Friday, August 29, 2003

A new addition

On Tuesday we were in Evans cycles in Waterloo Cut and we saw they had a BOB Yak trailer. I had been toying with the idea of increasing our capicity to carry unnecessary tat and this seems like the perfect soloution. It's a striking silver and yellow colour, which matches Spirit Of Stockton so it looks as if the two beasts of burden will be teamed up. We're going to use it to haul the tent and camping stuff which should hopefully put and end to the high centre of gravity issues I was having after our initial round of full-load testing.

It remains to be seen if it encourages us to repack the kitchen sink...

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Phil and Friends - Part I

Had the hills around Harrow done their job? Had the Col de Watford put steel in my legs? Had Alpe Bushey given me the heart and lungs of a polka dot jersey winner? We were about to find out.

We travelled up to Sheffield on the Saturday and were staying at a well-hidden farm in Bradfield. A fellow Phil & Friends ride, Steve, and his wife Jill were also staying there but any thoughts of going round with him were scuppered when he mentioned that he'd just done the Etape in 8.5 hours.

The day of the race dawned grey and cloudy, which was a relief after the recent hot weather. We had a quick breakfast of toast and cereal and were re-assembling our bikes in Stannington by 8:15. After registering I was expecting a mass start but it soon became obvious that people were going off in small groups. This was a bit of a letdown but I decided to have a quick look at the instructions and set off alone. I could probably make friends on the way...

The hills kick in from the outset and we were treated to a steep descent for starters. A few groups passed me while I checked my directions at the first T-junction. This allowed me to latch onto the back of a group of about eight and we soon got talking. These boys were locals and they warned me that the first hour would be tough. Sure enough the road started to point upwards and I began to lose the wheel in front. At first I was encouraged to keep up but we all soon realised that our abilities were not evenly matched.

I was happy to ride at my own pace for a while and after about 30 minutes I caught up to three guys on a steep descent. Two of them were on tourers and they were all doing the 100km so I decided to try to join them for a while. The climb up the other side was a brute and called for the granny ring and some honking to get over it. I was more than happy to use all the gears at this stage!

The two on tourers drifted away as I talked to a chap from the Selby club called Albert. He'd done the ride before and we took our minds off the next slow ascent by discussing the route, our cycling backgrounds and anything else that came to mind.

Phil and Friends - Part II

The tea stop at Holmefirth is a popular one as it provides the fuel for the big glamour climb of the day - Holme Moss. This hill has been tackled in the Tour of Britain and the rumour was that the pros had been clocked going up it at about 17mph (~30 km/h). I was actually looking forward to this climb as I've always been attracted to the brutal glamour of the mountain stages in the big races. The climbers have always had more of my respect than the sprinters and I wanted to have a go at something comparable (i.e a lot smaller) to an Alp or Pyrenees stage. Holme Moss was a climb that could be tackled in one gear - the smallest one - and I was able to find a rhythm and twiddle up a steady pace. (Not 30km/h) The view from the top was worth the effort but I wasn’t really doing for the view. That said, it was uplifting to look down at Holmefirth and know I was able to propel myself and the bike up the 500 metres to the top.

Albert and I were able to get some speed up after the descent and were soon blasting through the gently rolling hills and reservoirs as we followed the valley. This made a nice change from the "slog up, fly down" sections we had been through and had yet to encounter.

The climb outside Edale started as a typical low-gear grind but it had a definite sting in the tail. Just as the road levelled and it seemed like the only way was down, the route took a sharp left and introduced the sort of gradient we had seen for some time. The hill was mercifully short and it was impossible not to appreciate the setting as trees spread out either side of the road. Before opening out to reveal the valley spread beneath us.

Albert had no luck selling his bike to some passing ramblers so we had to press on to Edale and it was on this descent that the speedo ticked over 80km mark. The mood in the tearoom was buoyant with those who’d done the ride before telling the first-timers that the worst was behind us. It was also pleasing to see the now-familiar 20 or 30 riders who we had regularly passed and re-passed on the road.

After tea we had a couple of climbs to further test the legs including a sweeping right-hander. I’d been whirling up it for a while before I realised I wasn’t getting anywhere. The gradient was constant, as was the curve of the road and we couldn’t really see where we were going or where we’d come from. But even this hill eventually ended and once at the top Albert momentously told me we could get onto the big chainring and power home. He was once again true to his word. I had expected us to arrive at Stannington by climbing the hill we’d flown down at the start but we were approaching from the other side. The last 5kms are a circuit high above the village and this gives a feeling of triumphant expectation as well as a few moments to reflect on the ride before the end.

And then, after five and a half hours in the saddle and with 106kms on the clock we took the last corner and approached the hall. Victoria was waiting for me with a big smile and the means to provide more tea and cakes and the encouraging comment that I didn’t look too bad.

Albert and I had stuck together for over 80 kilometres and he was the perfect pace for me. If I was a bit slow for him then he was too much of a gentleman to mention it. We said our goodbyes after our tea with Albert heading home to York, Victoria hopping on the 83 bus to Sheffield and me climbing back on the bike to coast the 4 miles back to the station.

So my first century ride had ended well. I'd had a great day, met some good people and managed the distance with a combination of steady pacing, full gear utilistaion and frequent refueling. My appetite has definitely been whetted and apparently there's another on in Sussex next month....

Friday, August 08, 2003

News and Views

Well we're settling back into London life. All the usual things are here, two trips to the cricket (Banz watching SA just beat England and both of us watching Surrey cruise past Gloucestershire), a visit to Wagamama and a furnitureless flat.

Well, the flat does have some furniture, it's just limited. We have our futon (which was the first bit of furniture we ever bought as a couple - unless you count the crisp boxes we used as a bed side table initially), a tv stand (on which to stand the smallest telly ever which has been most kindly donated by Nick H) and the mattress in the unregistered loft conversion to complete the skag den appeal. We also managed to be indian givers (I guess that's not a PC term these days, but there's no other way to describe it) and got our wok, fry pans, saucepans and microwave back off Spence and Cath - cheers guys - you can really have them when we actually do leave.

Time has been spent tidying up the garden for that buyer that we're sure is just around the corner as well as toning down the paint in the lounge. All those episodes of "House Doctor" haven't been wasted.

We've also been doing a bit of job hunting. I've had a couple of good phone calls today saying that I've been put forward for a couple of roles. Fingers crossed I get the one with more money. That's what my standards have been reduced to these days. Oh well it is only for six months (we hope). Banz has also applied for a few - including one at £50 an hour - that's if his postcard is still in the telephone box outside Kings Cross station.

Banz's time has also been taken up training for his century ride which is next Sunday, 17th August. The roads outside Harrow are not quite as inviting as those near Darlo but there are a few decent hillocks to contend with. The tarmac melting temperatures (no post could pass without a "Phew - what a scorcher" comment) have been a novelty but one which is wearing off. Perhaps our original plan to tackle southern Spain in August with panniers stuffed to the brim with kitchen sinks was not the best idea.... Maybe this is the "everything happens for a reason" excuse we've been looking for since the flat sale fell through. That makes two, the first being Maca's Wedding.

Keep your fingers crossed and hopefully we'll be back amongst the employed in the next couple of weeks. The taxman's gain is Quincy ME's loss.