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A ride from Hell!!!

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I Just Don’T Know What To Do With Myself!

Read the title a la Dusty Springfield. For the youngsters,stick it in you tube to be enlightened!!! Anyway, 2013, I am a bit aimless from a cycling point of view. The last two years I did the Etape so my cycling was mapped out with that in mind and plenty of rides/sportives lined up. This year I have nothing, owing to a holiday most of my spare cash has to be put in the pot for that. So that puts the mokka’s on the more interesting rides further afield. I also find it hard to part with cash for the ones on my doorstep as I can do the routes anytime! I have signed up for the Isle of Wight Randonee http://www.cycleisland.co.uk/ and this http://www.spinupinabrewery.com/ as it looks a bit different from stuff I have done. Otherwise nothing. It is my Daughters last year at Uni in Bristol so am thinking of riding there again. Undecided at the moment. Owing to the weather and overtime my Rowlands Castle attendances have been zero this year. I justify the bad weather excuse as I commute in all weathers, so the rides for pleasure need to be dry (No rain). The one positive thing from the riding point of view is that my commute is about to get longer. I currently work in Cosham, so to there from Cowplain daily. The office is being moved to just off Guildhall Square the last week in February. So, a few more miles daily and in the summer easy to extend. Warmed up before whichever route up Portsdown I decide to take. So any ideas for free rides gratefully received!

Ashley_Webb

Ashley_Webb

 

Another Ride In The Clouds!

