Today’s the day

We’ve (Ollie has) driven 790 miles, taken two ferries, eaten three pizzas (plus chocolate, fries, crisps..a healthy car diet) and driven across the famous bridge from Denmark to Sweden (which cost us in excess of £30). We’ve had our last nights sleep before the big event and we’re enjoying breakfast before getting going. We have another 3-4 hours of driving to get us to Motala.

The weather last night and this morning was perfect cycling weather; not too hot, not too cold, no wind and no rain. Tonight’s forecast is rain, and wind.

 

P.s. I mean Ollie did the driving, not that he ate three pizzas, chocolate, fries etc. He had help with that.

 

A change of branding

I’ve been thinking for a while that I should change the branding of my blog; “Laura Kate cycles London…the trials of a novice cyclist attempting 100 miles..” really isn’t relevant anymore. I’ve not really had the time to do anything about it though – but now I have a reason and it was a fairly simple change too.

We are going to Sweden!!!!!!!

We spent all weekend considering it, and decided that now is the time to do it. It’s going to be a mission, an adventure and extremely hard but hopefully somewhere in there it will be amazing and kind of fun too!

So, we will leave after work, drive to the coast, hop on a ferry – sleep on the ferry for 8 hours, drive for something insane like an entire day, sleep, drive, cycle over night, sleep, drive, ferry…home, work. Work for about 2 weeks and then go to the Alps for some light relief.

At least cycling overnight means that you need one less bed and breakfast!

Better hope these supplements I’m taking help me to recover!

Laura

An unbelievably small world

‘My’ team – Swindon Town Football Club’ (STFC), are going through a rough patch: bottom of the table, no manager and a lot of losses to their name.

So, while watching a rather boring game this evening (and another loss), my brother and I were chatting. I was telling him about a chap that Ollie and I came across in Central Park whilst we were riding our city bikes… A road cyclist who whilst cycling past us had said “When you want to get into road biking check out my bike shop – Echelon Cycles”.

I explained to Chris that after the guy had cycled by, Ollie and I had decided to race him; we got up to top speed on our basket-ed, heavy city bikes and whizzed by him – giggling and teasing him a little. Then we had a little chat.

And that was the extent of our encounter.

Chris responded, that he had met a NYC bike shop owner once, in Lake Garda. Of course, there is no chance it could be the same guy. Could it?

It turns out though, that it absolutely could, and was, the same chap that my brother and his friend met and cycled with for three days in Lake Garda in 2012.

How strange is that?

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Ollie in Central Park

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Me in Central Park

A change in perceptions

I think I would generally consider America to be the home of the motor car. Why? Well, the wide roads, the drive-thru’s (banks, food, pharmacies etc…), Henry Ford, and the general necessity to own a car in a country so broad. Surely riding a bike on these large roads, with huge trucks steaming past just doesn’t happen. 

On the other hand I consider England to be one of the big cycling nations. Why? I grew up knowing about cycling; my Grandad is a cyclist, my uncle was and as he grew up my brother became the next generation cyclist. The UK has some cycling greats: Wiggins, Froome and Cav; Before them: Hoy, Boardman, Simpson and Holland. And the girls… Pendleton, Trott and Armitstead. We have the Tour of Britain and compete strongly in the Tour De France. The Olympics of 2012 brought a renewed passion for the sport, and the launch of the Ride London sportive. 

But these were just my perceptions, based on exposure.
In reality, Canada and the USA have an extensive network of cycle lanes, multi-activity lanes and cycle-specific routes. Toronto has a cycle map which enables you to plan a safe cycle route through the city and some of these lanes even have their own traffic lights. But they have implemented more than just an infrastructure, the drivers have complete respect for cyclists; they yield to cyclists at junctions, or when a cycle path crosses a road. 

Conversely, with exception to London, the cycle network in the UK is either non-existent or unreliable. Road cyclists avoid cycle tracks due to the likelihood of them turning to gravel or becoming unrideable. Cycle lanes are shared with BUSES! And outside of the main towns and cities, nothing exists. We probably have slightly quieter roads, but they are smaller and have faster speed limits. Finally there is a complete lack of understanding, and thus respect, between cyclists and drivers – probably due to them having been thrown together in uncomfortably shared circumstances. Something which has caused a vicious circle or self-fulfilling prophecy to develop in which drivers and cyclists expect each other to exhibit certain behaviours and thus act defensively or aggressively in anticipation. 

