Number 111 Winter 2011 the Long Distance Cyclists’ Association
February 2011 Contents OrgNews AAA – News Official News
4 4 6
Minutes of the Audax UK AGM
Just a Minute
Blinded by the Light
Brooks Saddle & Saddlebags
Preparation for PBP - part 1
2009 Mileater Diaries
24 Hour Riders
New Super Randonneurs
Hey Hay my 2010 SR Series
Prepare to Pedal the Paperless Path 23 Cambrian Series 8A
Another Hard Man’s Ride
The Gorseinon Saga
Adventure on LEL, from a ‘Lady’
Mille Miglia 1600 km
Hamburg-Berlin-Cologne-Hamburg 41 Twin Town Trip
Centenaire du Tourmalet
Blue Lamps off Mont Blanc ...
Hitchbiking through South America 51 To Oz the long way round
Days in the Highlands
AUK Permanent Rides
AUK Event Calendar
It’s Paris-Brest-Paris year again! Our Audax Club Parisien Correspondant, Peter Marshall, and Chair, Ian Hennessey, met ACP officials in Paris this January to glean the latest information. Their report, containing vital information for prospective entrants, can be seen in the Stop Press on page 10. Our Scotland & North of England Events Secretary, Lucy McTaggart, who is an Association of British Cycle Coaches level 3 Coach, gives some training advice for PBP hopefuls on page 14. We normally have a good accident record but are sad to report the death of a veteran CTC lady, Pat Appleton, on the Jack and Grace Cotton Memorial Audax early this season. It seems that she collided with a motorised vehicle under a bridge in the middle of a bend. The road is lightly trafficked and this event had been run for many years without any problems or concerns about this part of the route. AUK’s Secretary, Richard Phipps, has produced our annual accident report, which shows just two known serious incidents, and no fatalities, during calendared events in the 2010 season see page 8. Please don’t forget to report to the organiser if you have an accident whilst riding a permanent event; it is just as important that we keep these statistics. Whatever your riding ambitions, have a good cycling year in 2011. Sheila
Front Cover: Eccleshall 200 km 2010 Danial Webb followed by Joe Jord & Allan Taylor. Photo: Francis Cooke
Our web site: www.audax.uk.net Opposite: Colin James, Mid Sussex Hilly. Back cover: Abraham Cohen, Mad Jack Grimpeur. Photos: Tim Wainwright
Audax UK Clothing
can now be purshased directly on-line at: http://impsport.com/direct1/index.php?_a=viewCat&catId=86 Arrivée is the free magazine of Audax United Kingdom, the long distance cyclists’ association which represents the Randonneurs Mondiaux in the UK. AUK membership is open to any person, regardless of club or other affiliation, who is imbued with the spirit of long-distance cycling. Details in the Handbook. HOW TO CONTACT US: Membership Enquiries: Mike Wigley (AUK Membership Secretary), Higher Grange Farm, Millcroft Lane, Delph OL3 5UX mike.wigley@Audax.uk.net Membership Application Form: www.aukweb.net/memform.php or Ian Hobbs (New Members), 26 Naseby Road, Belper DE56 0ER. ian.hobbs@Audax.uk.net Membership fees: Renewal: £14 or £56 for 5 years (price of 4) New/lapsed members: £19 (inc £5 enrolment fee) or £61 for 5 years (price of 4) Household member: £5 or £20 for 5 years no enrolment fee for new household members. Life member’s Arrivée: £9. February Arrivée Editor: Sheila Simpson, 33 Hawk Green Rd, Marple SK6 7HR Tel: 0161 449 9309 firstname.lastname@example.org May & August Arrivée Editor: Tim Wainwright, 4A Brambledown Rd, Sanderstead, South Croydon CR2 0BL. Tel: 020 8657 8179 Fax: 020 8651 4515 email@example.com November Arrivée Editor: Maggie Lewis, 31 Headland Drive, Crosspool, Sheffield S10 5FX. Tel: 0114 266 6730 firstname.lastname@example.org
MAY EDITION CONTRIBUTIONS: To Tim by 15th March Members’ Private Sales, Wants, Event Adverts: free. Contributions - articles, info, cartoons, photos, all welcome. Please read the advice in the Handbook. Photographs: £20 for 6 photos published in one edition of the magazine, provided by a single photographer in digital format. Cover photo £40. Extra current Arrivée copies, if available, £3(UK), £4(EEC), £5(non-EEC) from Mike Wigley (address opposite) To subscribe to the AUK email discussion list, send an email to: email@example.com Note this group is not monitored by the AUK Board, who should be contacted directly with matters of concern. Views expressed in Arrivée are not necessarily those of the Club. Produced by AUK: editing, typesetting, layout, design and scanning by Sheila Simpson. Printed & distributed by: Headley Brothers Ltd, Invicta Press, Queens Rd, Ashford, Kent TN24 8HH Distribution data from: AUK Membership Team Audax UK Long Distance Cyclists’ Association (Company Limited by Guarantee) Reg. Office: 10 Campion Rise, Tavistock Devon PL19 9PU. © Arrivée 2011
OrgNews Information for Organisers, Helpers & Riders Welcome First of all, as those of you who were present at the AGM will already know Danial Webb has now stepped down as Events Secretary to move on to Publicity and LEL 2013; and somehow last year I let him talk me into standing as his replacement. If your event is in the Wales & Midlands region, please update your contact details – you can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting your Event on the Calendar With over 500 events in the calendar for this year, here are some helpful hints to help make our lives a little bit smoother: • Check your event pages regularly for updates from your events team representative. • Ensure your organiser details include your email address (and it’s kept up to date – you can do this using the Members Gateway). With nearly 200 organisers to keep track of, email really is the easiest way for the events team to get in touch with you. •
Note the banners that show deadlines for publishing events.
And remember, to get your event published you need to complete: • All control details, including Information Control questions (which cannot be the same as those used the previous year). • Your Risk Assessment. This doesn’t just mean copying across last year’s – you must actively review and update your RA every time you run your event, particularly taking into account any incident that has happened in a previous year. See the Risk Assessment section of the Organisers Guidelines for more details.
2012 – Event Registration And finally, whilst it may seem like a long time away yet you may soon be thinking about your events for the 2011/12 season. And if you are we have an important change in the way you submit your events for publication. All events after 1st November 2011 will now be charged a one-off registration fee of £10 per event, which includes your first 20 Brevet Cards. This needs to be paid before the Events Team will publish your event on the calendar. More details on how to go about registering your event will shortly be available in the Organiser’s Guidelines on the website. John Hamilton
AAA – News 2010 Rolls of Honour Congratulations are due to these members for completing and claiming AAA personal awards in 2010. More details can be found on the AAA website at www.AudaxAltitudeAward.org.uk. I don’t really want to single out individual achievements, but I will mention just two. Mary Jane Watson told me that AAARTY, which she is working towards, was a great encouragement to her to ride more Audax events, even to the extent of organising two AAA perms on the Isle of Man where she lives. What better justification for AAARTY? And the AAASR award inspired some hard riding, including Toby Hopper who in a 2010 season which brought him the AAA championship completed no less than three AAA SR series, the last one made up of 1000km, 800km, 600km and 200km events. Chapeau. Why not make one of the AAA awards your personal challenge for the new season?
Ordering Cards & Organiser’s Returns
Audax Altitude Award
Pam and Pete Coates have been busy working away to make all our lives a little bit easier when it comes to ordering Brevet Cards and filling in your returns:
For obtaining 20 AAA points, 60 AAA points (3xAAA) or 180 AAA points (3x3 AAA) over any period of time.
• Pam will now email you a card order form before your event. You can still order by post, e-mail or over the phone as before. • Your cards will normally be printed the Friday 1 week before your event, so you should expect to receive them in the post on the Monday or Tuesday. • Pre-printed returns forms will be sent with your cards. These now have all your event details and the number of cards ordered filled in for you. IMPORTANT: You now only need to complete and return the Accident Report Form if you have something to report. If there’s been no incidents simply tick the “No accident to report” box on the Organiser’s return.
PBP Qualifiers - Validation As we head into 2011 the Validation Secretaries already busy jobs will be getting even busier with the increased numbers of BRM events as qualifiers for PBP. So if you’re organising a PBP qualifier, please ensure you get your returns processed promptly to make Sue & Keith’s life as easy as possible. If you’ve not organised a BRM event before (or to refresh your memory if you have), you need to remember to: • include finishing times (time taken for the event NOT time of day that the rider finished) in your results sheet. The easiest way to do this is to use the Excel Upload feature in the Online Planner. •
send your Brevet Cards to Sue & Keith, even for 200km events.
And remember – cheques payable to “Audax United Kingdom”
New Medal Prices Hidden away in the AGM Treasurer’s Report and in Arrivee: medal prices have changed for this season. Both distance and grimpeur medals are now £2.50, and cloth badges have increased in price to £2.
Arrivée February 2011
Events AAA Super Randonneur For completing one or more SR Series composed of AAA events in 2010.
New Spring Events from Peak Audax There are plenty of rides available from Peak Audax over the next few months. Whether you are looking for PBP qualifiers, just fancy a pleasant ride on the flat or you like to rise to the challenge of a Peak District Grimpeur, we think we’ve got something you will like.
The Old Lead Miner’s Trail is a scenic tour of the ancient lead
mining villages of the Peak District. Starting from the sports centre in Chapel en le Frith, it’s a midweek event, taking place on the Wednesday following Spring Bank Holiday for those who can get the day off work (1st June). You get to ride Winnats Pass the easy way (down hill!) and to pass through Castleton, Monsall Head, Winster and Monyash. This part of the White Peak is a pleasure to cycle through, with quite roads, challenging climbs and some spectacular scenery. Bring a towel and you can even have a shower at the finish.
Royal wedding Rides Here are a couple of events held over
from December 2010 when the weather made the Winter Solstice 200 and the Whitegate Xmas 150 unsuitable for cycling. Instead, we’re running them on Friday 29th April; it’s a day off work for the Royal Wedding so we’re hoping for quiet roads and a good day out. Both rides start from Bredbury near Stockport, and call at Old Ma’s Coffee Shop at Gatesheath, over on the west side of Cheshire. The 200 then calls at Farndon, Market Drayton, and Middlewich while the shorter rider returns via another cafe at Bradwell Green. It’s a pleasant day out on the bike if you’ve not been invited to the wedding.
Worlds End We like to get over to North Wales from Peak Audax, AAA Round The Year For completing an AAA calendar or permanent event in any 12 consecutive calendar months, or a Randonneur Round the Year Award of AAA events. AAA Event Changes are held over to the next Arrivee. Best wishes for 2011.
and this new event from Macclesfield on Sunday May 15th visits some cracking spots. It starts easily enough on quiet and winding Cheshire lanes, and through the centre of Chester using the canal side path and the River Dee on our way to lunch at Mold. The climbing starts here, as we make our slow progress up to Eryrys at 350m, followed by the wild and remote road through World’s End Gorge and the Llangollen Panorama before the drop to Ruabon and the Plassey. We’re back onto easy country lanes as we cross Cheshire to Macclesfield, with the bridleway at Brereton and the ford at Swettenham providing light entertainment value towards the end. On top of these, we’ve also got our usual Spring time fare, with: Spring in the Peak from Hathersage, Chirk 200, Plains 300, Plains 400, Cambrian 600 Super Randonneur series, and a choice of Monyash Grimpeur and the much easier Wensdae Sundae from Marple during the Easter holiday. Full details from www.Peakaudax.co.uk
Super Randonneurs Series OnwAAArds and upwAAArds, Steve, the AAA Man
New Permanent event AAA Milne 100km 1.75AAA Organiser Billy Weir
Withdrawn Permanent event Brevet Cymru permanent
For full Permanent Events List See page 60 or http://www.aukweb.net/cal/perms/index.htm
Arrivée February 2011
Willesden CC is running a full set of PBP qualifiers in 2011. The first three events fan out from Chalfont St Peter. Each offers catering at the start and finish and commercial controls. The early annual favourite, the Willy Warmer 200K (22 Jan) takes you across the Chilterns and Newbury Downs on a revised route.
The 3Down 300K on 2nd April runs to the far side of the New Forest. Hilly stretches alternate with long flatter intervals, making this ride suitable for trying a big distance the first time. The 400K Severn Across on 30th April, takes in the Cotswolds, the Forest of Dean and the spectacular ride across the Severn Bridge before a stretch of night riding. The Beast from the East 600K on 28th May runs from Waltham Abbey to Taunton and back Refreshments at the start and finish, award winning roadside catering at two stops, sleep facilities and food in Yeovil are all included in the price and will help power you through this great tester for PBP. Anyone completing the full series will get an award and free entry to a Willesden pre-PBP event on 30th July. For details see the AUK Calendar.