This time in France. Apology’s for the length, but I felt it needed to be!! I chose this because of the descent from Col D’Aubisque to Col de Soulor being really spectacular. In my opinion one of those climbs that you have to do, so was really looking forward to it! Day started at 0500hrs, out of bed, muesli and natural yoghurt for scoff a cuppa and got dressed, ticked off everything on my ride list, then off to the start. The pens were 3 km away so as we got nearer more and more riders joined the route it was a bit surreal and reminded me of that Norman Wisdom film On The Beat, where he was being chased by the coppers blowing their whistles and more and more of them joined the chase at every turn! Quick leak at the pissoirs, cup of coffee and into the pen. Off we went, downhill at first then once out of town it was undulating but with the ups getting longer. I found this bit of the ride quite difficult really, I don’t know why, eventually reaching the base of Col D’Aubisque, and found the lower slopes easy in my bottom gear, and started to feel a bit better, got chatting to a Scouser which relaxed me. About a 3rd of the way up it started to rain, light at first but gradually getting worst. The cloud closed in and it became a bit of a pea-souper! No more spectacular views for me!! Plodded up without too much difficulty 4.5 to 6 mph depending on gradient. Once at the summit the rain came down harder and visibility was about 75 yards, maybe less in places. So down I went on the descent I had dreamt about, in atrocious weather! I took it easy at first, testing out the brakes and being a little bit hesitant, once I got my eye in I sped up and started overtaking people but never looked at my speedo, that would have been lethal. The spectacular views from TDF coverage were not visible but the precipice at the side was, very disappointing. Got to the top of the Col De Soulor. It started to get very cold, my jaw, legs and arms started trembling and I had to concentrate hard on my grip and braking. The rain seemed to get harder every time I got close to someone, it took a while for me to realize it was spray from the chap in front, was drenched in about 2 minutes, why didn’t I leave my mudguards on!! Descent seemed to go on and on, I was starting to get cramp, this did not bode well. What was supposed to be a pleasure was turning into a nightmare! But the temperature change was very noticeable towards the bottom. As the hill levelled out approaching a village, Aucin I think, I saw a speed bump, I was still going along at a fair old lick, got out of my saddle to absorb the bump and the next thing I knew I was looking up at a rotating sky thinking “is his the end of my Etape” A friend of mine stopped and a few French people came over to help me out. Once the stars stopped, I told my friend to go on. I hung about speaking pigeon French to one of the locals whilst I recovered. Luckily only my bike chain came off and one brake hood pushed in, I appeared to be uninjured, so jumped on and rode off, it wasn’t until the end that I found out that the back of my helmet had cracked vertically across all the mouldings. No helmet = fractured skull, so a very lucky boy!! At the next food stop loads of riders were there in survival blankets having a scoff and a tremble! I had to sit down and massage my legs, I was not hopeful at this stage of finishing, I expected the cramp to get worst, especially at I had 3 more big climbs to get up. Cramps caused a bit of aggro for me last year. Onwards to the Tormalet, which was a way off, began the climb ok, no rain, overcast but clear and dry. It did start to get difficult, one of the villages had a steep “high street” to get over, 4 half-cut Brits were there cheering people on! Eventually got the mid climb feed station, the normal melee’ of people feeding drinking and relieving themselves. It was here that I noticed the first ominous signs. Two bends up the clouds had closed in and broom wagon coaches were queued up! Some people had already given up for whatever reason. I thought best I get a move on. So I did, but not very fast! I carried on up adding miles to my journey as I always used to outside of the hairpins and swopped sides of the road in between them. Nearing the summit the road painting started which is quite nice to see, it was a pea souper like the Aubisque, so there was nothing else to look at! People were still up there in the camper vans, which was good to see, plenty of Allez-Allez’s and Courage! being shouted. I got to the summit, got my camera/phone out for the photo, when the timing car turned up, shit! I thought must dash! Down I when into the mist, descent as wet as the Aubisque, was soaked through again in no time. Another difficult descent owing to the conditions, made worst by a herd of sheep in the road, avoided them all! One by about 4 inches, then the Gendarmes were waving arms at La Mongie, the road here was covered in diluted cow/goat manure, lovely. I was overtaking people again, brakes couldn’t overheat in this much water I thought! The next feed station was less busy, grabbed a banana and topped up drinks, it was here that I noticed my nuun tube was cracked and the tabs were powder, they had taken some of the impact of my fall! Left pronto, broom wagon still in my thoughts, and a constant from now on. An Irish chap in my hotel was swept up here, he only had a short sleeved jersey, so was in a pretty miserable state and I don’t blame him for giving up. That was the 2 big ones out of the way! Col D’Aspin next! It didn’t seem that far away, it started dry but light rain came along about 2km up. I could still turn my pedals but it was becoming even more of a grind, I came across the first walkers here, so could use them as targets, still, it took a while to draw level! I can’t see how any of them could have avoided the broom wagon. 200m from the top the timing car went past me, this was dis-heartening I can tell you, but it had no time displayed, I got to the top , no timing beep, the chap was packing the gear up, so no photo’s here, heard the barriers being drawn across behind me. Straight over and down, descent dried out about halfway down, was still cold though, started overtaking again. A really winding descent this one, I can go downhill fast! Just not up. Another feed station at the bottom, Village of Arreau, topped up drinks again and laid into the Tuc biscuits for some salt, they were lovely. But couldn’t hang around with the broom wagon so close, other riders were shouting at their mates to get a move on. I needed no encouragement. Just outside the village a road sign said 18km to the Peyresourde, I thought that I had no chance of getting there before the broom wagon, this bit was hard in my mind it was mainly up as well! I overtook some chaps on folding bikes! I was only just going faster than them!! I got chatting to an American on this bit of the route, he seemed to know the cut off times and reckoned we’d be ok. I couldn’t let it relax me though, eventually I got to the bottom of the Peyresoude, was chuffed to have got there, perhaps I would make it, overtook a much younger chap than me, so that boosted my morale, upwards and onwards, I really appreciated the encouragement of the crowed on this climb, it was a crap day to be outside and there were loads of them even on the Aubisque and Tormalet. If I had a choice I wouldn’t have been, fair weather cyclist that I am. But the broom wagon was still a nagging thought so I keep going as fast as my very tired legs would take me! About 3km from the top I started to believe I’d get to the top ok, so was feeling happier, the last 2-2.5 km to the summit was visible all the way, so was another grind. I went over the top with another English chap who I caught up with, we were both really happy as we thought we would be swept up. It didn’t bring a lump to my throat then, but it does now. I gave it whompo, as much I my tired body would let me, down this descent 13km a nice windy one, still chilly though, passed a chap who had punctured, felt really sorry for him, I think if I had punctured anywhere, except prior to the Aubisque I would have given up. At the bottom of the descent was a sharp right into town 1km to go, I should have been over the moon but was just too knackered. The finishing straight was buzzing, loads of people cheering, all the cafes heaving, and I was in no fit state to enjoy it. A real pity. Which has changed my attitude to these events, But that’s another story! Over the finish line, got my medal, a much better one than last years! But then I had another 2km to ride back to the car!!! I definitely could have done without that! So hopefully that was of interest to you all. I would like to recommend it to you but I’m not so sure.

Ashley_Webb

Ashley_Webb

 

A Ride In The Clouds.

