Vatternrundan

Vatternrundan Registration

Vatternrundan Registration

On Wednesday evening, we set the computers up side by side – copied our registration codes, ready to be pasted and watched the screen refresh over and over again – until 1900 Sweden time (1800 here) when the registration link appeared for Vatternrundan!

We quickly pasted in the codes and pressed send.

Done.

A bit of an anti-climax to be honest – we expected to have to do more. BUT we didn’t have to wait long until we received e-mails notifying us that we had been successful and that our start times were 2156 and 2206 (me first) on 17 June 2016.

EXCITING! – We are going to Sweden!!!!

And then we realised – Sweden is hard to get to, its quite far away and we only have a long weekend. Oh, and Vatternrundan is over 180 miles of cycling (not to mention that one of us can barely manage 20 miles at the moment!). Unbelievably, neither of us had considered how we, and two bikes might actually GET to Sweden.

So, we have 5 days (well 3 now) in which to pay, else we lose our places – 5 days to work out whether getting to Sweden cycling for about 17 hours and then getting back is possible!

Laura

Taken for a ride

It turns out that the end of the solo season doesn’t mean the end of 2015 cycling all together. Throughout the year we have neglected the tandem; opting to get solo training in instead. So after a week of complete rest it seemed the perfect time to take the tandem out for a spin! It was Ollie’s suggestion and I was under strict instructions to not over do it. It was great fun! We hooted at every road cyclist, much to their dislike!

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A day of two halves; Part Two

PARENTAL AND GRANDPARENTAL GUIDANCE: READING OF THIS POST IS DISCOURAGED.






…okay so, the first half of the day wasn’t completely rosy. I missed out the nasty parts and saved it for this half of the story! So a quick backtrack…

Although I was steaming along and having a great time, people were dropping everywhere. There were crashes galore! One chap a little further ahead of me slid off his bike in slow motion and took two down with him. There was the constant call of “ambulance, keep left” and then there was a body on the side of the road, which really shook me up.

As we were cycling along through a fairly urban part of the course, before Richmond park we could see an ambulance up ahead, stopped and attending to an incident. As we got closer we could see them on the floor dealing with a patient, at which point a wave of worry hit me. I knew it wouldn’t be Chris, he should be nearly finished. But Ollie? And then we were going past and I could see it was a female. Relief. Followed by guilt. Followed by an hour or so of distress at passing so closely by such a nasty accident (it didn’t look good).  I would have thought that the officials could have held up a sheet to protect her from the thousands of passing eyes.

So, when I started the descent from Newlands Corner I was still shaken and taking it fairly carefully, but beginning to enjoy myself again, and then another ambulance squeezed past and all of a sudden everyone stopped. We had stopped as a bunch before, but this one seemed like it might be more enduring.  And it was..90 minutes or so later we were finally released from our slow, start-stop clompy cleat walk up Leith Hill and allowed to get back on our bikes (on the steepest part of the course).

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However it had become clear through text messages that Ollie was actually behind me, and somewhere within a mile of me, so I stood to the edge and waiting for him to catch up. Unsurprisingly he was very fed up, his day hadn’t gone at all to plan; his wave had been delayed for an hour so he had actually started after me, and his brand new Continental tyre had a fault so he had, had to buy another. His early average speed of 22 mph had been ruined.

We cycled the rest of the route together. We saw many more ambulances and many more incompetent cyclists. The call of “ambulance” really does make some people panic. If you can hear a call but not the actual ambulance then you have some time to respond..however I saw one woman panic so much she fell off sideways from a pretty much stand still and another guy stopped dead in front of me whilst going down a hill (we were the only two people in sight).

We made the most of our last few miles, giving highfives to supporters, enjoying racing past people on Box HIll and finally by sprinting down the Mall and across the finish line. Official time: 8 hours 24 minutes 31 seconds.
I reckon it would have been 6.5 – 7 hours.
Ultimately, someone died on the course, all three of us returned unharmed and Chris had a great birthday present. I won’t do it again, but Ollie should give it a go on an early start with the the peloton, rather than later on.

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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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…