PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,

#PumpingDHuez

PumpingDHuez is a new charity ride organised by the Pumping Marvellous Foundation, designed to tackle one of the iconic Tour de France alpine climbs.

Last weekend I got to join the inaugural ride and fulfilled an ambition of riding up a pro tour Hors Catégorie (HC*) hill climb. The chosen mountain was Alpe d’Huez, a climb that gains almost 3600 feet over 14 kilometers (8.8 miles) of tarmac road. With it’s twenty one hairpin corners, an average gradient of 8% and a summit finish at an altitude of 5988 feet above sea level it certainly isn’t one for the faint hearted.

The adventure started on Thursday with Jeremy and I heading south to the channel tunnel in Folkestone for an early evening crossing to France. Stopping off that evening in a hotel in Reims we met up with the other PumpingDHuez team members (Nick, Karen, Stuart and Darren).

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Team PumpingDHuez – Jeremy, Dan, Stuart and Darren

The roadtrip continued on Friday morning with the drive from Reims to our hotel in Les Deux Alpes a short drive from the foot of Alpe d’Huez.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
First views of the mountains on the drive down to the south of France

Les Deux Alpes is a major ski resort in the area, however being out of season and with only small areas of glacial ice clinging to the mountain tops the town was very quiet with only a handful of shops and restaurants open in the evening.

img_7384Nevertheless, we found an excellent little restaurant (Le Trappeur) open a short walk up from our hotel (La Meije).

After the meal the waiter brought over a complimentary shot of a local home made alcohol drink – they pick flowers growing on the high pastures in the Alps and steep them in the alcohol for 40 days, its then served in a hot miniature mug.  I can imagine it is rather warming on an après-ski evening out!!

Le Trappeur Restaurant and Hotel La Meije
Le Trappeur Restaurant, with its rather nice alcohol shots, and the Hotel La Meije, Les Deux Alpes

I had been looking at the weather forecasts for Alpe d’Huez in the fortnight leading up to the trip, most of them were predicting thunderstorms and rain for the day of our climb, so I was pleasantly surprised to wake up to blue skies on the Saturday morning.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
The morning of the climb in Les Deux Alpes

After breakfast we headed down from Les Deux Alpes towards Le Bourg-d’Oisans at the foot of Alpe d’Huez. We found a small car park, about 3 miles from the start of the climb, this was ideal as we could warm up on the ride to the start rather than hit the climb cold.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
Riding to the start of the climb in Le Bourg-d’Oisans

The first couple of miles of the climb is the steepest, ramping up to 13% almost immediately. As this was the first time I had tackled such a long climb and in fact exercised at altitude I wasn’t going to take any chances with my heart, so my strategy was to only monitor my cadence and heart rate on my Garmin. I broke the climb down into manageable sections with my only goal being to reach the summit.

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Jeremy and I on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez

The 21 numbered corners on Alpe d’Huez make ideal sections to break the climb into. Initially the first corner, then the next hairpin, then two hairpins, when my heart rate reached between 160-165 bpm I stopped at the next hairpin and waited for it to come back down to 130 bpm before setting off again. This made for a frustrating climb at times but I wanted to be extra cautious with this undertaking.

Alpe d’Huez has been nick named the “Dutch Mountain” after Dutch riders won eight of the first fourteen finishes on the mountain in the Tour de France. It’s a mecca for Dutch cyclists all year round and especially spectators during the Tour de France. So much so that corner 7 is affectionally known as “Dutch Corner” as it is claimed by the Dutch supporters every time the tour comes to town.  It’s easy to spot if you watch any of the stage climb on the television as the corner will be a sea of orange.

It was particularly nice to see that someone had painted a large yellow heart on the road on Dutch corner.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Dutch Corner, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
Dutch Corner with some very appropriate road art

My strategy of stopping when my heart rate reached 165, resulted in us regularly leapfrogging several riders who were maintaining a more regular pace, I think we overtook the gentleman in red in the photo below about three times as we would pass, stop, pass etc. In hindsight perhaps if I had maintained a slightly slower pace I may not have had to stop so many times – there’s a strategy for next year!

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,

The hairpins provide excellent views out across the valley and the town below, it is amazing to look over the edge and down at small buildings that we had cycled past in what seemed like just a couple of corners ago. You suddenly realise how high you have climbed in such a short distance.

Jeremy on Alpe d'Huez #PumpingDHuez #HeartFailure Heart Failure Awareness
Jeremy on one of the 21 hairpins
PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
The obligatory selfie shot, on the same corner. (trust me to pick one with digger parked on it!)

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,The main corners are each numbered starting at 21 at the bottom to corner zero at the top.

As well as being numbered each corner has a previous stage winners name on it and the current elevation in metres.