Official News Minutes of the 34th Audax UK AGM
Held at the Racecourse Centre, York, at 15:00 on 27th November 2010
The meeting started promptly at 15:00 with Chairman Keith Benton welcoming all members to this, his last meeting as a committee member since 1987. Sadly, some members had passed away during the year and he mentioned in particular Neville Chanin who had often enlivened Annual Dinners as Master of Ceremonies and Peter Stubbs, one of the original 16 founders of AUK. The full list of such members is as follows: Albery Ayton, Brenda Carlton, Neville Chanin, John Crampton, Steve Gray, Mike Grimmer, James Haggarty, Allan Ingham, John Keenan, Bob Maitland, Ian Mashen, Theresa McHugh, Peter Stubbs & Gary Woodhead. We are sorry to lose them and extend our condolences to their friends and families. He also mentioned John Bedford, a long-time organiser of the Shenstone rides who was retiring from organising due to poor health. Reverting to the first part of his review, DKB mentioned that Bry Ferguson, a former Brevet Card Production Secretary, who had passed away in 2005 had bequeathed £2,000.00 to AUK; £1,000 to be used to purchase champagne, or some other suitable wine, for committee meetings to “assist in their deliberations.” The remaining £1,000 is to be used to purchase champagne for each of the individual trophy winners. 1) Those present were asked to add their names to a list of attenders being circulated. 2) Apologies for absence had been received from P Coates, M Lewis, P Baker, P Bond, S Carroll, D Hudson, P Hutchinson, P Porter, S Poulton & A Seviour. 3) Those present were asked to approve the minutes of the previous AGM. Proposed by Gerry Boswell, seconded by Danial Webb. Carried nem con. 4) There were no matters arising. 5) Officers’ Reports were either published alongside the Agenda in Arrivée 110, or were available at the meeting in printed or verbal forms and will be published elsewhere in Arrivée. Linda Johnston read her report (already printed). Reid Anderson queried why payments to AUK could not be made by Direct Debit. LJ promised to investigate and revert. Acceptance of the report was proposed by Lucy McTaggart, seconded by Julian Dyson and approved nem con. Richard Phipps read his report also already printed, but had nothing further to add. There were no questions arising and acceptance of the report which was proposed by Roger Philo and seconded by Julian Dyson was approved nem con. Pam Pilbeam advised having produced nearly 18,000 Brevet cards. A new photocopier had been bought which had been a great benefit. In addition, the card ordering system had been further automated by Pete Coates to simplify the procedure and initial trials undertaken. Mark Rigby (an organiser participating in the trials) queried whether Accident Reports were not required if the appropriate box on the form had been ticked. PP confirmed this was, indeed, the case. Reid Anderson queried a difference in production costs from the previous year which PP advised was as a result of the cost of the new copier. Acceptance of the report was proposed by Peter South, seconded by Chris Crossland and approved nem con. Peter Marshall advised having received many queries about a certain French event. Though we currently know no more now than a year ago about ACP’s proposed quota limit on entries, all is due to be revealed on 15 Jan 2011. He gave details on some changes to start times and noted entry would be via the PBP website, with on-line payment being likely, so his role would be largely one of checking. Chris Davies queried whether the 4 o’clock start for 80 hr riders was am or pm and the latter was confirmed. Acceptance of the report was proposed by John Radford, seconded by Rich Forrest and approved nem con. John Ward’s report was distributed at the meeting and is printed elsewhere in this issue. There were no queries arising, and acceptance of the report which was proposed by Jackie Popland and seconded by Gerry Boswell was approved nem con.
Danial Webb supplemented his printed report with thanks to organisers for their help in submitting details promptly for the BRM calendar. He noted a good choice of qualifying 600s while bemoaning a relative dearth of 300s. The Mille Cymru 1000 was praised as being the season’s highlight with 53 finishers from 73 starters. Referring to the decline in numbers, Chris Davies suggested marketing Audax more. DW agreed, suggesting possible alternative ways. David Duffield commented he no longer subscribed to Cycling Weekly which was giving greatest prominence to Cyclo-Sportives, as these events generated most profit to the publishers. Acceptance of the report was proposed by Edwin Hargraves, seconded by Ian Hennessey and approved nem con. Ian Hennessey mentioned having placed an advertisement in the CTT Handbook and noted a recent increase in cycling magazines, with much overlapping territory, causing apprehension about their longer term viability. He also advised there are plans afoot to increase AUK’s profile with the help of one of our members who is employed by a PR company. Acceptance of the report was proposed by Danial Webb, seconded by Nev Holgate and approved nem con. Sheila Simpson had nothing to add to her previously printed report. There was some concern that the Handbook would be discontinued in hard copy form. Reid Anderson wanted a debate with the membership whether this item should continue to be produced. SS replied it was not likely to be an imminent change and welcomed members’ discussion. She then agreed with Mike McGeever’s suggestion to amend the contents to include more advice and helpful tips to rookie members on riding Audax events. Acceptance of the report was proposed by Reid Anderson, seconded by Jackie Popland and approved nem con. Peter Coates, in his absence, provided a written report (printed elsewhere) on his activities during the year. There were no questions arising, but JW paid grateful tribute to his assistance in that period. Acceptance of the report was proposed by Don Black, seconded by Mark Beauchamp and approved nem con. SG/KH were also grateful for PC’s efforts in generating the start list generator. Their report (printed elsewhere) showed an overall decline in the annual number of events ridden. Julian Dyson requested membership statistics categorised by age, which DW offered to supply. Sonya Crawford asked for an “idiot’s guide” to produce labels from the start sheet. David Duffield suggested identifying and targeting the appropriate market. Aidan Hedley, having helped with the Chevy Chase events suggested facilitating organisers’ publicity. Acceptance of the report was proposed by Roger Philo, seconded by Colin Bezant and approved nem con. Neville Holgate distributed a short report (printed elsewhere) showing no problems in his area. He also emphasised the importance of punctuality in submitting results in a PBP year. Acceptance of the report was proposed by Chris Crossland, seconded by John Ward and approved nem con. Mike Wigley added to his printed report by thanking his team – Ian Hobbs, Don Black, Dave McKenzie, Findlay Watt and Nik Windle for their hard work. Acceptance of the report was proposed by Peter South, seconded by John Radford and approved nem con. DW gave a LEL 2013 Progress Report. It had been a busy year: the start had been booked at the Davenant school, Loughton. The route has been changed to include a crossing of the Humber Bridge and the out/ back route through Scotland changed to a loop to showcase more of that country’s scenery. Controls this time will be at secondary schools, rather than village halls to cater for a larger field size. Anyone with queries about the event should contact him (DW). Gerry Boswell commented that having been a Thurlby controller in 2009 and likely Spalding controller in 2013, he was delighted at the far better facilities there. Mike McGeever suggested a levy or advance payment to eliminate the effective subsidy previously enjoyed by LEL riders. DW replied the budget had been scrutinised several times and there was no need for such measures. On his enquiry, Edwin Hargraves was advised the limit on riders had not yet been finalised. 6) Mike Wigley spoke in support of the proposal, mentioning the average age of members when joining the club is 46, with the average age of the whole membership being 54. Jim Hopper’s inclination was to scrap the concession entirely. Mark Beauchamp queried whether there was a formula for profitability. SS replied the cost was being met from subscriptions. Norman Maggs mentioned the TA had rescinded a
Arrivée February 2011
Official similar concession, while Rod Dalitz noted the IET had raised their qualifying period of employment from 25 to 50 years. Edwin Hargraves pointed out members could continue to pay full price, with the excess treated as a donation. On a show of hands the meeting voted to approve the proposal, with just a single dissenter. 7) After a procedural query from the floor, DW submitted an amended proposal to change Regulation 5.8 as follows: “Brevet Cards shall be available to entrants for all AUK events. Where Brevet Cards are used, these will be issued before an event. It is the responsibility of the rider to ensure the safe keeping of the card and that it is properly filled in at each control with arrival time, control stamp and the controller’s initials, or with the required information in the case of Information Controls.” After Reid Anderson had checked this change answered all of his previously expressed misgivings, Steve Snook spoke to second the proposal. The vote was again overwhelmingly in favour with, again, a single dissenter. 8) Gerry Boswell proposed, seconded by Jackie Popland, that all Directors offering themselves for re-election to the same posts be approved en bloc. Approved nem con. Subsequently, John Hamilton was elected as Events Secretary and Danial Webb who had previously held that position, was elected as Publicity Secretary, both nem con. Reid Anderson, recalling the first election of the retiring Chairman noted that both candidates had made an address outlining their vision for the future of AUK and requested the sole candidate do likewise. IH spoke briefly stressing his commitment to core values. The meeting then elected him to his new position nem con. 9) AOB Sonya Crawford queried a decision preventing her, as an organiser, from riding another event while her own was in progress. DW didn’t think any of the protocols required change, but maintained that such decisions would be taken by the Events team very much on a case by case basis. Edwin Hargraves enumerated some problems faced by rookie organisers. Paul Stewart suggested on-line assistance. With reference to inappropriately sized envelopes (one such problem) PP recalled an instance when Dave Hudson had received a wholly inadequate envelope for a 600 routesheet.This was duly despatched, having been photo-reduced well past the limit of legibility, with a polite note suggesting that a larger envelope be sent if the rider needed to rely on those instructions! Gerry Boswell cited cases of insufficient postage resulting in a Post Office penalty charge. John Hamilton invited people who wanted improvements in his area of operations to contact him direct. Sonya Crawford extolled the convenience of (organiser’s) standard size envelopes, once the labels had been printed. Chris Davies suggested the Southern 24 hour Time Trial to make PBP seem like an easy ride! 10) PP was concerned that the four week period between the end of the riding season and the AGM / Dinner / Prize Presentation was too short and, as later meetings had proved unpopular, suggested that consideration should be given to bringing the riding year forward by a month to start on 1st October annually. In the ensuing informal discussions it was established that the club’s financial year already ended on 31st August so would be unaffected by such a change (though would increase pressure on the Treasurer to prepare the accounts punctually.) Though no change to the current season was possible, there was general approval for change in the future. Equally, as evidenced by a straw poll there was general satisfaction with the venue (though hardly a disinterested group of members.) PP mentioned that, surprisingly, no other racecourse had similar facilities. Following the end of the discussions, Jim Hopper proposed a vote of thanks to the committee for their efforts. 11) The meeting closed at 16:55. (Sec’s note) The venue for the next AGM has provisionally been booked at the same venue for the weekend of 26/27th Nov 2011. Although the general feelings of the meeting have hopefully been recorded accurately, as a group of some 90 members, it may not truly reflect the wishes of the approx 4,500 members as a whole. Accordingly we want to know your views on the subject of Life Members, the timings of the end of the season and the AGM, so please write to Arrivée or any of the committee to enable us to gauge the overall feeling of the Club. In addition if you have any ideas about future venues, Pam is sure to welcome any suggestions for suitable places.
Arrivée February 2011
Just a Minute
he committee and associates gathered in York before the AGM at the start of the worst month of weather in a generation to uphold the dominance of the AUK corporate storm cloud. Increased automation on the route planer is currently under test and an update to allow Perms’ start / finish lists will be released, once bugs have been eliminated. Pam’s life has been eased by enhancements to the Brevet card production system. Pete C has also been working on a new website which will hopefully be released shortly. At the time of the meeting, there were just two events where, despite chasing, details of the finish list had not been received. Luckily, neither affected the results. For the 2011 season, the BRM calendar has been submitted punctually (which will be welcome news for PBP aspirants.) There is currently a total of 458 events planned with more expected shortly. Finances are generally healthy despite Linda frequently having to chase details for payments received, including some £1500 for advertisements in Arrivée. Full details of membership statistics provided by Mike were discussed and samples of a few Arrivées which had been incorrectly collated have been returned to the printers for inspection but it is too soon to have received a response. ACP’s PBP quotas are due to be made public in January and will be broadcast to members once they are known. Entry will be via their website, so Peter M’s role will be essentially to check applications. Problems with DIY event date formatting are now largely resolved and much development has been done on those events. A system of organiser validated Perms has been introduced and progress on both types of event is being monitored. The validators have processed all 2010 results received totalling 16,948 but were concerned to note a continuing decline in numbers of validated Brevets and also many events with single figure fields. This latter problem was discussed at length to agree the best solution and it was eventually decided to impose a £10 pre-registration fee per event per year to include 20 free Brevet cards. Pam has produced nearly 18,000 cards for the season just ended and as mentioned above has found the improved system automation has made her job far easier. Sheila suggested uploading Arrivée to the website in two tranches of about 5Mb (a single 10Mb file is likely to cause problems on many PCs) though issues are to remain in hard copy form only until succeeded by subsequent issues. Tim has now resigned as Advertisements Manager so those ads currently booked will be allowed to lapse at the end of their lives. Due to the synchronicity of the committee meeting and the AGM there is much overlap and Keith Benton detailed the late Bry Ferguson’s bequests at both meetings. Details will be seen in the AGM Minutes and the committee remain very grateful for his generosity and the help in recruiting members to the meetings. Mark Rigby’s request for al riders to carry a personal medical fact sheet was discussed and while considered desirable, the onus remained with individual riders to make any necessary arrangements. Pam Pilbeam wanted a longer interval between the end of the season and the prize giving to allow adequate time for the accurate recording of the season’s awards. Various options were suggested and the discussion was transferred to the AGM to garner the view of those present at the meeting. At the time of writing, winter’s grip is still unpleasantly firm and it is sad to have to report an accident to a rider on the way home from the AUK Dinner. Best wishes go to Bob Bialek for a quick, complete recovery and also good wishes to all other members for a safe and successful season’s cycling, whatever the goals. As ever, Minutes will be available from me on receipt of a sae or on the website in due course. Richard
Accidental Information As more experienced members will know, organisers have been completing Accident Report forms for several seasons now, and these have been collated for the last few, to try and improve safety on the rides. They are to be completed to give details of any accident occurring during a ride, so riders should report any such incidents when convenient, and certainly by the end of the ride. As far as organisers are concerned, though nil returns are positively welcomed and all reports should be sent to the validation team with the returns form, a recent system enhancement involving a tick box on the return means that hard copy nil returns do not need to be sent to Sue/Keith, though full written details of any incidents and identification of the event are still necessary. Previously, Perms of all types have been a grey area, but they should also be subject to the same reporting when accidents are mentioned to organisers. And now the season of goodwill is over, to the interesting, or gory, bit – last season’s tabulation. To protect the innocent, the organisers’ names and start place are not shown. Please also note that the summary of what happened is my own précis from reading others’ versions of events, so, being, at best, second-hand information, may not be used as evidence in any legal context. Date 16-Jan-10 31-Jan-10 6-Feb-10 13-Feb-10 7-Mar-10 7-Mar-10 27-Mar-10 18-Apr-10 25-Apr-10 15-May-10 15-May-10 5-Jun-10 5-Jun-10 5-Jun-10 12-Jun-10 19-Jun-10 20-Jun-10 26-Jun-10 26-Jun-10 27-Jun-10 10-Jul-10 23-Jul-10 23-Jul-10 8-Aug-10 8-Aug-10 15-Aug-10 21-Aug-10 22-Aug-10 5-Sep-10 5-Sep-10 12-Sep-10 19-Sep-10 25-Sep-10 25-Sep-10 9-Oct-10 31-Oct-10 SEASON
some statistics from Richard Phipps This past season has seen a welcome slight reduction in the number of incidents, and generally a reduction in severity, despite a couple of bad ones. Again, motorised vehicles – many riders’ pet hate (normally fully reciprocated) – were involved in just a few comings together. Mention of them prompts me to remind everyone that AUK insures riders on events for 3rd party liabilities, subject to an excess, but for your peace of mind it may be advisable to take out insurance to cover personal injury or damage to your cycle. This is something to be negotiated on an individual basis and your usual tame insurance broker will be the best contact if you want to arrange it. To reassure those who consider cycling is a dangerous activity, the percentages for injuries are also given, showing an overall risk of any injury on any event, from a graze upwards is just over 6% and serious injury about ½%. Or, to put it another way, on average one accident every 51,500 km ridden. And now in the season of snows and sudden slipperiness and beyond, let’s all be careful out there, everyone, and stay safe.