A workmate of mine who is doing the Etape with me this year, found this ride from an article on Bike Radar I think. It is called the Leith Hill Octopus. Info can be found here, leithhilloctopus.org/. I thought that it sounded interesting so we arranged to do it. Unfortunately on the 11/06/12. As I am sure you are all aware the weather forecast was for rain. Although not when we scheduled it! However we decided that it could rain in France so went ahead and travelled to Dorking which is the start point. As a precaution themudguards went back on. The forecast was not wrong, it rained all the way there and for most of the day. The first ascent was a little difficult as you go uphill straight out of the high street and are not warmed up, this goes all the way to the top with a few short ups and downs. Just below the summit three roads join up and this is the part of the course that you criss-cross all day. As you can imagine the roads were very wet, the lanes used were often sunken with 20 foot high sides and with the trees in full leaf it was quite dark. With my sunglasses on it did become difficult the tell the potholes from the puddles. Water was cascading down all the roads, and at some points the whole width of the road/lane was flooded. There was loads of crap each side of the small rivers and at any place that there was run-off from the hills. I was worried every time I rode over the crap and any time I heard something ping from the tyres, that I would get a puncture, thankfully I didn't get one, a minor miracle I think. It would not have been nice trying to fix one. I took to riding up-stream, as it were, as there was less crap in the water. Up and down we went, the A29 was probably the lowest point and from there you could see that the top was in the clouds, it was my first time riding in clouds! I knew of Leith Hill from the 100 climbs book, so was expecting a hard slog, the route ignored that ascent, went down it twice and left it until the end. There are some very posh houses around there, and some quaint villages, we were passed by a fair few Chelsea tractors on the lanes and it was surprising how many times we had to deal with cars. I only had one near death experience! It was on the worst lane, which was only used once. The surface was atrocious, bad if dry! It was also a real single track road only just a cars width wide. On a downhill section in the dark, trying to avoid the potholes and crap on the road, a car came up the opposite way, it stopped and left me a slot just wide enough to squeeze through between it and the bank at the side. Well that gave me the colli-wobbles! Breaking, downhill, blurred vision and trying to steer and stay upright was a challenge, but I survived to tell the tale! It only took about 20 minutes for us to get soaked, but it did not get cold except on the longer descents, but owing to the conditions I didn't let go very often, even so 38mph was my max for the day. My friends GPS did get confused a few times, the approach to the junction at the top from 2 directions is tree covered, and we ended up going 100 yards downhill the wrong way a few times. So be prepared if you have a go! The "proper" climb of the hill came 2nd from last and I must admit I was surprised when I got to the top as I found it easier than the authors description, so much so that I was sure we had missed it!! But we hadn't. Total distance on my computer was 71 miles, my mates GPS was 69 and the route plan says 58, so even though we did go over 8 times we appear to have gone wrong somewhere!! Surprisingly, even with the weather and being soaked through for the day it was a really enjoyable ride and in the dry it would be great. So I thoroughly recommend it to you all.

Ashley_Webb

Ashley_Webb

 

Another Long-Un!

I went for another ride on Monday around East Hampshire and West Sussex as part of my Etape prep. I rode with my work colleague who is going to France as well. The Hills we had in mind were Hinton Manor Lane, Harvesting Lane, South Lane, Compton Down, Uppark, Harting, A283 to Haslemere, Blackdown Hill, Easebourne, Houghton, Duncton, Long Harting and Ditcham Park. Harvesting Lane is definitely easier as a first climb!! We were delayed by some escaped cows and shouting/swearing farmers! It stayed cloudy for the morning so was comfortable temperature. We made our way towards Midhurst after a dodgy descent of small Harting, took one bend too fast and luckily just kept clear of the opposite bank. Phew! Just before Midhurst we turned off towards a village called Woolbeeding, very quaint/old buildings. Unfortunately from here onwards in Sussex virtually every lane had been resurfaced with those chippings. The road to Haslemere was two fairly long climbs not to steep, except a bit leaving the village of Fernhurst, which was very deceptive, it got very hard about halfway up but was hardly noticable from the road you just felt it through the pedals!! Both descents were very nice, long sweeping bends. My only incident with a motorist was on the descent from Fernhurst, A blue van pulled out on me, it did leave a gap and owing to my speed, we were parallel for a while. I was a bit annoyed by this, He only would have had to wait 10 seconds and I would have been past him. I wasn't overtaken by another vehicle for the next quater of a mile so He wouldn't have been delayed. Why do motorists prefer to risk an accident rather than wait a few seconds? A chap pulled out in front of me yesterday coming out of QA hospital, this time he was only two yards in front of me, drivers window open, so I felt compelled this time to shout at him, the word rhymes with Hanker! At Haslemere we must have gone up Blackdown Hill the easy way as the descent was long and in places steep, this took us along gentle rolling countryside to Easebourne from the Lickfold side. Struggled up that Hill, front wheel lifting a few times which had me thinking I might come off!! We then made our way across country towards Storrington in order to go up Houghton, in this we were thwarted, the road was being resurfaced and was closed. To compensate we went back to the A29 and went up Bury Hill which goes to the same roundabout as Houghton would have. That Hill was not easy! And the traffic went by at high speed which was a bit disconcerting. Went round the roundabout at the top and descended the same hill, very fast, 9% sign at the top, even a sign for 20% part way down, didn't think it was coming up though. Left turn towards Bignor Roman villa and Sutton Village to the bottom of Duncton Hill. We hadn't noticed the wind all day, but at the top of Duncton it hit us full in the face and was there for the rest of the way home! Then through East Dean, Singleton and from West Dean via back lanes and popped out on the Chilgrove road. Then up Long Harting and down Harting, a great high speed descent, pity about the T-junction at the bottom!! Through South Harting and over Ditcham Park, during pick up time so I think we may have put some Chelsea tractors noses out of joint delaying them! Then onto finish at Rowlands, my mate lives in Pompey so we went our separate ways. The wind in Hampshire does behave in mysterious ways! It was in my face going up the hill from the green to the Harvester, So I thought in would be behind me going through Havant Thicket, but no! In my face again all the way back to Cowplain!! So another long day in the saddle, 110miles rolling time 7.54hrs, average 14mph. I am still the tortoise though plodding along, although I was in my big chainring for more of the ride, whether this is through me improving or that our route wasn't hilly enough I don't know, me improving I hope!! Anyway I was knackered on my return as usual!

