Sunday, 12 July 2009

Etape 2009 disqualification times

Just noticed the event timing on the French version of the Etape Mondovelo website. They're giving 10h 30m as a total disqualification time. This is a whole hour more than last year over similar distance / ascent. See

More than comfortable I would say. We don't get to see the medal timings until the start village.

Noticed the temperature in Tarbes today at the finish, 35 degrees !!

Go well.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

My word it's hot...

Just back in Singapore from Shanghai where it was 37 degrees C, I got into our office this morning looking like I'd been under a shower. Fortunately, it's a little cooler here at a mere 28 degrees, probably cooler than it's been in the UK from what I'm hearing.

Did 75m last Saturday with Anza at an average of 20.1mph.... bloody hell ! It was tough, loads of testosterone, one guy off after losing-out in a battle of wits with a motorbike, not injured just shaken. Got knocked-off the bike on Sunday last by a local, I'm OK, it was slow, but the back wheel needs repair, again !!

Been reading the other Etape training blog sites with interest. As an Etape novice in 2007 I was terrified of being swept-up. 2007 was the toughest Etape ever and remains so in my opinion, it was 199km and 5,100m of climbing over 5 Cat HC and Cat 1 climbs. The cut-off was 12h:30m, I finished in 10h:45m having burned nearly 10,000 calories. Only 4,600 finished out of 8,500, I was about 3,230th. It was over 30 degrees on the Col de Port de Balles where the asphalt was melting. This particular climb resembled a battle zone with unfit French riders throwing-up left right and centre.

2008 was a whole different story, the day before it rained, the day of the event it rained... all day. It was only 179km with 3,200m of climbing, 2 x HC cat climbs and 2 x cat 4 climbs (bumps). Such was the repute of the 2007 Etape, they were taking entries at the start village the day before and only 7,700 entered. The rain made the roads lethal, there were cyclists everywhere coming off it was very slippy. I recall hitting a 90 right in Lourdes and about 25 riders all slid across the road and hit the kerb. Col de Tourmalet was tough, longer than Ventoux, slightly slacker at 7.2%, but it was -2 degrees C at the summit. The descent was terrible, freezing cold, slippy, dangerous. Hautacam was no better. I'd lost the will to live by the time I finished at the summit queuing for the controlled descent. It was still tough, slightly further down the field than 2007 due to my marathon training for New York and London thorough 2007 and up to April 2008.

This year will be very interesting. Much more structured training than either of the 2 previous years, much more mileage. Save for the disruption of moving to Singapore, it should on paper be a walk in the park.

Very few Brits who have put in the training will be anywhere near the broom waggon. There was a guy from Ireland with us last year riding what was almost a hybrid. He was fit, but not endurance bike fit and he made it with minutes to spare at the bottom of Hautacam before they closed the ascent.

Reading the training blogs of Simon and Karen, I think they will both be in front of me. They will have nothing to worry about. Now it's time to enjoy it. I'll be in the gym every day for short bursts with a 45m sprint set for early Sunday morning in 30 degrees as my last ride pre-event.

Fly back to the UK on Wednesday night next week, can't wait to see the family again before departing to France.. they think I'm mad !

Take care those of you riding, the next one will be after the event......

Saturday, 20 June 2009

The Rivington 100 (115) and Singapore

Well it happened again, my optimism of being able to drive to south wales do the Dragon and back in the same day was unfounded. I was hoping to be sharing this experience with one or two of the others but it wasn't to be. The decision was influenced by my pending departure to Singapore the following Tuesday, time at home was at a premium and the discovery of a local 100miler, the Rivington 100.

I decided to ride from home to the start at Horwich to lengthen the miles by 10 at each end giving me 120m and 3,500m in the day. I met up with Frosty at 07:30 at registration and at 08:00 we were off. There were about 80 in the event, this was the first time it had been run, my guess is that it will increase in popularity in years to come it is a great course, never flat. We soon got ourselves near the front, despite my bike throwing the chain every time I dropped to the 34T chainring, my hands were soon black, by 50m I was thinking we'll be done in 6h 15m or so. By 60m we passed Slaidburn and started the climb over the back of Waddington Fell, then the trouble started.
Frosty's new bike Trek 5.5 SRAM Force decided to jam the chain between the large cassette ring and the spokes, this happened on a 12% ascent, the chain was twisted through 90 degrees over 4 links. A kind lady in a nearby house lent us some tools to attempt repair. We managed to get the chain out, twisted it back to almost straight but it kept jumping given the tight tolerances between the cassette rings. We got over Waddington Fell into Clitheroe and decided to cut the 4 bent links out of the chain. This worked well over the Nick-0-Pendle into Sabden then after Whalley Frosty had terminal failure, the right chain-stay broke and when carbon members fail they fail in style. Frosty's ride was over. We still had 30 miles to go so I set off to alert the pick-up service the idea being to get back to the start and pick Frosty up in his car.

These 30 miles were tortuous alone, near the back of the field, lost all motivation. I got back with a 105 miles on the clock in 6h 35m thoroughly cheesed-off but not as cheesed-off as Frosty.

So that was it, all the UK riding over, it was now time to pack the bike for the Etape, strange as it may sound, because I wouldn't be around for the pick up just before the event and to pack the bike I was taking to Singapore.

I travelled Tuesday night with Lufthansa via Frankfurt to arrive Singapore Wednesday evening. The transfer at Frankfurt was only 30 minutes and I just knew my bags wouldn't make it... and they didn't ! My bike did, although as I pointed out to the Chinese lady at Changi airport I couldn't wear a bike... After some ho-haa they gave me SNG$300 (£140) for clothes and essentials, so after I'd checked in with my bike, visited my new office to say hello, had dinner with my new boss, still in yesterday's clothes, of I went to Marks and Spencers. I thought the money they gave me would more than suffice but it all got spent. The baggage arrived at 20:30 the following evening, I opened the case and shot off to the hotel gym, that was 3 days with no CV exercise.

I spent a little time trying to sort out where to ride and found a colleague on one of our projects who is a keen cyclist. So Friday evening I assembled the bike to find the rear wheel damaged, broken spoke. Bloody baggage handlers !! So Saturday, in between finding a house to live in and schools for my children, I got the wheel fixed. Cycling is big here in Singapore (SNG), on a Saturday and Sunday morning from 05:30 till 09:30 there are literally hundreds of cyclists on the roads. No hastle from motorists at all. The riding is incredibly fast. My first outing was only 47miles but with an average of 19.6mph. This last weekend 27th - 27th June 2009 the average lifted to 20.6mph. Some of this is group, but inconsistent group riding.