In this example, corner 9 is at 1295m and is named after Steven Rooks from the Netherlands and his stage win in 1988.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
The view from corner 9 on Alpe d’Huez back down towards the start in Le Bourg-d’Oisans

p1020752As we approached the last four kilometres, a fellow rider patted me on my shoulder as he passed and then gave a thumbs up and words of encouragement.  I caught up with him a little further up the road when he had stopped at the side.  He explained that he had read the back of my shirt “Team #PumpingDHuez for Heart Failure” and that his daughter has had three cardiac events. He was pleased to see that we were trying to raise awareness and his reaction made the entire trip all the more worthwhile.

You are not quite done as you ride into the resort of Alpe d’Huez with its roadside cafes and pubs lined with cyclists as the Tour de France stage finishes on the far side of town. Another thumbs up and congratulations from the rider who spoke to us earlier as we passed him again, although this time he was enjoying a large cold beverage in one of the roadside pubs with others from his team.

Turning left at the final roundabout in the town and the road ramps up again for the final sprint to the Tour de France finish line.  I was welcomed in by the rest of Team PumpingDHuez, I was very disappointed that the climb took me much longer than I thought it would but elated at the same time that I completed it.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,

With the climb complete the only thing left was the descent, gravity suddenly became a friend of mine and needless to say it was much quicker going down!

I must say a very big thank you to everyone at Pumping Marvellous who made this trip happen, to Nick and Karen for organising the ride along with the support and photos on the climb. Cyclists Stuart, Darren and especially Jeremy for staying with me all the way up even though he could have gone up much quicker without me and Sam for the Social Media coverage back in the UK over the four day trip.

Fancy the idea of cycling up Alpe D’Huez? Then try it next year (2017) please email hearts@pumpingmarvellous.org for more details.

If you would like to help raise awareness of Heart Failure please share this blog and prehaps consider donating to Pumping Marvellous via my Just Giving page.

Thank you

* HC – French for beyond categorisation and therefore one of the hardest climbs.

 

Brompton World Championship

I’ve entered numerous sportives over the last five years but the Brompton World Championship on Saturday was my first competitive bike race….

Brompton championships have taken place every year since 2006, previously being  held at Blenheim Palace and at Goodwood. The 2016 race, the 11th edition was held in London as part of the Prudential RideLondon weekend.

As with every year there is a strict dress code of a collared shirt, neck tie and jacket – absolutely no visible sportswear or lycra is permitted. As an Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champion entering a World Championship it seemed only right that I should have something OS related on me, but the no lycra rule meant I couldn’t wear my OS cycling jersey.  Sue, my partner, came to the rescue by making me a fabulous tie out of a Snowdon Splashmap with the summit at the centre of the tie. To add to the authenticity, I took the splashmap to the summit of Snowdon on my climb the weekend before.

Dan - Brompton World Championship
Suited and booted, not my normal cycling attire – Photo by Danny McCarthy
Snowdon OS Tie and Brompton Number
Snowdon OS Tie and Brompton Number

The race itself was eight laps of St James Park, starting with a Le Mans style start in the middle of the Mall. Your Brompton must be fully folded and placed on the opposite side of the Mall in race number order.

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The line of folded Bromptons on the Mall

The race, of 550 riders, started in four waves. I was in the third wave, which started 20 seconds behind the fastest riders. Just before the the klaxon sounded for our wave everyone started slowly creeping across the Mall, then it sounded and everyone was off running to their Bromptons.

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Running in a cycle race? We’re off… (I’m in black in the middle) – Photo by Danny McCarthy
Unfolding the Brompton
Unfolding, no pressure with an audience – Photo by Danny McCarthy

Once on the other side it was a mad scramble to unfold the Bromptons, the quicker you do it the more places you can make up. It wasn’t the fastest time I’ve unfolded my Brompton but I was away and racing just after those around me.

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Down the Mall to the start on the first lap – Photo by Danny McCarthy

I went off fast on the first lap, in fact it turned out to be my fastest lap of the race at 3 minutes 38 seconds (not including the 1 min 10 seconds to unfold the bike and cross the start line), probably too fast but I made up a lot of places.

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Turning out of Horse Guards onto the Mall to complete a lap – Photo by Danny McCarthy

The following view is from my handlebars, whilst it’s the entire race I have speeded up the footage after the first lap, keep an eye out for the riders dressed as WW1 Army Soldiers saluting the Queen/Buckingham Palace

I was lapped after 4.5 miles of racing, although I have to say that the group that lapped me did include ex-professional riders including David Millar and Michael Hutchinson.  As a result of being lapped I crossed the finish line having completed 7 laps (9.55 miles) in a time of 29 minutes and 59 seconds, averaging 19mph.

That put me in 185th place in the mens race (322 finishers) and 209th overall (420 finishers) – My goal was to finish higher than my starting position of 366, so I was extremely happy with my time. Also there’s not many amateur cyclists that can say they have raced alongside David Millar (ok, participated in the same race as….)

 

 

London to Paris 24 Hour Sportive – Stage Two, France

My London to Paris adventure continued from my previous post …

Stage 2 – Dieppe to Paris

Having taken advantage of a late offer of a berth in a cabin I managed to get some sleep, although I’d been asleep for what felt like a few minutes before the ferry’s PA system was announcing that we would shortly be docking in Dieppe – in reality I probably got about four hours sleep.