Dist No of offs Rider Err Mech Weather Road Other Driver? Serious Briefly 104 1 1 1 Rider fell on icy undulating lane 200 1 1 2 Crash on icy road 120 2 1 1 Two crashes on damp road with black ice 200 1 1 1 Slip on icy road 100 3 1 1 1 Spills on icy roads 200 3 1 1 1 Spills on icy roads 150 3 1 1 Bunch crash after wheels touched 100 1 1 1 Crash after hitting pothole 105 1 1 1 1 Rider made contact with van after losing control 135 1 1 1 On a tricky descent rider hit an oncoming walker 209 1 1 1 Rider knocked off by uncontrolled dog 600 1 1 3 Likely chav attack 600 1 1 1 Crash after hitting pothole 300 1 1 1 Crash after wheels touched 400 1 Rider lost consciousness at café stop 400 1 1 3 Rider crashed after hitting animal in dark 200 1 1 2 Collision between rider and oncoming motor cyclist 312 1 1 2 Crash after hitting stone while descending and blow-out 600 1 1 1 1 Rider fell on gravel while cycling uphill 100 4 1 2 Touched wheels in bunch 300 1 1 1 1 1 Rider crashed on wet badly surfaced road 1026 1 1 1 1 Rider crashed on descent avoiding approaching car 1026 1 1 1 Rider collided with car on descent 100 1 1 1 Rider fell after muffed gear change 200 5 1 1 Unshipped chain caused bunch pile up 115 1 1 1 Minor crash on descent 215 1 1 Rider bitten by dog on lead 150 8 1 1 Bunch pile up after hitting pot hole 100 1 1 1 1 Low speed skid on wet bend 100 1 1 0 Rider while distracted ran into pedestrian on shared use path 110 1 1 1 Rider fell crossing ford 212 2 1 1 1 Riders fell on wet cattle grids 200 1 1 1 Touched wheels in bunch 120 1 1 1 Rider crashed into ditch after losing control on descent 200 1 1 1 Collision between riders braking for "blind" turning 100 1 1 1 1 3 Braking problems on steep wet road. Rider clipped car, 527 lost control and crashed into a tree
5.31% 28 x 1 (Slight) 0.57% 3 x 3 (Severe)
0.76% 4 x 2 (Serious) 6.64% 35 injuries from 57 incidents
Official’s Reports (continued from November Arrivée)
There are few great revelations there, with little change to either the number or type of incidents. Riders coming off on slippery roads, either wet, or at the beginning of the year, icy. With these latter conditions, you will be on the ground before you’ve even realised the wheel’s gone. The forecasters predicted the worst winter conditions for thirty years with anything up to 30cm of snow – 12 inches in old money, which wasn’t too far wrong. Subsequently, at the start of the current season, we have experienced an early winter with the worst snow for at least a generation and the coldest December since records began. I am hopeful for a second outbreak of sense (aka DNS) to avoid a massive increase in the figures for this season. Other than that, it’s loss of concentration, either riding solo, or in the bunch which usually means a pile-up. Inevitably, there are equipment failures, which may not cause great injury, but can often mean an early end to the ride. The other most frequent cause is not taking account of the road conditions: speeding downhill, with no consideration there may be a gravel strewn bend half way down.
Permanent Events Secretary: The year on year growth in Permanent Events continues, although at a slightly reduced rate with an increase from 2,100 in the 2008/9 season to over 2,300 Perm events being successfully completed in the past year. The proportion of DIY events has remained fairly constant increasing from 41% to 44% with over 1,000 events being ridden. This has been the first full year of Extended Calendar Events (ECE Perms), which were intended to encourage members to cycle to and from events. Previously, incorporating a Calendar Event into a DIY Perm could only be recognised with Perm distance points. ECE events allow you to boost a BP event to a BR distance and so collect distance points, or to extend a BR event collecting a combination of Calendar and Permanent distance points and any AAA component attached to the Calendar Event. 75 ECE events have been completed, mostly to Arrivée February 2011
Official and from BP events to bring the total distance over 200km. But, 26 were to BR events, with Mike Kelly twice managing to cycle over 400km in order to get to and from a Calendar Event.
compared with BR events. The most significant increase has been from those of you with limited blocks of time to spare, whizzing around a hilly 50km circuit in order to grab extra AAA points.
In addition to setting up the systems to cope with recording the points combinations for ECE Perms, most of the development work this year has been concentrated on DIY Perms, with Danial Webb trialling new features. Entries may now be made on paper or electronically; brevet cards may be folded card or virtual electronic ones; and evidence of control locations may be receipts and ATM printouts or GPS tracks. In addition with GPS tracked events there is now the possibility of gaining AAA points on an individual event-byevent basis.
Organisers awards for having most (non-DIY) entrants this year has been a very close contest and at the time of writing there may be a few late returned brevet cards to come, but Mike Wigley just edged ahead of Dave Hudson and Steve Poulton to retain the 1st place he occupied last year:
To top it off a DIY variant for LEL Perms has also been launched. I am sure that you will appreciate that trialling all this with various ad hoc temporary systems, bits of laborious hand-crafting on complicated spread-sheets, and sometimes manually searching around to unite AAA points with their correct DIY event, has taken quite a lot of time and effort from the DIY Perm organiser team, Steve Snook (AAA man), Pete Coates (systems man) and myself. I’m grateful for the work done by Pete C to bring it all together into new organiser start / finish lists within the AUK website. Once we are confident that this is all working well with 2010/2011 DIY Perm events (but not before!), I will be in touch with other Perm organisers to explore how some of these changes may be rolled out to other Perm Events. While all of this may be great news to those of you with high tech gadgets on your carbon fibre bikes, please be re-assured that for the traditionalist AUK member with a steel machine and a saddlebag, complementary paper route sheets and folded brevet cards and poly bags will still be available. Other Permanents have also continued to flourish, with a good number of new fixed route events from 50km to 1300km being introduced in locations throughout the country. Check out the AUK Calendar to see what is available. The spread of event distances for BR events was: 200km 300km 400km 600km 600 to 1000km 87% 6.6% 2.5% 2.8% 0.2%
The spread of event distances for BP events was: 50km 100km 150km 17% 76% 7% 79% of Permanents ridden were BR events and 21% were BP events. Proportionally the number of shorter BP events ridden is increasing
1st (118) Mike Wigley 3rd (110) Steve Poulton 5th (68) Herman Ramsey
2nd (113) Dave (el Supremo) Hudson 4th (75) Martin Malins
Rider podium places for most Perm brevet cards validated this year has been very different with the big mile-eaters taking a rest and a much more widely spread field of participants. At one point it almost looked as though “non-member” might be in the lead. But the final top three with little to separate them are: 1st (41) Brian Mann
2nd (39) Marcus Yeo
3rd (38) Peter Turnbull
Permanents AAA prize of the year must go to Toby Hopper, who was only just edged off the podium with 37 completed Perm Events, but managed to include within them the first completion of Colin Bezant’s seriously hilly epic Cambrian Series event of 800km and 13.5 AAA points; and for good measure he also finished the Wessex “Hellfire” 600km with 8.25 AAA . The longest event of 2009/10 was the 1,400km randonneur version of the End to End completed by Steven Ferry, Jim Gresty, Clive Handy and Ray Joiner. Three 1,300km DIY events were completed; and successful 1,000km rides included: York-Oban-York, EL’s 1000, Lowestoft-Ardnamurchan and the Great Eastern. 35 ProFs were completed including some multi-stage events, but no long continuous overseas Perm events have been finished this year. Mont Ventoux remains the most visited mountain destination. Seven multi-stage rides from the Channel to the Mediterranean were completed on either Sheila Simpson’s “Caen to Montpellier” route or Peter Marshall’s Cherbourg to Perpignan route. Finally, thanks to all Perm Event organisers. Between you we now have a great variety of long and short, hilly and flat events spread throughout Britain (plus some good overseas routes too), with a choice between organised routes to take you through some of Britain’s finest scenery or the option to DIY your own thing. (The AUK membership fee must be worth it just for this alone?) John Ward
AUK Awards Presentation at York Racecourse Centre 2010
Arrivée February 2011
Stop Press Paris-Brest-Paris
WANTED Regional Events Coordinator Scotland and Border Counties to join the Audax UK Events Team
· · · ·
Good computer skills Enjoy working with route checking software Reasonable negotiating skills Broadband connection
Interested parties please contact either John Hamilton email@example.com or Lucy McTaggart firstname.lastname@example.org
Lumicycle LED3Si The LED3, featured in previous issues of Arrivee, has evolved into the LED3Si. The LED3Si (side illumination) features a glow ring that vitally improves the visibiity of the cyclist from the side. Cyclists are particuarly vulnerable when passing left hand side roads or when waiting at T junctions to turn right. In both these cases the beam from a cyclist’s light is not visible to motorists from the side. The LED3Si emits a bright ring of light to the side ensuring the cyclist is more visible in these dangerous situations. The cowling above the glow ring prevents glare in dark country lanes. There is also an improvement in switching over the previous model. Performance remains unchanged with a 3 Hour 850 Lumen spot beam ideal for road use that illuminates the road 100 m ahead but won’t dazzle oncoming traffic. Best of all the LED3Si with Elite battery is down in price from £250 to £200, just in time for PBP. www.lumicycle.com
Tel 01202 757838
Fancy a long weekend cycling in France around the lively market town of Dieppe? An ideal first cycling visit to
11 - 13 June 2011
Distances of 20, 50, 90, 140 and 200km and a 40km Mountain Bike route in the rolling Normandy countryside. Rides to suit all abilities from families to CTC, club and Audax riders. Walk for non-cyclists. Travel Newhaven-Dieppe. SAE to: Caroline Street, 83 Garston’s Close, Titchfield, Fareham, Hants PO14 4EU. Tel: 01329 845330 or visit www.dieppetour.com
Here are a few highlights that I gleaned from ACP’s official presentation of the 2011 Paris-Brest-Paris, which will start on 21 (80and 90-hour riders) or 22 (84-hour riders and sub 84-hour riders) August. Peter Marshall
Entry ACP hopes to handle all aspiring PBP riders and is planning for 6,000 entrants, with another 500 if the authorities and facilities permit. AUK’s quota is 385, but quotas are somewhat flexible. (We had about 320 riders in 2007.) A rider’s nationality is determined by the nationality of their club. Entry will be only via the PBP website (www.paris-brest-paris.org), with payment online. There is an English version of the website. The entry fee is expected to be a little over €100 and will include cancellation and medical repatriation insurance. There will be no need to submit any documents in support of your entry. No more photos, medical certificates, or insurance certificates, although I’d recommend you make sure you have your own travel insurance. As before, no food at controls is included in the entry fee. Riders who completed a BRM event in 2010 will be able to preregister for PBP for a nonrefundable fee of €30 (deducted from their final entry fee). Preregistration dates differ according to the length of your longest 2010 BRM: 3 April (1000km or more), 17 April (600), 01 May (400), 15 May (300), 29 May (200). If you have preregistered, you can enter from 11 June, paying the full fee and providing the homologation (validation) numbers of at least three of your 2011 qualifying rides. You don’t have to have completed all four qualifiers in order to enter. You must convert your preregistration into a full entry by 20 June, otherwise you lose the priority granted by preregistration. Riders who did not complete a BRM event in 2010 will be able to enter PBP from 20 June. Entries will close on 17 July. If PBP is oversubscribed, ACP will establish and administer a waiting list.
The Ride There will be more starts to choose from. Leaving aside the various starts for special machines, the Sunday starts will be: 80-hour from 1600; 90-hour, in waves of 500 or so every half-hour, from 1800 to 2000; 90-hour, in groups of 20 or fewer, any time between 2100 and 2200. The Monday starts will be: 84-hour at 0500; free starts between 0530 and 0800, to arrive by 1700 Thursday (81-83.5 hours). The revised starts should help reduce bunching at controls. You will collect your brevet card and other stuff the day before your start. Same goes for the bike inspection. The route is largely unchanged. We’ll ride past the castle in Fougères (by popular demand, apparently), and the Brest control will be in the city centre. The run into the finish will be more direct than in 2007. There will be an optional stop (not a control) at Saint-Nicholas du Pélem, midway between Loudéac and Carhaix. This will have food and sleeping facilities. ACP is exploring the possibility of other similar stops elsewhere. As before, there will be secret controls. Riders will have a brevet card plus a souvenir microchip worn around the ankle on a velcro band. The microchip will register your precise start and finish times. The mats for the microchips will be placed in the control buildings, so you pass over them as you go to get your card stamped. You will need to wear a reflective gilet (no Sam Browne belts) conforming to EN471 at night and in poor visibility. You can order a PBP-branded gilet with your entry at extra cost. No rider will be credited with a time under 43 hours 56 minutes…
Ode to McNasty Every night and every morn Some to misery are born, Every morn and every night Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight, Some are born to endless night. Some reach the end and feel alright Whilst others end up feeling shi...
With apologies and thanks to William Blake, Helen vecht and Billy Weir.
Arrivée February 2011
Correspondence Gerald Woodley in Cycling Accident
Letter from Canada
Popular Sid Valley cyclist Gerald Woodley is currently making an excellent recovery in hospital after an horrific cycling accident which almost cost him his life. The well known 73 year old is part of the club’s ‘Dad’s Army’ troop and veteran of many Audax events in Devon, Somerset and Dorset. It was on one of his favourite rides “The Dartmoor Devil” that Gerald almost perished. The Sidmouth brigade was descending a classic ‘v’ shaped valley on Holne Moor. However, the typically-steep descent was a little wet and greasy and unfortunately for Gerald a car was ascending in the opposite direction. The two met on a bend and Gerald clipped the offside mirror with the resultant distraction sending him left up a grassy bank and into a hawthorn tree.
I’m only 83 and I’m not dead yet (?)
