A day of two halves; Part One

New Union Jack Kask ready to go

New Union Jack Kask ready to go

After writing my last post, I left the hotel and found the start with absolutely no problems along the way. The weather was much warmer than I expected it would be at 0700 hours and I ended up taking my arm warmers off to stand in the waiting area. Within a few minutes I got chatting to two ladies, one of which was called Lauren – and I ended up cycling a bit of the first part of the course with her and then again a little later.

Mandatory start-line photo

Mandatory start-line photo

We set off on time, or possibly one minute early – and we flew past all of my 2014 puncture locations. The weather was perfect and the participants were friendly and fun.

After leaving Lauren behind I started to draft a few people, and then found someone going the right speed for me so I sat behind him for a while before feeling bad and introducing myself! His name was Rhys and he lives about 20 miles from us; his friends had left him behind. We cycled together through London, Richmond Park and through to the bottom of Newlands Corner, where I accidently dropped him. Feeling bad I did wait for him at the hub but didn’t see him come through, until I was too far away to get his attention.

Newlands Corner was the 47 mile point and it had taken me around three hours to get there – my Garmin stated that I had averaged 16.3 mph up to that point and I was super pleased with myself – I was feeling good and beginning to hope for a sub 7/6.5 hour time.

And that is where the second half of the day started…

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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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • 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! 😉

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

Drama aplenty (Mum, panic not)

Yesterday was challenging.

We got up super early, and arrived in Le Bourg-d’Oisans to start riding at 10.00 hrs. All to plan so far! And apart from Ollie thinking he had lost me, and searching town for me whilst I was making my way up the mountain, the ascent went well. I passed five people in the first two miles, which was a confidence boost!
Ollie found me at the first town, where I was busy standing with my head under a tap, and went on ahead as planned, following behind Chris who had started the ascent first. I continued at my own pace and stopped in shade at regular intervals. At one such stop, a particularly picturesque one, I met Steve and Andy from San Francisco – on their first trip to Europe. They asked me to take a picture of the two of them and then returned the favour, taking pictures of me in front of the view. I continued the climb with them for sometime and Steve ‘interviewed’ me on his Go Pro. At the next stop I headed to a shady spot and took a slightly longer break, so I next saw them in the final two miles and was able to get a finish line picture with them. It’s good to have company on hills, but I hate holding people back, so meeting new people of my standard to get up the hill with was a winner!

So, at the top…we had all made it – which made it more successful than L’Iseran! image

imageStill feeling relatively good we decided to continue up to the lake a little higher. However part way up I decided it wasn’t sensible to continue and I found the only shade available at the top of a mountain at 1330hrs; the shade created by a camper van. I huddled into the shade right next to the back wheel, and called over to the (French) owners, who were sat a little bit higher up the mountain, and pointed at the shade. I think they were suspicious but I needed that shade.

The boys went to do the final mile or so up to the lake.

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It’s at this point that the day became challenging due to two unrelated, unfortunate events occurring in parallel.
As I sat quietly sipping water, in the camper van shade, I got the shock of my life, screamed, panicked and then chased…

The camper van was rolling down the mountain.

The owners shrieked and the man started scrambling across the rocks towards the van, but fell. The van stopped against a rock but was perched in a precarious position in which it could easily have fallen on to its side and rolled. With the van stopped, the focus turned to the man, whose ankle had swollen and was bleeding from somewhere.

I called the boys and asked them to come back immediately, but only Ollie arrived and he wanted water because Chris had fallen off; I had given all of mine to the man.
Then Chris arrived and catastrophe corner consisted of a unstable campervan, a broken ankle (man), blood, more blood, an unrideable bicycle and a midday sun.

Chris' elbow

Chris’ elbow

Damaged shifter

Damaged shifter

Pringle shaped wheel

Pringle shaped wheel

In France it’s supposedly a legal requirement for drivers to carry first aid kits, however I flagged three cars and got:

A few sips worth of water
A small plaster
A small saline solution
Toilet paper
In the end we decided to leave the campervan couple, as we did not understand each other and they were on the phone to emergency services. As Chris said…

They are French people in France, we need to get down off of this mountain.

So the three of us walked the short way to a restaurant, which was shut but agreed to sell us water, and then Ollie went to descend the mountain and fetch the car. Chris and I continued walking, with the intention of finding some shade to sit in and wait.

We hadn’t walked very far when we saw a car with British plates coming towards us, so we flagged it down and asked the guy for a first aid kit. He had one, but offered us the use of his apartment to clean up instead. So Chris loaded the bike into his car and Paul drove him to Huez village, and I followed by bike. We cleaned and bandaged Chris’ arm and then went back to the car so that Paul could drop Chris at a nice cafe. Again I followed by bike.

Ollie made good progress down the hill but had a blow out on a corner, luckily it didn’t cause him to crash though, and we were all reunited at the finish line and were finally able to eat some lunch and then set off on our 5 hr trip to Italy.

Only to end up back where we started the day, near Albertville, about an hour later due to an unexpected road closure!

We finally arrived at our BandB at around 2300hrs, tired and smelly!

Now to find the local bike shop…

Another trip abroad..

