Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Great Manchester Cycle 2014

When I signed up for this event, I didn't realise that I would be getting up in the middle of the night to get there!! When my alarm went off at 4.30 this morning, I hoped it would be worth it!
For once the weather wasn't forecast to be unhelpful, and the excitement on the Palefish CC Facebook group page was high!
We all met up at 5.30 just off junction 5 of the M53. There were 9 Fishes taking on the 52 mile challenge. Dave B, Dave F, Pauric, Paul, Steve, Derek, Alan and me. Andy met us there in the car park.

Sport City
Palefish CC lads getting ready for the ride
 We arrived with loads of time, which was nice as we had time to get the bikes ready, and also have a chat and some much needed toast! I could't eat any breakfast at 4.30!!!

The first group photo of the day!
 The first challenge of the day was negotiating the queue for the toilets and then riding up to the Etihad Stadium where the start was, and the event village. A couple of the lads took advantage of the free servicing available, whilst the rest of us took advantage of the free Soreen available! ( I didn't realise Soreen is a manchester based company!!)
Stalking the Soreen Van
 We had to split up for the start. Those of us with British Cycling membership had priority start times.
We were ushered towards the start line, just outside the entrance to the stadium.

The day was split up into 3 rides, a 52 mile, a 26 mile and a 13 mile loop on closed roads from The Etihad Stadium to Old Trafford and back. We were doing the 52 mile route, 4 laps of the course. There was a time limit to each ride, and for ours we had to be on the last lap before 11.20, which seemed achievable at an average speed of 15mph.

We waited for the 8 o'clock start time, hoping that maybe the sun may put in an appearance, as it was very overcast and the clouds looked a bit threatening, not what we were expecting!

Our group only suffered one crash today, and that was before we started! As we were waiting, a cyclist rudely pushed through towards the front, knocking into Steve's front wheel! he was just about to say something, when he realised why we were all staring at the rider. It was Joanna Rowsell MBE, Olympic gold medallist and National Time Trial champion! As usual though for athletes in our sport, instead of huffing off, Joanna apologised, and later on she responded to Steve on twitter apologising again and offering an autograph!! 
Jones 'v' Rowsell!

Luckily though, Joanna's skirmish with Steve didn't phase her and she carried out her duties as official starter well!

It was a bit bizarre riding on closed roads. Not having to stop for traffic lights, or junctions and also not having to worry about being shouted at by annoyed car drivers. There is a price to pay for this experience though.
If there was one negative to the day, it was the way some people rode the course. There were some very fast and experienced riders out there, who were intent on smashing times on strava, and wining the race! The problem was that there were also about 2000 other cyclists on the road. Some of the weekend racers didn't seem to care and took their line regardless of who was in the way, or how small the gap was! At one point, on a hairpin bend, as I turned in to it,  there was suddenly a bike at my side and an elbow in my arm. When I politely questioned the idiot why he had tried to push me off my bike, he said I was on his racing line! I pointed out that it wasn't a race, but I don't think he heard me as I sped past him!!!

Our plan for the day was to ride together. But all good plans are often flawed! There was the issue of not starting together that split us from the beginning, and then the fact that the pace was manic! After a couple of laps though, everyone settled into a rhythm, and Me Steve and Derek rode together. 
Dave was the only one to suffer a mechanical, with a puncture early on, but one of the good things about the organisation of the ride was that there were loads of roaming mechanics, with tubes, so Dave was soon on the road again, and finished only a few minutes after me.

As well as Joanna, there were also some celebrity riders joining in the fun. Emerdale has a team of actors who are great fundraisers for charity. They have undertaken some great cycling challenges and were there today to raise money for Leukaemia research. I am not a fan of the soaps, but I must say they were very approachable, and even wanted to start conversations with people!! I mentioned to one of the riders, Rick Makarem, that I liked their Jerseys, which are made by Bio Racer, like our club kit, and we then rode on for most of the last lap chatting about cycling. I think he liked the fact that I had no idea who he was!! Even at the finish when I said congratulations to him on completing the ride he was just like us, chuffed with his time and looking forward to the next challenge,which for him was getting to his sisters wedding in time!!! 