Gerald suffered two punctured lungs, a broken shoulder, broken arm, head injuries and a fractured back. Fortunately, with help from other cyclists and the emergency services, the unconscious cyclist was airlifted to the R D & E Hospital in Exeter within half an hour. Two weeks later Gerald, having not lost his sense of humour, expressed his annoyance at not being able to enjoy his free ride in the Devon Air Ambulance!! The accident has had a significant impact on many circles in East Devon: Over the years Gerald has competed at sailing, running, orienteering and triathlon but cycling remains his life-long passion. He also partakes in swimming, hashing, skiing, keep-fit (!) and beekeeping, winning many prizes for his honey at the Devon County Show. I can also vouch for Gerald’s delicious homemade chutney!
But as far as results are concerned I might as well be. A major problem is: “Been There, Done That”. Couple that with the fact that the “PTB” have recently had events starting Downtown Vancouver, and I haven’t a single ACP credited event to my name this year. Living, as I do in a central location, Port Coquitlam, ie; halfway between Wreak Beach and the end of the Fraser River’s tidal water at the Mission Bridge, my comfort zone doesn’t extend to the druggies and bums of east Vancouver. But forward looking people did copy AUK’s Permanents system, and that has proven quite successful. My first attempt on June 19 fell apart at 150kms. I was riding the “fast” bike with 23mm tyres a bit too hard. My younger companion, Larry, in due deference to my age, sat on my back wheel most of the time. The indifferent road surfaces, combined with the stiff short frame and a difficult head wind, took their toll and I was shattered at 150km. August 19 looked like an ideal day; cool and cloudy and I set out alone from the Pitt River Bridge. This time I used the Mariposa, a bit longer, more gears, but more importantly, 25mm Michelin Pro Race tyres, several grams lighter than the 25mm Axial Pros I have been using. East on 7, south on 11 and so to the Yellow Barn for the first control. On to Popkum for the second control and those peaceful lanes of Camp River Road and Hope River Road. Being midweek, North Parallel Road was busy with big gravel trucks, but in comparison to Britain’s cramped roads there wasn’t too much of a problem. Over the Mssion Bridge on the side walk and so to Mission’s Tim Horton’s for the penultimate control. A tail wind helped along 7 and the commuter traffic was thick enough at the Pitt River Bridge that I had no trouble getting over to the left side of the road to turn into the Esso Station for my 202km finish control. I had left home at 159lbs and was 159 lbs when I got home after 11hours and 49 minutes. Best wishes for Christmas and 2011.
Although Gerald still dabbles in these pastimes, cycling remains his main sport and takes up most of his leisure time. In recent times he has cycled the Pyrenees mountain range (2006), John O’Groats to Lands End (2008) and the whole of Corsica (2009). In September this year he even cycled over 700 miles around Wales with two of his best pals, Richard Brain and John Hill. At the time of writing Gerald has made an amazing recovery after almost two weeks in a coma. On December 7th he was transferred to Odstock in Salisbury for back rehabilitation. At this time Gerald still Nigel Winchester has no sensation in his legs.
Charity Ride Eric Millington writes : AUK member John Manville, a septuatenarian, has found a novel way to celebrate his 55th wedding anniversary in 2011. He will be cycling from London to Paris in September on behalf of the Alzheimer Society. A regular cyclist, John is always looking for a new challenge and said that supporting his chosen cause was hugely important to the more than 700,000 people in the UK with dementia. Sponsorship and support for John can be made by post to: The Seniors Captain, West Hove Golf Club, Badger Way, Hangleton, Hove BN3 8EX Arrivée February 2011
Canadian road hazards
For Sale custom built Ladies tourer - Reynolds 531 48cm frame with shortened top tube; RSX groupset : triple chainring 52/42/30 & 8 cogs, 12 - 23; Shimano cantilever brakes; full length mudguards; Madison gel ladies saddle; Rigida Explorer rims with Michelin 700c tyres; Cateye computer. Pedals not included. £230, buyer collects or arranges delivery Contact: Bryan via email at email@example.com 11
Reviews Blinded by the Light review by Steve Agnew You know the feeling… One minute you are happily cycling along, the next a car approaches. its lights refuse to dip and you are left dazzled. There is little option but to slow down, and going uphill that means stopping! And when the car passes you wait for your eyes to readjust to the darkness… What can you do? The answer to this question, like so many more, is get decent lights! The vast majority of lights on the market are fine for getting noticed, and for rear lights that is all you need. But for front lights considerable more power is required to see where you’re going, spot holes in the road, and to ensure approaching vehicles dip their lights! Powerful lights require powerful batteries, otherwise they will start to dim after 30 minutes. And that means rechargeable batteries to avoid spending a fortune on primaries. And, not least, lights should be reliable, so it’s best to think twice about the mail-order offers from Hong Kong. If you are serious about cycling at night you need serious lights, and you have to be prepared to pay for them. You probably will not have heard of ‘FOUR4th’ as they are a small outfit but I suggest you check them out: http://www.four4th.co.uk/index.html They were my choice because they appeared to offer the best lumens/£. There probably are brighter, smaller, longer lasting and certainly cheaper offerings, but as an all-round package?
(Note for the photos, Steve placed two golf balls in the centre of the road, as markers - the first is 15 yards away, the second 22 yards) The low beam is 600 lumens and is good for most conditions. The high beam is an amazing 1200 lumens and really gives you confidence when going down unknown lanes. In fact the whole light gives me a confidence about night riding I never had before. The only cautious note I’d add regarding this light is that on full beam it is best to be careful to aim it low, otherwise you could blind oncoming traffic! Price: (Introductory Web Offer) from £195.00. Ed’s note - Sounds good for anything up to a 3 or 400km - but not one for the independent Paris-Brest-Paris rider!
Brooks Imperial B17 Saddle Brooks B17 Standard Saddle & Saddlebags review by Chris Wilby
FOUR4th are into mountain biking, where brightness is everything. Brightness that doesn’t fade. The lights were developed for helmet mounting, so they are very small and weigh next to nothing (63g to be precise). Plus they are rugged and have reliable mounts and connections. The operation is simple – one large switch: press for on, press to switch between low and high beams, hold to turn off! This translates well into road use – with the light mounted on the bars and a small battery pack under the crossbar (the soft-pack will not damage your paintwork), there is sufficient juice for a night’s riding – it’s seen me through a 400 km and the battery wasn’t fully charged. The specifications for the 2600 mAh pack suggest 2.75 hrs for high power beam (below) and 10 hours on low power beam (opposite).
Both saddles were supplied as narrow fitting and both were used by riders of similar weight (160lbs ) on the same rides. Each saddle weighed 530grams. The saddles are different in that the Imperial has a slit in it to relieve the perineum area.
Neither saddle was comfortable from the start as it took many hours before the Brooks comfort worked in. The rides done on both saddles included the Bryan Chapman 600Km, the Wales Cymru 1000k ride and Italy’s Mille Miglia 1600K ride in 130 hours. Lots of 200K rides a 300K and a 400K arrow ride. My background on Brooks saddles includes a team professional, a Brooks Flyer, and a B17, so I am familiar with and used to the process of breaking in and using a Brooks saddle. I have also used various gel saddles and plastic ones, which have been assigned to the bin. The Imperial saddle is held together underneath by leather laces, which prevent the possibility of flattening due to the slit allowing the saddle to pull apart and widen. To stop this happening leather laces are provided to pull the two sides of the saddle nearer together. I found that the breaking in of the saddle was taking longer than I had anticipated and then discovered the laces had snapped.
Arrivée February 2011
Reviews Therefore I added stronger zip ties in addition to the lace support to keep the saddle sides in place and these have not broken.
was able to sit afterwards on my bike quite easily. My riding partner also survived but he had more damage to his hands.
My riding partner, using the Standard Brooks saddle on the same rides, was also finding it taking a while to work in. We had done a 400Km arrow ride and several 200Km rides, a 600km, and a 1000Km and still waiting for the comfort to arrive.
I think that the magic solution is how to ride, firstly have the saddle horizontal, second try not to lay on the nose piece too much and if you feel the pressure move, third get the saddle worn in so that it is comfortable for just sitting on.
The numbness in the groin area that I have experienced in the past is one reason for choosing an Imperial saddle against a standard Brooks. This would be the test, and for a long time on this new saddle I did not get the predictable numbness. It was not happening anymore.
I have tried sitting on good large comfortable(i.e. padded) saddles and can’t sit on them more than about 5 minutes, the Brooks has that special relationship with your backside. It contours to your anatomy so that every inch of your base has the same pressure between it and the bone.
However it did come back and I now believe that I have discovered the cause. We both experienced numbness in the groin area on these saddles, but only after they were used and worn to our needs. I have suffered this on all my saddles. My theory is as follows : To start with, when the saddle was new the leather was not fully sunk in and modelled to my anatomy so that there was discomfort. But the saddle leather was still high and therefore little weight bearing on the perineum as the rest of the saddle holding up. To get the most comfort, and help the wearing in process, I was sitting more on the rear of the saddle; also as I was sitting proud due to its newness. When the saddle has been seasoned or worn in, I would be fully seated on all areas as if placed into the comfort of an armchair. But during the initial stages the front area, the nosepiece was not being utilised as much. It was during this period when there was no numbness at all and I thought the saddle had solved the problem, but I did have pain from the rear, from the wearing in process. As the saddle has broken in it has become wonderful to sit on, very comfortable. But on flat runs and learning forwards the numbness has returned. This is from pressure on the nose piece of the saddle which is inevitable when leaning forwards. My partner was suffering more than I from this numbness, but we discovered that he had his saddle positioned pointing down and his whole body was pressing forwards with pressure on his hands as well. When this was put right and I mentioned the aspect of pressure from the nosepiece then this has reduced. We both are now aware of the problem which seems to be due to any sustained pressure on the nosepiece. Which has been caused in the past by either having a sloping saddle or spending a long time seated in a flat sprint. At all times make sure the saddle is flat and learn to move around so as not to lean on the nosepiece. Pay particular attention to this when on flat sections. My theory is that Brooks produced the slit saddle in 1890 to reduce saddle pressure and this does help with the rear because the saddle halves have more room for movement between them. However I think they probably found that with advent of other saddles competing it might have been a low seller and was discontinued. Also perhaps it was a short term improvement and perhaps the saddles were not as popular because the laces would break and make the working in process difficult. The laces, if broken, might be retied with the saddle at a different tension and working in would restart. Stretching would change the anatomy of the saddle and the working in process would be affected. Also at the time laces would not be as strong and might keep breaking, also it was probably shown that the difference in saddle did not completely solve the perineum issue. Therefore I think that Brooks would have stopped selling the saddle due to its unpopularity. More recently a man in America took a B17 and cut a slit down it, which weakened the saddle and has made it like two strips of cow hide one for each buttock. I can’t comment on how effective that is, but the effect of a Brooks worn in saddle must be lost or minor. The Brooks saddle must be pretty good to keep me seated for most of the 1600Km. After the ordeal I had some chaffing but very minor and Arrivée February 2011
The conclusions I make are to look carefully at the type of riding you do and choose whichever style of Brooks suits you. The B17 is an excellent saddle which can be narrow or wide depending upon your width, then the team Professional has less side panel so is more suited to faster riding, keeping your calves from rubbing against a saddle, the Swift is even more of a race saddle with lighter weight. Make sure you get a Brooks and you won’t be disappointed, particularly for the long Brevets. Millbrook
Brooks also produce saddle bags that fasten to the saddle loops on their many saddles. The MillBrook is a small sized bag that is good for day runs. I used the Glenbrook which is larger and could carry everything I needed for the long rides. Glenbrook
Both bags are made of a simulated leather black plastic and after miles of use, sunshine and general wear do not fade. This is great as they retain their new look. A saddlebag has the advantage of being used without a rack and are usually bigger than seat packs. They fix to the saddle so where your saddle goes so can the saddlebag. In Italy after about 400Km my pedal crank cracked and I had to change bikes. It was really useful to be able to change over saddle and seatpost to the new bike so that I could keep riding in comfort and still have all my stuff in the same bag. The first impressions of the Brooks bags are the quality manufacture and the padded linings that protect everything. The Glenbrook has two side pockets which I used for tool kit and first aid. The bags don’t have top straps to carry extras but this can be done using the saddle rungs with straps. The bag is designed with saddle straps attached on the outside of the bag and therefore have no holes into the bag to allow rain for any leakage this way. It is a flap design with side flaps so that you will only get water inside if you use a hose pipe pointing upwards, but in use so far everything has been kept dry and I have been through some torrential rain.
Opinions expressed in reviews are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the club 13
Preparation for Paris-Brest-Paris - part 1
Lucy McTaggart Level 3 Coach, Association of British Cycle Coaches
Left, Lucy & Dick qualifying for PBP 2007 on the Cambrian 600 Photo: Francis Cooke
On the Bike Training
Once we get through to April, and you have at least one 200km safely in the bag,,start to think about bringing a bit more speed into your riding. On your rides out from home, or extended commute, use the middle section to lift the pace a bit. No longer chatting pace but not flat out. Just having to concentrate more to keep the pace up. Make sure you keep a good cadence rather than churning a big gear which is far more tiring on long rides. For those wishing to use a heart rate monitor we are now into high level 2 / low level 3 heart rate. As your rides increase in length with the better weather, increase the time you spend at the higher effort level and in turn, over the weeks, gradually increase the effort level itself.