For some reason the ferry had docked an hour late into Dieppe, so we were behind schedule, unperturbed by the delay we disembarked and left the port to meet up for a quick snack and a rider briefing.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Riding off the ferry at Dieppe – Photo by Chris Winter

I had checked the weather forecast for Sunday before I left Greenwich, at that point it was saying 6 degrees for Dieppe at 5am and the late teens early twenties for Paris in the afternoon, so I had already decided on shorts. However, the clear skies overnight had made the temperature plummet and my Garmin was reading zero degrees celsius as I rode off the ferry – guess who couldn’t find his long fingered gloves…

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Rider briefing and quick snack in Dieppe – Photo by Chris Winter

After a quick banana and a handful of Haribo, we were a rolling peloton of fifty riders. I restarted my Garmin at 5:38am (French Time) and a long line of flashing white and red lights started to string out illuminating the sleeping port of Dieppe.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Heading off into the French countryside – Photo by Chris Winter

Next stop breakfast at Buchy in 30 miles.

There was something magical about cycling through the night and the villages of northern France. The boulangeries and pâtisseries were the only buildings lit up, each spilling out a welcoming glow of warmth onto the roadside, the smells of their wares and freshly baking bread wafting out over the road enticing me to stop… as alluring and seductive as it was I stayed faithful to the road and didn’t stop, instead the smells urged me onwards towards the town of Buchy for our planned breakfast stop. However, I must one day return to try a freshly baked croissants and perhaps un Pain et Baguette Normande.

With each revolution of the pedals the black starry night sky slowly gave way to the first signs of dawn as the sun rejoined us for our epic adventure to Paris. The sun and its warmth were very much welcomed and it wasn’t long before my fingers started to thaw and the feeling returned to my fingertips, I might have been freezing cold but I was loving it. The cold temperatures had resulted in a fine mist rising off the rivers and lakes along the roadsides adding to the magic.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Sunrise – Photo by Chris Winter

Breakfast in Buchy was a generous spread of items including ham and cheese baguettes, porridge, pastries, orange juice, tea and coffee.  The only sun in Buchy at that time of the morning was a strip down the middle of the road, as a result a large number of us where gathered around the traffic island getting strange looks from the locals as they pulled up at the junction.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Breakfast in Buchy – Photo by Chris Winter

Suitably thawed, fed and refreshed it was time to make a move and continue onto Paris.  Just as I was about to set off, Matt (one of the group of seven other riders from Saturday evening) came over and said he was getting the band back together and we should head out together as a group of eight. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was at that point Team Tally Ho formed up and that we would stay together all the way to Paris.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Team Tally Ho climbing up out of the mist after breakfast – Photo by Chris Winter

The early morning mist had been burnt away by the sun and with the temperature rising additional layers of clothing were being removed and stored away in jersey pockets.

Riding in the group was making the miles fly by, I managed to get a quick selfie and tweeted it to update family and friends back home of my progress (and to mention how nice the weather was!).

A quick selfie and tweet to update family and friends
A quick selfie and tweet to update family and friends

Shortly after we rode into the town of Les Andelys and standing high on the chalk cliffs at the far end of the town was the impressive Château Gaillard, the ruins of Richard the Lionheart’s castle that he built in the late 12th century. I’ve had an interest in castles since I was a child so yet another reason for a more leisurely return to the area.

Chateau Gaillard

The town of Les Andelys is on the banks of the river Seine and it was here that we stopped for a snack with the chance to offload the now unneeded layers of clothing into our bags and another group photo, this time in our excellent L2P24 jerseys.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Group photo on the banks of the Seine at Les Andelys – Photo by Chris Winter

What you can’t see in the photo above is the blood running down my left leg, as I arrived at the stop my cleat got caught in the pedal (my excuse and I’m sticking to it as I am sure that I unclipped), with both feet clipped to the pedals and no forward motion theres only one direction left to go… yes I met the ground coming up on my lefthand side, my knee took the brunt of the fall. Now usually the blood of a small cut and graze will clot quite quickly. However, with my heart medication my blood doesn’t clot very easily (and I don’t want it too either) so it was it time to test the first aid supplies and ask for a plaster.

With my knee patched up we left Les Andelys behind us following the meandering river Seine towards Vernon and ultimately Paris. With the quiet country roads we were riding two abreast for most of the way, the traffic was starting to build as we passed through Vernon so we took to a single file train taking turns at the front. I took the opportunity to record a short video of us as I dropped back from my turn at the front.

We stayed in the train all the way to the next snack stop, along the way Chris, Tom and Luke (the event photographers) passed us in the car. A couple of miles down the road I spotted the car parked on the roadside and they had setup on both sides of the road to take photos and video footage. I must say a big thank you to them all for the brilliant photos and memories.

