Try everything once, said Lord Beeching, except incest and folk dancing. To which I would add – the Roubaix sportive.
It was cold and drizzling as the Old Ports headed out of our hotel in Tourcoing to the Roubaix Velodrome and the start point. Once there we delayed as first one, then another Old Port decided to go shopping - gloves, rain jacket, cap - and Iain decided to check his bike over. Then over the timing mat and off.
Our little peloton picked up pace as we headed out of the beautiful old town of Roubaix and into open countryside. Flat fields on either side and passing small groups of riders who latched onto our train before being dropped.
The pace increased and I clung on.
'Sit in the pack' said Steve, 'you'll be all right.'
A delay to take a drink, a mis-judgement on a corner and I was 5 yards behind, then 10, then 20.
'I'll catch up'I thought and sprinted. The pace increased and I fell behind again.
What fucking pack?
No more sprinting for me. I watched the Old Ports red train as it gradually faded into the distance and settled into my own rhythm.
The wind ambushed you from the fields and the rain was thin, malnourished, never weighty but it soaked through. I foreswore rain covers for my shoes and soon regretted my failure to go shopping with the others.
Nothing prepares you for the Arenberg trench. You've watched 'A Sunday in Hell' and read about it, you've searched You Tube and heard about it, you watched the pros and their little recce films but that all only hints at the horror. These aren't cobbles, they're boulders, crags, granite outcrops, sharp edged stones to weigh down dead bodies, jagged and sharp with massive gaps between, big enough to swallow riders whole. The dirt down one side has been ploughed up by farmers to prevent riders cheating and the pre-race barriers line the other side forcing you onto the rocks like Odysseus.
'Enough to shake the fillings from your teeth' goes the old saying but this is worse. It shakes the dye from your hair, the dirt from beneath your finger-nails, the paint gradually flakes from your bike frame, zips come undone, the zero tablets in your bottle froth and boil over. Your instinct is to slow down –
'if I go quick I shall fall and break a collar-bone, a neck, a leg' (yes, it happened) - but you can't steer a line and hope to pick your way through the gaps, so counter intuitively you must go faster and harder and try and glide over the cobbles and trust your bike to find its way. And it works. I even pass a few riders who haven't learned the skill. Eventually it is over and I slump over the bars and wait for my tingling fingers and shaking hands to calm down.
The Arenberg is first and by far the worst but the road goes ever on and there are many more cobbled sections to traverse.
I stop at all 3 feed stops and gulp down honey cake and waffles and grab a plastic cup of energy drink. I need to pee and stand at the open pissoir but the flow is weak and painful.
The passing groups go too quick for me but the individual riders tend to be slower than me and the fat man striding along on his wooden bicycle (whom we had seen in Flanders last year) is even slower than me, so for virtually the whole ride I am alone and pushing against the wind, no minimum wage domestiques to shelter me, no Sky cannon fodder to shield my aching limbs.
After 60 miles I have had enough. My legs ache, my face has set into a rictus grin, teeth barred and screaming 'merde' at the sheep and the mountain bikers.
A lady of a certain age sashays past and spots my Old Ports jersey.
'Is that a UK club?'she asks.
'Yes'I grunt, panting.
'Are you enjoying it?'
She rides away.
There are 18 cobbled sections on the 139 km route and the Arenberg is the worst. After that, nothing is as bad although the Carrefour de l'Arbe seems to go on forever.
'Ride on the crown'is the advice but in some places this is only a few inches wide, falling away to steep, rocky slopes on either side. On some sections there is a narrow dirt track between the cobbles and the grass but this can be more tricky – previous riders have worn deep and sudden ruts and here also is where the flints and debris collects and most punctures happen.
An organised group of about 30 mountain bikers rumble past me – they are identically dressed in black and red tops marked 'Flandrien'– they crowd the cobbles and steal my line. I shout feebly after them but am ignored. A little way on, one goes flying and lands in a ditch, trapped and unable to unclip, wheels spinning and nose bloodied and I am glad.
The rain comes and goes and there are times when I remove my rain jacket and a pale sun briefly shines.
The last 20 miles seem to take forever. I am exhausted but can't give up, although I saw one rider waiting at a bus stop, his grimy tearful face and worn out bike and race number proclaims his failure to complete.
The last couple of miles to the velodrome takes about 20 minutes. Not tiredness – in sight of the finish straight my energy returns – but the traffic is like heading to Ikea on a Saturday afternoon. It is raining heavily now and riders weave in and out of the traffic, dicing with trucks and the Saturday shoppers.