By the time you receive this article we’ll be into the last full month of Turbo Training winter and looking forward to longer days and less ice and snow .If The dreaded turbo, as many will call it, does have its place and possible you will have managed some steady miles when the weather certainly for a consistant workout to a particular level it is perfect, has allowed but if not don’t panic! There is still time to get some good especially during the bad weather winter months when icy roads foundation miles in.Use the next few weeks up until your first make any on road miles very difficult. A programme using steady low qualifying 200km to get out when you can. Ride at a pace where you level sessions over winter and progressing through spring to could comfortably chat to the person next to you.This is the level that introduce interval training to improve power output and therefore will help you build your endurance and prepare you for the harder speed on the road is excellent work later in the season. Use the preparation, whatever length of lengthening daylight to get out event you are aiming for. Pondering this article the main stumbling block for a couple of hours or just increase your commute home. Try was where to start in the myriad of areas worth Stretching & to do this two or three times per covering which will help prospective riders progress Core Strength week. At weekends try to join a more smoothly through the event. local clubrun for a 3 hours plus An often overlooked aspect of ride or head out yourself. most cyclists’ preparation is any For this first article I will cover sections relevant to Clubruns should help hone your kind of stretching and core the early part of the season and qualifiers.More group riding skills, which will strength exercises. Over the detail on subjects associated with the ride itself will winter months and through the prove a great asset riding in the large groups of PBP. be covered in part 2 in the next Arrivee. In the spring is a good time to get into a It’s a good idea, if you haven’t meantime anyone wanting more detail than can be routine of doing this type of There are many books on already, to make a detailed plan covered here is welcome to get in touch by e-mail at exercise. Yoga/Pilates/Circuit Training but if of which rides you intend to use firstname.lastname@example.org. you are new to these there is no as your main qualifiers and also substitute for being shown how plan some backups in case you to do the exercises correctly so a have any problems with your local class as the starting point. As you progress these exercises can main events. This applies especially to the longer events as the be carried out as part of your daily routine at home, always when well qualifying period is very short - but try to include a few extra 200’s as warmed up, either just back in the house from your ride or using a these will help to continue your progress towards PBP.This plan will short warm up on the turbo/rowing machine. also give you a shape for your build up to the big event and you should think about how you wish to approach things. Are you happy Done regularly these exercises will greatly reduce your risk of injuries to just get round and enjoy the ambience or are you hoping to get and help avoid/remedy conditions such as sciatica. A regular routine round quickly, which will mean putting in higher intensity work later of around 12 different exercises taking 10-15 minutes is all that is in the season plus a different approach during the event itself. needed. 14
Arrivée February 2011
Carry with you:
Look after your general health in the lead up to PBP. Sort out any problems before then, such as a niggling tooth or other minor ailments. These all tend to magnify under the stress of a long event. Sort them out now.
Spares and tools individual to your own bike. Make sure you have the right sized Allen keys etc to fit everything you need.
Take a look at your diet. Although on events it’s often not possible to consume the best foods, you do have control over what you eat day to day, which is what makes a big difference to your health. General guidelines such as plenty of fruit and veg, enough protein for recovery and repair, especially following a long event, and making sure to include foods to provide enough of the minerals you need.
Spare food to get you between controls - plus a little more.
Keep very sugary/fatty foods as a treat rather than routine. As an example: Iron - Essential for oxygen transport but far less well known also associated with keeping your immune system up and running and involved in your body’s energy production processes ie pretty vital Good sources include : Meats/Dark green vegetables/Dried fruit. Absortion of iron is affected by other foods consumed with or within a couple of hours of the iron source. Absorbtion enhancers include - Citrus juice/fruit, vitamin A, peptides from partially digested meats Absorbtion inhibitors include - Tea, coffee ,red wine, carbonated drinks - All contain polyphenols Calcium - Cheese, milk etc Phytates - wholegrain cereals/seeds. During regular long distance cycling taking a supplement of multi vitamins/minerals may well be helpful, even if you already have a good diet.
The Qualifiers - 200, 300, 400, 600km Each distance brings a few extra challenges especially for those who are undertaking their first SR series but even for those who have ridden many qualifiers before these rides provide an opportunity to smooth out any problems before the main event. If you have any new equipment bike-wise - lighting, clothing, route finding, GPS, food to eat during the ride. Test all of these during the qualifiers so that by the time you head to France you have things perfected for yourself, especially feeding. What suits you over 200km may not settle in your stomach at 4am on a 600km.
Spare clothing to keep you dry and also warm at night ,plus visible, and make sure all of this is well secured on the bike. Maps of the area, even if you use a GPS.
Build Up Although the build up through the distances is step by step, one very important thing to take into account is that the first stage of PBP is around 140km to the first official feed station and 200km to the first actual control. Make sure that later in the season you have some practice at covering at least140km without a stop, either on your events or rides from home. If you have to stop for a stamp or pit stop, make it just that and then continue. Although there are unofficial feeds on this first PBP stage, you will make better progress if you are confident of riding this first long stage continuously and self sufficiently.
Some final points on qualifying For those who will be undertaking their first SR series, the best advice is - Don’t Panic! As you move up through the distances you will inevitably have a few times when you hit a bad patch or a problem of some kind. You may go badly off route and lose a lot of time or have stomach problems or a mechanical. Many things can be sorted out if you can think through them to a viable solution. Staying calm and having a good ponder of the map will usually see you back on route and if you’ve lost a lot of time just keep going to the next control. Often you will make up more time than you think and be back in time and back on track (note to carry a good head torch as, more often than not, this and any other problems could well happen on dark lanes). The biggest thing to remember on your rides is to ride at a pace you are comfortable with. Don’t try to hang on to groups where you feel right on the limit, especially in the early part of the event. Better to start steady and get quicker later in the event. This will keep your stomach happy during the event too. For each event make a rough plan of which controls you intend to take a longer or shorter break at but be prepared to adjust this if neccessary. Good Luck. By the time Part 2 hits the doormat you should be well on the way to qualifying.
If you intend using liquid fuels on the bike be wary of the solely carbohydrate type, which work well on a 200km. You may well find these cause stomach problems on the longer events, being quite acidic. Try using a product which is a more complete food including proteins and minerals. These often settle better on overnight/longer rides and will sustain your system better too on a multi day event. With PBP taking up to 90 hours total it is unlikely you will ride solely on liquid food, even if you are a faster rider, so find out what solid foods you can happily consume on the qualifiers and although listening to others ideas remember that you are not other people. Everyone is dfferent so find what suits you with feeding and also all aspects of your cycling.
The Bike Planned maintenance is much better than emergency roadside repairs. Get into a routine of properly maintaining your bike. Rims/ Brakes/Sprockets/Chains/Tyres etc all wear out and need replacing before they fail. If you make this a habit you will avoid many roadside problems and possibly the disappointment of having to abandon an event. Three to four weeks before PBP, carry out an overhaul of any worn equipment and replace tyres and anything such as worn cleats, worn out shorts etc.Then use all of these in the final lead up to PBP so that any last adjustments can be made. Do not use brand new equipment for the first time on PBP itself. Arrivée February 2011
Mileater 2009 Mileater Diaries, Thousand Mile Badges and Mick Latimer trophy 2009 repeated the result of 2008 with Pat Kenny as the Mileater
entrant with the largest claim of – 22,122 miles – and consequently the Mick Latimer trophy. Judith Swallow gained the ‘opposite sex award’ with 16,828 miles. There were two other entrants who recorded more than 10,000 miles in 2009 namely: Margaret Phillpotts with 11,091 and Julian Williams with 10,295. The average miles claimed by entrants in 2009 was 6379 miles. It was a quiet year for diaries but a few entries stand out: “ Frosty Thursday, rims iced up; no brakes, very frightening!” - 30/1 SC “Muntjac deer caught in my lights; looked at me, ran and ‘barked’” 14/1 RH “We haven’t had a winter like this for years. Most days push the bike to work.” 9/1 DS “Had to slam the anchors on on Thursday evening when a jogger ran out in front of me. I’ve got enough lights to frighten off low flying aircraft so I’m amazed he didn’t see me.” 30/1 DS “Swapped creaking carbon chainset; back to Campag alloy! expensive mistake!” RT 3/5 “No creaking, which is nice; slight extra weight is not noticeable!” RT 6/5 “Been back on the road for 15 weeks and now passed last year’s total.” MH 31/5 “To Overton and back. Did 74 miles to celebrate my 74th birthday.” GJ April “Interviewed with the Cafehoppers at the Horse Shoe Pass and Ponderosa cafe by BBC Wales.” GJ August
“Torrential rain, which idiot did the rain dance?” NS 13/4 (So, it’s not all wall-to-wall sunshine in France?) “Beautiful wall-to-wall sun.” NS 19/4 “Violent storm not predicted by the dreaded France Meteo but was by my electric seaweed.” NS 20/7 “Praying for rain.” NS 30/8 “Lance Armstrong is in Paisley ... joined hundreds of cyclists (got autograph and photo); rained all the time.” CH 18/8 Many thanks to all of the diary writers who have written such entertaining diaries, without whom this article would be impossible! Apologies for any misquotations or embarrassments, I have tried to maintain accurate copies of quotations but errors may have crept in, all of which are entirely my responsibility. Thanks especially to those I have quoted: CH – Colin Horn, DS - David Simmons, GJ - Glynn Jones, MH - Mike Hunting, NS - Noel Simpson, RH - Rob Hidderley, RT - Richard Thomas and SC - Steve Cockram. The annual Mileater awards (Men’s and Ladies’) are made after the year’s Mileater diaries are submitted to the organiser. The individual with the highest total mileage for the year (male or female) is awarded the Mick Latimer trophy. All 2009 entrants should now have their medal, please contact me if you have not received yours. The Mileater competition and diary run from January 1st to December 31st each year, diaries must be returned by April 30th of the following year to count in the competition (although a medal will be produced whenever the diary is returned). If you would like to enter then send a cheque for £8 to the organiser: Rob Hidderley, Woodfield House, 417a Stourbridge Road, Catshill, Bromsgrove, B61 9LG. In return you will receive a diary to complete and a Mileater medal engraved with your name and miles ridden in the year. Additionally I also coordinate the ‘Thousand Miles’ badges and the easiest way to accumulate miles for the 30, 60 or 100 badges is to complete a diary Rob Hidderley each year.
Arrivée February 2011
24 Hour Time Trials
24 Hour Riders Sportive riding is on the increase, we read all the time about challenges that are increasingly difficult and demanding, but many riders fight shy of tackling a “24”. Others don’t even consider riding one because they probably think that they don’t have the necessary endurance, strength and/or mental toughness to complete a “24”. The message from the 24 Hour Fellowship is simple, “give it a go”. The problem for many riders who are doubtful about riding a “24”, is that they are put off by the astonishing mileages achieved by the National 24 Hour Championship winners and podium achievers. If result sheets for recent “24” championships are studied, it quickly becomes obvious that completed mileages are sometimes half or even less of the winner’s mileage. Talking to riders who achieve modest mileages you will find that whatever distance they have covered, they will be hugely satisfied with their achievement in finishing arguably the toughest of all time trials. Any “24” rider will happily advise any potential competitor about aspects of training and preparation and, in addition to individual advice, the 24 Hour Fellowship is always on hand to help and advise riders.
AUK Chair, Ian Hennessey, Mersey Roads 24hr TT, 2010 Photo: Heather Swift
The 24 hour Fellowship The 24 Hour Fellowship was founded in 1960 with the stated objective of “Promoting the cycle sport of 24 hour time trials.” Originally membership was restricted to those people who had completed a “24” or who had assisted a rider in a “24”. Nowadays the Fellowship will welcome anyone who is interested in 24 hour time trials. Over the years many famous 24 riders and national champions have been members and indeed presidents of the Fellowship. It is also the case that the Fellowship operates two long-distance time-trialling competitions. These are firstly for anyone who completes at least one “100”, one “12” and one “24” in a season, much the same in principle as the BBAR. The second competition is run on the same basis but for veterans only. In both cases there is no cost to the rider and the compilation of the results is all carried out by the Fellowship’s Competitions Secretary. Those riders who are not likely to figure amongst the top placings therefore have the very valid aims of both producing a PB. and improving their position in one or both of the above competitions. The Fellowship has also produced a manual for 24 hour riders which is available free to members of the Fellowship. It can also be purchased by non-members from the Secretary. The Fellowship also produces a journal twice a year containing articles, competitions, photographs, race reports and many other items of interest to longdistance cyclists. Sweatshirts with the Fellowship logo on it are also available for £21, again from the Secretary.
Charlotte Barnes & Liz Norman, Mersey Roads 24hr TT, 2008. Photo: fixieannie
George Berwick, Mersey Roads 24hr TT, 2008. Photo: fixieannie
This next season there will be two 24 hour events, the usual Mersey Roads Club promotion and, a month before this, an event promoted by the East Sussex Cycling Association. To ride one of these races would be a reasonable help in preparation for the PBP. If anyone is remotely interested in either riding a “24” or possibly joining the Fellowship and would like more information, don’t hesitate to contact me by phone or e-mail.