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Chris, Tom and Luke setting up for a shot of the Team Tally Ho train
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
The Team Tally Ho train to Paris – Photo by Chris Winter
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Snack stop 3 at La Roche Guyon – Photo by Chris Winter
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Clea taking a Tally Ho group selfie – Photo by Chris Winter

The section between snack stop 3 and lunch, whilst only 21 miles, had the two largest climbs of the day at Sailly and L’Hautil (almost 1200 feet in little under 12 miles), whilst climbing L’Hautil my Garmin clicked over onto 100 miles. By this time I could feel the previous 158 miles in my legs but I made it up both to be rewarded with lunch at Chanteloup Les Vignes.

Clea had completed the last part of the climb and into the lunch stop pedalling with just one leg as her lefthand crank had fallen off, fortunately the event mechanics weren’t far behind us and it wasn’t long until the crank had been reattached. We were on a way for the leg and the run into Paris.

We were getting close to the 24 hours and the traffic lights of the suburbs of Paris were not playing, each one seemed to turn red just as we approached. We crossed the Seine for the final time as a group and cycled under the Eiffel Tower, stopping my Garmin at 4:57pm (French time) – Total time 24 hours 28 minutes and if you allow for the ferry delay it would have been 23 hours 28 minutes.

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Crossing the Seine and arriving at the Eiffel Tower
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Champagne under the Eiffel Tower, Paris – Photo by Chris Winter

Whilst my goal was to cycle under 24 hours, I do not see it as a failure in a way, but a fantastic achievement for someone who has previously suffered a heart attack and couldn’t walk for more than 5 minutes without getting out of breath. If you would have said to me five years ago, as I was lying on my hospital bed on the day of my heart attack, that I would ride to Paris in 24 and a half hours I wouldn’t have believed you. It just goes to show what you can achieve, start off with small steps and see where it takes you, the most important thing is that you start.

So you’ve read about my experience, I hope you enjoyed it and that I’ve inspired you to want to do the same. If so sign up here for the ride of a lifetime and achieve something extraordinary.

It would be great if you could visit my Just Giving page and perhaps give a donation to Pumping Marvellous as we need to raise awareness about Heart Failure and help other heart patients that are not as fortunate as me.

I’ll be on the start line again in Greenwich on Saturday 29th April 2017 – I’ve still got that magic 24 hours to beat 🙂

Hopefully I will see you there and as Sophie says

One Day I Will Not Be Able To Do This, Today Is Not That Day

L2P24

London to Paris 24 Hour Sportive – Stage One, England

What did you do for the Bank Holiday weekend? I joined 49 other cyclists for the adventure of a lifetime by cycling from London to Paris in just 24 hours, just over five years to the day after my heart attack and raising funds for the Pumping Marvellous foundation. I had entered the London to Paris 24 hour sportive organised by Sophie Radcliffe and the team at Cycling Friendly.

The adventure began at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park. I had arrived an hour early, having cycled there from a local hotel that I had stayed at the night before. I wasn’t expecting the view from the start, as I reached a statue at the end of a tree lined avenue the view opened up to a one hundred and eighty degree panorama of the park and London beyond, topped off with the skyscrapers of Central London and Canary Wharf on the horizon – I’d only just arrived and the views were fantastic!

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London and Canary Wharf Skyline from the Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Other riders started to arrive and soon a small group had started to form around the benches opposite a van selling coffee. I was a little worried as I entered by myself and therefore would not know anyone, I needn’t have worried as everyone was extremely friendly. Introductions were being made along with the normal questions in this type of scenario, such as have you travelled far to get here etc?

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Riders arriving in Greenwich – Photo by Chris Winter

The record distance travelled goes to Milton, he had flown into London the day before from Brisbane, Australia just for this ride and another rider had come from America. It was turning out to be a truly international event before a pedal had even been turned. With the introductions, registration and rider briefing complete it was time for the official group photo in front of the iconic Canary Wharf skyline before heading off on stage one and the ferry at Newhaven.

Rider briefing at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London
Rider briefing at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Riders of the 2016 London to Paris 24hr Sportive – Photo by Chris Winter

Stage 1 – London to Newhaven (58 miles / 93 km)

With the riders all assembled we set off for Paris, I started my Garmin at 3:29 pm (UK time) making the goal for the Eiffel Tower 4:29pm (French Time).

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Starting the adventure of a lifetime, Greenwich Park. Photo by Chris Winter

The busy streets of London were soon replaced with quiet country lanes as we made our way out of the capital towards Orpington, by chance the route passed my sister-in-law’s mother’s house and they had very kindly made a banner for me, encouraging me up the first main climb of the day.

Val and Ken's Banner
Val and Ken’s Banner
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Hawley’s Corner before the descent into Westerham – Photo by Chris Winter

After Westerham, the route climbed up onto the High Weald skirting Five Hundred Acre Wood, the scenery and views across East Sussex were stunning.

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Riding with Sophie over the High Weald in East Sussex. Photo by Sophie Radcliffe

I had hired a small GPS tracker for the ride from Open Tracking, this was sending my current position to a website every ninety seconds and displaying it on a map of the route for family and friends to track my progress. For UK based events Open Tracking use the detailed 1:25000 Ordnance Survey mapping, however as my event left the UK I had to use an alternative mapping partner.

