Thursday, 31 December 2009

A few weeks ago I may have mentioned a near death brush with man flu. Well, over Christmas both Mrs. kipper and self have been down with the Common Cold - its much worse!
Apart from the holiday break its been a fortuitous time to get this particular ailment. Its been snowing, blowing a gale and generally unpleasant outside for nearly 2 weeks and now the snow has all melted my running routes are totally waterlogged so I guess I've not missed anything. I went out today for the first time in 3 1/2 weeks for a little ride around the Dengie peninsula road. I'm always stunned how only a week or two away from the bike can make you feel like a slug, but after 3 1/2 weeks I'm surprised I got round all 50 miles on one energy bar and a gel, even through a couple of squally little showers although I feel all stiff now. A weee dram anyone?

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The lure of the open road

Over the last few years my cycling has mostly been of the racing variety, ranging from short distance time trials and track through cyclo cross to 100 milers, 12 hour TT's, Paris Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders but maybe its time for a bit of a change for a year. (I know the last two aren't exactly races, but I dare you to try riding them in a leisurely manner.) Don't get me wrong, I love racing, well actually I just love being on the bike and its been a while since I did much Audax or touring. Until last year Mrs. Kipper and I started the year on the tandem with 4 or 5 100 or 150 km Audaxes locally but in 2009 we didn't do any. We did a few amiless rides just going out on touring bikes in France in August - rough stuff, not really knowing where we were going to go, finding cafes en route etc. etc. Perhaps its time we had a change in emphasis and just go out for a ride a bit more in 2010.
What with starting a new Company, a six month contract requiring every Tuesday in Warwick and not knowing where the money will come from as the year progresses, planning a racing season is going to be more problematic than it has been in the past so a more relaxed approch is called for.
So.... Despite the fact that I've already entered the Paris Roubaix Cyclo next June and entered the South East SPOCO competition, I think there will be more days just going for a ride. Hopefully I'll be able to carry on the club Wednesday 10's and defend my Classic bike 25 crown but with Christmas coming, snow and slush on the ground and a stinking cold making its way through my sinuses, its time to get the maps out....

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Gloop & rain

I don't normally blog about training rides, but this weekend has seen some strange weather across the whole of the UK and I feel like I've been out in most of it.

Saturday was dry, sunny and windy so I went out on the cross bike for about 24 miles. There was a huge black cloud hanging over North Kent & SE London, but prevailing winds kept it off Essex until after I'd reached home. I was surprised the trails were so dry although there were some gloopy puddles with lovely sticky mud over the wheel rims.
Almost home and I got attacked by a dog! Normally they just want to run and bark a bit or even play but this one came straight at me, teeth bared and hate in its eyes. I managed to fend it off with a fist across its nose a few time but it did manage to take a lump out of my shoe. Unbelievably its "owner" seemed to think that it was my fault and seemed to have a problem with the idea of keeping her dog under control. Its a shame that when adrenaline takes over logic goes out of the window or I'd have reported the incident at the time and hopefully had little fang put down - Its a good job I'm not a 10 year old little girl faced with that animal.

Today, it started out the same so I went for a spin on fixed. After an hour and just when I was at my furthest point the heavens opened. And I mean opened! You could hardly see across the road so I cut things short and rode home soaked and freezing but not unhappy at 15 miles out of the total of 30 against a million miles an hour block headwind. Proper Belgie today. I love Autumn.

Swallowed by a whale

Warning to everyone out there:

If you go to see the Decemberists prepare for a fantasticly inventive band on rousing top form but beware where you go to see them.

We went to see them this week at the Coronet Theatre in Elephant and Castle. The previous night they had been in Kentish Town and we made the fateful decision not to venture into North London, but to slip south of the river. BIG mistake. The Coronet theatre is a dump with repressive and totally unnecessary security, even on the balcony where it was unbelievably innefuctual. The sound is crap and the beer VERY over priced. With the exception of indigo2 to see Aimee Mann it's been nearly 30 years since I queued more than a couple of minutes to get into a venue and even at the O2 the goons are less interested in what you've got in your pockets than making the queues go in pretty lines.

In the pub before hand I paid £6-30 for a round of drinks for 4. In the venue, the same round was £16! How the hell do you justify that? Tickets for the band were about average price at £18:50 each, so the beer isn't subsidising the entry. I won't go on about the sound: It may have been better downstairs as the house p.a. was aimed in that direction, but listening to the soundman chasing the levels all night to the point where vocals were lost, the Zylophone (Jenny Conlee) was inaudible and Chris Funk's guitar levels were all over the place was irritating to say the least.