Ashley_Webb

Ashley_Webb

 

Top Left Hand Corner Of Wales!

Now there's a title for the older ones in the club!! What TV programme is it from? Anyway onto the blog! Last weekend as part on my Etape training I spent 2 days cycling in Snowdonia. It was arranged with this mob http://etape.org.uk/ . Stayed in the YHA at Swallow Falls near Betws Y Coed.The rides are led by some local chaps who know the area like the back of their hand. Day 1 started in Y Bala with a very cold wind blowing across the valley, but at least the parking ticket machines were broken! We headed out towards Dolgellau and left there up a climb to Caer Idris, which was ok, probably 7%. We then went down a lovely descent with hidden hairpins etc, technical is the term I believe. Unfortunately one chaps wheel was knackered by it! The descent took us down to sea level and we followed the coast South for a fair distance then turned inland for another couple of reasonable climbs to get to a village called Corris for the lunchtime Cafe stop. I was alway dropping off the back as I am a plodder! So missed the cafe and carried on down the hill, I eventually realized and had to ride back up to the cafe, an extra climb I could have done without. After lunch the climbs were a lot more challenging, 17% and 20% with lumpy routes between them, all very challenging!! I was always arriving last at the tops of the hills and as a consequence got the least amount of rest!! I was getting rather knackered, which was unfortunate as the last hill of the day was Bwlch Y Groes, about 1.7 miles average 25%. It is page 155 in the 100 climbs book. It was murder! I only got a 3rd of the way up and had to walk the rest, which was hard enough. a bit disappointed with myself, but I was very tired!!! It turned out that only the guides got up it, everyone else put their feet down at some point and walked, I just walked the furthest!!! My friend came off zig-zagging, and he had to walk to a flatter bit as he could not get the bike rolling where is came off. That Hill was murder, do have a go sometime!!! The up side was the descent down to Bala lake, it was grand! Lumpy ride along the lake and return to the car park. Ride 81.5 miles, 6.3 hours max speed 39'9 avg 12.5 mph. A very hard day for me and early to bed!!! Day 2. A later start, a shorter ride, down to Betws and along the Conwy valley, 1st climb up to a village called Nebo as I was still knackered from the previous day so plodded up that, next was up over the moors back inland, which was a bit desolate, and arrived at the cafe which was in the middle of nowhere, but served up excellent food. The afternoon we rode to Festiniog the descent out of the village was great, 14% for 3/4's of a mile. Then cross country to Beddegelirt and from there was a long climb of about 5% up towards the top end on Llanberis pass. We carried onto Capel Curig and back to the hostel. I found this ride hard as well. But survived!! 60 mles, 5 hours, 39'9 max again, 11.8 avg. The road surfaces in North Wales were excellent, puts Hampshire to shame. I have to say that it was a wake up call for me, although the gradients won't be as severe in France, I reckon I will have to get out more!!!! That's all folks!!!

Ashley_Webb

Ashley_Webb

 

Le Tour 1994 Act 2!