Decided to join a club called Anza Cycling, who ride strict big group discipline stuff, should be interesting ! The last hard rides this weekend and then the taper, this riding in 30 degrees should have done some good, I hope......

Thursday, 11 June 2009


The weekend of 31st May 2009 we had a bunch of 5 out from the club, mostly in club kit, very fetching. We wanted a long medium paced ride so headed north to Garstang then Dolphinholme and over the Trough of Bowland. Thomo / Vicky / Dominic (first time out - but a top class fell runner) / Gaz, we clocked-up near 90 miles with 1,700m of ascent but must confess to a cafe stop in Whalley for tea, scones and cream and fresh strawberries - very civilised !

The week that followed comprised only 2 short rides a 20 miler with my son (mid exams) and a 15 mile personal time trial which I averaged 22.3 mph, which I was quite pleased with. We were now ready for the Wicklow200. The forecast midweek was good, but as the week wore on it deteriorated, by Friday it was forecast 38mph winds and 6 degrees C.... nightmare !

3 of us, Thomo, Dunc and myself set off to Holyhead Saturday AM, the ferry ws scheduled to take 2 hours but took nearly 4 due to the seas. It didn't stop raining until 11:00pm Saturday evening and was blowing strong NE winds all night. This was to mean the ride out was OK but the return leg 35 miles would be all into this cold wind. We had a meal at Howth, lots of carbs and healthy things, went shopping for the essentials (biscuits, chocolate, rice pudding etc), hit the student digs by 19:00 and chilled. It was to be an early start....

05:00 up and eating rice pudding, coffee etc. By 06:15 we were on our way to the start 5 minutes away. By 06:20 we crossed the start line, the ascent soon came, deceiving but very soon the Garmin was showing 350m as we left the Dublin suburbs. This was a 56 mile first leg to the Donard checkpoint over Sally Gap. The climb up Sally Gap is straightforward enough, but once on top the wind was very evident, the descent was fast (45 mph) with a very strong 30mph cross wind, could only just keep the trajectory, the big tubes of these carbon bikes pick-up so much wind. In was onwards to Blessington Reservoir, the one you can see on the BBC weathermap SE of Dublin. It's massive, we skirted the lake for 15 miles on a roller coaster of a road.

Thomo was behind me on a climb, next minute gone, I back-tracked, he had come off due to a slipped chain, more cuts and bruises. Thomo shaken, I promised a cup of sweet tea at Donard in 12 miles. We made Donard at 56 miles in just under 3.5 hours, we were near the first in given our early start, the cups of tea were excellent, very Irish hospitality. The rain had held off so far but it wasn't warm. We set off towards the main climbs of the day, the next leg was about 35 miles over Slieve Maan and Glenmalure. I rode with a guy from Wicklow at a good pace as we hit the base of Slieve Maan. Interestingly my compact chainset / high cadence put distance between me and the Wicklow guy on a standard 39/25 set-up with slow cadence. I felt good and the summit of Slieve Maan was soon in sight.

I decided to wait for Thomo and Frosty, there was little point breaking any records in these conditions. My wait turned to 25 minutes, something had gone wrong, I contemplated riding back down Slieve Mann but then came to my senses and they appeared. Covered in oil, Thomo's chain had snapped, fortunately Frosty had a 'mising link' which saved the day. I was blue with cold (see pic, right), everything had seized-up. We set off on the fast descent straight into the NE 30 mph head wind. The top speed on the descent was about 25 mph, incredible ! Then it was straight up the Shay Elliot, a new climb, people had mentioned it being difficult but we took it in our stride. Soon we were over and well on our way to Rathdrum the final check-point.

More sweet tea and sandwiches and we set off on the final 35m home into the fierce head wind. We got into a large group of about 30 and set off well. On one of the minor ascents a cyclist threw his chain just in front of Thomo which split the group. I looked round and the 30 had become 15, I was the oldest in the remaining bunch. So we knuckled down, I took my turn on the front several times but I was fading. Each incline was getting harder, the group didn't slow down. After 13 miles I fell off the back, it had been good while it lasted. We were headed up the last climb Djouce, not steep but all-in-all about 15 miles of gradual ascent.

Spent quite a few miles battling the wind alone as we headed to Eniskerry over the short steep hill they call 'the wall'. 6 years ago I recall walking up this, but today it was a breeze. Once more hill over the Scalp and it was to be all down hill. I stopped at the Scalp service station for 3 cans of Diet Coke, Thomo and Frosty arrived 5 minutes later, Coke down it was like being supercharged for the final 10 miles.

We made it in to the UCD finish line with 7h 41m on the clock, reasonable for 200k and 3,200m. We picked-up the medal, the goodies and the free burger and chips, off to the digs, shower etc and a night in Temple Bar to reflect on a good day.

I was feeling confident about Ventoux until I watched the Daupine Libere tonight, my goodness Ventoux looks steep !!

Sunday, 31 May 2009


Better late than never, my update on the 2nd weekend in Oregon..... I needed another 200 mile weekend to compensate for missing the Etape du Dales.

Friday after work I got ready and set off to the Skyline again. This was a quickish 40 miles with a 860m metres of climbing. Saturday I had had advice from cyclists in the office about routes to do in the Columbia River Gorge and the area around Mount Hood. Mount Hood, shown here, is one of 5 or so 10,000ft+ mountains that dominate the landscape around Portland since they stand alone. The most famous being Mount St Helens which erupted in 1980 causing widespread devastation, killing 57 people. All these volcano mountains sit in the Cascade Mountain range on the pacific rim 'ring of fire', the tectonic plate boundary that has so often caused eruptions and earthquakes over the last several hundred years.

The Columbia river is Mississippi sized, a huge river formed when glaciation retreated and a massive inland lake was unplugged and the floodwater headed south and west. Many of the rock formations are similar to the Giant's Causeway in Ireland, basalt columns and the like. I was told it was always windy in the gorge but during my visit it was dead still ! This was a mixed blessing, there would be no wind to ride against but it was due to be over 90 deg F, over 30 deg C in new money !

