too late to get some kit (even if you haven’t pre-ordered). We will have another purchase window opening soon for delivery in the spring, have a look at what to choose from: https://leavalleycc.microco.sm/conversations/299103/#comment13432093
And finally, if you’re thinking of racing this season, it’s time to start thinking about which early season races to enter (unless, like Tom and Charlie, you’ve already started doing freezing January crits). Several of us will opening our accounts at the Hainault Hilly time trial on the 5th March. Details here: https://www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk/race-details/14558
The following Sunday (12th March) is the club’s first event of the year: our 25-mile time trial on the E1 course (based at our race HQ in Ugley, not far from Stansted Airport). You can enter this as a solo rider or with a partner as a ‘two-up’ (but don’t forget, you must have paid your subs before you can enter any races as a Lea Valley CC rider – do it here: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/club/profile/1376/lea_valley_cc
As always, if you aren’t riding we would be grateful for anyone to help out with marshalling. See you there!
Sunday 30th October saw the latest edition of our club
circuit race challenge, the ‘Len Cooper’. Just like last year, it was held on the lower circuit
of Hog Hill (Redbridge Cycling Centre), which means you only have climb the
lower (and less steep) slopes before hanging a very sharp left and descending.
The 2015 edition had been won by Carsten Meilandt, but this year was certain to
see a new victor, as Carsten was busy with his nuptials:
We woke up that Sunday morning to discover thick fog. The
more optimistic among us assumed it would have burnt off by the time of the
race, but in fact it was here to stay, making for a chilly and damp race.
Nevertheless, we still managed a field of 24, most of them sporting the new
club kit. For several (perfectly valid) reasons, none of our female members
were able to take part in last year’s race, so it was a welcome relief that
this year that prize was also going to be contested, with Rosie Smith taking on
We descended into the fog and did a few warm up laps.
Incredibly, three people suffered punctures while warming up, so the start was
delayed while this was sorted out.
Finally, we all assembled at the start line and, as is
traditional, we were led out by club President , John Summerhayes, for the
neutralised ‘President’s Lap’.
Although I had my video camera fitted, this year it suffered
a nervous breakdown in the fog and recorded nothing (apart from several random
photos at the start line). Fortunately, Alex Sweeting’s virb was working, so we
have him to thank for all the video action this year. Here is the nice and easy
opening to the race:
Last year the attacks started immediately at the end of the
neutralised lap and the race was blasted into tiny groups within just two
minutes. This most people out of the running within a minute or two of the
action starting, so this year we agreed to have a ‘truce’ up to the first
prime. That’s not to say we kept up the genteel pace of the President’s lap –
the average lap speed leapt up from a very sedate 12.5mph to far more
respectable 20-23mph (though it would ratchet up to 24-26mph once the truce was
over). John raised his hand, pulled over to the side and waved us on.
During the truce we managed to keep a decent-sized bunch of
over twenty together:
Rob Smart and Monika were the first to get dropped:
There was a prime about twenty minutes into the race. David Veitch
sprinted to victory in this and the truce was now officially over. The pace
went up and more and more people went out the back:
Trevor Whittock, winner of this event multiple times in previous years
but no longer racing, decided to go out in a blaze, launching an attack off the
front only to be caught and dropped before the lap was out. A select front
group of twelve had now formed, with Trevor going back to join a second group
The attacks were flying, but nobody was really able to get
…though it was clear that David was the man to mark as the
race entered the final five laps…
However, knowing something is probably going to happen and being able to
actually do something about it are two different things. With three and a half
laps to go, David just rode away – not even an attack as such, he just
disappeared off into the fog. Paul Roberts, Alex and Colin Ross each made an
effort to close the gap, but to no avail.
David even managed to catch and lap the second group as he approached
the finish line, then came in solo to claim victory 20 seconds ahead of the
Confusingly, in the race for what turned out to be 11th
place, Adam Bishop then sprinted hard for the line to lead the second group
through. However, as they handed been given the bell on the previous lap, they
still had one more lap to go – nice photo Adam, but no cigar.
Meanwhile the race was on for second place. The group of twelve had been
thinned out – David was off the front, Steven Boyle had punctured and couldn’t
continue, while Pedro Lopes had the frustration of puncturing on the final lap
and being passed by the second group before he had finished carrying his bike
to the line. In the end it was Paul who won the sprint from this group, though
Alex came very close to catching him:
The final results were:
1 DAVID VEITCH
2 PAUL ROBERTS
(at 20 seconds)
3 ALEX SWEETING
4 SOREN HANSEN
5 CHARLIE GREGORY
6 COLLIN ROSS
7 TIM HOLMES
8 HUGH THOMAS
9 JAMIE FAKE
10 NESTOR SALAZAR
11 TREVOR WHITTOCK
(at one lap)
12 ADAM BISHOP
13 TOM ORR
14 LEWIS DIXON
15 JAMES MORRIS
16 PEDRO LOPEZ (carrying his bike)
17 CHRIS WEST (further back…)
18 KARL BUNYAN
19 CHRIS POLLARD
20 ROSY SMITH 1st Lady
21 DAVE MCCARTHY
22 MONICA KONIECZA 2nd Lady
23 ROB SMART
24 STEVEN BOYLE (DNF – puncture)
Massive thanks to
Harry Sewell and Jessamy Robinson, who gave up their Sunday morning to came and
stand in the freezing fog – without them we wouldn’t have any of these photos.
Thanks also, obviously, to Trevor for organising the event and for Joe, Edward,
Stan and others for the various judging tasks on the day.
So David Veitch became club circuit race champion. Could he back this up
with victory in the hill climb one week later? Stay tuned for the next blog…