However, the band themselves were obviously on form, playing The Hazards of Love from start to finish in one set and then selections from 5 songs, Picaresque and The Crane Wife in a second. They finished with TheMariner's Revenge Song which is fast becoming a signature ending (Not exactly Meet on the Ledge, but you get the picture) and as for the whale'll have to go and see them to find out, just make sure its not at the Coronet Theatre.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Come on St Jude, I need you

Hmm.....I hope its not lost cause time just yet. Prayers to St Jude have been made and candles lit.
I recently "won" a Planet Pintail frame on fleabay. I must admit that I got it for a quite reasonable price which was just as well as I did not know anything about Planet cycles in general or even the Pintail model specifically.
It turns out that what I've ended up with is an extremely rare frame made from Accles and Pollock Kromo tubing which is an equivalent of dear old 531. Its pretty light and the tubes are joined by Nervex Professional lugs with simplex dropouts, so its no amateur job and quite high quality, although likely to be a "hand built" production jobby. My guess is that it was made sometime during the 1950's or 60's. There's a lot of deep pitting behind the bottom bracket (the first place a frame will go if you run it with mudguards on and don't clean it down properly) but it's been given the structural OK by a well known frame builder friend. I now have to decide what to do with it. A respray will involve a lot of making good of tube surfaces even before paint, a service provided more or less by any reputable builder, but I have found a specialist who has a patented process. (Of God...more expense). Then there's the problem of matching the original colour. I think I've found the nearest RAL but getting it in anything other than powder coat is proving an interesting challenge. From the very limited information available I've only found them made in 2 colours, a light grey-green or a sort of flesh tone. Mine is flesh but with bits of the green in, neither of which are obvious choices to the modern pallette. Internet searches have drawn a blank, the Classic Rendezvous community have come up with only a little less than f*** all and I'm still searching the National cycle Museum and Veteran Cycle Club archives.
So. The big question of the day is do I a) Struggle to restore it as it originally rolled out of the Tildesley Cycle Works in Birmingham or b) Restore it as best I can using modern colours and parts from the 70's or80's. The former will likely involve a good deal of beg steal and borrow, but will hopefully produce a machine that is "period correct". The latter is more of a temptation as I think I have a Shitmano Crane front and rear mechs and levers from the late 70's stashed somewhere in the woodpile and I'm sure I can build the rest up to make the finished machine a nice vintage ride.
Do I go for approximate and well ridden or an exact replica ready for a museum?

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Another old bike

Thanks to fleabay, I finally landed myself a frame that I've wanted ever since I saw one leant against the wall at the "Meffy" in Woolston about 20 years ago. This one is a 1939 or 1940 Bates Vegrandis in a very fetching lilac-purple. Hateful, but with this frame I could live with any colour. This one has diadrant forks which are Horace Bates' trademark and as much a signature are Hetchins' curly rear stays as well as "Cantiflex" tubing which gives a cigar shape to each of the frames main tubes. These days manufacturers trumpet that their latest aluminium frame tubes are "Hydro formed" when they have bulges in their middles. Reynolds were doing this for Horace & Co. with simple internal mandrels 80 years ago. So much for progress, eh?
The story of the Bates brothers is an intersting mix of fantastic business acumen, innovation and infighting. Mine was made when the brothers were still together with a manufacturing base in East London and sales outlets as far apart as the City and Grays, Essex. Interestingly, they never had a dealer network, preferring to sell direct from their own outlets. About 10 years after this one was built, they split up with EG Bates staying in London and brother Horace moving operations to London Road Westcliff, coincidentally the top of the road I used to live. EG continued to make high end frames for the local racing community with considerable success while Horace held the rights to both the Cantiflex and Diadrant features experiencing similar fortunes until the early 1960's. Horace died in 1968 and his son took over the business, continuing to make frames but by now in decreasing numbers until the 1980's. Eventually after a couple more changes in both name and ownership the shop became a branch of Action Bikes, but its empty now. I remember that when Action Bikes took over the new manager told me that they'd found several sets of tubes together with fittings, lugs, fork crowns etc. upstairs. I'd love to think that they went to Ray Etherington who now holds the rights to the design, but they probably got chucked in a skip by some spotty 16 year old. The Volante model is still being made by, I believe, Classic Bikes in Scotland albeit in limited numbers. Lets hope the old Bat (Bates TM) lives on for years to come!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

I feel ill

I've just had a near death experience with ........... "Man Flu".

On top of that a Saturday night curry out followed by our final accredited marshalling duty of the year has left me feeling like I've had a visit from the man with big boots.
Ho hum. Work tomorrow. At least I get to commute on the bike. Fixed of course.

Saturday, 19 September 2009


Had my annual check up in the week. Low blood pressure, high lung function, lowered cholestorol, not over weight, Fit as a butcher's dog. Apparently.
So what's on the menu for the winter?
Mostly this winter I are be doing Cyclo Cross. I expect I'll be lounging around at the back of the field as usual if you're looking for me. Long training rides on fixed as usual and a bit of running are also on the menu but you can forget the turbo this year 'cos it won't be happening.
Objectives for next year? Well, obviously a third Paris Roubaix Cyclo, a better 100 (perhaps we'll try the Kent CA again) another crack at a 12 hour perhaps and possibly Tro Bro Leon (in Lannilis, Western Brittany) for a change. Work rather got in the way of the track season this year and considering the way things are going at the moment, will probably wipe next year out as well. Never mind, I suppose you can't have everything. In between all that lets hope for a warm summer and some long weekend touring rides, maybe on the tandem this year.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