To sum up, our two holidays this year have both left me wishing we had the cycling infrastructure of our foreign cousins – extensive, pleasant, well-kept and accessible. 

I wonder how NYC deals with cycle traffic…

Tour de COL round-up

On Friday we returned from a great holiday, just in time to get some sleep and then go to the wedding of the year on Saturday. Congrats to Nicky and Gary!

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Nicky and Gary 

So, before the dreaded return to work in the morning, here’s a wash-up post summing up the past two weeks.

The planned itinerary was a gruelling combination of hills and miles; some were achieved but in the main we did less than planned! In the first week we had planned to cycle 304.60 miles, with 19,099 ft of climbing. The rides would have taken in Lacets de Montvernier, Col de L’Iseran, Alpe D’Huez and two flattish rides. In reality, we all had differing mileage counts at the end of the week; I did 220.10 miles and 13,389 ft of climbing. Everything took much longer than we had planned for, and therefore we arrived in Albertville later than planned and so cut down our 70 mile Montvernier ride by driving a short part of the way (good job really, as we still had to do some riding in the dark with lights on).

  • I posted about my Col de L’Iseran experience, where I had to give up – part way up.
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Broken!

Shade!

Shade!

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  • We all made it up Alpe D’Huez, but only one of us cycled back down.
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Chris, Ollie and I

Steve, Andy and their gang

Steve, Andy and their gang

After D’Huez and the accident, the second week began in the same way; we were supposed to be having a day off anyway and then the following day we were scheduled to make the climb up Colle del Ghisallo to the Madonna del Ghisallo.

Madonna del Ghisallo

Madonna del Ghisallo

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Chris’ bike was being repaired, so we changed our plans and decided to do the ride in the evening. However, in the end we saw the museum on our day off (we drove up there) and when it came to the evening of the ride, Chris wasn’t feeling up to it, and Ollie and I went for a shorter ride.

The next day, in the Bolzano area, we rode up an unexpected Dolomite, but I think we had probably provisionally planned to do something longer and possibly hillier. The Tour de France rides were as planned, and then we ended on a high with my third century and my longest ever ride of 127 miles.

So, the holiday stats were as follows:

  • 2430 car miles at an average speed of 44 mph.
  • 54 hours and 57 minutes spent in the car travelling.
  • 441.60 miles ridden.
  • 21,298 feet climbed.
  • One 650g tub of Nutella, with two bags of biscuits devoured within a week.

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Over all, a fantastic holiday, with its ups and downs! 😉

Col D’Iseran

We changed our itinerary around yesterday due to the likelihood of thunder storms today. We didn’t fancy facing thunder and lightening at the top of a mountain! So, rather than a long flat ride we attempted a mid-length mountainous ride. The Col D’Iseran climb is 48km or just under 30 miles and has an average gradient of about 4%; the height at the bottom is 815m and the top is 2770m. We made it to Val d’Isere at 1827m…

So, yesterday wasn’t a total success and I owe the boys an apology because I am sure that inwardly they are somewhat disappointed. I am confident that I could have completed the climb, which I wasn’t finding overly challenging, if it weren’t for the conditions. It was so hot! Around 30 degrees, and midday sun – no shade. My body doesn’t appear to be able to regulate temperature very well, so despite drinking a crazy amount of water/electrolytes, within a very short period my head was throbbing and I had to have my first break; a sit down in a patch of shaded grass to the side of the road and my first steal of some of Ollie’s water.  Once my heart rate was down and I was cooler we started off again, for a few miles until we met up with Chris in our designated lunch stop village. Sadly, the village was in a period of shut down, between the winter and summer seasons, so there wasn’t even anywhere to buy water. This was at about the 1200 point and my water and electrolyte reserves were very low. Again, we spent some time in the shade before setting off; arranging to meet Chris at the next eatery. 