There seemed like a lot of punctures today, every 100meters or so there was someone with their bike turned upside down and a wheel in their hand, but with so many bikes on the road, I suppose it wasn't that many really!
There were also a couple of bad crashes. Most seemed to be on corners, some were very tight, and if you have idiots on their racing line, it was inevitable that sometimes people would come off. 

The Palefish CC riders all finished unscathed. Pauric showed his true colours today, and finished with a fantastic time of 2hrs 16 minutes with an average speed of 22.94mph! 

I managed it in 2hrs 32 minutes with an average of 20.53mph. I am very pleased with that time. It was a flat 52 miles, only a couple of humps in it, but I managed to hold a consistent pace for all four laps. 
Next weeks Tuesday training ride will be interesting after these times! we did 30 miles at 19mph average last week, expectations will be raised!!!!

Split Times

Lap 1 00:36:29Lap 2 00:37:44Lap 3 00:38:49Lap 4 00:39:08

At the finish we were welcomed by a wall of noise as friends and family of riders lined the barriers, that will be the closest I will ever be to a pro race finish I think! We all collected our finishers bags, which included a Medal and T shirt, and also some energy goodies! 

The Majority of the crew at the end.
 I think Derek was the most excited today though! At the finish he managed to bump into Dean Andrews, Actor and fellow Onix RH Blue owner!!

Onix Twins
We enjoyed it so much today, some of the lads have already signed up for next year, and once I have finished this I think I will too!! See you there in 2014?

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Palefish CC Birthday Spin in the wind

I can't believe where the time has gone! A little over a year ago I decided to start the club, and not in my wildest dreams would I have expected it to be so popular!

I can't take all the credit though, the most important people in the club are the members themselves. Thanks to you all for sticking with it, even when we have taken a wrong turn or two, and ended up on an unmade road, we always manage to get back on the smooth stuff and have a laugh about it!! I mustn't forget to mention the members of the Facebook Group who have yet to join us on the road, the community feel on that page is great and there certainly have been some great conversations over the year and a lot of advice shared.

So, to celebrate the anniversary of the club I planned a route that would take us round the Wirral, with a stop at our favourite Cafe at the half way point. When I was planning the route, I was hoping for warm June weather and a light summer breeze! I suppose picking the day before Wimbledon I should have realised that this wasn't going to be the case.
All week I have been hoping the forecast was wrong. We were lucky on Tuesday and had a warm night for our hill climbing 10mile loops of West Kirby (just like the old days doing spaghetti loops over the hill) and even Thursday nights event at The Bike Shop in Moreton was dry. While I mention it, I would like to thank Jay, Steve and the team at the shop for putting on a great night, especially organising the reps that brought the Torq tasting bar, and a favourite of the night, the Shimano Ultegra Di2 bike.

I know there will be a few letters to Santa for a new electronic groupset this year!

Back to today though, and the weather lived up to expectations. I woke to the sound of driving rain and wind, a real tempting combination. I wasn't surprised as my phone began taking messages from sensible Palefishers who were deciding to stay in the warm and dry and not venture out into the wild morning.

There were 28 signed up to the ride mid week, and by the time I left the house we were down to 24, and eventually 17 of us met up at the 12th Man.
We decided that if needed we would adapt the route as we rode along, but as an homage to Ken who couldn't make it today we still rode out to Birkenhead, where we met Steve by the Seacombe ferry. The River was flowing fast, and we knew we were in for a work out when we rounded the corner in New Brighton and headed back towards West Kirby.

Group photo before the Wind hits!
 We were not disappointed, on queue as we came off of the cycle path and onto the road, there was the wind.
To say it was challenging is an understatement. Not only was it a head wind, it was gusting, and grabbing at our wheels, from all sides! I think the average speed along the stretch along the seafront, and then down Leasowe Road was only about 8mph! It was just like riding up hill, but without the benefit of the downhill bit after!!!
This video doesn't really capture the true brutality of the wind!!