End of term report

Its the end of August and for the most part, the time trial, track and road seasons are drawing to a close, so perhaps now is a good time to sit back and have a review of how things have gone this year.
In the spring my objectives were to do 220 miles in a 12 hour, improve my 100 mile time, ride the Welwyn track league and hopefully ride l'Eroica. Regular readers will know by now that the 12 hour was a non starter this year following a horrendous 100 and will deduce that I won't be riding l'Eroica this year either, so on the face if it I have failed on 3 out of 4 accounts. I did, however, manage to ride a few track league events, actually getting in the racing and not just hanging on the back as I had expected, so although work ultimately got in the way of a full season I log this as a win. I managed a grass track event as well, gaining my 3rd cat licence in a madison that day. Perhaps I'll manage more next year.
Just measuring set objectives does not reveal the true picture and a few more details will maybe flesh things out a bit.
Taking time trials only as that is what the majority of the season is made up of: This year I have ridden 30 events over a total of 563 miles. Last years totals were 22 races at 368 miles and in 2007 I rode 31 over 863 miles. 2006 totals were 26 and 492 respectively. This year I had 2 wins, one open and one at club level, 5 second places and 3 thirds. Last year I had one win, 2 seconds and one third. In 2007 I had one second place and a third while in 2006 I failed to score at all, although I did win an ECCA medal on handicap! So, I think I'm actually getting better overall results now than I have over several recent years. I'm not too worried about missing my set objectives as success can come in many forms and I guess you have to take it where you find it.
On Tuesday, the cyclo-cross season starts and you'll find me in the laughing group at the back on a regular basis assuming I manage to stay upright and no more trees walk out in front of me.
Objectives for next year? Well firstly there's unfinished business at both 100 miles and 12 hours and a third Paris-Roubaix is definitely on the cards with Ed. Another win a open level would be nice, but lets not get too hasty. Really it all depends on whether work prevents me doing too much and whether I get enough winter training miles in. Watch this space chaps.

Monday, 10 August 2009


Auvergne. Beuriers near Arlanc, southeast of Clermont Ferrand. Nice little area, laFrance profond definitely. Sits in a gentle valley but surrounded by "large" hills.
77 miles, 14000 feet of climbing. 8100 calories.

Why do my legs hurt? Why have I eaten like a pig and lost weight?

Oh and did I mention we walked 1000 feet straight up the side of La Puy de Dome?

Monday, 27 July 2009

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger

100 miles.
5 hours 26 minutes
6903 feet of ascent
8500 calories

Well, measuring 10 mile splits for evens plus a bit in hand was the plan. If I'd managed to stay on schedule I'd have come in at 4:55 and been happy with that. For the first 50 miles I was slightly up on schedule and although my back and knees were aching I was thinking all was looking good.
At about 60 miles I had a visit from the man with the hammer. He didn't F*** off for the next 40 miles and by the time the century was up I was crawling around in the 42 ring battling an unbelievable headwind on the second, southern half of the course losing 30 minutes in 40 miles and not even able to stay on the tri bars and put any power down. Things are not looking good for the 12 hour and I'm worried that riding fixed all these years is doing my knees in. suggestions for exercises anyone?

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Ooh scary!

Following the cancellation of the ECCA 100 due to (very) thick fog three weeks ago I have entered the Southern Counties 100. Looking at the very spare course details given on the CTT website it looked like the course was centred on the Crawley area. This is a long way to travel for an early start but I thought it would be OK.
The start sheet has now arrived and I find out the start is just north of Ashingdon. Yes the course does go up to Crawley (twice) but it also goes down to Washington Bostle roundabout (yup, you got it...twice) so it's within a spit of the south coast. I'm aiming to beat 5 hours and from what I can see the course is seriously harder than the Kent CU one I rode 2 years ago when I did 4:59. For those of you who have not ridden a 100 mile time trial, the first 25 miles are generally fairly easy, up to 50 is OK - I've done 2 50's this year so far and I know I can live with the effort - but from about 80 miles onwards it's a real pain fest. Just trying to stay up to 20 mph hurts and any notion of maintaining anything like a real race pace is just fantasy. I can remember parts of the southern end from training rides in the 80's centred on Worthing and it's a tad more than "rolling" so adding in the weather, which if it holds it's current promise will be cool, wet and windy and I'm facing sunday with more than a little trepidation. Wish me luck chaps.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

A classic

A couple of years ago I built up a "classic" bike. It's a 1958 model A.S.Gillott and was in a real state when I got it. After sending it to Bob Jackson for straightning, having a load of non period braze-ons taken off and a classy paint job, the task of adding parts began. Liberal use of Fleabay, cadging off mates and visits to cycle jumbles and the old dear was ready to race. So, last year the Essex Roads CC held its first ever open 25 for classic bikes which clashed with the ECCA 100. I wasn't sure if riding the 25 instead of the planned 100 was a good idea, but it turned out to be as I got my first ever open win as a result.
This year there were no calendar clashes so off went the entry. On paper the competition looked tight and I was thinking I'd rise to the occasion and get second or more likely third. Still a result, but I was not expecting a win. As it happened Steve George scratched so that was threat number one out of the way even if not the way I'd have liked. The next best rider was off a minute behind me and as I came back from the turn looked to be closing fast. He didn't catch me by the finish, which considering he's derailed his chain on the way out, was a real surprise. Having given it everything to the finish I gained about a minute on him from turn to win by 45 seconds.
They'll all be out to get me next year, I bet.