I was going the write this yesterday but was too knackered! Yesterday, as part of my Etape preparation a chum and I went for a ride following the route taken by the Tour from Portsmouth in 1994, an undulating route, but I daresay a flat one as far as the pro's are concerned. We need to get 100 miles in our legs for the Pyrenees. The route was Pompey - Winchester - Andover - Basingtoke - Alton - Petersfield - Havant -Pompey. It is a nice route but with a couple of bits that you have to chose a different route owing to one-way systems that the Tour would have ignored. It went into Winchester via the Spitfire Link and the A34/M3 roundabout, and we would have had to use the Basingstoke by pass, but walked through the shopping centre instead. The road out of Basingstoke (A339) was a bit hairy initially with fast cars and HGV's. We started at 0750hrs, from South Parade Pier, it was freezing, I was in light winter clothing and still cold, going down Portsdown Hill was not a pleasure. In fact, even though it did get sunny later in the day, it was still chilly on any long descents. My chum chose the wear shorts and fingerless mitts, he did not look happy, fingers and wrists red raw until it warmed up!! The route took us along new roads for me, working its way via Wickham to the A272. Out of Winchester the road was straight as an arrow to the outskirts of Wherwell, which must be in the running for the most thatched cottages in a village award. A short 8% out of the village which didn't seem too steep, once through Andover I started to struggle on the ups, losing all momentum, which was the pattern for me for the rest of the ride. There was another thatched building in a village called Freefolk, and it must be the longest one in the world, yes the world! Have a look on google maps! My friends GPS did take us off route a couple of times, we think it may have been where he clicked the map setting the route up. But it was never too far. Another dodgy bit was from the outskirts of Alton, it took us up onto the A31 in order to get to the A32, a dual carriageway worth avoiding. It was straight down the 31 to the road leading to Petersfield via Stoner Hill. I got a puncture on the first hill! and in retrospect it was a good thing, My legs recovered and it was the first time in the day when the Sun made me feel overdressed! Onwards and upwards! and I went down Stoner Hill for the first time, very nice. A pleasant stop in Petersfield square for coffee, I needed the boost!! Out of Petersfield and onto South Harting! It went up the Uppark bit, which I reached at 108miles, I will get to the bottom of the Peyresourde at a similar distance so mustn't grumble! Got up ok then went onto the bit at West Marden which I got up as well. We parted the ways at Rowlands Castle and by the time I got home it was 120 miles on the clock. So a good day out but hard work, I can probably get the GPX file if anyone wants it, just let me know. That was the reason I wasn't on the Saturday ride, I did hear a few passing my window whilst still horizontal this morning!!

Ashley_Webb

Ashley_Webb

 

Cheshire Cat

Well, I had a trip up North at the weekend to have a go at the Cheshire Cat sportive. I entered the 76 mile one as it is a bit early for me to do a 100! I completed it in 5.48, with 2 stops, but forgot to put my computer on and haven't done the maths to work out my average! As a consequence I didn't have a clue where I was on the course (roughly)! Until I asked a photographer what hill I was on, I was surprised to find myself on the last one!! The course was 2 thirds flat with the central 3rd being the hilly bit, starting at Mow Cop. This was fairly tough, dropped into my 30/28 very early! Even in that low a gear I was pulling hard enough for my front wheel to leave the road and my cleats to unclip! but I got up without falling off. What my 100 climbs book doesn't say is that to get out of the village there is another very steep bit only slightly less gradient thatn Mow Cop. The rest of the hills, Gun Hill, Blacky Bank and Wincle Hill, Nothing really any worst than down these parts, but definitely longer! There was one small steep section that was just like an Alpine hairpin but probably about 15% with no run up. Much to my dismay I got a hint of cramp after all the climbs, but not the full monty! I have to assume that I wasn't drinking enough. But I haven't had cramp riding in the UK for years. I am still a bit stiff, it was the furthest I have ridden this year. I met Peter Haycock before the start, had a nice chat, I hope it was him,anyway, I remembered the first name only!! Guy he still wants his gilet!! So a worthwhile Sportive to have a go at and tick off a few climbs! First of many log rides before the Etape in July!!