However, we pedalled and pedalled without finding anywhere. With reserves so low we were stopping once every mile just to get out of the sun, so progress was extremely slow. At around the 1400 point I stopped in a patch of shade, drank my final drops of water and stood shaking – bonk. Ollie went ahead to see if he could work out how much further/get water/ find Chris. He found Chris, who went ahead to find water.  Ollie and I walked up the hill a little and then got back on for the very well received tunnels. Ahhhh shade! 

Finally, we reached Val D’Isere. Panic; nothing is open. Relief; the hotel is. Disappointment; they aren’t serving food. Relief; the Supermarket is. 

After a drink stop at a lovely hotel we cycled a few 100m to the supermarket where we bought baguette, cheese, ham and crisps for lunch. 

At this point it was around 1600 and too late to continue climbing. So we descended back to the village of Bourg St. Maurice. 

Laura 

(Pics to be added once I am able to connect my phone to the Internet!)

One week to go…

..with just one week to go until our epic trip to the Alps Ollie and I have spent the day doing bike washing and maintenance. We are planning on having a week off of cycling, so our next ride will be on arrival in France! Which is exciting and scary all at the same time. 

   

As the neighbours went out for their Saturday morning I was sat cleaning a cassette and when they came back from their Saturday morning excursion I was sat, in the rain, cleaning another cassette. Now our bikes are sparklingly clean and my hands and nails look like they belong to a mechanic. 😐
Next we have a trip to the shop planned, to get some new cycling glasses, as mine broke yesterday after only 2 months of use. You get what you pay for I suppose! Though I don’t like to pay too much for glasses because they inevitably get sat on, and because I have a wonky face and they don’t tend to be that comfortable!  I suppose on the contrary I could actually spend more to get some which fit my wonky face. 

The week is going to be a busy one, but also a second week of anxious waiting. Chris has managed to injure his Achilles at the worst possible time. We are all desperately hoping that it will mend in time for our adventure – and he’s been to see two physios to try and speed up the process. He’s taken it in good spirits though and has been looking at the potential to hire an electric bike! Not something he would normally condone, but needs must and there is no point is making the injury worse and being out for 6 months just because of a 2 week holiday.
Laura x

“Shall I call an ambulance?”

Saturday’s adventures…

As planned we headed out to attempt three of the TdF hills. The planned route of around 80 miles, had an elevation of about 8,000 ft, but we managed 27 miles of it and just under 2,400 ft.

Despite keenly watching the changing weather forecast regularly throughout the week, and realising that it would be wet and windy, we underestimated the effect of being up north and being up a big hill. It’s cold up there, and the weather is unpredictable.

We decided on quite different kit, but that is fairly normal as I feel the cold. I decided upon bib tights, waterproof socks, jersey, arm warmers, a waterproof and my Sealskin mitts. Ollie chose a Jersey, shorts, arm warmers and fingerless gloves.

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The first 20 miles were okay. It was rainy on and off, my arm warmers were off, my raincoat was on, off, on…and Ollie was happy with his choice of kit. However, after the 20 mile point we began to struggle. Ollie’s fingers were too exposed to the headwind and driving rain which was battering us, which meant that he had to keep them warm by putting them into his mouth. I was okay kit wise but the wind was sapping my energy. But the 20 mile point coincided with the first of the three major hills, between Buckden and Hawes, which went on and on and on. Ollie was kindly either waiting for me, or racing up the hill and then coming back to get me – so that he kept warm- whilst also keeping his hands warm, one at a time.

The 20 mile point was like entering a time warp, the hill lasted forever, there was nothing; no civilisation – just moors – grass – water – sheep. I think it even got to the point where there weren’t even any sheep. And then there was snow. Not just sleet – snow. Snow and wind. Still I was okay, but Ollie’s fingers were increasingly cold and painful.We got to a steep downhill section, which frightened me so we had to get off and walk for a little way. After that though, my fingers also became cold, even though they had been wrapped up in my Sealskin mitts. I began to compare the ride to that of Boxing Day and Ride 100, in terms of miserableness. But then it got a little worse;  a passing Landrover splashed me, and I was soaked through.