I made the decision to change the route as we approached Meols. I felt that for us to actually enjoy the ride, we needed a little respite from the wind, so we diverted down the lanes to Greasby, instead of riding on to West Kirby, and then rode up to Irby and into Lower Heswall. Now with shelter from the elements, we made better progress and it didn't take long for us to get to spin through the lanes to the Eureka Cafe.

I had planned the ride to get us to the Cafe after the rush of all the other clubs being there, and it worked out well. The only problem was that 18 of us descending at one time led to a large queue for Anne and the team to cope with. And cope they did, as usual. It was good to see Eureka filled with Fishes! The next jersey order is nearly here, so next time there should be more Green and White in the photo.

Palefish CC here......
Palefish CC There and Everywhere! 

Palefish CC ready to roll from Eureka Cafe
In the last half mile to the Cafe, Dave C had mentioned that he thought his Bottom Bracket was knackered. I had thought mine was also done in earlier in the week, but it turned out to be my pedals, so I shared this with Dave. As we rode away from the Cafe, it was apparent that it was more terminal for him. It really did sound like there was a bag of spanners suspended under his bike! And it just got worse.
The route was planned to take us back to Birkenead, but seeing as Ken was not with us, and if we did we would have another long stretch into the wind, it was agreed that we would ride back through the centre of Wirral through the lanes. Along the way, as usual, members of the group dropped off on their own routes home, and apart from Steve suffering a puncture, we all made it back without further incident, and those of us going back to the Twelfth Man were treated to a nice tail wind for the last half mile!
Dave also got back ok, but now needs to make a trip to the Bike Shop for some TLC on his bike. The sound of those bearings crunching will stay with me for a long time!!!!
So year one is over, and I wonder what is on the horizon for the next one?
Whatever it is, I'm sure it will be fun, and there will be a shoal of Palefish CC along to enjoy the ride.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Tim's Epic Stag Ride

Most Stag weekends that I have heard of, or been on, usually involve travelling to a place, staying there and enjoying the hospitality of a local hostelry and other evening economy activities that the location provides. 

Mr Sullivan however and his Best Man Jim had other ideas. I know, they must have said one drunken night, why don't we get together Tim's cycling buddies, and plan a Stag tour that starts in Banbury and finishes on Wirral, with an over night stay in Bridgnorth. When I accepted the invitation to join Tim, Jim, Paul, Phil, Simon, Oscar, Darcy, Matt and Simon M (support van driver recently returned from Australia with some great new words like Smallened!) I wasn't sure what to expect. I have never ridden in the Midlands, and the thought of a day riding north made me a little nervous! It is all up hill isn't it?

Tim Paul Phil and I met at the Twelfth Man, an homage to our Palefish CC roots, at 6.30 on Friday morning, and rode over to the Mersey Ferry terminal at Seacombe. It was the first time I have used the ferry to transport my bike, and I was surprised to see that the £2.20 fare included a cup of Coffee!! Excellent value for money.

Tim Paul and Phil enjoying the view
Staggers ready to ride!
We rode up from the Pier head to Lime street Station where we got our trains to Banbury. We had to split up as you can only book 2 bikes on to a train at a time.
The journey didnt take too long, Phil and I had to change at Birmingham, and we were at Banbury by 11.30
The storage on the Virgin train to Banbury was great, very safe and secure.

Tim and Paul were waiting for us at cafe on the station, and we joined them for a coffee. Simon and Oscar were on their way from Manchester and the others were en route from Hitchin. 
By 12.30 we were all assembled and ready to go, but seeing as the sun was well and truly over the yard arm, we decided to find a cafe for some lunch. As we rode up the pedestrianised high street, sorry shoppers of Banbury, we spotted a cafe and rode towards it, before we could say coffee and cake, there were tables pushed together and offers of coffee and menus from the staff. The service was great, and the food good value and tasty too. 
However, after a good feed, and a chance to chat and get to know each other, it was time to hit the road, quite a bit later than expected! 