Ashley_Webb

Ashley_Webb

 

New Forest Rattler Report

I took part in the New Forest Rattler last weekend with a colleague from work, and got around ok!! However, on the Saturday evening before, I was out socializing, not drinking I hasten to add, I was designated driver, unfortunately I was not in bed until 20 past 12, and I was up at 0530! So tired before the start! Check in was all ok, but I was given the short route map even though my pack came out of the long route box. A long queue when I got back so I didn't bother to change it, thinking that the route would be well signed. Got bike out of the car and went off the the start, whilst waiting I met two other i-team chaps whose names I can't remember, (not too good with names). Off we went, I had a bit of a struggle for the first 10 miles or so. My mate disappeared and I trundlled on at my own speed, At one point in some woods I was doing 35mph! went to overtake someone and ended up on the gravel at the roadside! bobbled along that wondering whether I was going to come off or not, when the tarmac met the gravel surface, back on the road I went!! Phew!! I hadn't taken a rain cape so guess what it rained, only for about 30 minutes so enough to soak. Then arrived at the first food stop. For some reason I perked up after that and went along at a fair old lick for me., I was still being overtaken though. At Bransgore I was following another chap who turned left, so did I, was riding for a bit and not being overtaken, thought I must be doing ok!! then arrived at the next junction, no sign!! I had become a sheep and taken a diversion!! about a mile each way I thought so not too far. Back up the road to find the correct route. The sign was about 30metres up the route at a crossroads so easily missed, but it seemed only me a 2 others had missed it!! After that detour I did ride quite well I even started to overtake people, I even led a group of about 10 at one point, was told by someone who wanted offered to share the load. However I was at a comfortable pace so carried on and left most of them. The route was undulating, no real hills, A section was over the top of the heathland where the wind was an inconvenience along with the horses!! I overtook someone and was then hooted by a chap in a Jag shaking his fist, He was livid, even indicating to pull over for a scrap, but the cars behind stopped him. I was a bit bemused as to why he had the hump, the road was 2 lanes wide at the time. Anyway onwards and upwards, in much the same vein, I was wondering when my thighs were going to pack up!! Then along came a 25% ramp, not long but hard work, didn't quite get into bottom gear though, but did ride up it. the 6 others in front were all walking. So was quite pleased with myself!!. The finish was only about a mile an a half later. Check my time 5hr 35mins. Checked my computer which showed 89 miles and 5hrs 30mins. So time tallied but the route was supposed to be 79 miles. So was a bit confused for a bit. I checked a map when I got home and the detour I took, was 4 miles each way and not the one mile I thought!! So overall, for me it was a good time, out of the categories though I don't think I will do it again though, the queue took much too long to get the free hotdog!!!!

Ashley_Webb

Ashley_Webb

 

Etape 2011 Acte1 Part Two. Planes , Trains And Automobiles!

After what I thought was a well deserved coke in one of the cafe's in Alpe D'Huez, we loaded the bikes up, popped into a shop to get me an Alpe D'Huez jersey, and started back to the start. We had to go back over the same route taken on the ride, The climbs looked steeper going down then when I came up them! Got stuck on Galibier by a herd of sheep, had to wait a while until the dogs came along and rounded them up! Otherwise an uneventful journey. Rather knackered but went for some scoff then retired, slept well! Now the bad news, the car wouldn't start the next morning:(, My friend had insurance (thank god!). We were carted off to a Renault garage, and spent the whole day sitting on our back sides and twiddling our thumbs. It looked like a fuel pipe was knackered. But the French would not touch it without a landrover part. Nearest dealer 100km away, they did not have the part, and would not get it until Monday, it was Tuesday! Eventually it was arranged for us to get accomodation back in the start village. Cab fare 50euros! Paid by insurance though. Don't get a cab in France. The accomodation was locked up! Call to insurance and another hotel arranged about 10km away. Another cab ride 57euros. We got the last room, it was too late for cooked food, only bread and cheese on offer! The room had a double bed! So bolster down the middle to get a degree of separation,(Reims still fresh in my mind!!) But a good nights kip. Insurance phoned in the morning and we were to be flown home from Turin. But the bikes had to be left in the car:(. We waited outside the hotel until 1400 for the taxi. Hotel shut at 12! Whilst waiting 2 chaps cycled up looking for somewhere to eat, Everything was shut. Chatted with them for a bit, they had ridden from Cherbourg and had to get over the Col De La Madelaine that day for their next stop. Weather was atrocious. Chucking it down. Taxi arrived, 219 euro taxi fare to Turin went through the Frejus tunnel, 14km long! No problems with the flight, great to get back to the UK, after flapping a bit when car conked out. Luckily I have pidgeon French so could muddle through. We got home at the same time we would have had the car worked. A pity, we were going to stop at the Roubaix velodrome for a spin on the way back. I suppose the worst part is that my brand new bike is still in France. Hopefully I will see it again one day.

Ashley_Webb

Ashley_Webb

 

Etape 2011 Acte1 Part One.