Jim Hopper 01543472349 email@example.com Andy Southwell & Aidan Hedley , Mersey Roads 24hr TT, 2008. Photo: fixieannie
Arrivée February 2011
New Super Randonneurs We welcome 68 riders to the ranks of AUK Super Randonneurs. They have ridden 200, 300, 400 and 600 km. ADAMS Lennie AGNEW Stephen BARRY Eoghan BATES Michael BERRY Martin BEVER Simon BIALEK Robert BURKE Alan CASSINGHAM Kevin CHAMINGS Alf CHAPMAN Andre CLAYTON Lindsay COLE Julian CUNNINGTON Marc DANIELS Philip DEWAR Gordon DUNBAR Bruce DUNCAN Barry ERICSSON Lars FALKNER Hugh FENN David FORTUNE Simon FRASER Jason GRANT Amanda HAMMOND Bernard HARPER Georgina HEANEY Steve HEYTING Andy HOLDEN Jules HOULISTON Mark JENNINGS Richard JOINER Ray JONES Nigel KINSEY Adam
LE BRETON Mark LLEWELYN Ian MANN Brian MARSH Viv MARSHALL Andrew MARTEN Chris MARTIN Paul MATHISON Camilla MATTHEWS Simon MCLEAN Peter MULLIN Martyn PARKINSON Alan PATZNER Gabriele POOLE Derek RAINBOW Paul RANDELL Nigel REYNOLDS Fred ROWE John SINGLEHURST James STAINTON-ELLIS Jonathan
STONES Tim STRAIN Barry TAPPING Matt TAYLOR Ben THAYER Peter THOMPSON Alex VIDLER Andrew WADDINGTON Andrew WAKEHAM John WELLER Julian WOOD Honor WOOD Stephen YOUNG Adam ZAROVSKIY Pavel
BROOME - PERTH AUSTRALIA BICYCLE RIDE
3,000 km in 29 days
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Arrivée February 2011
New Randonneurs We welcome 249 members to the ranks of AUK Randonneurs. They have ridden 200 km or over for the first time in the 2008/9 season. (NB this list is generated automatically from our records so may be incorrect if you have changed your name, or if you have returned to riding after a break of 6 years or more)
Keith ADAMS Martyn ALDIS Keith ANDERSON Paul ANTHONY Christopher ATHERTON Richard BALAWENDER Robin BALDWIN Ian BALLARD John BARR Eoghan BARRY John BERRY Nicolas BERTRAND Robert BIALEK Charlie BLADON Nichola BOJCZUK Peter BOND Peter BOWRING Clive BOWYER Clive BRADBURN Tony BRADY Colin BRAITHWAITE Martin BRICE Alison BRIND Simon BROOMHEAD David BUCKLEY John BURNETT Jack BUTTERWORTH Paul CAMPBELL Gary CATLOW Dan CHALMERS Mark CHAMBERLIN Chris CLAXTON Julian COLE Richard COLE Matthew COLLINS Phil CONRIDGE Peter CORFE Lynn CORR Paul COSSENS David COUPE Matthew CRABTREE Sam CRABTREE Samuel CROSSLEY Antonino CUCCHIARA Kevin CUNNIFFE Marc CUNNINGTON Julio D’ESCRIVAN Philip DANIELS Brian DAVIDSON Terry DAVIDSON Arrivée February 2011
Emlyn DAVIES Peter DAVIS Steven DAY Paul DILLEY Heather DOLAN William DOSSETT Colin DOUGLAS Steve DOWDELL Thomas DOWN Barry DUNCAN Brandon EDGELEY Tom ELKINS Jamie ELLIOT Kerr ELLIOT Scott ELLIOT Tom ELLIS Pedro ESCUTIA Mike FENWICK Ian FINLAY Nicholas FIRTH Derrick FISHER Alex FOSTER Lucy FRANCIS Gerry FULLER Alison GALLOWAY Jonathan GARDNER Alan GARFT John GILLBE James GILLIES Jonathan GILLING Bernard GOODMAN Owen GOODSPEED Adam GORDON Graham GORDON Leonard GORDON Mike GORDON Duncan GOTOBED Amanda GRANT Jonathan GRAY Robin GRAY William GREEN Tony GREENWOOD Rimas GRIGENAS Alan HARRIS Paul HEATHER Ray HEMMING Andy HEYTING Peter HEYWOOD Gary HIBBARD Daren HIGGINSON
Richard HILL Kevin HINES Joanne HOLDEN Stephen HOLMES Kev HOPE Jonathan HOWE Chris HULBERT David HUWS Marcus JACKSON-BAKER Phil JACOB Brian JAGO Daniel JAMES Brian JENKINS Paul JENKINS Rick JENNER Richard JENNINGS Michael JOHNSON Peter JOHNSON Sally JOHNSON Tony JOHNSON Andrew JOHNSTON Emma JONES Jeremy JONES Justin JONES Nigel JONES Mitcheson KEITH Ian KELLAR Paul KELLY Michael KENNEDY Adam KINSEY Chris KULAPRZEZWANSKI William LANE Dawn LAWRENCE Andrew LEES Rose LEITH Mark LEWIS John LOWE George LUPTON Kenneth MACIVER Chris MARCH Ian MARR Richard MARRIOTT Michael MARSDEN Stephen MARSDEN Ann MARSHALL Jan MCCABE Edward T MCCORMICK Dave MCCRAW Paul MCCROSSIN
David MCLAREN Peter MCLEAN Jamie MCLEOD Steve MCQUADE Owen MCWILLIAMS Richard MEE Andy MELIA Dan MERCKEL Graham MERRINGTON Stuart MILLER Daniel MOORES Blair MORGAN Alan MORT Craig NEEDS William NEWTON Philip NICHOLLS Derek NOBLE Stephen NORMAN Chris NORRIS Georgina NORTON Allen O’LEARY John O’SULLIVAN Lawrence OLDER Pieter OLIVER Adrian ORRINGE Alan PARKINSON Hans PAULICH Christine PAYNE John PAYNE Martyn PEGGIE Stephen PEOPLES Bron PLASKOWSKI Kevin POOLE Darryl PORRINO Jonathan POWELL Richard PRIDDY Stuart PRINCE Helen PRIVETT Frank PROUD Neil PUGH Rod QUINTRELL Andrew REGISTER Stewart RILEY Ian RIVERS Mark ROBERTS Simon ROBINSON Phil ROBSON Neil ROTHWELL HUGHES Andrew ROWSELL Roger ROY
Sarah ROY Scott RUSSELL Ian RYALL Matthew SCHOLES Paul SCULLION Adrian SELL John SHADDOCK Ben SHAW Mark SHINTON Richard SHIRLEY John SIMPSON Robin SIMPSON James SINGLEHURST David SLEIGH Mark SMITH John SPEIGHT Malcolm STENNETT Tim STONES Barry STRAIN Ian STRAUGHAN Paul STRUTT Philip SUDELL Andrew SUTTON Dennis TAPPING Tim TAYLOR Richard THODAY Alex THOMPSON David TIBBLE Bevan TILLEY Neil TUBBS Richard UNDERWOOD Andrew WADDINGTON James WADLEY Jayne WADSWORTH Chris WALLARD Graham WARDMAN William WARREN Andrew WEATHERBY Jason WEBB Julian WELLER Neville WHITTON Graeme WIDDUP Guy WILLARD Richard WISE Stephen WOOD Gerald WOODLEY Adam YOUNG Dianne YOUNG Martin YOUNG Pavel ZAROVSKIY 19
Hey Hay my 2010 SR Series
George Hanna - seen here in the ford at Inkberrow, Spa Trek 600km When I first heard about prequalification for Paris Brest Paris 2011, I ignored it, expecting it to be a breeze. Then real life intervened in the shape of four bouts of cancer surgery. While recuperating I had plenty of time to assimilate the information provided for me by the medics. (Skip the rest of the next para if you are squeamish - Ed) While having 33 lymph nodes removed from my groins would help ensure my cancer was a goner, I have to deal with lymphoedema as a permanent side effect. Exercise is good, but training has to be done progressively, and increased slowly in intensity as my legs swell if I over do it. Lack of lymph nodes mean I will struggle to get rid of lactic acid and other waste products of exercise. While in hospital I had some full & frank discusssions with my surgeon, who insisted I must not cycle for 6 weeks as he had adjusted a flap of thigh muscle to improve blood supply to my right hip. This was not welcome news as I had already lost almost all of my winters training; but despite having a groin full of stitches, all I could think about 20
was not being able to ride my bike for 6 weeks. Reading four books on Lance Armstrong was inspirational, despite our differences (he lost a testicle to cancer and underwent aggressive chemotherapy whereas I had been treated surgically throughout).
knees, and numbness on the outside of my right thigh.
Fantastic support from family, friends and work colleagues, and using Cycling Weakly’s picture rich freebie calendar as my medical appointments diary, helped keep me motivated and focused on making a full enough recovery to complete my 2010 SR series and prequalify for PBP.
Hell of North London, a Rapha sponsored 100k ride on the day of Paris Roubaix, was next. This was a mix of on and off road riding using farm tracks, bridle paths and footpaths. Aside from one greasy footpath I couldn’t ride safely and one gravelly 5% climb up a damp riverbed which put me into the red zone, the ride went well. The same could not be said for my ride home, for outside Sainsburys in North Finchley a bus pulled out in front of me and I hit the deck. Lying in the road, I wondered how I would explain to my surgeon that I needed him again; and considered how big a strip he was going to tear off me. To avoid lymphoedema I’d been warned against getting any broken skin on my right leg as this could let infection in, but too late: I now had a bruised calf,
Six weeks and two days after my last major surgery, I was towed 30k to a pub in deepest Hertfordshire by Judith Swallow and Dave Minter. Being dropped going uphill by Dave was a new and unwelcome experience, but if felt great to be back on my bike. Next day I rode the Stevenage 62k with Chris Douglas for company. Despite again being sluggish on uphills I went fine on the flat, and suffered no after effects aside from a slight swelling on the inside of both
What a relief! I started cycle commuting again, one or two days a week initially, and rode three days consecutively over the Easter weekend, building distance and intensity up a little each time.
badly sprained hip and ankle; and grazes on right knee, hip, arm and shoulder. Luckily I hadnt ripped the thigh muscle, but those hip ligaments took a full six weeks to heal, and wiped out any riding in April. I managed some gentle turbo training in early May, taking care not to catch a cold by going into a crowd afterwards. Bryan Chapman weekend came and went and I couldn’t ride 60k, let alone 600, though I had a cunning plan. A week in Penzance gave me the chance to get three rides in, each one longer and harder than the previous one. Two 150k rides on consecutive days from Stockport with an old college friend were next. Finally in mid June - four months on from the last surgery, I managed a solo 200k from Huntingdon to Hull. Actually about 205k as my gps dropped off and I didnt notice and had to retrace. Luckily this happened on a B-road in rural North Lincolnshire, and it didn’t get squished in the 15 minutes it was awol. Rode steady with no big gear pushing into a breeze Arrivée February 2011
Randonnées all day, and stopped regularly for refreshments. Legs a bit stiff a couple of days later, but no more than I would expect and no significant swellings in my legs. Two weeks later came the largely flat San Fairy Ann 300k from Ashford. This started a bit like the PBP 20:00 start, but with only two hours to hang on before dawn, I was determined not to get dropped. At night noone can see you sweat; they could hear me puffing though. Cold on Romney Marsh before dawn, but was frisky enough on the flat roads after Tenterden to take a turn at the front on the way to base for a bacon sandwich at 100k. I wondered what “Oscar the Grouch” the cycling muppet from Sesame Street was doing hanging off on the right of the paceline. Tuck in and save 30% of your energy, Oscar! GPS was useful on the lanes and hillier section west towards Marks Cross, by when I was breaking out the back of the group. Controller said, ‘Mostly downhill from now on’ - good news. As was hearing ‘Great to see you’ so many times, and, ‘You must be in training for Mille Cymru by now I guess’... By 150k we had a good group of 6 riding steadily & sharing the work/navigation/collection of infos. I blew on the last hill before the 200k secret control but recovered over a cuppa and biccie. Disappointed to miss visiting the Red Lion pub at Snargate on Romney Marsh, but a free back wheel was more essential. Café in Dungeness light railway station was great, and chilli & chips disappeared double quick. 65k to Hythe then home was uneventful apart from very hot temperatures When one of our group legged it up the road as we neared the finish, after 299k together, the general consensus on that was ‘what a plonker’. Rode to Hertford 200k the next week, and got round in 10 hours flat with assistance from Dave Minter & Judith Swallow again. Much harder than the 300k due to me riding more aggressively from the start into a strong SW wind, and redlining it on a hill after about 50k. That filled my thighs with lactic that didn’t really clear all afternoon. Grovelled in bottom gear up the last Chiltern, to the control with 25k to go, then hung on until the finish. Heartrate was high for quite a time after the finish, but Arrivée February 2011
it could have been worse. I passed a 150k rider when at my low ebb - he must have been feeling very rough! As we know, suffering is good for cyclists; so I planned to ride Shoestring Didcot 400k 2 weeks later and also put an entry in for Gavin Greenhows 600k over the Bank Holiday weekend. Didcot was hilly in places, & over distance so I expected both to be challenging at my present level of fitness. I planned to ease myself round (= code for repeatedly going all out and blowing up), with Mel Kirkland & Simon Gent for company. I rode Airnimal as I felt I needed something lighter than the steel framed Bianchi I had used on the 300k. I felt nervous in the week before due to lack of preparation – something I haven’t felt for many a long year before a 400k. But wanting to nonchantly tell my surgeon, ‘I am well, in fact I rode 400k last week’ was a major motivation. Tailed off regularly on the first 73k leg to Chipping Camden any time the pace went above 30kph, or the roads went up; but kept vaguely in touch thanks to Mel & Simon keeping an eye out for me. Pretty stuffed at Campden after three hours hard riding and staggered off to the loo like Douglas Bader in look cleats. This was much harder riding than I was used to, and my thighs had swollen around the grippers of my legwarmers and shorts. The legs had a profile like the hoops on the Loch Ness monster, as the lactic sloshed about between my muscles and the upper layer of the skin. Wheelsucked Simon & Mel unmercifully into the wind almost all the way to Newent. And needed to as I was wrecked by then. Needed all of my hours break to recover after a last solo 10k into the breeze. Set off leading Mel & Simon on hillier roads towards Ross, then cross country to Hay on Wye. Mel disappeared almost immediately – GPS bracket woe, not a route reading malfunction, Simon assured me, when I suggested we loiter. Encouraged no end when I spotted Simon only had a double on board to my triple, and by half way to Hay I had found my climbing legs. Skimming along the Golden Valley at evens I had to ease off as Simon went out the back. Yes really, he went out the back. (sorry S but that was payback for
that kicking you gave me around Toot Hill in Autumn 2009). Knowing the route sheet did not require a visit to Newchurch, I chose to go to Knighton through Eardisland and Kington. A couple of km of extra distance on the road but definitely much easier in terms of intensity, despite the hefty pull up from Presteigne to the highpoint crossing of Offas Dyke. The weather by mid evening was glorious; the earlier headwind was forgotten, the sun was out, with only a few fluffy clouds promising rain later. We resisted the George & Dragon in Knighton in favour of a stand up control at the local Coop. Heartily cheered here by the sight of three guys, who had set off from Hay 15 mins before us, coming in looking hot & bothered, and the knowledge that we would have a tailwind from here on. My pre-ride preps included researching a further excursion off route after Knighton: instead of going back up and over to Presteigne and across rolling country to Tewkesbury via Shobdon, I fancied heading due east on the A road to Mortimers Cross to pick up the Elinith route at Kingsland. And so did about 10 others, when I showed them the map. We all liked Mel Kirklands steady 35kph pacemaking and the flat road between the hills. Ignored the Leominster cycle path options in favour of the one way racetrack/ system, then slid gracefully off the back as we climbed on A44 towards Bromyard. While Mel disappeared off up the road in a whiff of testosterone, the bunch wondered, ‘Why are we riding so hard’. ‘Its still daylight, and the shop at Bromyard closes at 10pm’ was the answer, and Simon shot off to get some drinks before they closed. Two bottles of choccy milk later, we pottered in two grouplets along the humply B road to Ledbury. I drifted off the back in the hills above Eastnor as my energy levels dropped, but reached the 24hr BP café at Tewkesbury around 00:30. Mel was heading off as we arrived, never to be seen again; but I needed a giant coffee and nap to ensure I could ride safely through the 2nd half of the night. It was cold on exit but the Cotswolds soon warmed us. 20 minutes of grunting later we crested the ridge at Stanway, and