I parked at a place called Mosier at the end of a 5 mile stretch of 'historic' highway 30. This stretch has been converted to a cycletrack / footpath with a super smooth surface. 5m later I was in the town of Hood River.

I was looking for a long climb and found one, the profile is shown here, doesn't reach as high as Ventoux but I ran out of road at 3,600ft, so all in all it was probably an 1,100m climb over 20 miles much less of a gradient to Ventoux of course. It was interesting, very quiet once off the main Mount Hood Highway. Hot, hot, hot ! I needed to fill up at roadside streams twice. The run back down was quite fast, found my way back through the town of Mount Hood and onto the old highway cycletrack back to Mosier.

I was back in Mosier at 68 miles and wanted to push the distance to near 100m and the climbing to over 2,000m. I had been advised to travel the road to Dalles as scenic and interesting. It certainly was, often riding high above the Columbia river gorge, great views. I had a circuit planned back via a route called '7 mile hill'. I was tired with the heat and starting to cramp so I decided to simply re-trace my steps. I arrived back at the car with 96 miles on and just over 2,400m. That was enough for the day. I needed about 65m Sunday to reach the 200m for the weekend. See for the details.

Sunday I rose late, battled through the large people in the breakfast area of the hotel and eventually set off towards Sauvie Island north of the city. Sauvie Island I was told was an Indian settlement. For my part it was flat so I planned a fast, flat route around the island and then a finish on the Skyline again. It was so hot again, like well over 30c. I stopped at one point to assist a couple with a puncture and no tube, them sorted I continued on my way. I ascended the skyline via Cornelius Pass this time. Rolled along the Skyline and hit the Pizza shop for some sustenance with 61m on the clock, see route on That was 197m for the weekend. Time to rest.
That was the end of my Oregon cycling trips, it was 4 more days in the office and back to the UK. I managed 3 visits to the gym in the week before my trip home. Got back with the family on Saturday 23rd May fully intending to go cycling in the afternoon but jetlag got the better of me. Sunday I teamed-up with Thomo and Ciaran and attacked all the local hills, 72miles and 1,500m.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Bald Peak Challenge

So it was up early, hotel breakfast and off by 08:30 weaving through the grid pattern street of Portland trying not to get my tyres stuck in the tram lines ! The first climb was up to the top of the Skyline along a road called Lovejoy. Quite a good climb, a couple of miles at 10 - 12%. Then out long and flat to a town called Hillsboro. Having to stop quite often to route check against the 24 A4 sheets I'd printed in the office. Turned south (I was doing the route anticlockwise - there was no wind to speak of so it didn't really matter), heading toward the hills. The maximum elevation I was to reach was 510m so quite similar to the forthcoming Wicklow I considered.

The hills soon came on, the climb up Bald Peak went on and on, good comparable gradients to France, just what I wanted. Reached the top of Bald Peak, stopped to photograph the snow covered peaks (as previous post) and off again. Reached a complicated junction and turned, still climbing then a descent. Got carried away and descended 400m to Scholls Ferry only to realise the error. I thought about it, the climbing was good training so back up I went ! Found the road I was supposed to take called 'Mountain Top Road' (rather imaginative !), to my horror it was unmetalled, yes gravel ! Good job the hire bike had Kevlar tyres. The gravel (or grovel!) lasted about 2 miles then sanity was restored, asphalt again....

Has to negotiate Highway 99, the one that runs all the way to Vancouver BC, Canada and on to Whistler, then the climb up Parret Mountain. This was steep, as in Lake district steep, took it easy then after many switchbacks, it turned to bloody gravel again, on a 12% incline. I tried and tried to keep the traction by keeping seated but I only had a 25 sprocket on the rear and I had to stand and when standing the rear wheel spun. So I had to walk about 100m - bugger !

The descent on the gravel was tricky, little control over direction but made it to asphalt again. I was 65m into the ride now and aside from going back over the Skyline, most of the climbing was done.

I got back into downtown Portland 16:00 ish and headed straight for the pizza shop for a pizza and a couple of beers. See

The day totalled 84 miles (or thereabouts) and 2,400m of ascent, a similar rate to the forthcoming Etape so I was pleased, especially with over a 100 miles in the legs from the previous 2 days. A total of 190m in 2.5 days. Looking forward to the next weekend and what Mount Hood can offer.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Oregonian trails

Did the last spin classes at David Lloyd, Chorley. I have to say these have been fantastic base training through the winter. There were 2 of us in the classes preparing for the Etape, Eugene being the other. Regards to Ann and Ann and the instructors Kay and Paul in particular. Kay amused us with stories during the classes, quite how she learned to talk and ride I don't know, I couldn't speak most of the time. On the last Monday we were treated to the 'dead dog' story. It goes something like this, if you are squeamish, look away....

A work colleague of Kay's (let's call her Ms. X)reported this on the Monday morning. Separated from her previous partner who had buried their dog in the garden some 4 months previous. A neighbour gets a new dog, seemingly with a keen sense of smell, well keener than usual I would say. You can see where this is going..... The new dog decides to dig-up the dead dog, which ex partner had buried seemingly in a shallow grave (about 9 inches). Well new dog, pleased with its achievement and unaffected by the putrid stench couldn't have began to imagine what followed. Ms X tried to move the dead dog with a view to re-burying but the stench was too much (you can imagine, vomiting etc.....well maybe not !) Then in a flash of inspiration 'why don't we burn it' ( I think Ms X had a helper). So off to the local convenience store / garage for a couple of tins of lighter fluid, no questions from the counter staff. The lighter fluid was applied, ignited, a bit of smoke and out. Someone suggested the carcass was still frozen from the winter !! hey this is Wigan not Yellowknife British Columbia - permafrost. Did I forget to say this all took place in Wigan ? maybe it was still frozen in some kind of freak geological ice age recurrence. We cycled through Wigan during winter training and come to think of it, it was colder than anywhere else ?

Anyway, back to the garage / store for a couple of gallons of unleaded. These were applied, singed eyebrows, lots of smoke and stench and out it went. Apparently the fire brigade were in contact at this point, someone having reported the smoke plume. Fire brigade's concerns addressed, Ms X was now faced with a part decomposed, part burned carcass of a dead dog. The neighbour inquired as to the colour of the dog having noticed a brown paw poking out from the funeral pyre ! The situation was put on hold with an upside-down dustbin placed over the carcass pending development of a further action plan. The following Thursday we were treated to an update, some kind people offered to assist Ms X in digging a 18" deep grave for the dead brown dog. That's what friends are for. Thank you Kay for this pleasant story !