I turn into the velodrome (some riders misjudge the slippery bend and choose this final moment to crash) and scan the stands for a group of cheering Old Ports. Nothing. The rain plashes on the cinder track and a thin film of dirty water coats the banking. Many have finished with me and there is no space or stomach for a sprint finish. The timer pings on the finish line and the few spectators rise to acknowledge our dishevelled group. I've done it.
The exit gate is packed. Medals are being placed around necks by damp podium girls but there is a queue so I grab a medal and drape it around my own neck, like Henry and his crown. I have no change of clothes and so miss the iconic showers.
The rest of the Old Ports have long since returned to the hotel but I am tired and can't remember the route. Luckily I spot John and we meet up and find the way.
It is late afternoon and the rain is heavy now and Roubaix is cold. The route is very slightly uphill and seems to go on forever.
Eventually we reach the hotel and stumble upstairs. We emerge from the lift to be greeted by a scrubbed and tubbed Andy and Iain – his bloodied knee tells of his exploits.
'Steve beat me by a wheel length.'he says.
Itakes me 20 minutes to get undressed and I fall into the bath to soak and dream of cobbles.
Would I do it again?
Hell (of the north) yes!
PS Back home I load my Strava data and find that I have beaten Iain over the Arenberg trench.
At least when you get to the top of a mountain, no matter how much it hurt you
get a view and a descent. The true cobbled Classic is a far nastier beast. Ten
of us rocked up at the velodrome on Friday. Nine to sign on and our glorious DS
from SERC Mike. Things started well even before the sign on with Dave C getting
sling off the track but not before registering a cheeky segment.
ride RVV a few years back I had some idea of the gruesome nature of bike meets
cobble. But this turned into something else entirely. Even before we lined out
the rain was falling and the wind blowing. I was a deep soaking rain that found
its way through the layers to the core. At the start Steve Avery hoisted the red
pennant. 'We'll ride as a club to the Arenberg.' There would be no quarter
given. It was wet and windy and you didn't want to get dropped from the group,
to be fighting on your own in these conditions would be a dog.
Jon was force by medical advice to take the short route. Shortly before the
Arenberg the bunch jammed on the anchors forcing our road Captain, Iain Hawthorn
into a curb and some naughty roadrash. But he bounced back quicke enough. The.
We hit the trench.
The Arenberg is a place of legend and pain and as we
turned onto those cruel rain slick cobbles 50 yards ahead was a pile of bodies
who had misjudged the teeth on this beast. It was a dreadful str of road to
ride, jarring and brutal with an never reducing threat of a nasty crash. One
could take the track by the side, but at that stage in the day we were taking it
on the chin. The best thing about getting over the Arenberg, nothing is as nasty
After that first hideous taste of cobbles they keep coming.
Never as bad bad, but little could ever be as bad on a bike. One learns to hate
the self gratifiers on MTBs who buzz past on the worst bit the. Sit up on the
road. W**kers. It's a road event?!
But you keep going and however tough it is
there was an esprit de corps amongst those touching it out.
shredded the OPCC group and Paul C worked together as they counted down. Things
got dryer but no less windy. After the infamous Carrefour de l'arbre we stripped
off our dirty rain jackets to enter the Velodrome together in our colours.
Fantastic. Steve, Iain, Dave C and Pete were waiting with DS Mike.
was safely back at the Ranch, and FJ and Julien came in a little while later.
All safely home mission accomplished. Ride ride, chase, sprint, lager, lager,
Thanks to all who drove, Iain, Julien, and Dave C. Big thanks to
Iain for making it happen. Next day we got a nice recovery ride and the chance
to see the pros hurt. And they did. There are no peaks, no sweeping descents
just the joy of when the pain stops and the road does not hate you anymore.
Great weekend, and already I think I might be up for another go. Maybe.
Our very own Iain Hawthorn quoted in cycling weekly's blog on Paris - Roubaix
Cycling Weekly Blog
Yesterday was the last in a short series of 4 LVRC Spring Crits at the lower
circuit of Hog Hill, very easily reachable from Junction 29 of the M25, after a
quiet drive and stop for a coffee on the way.