Pumping Marvellous, the heart charity I was cycling in aid of, had also tweeted the tracking link to it’s followers before the start and was tweeting updates along the way, each one was appearing as a notification on my bar mounted Garmin. This was providing me with an excellent source of encouragement, knowing that others were following and supporting me along the way.

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By this stage I had been cycling with a group of seven other similar paced riders and we were making steady progress towards our final stop of the evening. The sun was getting low in the sky, as it dipped behind the clouds and the horizon to leave us for the night we were rewarded with a fantastic sunset, unfortunately the photo below does not do it justice.

The setting sun on the approach to Newhaven
Sunset in Newhaven

We arrived in Newhaven at 8:11pm, having covered the 58 miles at an average speed of 13.5 mph with 3,570 feet of climbing, to be rewarded with a two course meal and the opportunity for drinks in a local hotel before riding to the ferry at 9:30pm. Whilst waiting to board the ferry I got talking to a couple of French cyclists who were on their return leg having cycled from Paris to London, on mountain bikes and mainly off road by the sounds of it – Chapeau!

Continued on the side of the channel in the next post

 

OS Cobbler Classic

Cobbler Classic Sportive

It’s been a while since my alarm clock has gone off at 5am, especially on a Saturday. I was up early for the Cobbler Classic sportive, part of the Ordnance Survey Spin Series organised by UK Cycling Events.

Cobbler Classic Logo

With the car already packed, it was a quick breakfast and coffee before heading out the door, as I sat in the kitchen eating my porridge I could hear the rain hitting the roof of the conservatory.  All the weather forecasts I had looked at hadn’t mentioned anything about rain, it was supposed to be sunny all day!

It was just after 5:30am when I left the house in the pouring rain. Whilst it’s only an hour and half drive to the start at Turweston Aerodrome near Brackley, there are roadworks on the M5 with recent night closures and I’ve been caught out like this before so I left with plenty of time to spare in case I needed to take the back routes.

As I got closer to the venue the rain eased off and the first signs of daybreak appeared on the horizon. At first it was a narrow glimmer of red and my thoughts turned to “red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning… I hope it’s not going to rain all day”.  10 miles further down the road, the rain had stopped and the tarmac was dry.  The red morning sky was replaced with, rather appropriately, a brilliant swatch of Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Orange as the sun tried to break through the clouds.

I had arrived early, which gave me plenty of time to sign in, using the quick and easy registration process, to get my rider number (1537) and helmet timing sticker.

As I came out from registration I met fellow OS #GetOutside Champion Karl on his way in for what would be his first sportive on the build up to his amazing 100 Peak Challenge in 2017 – I urge you all to follow the link and take a look at his plans and the challenge. Hopefully, you will be inspired to donate.

Riders Arrive
The first riders arriving
Ordnance Survey Cobbler Classic Sportive, UK Cycling Events April 2016
Registration

I was riding with my friend Jeremy, who had arrived shortly after me, he had stayed in a local hotel as it’s a three and half hour drive from Devon. Soon we were at the start line ready to go and listening to the important rider briefing.

Ordnance Survey Cobbler Classic Sportive, UK Cycling Events April 2016
Rider briefing

It was dry and overcast with a chilly breeze in the air as we left the aerodrome. It wasn’t long before we had warmed up and were riding along quiet hedgerow lined lanes in the gently rolling countryside, through villages lined with stone buildings and quaint thatched cottages.

As we approached Silverstone (the village not the racetrack) a lovely 1961 Bentley S2 Continental ‘Flying Spur’ gracefully rolled past us in the opposite direction.

Bentley Continental Flying Spur -leaving the village of Silverstone
Bentley S2 Continental ‘Flying Spur’ – 349MTX

The first feed station was a welcome sight at the 37 mile mark, my feet were rather cold by this stage. Even though the stop had allowed my feet to warm up it was still overcast, but there were some promising looking patches of blue appearing in the sky.  Although unfortunately it was not quite warm enough to pack away the windproof jacket.

Dan-OSCC

As we left the feed station behind us we spotted the Hellidon Radio Tower on the horizon, over the next few miles it grew larger and larger until, close to the Warwickshire border, we turned left and past it as we headed south.

OS Cobbler Classic Route
Cobbler Classic 74 Mile Epic Route (Hellidon Top Left) – © Crown/Ordnance Survey

Rounding the radio tower had turned us into the wind, whilst this made it slightly harder to cycle the wind was doing a fantastic job of blowing the clouds away.  By the time we reached the second feed station at Chipping Warden there was more blue in the sky than cloud and the sun was shining.  Time to pack away the windproof, although I kept the arm warmers on.

Feed Station 2
Feed Station 2 at Chipping Warden

Both feed stations were well stocked with energy drinks, water and plenty of food available. The flapjack and jelly beans are a staple of my cycling diet, as I prefer them to gels.  I was particularly impressed with the choice of Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar Jacob’s Cracker Crisps as an excellent idea to help riders replace sodium/salt lost through sweat on the ride.