Back to my world.... Departure day eventually came, arrived Portland, OR on 5th May 2009 for 2.5 weeks of induction and introduction to my new employer. I had pre-arranged a bike hire from Sellwood Cycle Repair ( The owner Erik Tonkin dropped the bike at my hotel at 07:00am on Thursday, a brand new Kona alloy frame with carbon front and rear forks. Brand new, great ride, very comfortable, no back or neck pain so it's sized just right. Fantastic service from these guys if you are ever in Portland, OR, well you never know !

Portland is a fantastic city, really picturesque, set on a river with many old and new bridges, nice pace of life, so much space and really cycle friendly. The first ride I did was Friday after work, about 38m on the NW Skyline route. Fantastic views of Mount Hood (above) and Mount St Helens. See for details if you are at all interested !

Saturday, I went down the Sellwood Cycles to pay my bill and get some ride suggestions from them. I wanted to do about 50m but ended-up doing 72m, I had little else to do so no problem. This ride was actually quite remote, I got a feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, just the odd ranch / house / farmstead. I'd ride for an hour without seeing a car. It was warm too and I underestimated how dry it was. The terrain was similarly dry, I think this is typical, they get dry and wet areas. Fortunately, the terrain was forested, so about 50% of the time under some shelter from the hot sun. I don't know the temperature but in the early 20's I would say. See the route on There is some issue here with the elevation profile on the Garmin, seemingly I spent some of the time 154 feet below sea level ! Maybe NASA's satellites needs calibrating ?

So Sunday it's the Bald Peak Challenge, 75m with nearly 6,000 ft of ascent, I guess 1,800m. The biggest problem is getting out of the city, it can be complicated. This should see 185m in the bag this week which all things considered I'm quite pleased with. On a final note, still no taker for my Etape du Dales entry, shame this is a fantastic event, c'mon you cyclistes.....

Thursday, 23 April 2009


The training is going fine, 181, 193, 200 and 151 miles for the past 4 weeks, this last week punctuated by a necessary trip to Wembley to watch Everton dispose of Manchester United in a penalty shoot-out..... (see below Phil Jagielka about to take the 5th penaly that put us through to the FA Cup final on 30th May 2009). The chart right shows the bike miles since December 08, this doesn't include cross training sessions, usually 1 or 2 per week x 10K / 44mins.

Good to get out in spring / summer clothing. The new club kit that we will be using for the Etape and other prep events arrived this week, so it's been out this last week plenty of times, well impressed...... see below.

Mentioned the possibility of travelling overseas several updates ago, now it's all happening, I'm leaving to the US on 5th May 2009 for a few weeks, looking forward to exploring Oregon, supposed to be beautiful countryside.

Unfortunately I get to miss the Etape du Dales but business brings me back to the UK early June so I get to do the Wicklow 200 and the Dragon Ride on consecutive weekends, should be interesting..... My Etape du Dales entry is up for grabs, I don't want the £30 but I would like a similar amount in the form of a cheque payable to Macmillan Cancer Care, first come first served...

Had a follow-up consultation with the Orthopaedic Surgeon 10 days ago, he's agreed to undertake a steroid injection and manipulation under a general anesthetic on the 1st May 2009, I have high hopes this will allow me to run again, fingers crossed.

Monday, 30 March 2009

The tail of the Cheshire Cat....

The weather forecast early in the week was grim for Sunday but remarkably it improved, it was going to be blue sky with max 7 degrees. So we agreed to meet at 07:00 (06:00 in real time having lost an hours sleep due to the clock adjustment).

So it was up at 05:45 and straight into the tin of rice pudding. Well it went down.... eventually aided by a cup of coffee and Thomo and Gaz turned up and we were off. We got to Knutsford in good time, sun still shining, signed-on, fitted the number, the timing chip, kitted up and joined the start queue.

Pete Starkey had been ill all week previous but was still intending to do the 60m route option, we met him at the start but didn't see him again.

At 08:15 the fog dropped and we were all freezing, troubled by those nagging doubts, had we too many layers or too few ? Anyway, it was about 08:45 when our wave started heading out to the west for 50 miles of flat, fast-paced riding. It remained freezing for the first hour, fingers numb and painful but soon after the fog burned-off it warmed-up and sensation returned. Met Karen ( just after the start suffering from the same problems, but lost touch after the first feed station. This first section was relatively fast at about 19mph and I'd lost touch with Thomo and Gaz by the first feed station (28 miles) having stopped to use the bushes I was unsure if they had continued on. So another 25 miles to the next feed station, all very pleasant, the terrain starting to undulate a little by now. The first 50 was in the bag at 5 minutes under 3 hours.
Pulled out of the second checkpoint, got chatting to a bloke about cycling in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore (he was from London Dynamo) and then suddenly the road kicked-up, yes it was the Mow Cop killer mile. The first pitch was steep but then it allowed you to re-gather yourself before the ridiculous 25% pitch at the top. I got up with my triple crank alongside a chap on a compact 36 / 27, I seriously doubt I'd have made it on a 34 / 27 but maybe I'm doing myself an injustice. Lots of support on the hill, it was good to get to the top ! Here's a couple of pics on the steep bit..... and

Last time I did this event was the first time it had been ran, in 2007. I recall 100 miles of flat riding with one killer climb. I knew this year's was going to be tougher but I hadn't paid too much attention to just how much ! If I'd paid attention I'd have noticed the total ascent at nearly 2,000m, in 2007 it was half of this !

We descended off Mow Cop and soon kicked back up onto Biddulph Moor, then Barlow Hill before the 3rd checkpoint. A quick check of the route profile with a fellow rider and this confirmed we still had Macclesfield Forest and Lamaload Reservoir to encounter. All the time wondering how close to 6h I could complete the event. The average speed had dropped to 17 mph with the advent of the hills. A sobering thought.... it is at this stage with about the same ascent in your legs that the Ventoux climb starts in July... oh dear !!