Sunday, 12 July 2009


Yellow club kit. Yellow shoes. Want some.

Le Tour

The world's largest annual sporting event is now on. Known to Classics fans as an out of season stage race with minimal influence of what really matters and to the average Joe in the street as the only cycle race there is outside of the Olympics its more of a travelling circus than it deserves to be.
I'm not being curmudgeonly about this...I enjoy all 3 Grand Tours and the TDF is a grand shop window for the sport, but in reality the Giro is usually as intense a race as the Vuelta is boring with the TDF hovering between the two. Certainly the Tour has had elements of both over the years. Indurain riding like a bloody robot for 5 years in a row and Armstrong sucking the life out of it for another 7 has given us a string of very boring and predictable tours in the modern era. On the flip, there have been as many exciting moments to. Fignon losing by 8 seconds, Roche coming out of the mist to ambush the race and Little Tommy holding the yellow jersey through the Alps and against the odds are the sort of moments we all watch cycling for. This years issue is shaping up to be a cracker, but how I wish all those American websites would get over the fact that LA is a to55er and concentrate on things that matter instead of analysing his every fart and (typical yanks) missing the point by a mile.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Hello...hello... is there anyone out there?

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Carry on testing

Well, further to previous posts, we continue to compare frames, wheels, tri-bars etc. Last Wednesday Ed was over and as it was the club's noon-aero night we decided to do a track bike 2-up. Over the years we've done quite a few of these and it was a good opportunity to do a further try-out on our regular course. The results, however, are a little out of odds with what I had calculated we would do.
In previous years, I've ridden this machine in this set up (apart from the wheels with the addition of a Mavic Elipse rear wheel instead of the usual XP33 on Miche -32 spokes crossing 2) and in 2007 recorded times as follows:
May - 27:38
June - 28:01
July 26:14
August - 26:56
In May on my TT bike I was 2 minutes faster the week before and the week after.
In June, the difference was almost exactly 3 minutes although in July it was down to just under one minute and in August back to about 2 and a bit minutes. On all of these occasions, the TT time differences were consistent on the weeks either side of the track bike outings.
So what happened this time? well, firstly the time difference is to be measured in seconds being plum in the middle of the times recorded on this course under all conditions although interestingly we felt the 2-up was going well until Ed pulled his wheel over with about 3 3/4 miles to go. At this point we had been slowly catching another rider, but after slowing and getting going again I got further behind them over the final distance.
I guess my point here is that:
a) A 2-up with matched riders used to doing TTT's is definitely faster than an ITT.
b) Fancy equipment matters far less than fitness. (Although having all of the bells and whistles makes you feel fast)
c) What's going on in your head and the state of the wind are also key deciders.
Perhaps the only way to find out is to do tests in either a wind tunnel or an indoor velodrome. Both of these are scarily expensive, so perhaps that will have to wait.
By the way, the pic shows Phil Griffiths & Eddie Atkins 2-upping in the rain some years ago (Courtesey Bernard Thompson).

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

What's in a time?

I think I'm starting to slow down. Certainly I'm not getting any faster. I've just looked at some recent race results and compared times this year to those of 4 years ago. Take the E22/22 course: In 2005 I got round in 57 minutes 45. Last Sunday it was a measly 1:01:42. The winners time was within seconds of 48 minutes on both occassions and I could only manage a tad over evens on a (basically) flat course. Thats a loss of a minute a year. My wristwatch does better than that.
So. . . . lets check this by looking at times over the E21/10 course. The best times per year are:
2009 - 26:13 (April)
2008 - 25:14 (June)
2007 - 25:15 (July)
2006 - 25:44 (July)
2005 - 24:44 (July)
From this you could deduce that by July I'll be flying and pushing down into the low 25's again and that this years loss can be made up in 2 months. If only it was that simple and my legs and lungs could obey basic commands, but they don't, so what's really been going on? Lets have a look at miles ridden first: Up to July every year since 2000 annual mileage done has averaged 2500 with 1200/1300 done by the end of April. This year I was down to 950. Now, as moaned about in other posts, a lot of this has been due to the winter weather, so it is fair to assume that base mileage is one culprit. In 2005/6 average heartrate while racing (sticking with 10 mile timetrials for easy comparison here) was 175, max 186. This year I notice that my average has dropped to 167 but max remains at 183. Resting rate has remained constant at 52. Why is that? Is it significant? Does it explain why I'm riding slower this year? (I'm sure the mobile blogger will have the full science on that one. If not perhaps Vertical Blue would pipe up with an answer).
All of this has delayed the answer to the question posed in my last post - Is a disc faster than spokes? But it has lead to a conclusion on tri bars! Lets look at some club 10 data again.
Here are the best times on fixed:
2009 - 26:40 (May)
2008 (None ridden)
2007 - 26:14 (July)
2006 - 27:17 (June)
2005 - 27:12 (May)
We will notice that this year the difference in times is purely seconds, but in previous years around 2 mins slower was to be expected. (Are you still paying attention at the back of the class?) For 2009 I made the following changes to the track iron:
1 - Tri bars.
2 - Disc wheel
3 - Switch to a plastic bike with a lower front end.