 

We carried on, miserably, shivering and desperately looking for a pub to warm up in…and eventually came to the cobbled streets of Hawes. We blindly followed the streets until we came across a Coffee shop – Herriot’s – where we dumped the bikes and went straight inside to a friendly welcome. We perched on seats and ordered hot chocolates, which I downed almost in one. We pretty much immediately decided that we would terminate the ride and that one of us would get a taxi back to the camp site to pick up the car. As we sat waiting for lunch, drinking the hot chocolate Ollie’s fingers warmed up nice and quickly, but I continued to shiver uncontrollably in my wet clothes.

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Ollie and the Cafe owner, Glenn, were increasingly concerned about my inability to warm up – Glenn and his wife Liz tried to find me a hot water bottle but decided to offer me the use of one of their Bed and Breakfast rooms, so that I could have a hot shower. He gave me a walkie-talkie and instructed me not to collapse. The shower, on its hottest setting did the job, but I was back to shivering once I got out. However Liz kindly let me borrow some clothes so that I wouldn’t have to put my cold wet Lycra back on, and I spent some time under a hair-drier.

 

In the meantime, another kind couple offered Ollie a lift back to the camp-site, and Glenn ‘sold’ Ollie a room for the night – so Ollie headed off to get the car and Glenn gave me a key to a new room. The end of our camping adventure  – I didn’t even manage two nights!!

 

While Ollie was away I ate my lunch soup, chatted to some other cyclists and fully recovered.

 

We finished off our route on Sunday – so still managed to do all of the hills that we’d planned to do. Photos below…

 

Buttertubs Pass

Buttertubs Pass

Climbing Buttertubs

Climbing Buttertubs

Posing on Buttertubs

Posing on Buttertubs

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Buttertubs

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Buttertubs Pass

 

A steep and eggy learning curve

Each evening recently Ollie opens up WordPress and tuts with disappointment. So here’s a post, from lectures! The lecturer is struggling to work the IT, which is a little worrying for an Information capability course, so we have an extra 20 minute break. I can’t really be bothered to leave the room anyway, so I may as well spend the time productively.

So, what’s been going on?

I have discovered that the winter is incredibly frustrating! If it isn’t for rain, wind and the threat of snow then there’s the ice. The day can look lovely, with the sun out and no wind but the temperature won’t have risen high enough to melt the ice. Just in case anyone was wondering darkness and ice aren’t a good mix, particularly when you’ve not eaten enough carrots and can not see in the dark. Despite the frustrations, I have managed a decent amount of miles so far, though the interval training is suffering from my aversion to my turbo trainer.

Talking of discoveries, I found this eggcellent breakfast idea on several blogs recently:

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And I have further developed them into little cheese omelettes. Really quick and easy to make and they provide you with a week of breakfasts.

That’s not to say that the first few attempts were without problems! It was a bit of a learning curve to begin with; the oil must be the spray version – a pool of oil in the bottom does not combat against extreme egg sticking on the sides and much scrubbing to return the tin to a reasonable state. Furthermore, some eggs are volatile; 35 seconds into being microwaved it is possible that they will explode and coat the microwave in eggy goo. This is not what anyone wants at 0700 in the morning!

We’ve also been planning! A trip to the bike show, a bike purchase, a weekend in Yorkshire and a two week trip to the Alps and the TdF.

The bike show, in London during the (long) weekend of 12-15 February will be the serious start point of my carbon bike procurement process! A process which needs to be complete by our long weekend of hill climbing in Yorkshire and the Peak District. The bike show also combines with the Triathlon show, which will be of interest to Ollie as he is about to begin training for triathlons (crazy if you ask me). The weekend t’up North is preparation for the big European trip, to try and get me used to camping!

During the weekend, just gone, Chris, Ollie and I held a holiday summit, which was rather more successful than any of us imagined it would be. We now have a plan for all but the last two days, and as an added bonus we should see the TdF on three consecutive days. Even better is that out of the 8 nights accommodation that we have booked, seven of them are in hotels. 😊

Next post soon, with a selection of possible bikes and their plus and minus points.

Laura