We had 80 miles ahead of us, on unknown roads, and a deadline of a meal booked at the Old Castle pub in Bridgnorth at 8pm! That gave us 7.5 hours to get to the hotel, get ready and get to the pub! 
The Route that Jim planned for us was fantastic, rolling through the countryside, with a couple of testing climbs thrown in just to mix things up!

 We were also treated to a long off road section through farmland between Dorsington and Bidford-on-Avon, just like a weekend Palefish CC ride,to the first stop of the ride. 

Just under 2 miles of farm track was fantastic. 
Simon and Jim were the Support team for the day. Matt had kindly let us use his converted VW Transporter as a support vehicle and Simon had given up the chance to join in with the cycling, to drive the van! 
When we arrived in Bidford-on-Avon, waiting for us in a car park was Tea, Coffee biscuits and water bottle top ups, as well as encouraging words from the support crew, like, you took your time! 
It was a welcome break and a great addition to the Stag tour.
We probably took too much advantage of the stop, and pushed on with 50 miles left on the route, and not long to do it!

Support crew was a welcome sight

Great Views of the River Avon
Even Better View!
After a little miss navigation from Paul's Garmin (not mine for a change) We were out of the Town and into the lanes again heading for Droitwich, where we once again had a Garmin moment, and got split up. Matt, Paul Phil and Myself found our way through the Town and on to meet Jim and Simon in Doverdale, where Tim and the others joined us shortly after they had circumnavigated the town the other way! On the way to the meeting point, A small blue tit decided to land on my thigh, just for a second then fly off! That was a cycling first!!

The last section of the ride was the toughest for me, Time was running out, Jim had pushed the booking back a bit, but we had to get to Bridgnorth as quick as possible. The last 23 miles were full of hills, in fact neary half the days climbing came in the last 10 miles! 
But we made it to the Croft Hotel, with half an hour to get the bikes stored, and get a shower and ready to go to the pub!
David at the Croft couldn't have been more helpful. It is a really bike friendly hotel. We stored our bikes in his office, he washed out our water bottles for us, and even put on a wash for all our cycling gear! 

The Meal and warm welcome at The Old Castle was fantastic, The Landlord and his team were very patient with 8 weary cyclists. I had decided that even though I was on a Stag Tour, I wouldn't go too mad with the demon drink, as Saturday's ride profile looked a bit challenging at the start, and I would need all the strength I could muster to handle the climbing, especially as I had struggled towards the end of the ride with the hills today.
Great Cycling food! And apparently Guinness is also good as a recovery drink!
 DAY 2

We were treated to a great Breakfast, and were all up and ready to roll by 10.30.
Tim Paul and Phil ready for Day 2
Kuota Club!
Le Grand Depart
Day 2 didn't start too well, First Oscar's bike was stuck in the small ring, which for hills is great, but for any kind of speed it is useless! After a quick fettle, it was decided that he should take it to a local bike shop, just round the corner. While he was gone, we found a new bike for Tim to ride today's stage on!

All the gear and no idea!
 Unfortunately Oscars problem was terminal. The shifter itself was broken, and an entire new unit was needed, which the shop didn't have in stock. Oscar didn't bat an eyelid! he decided to carry on, as best he could, and so we did. But not too far! it took nearly an hour for us to find the right route out of the Town! We were nearly there right at the start, but ignored the garmin's and followed a paper map, which was a bad move! So at about half 11 we headed on the right route towards home.

We suffered the only bad weather of the trip not long into day 2. A storm of Biblical proportions blew over the hills, and hit us sideways at the top of a hill. The rain was being driven by such strong winds, it felt like we were being shot! Not the best start to a long ride! As soon as it had started though, it stopped.

