Italy, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg…Belgium

Since I last posted we have stayed in, possibly, the most beautiful area of the entire tour (and that really is saying something), had one of the longest car journeys we could stomach and we have witnessed the greatest event of the cycling calendar.

The mountainous area surrounding Bolzano is stunning and the campsite we stayed at, Camping Catinaccio Rosengarten, was fantastic even for someone who isn’t keen on camping, like me. We arrived at the campsite mid-late afternoon; set up camp and did some laundry before heading out on a ‘make-it-up-as-you-go’ ride (or so I am led to believe). The ride took us up a mountain pass to a lake. The climb was tough; hot and longer than expected, particularly when undertaken on very little food. But we got there, looked at the lake and began the extremely chilly descent, stopping mid way down for dinner.

Teeth chattering, we continued back to the campsite, for what turned out to be another late night. However, having seen the amazing views around the area I got up early and took my camera out for a ride so that I could catch some of them in photographic form (I will share photos once home). Bonus: whilst I was out, the boys packed up camp!

We then embarked on an INCREDIBLY long day! Just short of 12 hours in the car, driving from Italy, through Austria and Germany and finally arriving in Luxembourg, where we stayed in the Campanile Lux Airport. Luckily they had some computers, so we did some overdue Strava and Garmin admin, which meant we had yet another late night!

Refreshed, we continued on to Namur, Belgium and immediately set out from the hotel, on our bikes to watch Stage Three of the Tour de France. At roughly ten miles into our ride, we became part of the parade, riding directly behind the ‘caravan’; cheered on by the waiting crowds we embarked on the first categorised climb of the tour; Cote du Bohisseau, which seemed relatively easy due to the atmosphere. We pulled in at the top, just past the climb finish line and began what was likely to be an hour or so wait for the riders to come through.

After sometime a motorbike pulled in, and it had a Radio Broadcasting in English… From which we were able to hear about the crash. Twitter went mental; Simon Warren stating that it was the worst cycling crash he had ever seen. And then the radio saying that the race had been neutralised. Texts from the Grandbeings who were watching on TV. The crash had happened just before the hill, and the riders were stopped at the bottom of the hill. The race wasn’t able to be restarted as there were not enough ambulances. All random information being fed to us from various channels.

And then they came past, relatively slowly. The race was restarted at the top of the hill. The hill no longer counted.

Once they had passed, we jumped on our bikes and legged it down to the next spot, just outside of Huy, where we were able to see them again. They did not look happy, it had been a hard day; ripped jerseys, exposed flesh, tears and frustration. This was in contrast to the party atmosphere which we then found in Huy. If you are into that sort of thing, then I think the party in Huy last night must have been amazing!

A quick snack of frites energised us to try the Mur de Huy, which had hosted the finish line, a few hours before. It was hard! It seems mean to put such a hard climb right at the end of over 100 miles of racing! But I managed it, much to the surprise of the boys. There was no way that I was going to give up, with all the people along the sides cheering me on “Allez Allez”.

The boys are riding today but I am having a day off. Now I have to go and get ready so we can catch the Tour coming through Namur and maybe get some free Haribo from the caravan.

Laura

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Count down to this year’s challenge 

Hello Blogosphere! 

It’s been almost a month! I’ve been catching up on, well, everything! Since I handed my final essay of the university year in I have been just as busy as I was, just with fun, sociable things (and cleaning) instead of academic stuff! 

Typically though, the weather seems to have taken a turn for the worse since I was released from the grips of academia, but I have managed to put in a reasonable amount of miles. Three more weeks of training and then a rest week before heading off to mainland Europe and the Alps! 

Top 100 climbs

In our training for the Alps we seem to have taken to attempting climbs which feature in the top 100 climbs book. This weekend we climbed out of Cheddar Gorge; a nice climb really! I even spent some time on the big ring!! The same could not be said about Bushcombe Lane… Ollie, Chris (Ollie’s brother this time) and I did the British Heart Foundation Cotswold bike ride a few weekends ago, and as we were going to be going past the end of Bushcombe Lane my brother suggested that we should try it. So we did. 

Bushcombe Lane 

During the first section, I wondered what the fuss was about. Yes it went on a bit. Yes I was tired. But it didn’t seem to be on the same scale as the top 100 climbs of Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Then I came across a local chap and I asked him whether I was nearly at the top. He just laughed and told me that I hadn’t even gotten to the steep part yet. 

I turned the corner from him and hit the hill. Within minutes my cadence was so low that I was falling off sideways into a bush. With wobbly legs I leant my bike against a tree, held onto said tree to keep me upright, scoffed some Jelly Babies (other sweets are available) and recovered my breath. 