As I've used the disc consistently all year this year, I think we can eliminate that as the big improver. Likewise fitness. The Dolan plastic (sorry - Custom laid carbon fibre monocoque frame) is actually heavier than my trusty 531 Bob Jackson, and certainly not as comfortable to ride as shown by the fact I've stuck to the Jackson for the track league. That leaves tri bars and leads us to the reasoned assumption that it is they who account for such a spectacular closing of the time gap. Does anyone know how this conclusion compares to manufacturers claims or any proper test data?

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Is a disc wheel better than spokes?

After years of indecision I have finally splashed out on a disc wheel. Riding both track and road I decided I needed a wheel that will do for both. Finally I found the PRO-LITE Padova which appears to be about the only clincher disc on the market supplied with an axle conversion kit. After a large amount of wonga had changed hands my mate Dave finagled one at more or less trade price - apparently the last one in the UK, until the next shipment anyway.

So far I've used it in both geared and fixed configuration although not yet on the track. . . that comes on Tuesday.
Is it faster than a spoked wheel? Hmm.... Well the jury is still out on that one. It certainly sounds as though it should be, it transmits every single tiny bump and it feels as though its fast. Having said that, the bike feels lighter and more responsive with a Mavic Carbon Cosmic on the back and given my current state of fitness how would I ever know if it was faster? (Well, less slow in my case). Further tests will be carried out and I will advise of the results - if there are any.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

We're getting there

I have to confess that over the winter I spent more weekends looking out of the window at the almost incessant rain, sleet and snow and come the racing season its been showing. The hilly events through March rendered times regularly 2 or 3 minutes slower than in recent years. April's results started very poorly (28 minutes for 10) but over a month have reduced by over 2 minutes. My first 25 of the year (on 18th April) on the Leaden Roding course was 1:13:39, but today I took almost exactly 5 minutes off that in some pretty unfavourable conditions. Combine that with the fact that I discovered I can stay in the bunch on the track even though I'm riding on power rather than being able to stay in the middle and getting dragged along and I guess I finally believe that I'm getting fitter. If I continue racing 3 times a week and training on a tuesday will I be flying come the summer?

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Bless the weather

This has not been a typical Easter as far as the weather goes, although one could be forgiven for thinking it has been.
On (Good) Friday at Herne Hill we had Paris Roubaix rain. Well cold drizzle really. The programme was abandoned about 1/3 of the way through which is a first for recent years. I can remember coming home with sunburn and a dose of panda-eyes on a couple of occasions in the last 4 or 5 years or so and I can't remember the last time this meeting was abandoned. Not good.
Sunday, today, for Paris Roubaix the weather was perfect for an outdoor track meeting and far from classic Roubaix rain, mud, s**t and bullets, but even so has produced one of the most dramatic issues of the biggest day of the year in recent memory. Tomorrow is our club "Easter Egg" 10 season opener. I'm praying for sun and no wind. We'll see, but in these perverted days I'm not holding my breath.
All those doing their gardening or indulging in Holy Carmunion probably think its been a good day weather wise but we know better, don't we?


Turn off the phone. DO NOT knock on the door. Get out the Leffe and do not disturb until four o'clock because Paris Roubaix is on.

Saturday, 28 March 2009


Well peeps, it’s been a while since I blogged so I thought I’d have a bit of a catch-up. (Photos courtesy Ellie Hutson)

Last weekend we went to Calshot track for Legro’s training camp. The track is short with very tight bends and I’m given to understand can be extremely cold due to a lack of heating of any kind. We all went out for a couple of hours social ride through the New Forest on Saturday morning at a comfortable pace. The sun was out, as were the daffofils and it was a pity that we had to spend the rest of the day indoors, but at least it was warm on the track. All the other riders and coaches had said that the track is easy to ride, but as I soon found out, its easy to ride slow, but a real bugger at speed as the tight 60 degree banking will throw you up above the stayers line before you know it.
There were 3 or 4 of us who hadn’t ridden this track before and we all had trouble getting our heads round how to stay down at speed in the bends. Despite Lee Povey continually telling me it was just a matter of convincing myself I could do it, it was starting to be a bit of a blocker. Halfway through the afternoon a change of programme gave us the chance to follow experienced riders on a 1 to 1 basis with everyone else off the track. Dipping up and down at 25 mph behind Simon form Velo Club de Londres it suddenly made complete sense and I didn’t look back from there. Thanks Simon, nice job.
Sunday was Madison changes and despite being slower that the elites and first cats I managed to pair up with Steve O’Hara, an unattached rider with similar speed to me and over 2 sessions we started to really get the hang of it and by going home time was feeling as comfortable on this track as I do at other, wider, longer ones.
The only downside to the whole weekend came during the warm up on Sunday morning. As we got to about 8 or 10 laps to go, The hammer went down with me in the middle of the string and not enough leg speed so I dropped out and slipped up the track to let the group come round under me until coming off a turn I got too close to the fence and hit it. 3 times. Before coming down the banking on my back. A week later I’m still showing off the scabs across my knuckles and telling everyone that’s what we call disciplinary action at work although my shoulder is still stiff at times.