With a very agreeable start
time of 10:00 a.m for one hour + 5 laps, many of the usual faces appeared with a
few guys I hadn't seen since last year - specifically two chaps I remember we're
pretty much always contesting the sprints in the finish or at least always in a
breakaway. Mental note #1 taken. Antony Wallis (ex-Pro, wins everything) was in
attendance, adorned in his orange skinsuit. Mental note #2 taken. There had been
no recent rain and the air fairly still, the best conditions for a
I was very much looking forward to the race, despite pretty
horrible legs on a 50m training ride Friday (after having spent the week in
Glasgow and not stretching once), they felt a little better on spin with Andy on
Saturday. I was hoping the feelings of strength & overall fitness were going
to be real that I'd started to sense over the last few weeks.
wasn't too bad, a large Cherry Caffeinated Gel consumed and half a bottle of
caffeinated drink downed to provide the final boost, with the group forming up
on the line dead on 10:00 a.m & Commissaires instructions clearly to not be
stupid. There must have been 50-60 ABCD riders signed on, and about 20-odd EFGH
setting of moments after. Antony Wallis was right on the start line, on the
inside. "FFS" I thought, "are we really going to watch him ride off into the
With no wind, fast riders and a big field there was
nothing to think about apart from utter concentration and avoid mistakes.
BANG! It shot off like bonkers and the peloton immediately formed a long
line - front to back must have been 100 yards at times and my god, getting out
of corners was never more important not to say holding the wheel in front of
you. As you came out of the last tight left hand corner, three bollards had been
placed over a crack in the tarmac on the outside of the final long left-hander
(about 100 yards after the corner) that takes you straight to the finish. Mental
After one lap...Antony Wallis had a gap but the peloton's speed
was set to be high and I sensed that he wasn't going to get away with it easily
this time - but he was clearly trying. This is better I thought, more like it.
After 20 minutes we'd pegged him to about 1/3rd of a lap and I suspected he was
going to ease up. Actually, to his enormous credit, he didn't - churning &
churning a huge gear.
The peloton caught & passed the EFGH group 3
times overall. I remember looking at my Garmin at 20 minutes & working out
we were averaging 24-25 mph more or less - even with the new slow left-hand cut
through corner, the pace remained very quick and only minor relief gained in the
longer corners where you could ease on the pedalling. There was a crash on the
long left-hander where the bollards are at about 30 minutes, one guy going down
heavily but was up and walking OK after the medics car got to him.
feeling great overall, finding opportunity to move up through the pack and take
turns on the front, even bridging over/chasing a couple of guys down at about 40
minutes. After one hour I was still in the front main group (the pace had shed a
few and we were down to probably 25/30), riding well and tactically feeling
fairly aware of the other guys - I found a wheel I wanted with two laps to go
and decided to sit on it (the Genco rider from 3 weeks ago). The two fast guys
from last year were up there as well. This is good I thought, good racecraft
Hawthorn...stay aware, hold your position and wait.
Into the final tight
left-hander, I emerged on a big gear and stayed slightly to the right, expecting
the front riders to more or less take the inside line into the long left-hander.
They did and a gap opened in front of me on the right hand edge...I moved to
8/10th & bloody hell I thought, make the most of this, stay cool and keep
with the pace and go fairly long in the sprint following the two fast guys if I
could - I haven't got outright strength in a sprint but can hold a relatively
decent speed (I think) longer than some.
However, Mental Note #3 had
completely deserted me and immediately I realised my gap was a result of the
bollards...which my only move was to dive onto the bloody grass to a very large
shout of "F*CK IT", thinking that any hole in the grass was going to see me fly
over the bars. For a split second I actually thought I'd keep the speed up and
hop back onto the tarmac, but all speed had gone.
After the Velofait
cornering error two weeks ago, then this, I was sick as a pig - I had put myself
in a terrific position (forgetting the bollards of course) with a sense that I
was heading for top 10. I'm not entirely sure Antony Wallis actually gained an
entire lap in the end (never really noticed him again) but chapeau to him, he
deserved his win and the peloton give it everything.
Speed was 24.3mph
average, Heart Rate averaged 172 and peaked at 185 just as I hit the grass. The
strength & fitness now does appear to be in there, so more flat crits &
circuits are the focus for me after Paris-Roubaix this weekend.
be fab to have any other OP's joining the LVRC and getting into this, it took me
a year of being flung off the back but it all seems to have added up. With a
decent start time and bunch of guys that know how to race, it's great
Onto the Cyclopark for a Cat 4 Circuit Race on the 18th April.