Enjoying the sun at feed station two
Enjoying the sun at feed station two

From feed station two it was a gentle 16 miles to the finish line in gorgeous sunshine and at times not a cloud in the sky.

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Not a cloud in the sky as Jeremy and I near the finish

We crossed the finish line with a cycling time of 5 hours and 31 minutes, not our fastest pace but we both have a 100 mile sportive next weekend and I have my London to Paris ride at the end of the month. So it’s more about endurance and time in the saddle than outright pace.

OS Cobbler Classic - Finish

If you have never taken part in a sportive I can recommend the OS Spin Series by UK Cycling Events.  It was a fantastic day out and I’m looking forward to the Marches sportive in Ludlow next weekend.

Ordnance Survey Cobbler Classic Sportive, UK Cycling Events April 2016

 

A Tale of Two Punctures

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…  for the first time this year the weather was warm enough to cycle in just shorts and a jersey, finally freed of the all extra layers I headed out on my road bike for a ride out to and up the Malvern Hills.

The first seven miles were pretty uneventful, the brand new Mavic wheels, tyres and tubes that I fitted in the morning were running smoothly and providing good levels of grip. That was until I cycled through some broken glass on the side road, a couple of yards down the road and there was a gut wrenching long loud hissing noise from the rear wheel and the inevitable puncture.  Not a problem I thought, I took out my tools and spare tube and set about repairing it, having located the piece of glass that had penetrated straight through the tyre, I removed it and fitted a spare tube. That was easy, just need to pump it back up and I’ll be on my way.

My mini pump/co2 inflator will work with both Schrader (car type) and Presta valves, as this was my road bike I needed the Presta option. It’s just a case of unscrewing the adaptor on the pump to extend it so that it will fit onto a Presta valve. Could I unscrew the adaptor? No, it was stuck tight, with no spanner or pliers to move it I was stuck on the side of the road. Luckily for me I had punctured 400 yards away from a bike shop (Malvern Cycles), I crossed the road and headed in to see if I could borrow a pump.

Malvern Cycles

The owner/assistant was extremely helpful and it wasn’t long before the tyre was fully inflated and ready to ride again. I also took the opportunity to borrow the tools needed to free the adaptor on my pump. The last thing to do was to buy another tube, unfortunately I was a £1 short for the tube – “not to worry, I’ve got some patches if I get another one”. With that the owner said I could have a £1 Sunny Day Discount and he let me have the tube at the discounted price.

Back on the bike I cycled up into Great Malvern, having lost some time fixing the puncture I decided to take a shorter route and headed back in the direction of home. Three miles later whilst descending a hill at 25 mph there was a loud bang from the rear wheel, this time followed by an instant deflation, the rear started sliding all over the place. I managed to get the bike under control and to a stop on the side of the road.

Having removed the tyre and tube, I looked for the cause of the blow out. I couldn’t find anything immediately obvious that had pierced the tyre, with the speed of the deflation and that the tube wouldn’t hold enough air to locate the hole I assumed that I must have pinched the tube between the wheel and tyre when I repaired the last puncture.   I fitted the spare tube and put the bike back together, as I started to pump the tyre up I could see the tube starting to bulge out of the tyre, there was a centimetre rip in the sidewall of the tyre! I knew that as soon as I put any weight onto the tyre it would burst the tube again.

Needless to say I am not very impressed for a that to happen on a brand new tyre with only 10 miles of use, unfortunately for Mavic it ripped right next to their logos. I wont be recommending the Yksion Elite Guard tyres anytime soon. Although I will say I am very happy with their Aksium Elite wheels.

Stranded in Malvern, I would be pushing the bike home now.  With the prospect of eight miles on foot in SPD cleats, I suddenly remembered reading about a mountain biker that used a ski lift pass between the tube and the tyre to retain the tube and stop the bulging. The only item I had on me that might possibly work was an SIS gel packet, I drank the gel and folded over the sticky gel packet and inserted it between the tyre.

I was expecting it to get me a couple of miles down the road as the corners of the packet were rather sharp and likely to pierce the tube again, but it was worth a shot if it reduced the walk.  To my surprise, it got me the entire eight miles home, although the wheel, tube and tyre were rather sticky.

Science In Sport, Tyre, Mavic, Boot, Puncture

Normally I wouldn’t blog about a couple of punctures, but theres a couple of key messages to this tale.

First – Without Malvern Cycles my ride would have been over at the first puncture.  The internet may be great to shop around and save a few pounds here and there, but it’s still next day delivery and they can’t lend you a pump/tool and they certainly won’t be able to help whilst you are out on your bike.  It’s important that we support our local bike shops (LBS).

Second – I see many empty gel packets on the road side, especially during sportives.  Please stick your rubbish in your pocket and take it home, it may just save the day.

 

New Year, New Challenges

In the words of John Lennon another year over and a new one just begun, let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear… war is over.”   That war may be over, but my war against heart disease is just beginning…

This year will be my fifth since my myocardial infarction (heart attack), the memories of that day are still so vivid that it seems like only yesterday, yet I have come so far in those five years.