I looked back down the hill and saw a relatively flat driveway off to the side; I clunked back down there on my cleats and got back on, whilst the gentleman looked over amused to my comment of “Here I go again!” 

I made it slightly further this time, before getting off due to a car coming up behind me making lots of revving noise (off-putting). I had almost made it to another drive, so I walked a few steps and then climbed back on for the final part of the hill. 

Phew. Bushcombe Lane is certainly deserving of the top 100 climbs book (although I think it features in the second book rather than the first).

Name and Shame

While the hill at Cheddar wasn’t too bad, the drivers of Somerset were the worst encountered so far! They were impatient, aggressive and lacked driving/common sense. On two separate occasions we were subjected to unpleasant hand signals; the second time by a passenger in a Ford Fiesta, who decided to do hand signals at every single cyclist on the hill. 

Whilst a driver (presumably a tourist) on Cheddar hill caused all sorts of chaos with his atrocious driving. 

Gains

Despite being unconvinced that I am getting any better at hills, the amount of hill climbing that we have been doing has vastly improved my strength on the flat, and thus my average speed over flat rides. This was demonstrated in my first 10 mile time trial of the year, a few weeks ago. My time was 30.50 which was a decent improvement on last year’s times. 

Finally

The last few weeks of cycling have left me wondering:

1. Why more cyclists don’t keep their buffs as part of their summer kit. I am yet to ditch mine, as it is excellent at keeping flies out of my nose and mouth! Doesn’t do much for my face tan though.

2. Whether other cyclists have as much trouble as I do when cycling through wind. Sometimes the grass isn’t even rustling but it feels like I am pedalling into a wind which is pushing me backwards. This wind which doesn’t even register on the ‘Grass scale’ saps my energy, making even a short ride feel extremely challenging. Will this ever become easier? The boys don’t seem to notice it. 😔

That’s it for now. I will try not to leave it so long next time. 

Essays, Easter and Elevation

One essay handed in last weekend, and now on to the second – and last one, for this term! It’s a difficult one; a description of the technologies which are likely to come together to create the 5G mobile standard. It’ll be a stressful few weeks, especially as I am itching to get out on my bike as much as possible.

Last weekend, despite a looming deadline, was great fun! 232.50 miles and 12,597 ft cycled. It began with a solo ride on the Thursday, followed by a wet, muddy ride on the Friday when Ollie and I cycled to Castle Coombe to see my brother in his first race (he did well!) A rest day on the Saturday (and some essay writing) was followed by a longer than expected ride, with Sarah, on the Sunday due to my complete lack of ability to judge distances. Apologies to everyone worrying about where we were 6 hours after we had left for a three hour ride! Not great preparation for the long sibling ride we had planned for the Monday – one might think! But I managed it, the legs felt good. Ollie and I cycled with our brothers – both called Chris. It was a lovely day, we had a fantastic lunch and as we cycled through Bourton-on-the-Water (normally idyllic) we really appreciated our bicycles and that fact that they could get us far far away from there!

At the start of April, without really looking in to what I was doing, I signed up to the Strava Hill Climb challenge, which challenges users to climb 9,000 metres in April. This is almost exactly the same elevation which I have climbed in Jan through to Mar; so I initially thought I had no chance – but having given it some thought I realised it was probably do-able and have been giving it a go. As of about 10th April I was at 51% complete. Given that we have a trip to Yorkshire before the end of April, I am confident that I will complete it – all good practice for the Alps!

Ollie and his brother - Chris

Ollie and his brother – Chris

My brother - Chris

My brother – Chris

Ollie and I

Ollie and I

Been there, done that.

It’s hurricane like weather today (not as bad as London 100 – obviously).

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Today’s weather forecast

Ollie went out to chase some Strava KOM’s and was successful, but I stayed in essay writing (saved by academia…phew!)

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Off to enjoy a tail wind.

Keeping with tradition, essay-writing means blog post writing and I realised I haven’t posted anything about my amazing new bike! But I can’t take much time out from the essay as I really want to get it done today so that we can do lots of miles over the Easter weekend. Chris is riding his first road-race and we are going to cycle over to see him, and then we are going on a nice long siblings ride with the two Chris’ (Ollie’s brother and my brother) on Easter Monday – assuming the weather improves! I am not entirely convinced by the media reports of a heat wave next weekend!