Yesterday, Chris, Ollie and I, along with one of Ollie’s old school mates – Matt, cycled to Wales and back. Coincidentally, it was exactly a year since this.  You may well think “well that wasn’t a coincidence; they planned last years ride, and they planned yesterday’s ride”, but we didn’t plan to do them exactly a year apart!

It gives me a chance to see how my cycling has changed though; for one I did not projectile vomit after the ride, despite it being about 24 miles longer.

Here are some photos for comparison, followed by some facts and figures!

4th May 2014: On the Welsh side of the bridge

4th May 2014: On the Welsh side of the bridge

4th May 2015: Chris and I on the bridge.

4th May 2015: Chris and I on the bridge.

Ollie, Matt and I on the bridge

4th May 2015: Ollie, Matt and I on the bridge

A comparison of the 2014 Welsh Adventure with yesterdays adventure:

Mileage: 86 Miles vs. 110.6 Miles

Elevation Gain: 3,560 ft vs. 3,329 ft

Avg Speed: 14.1 Mph vs. 15.8 Mph

Moving Time: 6:07:25 vs. 7:00:37

Elapsed Time: 7:38:05 vs. 08:01:03

Luckily it was slightly flatter yesterday; the legs are still recovering from Yorkshire and two fairly fast rides during the week. Other than that, I am pretty happy with how my cycling is going. Definite improvement there!

Although I’m doing something wrong if I’m no longer sick!

Less than a week ’til the essay is due in and summer is here 🙂

Laura

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

When talking to sheep isn’t such a good idea.

Today, as I was cycling along I saw a sheep in a field and it baaa’d at me, which I assumed meant “hello” and then I saw a limp, lifeless looking lamb next to it and thought that baaa might actually have meant “help”. So as I was cycling past, I said “Hello there, is your lamb okay? Oh dear. It looks a bit dead…”

..and then I looked forward, to see where I was going, and from the corner of my eye I saw two human faces, sat with another sheep, and staring at me (assume Farmer and Vet).

I think it’s probably about time that I stopped talking to animals in fields.

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!)

20150329-KOM chasing

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

Decisions, decisions, decisions…and a horror film.

Yippeeeee! It’s a lovely day, I am about to go out on my bike for the afternoon and tomorrow we are heading up to Bamber Bridge in Lancashire to purchase the new bike. All in all pretty exciting.

I am fairly rubbish at making decisions, I struggle with questions as simple as “how much dinner would you like?” – to which I generally reply “oh, the normal amount” and then go back for seconds. The purchase of my first bike (a Giant Defy 2) was so painful for the people in my old office that my boss mentioned it in her speech when I left, under “what we won’t miss”. And the procurement of my second bike has, if anything, been worse. I now know more about bikes and about the spec that I would like. I am not simply taking my brother’s advice or choosing the prettiest one.

So I always assumed that I would upgrade to another Giant. Due to neck pains on my current bike I did however decide that I would go for a WSD, so the Giant Avail Advanced 1 looked like the obvious choice and I would easily be able to purchase this from the LBS.  But that wasn’t to be, it met my spec but it isn’t available in time. Circumstance therefore forced me to consider other options, so we took ourselves off for a weekend in London and a visit to the bike show. My previous post summarises my thoughts from that trip.

I have since considered and ruled out the Scott Contessa Solace, a lovely bike, but then so it should be for £1700 – particularly when the components are only 105. When I say only 105, I mean for the price; 105 is very good, apparently. The Cannondale I have not given any further thought to; Cannondale were never on my radar before the bike show and I am really not fussed still. So that left Dolan and Ribble to fight it out.

Tomorrow I am off to Ribble. Dolan is half an hour away but I doubt I will go there. I think…I have made a decision. 

Ribble Grand Fondo, Di2.

I think I will need more than electronic shifting to get up here though: http://thecolcollective.com/col-collection/col/alpe-dhuez

I had better get out in the sunshine and do some training!

The contenders

The bike contenders, before and after the London Bike Show:

Before

Giant Avail Advanced 1: Stuck in a port in LA apparently – but there certainly aren’t many in the UK until June (too late)! Plus it’s a Ultegra/105 mix.

Canyon Endurace 9.0 CF: It turns out it isn’t possible to get 11/32 on this bike. A Laura requirement for hills.

A Rose carbon ultegra bike: Nothing wrong with this bike, four week delivery, and it was a serious contender for most of the day, but it is from Germany and I think I would prefer the convenience and safety of a UK supplier.

After

Cannondale Synapse Carbon Ultegra: Would test ride one if I could find one, but I’m not that bothered – probably not a serious contender. The women’s versions were disgusting (glitter?!?)

Scott Contessa Solace 25: I am test riding one of these in the week.Only 105 though.

Ribble Gran Fondo: An addition to the list this morning, thanks to Ollie. Looks amazing!

Dolan L etape Carbon Ultegra: The fave. Such value!

Oh, well that was some good ruling out :-\

To finish off, here’s a couple of pictures of Ollie and I trying the recumbent challenge. Ollie was the winner of the day!

Saturday's champion

Saturday’s champion

Trying the recumbent challenge - ouchie

Trying the recumbent challenge – ouchie

And one of Ollie, not trying very hard…

hahahaha

hahahaha