Well Chaps, I have returned from the successful completion of Act1 of this years Etape. Modane to Alpe D'Heuz. Here is the spiel! I was with one other in the car and meeting another chap at first stop. Ferry crossing and drive down to first stop at Reims (pronounced Ras) was uneventful. Had a very convivial evening sampling French cafe culture, probably had one beer too many. Had a twin room, during the night I had one arm outside the covers when all of a sudden I felt another arm caressing it! Then a gruff voice saying "that's not my wifes arm is it"! No I said, it was promptly removed! Arrived at the ski station Valfrejus via an Alpe D'Heuz type road but only 8 km and 13 bends. Compact and bijou the room was. Luckily registration was up there and hassle free. Got my freebies and bib no. 5625. You'll remember that I had to get a new bike, I had only ridden 15 miles on it prior to going to France. So took it down to the Mavic technicians as the chain was rubbing. Once that was sorted went for a ride down the road to the 3rd hairpin and back twice 12 miles all told. All felt ok. Day of the ride, up at the crack of dawn for the 8k ride down to Modane and the wait in the start pens. I don't know what the residents must have thought looking out of their windows at thousands of people peeing on every available piece of greenery. Frances largest urinal for a couple of hours!! Then off the 17k ride to the foot of the Telegraphe, really exhilarating all down hill and 25-30mph effortlessly. Left turn in a town and straight uphill, and straight into bottom gear! got up it ok, nice drop down into Valloire, had to use the public lavs, then onwards to the the Galibier. It is a really long drag out of the town until the Galbier starts to ramp up. Plodded up at 4-5 mph! about halfway up went to get out of the saddle and felt cramp starting, sat down again and was ok, having read Paul Webbs blog, I decided to have a rest at 3k from the top as well. Leg massage to prevent cramp! Carried on plodding up and reached the top ok. Photo opportunity, see my album. Then the descent, I had a big grin on my face all the way down really brilliant ride down, giving it whompo down to La Grave. Slight dodgy bit at the Monument a water stop where riders were slowing down and partly blocking the road. I hit the tunnels the first one we were slowed down owing to an accident, bad one, chap laid out in neck brace, front tyre off. One tunnel had half the lights out, very dark and dodgy! Then onwards down the valley getting hotter and hotter! A couple of uphill sections but otherwise ok. I was looking out for Alpe D'Heuz but could not see the road going up at all. Then I hit the roundabout turned right and 100 yards later it was uphill!! The ride up was very hot, not much shade, and the added hassle of dodging the finishers coming down. Unfortunately it was cramp management all the way up, 5 stops. I saw the i-team graffiti on turn 18. I could have done without the countdown going up I prefer not to know!! But I rode all the way up in between my stops, many walkers though. The small inclines in the village were a bit of a shock and it was uphill to the finish! But I got there, got my medal and met up with my roomies! I did get a bit tired and emotional at the finish. But am really chuffed to have completed it. See this link for videos, put in bib no. 5625 and see if you can spot me! It was odd seeing me riding, anyway plodding is the only word for it, with a bit of shoulder rocking which was not through the need to push hard on the pedals, any ideas why? http://www.asochallenge.com/fr/10km_EDT1.html End of part 1.

Ashley_Webb

Ashley_Webb

 

I've Never Bought A Bike Before!

Well, I thought my next bike purchase would have been a well researched and time consuming affair. How wrong I was. The 2nd hand bike that my wife bought me in 2003, a Giant OCR, served me very well commuting in all weathers and a few sportives with only the usual wear and tear items needing replacement. So I thought that it would be ok for the Etape as well. How wrong I was, in the last 2 weeks a creaking started which sounded like one I've had in the past which was cable ends rubbing, a bit of lube sorted that out, not this time. So bike booked in for pre Etape checks/adjustments for 4th July. On the 1st July I had a mishap and came off the bike hitting the deck very hard, was taken to A&E pronounced alive with soft tissue injuries only and sent home. My bike was put in the back yard of a house where I had stained the ground! It looked ok, on collection, so I took it to velocity for it's Monday apmt. Midday Monday Velocity rang saying that the frame was cracked and the bike a right off. The fall must have put the final nail in my bikes coffin, Velocity said the creaking was down to the crack, which wasn't visible before. This was not happy news with the trip to France starting Friday morning. But I digress. Buying a bike. - As you can imagine, I was now in a bit of a flap, I booked Tuesday off and decided to do a runaround the shops in the hope of getting a bike! What did surprise me was with the amount of bikes on display in the shops, how few there really are on the shelf when you want certain things, I wanted a triple and 8 gears as I had bought a 28/11 rear cassette 2 weeks ago which I wanted to re-use. I went to Owens at Petersfield, Cycleworld at North End, Hargroves at Fareham and Chichester and Geared bikes Chichester. The shops in Chichester were the only ones with a bike on the shelf which I could buy. So it was a toss up between a Trek 1.2 and a Specialized Secteur. Both acceptable bikes in my opinion. I chose the Secteur partly because of it's slightly different looks and I could take it away straight away. So Hargroves of Chicester got my money, they swopped a few of the bits from my old bike for no charge and I even got an i-team discount £60 off!! I have not had a ride on it yet, it stared raining before I had transferred ancilliaries and made adjustments. Tomorrows commute will be my first outing. I do hope I get on with it. Not the ideal preparation!! No chance for a long ride before the Etape