So much so, that I am going to celebrate with a year of challenges, honouring my #GetOutside pledge to Ordnance Survey and raising funds for Pumping Marvellous (my chosen heart charity).  Hopefully, inspiring others to get off the sofa and make a difference along the way.

My current challenges:-

All Year – 366 Day RunStreak, I’m running at least one mile everyday, I started this RunStreak on the 1st November, it’s day 64 with 118 miles of running.

February – OS Spin Insanity Sportive, 57 Mile cycle ride in Hampshire.

April – London to Paris, 190 mile (300km) cycle ride from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich to the Eiffel Tower in less than 24 hours.

May – Taunton Flyer Sportive – just a fortnight after L2P24, its back on the bike for a 111 mile cycle ride around the World War 2 airfields of Somerset and Devon.

June – Walk to the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), the highest peak in England and Wales.

View to the East from the summit of Snowdon towards Llyn Llydaw

July – British London 10k Run – (6.8 miles) run around the closed streets of Central London. My first ever running event (other than a fun run as a seven year old in 1979 – I don’t think that counts)

August to December are yet to be decided, suggestions welcome in the comments below or through my Contact Me page.

I’m doing these challenges to raise funds for charity, please help my fight against heart disease by donating to Pumping Marvellous through my JustGiving page.

Thank you in advance!

 

REVIEW:- Temple Cycles – Leather Lock-on Ergo Grips

I’ve been riding my Brompton for over 18 months and I must say that I don’t particularly like the handlebar grips that come as standard on it.  Essentially they are just two pieces of foam glued to each end of the bar, whilst they are sufficient for small commutes, I find they become uncomfortable for anything over a couple of miles.

With my average Brompton ride being approximately 8 miles, I’ve been looking into replacing the foam grips for something that will ease the discomfort on my palms. Having researched various different options I decided to go with a pair of leather grips from Temple Cycles.

Temple Cycles are a niche producer of bespoke and traditional steel framed bicycles, each one is built to order and all have that classic retro look. In addition to the bikes they have a range of accessories that complement that classic look, the Lock-On Ergo Grips are part of their leather collection.

TC_Lbar1

The grips are made from an acrylic sleeve wrapped in Italian leather, which is lovely and soft to the touch, aluminium bar ends, alloy locking clamps and stitched seams. The are available in two colours Honey (a light tan) and Chestnut (a dark brown), as you can see I went for the Chestnut.

TC-LBar5

The hardest part of fitting the grips to the Brompton was removing the standard grips. I was hoping to remove them without damaging them, but the glue was too strong and I had to resort to cutting them off.

With the foam grips removed and the glue cleaned up, it was a case of sliding the new grips onto the bar, it was a little tight, but with a twisting and pushing motion the grips slid on.  I needed to move the right hand brake lever about 5mm towards the centre of the bar to make enough room for the grip to fully fit. Once on and in position you just need to tighten two allen screws on each grip, you will need a 3mm and 4mm allen key. The locking mechanism is simple, but very effective, the grips don’t slip or slide around at all.

TC_Lbar4

TC_LBar3

The extra width of the Ergo grip provides that much needed support for the palm of my hand, which has increased the comfort levels dramatically for me.  Previously I would nearly always wear padded gloves to ride the Brompton over longer distances, now I just love the feel of that soft leather. In fact, it makes me want to ride the Brompton more than ever.

If you are looking at replacing your standard Brompton grips or any other set of grips/bike for that matter, I can recommend these grips for style, quality, ease of fitting and more importantly comfort.  So far, the only thing I can find to fault them on is that I would have preferred the 3mm allen screw the other way up, so that I could see the screw head rather than a small hole, but that is purely down to aesthetics and a mild case of OCD on my part!

TC_Brompton

The leather and design really suits the Brompton, I especially like the stitching and it seems right to install a British made grip (albeit Italian leather) on a British classic bicycle. I just need that matching Brooks saddle….

Remain active over the winter, get outside and enjoy yourself.

With the temperature starting to drop, the evenings getting darker and the sportive season drawing to a close many people will be thinking of packing the bike and cycling kit away for the winter.  If this is you, please think again, you can easily continue to ride throughout the winter, you just need to plan ahead.

The change in conditions means that you aren’t likely to get a personal best or be hitting your highest average speeds. So enjoy the slower pace, grab a map, a camera and go out exploring, turn down that road you always pass, find new routes and the enjoy the views and ride.

I came across this lovely little lane, with it’s tunnel effect of trees and leaf covered verges, completely by accident one day whilst out cycling.

Autumn Lane

Another day, I got to enjoy a frosty morning with the mist slowly being burnt away by the rising sun, casting long shadows as I cycled through this avenue of oak trees.

Autumn Morning

The low evening sun with it’s golden light illuminating the landscape, gives you that added incentive to climb up through the valley to find the highest vantage point.