I entered my first Cat 4 race this season having faired
pretty well over the last two Sundays with the LVRC & my confidence was
reasonably high - the event was at the South of England Showground in Ardingly.
Velofait appear to be some brand new club, apart from a twitter account and the
race appearing on riderHQ.com you wouldn't know they exist.
showground was being used for the very first time and, as far as I could tell,
this was Velofait's first race. They included an E/1/2/3/4 women's race at 10:30
with a Cat 2/3 at midday. The Cat 4 group was about 40 strong, off at 9:00 a.m
(for one hour + five laps) after a very friendly sign on and nice clear briefing
from two BC commissaires. The circuit consisted of 5 90 degree left handers with
one 90 degree right hander, a little gravel here and there but otherwise no
other risks (but you can imagine it has tractors & cows on it at times).
Marshalls were on corners and stacks of hay bales covering lamp-posts, fences
etc in corners. All very good, apart from no-one really knew where the toilets
were but we worked it out.
The wind was going to be a factor, not to say
the 90 degree corners - as taking the right line in & out was going to be
critical given the bunching and concertina effect that only Cat 4's manage to
create chaos in. I decided that one or two of the peloton would probably think
like me, so getting towards the front and sitting in seemed the right strategy -
having to deal with riders coming up your left & right at the same time
didn't seem too attractive, let alone trying to avoid chasing back on each
I managed to work my way fairly comfortably into a front position,
rotating with a handful of guys but never drifting back more than about 10th. I
did a fairly good share of the work on the front, even chasing a lone breakaway
down - a young chap from Evans Cycles that was feeling sprightly. My plan
developed around watching not only the guy from Evans, but two more - a Kingston
Phoenix rider and one in an 'Ale' kit (pronounced Allez). All four of us hung
around the front and seemed to be finding life agreeable - one or two from
Crawley Wheelers came up, a guy from Bangor University, but the wind overall was
neutralising any thoughts of a serious breakaway attempt.
The one hour
came, the inevitable upping of the pace and riders you hadn't noticed drifting
up and a larger-than-felt-comfortable group amassed at the head of the peloton.
My strategy was to maintain position, staying fairly aggressively toward the
front and get on the wheel of the Evans & Ale guys and not allow anyone into
a gap. With two laps to go I was still in a good position but a Crawley Wheeler
guy came up onto my outside shoulder into a tight left hander and I eased
slightly - suicide, this then saw me drift back way out of position. God was I
pissed off at this, managing to drag myself back into the top 5-10 with one lap
left - but it took a heart rate of 180 again to do so.
In the final lap
you basically need the right position & wheel, a little left in the tank,
but I couldn't find the Evans or Ale man's wheel and was at my limit. I tried to
stay in but was slipping - in the sprint I was 20 something and even more pissed
off; both these guys were 2nd & 3rd (not sure who won). An average hear rate
of 171 says it all, 180 on the last but one lap.
I chatted to the Ale
& Kingston Phoenix chap after, all discovering that we had the same thoughts
- we should have attempted a breakaway. If it was possible to be even MORE
pissed off knowing this, I was.
ANYWAY, I haven't performed or finished
in a Cat 4 like that before so I take a lot from it...no points unfortunately (I
did fancy myself for one or two) but determination more than anything...onwards
to more flat & technical crits or circuits.
As we are trying to encourage others and promote the club I thought I would
submit my race reports so far.
On 8th February I took part in the
Kingston Wheelers 14 mile TT on Course GS/292A in Ripley, Surrey. A bitterly
cold morning and I probably shouldn't have competed as I was still recovering
from a grade 1 groin strain following an off on the ice the previous week and a
late night with friends the evening before comprising curry and beer that just
wasn't the best prep. However, I took my road bike (Bianchi) and gave it a go.
Crikey did I struggle! Two laps of a fairly hilly circuit, I had nothing in the
legs and felt extremely fatigued and couldn't wait for it to be over. The result
doesn't merit a mention but it wasn't very good and best forgotten. Conditions
were not that great and probably a bit too early in the calendar for me to do
Following a TT bike fit at Cadence, Crystal Palace I took my new
Starley JKST2 TT bike to Richmond Park on 3rd March for a test ride. The wind
was blowing a gale and having never ridden a TT bike before I couldn't get to
grips with it. Unstable in the wind, I was struggling to reach the gear changers
on the tri bars that didn't help, the chain kept slipping off and the rear wheel
was misaligned which I didn't realise until after about 10 miles. It was like
riding with the brakes on! Dogged off I went home wondering what the hell I'd
done and how I could admit to making a huge mistake. However, I took the bike
into 'Le Bicycle' and Alex cut the tri bars down, fixed the mechanical issues
and returned it to me for another test run. I took it along the Kent Gateway and
it flew - I couldn't believe the difference.
