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. ūüėĒ

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

“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

 

“At least you’ve got something to blog about”

Isn’t camping dreadful!
We arrived in Yorkshire yesterday afternoon and proceeded to put up Ollie’s parents large tent, before realising that we had forgotten the groundsheet and the internal compartments. So we put up the small tent inside it.

The bikes are happy because they have space ‘inside’.

However despite being in a tent within a tent, and it being about 5-9 degrees last night, it was SO cold. When PJs, a beanie hat and sleeping bag weren’t enough I brought in the ‘bike duvet’; an old duvet which is used to protect the bikes when they are inside the car. It’s covered in chain oil.
When that wasn’t enough, I wore my jacket and big fluffy gilet with hood. That was better.
Pretty restless night though; rain and gales throughout.
However, on the plus side. The food has been very nice. Pasta warmed up on the stove last night , followed by pancakes, and we have just finished breakfast of veggie sausages, eggs and beans.
  
  
And, amazingly we were able to watch a film on Netflix last night. A tent with all the mod cons and a campsite with enough bandwidth to stream a film!

Anyway, we had better go and wash up. We came up here to cycle, and despite heavy rain and gales we are still going to try and attempt 80 miles and 8000ft of climbing today.

We managed ‘Cote de Cray’ yesterday a which was 32 miles and just under 3,000ft of climbing and that was hard enough, especially with the wind. I don’t think there are any flat bits in Yorkshire.
Wish us luck. We are going to need it.
Wish the Ribble luck – it’s getting wet for the first time. Poor thing. (Slightly odd sentence since the Ribble is actually a river).

Tandem-ing is not a winter sport!

Today I learnt that:

1. Tandeming is not a winter sport. I can’t put my finger on why, but Ollie agrees. The tandem has gone into hibernation.

2. ¬£3 saddles are priced as such for a reason. (A few months ago we popped into the expensive bike shop in town for a look, and came across their bargain box where we found three ¬£60 saddles for ¬£3 each, which of course we had to buy. Two for the tandem, and one for Ollie’s carbon bike).

3. Log fires in yurts are amazing.

4. Returning to the cold and having to cycle another 40 miles is not amazing.

5. I need lenses in my cycling glasses that will change themselves according to the light. It was bright this morning, I needed the tint, but by this evening I had to take them off and get rain in my eyes because I could no longer see anything.

We planned and rode a three part ride today; 35 miles solo followed by 20 tandem miles and finished off with another 20 solo miles. The weather was cold but dry and bright this morning, quite breezy but nothing like the gales of the past few days. We cycled to Ollie’s house, the long way, and dropped off our solo bikes so that we could go to lunch in the tandem. A couple of extra pairs of socks were also added! Matching, should have been expensive saddles were being trialled.

Needless to say mine will be going on to E-Bay.

After a great lunch at Jolly Nice, which is not far from Minchinhampton, we went back to Ollie’s house to reunite ourselves with our road bikes (we were happy to see them!)

Despite Ollie’s lodger insisting that we wouldn’t get rained on, we did, but it wasn’t heavy and we have faced a lot worse weather over the past month! The wind was the worst part of the ride home, mainly coming from the side, doing its best to dislodge us from our saddles. And then combined with the dark, it was all rather spooky. All in all a good day out in the saddle though and some good winter miles to add to the Strava counter.

Laura