Macclesfield Forest was tough, the road was congested with Sunday cars paying no attention to the hundreds of cyclists toiling up the 17% gradient. If you got stopped on the up slope there was nowhere to restart... other than the top ! I was lucky I got through, again the triple came in useful. It was longer and tougher than Mow Cop without a doubt, reminiscent of 8 very similar climbs on the Etape du Dales. After the summit there were 2 further tops which were taking their toll at this stage and the average speed had dropped to 16.1 mph, but it was almost all downhill from here to coin the phrase.

Got into a reasonably sized group on the pull through from Adlington to Alderley Edge and then Swiss Hill. Nearly everyone I was with gave it a miss but I fancied a shot at the cobbles. The first pitch was OK, slipping a bit, the surface was very rough, it levelled-off some then half way up the second pitch I felt like I was going to fall off so I stopped and walked about 80m. Disappointing, but at least I completed the full route. The final haul into Knutsford was fast again, passing many of the riders on the shorter 60m route.

The GPS reached the published distance of 102m at the same time as passing a road sign saying Knutsford 3m ! It was just short of 106m on the Garmin 705 by the time I crossed the line at 6h 49m elapsed time, with a ride time average speed of 16.1 mph. See the detail of the ride at

I didn't 'bonk', drank too little during the event, probably only 2.5 litres, survived on 2 bananas, 1 jam doughnut, 1 small swiss roll, but I was looking forward to a good feed, putting some of the 7,000+ calories back in the system !!

I handed-in the chip etc, looked around for Thomo and Gaz but they weren't back. Thomo came in 20 min later at 7h 09m with a ride time average of 15 mph and Gaz about 30 minutes later cursing the hills. Excellent performances all round considering various colds and flu bugs that we've each been suffering with.

All things considered it was a good benchmark ride early in the season, much tougher than my previous Cheshire Cat memories, this one had a real sting in the tail ! A big field, excellent weather and the right hip held up, in fact I think the left leg suffered in compensation and that's something I need to look at.

Well done to the Kilotogo organisers, they've certainly come a long way since 2007, just sort the brew making kit out for the end and you've cracked it !

So back to everyday matters, routine training, better weather, more soon....... although the spin class booked for Monday night is looking doubtful, maybe a day off is on the cards ?

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Spring is in the air

Getting back into training after the holiday was not too bad, aided by the extra time at my disposal due to the downturn in work activity. Started to build the base miles progressively with rides of 50, 60 and 70 miles in the last 2 weeks. Overall feeling good and ready for the first 100+ miler being the Cheshire Cat on the 29th Match 2009. See Garmin Connect route details of the 70 miler from this morning:
Had a road rage incident this morning with a chubby 30 year old gentleman who had a problem with us riding 2 abreast along a wide, straight country lane at 09:00 on a Sunday morning, rode past Thomo with about 6" clearance. He wasn't too impressed with the expletives from us so stopped and offered to take all 3 of us on... but after the face-off (complete with much verbal exchange) got back into his 'R' registered Ford Escort with large stereo and burned out his clutch setting off in such a hurry. Not content with making such a fool of himself, and probably something to do with him having flame red hair, he then came after us a couple of miles up the road so his registration was duly recorded, more verbal exchange. What is wrong with these people... in France cyclists receive so much courtesy, here the exact opposite, just abuse. The Highway Code should be re-written to give absolute, unequivocal priority to cyclists wherever they are riding. Can't wait to retire to France.....

Still plenty of core strength work at the gym working on the big muscles, not doing the core stability much good though ! Physio reckons I need the steroid injection and manipulation into the hip since the range of movement is still very restricted. Been back onto the Doctor for a referral back to the Consultant.

Whilst all this is happening, still can't run of course so David Lloyd Leisure are still extracting £70+ per month from me.

The new bike is fantastic, only been for a short 30 miler so far, don't want to get it dirty ! Need to do some work on the set-up, seat post and seat position adjustments mainly. Need to sort the insurance so I can remove it from the bedroom, my wife is not too impressed with the new arrival ! The gears are SRAM Red, the quality is without doubt but the double-click system takes some getting used to, 1 lever, 1 click to drop a gear and 2 clicks to rise a gear and successive single clicks keeps rising..... confused, you should try it. I've already near castrated myself of a roundabout ! See the pic left (note the new 3 piece in the background.... this bike did prove very expensive !!). It came with Bontrager Aeolus wheels which are of course not suitable for everyday use so (from whom I purchased the bike) did me a great deal on these mavic Ksyrium SL's. All-up it weighs 7 Kg so all I need to do now is lose about 4 Kg of my 86 Kg and I should fly up hills, well maybe not 'fly' ?

Matters on the work front are due for some change in these coming weeks, could end-up working overseas, possibly Far East, got an interview in the USA this coming week so away from Tuesday AM through Sat AM for 2 days in Oregon. I could swing for those bankers, life was OK for many people including us, then suddenly everything has to change. I realise I am very fortunate to have options, plenty of people are not nearly as lucky but it's going to be tough being away from the family. The family will eventually move with me but only at a suitable juncture in our children's education and the earliest of these is +2 years.

It's my eldest son's 16th birthday today and, taking a lead from Simon's blog (see side bar) bought him a Flip Mino video camera with a bike mount. I feel sure he will let me borrow it for the odd video clip for the blog, so watch this space.
Next update after the Cheshire Cat.....

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Sod the cycling... I'm off diving....

Don't know why but since the Cumbrian Xmas Cracker I've been struggling for motivation on the bike. The weekend after the event did 38m on the Saturday then, and this is quite amazing, I got the MBX out on the Sunday and went up on Winter Hill to watch the Winter Hill Fell Race in the snow. We had about 10 from Chorley Harriers running and about 15 in support, here's the motley crew on the left !

So the days passed with various gym visits to the diving holiday to the Red Sea coast, Egypt. This was an all inclusive deal with Thomas Cook, specially for people 5'6" and under judging by the legroom on the 25 year old airplane ! My headphones didn't work on either flight, I should buy a lottery ticket this weekend judging by the response from the sharp tongued air hostess who said this was very rare and I was the only case she could recall where the IES (inflight entertainment system..... apparently?) hadn't worked, when I explained it was on both flights she quickly changed the subject and asked me to stop shouting. I think my ears were still not 100% after the diving.