On 7th March I took part in
the VTTA (Kent Group) 10 mile TT at Harrietsham course Q10/22 - a straight out
and back route from Harrietsham to Charing and return. 250ft of climbing and a
course that I rode last year in my first TT but on my road bike. A slight
problem prior to the off where my inner tube decided to push the front tyre off
5 minutes before my start time. I got lucky, let the tyre down, pushed the inner
tube back in and cadged a pump from a passing cyclist. It was windy but the bike
was brilliant. I managed to stay in the aero tuck position all the way and
eclipsed my last years time by 2 mins 20 seconds and put down a new PB first
time out of 25 mins 45 seconds beating my best time from last year by 19 seconds
on quite a tough course. On age standard I finished 13th out of 35 so I was
really pleased first time out this year on a new TT bike. Winner of the vets was
Andrew Meilak from Velorefined.com Aerosmiths in a time of 22.04.
March I took part in the Farnborough & Camberley CC 10 mile TT - course
H10/8 Bentley-by-pass in Hampshire. I wasn't expecting much as I'd been sick
with a stomach bug all week but on the day I felt alright and I managed a time
of 25 mins 14 seconds which gave me a new PB for the second week running beating
my last years time on this course by 1 minute 2 seconds. Might have got below 25
mins but for a strong headwind on the return leg. So it is really looking
promising for the later races. Next target is to get below 25 minutes for a 10
and hopefully below 24 before the end of the season.
I'm doing the the
Cycling Weekly Surrey Cyclone Sportive next weekend in the Surrey Hills and then
3rd April - Crawley Wheelers 41 mile TT
11th April -
West Kent RC 10 mile TT
25th April - East Sussex 10 mile TT
2nd May -
Sussex CA 10 mile TT
10th May - Charlotteville 50 mile TT
23rd May - 25th
May London to Bruges (via Calais) and the cobbled climbs of Oudenaarde
June - West London CA 25 mile TT
19th - 21st June The Peak District
Then more stuff - yet to be arranged! Oh! - also the Club Eastbourne
weekend and London to Paris for the grand finish of the Tour along the Champs
Interesting morning for the testing portlies at Robin Johnsons 'alternative'
course for the SCCU 25. Full report to follow, but congrats to Dave Warne for
taking his age group prize. I won't say which age group as he might hit me
again, but it's safe to say it's younger than Bob Loader who took the 80-85
A few weeks ago I started on the 4-stage track accreditation programme at Lee Valley Velodrome after trying a taster session (Christmas present from mother-in-law) and was hooked. Riding the (2012 Olympic) indoor track is a great experience (worth doing the first session just for that!) and the coaching is excellent and moves on swiftly so the 1 or 2 hour sessions fly by.
They hire quality Condor track bikes along with the session so all you need is your usual cycle gear but only Look Keo cleats can be used (otherwise just use the pedals with clips).
With the full accreditation you can then cycle at the other UK indoor velodromes in Derby, Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow, so by taking just the final assessment at each you will be able to enter their track events. (Herne Hill Velodrome is currently working out the possibility of a similar arrangement).
It takes a while to complete all the stages as the session times and days might not be convenient to many, but if you are interested all the details are at
Lee Valley Track Link
But here is what’s involved:
Stage 1 gets you used to a fixed wheel track bike (no brakes) and the basic skills required to safely ride the velodrome track.
For Stage 2 you are coached to:
Ride consistently within 1 metre of the wheel in front Effectively control speed to manage space between each other without 'kicking back' or overlapping wheels
- Display consistent and effective observation and communication at all times
- Change effectively from the front to the back of a line of riders in a paceline
- Ride confidently and safely in pairs above the blue line
Stage 3 sees you able to:
Ride consistently within 1/2 metre of the wheel in front ("on the wheel")
Change effectively from the front of a line of 16 riders on the black line, completing the entire change within 1 lap
- Change in pairs effectively from the front of a group of riders above the blue line, completing the entire change within 1 lap
- Effectively ride closely side by side in a ‘stack’ of five or six riders, changing from the bottom to the top at designated points
Stage 4 is the final accreditation taking 2 hours involving all the above. Once accredited, if you are a British Cycling member, you will receive the endorsement 'UK track accredited' on your membership and can then enter indoor velodrome track leagues or take part in Structured Quality Training sessions.