Ashley_Webb

Ashley_Webb

 

My Cat & Fiddle Experience

Well, It turned out to be a very wet and hard day's ride for me. I met up with two friends at the station. Started out and headed up the hill which started straight away. I was a bit breathless for the first quarter mile as there is no warm up time, after that all was well. The climb itself is not difficult even a couple of downhill bits. At the pub we stopped for a photo, and whilst there the rain came in. and lasted about 20 minutes and soaked the road so the ride down into Buxton was very wet and we were all soaked by the time we got to the bottom, it would be an excellent descent when dry. I was originally going to ride on from there to my parents house, but decided to go back up and over to Macclesfield. Again the rain came in again and stayed on the descent, when we had to turn into the wind it was the pins in the face, very uncomfortable! Just before the descent into the town there is a 10% sign, it is definitely not 10% because it is too easy to ride up. The rain then started to really hammer down, I was soaked through to the skin by the time I reached town and we decided to sit it out in a cafe! About 40 minutes later it eased up. But was still raining. One of us went home and 2 of us went back up the climb. A quarter of a mile up I realized I had left my bladder behind so back down to the cafe to retrieve it!! Onwards and upwards again, a little harder for me this time! At Buxton my friend went back over the hill to Macclesfield to his car. I had looked at the AA road map and decided to go from from Buxton, heading south via Longnor, Frogshall, Cheadle, Hilderstone, Sandon and onto Little Haywood. The AA book did show 2 chevrons on one section of road so I expected a couple of sharp inclines! However, it turned out to be a killer! it was up and down all the way to Hilderstone, and the hills were just that little bit too far away to benefit from the downhill. it really became a chore struggling up them. I even had to use my granny gear which was still hard work.(I may need lower gears for the Etape!) There were steeper bits on the route than the bit with the chevrons!! On the up side there was no more rain and at times the sun was shining and the Skylarks were singing. The countryside was beautiful, but a riders nightmare! On one steep incline in the middle of nowhere, there were traffic lights at the top as it went single track. It was still red when I got to it, but I wasn't going to stop!! Eventually I got to the A51 and a bit of flat, it was bliss!! 18, 19 miles an hour all the way to Ma & Pa's and legs spinning nicely for the first time all day. 78 miles in all. A very very hard days riding for me. 

Ashley_Webb

Ashley_Webb

 

Legs Like Lead!

Did the ride in link after working Saturday morning, It was quite pleasant until I went up Harting twice! I had to get out of the saddle on the second time up. Then saw 2 Ferrari's going though Petersfield, buy the time I got to Stoner my legs went "heavy". The same happened last time I went up there. Must be psychological. Also found Old Winchester Hill hard going when I don't usually. Anyway, will be visiting Harting most weekends now. http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/29985956

Ashley_Webb

Ashley_Webb

 

A Ride From Hell!

Skived off the Saturday ride this weekend. Perhaps I shouldn't have. Was off today so went for a ride hoping to do 50 miles. On my first descent I noticed that my jacket zip was coming undone, from the bottom! Fixed that. Tried to go up Harvesting Lane, but turned into a headwind and gave up about a 3rd of the way up, walked and then rode the top 3rd. Carried on happily but it was a lot wetter than expected. I got covered in a solution of mud and horse manure. I think the farmers and horsey types were out at the weekend spreading! At 22 miles my computer decided to stop working. At mileage unknown I had 3 punctures all within 5 miles, the trouble was I only had 2 spare tubes!!! The last one about 8 miles from home in the middle of nowhere. So it was pump and ride, pump and ride etc, and got fed up with that and ended up walking the last mile home. It was almost enough to put me off cycling for "pleasure" Perhaps I should stick to commuting. I am going to invest in mudguards! And after all that, I don't know how far I went". I'll have to dig out the ordnance survey maps.

Ashley_Webb

Ashley_Webb

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