We dropped down to Ironbridge, and then the proper climbing began. In the reverse of the previous day the serious climbing was all at the start of the ride. The climb out of Ironbridge was quite brutal, but I am pleased with my effort, as I managed to stay on the bike and make it to the top of all the climbs, all weekend.

On the Iron Bridge at Ironbridge!
 Once back on higher ground, we were treated to some fantastic views, and great winding country lanes. It didn't take to long to get to the lunch stop at 30 miles in Shawbury. The local bakers made a bomb when we descended! I think we bought all their Sausage rolls, Cornish pasties and Filled rolls they had!
The second mechanical of the ride, and only one to force a retirement happened on the way to this stop. One of Darcy's spokes broke, weakening the whole wheel, and he wasn't confident in it holding out to the next big town and a bike shop. So it was with a sad face that he strapped the bike into the carrier on the support vehicle.

We agreed to meet up in another 30 miles and set off, one man down. 
The next section of the route took us meandering north, through forests and across open hill tops. Only one Garmin misdirect, or was it human error Tim? The only problem was that I had to climb back up a hill I had only seconds before enjoyed descending!! 
A quick breather!

We missed the agreed meeting spot and rearranged to meet up in Tattenhal. It was strange being back in familiar territory, after so many miles on unknown roads. 

Disturbing the peace in Tattenhall
 After our final pit stop, and a discussion about getting home quickly as it was already 6pm and the table was booked for 9 in the Wirral Tandoori  we needed to get a wriggle on, again!
Knowing the roads better, we rode faster, and at a more constant pace. it wasn't long until we were in Chester, where I suffered the third mechanical of the day, a puncture caused by a big pot hole! This put us back a bit more,especially as I managed to pinch the new tube putting it in and had to change that one too!

Paul, Phil and I split from the others in Willaston, and then the pace rose again! I don't know where I got the energy from, but we didn't hang around and got home with time to have a quick bath and get ready for the meal!

A welcome Curry and a couple of beers to celebrate our achievement.

As stag weekends go, I don't think anything could top this! Obviously you have to be into cycling, and want to suffer a bit! But the camaraderie and fun we had along the way, and the beer and food, all made it into an experience I will always remember as " A great ride"
Thanks go to Jim for organising the whole thing, great hotel and pub choices, and a fantastic route. Also thanks to Simon for driving the van, when all he wanted to do was go out for a run!

In total over the two days I rode 184 miles and climbed 9383ft. Check out the route via the Strava link at the top of the page.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Welsh ramble and the Wirral Bikeathon

It has been a great weekend of bike related activity. It started yesterday with a great ride out into the hills of Wales.
After a week of great sunny weather, everyone was looking forward to a fun day in the sun. Iain had been out into Wales a couple of weeks ago, and his route looked very interesting, so I decided to use it, as it took us into Wales in a different direction to the usual way.
We met at the 12th man, at 7.30, and the temperature was already a pleasant 14 degrees. 8 of us headed out towards the new Burton Marsh path, picking up Dan along the way. At the entrance to the path Dave and Darren were waiting for us. Once across the marsh, and the Dee we headed round towards Connahs Quay. Along the path by the river Pauric caught up with us. He had left a little late and had seen us and tried to close the gap, which he did eventually as we slowed to allow me to have a natural break! 

The 12 of us then turned out of the Town by the High School and intimidate started to climb. As you should know by now, this is not my favourite part of cycling!
We climbed up to the Mold Road, where Pauric discovered why his gears were not working properly, unfortunately, an intact cable attached to the shifter is essential! We scratched our heads and couldn't think of any way to fix it, so after a quick discussion, pointed Pauric down the hill towards Shotton and Graham Weigh Cycles, where he received great service and was able to ride home.

We carried on and up via Northop to Pen-Y-Parc, the first high spot of the ride.

We came up THAT!

5 miles later, and after a now regular foray onto a farm track, Keith suffered from the only puncture of the day. It was a good excuse for a couple of photo's. The scenery in this part of Wales is beautiful, only made better with a fantastic bike in it!