The garage is gloomy, draughty and cold. Cobwebs embrace the corners and the wind blows leaves and dirt and twigs beneath the garage door. My bike sits there, clipped to the turbo, taunting me, a damp towel slung over the front wheel , facing the dirty brick wall. Dried pools of sweat spatter the floor and salt patches collect around the handlebars; little dried up tide pools where all of life begins.
I get in from work and hurry to get changed; if I delay too long the moment and the motivation is gone. My head band, wrist band and heart monitor strap are left on the radiator to dry out and warm up after yesterday’s exertions. I grab them and leave the warm house.
My saddle is warm and moulds to my shape; my shoes clip easily into the pedals. I switch on the music and Bruce Springsteen fills the chill room - Dream, baby, dream. I switch on the ipad and find a video on You Tube - a Tour stage or Paris Roubaix - the picture drifts in and out as the wifi struggles to connect. I start to pedal.
I increase the cadence and move through the gears, staring down at the iphone screen. Heart rate starts to climb, breathing becomes shorter. I change gear as sweat starts to flow. 10 minutes, 15, 20, cadence at 110, speed moves over 30mph, the music getting fainter under the noise of the turbo. The brake hoods and handlebar are slippery with sweat, my glasses slide down my nose, salty droplets sting my eyes.
It’s done. I ease off, slow down, stop. Unclip from the pedals, leave the garage and head into the welcoming warmth of the house. I upload the work-out to Strava and wait for the kudos and disbelieving comments.
If there was a TT course you wanted to skip on a cold, wet, breezy morning, this
is probably it. 21 miles of sharp climbs and sketchy descents on roads that have
more than their share of gravel, holes and mud. But the Ports are made of stern
stuff and the 4 who had entered all presented themselves, Dave W, Steve A, Say,
and me. Plus our fellow traveller, Dave Churchill. Last year this event launched
the SEWTT's series of women's TT events. This year the series is waiting till
the warmer months to get going, but it was good to see a hardy contingent of
women riders has entered all the same.
Say got the pleasure of going off
number 13, and had no truck with superstition, no turning numbers upside down
nonsense. Just got on with it. Dave was riding on an 0 number on a course that
would normally showcase his talents to good effect. Once warmed up, I didn't
feel too bad but much of the success on this course is around giving it
everything on the climbs but also showing off large ones on the descents, and to
be honest discretion was the better part of valour for me. Had high hopes for
this after the ESHR last week, but that was another day, when spring was all
around us. Today was a throwback to darker months. I came home with a short
1.05. Dave W was top Port with shortish 00, and Steve (with a dodgy chest) did a
highly creditable 1.03.
Say on her Road bike plugged away for 1.22 and
had the pleasure of catching her minute man (who by his own admission tried to
jump on her wheel). Dave C put in a cracking ride given the conditions for a 59.
Portlie friend Katie Crowe from Dulwich P continued her strong start to the
campaign with a 1.04 and took second place overall for women. But the top guys
are the top guys. Steve Dennis won on scratch with a 53, and took the Vets
prize. Alice Lethbridge took the women's prize with an 00.
number of the clubs were short of numbers for the team prize, with their members
choosing the duvet rather than face the race of truth. So in a shoot out with
Kingston Wheelers, OPCC walked off with the team prize. Photos were taken, hands
shaken, none of has prepared a speech, but that's probably a good
Its done, its over. On the SCCU sporting next weekend!
This was my second race on consecutive Sundays, back at the lower circuit at Hog
Hill (which is otherwise known as the Redbridge Cycling Centre) in Ilford,
Essex. It was the first in a four series group of one hour + 5 lap crit-style
races, looping around a 1.1km flat & fairly wide purpose built road circuit.
The weather forecast on Saturday was shocking with heavy rain forecast,
but nothing was going to stop me - I quite like this event as it demands a good
constant pace with sprinting out of corners - unlike the Gravesend Cyclopark
that has lumps & sweeping descents that never seem to quite build to a
rhythm that I find here. Hog Hill suits me a little better, so rain was never
going to be a problem.