The resort was the Tulip Resort Hotel at Marsa Alam, well to be precise, Marsa Alam was 60km south of the resort but hey, minor detail. The all inclusive actually means almost all inclusive, if you want espresso coffee €2 extra, if you want fruit juice €2 extra and so on. Had a pool side bar melee with a bunch of Italian staff who stole 3 burgers off the griddle ear-marked for ourselves and this nearly developed into an international incident had our 6'6" Drayman from Castleford not interjected. Still he praised me for standing up for the Brits and my reputation thereafter preceded me, with bar staff falling over backwards to oblige !

So to the point, the diving..... We (my mate Simon, my son Ciaran and I) did a PADI deep dive speciality course, this involved dives to 40.0m, where everything creaks.... a lot ! the dive instructor had us counting off a slate to 15 against a stop watch to see if the nitrogen narcosis had affected performance (this is where being narky comes from). My times were the same, my son was faster at 40m that on the surface which leads me to the conclusion he is better off living on the bottom of the ocean. Simon lost the plot and took double the time !

My 12 year old daughter, Katy did her Open Water Course, she can now dive to 18m with us. This is a 4 - 5 day course and quite tough, she struggled with the sea dive off a boat in 12m of water but cracked it the following day with 2 fine shore dives.

We swam with giant turtles, a dugong (a sea cow), see above, this was about 2.2m long and the locals called it Dennis ! The highlight of the trip was a dive called Elphinstone a reef about 6km offshore. We were looking for oceanic sharks or reef sharks. So, coincidentally, the film Open Water was on the hotel TV the night before so my son and I were really psyched-up for the dive. We were sat on a Zodiac bobbing around in the Red Sea wondering what the hell we were playing at when the dive guide said OK let's go and we fell backwards into the sea. Well the reef was amazing, some 300m long and 200m high and about 20m wide, the current moved you along at the correct speed to see this amazing feat of nature unfold before your very eyes. We did 2 dives to 25m for 45 minutes and were disappointed not to see the sharks but did have an encounter with a family of dolphins ! Here's my son Ciaran on the Zodiac between Elphinstone dives with Nino our guide. So after 6 days in the water it was time to endure the trip home but not before an excursion to Hurgarda, an Egyptian city about 230km north of where we were staying. It was some drive on empty roads. Hurgarda was a large enough city of resort hotels, typically Arabic. Katy got herself sunburned whilst we were out at Elphinstone so struggled with the car journeys. We went downtown in the city and were pestered by locals trying to sell us all manner of things legal and not so legal ! The trip back to the hotel was interesting, a 230km taxi journey for €70. Stopped at 2 roadblocks due to the terrorist actions in Cairo that evening.

Back home, restarting the training has been OK, a spin class on Tuesday and a 53m ride today, Thursday with Thomo, my goodness the legs are sore ! Planning some miles over the weekend and yes the new bike has arrived, just need to pick it up, oh and pay for it !!
Till next time......

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Cumbrian Christmas Cracker - 1st Feb 09

Well, as the title suggests today was the deferred Cumbrian Christmas Cracker from last December, 60 miles from Grassmere south to Flookborough.

Just got the Garmin 705 in the week after breaking my Polar CS200 when I threw the bike in the car after the chain snapping escapade. Its obviously a very capable tool but I have to say the instructions are pretty basic.... it's on the web for help from the community.

It was up at 05:00 stuffing cold rice pudding into the system... nice ! load up the gear, the bike and then off to pick up Gaz and Pete, we were on our way at 06:20. Arrived at the start at 07:30 for registration. After the shock of the car park fee £6 we settled down to getting ready. The weather was cold but clear once it came light.

The route took us out of Grassmere straight up Red Bank at 25%, bit of a shock when we hit the ice on the up slope, so it was off the bike, restarting on the slope was interesting ! The descent was not too icy. Thereafter, every time we crossed any run-off from adjacent fields they were frozen so great care was required. The route took us to Consiton, down the east side of the lake along the route of the Coniston 14 running race and then on to Haverthwaite, across the A590 to Cark then past Bigland Estate to Flookborough into a fierce headwind. We stayed together mainly but I have to confess to getting on the back of a 3 man breakaway group for the 6 mile run into Flookborough, it was fast.

The food stop was excellent, clearly the organisers had catered for about 300 riders but less than half has shown, this probably due to the deferral process deadline of 19th December 2008. Didn't really need to stop but what the hell, it was a social ride. Stopped for about 30 minutes

The stop was at the low point of the elevation profile above. Straight out of the food stop we were faced with a 25% 'wall' that nobody had mentioned ! Then it was the climb over Bigland, across the A590 and north through Grizedale Forest, Salterthwaite, Outgate, outskirts of Ambleside, Rydal Water and home.

We came in 88th / 89th and 90th out of a field of 140with an elapsed time of 4h 35m and a ride time of 3h 58m.... maybe we shouldn't have stopped !! We did well to avoid the snow which came in later that afternoon.

This is Gaz just coming into the finish, still smiling ! The christmas pudding and custard went down very well. So the stats..... The Garmin advised 56.5 miles but further investigation reveals that the Garmin reads about 4% low on a bike this is due to the 'fix' rate, about every 100m so the curves don't get measured. In a very rural setting this can be quite a loss. The ride is quoted at 58.5 miles consistent with this shortfall. Calories burned 4041, average speed 14.4 (slowed due to the ice - my excuse and I'm sticking to it), total ascent 4,350ft or 1,326m, reasonable for the time of year.

Till next time.....

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Seasonal Affected Dissorder !

I keep saying going out in these temperatures is character building. It certainly is, won't it be so good to lose all these layers and just go out in a pair of bib shorts and a short sleeved top.

The sustained frozen roads over the Christmas break put paid to many miles between the 28th December and 1st Jan 09, but back out on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Jan 09 for 33, 29 and 51 miles respectively. With various gym visits in between, spin classes, X-trainers, pool running and various other weights and resistance work, it all seems to be going reasonably well.

The 6th Jan 09 saw the entries for the Etape du Dales... amazing !! Entries opened at 12:00 and it was sold out, 777 places by 14:30 ish. I got in, as did Thomo, Duncan and Pete so pleased about that, as I've said previously, what a fantastic route, May 17th will come quick enough.

The weekend of the weekend of the 10th and 11th Jan 09 saw rides of 33 and 67 miles, the latter fighting a 20 mph headwind for 2/3rds of the route along the Lancashire coast towards Liverpool, but it was good once we turned for home.