Cycling heaven
Great scenery (behind the bike!)
 That wasn't the last of the bad luck! just after probably the toughest climb of the day, a section through the forest leading to Maeshafan, which is 11% average, but just at the top, it ramps up over 20%! this took its toll on John's chain as not far up the road it decided to break! Luckily Iain is a prepared Palefish and had a chain tool, and a link, so after a little tinkering, we were back on the road again. It had however taken us nearly 4 hours to do 40 miles!

Busted Chain!
We set off again, an managed to reach the Mountain Bike Centre at Llandegla without incident.

I couldn't believe how big the slices of cake are there! And very nice too (but not as good as the cake at Eureka!)
Lycra in a sea of MTBers!
 After a refuel and rest, we started our return leg of the journey, but once again we were hampered by another incident. This time was a painful one as Derek slid on the gravel on the road out of the Cafe, and was unable to keep balance and hit the deck. Luckily he managed to protect his brand new Onix, and with the dust print he may have come up with a new Jersey design in the process?

As it had taken us longer than expected to get to Llandegla, we decided to take a more direct route home, rather than the planned loop round Chester, so we headed down the Steps, I enjoyed this much more than going up them, then on to Hawarden and Deeside, where Dan stopped. He had done fantastically well, completing his first 50+ mile ride that also included all the climbing!

When we reached Eureka, we split up. 5 of us decided to top up with fluids, and the other 5 headed home.
While we were there we saw Karen and Keith, who had been out on another long training ride. It is only a couple of weeks until the Iron Man race they are competing in, in Austria. The level of fitness needed for these kinds of events in amazing.

Enjoying the sun at Eureka
It was only a quick pit stop, and we were soon meandering through the lanes back to the 12th man.
Even with all the mechanicals, it was a great day, made even better by the sunshine and the teamwork the lads put in to support each other.

Today was a first for me. Dave (Badders) asked if anyone wanted to help at this years Wirral Bikeathon.
It is a charity ride, in its 15th year, and it is suported by local cycling hero, Chris Boardman, and Dave's family are also heavily involved in the organisation too.
Dave came round at 8.30 and we headed up to our rendezvous point in Arrowe Park with the chief Marshal.
It turned out that Dave and I were going to be in charge of one of the most dangerous junctions of the whole route! Luckily, we managed to get through the day without incident!
It was great to see loads of family's including young kids out on their bikes enjoying the sun, and also be able to make their day a little more enjoyable, by shouting encouraging words as they passed us!
There were some of the club riding today too, and I was proud to see the Palefish Jersey's amongst all throng.

Junior Palefish
Pete having fun in the sun
The Don family 
The Wallace Boys
As well as the Palefish riders there was also the Famous Pro cyclist taking part, who was very obliging and posed for a great action shot as he sped through the park! ( I did try to tell him it wasn't a race!)

Mr Boardman going too fast for my Phone to capture a good shot!
 I was also very impressed by the chap who completed the route on one wheel, especially the off road downhill section!
 I also spotted the Wirral Mamils out with their kids, and managed to stop them long enough for a quick photo, and also long enough for Shaun and Ade to fill my head with ideas of a possible cycling adventure next year. Cheers lads!
The Maxi Mamils, and Mini Mamils
 When all the riders had passed through our half of the course, Dave and I took the oppertunity to have a walk up into the start and finish line, with Sian, Dave's daughter ( Junior Palefish rider) who had completed the ride with Mrs Badders!
We saw the lads from The Bike Shop in Moreton, and also managed to catch a few words with Chris, and get a great photo of him with Sian

Chris was thrilled with the attendance at the event, which could be a record with over 1500 people taking part. We chatted about the continued ride in popularity of cycling, and he was very excited to hear about our club and the fact that we encourage people out on their bikes and join a club, without the expectation to race or take it too seriously.

It was a great day, and definitely a different way of seeing a cycling event. Thanks for letting me help, and hopefully I will be able to be there next year too.