As I reported last week, before and after an LVRC
race appears as a quite relaxed affair - it's just the bit in the middle that is
fiercely contested by experienced riders who respect each other, but give no
quarter. Sign on was only £10, your licence receives a small round coloured
sticker for a reason I've never quite fathomed. There was no rain to speak of,
just a damp road that started to dry in the wind after a warm up that showed
legs weren't too bad.
I hadn't picked up on an alteration to the circuit
over the winter - there was a tight left hander just after the start line that
has now been replaced with a drag up to the finish line with a cut-through
created with a steeper downhill left hander - it adds probably another 0.3km to
the circuit, but nothing too challenging other than confidence as you sweep out
and back down onto the circuit as it tightens slightly at the apex.
think 40 riders or so signed on - including ex-GB rider Antony Wallis who rides
off into the distance and everyone lets get on with it. He did it again. I
missed it (I had a plan to get on his wheel and hang on for dear life), so the
race was only left for second place at best. The peleton maintained a decent
pace with a fair amount of caution in the new left hander - once the grip was
confidently established you could get power out of the corner earlier and built
it on the slight downhill & gain a little recovery as you sweep round a long
right hander before a tight left hand turn took you back to the start line into
I learned last year on this circuit that the better riders
are able to get out of the corners a fraction of a second earlier than I
realised - so I applied this methodology and stayed with the bunch for the
entire hour. I even had a little dig with a Genco rider but we couldn't
establish a gap and sat up, mentioning we'd try that again. He did anyway, I
wasn't so sure. This momentary lapse in concentration saw us both drift back
through the bunch and then having to fight to stay on - but we did and found
ourselves recovered and back in the top 5 or so riders. There was the odd
attack, but I supported the shut down in a similar fashion to mine & I
decided to try and stay aware & alert for those momentary gaps in the wind
that can catch you recovering just at the wrong time.
After the hour we
saw six guys drift ahead, followed by two lone guys, I thought about chasing but
sat in thinking I should save myself for the last couple of mental laps and that
the attack would ultimately fade. The six-followed-by-two managed to keep an
approximate 30/40 yard gap and our decent effort to chase never quite got there
(closed > expanded > closed > expanded). The last lap saw two riders
from the Eagle Road Club get on the front of my group and I sat fourth wheel,
thinking I just needed to wait wait wait. First Eagle man peeled off, obviously
trying to lead out his fellow team mate. I was third wheel, expecting the group
to come firing past. The remaining Eagle man started to fade, drifted right and
I found myself second wheel - still no bunch firing past. The moment of death or
glory came so I went left and put over a bike length into my combatant.
crossed the line 10th, not quite sure that I'd just finished ahead of a
reasonable bunch and sprinted for it. I was unbelievable happy, feeling I should
go and ask everybody if they just saw me come 10th. 10th I tell you. 10th.
Actually a couple of guys did come up and say well done, for the general
'having a dig' and beating them in the group sprint.
Damn that was good,
my best ever finish actually and against guys that I struggled to sit with all
last year. It counts for nothing, no BC points, but a massive confidence boost
and hopefully the strength I've been looking for across the last 18 months might
just now be going in.
Onto a BC Cat 4 Race in Sussex next Sunday, a new
country estate circuit put on by a new club called Velofait. It's on riderHQ.com
if anyone wants to come and have a crack with me, 9:00 a.m start.
It was colder than Jeremy Clarkson's cold meat platter and there was an icy wind
but that didn't stop 14 Old Ports gathering at Corks this morning. Bash, Lucky,
Oz, Clive, Tom, Jo, Michael F, Julian, Vino, new member Ted on his first ride,
Russ (not seen for awhile) Alan, Iain and Anthony (who was late). Heading up
Jackass we were passed by a rider being paced behind a motorbike - the curse of
Strava segments. Through Downe and out again, we followed the (new) usual route
through Halstead and down Pol Hill, along the Filston rollers, through Shoreham,
up Chelsfield Lane and re-grouped at High Elms cafe. It was busy inside so we
sat outside and ate athlete's food and shivered. Soon it was time to go so it
was up High Elms Road and back through Downe and home in time to watch Richie
Porte fall off and Tony Gallopin gallop to a fine wet win on the Promenade des
Anglais in Paris-Nice. The Saturday group is friendly and social and
accommodates all levels of abilities - a fine introduction to the club for
anyone thinking of joining us. See us next Saturday at 10.30 at the base of
Corkscrew Hill in West Wickham.