Work is very quiet, in fact almost non-existent at the moment so went out on Wednesday with Gaz for a leisurely 40m. About 14m in my chain broke, it must have only done 600m. I got my chain splicing tool out, pleased with myself having carried it for literally thousands of miles over many years to find the pin that pushes the chain pins is missing... not impressed, it's heavy and useless. Fortunately Gaz had one by Crank Brothers, very good. So we spliced the chain, bortered in oil, one we went. 10m later it snapped again in a different place. So we spliced it again and decided to turn for home. The 3rd time it snapped, it got hurled into a field !! and my wife came to the rescue. The shop put me on a new £40 chain with no questions FOC, complete with a lecture on how to maintain a chain.

Friday 16th Jan came down with a sore throat, this turned into a head cold and then moved to the breathing apparatus, just coming out the other end, a little fed-up to say the least but should be OK for the coming weekend.

Just signed-up to Lance's Twitter account, it's quite interesting, for example, this from a couple of days ago.....

Tidbit - we got up to 102 kms/hr today on a fast downhill. That's 63 mph. You don't want to hit the pavement @ that speed! from TwitterBerry

Sign-up to Lance's twitter on:

Just signed-up to the Dragon Ride, South Wales 14th June 2009, 185km / 3,000m, did this in 2007, good ride, it'll be the last big one before the Etape.

So, till next time.....

Friday, 26 December 2008

Festive exploits

The post Christmas period of sales and throwing away out-of-date food and wishing you hadn't eaten so much is upon us. From a training perspective it has been a good period, the weekend of the 13th / 14th December 79 miles and the weekend prior to Christmas started a cumulative ride distance of 191 miles in 1 week with various other training sessions like my first post-op run of 8 miles on the fells on Christmas Eve, running in a 1.2m deep swimming pool - 1 mile sessions at about 32 minutes.

The Christmas Eve run was followed by coffee, brandy, whiskey and mince pies back at the cars, well worthwhile and fantastic weather, the views from the top of Great Hill were getting up towards 40 miles. I blame Thomo for this festive excess, it was all his idea. See pic, top right at recent Leverhulme Park XC in November 08.

The 2 long rides of note in this period were 53m on 23rd Dec: Chorley - Darwen - Horden Rake - Lower Darwen - Shadsworth - Grane Road - Haslingden - Belmont - Rivington (Cafe !) - Coppul - Eccleston - Leyland, very hilly, estimate around 1200m in the 53m. Then 59m on the 27th Dec: Chorley - Preston - Grimsargh - Longridge - Chipping (Cafe - to thaw out my 15 year old son who was in the early stages of hypothermia !) - Great Mitton - Whalley - York - Blackburn - Pleasington - Wheelton - Chorley. Cliff (Brown - trains with us but not doing the Etape) came off on a patch of diesel on a roundabout, no real damage done apart from pride and a new pair of long cycling pants. Thomo has just had his chainset changed to a 50/34 compact, which is excactly what I'm using, or will be when I sort the new bike in the new year. Regarding my son, Ciaran (15), he does quite well all things considered, staying with us for nearly 60 miles at an average speed of over 15 mph.

The good news from the Etape party is that Yvonne is joining us for the event, assuming we can add her to the party. Yvonne Russell (36) experienced Ironman Triathlete, is warmly welcomed to our small group and will in all seriousness probably show us testosterone junkies how it should be done.

All in all, the post operation recovery has been fantastic so far, just hope I can carry on, sustain this training effort till March then pick it up.

Christmas brought me various cycling related bits like Assos clothing, so nicely presented I don't want to take them out of their boxes ! oh, and a lightweight folding aluminium work stand.

The Etape recon DVD arrived just before Christmas so we had a Ventoux evening on the 27th to terrify ourselves as to the enormity of our undertaking. There were some worried faces, particularly on the Ventoux ascent. It'll be tough but for me at least this will be my third Etape and I have never trained through the winter before so I hope this will have a massive payback come the big day. On a lighter note, the Cotes des Ventoux red wine is excellent and the Cyclefilms DVD is really well done, they get better each year, well worth the money.

Saturday, 6 December 2008


Published 15th December (started on the 6th.... oops!)

It's been a difficult couple of weeks following the hip op. My wife's mother, Mary (80), passed away quite unexpectedly leaving a large void in my wife's day to day, we all expected her to be around for many years to come. She is missed by all of us, the long process of adjustment to life without someone now begins.......

Did my first post-op turbo trainer session at 11 days, only 15 minutes light resistance. Then did a 35 minute session during a spin class, keeping the resistance low. Had a private physio session to try to correct the pelvic alignment issue caused by the injury. The NHS came through with their 'URGENT' physio appointment nearly 3 weeks post op !

Done 2 consecutive 30 minute turbo sessions now and am going to try to up this towards 45 minutes over the next weeks. All seems well on the hip so far.

Having entered the Cumbrian Christmas Cracker and then passed my entry to Gaz because of the hip op, texts and e-mails came through on Saturday 6th Dec to advise it has been cancelled due to ice and snow on the route. Shame, the 5 or 6 people from the club who had entered were looking forward to it. But as Thomo found out last Wednesday having just returned from Tenerife, cycling on icy roads is not a good idea. I think he was in Tenerife training with Lance but he's not admitting to it !

Picked up the new winter bike last weekend and wend out Saturday and Sunday 13th / 14th December 2008 on the flat mostly 25 on Sat and 30 on Sun, about 1300 Kcal burned, just about kept the weight static thruogh the operation period. Might add a hill or 2 this next weekend. I have to say it was cold on Sunday, lost all feeling in the feet for an hour after getting back but the bike was excellent.

Just getting the etape forms ready for submission with the various Doctor's signatures. There's a major inconsistency here, some Doctors are seeking to profit to the tune of £100 or so for the taxing task of signing a form to say someone can take part in competitive cycling. Others, like mine are glad that we do keep very fit and consequently don't spend our time in their surgery whingeing (apart from the odd hip injury !). Sportstours advise the sooner the forms are returned the higher up the start order we will be, hence the quick turn-around.

Oh, the Cumbrian Christmas Cracker people have decided to reschedule the event to 1st February 2009 and carry-over the start list. So, we'll be there !