New Job.
Well, I’ve been in the same job for nearly 6 years now and both the job and I have changed a lot in that time. I’ve had a number of significant successes and overall have been happy working where I am but I was rung up out of the blue by someone with an odd request to come and talk to them about possible opportunities. Not being one to turn down such an invitation I found that not only do they (I can’t say who yet) want to employ me, but they are based a cycle commute away and prepared to pay a very good wage for the dubious privilege. Now all I have to do is sign the contract and resign from my current job. Let the games commence!

Live feeds.
I’ve suddenly become addicted to They put up links to live feeds of pro races which is brilliant for the raft of semi classics that intersperse the Flanders and Ardennes weeks. So far I’ve seen Dwars Doors Vlaanderen (Race Across Flanders), stages of Castille y Leon stage race in Spain and the finale of the E3 Prijs Vlanderen (Race of the E3 motorway – unbelievably). Tomorrow is Brabantse Pijl (Fleche Brabanconne) – or the Brabant Arrow in English. As we’re in Belgie, the name in Vlaamse is properly used and I remember many of the hills and cobbled stretches from riding the Ronde twice in recent years.
The only problems with live feeds are that the commentary is in the language of the broadcaster usually Vlaamse, Frog, Spanish etc. and I have not found a way to record these races.
None the less, I’m still looking forward to catching tomorrow’s double stages of Criterium International too.

Saturday, 28 February 2009


Today is the first day of the professional road cycling season. Until now all we've had is training races. The Tours Down Under, Palma-Mallorca, Qatar and California etc. None of these races have any real meaning at all in the grand scheme of things, they're basically just distractions for us and training for the teams until the season proper starts: and that is today. Today is Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (formerly known as Het Volk) and tomorrow is Kuurne Brussels Kuurne.
This weekend is the first chance we have to see the pro's race for real, the first weekend of the classics, the openining races over the hallowed cobbles and bergs, and the first indicators of serious form for the biggest 2 races of the years - Ronde Van Vlaanderen & Paris Roubaix. Nothing else comes near these races, not even the Grand Tours, so why is there NOTHING on Eursport? All through the tours of Qatar and California David Harmon repeatedly assured us that Eurosport would have greater, improved coverage of the classics and what have we got? NOTHING. Not a whisper, nada, F*** all, in fact the square root of f*** all.
I hold little hope of these clowns even showing Roubaix or Flanders, after all they failed totally and miserably last year. For ewxample we got only the last 10k of Roubaix. So we saw no cobbled sections apart from Avenue George Croupeland (at the entry to the velodrome). The race had been long decided (100km previously was the first selection with another sorting our at Carrefour Les Arbres). Flanders was no better, we came home from seeing the race in Belgium on the Monday to find a recording of (I think) Biathlon and sledging.
This is totally unacceptable, not just the failure to show the races, but the lying to us, the viewers that they say they will do. I think a petition to number 10 is in order. Either that or give up sky altogether and take out a subscription to with the savings. What a waste of time and money.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Just because you can

We’re on the way home from a weekend in Leeds for our friend’s 25th wedding anniversary party and I’ve decided to try this blogging from a train lark. We nearly didn’t get there at all as it happened as someone (who? Me?) locked themselves out of the house in the morning. Oh yes, not only out of the house, but out of the garage (where the tools are) and the car. By the time we’d enlisted the help of a friend to break in without doing too much damage which is actually much harder than you’d think poochie was getting severely stressed. He was definitely not best pleased at being dumped in kennels. Maybe he’ll forgive us when we spring him tomorrow.
Anyway, to cut a long story short we eventually got up to Leeds for the party and met up with a couple of people from Southampton days who I’d not seen for years. Mike’s band played and as I’d been asked to sit in, I did just that. I’ve not played the old box much lately and this morning my fingers are throbbing but I must make an effort to get back into it.
I like train travel, especially inter-city, the 2½ hours from London to Leeds just flies by and with this new fangled inter webby thing on the train too it makes for a very nice way of passing the time. On the way up yesterday I bought a c.d. from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC in America, just because I could. How cool is that?.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The Rack

I’ve decided enough is enough. We’ve had 2 weeks of snow and ice, rain, floods and tempest. It feels like we only need a touch of Pestilence or a dose of Bubonic Plague to complete the set. After a good start, this winter has delivered the curse of the optimist in big style and decreed that riding out on the road is the most reliable way to end a season before it’s even started.

Last weekend our club’s reliability ride (sorry “Sportive”) was cancelled because of icy back roads and apart from ‘cross and a bit of off road riding there’s not been much chance to get out at all lately. So I’ve decided something must be done and resigned myself to sessions on the rack in a desperate bid to get just a little zip into the legs and a lot of fat off the belly before racing starts.

The question is, what to put on the mp3 to relieve the intense boredom? In previous years I’ve made up a mix of clubland “bangin toons” but they’ve started to get stale so a search for replacements has been going on.

I’ve tried Manu Chao but the beat’s wrong, I’ve had a go at Mr. Scruff, but that’s real mood music. Blowzabella worked for a while, but you really need to concentrate on that and the turbo is not a good place to concentrate. No, I need something to erase all conscious thought…especially thoughts of getting off early because the legs hurt and I’m out of breath.

Hmm…Nick Cave? Too Dark. Phillip Glass?....interesting, but ultimately too much thought involved. I’ve even tried Tangerine Dream but I need something to pedal to at a steady 100 – 120 bps. Klaus Schultz might fit the bill perhaps?