The biggest turnout of the year so far saw 15 (count 'em) Old Ports join this the Saturday club ride (7th Mar) - Bash, Julian, Vino, Lucky, Michael F, Michael H, Alan, Clive,
Tom, Jo, George, Sonny, Elliott, new man James and the return of Oz. We followed
the usual Saturday route through Downe towards the Shampan. An altercation with
a driver almost spoiled the mood (but didn't) and a puncture for Tom broke up
the group a bit - but we soon got back together. Down Pol Hill and a race along
the Filston rollers produced some throughing and offing led by Julian who was
soon caught by Bash and the youth section. We all met up at Lullingstone to
commandeer a table for the usual bacon butties. Back up Bodens, there was some
confusion at the High Elms,North End road turn-off but everyone found their way
eventually. Beautiful warm spring weather, the usual fabulous Kent countryside
and a friendly group supporting each other showed off the best of the Old Ports. - all welcome. Julian
I entered my first race of the season on Saturday, back at
the ubiquitous Cyclopark that holds many awful memories for me last year - wind,
rain, crashes, the nemesis first tight right-hander up over the ridge into a
force 9 gale etc etc. One hour plus 5 laps of deep joy that involves technical
corners, lumpy little rises and what seems like an ever-present wind.
event was hosted by the very professional San Fairy Ann CC, who also had a E/1/2
Race, Womens 3/4 race, Mens 3rds & 4ths all over the course of the same day.
If you are going to put a series of road races in the calendar, holding them all
in the same place on the same day makes utter sense. It was a warm day (16
degrees) and you always find with an LVRC race a chatty bunch of guys, nothing
(appearing anyway) to be taken too seriously at the start. It doesn't appear to
be taken too seriously at the end either - it's just the middle bit that
obviously matters as the racing is strong and hotly contested across a very
experienced bunch of racers.
My legs the day before were awful - Mrs H
even massaged my legs Friday night, first time ever(!) with me applying muscle
pain relief gel overnight to try and get them into some sort of condition for
the morning. Lots of carb loading & fuilds intake, with fairly large
quantities of caffeine in the morning to provide a little fortitude for the
Warm up felt OK, the wind coming straight from the south - on
the left side on the way down, right side on the way up. This was clearly going
to impact the day, beyond creating a split in the peloton it can be hard to
close even small gaps if you don't get out of corners well. I was in the AB
group (40-49 age group) with the CD group one minute behind and then the EFHG
group one minute behind that. The off was 12:00 and three guys shot off at a
rate of knots and immediately the peloton left them to it - no-one willing to
either chase or simply drive the bunch to limit the gap. To be honest I never
saw these three guys again, apart from about 50 minutes later when 2 of them
rolled past grinding out a big tempo & gear impervious to the
At about 20 minutes a split formed in the bunch on the upward leg
back to the start (the key moment when the wind behind is an opportunity) and I
missed it - I was about 6 riders back and drove hard to try and close it (heart
rate data shows it peaked at about that time) but the others just sat in and I
couldn't gain any support to do anything about it, so after a few more laps of
them sitting out there (only about 75/100 yards away), the fatigue was setting
in. Amazingly, I only got caught by the CD riders at 46 minutes (these guys
usually catch the AB's) and that made be feel pretty good. I couldn't sit in
with the CD's too long and worked with a Dulwich Paragon guy & someone in a
kit I'd never seen before to get to the finish.
Average Heart Rate was
171, average speed was 21.3 mph and my legs held up. No idea where I came, but I
felt good and think I am in a better position than this time in 2014 - the
winter miles have paid off and I know I will improve on the one hour races
across the first half of 2015, with longer ones to come in the second
Onto Hog Hill on Sunday 15th March, for one hour + 5 laps of flat
First set of pix now on Facebook here
Our Reliability Trial GPS maps can be downloaded from the links below in either TCX or GPX format (we would suggest TCX)
See the following page for more details OPCC RT Web page
Hill climb results:
2nd Peter Gray
3rd Kevin Wolff
4th Dave Churchill
6th Nigel Waterfall
7th Ian Bashford
8th John Wynne
10th Dave Osborn
Combined up/downhill results:
Worked out on
points awarded for both events added together.
2nd Kevin Wolff...................16
3rd Peter Gray....................15 pts
4th Dave Churchill................9 pts
Nigel Waterfall...............8 pts
7th Mike Fowler...................7
8th Andy Green................... 6 pts
There we have it ladies
and gentleman, a fine display of cycling athleticism by all on a fine and sunny
sunday...........WELL DONE ALL.