The Meon Valley from Harvesting Lane, Butser Hill

“There is no such thing as the wrong type of weather,  just the wrong choice in clothing” – I can’t remember who said it or where I first heard it, but it is so true.

Plan ahead, check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. You may need to invest in some winter specific bike clothing, but it’s money well spent. I would say at a minimum you should have a windstopper jacket, lightweight showerproof jacket (that you can pack away into a jersey pocket), a pair of roubaix lined bib tights, overshoes, full finger gloves, neck warmer/buff and a windproof skull cap.   If you’re looking for a skull cap I would recommend the Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap, it’s the best for keeping your head and more importantly your ears warm!

Talking about the wind, its generally going to be stronger during the autumn and winter months. Plan your route accordingly and head out into the wind, that way you will have a tailwind for the return leg making the second half of your ride easier. If you want a quick and easy way of checking the general wind direction and speed, take a look at Earth it’s a virtualisation of global weather conditions that is updated every three hours.

Earth: A Global Map of Weather Condtions

If you have the right clothing you can just about tackle any weather conditions, the only time I won’t ride is if it is icy.  Wear what you think is appropriate for the conditions, but think layers.  It’s easy to take off a layer if you get too hot.

I’ve even cycled to the top of Butser Hill (the highest hill in the South Downs) in the snow.

Selfie at the top of a snowy Butser Hill

Again, think layers, here I’m wearing bib tights, a thermal long sleeve base layer, a normal cycling jersey, windstopper jacket, lightweight showerproof jacket, buff and skull cap.  If anything I was probably too warm climbing, but remember it’s colder on the descent.

The top of Harvesting Lane, Butser Hill
The top of Harvesting Lane, Butser Hill

The last item to consider is your bike.  You can ride any bike over the winter, but think about the effect the water and salt will have on the components over time.  I rode my normal road bike over the first winter, but ended up having to replace the headset and a wheel (quick release skewer seized in the hub) so I generally do pack it away and use my old mountain bike over the winter unless it’s dry and sunny. The most important thing is to clean and lubricate the bike after every winter ride if you want to keep it running smoothly and maintain the components.

Harvesting Lane, Butser Hill in the Snow

With my London to Paris ride coming up in April next year I’m going to need to put the training miles in over the winter so ideally I need a road bike for the winter.  I could have gone out a bought a winter road bike, but over my time cycling I have gained a nice collection of spares as certain parts have been upgraded.

I went out I bought a second hand frameset, a cheap set of bars, a stem and a saddle for approx £95 and built up my own winter trainer bike, the only item left for me to do now is add some mudguards and maybe look for a good set of winter tyres.

My Winter Trainer
My Winter Trainer

If you haven’t got a collection of spares, look at the second hand market, there’s some great deals to be had.  Just check the frame is in good condition, look for any dings and dents, rust etc, ask the seller if it’s had any crashes and check the frame/serial number of any potential purchase against a database of stolen bikes, such as Check That Bike and Bike Register

Remember it doesn’t need to cost a fortune, it’s a bike for all those days when the conditions aren’t suitable for your best bike.

The main point is to remain active over the winter, get outside and enjoy yourself.

I’m Going to Cycle London to Paris in 24 Hours!

Well, I’ve gone and done it….  I’ve just signed up to cycle between two iconic capital cities – London and Paris.  Most of these challenges are done over 2 to 3 days, so I’ve decided to do it in 24 hours!  This will be my hardest and longest challenge to date with 190 miles to cover.

I’ve cycled in both cities before, but never between them.  I’m looking forward to riding with a group of like minded cyclists challenging themselves with the same goal.  It will be good to see the sights of Paris again, hopefully the traffic will be quieter on the Champs-Elysées this time and I might get to cycle along it.

Paris

The fully supported London to Paris 24 Hour Sportive (approximately 80 to 100 riders) will set off from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich at 4pm on Saturday 30th April, from there we will head out of the city towards Surrey, climbing over the South Downs and onto Newhaven for the ferry to Dieppe.  The ferry leaves at 11pm (we need to be there for 10pm though) it’s a four hour crossing so hopefully allowing a couple of hours sleep.

Once we dock in Dieppe – at 4am because of the hour change – it’s a 120 mile ride through the French countryside, slowly the sun will rise and its onwards towards to Paris – arriving hopefully before 4pm (UK time).

I will be cycling for the Pumping Marvellous Foundation a patient-centric heart  charity focused on improved patient outcomes. Their services and products improve the ability of heart failure patients to self-care, recognising the early symptoms and self-interventions and steps that can be taken to alleviate common symptoms.

Please take the time to read more about the foundation on their website

If you would like to support me and make a donation I have set up a Just Giving page. I’m self funding the ride, so all the money raised through donations will go directly to Pumping Marvellous.

Just Giving Sponsor Me

It’s just over six months before the ride, so the commitment and training starts here…  Keep an eye out for updates on my blog and twitter account @CoeurCycliste with the hashtags #L2P24  #TeamMarvellous #GetOutside

Thanks for reading and please consider donating.