Well, the excitement for this week is the Etape recon DVD is due to arrive, can't wait. Till next time, seasons greetings to anyone reading this post.....

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Keyholes and crutches

Last Saturday's XC was interesting, Chorley Harriers only had 5 out so no team entry (6 needed). Thomo ran steady, I heckled here and there, then he suffered a muscle tear literally 50m from the finish. This looked bleak but he struggled home then, much to my surprise, he came out on the bike next morning for the 40miles. Sunday AM we had a good turnout, 7 of us: Nikki, Vicky, Gaz, Pete Starkey (see pic RHS), Thomo, Cliff and myself, I led the way and picked up all the hills from Chorley to Billinge, I peeled-off at about 32 miles to get to Goodison Park for the Middlesborough game (the most boring 90 mins I've seen for a long time!). The group did OK, reasonable training pace, the new riders are better on the hills than the flats because this is where the running fitness becomes apparent. Monday evening I did the spin class at the gym, lost about 4 pounds in sweat ! This was to be the last serious workout for a few weeks, biggest problem now was trying no to put on weight.

Thursday: I was in by 08:00, theatre at 09:00 (that feeling as the anaesthetic starts to take effect is amazing), 2 keyhole incisions, awake by 11:30 and home by 15:00, no pain, everything numb. Lots of goodwill texts which was nice. A set of basic exercises from the physio and a pair of crutches. Biggest issue seems to be keeping the weight off the joint whilst it heals but at the same time seems OK to walk on, no doubt I'll pay for this in the weeks to come.

Can't do the Cumbrian Christmas Cracker, so Gaz is taking my place since the event is full. Bought a new bike for winter use last weekend from Buy-a-Bike, Charnock Richard see, an alloy Trek 1200 (I think?), it's got Ultegra rear and 105 triple front, carbon forks, in white, a smart looking bike, all for £600. Not collected it yet because of the op. This should save the carbon one getting trashed.
I've been running with a blind runner from our club these last few Thursdays and talking as we run, (it's quite tiring trying to speak and run at the same time). Mike Ogle is his name, he's run for years and years and a few people take him out during the week (mainly Thomo I think). He even did a Duathlon with us last May on a tandem, see pic, with Malc Christie. Mike was asking what it was like to climb a col for 2 hours ? My only reply was 'incredible' to apply such a sustained effort for so long, in the 2007 Etape there were 5 Cat 1 or HC cols and the 4th one; Col du Port du Bales just about blew most of the masses away. The side of the road resembled a war zone with brightly clad bodies strewn all over. This was the year that out of 8,500 entrants, only 4,600 finished inside the allotted 12h30m. Most of the non-finishers would be locals who seemingly don't need to go through the Doctor's certificate hoop.
There are no climbs remotely like the Alpine and Pyrenean climbs in the UK, we have steeper climbs but generally shorter (maybe I would exclude Scotland from this generality since I have never cycled in Scotland other than access cycling on a mountain bike). What distinguishes the TDF climbs is the relatively consistent gradients, although, they often aren't as consistent as books and DVDs would have you believe. By far the best and most comprehensive road climbing guides, in my opinion, are the Atlas Des Cols from These excellent books give a kilometer by kilometer breakdown of the route in terms of ascent and gradient. The one for Ventoux is 'Des Alpes One', sorry, but they are all in French just to get you into the spirit of things !
So, off for a tour of the lounge.... on the crutches, till next time.....

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Hip Hop

Didn't post last weekend, been under the weather for the past 2 weeks with this bug, tried to get back into training twice but just comes back with a vengeance. Cycled Sat and Sun last weekend, with my son on Sat about 40 miles with plenty of hills av. speed 16.0mph and in a group on Sun a good bit slower for many reasons: group speed / bug / wind. One thing I do know is that the bike is getting trashed, it's a Trek Madone 5.5 and needs to be put away in cotton wool till the Cheshire Cat 29th March 2009. So the search is on for a winter bike because my son now rides my older bike a Ribble triple.

So aside from the weekend rides, been doing the 45 min spin classes at the Next Generation Gym each Monday, these are good and shouldn't be entertained when you have a bug because all that happens is the bug spreads but that's probably where it came from despite copious quantities of Vit C to boost the immune system.

Regarding the Etape, was doing some research for next years sportives and went on the Etape Du Dales website and was knocked sideways to learn that the organiser of many previous years Stuart Holdsworth had been killed in the Yorkshire Dales in an accident with a car / caravan. Only knew him in the context of the event but was one great guy. I can see from the press releases he has left a wife and children and I would extend to them my sympathy.

The Etape du Dales is a must-do preparation event to be held next year on 17th May, opens for entries on 6th Jan 2009 06:00 and will fill up within 5 hours for 800 riders see

It was following a trail from the Etape du Dales website that led me to discover that the French authorities have decided that a BCF Racing Licence is no longer acceptable and that overseas riders must have a Doctor sign-off the entry form. This is a bit of a blow because some doctors can be a bit uppity about signing such forms, mine is a star, he signs each year, no questions but others in the group are going to struggle. All this is aside from the fact that Peter Starkey has already paid £60 for his BCF Silver Licence !!! Seems I owe him one ! See for much more information.

So that's it for Sat 15th November 2008, off to a Cancer Research Charity Dinner Dance tonight. Cheers !
The Cumbrian Christmas Cracker was mentioned in a previous post but I note is now full, that's probably partly because Chorley Harriers have about 12 riders entered. From my point of view it loks like I can't do the event, this last week, after about 12 weeks of waiting, I received a phone call from the NHS offering me a cancellation for a hip operation, the operation date is now 20th November 2008 and I'm so relieved, I was worried this would extend into next year.

The operation is called a hip arthroscopy, quite a leading edge procedure, the consultant enters the hip joint with a camera and very small tools and tidies up various issues including a torn labrum (the gristly bit around the socket), some bit of bone referred to as a bone 'cam' etc etc. This will put me out of action for a number of weeks, I'm told it'll be 2 weeks before I can get on a turbo trainer then build up from there, probably 6 weeks before I can resume running.

So, aside from being elated at the news, this is going to be a somewhat sedentary period. Just been to the Red Rose XC meeting in Bolton, my son ran and I took photos (can't swell the joint before surgery). We are due out in the morning for 3 hours on the bikes, not sure what the weather will be doing, sometimes the surprise is better than the bad news !