shared info on the dodgy crossroads and gratings on the riding line in the dip at Ford. My first full night ride for a year, and it felt great to be riding past silent hamlets again, not loafing about in a silly old bed. For every tooth chattering descent on the B4077 to Stow comes a nice slow ascent. We closed in on a group at Stow, but couldn’t catch them on the descent to Kingham, then closed in again on the stiff pull up to the turn for Churchill. Seeing riders climbing like slugs, then overshoot the turn gave me a lift and we scooted past on the climb to the Chipping Norton road and pulled into the layby control around 03:30, just in time for a shower of rain. I grabbed something to eat from the boot of controller Ross’s car and planted myself on a picnic chair for a coffee. “Only an hour until dawn … Best keep moving to stay warm and avoid my legs seizing up” I thought. The shower didn’t last long or amount to much, so Simon and I had an easy run south on drying roads. I climbed Cumnor Hill well, or thought I had, until he skipped off on the deserted lanes west of Oxford. Once I accepted he was gone and eased off, I enjoyed the rest of the ride, well pleased that at last I was feeling power in my legs. Having perfected a self massage technique – think Vic Reeves and his Uvavu gag – to ensure my thighs did not get overloaded, I knew a 600k was doable. As a potboiler I persuaded Peter Marshall to join me on Mark Rigby’s Rough Diamond 300k in mid August. We knew the weather should be good and give us no grief. Instead we got good grief weather. Dire for the first 65k - torrential patches as we circled Bredon Hill, then the clouds lifted and we had a mix of sunshine and heavy showers; but nice temperatures for riding, and not too windy. Mark’s excellent trafic free route through Worcester included lots of cyclepaths and the new Diglis cycle bridge then followed the scenic B4234 towards Tenbury Wells. I remembered the hills on this road from a perm 200k, and it was notable this time for winds so strong you could not safely let rip on the descents. The great views across to the distant Clee Hills were as inspirational to us as they had been to local wheelman Edward Elgar in his 21
Randonnées Peter Marshall on the new Diglis cycle bridge, Rough Diamond 300
day. Between Tenbury and Talybont on Usk it dried up and Marks excellent route snuck through Hay and Bwylch under the heights of the Black Mountains. 2nd control was at White Hart in Talybont-on-Usk, at which I did the Brit thing of sitting outside under the brolley while it teemed down, then went indoors as the rain stopped. As Peter was pottering I hooked into Dave Lewis’ local knowledge, and as we chatted the miles ambled past. Half way through the100k leg we stopped for a leisurely pint in the Carpenters Arms, a new tick for me, on the descent from the slow pull over Shirenewton. This
got us back in a group and Severn Bridge to the Black shed at Slimbridge was easy with sociable company and a tailwind. The Black shed is a cracking cafe at the end of a dead end lane. Much loved by cyclists/walkers/ narrow boaters and twitchers, who come for miles to visit. It reminded me of the barn at my grandparents farm in Kings Moss. Sneaked through Gloucester docks and Cathedral grounds on cycle paths (Mark really knows his back doubles!) and made the finish after an easy hours night riding. Two nights in Travelodges bookended Gavin Greenhow’s Spa Trek 600k on the Sat and Sun
Black Shed control at Slimbridge, Rough Diamond 300
of August Bank Holiday. From Droitwich Spa, the route went out & back across the scenic South Midlands via Shipston on Stour to Daventry. Most of the field of 9 were together through Shipston, pushed along by a tailwind. Decided it was all too easy so dragged Martin Tillin off course up Edge Hill following a moments inattentiveness, and was distracted again chasing tractors in the pleasant afternoon sun. Speeded up approaching Wellesbourne on the return to HQ to dodge a black cloud with our name on it, then pottered along the surprisingly lumpy Salt Route/ B4090 to Droitwich. After this the route went all BP on us. First up at dusk, after 40 flat km into a strengthening wind, was Tewkesbury services. My granny came out on the next leg, to Cirencester services. Only 53km, but it felt more like 83k as it included the long 1:5 climb of Cornwell Lane to Belas Knap, a Neolithic long barrow into which i could happily have flopped. Had a large coffee and a quick doze on the magazine shelf of the garage here while post closing time people watching (gifts galore, no purchase necessary). Membury, then Sutton Scotney, then Membury Services were to follow – wish I hadnt forgotten my Nectar card! Reaching Membury at 01:45 I persuaded Martin, on his first 600k, that we should stop for a kip now rather than plod on. That would mean avoiding the cold ride through dawn when sleep deprived, and arrival at 401k, Sutton Scotney after the Little Chef opened at 07:00. Slept fitfully but well enough to let legs recover, and departed around 05:15 for an uneventful bimble through the lanes. Got caught up in a Sunday morning race in Lambourn Valley – not horses, time triallists, then reached Membury after a couple
of gratuitous hills. Its not often you use all points on a crossroads without being hopelessly lost, but we managed it by exiting Membury northbound across the B4100. Only 140k through the Cotswolds to go, with a breeze from the southwest to assist. Well it was to begin with. Nearing Witney, we decided on a quick break to cape up, and ended up cowering in the lee of a beech hedge for 15 minutes. Eventually the downpour raged off towards London, and we squelched off to Sainsburys cafe. Half an hour later the sun was out again, but the wind had turned into our faces. That helped us dry out, but made for slow going for the remainder of the ride, and averaging 22kph would mean we’d be out for another 5 hours. We used Martin’s local knowledge to head off route in the Evenlode valley, then mine to take time out from the gale in Moreton in Marsh. We were diverted off route due to a tree down near Chipping Campden, but those few moments on foot helped rest the legs, and made the climb easier than expected. Audaxing requires perseverance - think test cricket rather than a one day game or sportive, and ‘suddenly’ we only had 40k to go. Dashed across the Vale of Evesham to get our average speed above 23kph for the ride, and cruised in just after 8 without needing lights. With my 600k and SR series in the bag, and a full English booked and paid for the following morning, I was a very happy bunny. My climbing remained relatively poor, and I can’t sustain long periods of high pace. But from the puffing and panting of others when I hit the front, I have no doubt that I am moving in the right direction. Riding in the Alps again, and PBP are no longer dreams.
Paul Rainbow, Martyn Mullin, Dave Lewis, George Hanna in Ritchie Tout’s local 22
Arrivée February 2011
Randonnées Prepare to Pedal the Paperless Path
Arrivée February 2011
is only going to grow and become common practice, at least for Permanents. Interestingly, whilst some of the other things above might be seen as a compromise or dilution of the integrity of the process, validation by GPS is the opposite - never before have we been able to see proof-of-passage for every single kilometre of the ride. They can even be seen as a throwback to the good old days of compulsory routes. Peter Coates has produced very clever software to help AUK’s validators deal with the new technology.
Danial Webb, as prime mover in this experiment, chose to roll three things together into a package - online entry to a DIY Permanent, validation of the ride using GPS tracklog, return of the Brevet Number by email. There is NO Brevet Card. No other paperwork (from the rider’s point of view). Thanks to Danial and Peter, Paypal, DIY Perms and GPS, the paperless audax is already here. Other audax-like cycle events (sportifs) seem to manage without Brevet Cards, using transponders or similar to check people through ‘controls’. Unfortunately the economies of scale don’t really work for AUK events, with their small entries, low fees, and widely-spread control points. But there are a lot of alternative systems, used for things like box-shifting in huge warehouses, or sheep-tracking on communal hillsides. Or even good old-fashioned barcodes (if it doesn’t rain!). The next LEL will be an opportunity to explore these options and hopefully find one that is workable, and that may trickle down to other events after 2013. So - who is prepared to do without Brevet Cards? Probably not many people. One future direction maybe, is for entrants to self-print their personal event Brevet Card as part of the online entry process. That would eliminate a dodgy parcel-postage stage from the process. And it would certainly be possible to find a way for the Finish Controller to hand the card back to the rider at the finish, removing the final distribution postage as well. At present this can’t be done because of Validation and the way the Brevet Numbers work, but it’s easy to visualise a different way of working that which would still carry the same value, yet allow cards to be handed straight back. Though some people really like that mysterious delay before the card plops through the letterbox - maybe some of this will have to wait for the ‘instant gratification generation’ to mature to AUK’s average age profile... Francis Cooke Early brevet cards were printed individually on an offset-litho press
Back in 1999 I tried my hand at a bit of sci-fi writing - a fanciful look into the future of Audax, and Tim was good enough to print it in Arrivee 64 as “2021- A Cycling Odyssey”. (Online at: www.aukweb. net/mag/article_12.pdf ) Now here we are, over half way along the path from 1999 to 2021, and some of those Wellsian predictions are panning out quite nicely - global warming and extreme weather are with us - but others haven’t come to pass. The Welsh countryside is not, as I predicted, covered in identical-looking sheep all called Dolly - and audaxing has not, yet, gone paperless. But everything conspires to push us that way. Cheques are to be phased out - target date of 2018. The banks must provide alternatives but whatever these turn out to be, they won’t be paper-based, so won’t sit with AUK’s traditional system of event entry by post. And the Post Office is not what it was - letters and parcels go missing or are delayed far more frequently than would have been the case 15 years ago. The recent change in charging structure for letters and the new ‘large letter’ format has proved highly problematic for Organisers, with some event entries being undelivered and replaced by the dreaded red-and-white card through the letterbox. Personally I don’t think AUK have done enough to highlight this problem in the minds of entrants - although the ‘C5’ advice still holds good, it’s too easy to create a package which gets undelivered. AUK’s traditional way of working has been very surface-mailintensive, with up to ten postal stages per event, three of them parcel-post and two of them international. I think anyone can see that is a creaky system and the amazing thing is that it worked as well as it did, for as long as it did. Several of the postal steps have been streamlined out over recent years, as I’ll describe below. Long ago, the international loop (for BRM events) was simplified. ACP stopped requiring physical sight of the brevet cards in order to validate them, because the international parcel-post stage was just too problematic. So the ACP validation has, as long as I can remember, been based on trust and a good working relationship between them and AUK. In recent years AUK’s own validators have adapted this method to our own internal affairs, using what we call ‘self-validation’ by Organisers. This was first rolled out in a very controlled and experimental way but has been steadily extended. I think soon it will be universal apart from first-time Organisers and special events. It eliminates two risky parcel-post stages. Some Organisers are already offering online entry to their events, and this is only going to increase with time. This isn’t only because of postal problems - quite simply the Organisers who are doing this prefer it anyway, and so do many entrants. But I would guess that in light of the cheques and postal situation, some new standard AUK event entry procedure that even the most unreconstructed of Organisers can tap into, is going to have to evolve soon. I think this should be high on the agenda for AUK’s top brass. Other postal stages have been replaced by email or the collaborative coalface that is AUK’s online database. Within a couple of years, assuming online entry takes off, there will only remain two necessary postal stages per event - the parcel of Brevet Cards sent from Pam to the Organiser, and the distribution of the validated cards to riders. How much future is there in Brevet Cards? Well, I’ve got a shoeboxfull of them and Sheila’s collection is scattered in little bundles all over the house. I was also involved, in one way or another, in their design and/or layout, for over 20 years. So don’t get me wrong - I’ll be the last person to want to see the end of the Brevet Card. But there are other pressures as well. For years now we’ve had a few shoestring or X-rated events in the Calendar, that don’t use any traditional-type controls equipped with rubber stamp, potato-cut or chiselled wine cork. And we have DIY Permanents that are even more freestyle. Typically the Brevet Card after the event looks as unused as it did before the start - well, maybe a bit soggier - and instead of rubber-stamps the proof-of-passage is a motley collection of halflegible till slips and mini-statements. Has it come to this? - I often ask myself. What we need is not a Brevet Card, but a Brevet BAG. At the same time, 2010 has seen the first steps taken along the road of validation by GPS. Despite mutterings of wedges and thin ends, it
Cambrian Series 8A 800 km and the rest During this ride I constructed a fantastic note to pop in with my brevet to Colin Bezant, covering all the important parts of the ride. Of course, when I came to put pen to paper these thoughts had drained away from my mind much like the blood to my legs.
I now come to write my report for Arrivee, four months on, the dust has settled and underneath the dust is a sieve where I had expected to find my memories. What follows is an extended version of my original note.
I structured the ride as two 400km days from Llanidloes, as this appeared to make the whole thing much more manageable. I’m hopeless with planning and logistics but I can ride a bike.
Woken by my alarm (the theme from Howards’ Way) at 04:00, I breakfasted in the campers’ kitchen, made a double-double check of my bag and rolled to the Llanidloes ATM for a POP. Once printed it started to drizzle. Hmmmm.
I stayed at Dol Llys campsite. This was a perfect base, with a campers’ kitchen complete with fridge, microwave, kettle, toaster, and all with 24hr access. Most important of all were the “Audax reset button” showers! At only £6 per night and just a half hour ride from Caersws train station it was a no-brainer. 24
The first section to Bala was familiar, but within half an hour I was in torrential rain. I enjoyed ascending Bwlch Y Groes from the side of “Mel’s left turn” and was able to make up a lot of time on the descent, as although the rain was seriously affecting visibility it had also removed the effectiveness of my brakes. After a breakfast roll in Bala it was on to Montgomery with some fantastic climbs (but no views), a ride past Lake Vynwry and then onto Corwen. The ride to Corwen involved a perfectly surfaced evenly graded climb and a good hour’s break from the rain.
I pressed onto Llansannan, as I had been warned and had confirmed on prior checking that control options were limited there. The Siop y Llan was still open so I topped up my bottles and set off to Llanberis where I had planned to have my first real meal of the day.
Pen y Pass
I travelled by train from Cardiff to Caersws on a relaxed August Thursday afternoon and rode the 10 miles or so to my campsite in Llanidloes. After checking out the facilities and setting up my tent I went into the town to gather supplies for the coming days’ cycling. I never really know where I am on an Audax, often to the dismay of my companions, and I had the first of many “oh, this is where I am” moments as I entered the Spar, realizing I’d been there two weeks prior on the Mille Cymru. Supplies and the critically essential battered sweet & sour chicken and fried rice purchased, I returned to my tent, topped up my MSG and set about going to sleep.