For the moment I’ve settled on Royksop’s The Understanding. Melody A.M. is too variable in both tone and tempo, but The Understanding has just the right pace plus the bass is compressed almost to flatness and there’s enough reverb on the top to make it a good listen. Not Spector-ish but with space. There’s a couple of tracks with an irritating amount of hi hat, but apart from that it’s now just a question of how long it is before I get tired of it.

Any suggestions or alternatives anyone?

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Gig of the year

I should have mentioned this earlier, but a high bar has been set for Gig of Year 2009, even before January is out. the other evening we went to "Folk America - Hollerers, Stompers & Old Time Ramblers" at the Barbican. Hosted by the inimitable Seasick Steve, it featured Alison Williams & Chance McCoy, The Wiyos, Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole, the fantastic Diana Jones and someone who's well on the way to being an all time fave - C.W.Stoneking.

Described by Seasick as totally stuck in the 1930's his mixture of old time jazz, deep south blues and street "Hokum" held us spellbound. With a truly authentic vocal sound, you'd be forgiven for thinking he was one of the original bluesmen, but no. In his 30's Stoneking hails from Australia - unbelievable.

A quick mention for some of the other artists - The Wiyos mix of Vaudeville, swing and old time hill billy had the whole audience stunned with their brilliance. Diana Jones is becoming well known in the UK, having (I think) recently supported Richard Thompson and had a feature spot on the Bob Harris show. Alison williams started out playing in punk bands in the 90's but soon crossed over to old timey country. She plays a mean clawhammer banjo and her band is pretty hot too. Guitarist chance McCoy put his taps on and gave a super demonstration of of Appalachian clog, which took me right back to my time with Loose Screws, which some of you may remember.

We came out of the Barbican at gone 11, very late for Barbican gigs, but with our ears ringing and a very long list of "must have" CDs. It's going to take a VERY special artist to top that one.

The Greatest?

Today on Eurosport I heard Lance Armstrong described (in all seriousness) as the greatest cyclist ever!!!! I don’t think I have ever heard such a stupid and obviously wrong statement. EVER.

Let’s be honest here, No one can come close to Eddy Merckx. OK he only won the tour 5 times but he did win the Giro 5 times, the Vuelta, the tour de Suisse, Paris Nice (3 times), every single classic at least once, including Milan – San Remo 7 times 1966,67,69, 71,72,75 and 1976, semi classics including Gent Wevelgem, Het Volk, etc. etc. 17 six day races, the World Championship road race three times and the Super Prestige Trophy, not to mention the hour record and God knows how many other tour jerseys.

Second on my list has to be Fausto Coppi. His palmares includes 5 tours, 5 Giros, Milan – San Remo 4 times, Paris Roubaix, 5 Tours of Lombardy together with the World Championship road race and the inevitable hour record among many others. We should also remember that he spent a significant part of the 2nd World War as a POW in the UK, so that knocks out a good 4 of his prime years.

Third: well I guess it has to be Maitre Jacques: 5 TDF (yawn) 2 Giros d’Italia, The GP de Nations 7 times – not bad for a tester! The Super Pretige Pernod (World Cup equivalent, more or less) 4 times, Paris – Nice 5 times, the World Championship road race and as is becoming usual, the hour record. Anquetil, though is best remembered for his incredible performance in riding and winning the Dauphine libere stage race and the now regrettably defunct Bordeaux Paris with less than 12 hours gap.

Fourth, Bernard Hinault? – The usual. 5 tours, 2 Vueltas, 3 Giros, Paris – Roubaix, Liege – Bastogne – Liege twice, not forgetting the 1980 issue, run of in an absolute blizzard. Hinault was apparently so cold at the finish he had to be taken of his bike and had to wait until his bath water was cool before warming up. Only weeks later could he feel his middle fingers again! Now that’s a hard man.

Fifth, Gino Bartali

Sixth, Felice Gimondi

Seventh, Big Mig? Van Steenbergen?

Eigth. Hmm… Louison Bobet or Henri Pellisier? Or how about Maurice Garin (winner of the first tour, Paris Roubaix etc.) or perhaps one of my favourites Octave “Curly” Lapize.

Now. If, like me you value the classics (monuments) over the Grand Tours, (and loads of big name riders including Maggie B and Pretty Boy George have said that one Roubaix takes as much out of a rider as a 3 week tour) we come to some of the REAL hard men of the sport... Enter my all time hero Sean Kelly (who I finally met last year – fantastic bloke, really down to earth) Rik Van Looy and Mr. Roubaix himself – Roger De Vlaemink, Francesco Moser, etc etc.

So where does that leave Armstrong? 7 tours,(a record for TDF wins, but not a record for overall grand tour wins – Merckx has 11, Coppi 10, Hinault's got 8 and Anquetil 7)…a single worlds, 1 tour of Luxembourg, 1 of Switzerland, 1 minor pro tour race (San Sebastian) and that’s about it. Certainly that’s the palmares of a champion, a top rider of his generation, but the “greatest ever”?

Please don’t insult my intelligence.