I have done 143 miles on the Gran Fondo now and have won four Queen of the Mountain’s, it is incredibly comfortable and I just feel like I can carry on. I went out for a 40 mile ride with a new cycling buddy on Friday, Sarah, and discovered that I am pretty rubbish at estimating mileages. At the 24 mile point I told her that the cafe was 4 miles away. It was 11, into a headwind. Sorry Sarah! But I think the large piece of yummy Tiffin made up for it. 🙂 After breaking away I decided I would go the long-way home but just ended up carrying on until I got so hungry that I had to stop! It was great!

Although saying that, I was making the ride up as I went along and had no real plan in mind…which ended me up at the bottom of a 17% hill.

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Pulling an ugly face, at the thought of having to climb a 17% hill.

And worst of all… I ended up with DIRT on my bike.

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Going away until the summer.

All in all, very happy. My bike is now sporting bright, racing red, bar tape too so I am bound to go even faster!

Back to the essay – lots of cycling adventures to be had next weekend!

Until then..

Laura

Reflection on a year to treasure

Wow, it’s almost a month since I last posted.

Today is my birthday! 🙂

So I thought that I would briefly reflect on an interesting year. In fact one of the best years.

Since my last birthday I have:

  • been accepted to ride in a sportive I didn’t even enter
  • started this blog, to discuss the sportive which I didn’t even enter
  • projectile vomited, thanks to a bike ride
  • met the perfect man
  • inducted this same man into the cycling world
  • met some amazing cycling ladies (Dame Cycling)
  • competed in a time trial thanks to those ladies
  • joined a cycling club
  • ridden on an airfield, during the night
  • …and experienced being engulfed by a peloton
  • ridden in the sportive which I didn’t even enter (with the support of a couple of Dames!)
  • …in a hurricane, I will have you know
  • completed a century (but not the sportive that I didn’t even enter!)
  • raised £1,100 for Dressability
  • passed multiple Masters modules
  • competed in a team triathlon (something I would never previously of considered doing)
  • bought a tandem
  • started a new job
  • ridden 3,361.90 solo miles
  • ridden 67.7 tandem miles
  • completed 242 hours on my solo bike
  • completed 4 hours in the Rear Admiral’s saddle

All topped off with a cycling birthday treasure hunt of 31 miles, which resulted in me finding my presents right back at the start!

Finding the second clue at the top of the White Horse hill.

Finding the second clue at the top of the White Horse hill.

Treasure! Right back where I started!

Treasure! Right back where I started!

I think Ollie wants more cakes... amazing present :)

I think Ollie wants more cakes… amazing present 🙂

A fairly quick post, but thank you for your support and to everyone who has made this year so special.Thanks for the boost to the Carbon Bike Fund, the winter gear to keep me warm on these cold days and the games to play when I just can’t be bothered to get out on the road. Here’s to the next one, to all of us getting into the sportive that I did sign myself up for, and to some party planning for the big 3-0.

Laura x

I’m half crazy…

I finished my last post with the assumption that our adventures would be limited over the winter months, and in comparison to recent months I suppose they will be, however Ollie and I have a new exciting arrival which will see us chomping at the bit to get out in the winter sunshine.

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An exciting last minute E-Bay bid early last week, resulted in us owning this lovely tandem! It also meant a five hour round trip to Poole (which really is not that far away) to collect it after University on Wednesday. Once lectures were over I excitedly rushed off to prepare a picnic of bacon butties for Ollie and quiche for me, fairy cakes and snacks. Whilst we expecting a fairly long road trip, we weren’t expecting the mammoth queues which added an hour or so extra onto the trip. It was lucky for Ollie, the driver, that he had me to keep him awake and alert; my top volume, out of tune ‘singing’ to 80’s and 90’s hits was just the thing! (Who knew that ‘Mickey’ was one of the 50 greatest ever hits?!?) Arriving home at 2200, we had to plonk the tandem in the garage and get on with normal evening chores… okay well I did have one sneaky honk on its absolutely amazing horn! Sorry neighbours.

With the exception of colleagues, we decided to keep it a secret until we had used it. During a University coach trip on Tuesday I just happened to mention that we had bought it to some of my university ‘friends’; after their initial speechlessness, they then were highly amused and decided to tease me for the rest of the week. There was mention of them trying to get the word ‘Tandem’ into their Friday presentation as many times as they could – but with eight presentations to listen to they all blurred into one and I couldn’t tell you whether they bothered to or not!