Enough said.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The swanny

Soigne. (French). “To look after.”
Soigneur. (Also French) “Welfare man”

Of course us bikies know that the Soigneur is the engine room behind every professionals success. They’re the person who fills the bidons, makes the sarnies, cuts the energy bars in half, fills the musettes and stands on the side of the road (in the feed station if they’re lucky) to pass lunch up to their rider(s) and then drives to the finish with spare clothes, more food and massages tired legs before starting it all again the next day.

Well, I’m here to tell you that even fat and fifty midfield laggards like me can benefit from a good swanny. I have one of the best in the business and here’s why.
1. During my recent trip to Manchester I took my personal swanny. This was a good move in parts only. I got a bottle every time I came off the track, spare glasses when I needed them and a flat fixed (yes even on the boards they happen). HOWEVER. . . . all the other riders were somewhat jealous, to the point of “ooh get you” when I got handed clean glasses to loan to a rider who’d forgotten his.
2. Last Sunday was bloody cold, muddy and pretty grotty all round. Oh and did I mention the rain? So what does the birthday girl say when I look out of the window and decide to go back to bed?
“Get up, you need the points. I’ll come and hold your jacket in the blistering cold for an hour while you have fun collecting stinky mud to bring into the house later, Oh and would you like your energy drink now?”
3. And let’s not forget a vital role in the ECCA 12 hour, without which I may well have packed at about the 7 hour point.
So like I say, if you want to get ahead, get a soigneur. Top Totty or what???

Monday, 26 January 2009

A very gloopy day

It rained cats and dogs all Saturday night. Watery Lane was flooded (No! Really!) but we still rode 'cross yesterday. The pics don't show it but we had more than 20 riders for a few quick laps round Eric's brand new swimming pool. Once I'd got home, stripped off and been hosed down the kitchen floor was coated in a tick layer of gloopy mud. Bloody good fun though.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Why do we have winter?

During the snow and ice of the last week at least 2 of the Southend Wheelers have tasted tarmac and I have no intention of joining them in casualty so tomorrow its load the car and DRIVE to the Maldon club 'cross meeting. It's only 12 miles away and I've never considered not riding out and back. Even after headbutting a tree during a race a couple of years ago and getting a funny head I rode home afterwards. But having almost gone base over apex a couple of times just walking poochie through the woods this afternoon, my normal invincibility has taken a back seat and so we're driving it. If it doesn't warm up a bit I can see me riding with BKW and roubaix tights and generally wrapped up so warm that the dismounts will be followed by a short waddle and several attempts to remount the bike. It looks like the comedy quotient will be extremely high so anyone wanting a laugh at my expense is welcome.
This weather had better mean we're in for a good summer. The race calendars are out and despite there not being many local audaxes this year I'm hoping for a couple of 100 mile TTs and a crack at the club 12 hour record of 224 miles. I managed 214 and threequarter at my first attempt in 07 which brings me back to a bloody good reason to stay of the bike until until the Good Lord sees fit to turn the global warming on again 'cos its going to be a long season. The pic shows me avoiding that tree last year while holding off a load of riders queueing up to pass me.

Thursday, 1 January 2009


On Saturday we drove to Manchester Velodrome for a day of track accreditation training. I’ve been stressing about this for a while as it entails 5 hours on the track, culminating in a “mock” race and laps behind a Derny As you will see from previous posts I have been concerned about a lack of fitness, enough to get through the full day anyway.

On Saturday evening I got onto the track with Bob Barber, a clubmate and the manager of the track. We circled on the stayers line doing alternate laps for about 30 minutes, joined by Jennifer, a relative novice rider who was also booked for the full accreditation the following day. With a 50x16 gear lapping at evens was no problem but I was surprised to be sharing the track with a number of first timers, many of whom were wearing jeans and trainers! Continually passing female “builders bums” at twice their speed became quite off-putting after a while, but it proves that cycling has become extremely popular of late. Once the session was over we all went to Cathy’s (Bob’s partner) where she had prepared a pasta dinner perfect for carbo loading for the following day. It was good to catch up with bob and Cathy and all too soon it was time to get back to the hotel for some shuteye.

28th December 2008 - 07:30 hrs.

It was bloody freezing (literally) waiting to get into the velodrome. Once the doors opened the other 15 candidates for accreditation begin to leach out of the woodwork and soon we were all meeting and introducing ourselves to the coaches. During the following hours we did lumps and bumps (at quite a high speed), half lap changes, riding and changing in pairs, through and off in ball formation as in traditional club runs – and yes, we still do it in the Wheelers - and chasing half laps. The day ended with a mock race of 24 laps. Once the split went I managed to get on but couldn’t stay with them. I also managed to stay on the derny quite well so apart from a bit of top end speed I’m going as well as I should be.

The day ended with a debrief from the coaches both of whom had been good humoured and professional all day except for one point when instead of changing into a “square dance” routine by swinging up from the low string to the front of the upper string to allow the lower string to circulate forward, one rider dropped to the sprinter line to spiral the lower string off the track. Total and utter chaos ensued and sensing panic in the coaches shouted instructions we dropped swiftly off the track for a group bollocking. That demonstrated exactly what we had been taught earlier in the day about knowing what we are doing and safe riding. Despite this small hiccup we all got our accreditation tickets and then, after showering and changing, drove home happy but tired.