With University, work and the weather it wasn’t until Saturday that we had our first trip out. The original plan for Saturday involved me studying all day while Ollie went to the gym, washed the bikes and did various other chores; but it didn’t work out quite like that. Ollie went to the gym, but I got fed up of studying, or more to the point I was too excited to study – so late on in the afternoon we decided to surprise my family. It was quite an ambitious route really for a first go, 42 miles in total, however we seemed to do okay and didn’t have any massive problems – it all went a little too well! That is not to say that we are ready to put clip-less pedals on just yet (though we have purchased them for when we do feel ready)!

I knocked on my parents door in giggles, and my Mum firstly noticed me and then Ollie – it was some moments before she realised that…

Your bikes are stuck together!

We weren’t able to stay for long as the light was drawing in, but my brother’s face was an interesting mix of amusement and complete disdain! A common theme through the ride, actually; Ollie commented that it was making a lot of people smile, and then on reflection said that he wasn’t sure whether we were making people smile or they were actually laughing at us. One lad appreciated us though; as we pulled away from my parents house and cycled along the road we honked a goodbye, which caused a group of lads to cheer and one of them ran alongside to give us a high-five. This tandem lark is fun! Mark my words, the tandem is the next big thing! Anyway…

Onwards Captain!

Next stop – Grandhouse! The Grandbeings met us – they had been warned of an arrival, and were waiting outside, they had no idea what they were waiting for though! Ollie honked like mad and I waved with two hands (you don’t even have to hold on, on the back!) until they saw us. They had a tandem, or several, before Granddog was around, so they were very excited, and my Gran had a ride along the road in the Rear Admiral’s seat, which must have gone down well as we received our first rental request!

Again, it was just a quick stop and we were back on the road. On the way back we spotted a chap on a road bike some way ahead and decided to try and catch him, which we managed, and eventually we overtook him – a mistake! On the flat we were faster than him, however on average over inclines etc… he and we were going around the same speed, which was 1. awkward and 2. meant that we felt we had to keep the speed up, having gone to the effort to pass him.  On the second ascent though he got fed up of drafting us and sped off up ahead. We were glad to see the back on him; totally knackered, post gym, Ollie experienced his first episode of bonking. Obviously, I did what any good girlfriend would in this situation and fed him jelly babies whilst swinging my legs out to the sides and telling him to pedal harder.

For all the teasing, we’ve had quite a few rental requests! So it can’t be THAT funny!

Easy like a Sunday Morning

I have to admit, I wasn’t really looking forward to my Triathlon experience, but it was great! I really enjoyed it.

I imagined that I would turn up at 0730, hang around until 1000, struggle through a slow 26 miles and then wait hours for the runner to finish. I was wrong. There was very little hanging around, well for me anyway! Ollie kindly supported me, and was described by Fiona as a very good bag carrier; in fact he was like a pro team support car – handing up bananas, a towel and water as required, whilst also undertaking photographer duties. Fiona, Zoe and him had much more time hanging around, due to the cycling length taking much longer to complete than either of the other disciplines.

Zoe, I met for the first time and Fiona I used to work with. With ten minutes to go, Zoe wet-suited up and got into the water for the mandatory acclimatisation period, until the klaxon sounded and a sea of orange caps set off around the 1500m course. Once they’d reached half way (it was impossible to tell who was who) I went and waited in the transition area. Zoe did a fantastic time; less than 30 minutes! Absolutely crazy though – there’s noway you’d get me in that weed filled lake! She passed me the timing chip, which I strapped to my leg and then ran through the aisle of bikes to where mine was racked, collected it and continued running to the cyclist start line.

The first few miles were a little awkward, a man had crossed the start line at around about the same time as me and we were going around the same speed. I didn’t want to pass him as I knew that he was likely to be faster than me once he got going however I also didn’t want him to think that I was drafting him and therefore cheating. Eventually, knowing I had the energy I went past him, though don’t remember whether I stayed ahead or not… they all looked similar!

I think adrenaline got me round the first half of the course, whilst banana and Jelly Babies sorted me out for the second lap. The wind picked up slightly during the second lap, and we cycled into a head wind along the final straight. As we approached the line I overtook someone…wooohoooo. With legs like jelly I leapt off the bike and ran my bike back to the rack, then cheered on by Zoe sprinted the length of the racking to a waiting Fiona, who took the timing chip from my leg as I collapsed on the floor. I had done my 26 miles in 1:27.31, which was better than the 90-100 minutes which I had predicted, though I have to admit, I had done my trial run of the course the wrong way around!!!

I quickly recovered to watch Fiona do an amazingly fast run. All in all it was great fun and, although as the only all girls team we didn’t have much chance of a prize, we produced a good overall time between us; 02:39:14:85 which put us 112th out of 235 finishers.

I think we will be teaming up again next Season for a few events!

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