Snowdon was shrouded in thick rain clouds and as I crested the top of Pen-y-pass I was greeted by biblical rain and a giant black hole to fall into - just so I climb back out in a few hours’ time. Still, there was Pete’s Eats at the bottom so I took the plunge. I had intended to stop for about an hour but this soon turned into three. I can’t remember what I ate, but it did nothing to raise my spirits after a somewhat harrowing descent and the fact it was dark at 20.30 in August. I gave up on the idea of trying to reach Machynlleth in time for a takeaway, so I picked up enough food and liquid to last me out the 130 odd km of the next two stages back to my tent. Arrivée February 2011
Randonnées After a long 100km involving more nonbrake assisted descents and a further four hours of rain I arrived in Machynlleth around 01:00, just in time to watch some appropriately inappropriately dressed revellers suffering the rain. I was cheered by this spectacle and somewhat relieved as it was now just a simple matter of 30km - and if I recalled correctly, only one real hill - to a shower and some sleep. Ha! Ha! I don’t think I can adequately communicate the experience I had over the next two hours, but my jacket sleeves began functioning as drainpipes, the rain was bouncing a few feet off the ground and I really started regretting not putting a patch of duct tape over that hole in the back of my jacket.
In Builth the sun came out and it started to feel like August, a relentless route of chevrons saw me to Aberaron and the coast which was glorious in the sunshine. I started to enjoy this strange experience of being both dry and warm and on reaching Llandeilo found I’d eased off considerably and was now concerned about getting to Aberdare in time for the shops.
Cambrian 8A Permanent Distance: 800 km AAA: 13.5 (approx 13470m) Fee: £ 3.00 Organiser: Colin Bezant
Arriving in Aberdare just after 22:00 I was too late for the (24hr) Tesco so had to use their Filling Station Shop. Less than ideal, as this stop was to load up with food and liquid for the last 150km through the night. Luckily, Chinese takeaways are always available: I purchased two sweet & sour meals, ate one and bagged the other for later.
Stunning figure of eight course in Wales with more mountain scenery and contours than you can poke a stick at. Free route between controls. · Llanidloes · Bala Road to Tregarron
· Montgomery · Corwen · Llansannan · Llanberis · Machynlleth · Llanidloes
I awoke at 06:30 to the calming tones of the Roobarb & Custard theme tune on my alarm, finally departing at 07:30. Saturday began with heavy rain, which lasted as far as the ELVIS rock, where it cleared slightly until finally stopping just before Devil’s Bridge. Here, despite only being 30km into the day, I stopped for breakfast number two. Of course the Elan Valley was involved in the next section to Builth - rain guaranteed and duly provided. With fresh kit on I’d made the decision to do all my riding in the rain that day seated in order to keep my saddle and shorts dry. This turned out to be an excellent idea.
Not leaving Aberdare until gone midnight made the A470 across the Brecons a viable option, and this made Hay-on-Wye light work. I ate my second meal here and grabbed a 45min nap. The following stage involved plenty of ups and downs all in the dark and power assisted by some mild paranoia getting me to Knighton just after dawn. After a short stop to drink a can of Coke from my bag I rode the final leg to Llanidloes. I have little recollection of this but I do remember everything seeming very simple and easy. After a triumphant reduced-price sandwich from the Spar I was pleased that it was overcast and drizzling as I finally climbed into my tent shortly after 09:00. Unfortunately, within an hour the sun was out and I was awake in a sauna. Time to go home.
· Devils Bridge · Builth Wells · Aberaeron
Bwlch y Groes
Making Llanidloes by 03:00 I’d showered, fed and was in “bed” by 04:00. The weather had been quite fatiguing and had put me back around two or three hours. (I was expecting some rain but not eighteen hours!)
· Llandeilo · Aberdare · Hay-on-Wye · Knighton · Llanidloes My Reality Distance: 835km Altitude: 15900m* *GPS trackpoints filtered to 100m intervals
This is a fantastic ride, although the weather really made it tough for me. However you have to learn to play the cards you’re dealt - Toby Hopper B4391 climbing from Pencraig
Arrivée February 2011
Not a day for two wheels - but not the hardest 200 km Permanent that I can remember. Recent weather had been snowy but a thaw and raised temperatures offered a weather window, before the freeze was promised to continue. Stephen Poulton I prepared the Trike for a trouble-free journey with new tyres, 28 front /25 rear carrier for my bag and well-oiled and battery (lighter than SON) lights with Hope 1 up front. I chose to wear thermals more appropriate to winter climbing than cycling! I did some weather research on yacf. I left Cheltenham after 0800, so had probable thrown away 1hr of daylight but, what I was to find later, had brought on more slippery roads descending Gospel Pass. From Cheltenham, the main road route to Cinderford and then Monmouth was clear; but I felt sluggish. Was that being on the Trike, or having been 10 days off the wheels? After Monmouth, the lanes to Grosmont were fine as was the traverse, with spectacular views of the Black Mts, to Llanfihangel C. Continuing up the Vale of Ewyas to Llanthony was fine, so I was able to rest over Cake and Coffee at the Half Moon before embarking on the untreated and, to me, unknown (condition) road to the Pass.
View of the Black Mountains
Talk in the Pub was of vehicles coming over, so that was a good indication of the route being passable, at least for 4x4s. The road after Llanthony was mainly either clear or hard packed ice from the previous day’s thaw. This was
definitely not 2-wheel territory. I was able to ride the hard pack and frosted road, until the final 200m before the cattle/sheep grid, where I felt a leg cramp. I took some salt and continued to the Pass summit.
Arrivée February 2011
Final approach to the Gospel Pass
Arriving at the Pass was a stupendous moment, bringing back memories of many earlier climbs. But now it was cold, lonely and unwelcoming. But what views with the low sun and deep yellowing of the valleys landscape. After a few reminder photos it was round the corner to see the state of the descent. The road from the Pass looked clear, apart from a central white strip and I neatly fitted my 3 wheels in one track, that is until the gathering dusk, where reduced temperature turned the dark surface to ice. Braking gently for the steeper sections soon suggested I walk these, so, occasionally taking to the grass, I ran down. It was worse further down as the chill made the surface unreliable, so I walked in the gutter, with one hand on the brake. Riding the flatter road, and walking the steeper, I finally arrived in Hay where a warming soup (to relieve the cramp) and coffee set me up for the ‘sprint’ to Cheltenham. I had lost much time to the conditions, so could not afford to linger.
The more level and once-treated road enabled sensible progress, though the Trike, shod for winter with its ‘bigger’ tyres was a lorry compared to its summer sports variety. Should I risk the lanes to Hoarwithy and over Marcle Ridge? But it is the ‘official’ route for 2.75AAAs, so we had better look at them. Coffee at the New Harp Inn, the Hoarwithy Control was most welcome, as was the banter that declared my journey insane. But the lanes and Marcle Ridge were in good condition, the thaw having cleared the snow; all that remained was the new hoar dew on the road, so descending was with extreme caution. In the beam of my Hope 1, the glistening frost on the road was surreal. After Bromsberrow Heath, I cut to the A417 and could enjoy main-ish roads home. What a relief, at 2245hrs to arrive in Cheltenham, over 14hrs after leaving but just in time. At home, I was fairly well beat and could just about muster soup and a beer before hitting the duvet.
Road to Hay
Sunset on the descent
Arrivée February 2011
Another Hard Man’s Ride with Wheelsucking by George Hanna and driving by Mel Kirkland Well, despite the weather earlier this week, we managed to get out and ride the South Buckinghamshire winter warmer 200 in early December. After lots of midweek snow in Kent and Surrey, and even an inch in central London, it went really mild Friday night and Saturday. That melted almost all of the snow in London - in fact it got up to 8 degrees Sat! So, we decided to ride. Which meant me leaving home at 06:00 to cycle north across London to Mel Kirkland’s (who kindly offered a lift to me and George) - 20.5km. I arrived at 06:45, but George was intent on having a ‘lay-in’ and arrived just after 07:00. The thermometer in Mels car said -5 as we left, and got to -8 at times, but he assured us it misread by 7 degrees. Oh, thats all right then... Mel put his foot down on the north-circular and M40 out to High Wycombe, near the start – and we arrived just in time to see the 26 (out of 41) entrants ride off. We got going shortly after 08:00, and although it was 2-4 degrees all day, the humidity really made it feel absolutely freezing! This was a ‘shoe-string’ event with no manned controls - it visited provincial supermarkets on the edges of towns - all Sainsbury’s. We used the 24hr garages, rather than the cafe in the store to save time. Overall the conditions were good, until we got south into Surrey, where a heavy band of snow hadn’t all melted away, and some of the lanes were almost un-rideable! The last 35km was in the dark - and it really does go pitch black in leafy Buckinghamshire! A hard frost quickly formed on the lanes - I stopped at one point and couldn’t stand easily, as the surface was so slippery. We walked across the longest weir crossing over the Thames I had ever seen (part of the route) - surreal in the dark! The last lanes, including the big climb to the finish at Gt Kingshill were frozen; my rear wheel was slipping on the last bit on the frostencrusted surface. Without trying, I was told I was first back (18:26); Mel and George following shortly after me. We had a good feed at the finish of chili con carne, and cakes; with lots of coffee helping the thaw. After a slight mis-routing driving back, we arrived back at Mel’s around 20:35. I soon began the 20km journey down south into and across London to home, bade farewell as George peeled off to his neighbourhood somewhere in north London, then began to feel the bonk in Hackney. I stopped in Hoxton to force a few energy bars down, but really felt finished. Fortunately, I recognised the new Overground station at Shoreditch, which was amazingly running a normal service, so hopped on and had a direct train home to my local station in no time (saving about 12-15km through city traffic). A hot shower and two glasses of wine later, I passed out (in bed), feeling still pretty tired this morning. The cold is back - it was -3 degrees when I left this morning for work! That’s my riding for December done - unless we get some warmer, milder weather!
The wheelsucker’s view... Dunno about you but I didn’t decide this ride was on until I saw the snow melting early Saturday afternoon. I installed a morning hangover at a bithday party Sat night, but was amazed I forgot only the gps tracks you & Mel sent me. Riding blind was good motivation to hang on to you chugging away on fixed, and Mel in his big gear, though by 100k/ the laney climb up to Haslemere I was feeling wasted. Dropped behind Mel there as his navigational reputation preceded him and I was worried that our group of 5 was down to just Mel & me. Really I needed a rest and a cash machine, but 5 mins later my legs had recovered and I had the route sheet on my arm. Made it down snowy Nutcombe lane OK, though the short sharp 1:4 climb to Hazel Grove remains a thigh killer. I needed to put my foot down three or four times on the slither along Whitmore Vale. Not icy, 28
by John Barkman just wet slush - but slippery as hell none the less. The 14% climb to East Worldham was an unpleasant reminder why I never go that way to Alton: a bottom gear grovel into the breeze. Knowing every hole in the hedge with handpumps has its drawbacks, as the idea of stopping for a pint and a train home came to mind. Reminding myself that this ride was part of my PBP campaign helped me fight it off, though my head hadnt told my legs. Left Alton around 2pm with 2 hours of daylight, then shot out the back on the first climb, and that was the pattern for the rest of my day. Despite every up which I couldnt get a run at seeing me squirt backwards, and no thanks to the aggressive drivers of Berk -shire (how well named), I made Maidenhead by dark. Hot coffee tasted good, but the cardboard bun didn’t - my system was rebelling against garage food. The view of the Thames Valley filling with fog from the top Crazies Hill (yes really) was amazing and alarming in equal measure. Thanks for hanging about in Aston to help me find the turn by the path to the lock. Next time go in the pub & get warm! I think that was the 3rd time I’ve gone over the weir walk & its an amazing experience in the dead of night. Disturbed geese & ducks quacking furiously and a noise like Niagara (Ok, I know its just the Thames) beneath your feet! That walk let me recover enough to hang on for a few more km, before the elastic finally snapped on the climb after Fingest. By then I was vaguely remembering the give ways at the bottom of each descent on the laney route home. Freezing fog this time around, rather than rain in the lanes and the final ascent of Hatches lane had to be done seated as the frost had firmly set in. The last 36k to the finish had taken me the best part of 2 hours. Took Monday off work to recover and did nothing but sleep late & nap in the living room. Bed early tonight!
The driver’s view... I was bloody cold on that ride. Skating round in the slush was not pleasant and walking in it was worse as that allowed water in from underneath. Leaving Alton I followed my sat-nav the wrong way down a one way street – an excellent short cut, but then I stopped before the sun went down to put on the second pair of overgloves. After the final garage control my mirror was dropping off and, as I couldn’t feel my fingers, I had to use my teeth to open the seat pack to put it somewhere. I couldn’t risk taking my gloves off as it would have taken 10min+ just to get the fingers back in. My hands didn’t even thaw out up the last 2 climbs, just glad I wasn’t out in the cold any longer unlike most of the field. By the finish I was absolutely smashed, which sort of explains why I kept in the inside lane and turned left up the M25, instead of staying on the M40. Didn’t sleep much Sunday night, and didn’t feel much better yesterday, and I’ve now got a humdinger of a blocked nose and head cold... Wonder why? WANTED - certain Arrivee back copies: I loaned several back issues of Arrivee for scanning, but the fellow lost track of four. I have replacements for all except: Number 64 Spring 1999 - note that there were TWO issues numbered 64, and I have the Autumn 1999 one. I am also missing 22 (April 1988), 16, 15, and 2 to 23, but I have to accept those are a lost cause. If anyone can help please contact Rod Dalitz: firstname.lastname@example.org 0131-445-4670 2 Frogston Avenue, Edinburgh EH10 7AQ Scotland OFFERED - certain Arrivee back copies: Arrivee 1994-97 inclusive and 2001-10 inclusive - all mint - free to collector or will post at cost (Sevenoaks). Ian Dickenson-Standing: 01732 457981
Arrivée February 2011
Climbing Cheddar Gorge
Drew Buck contemplates his onions ArrivĂŠe February 2011
Photos by Geoff Sharpe
Leaving the Start
- The Gorseinon Saga - September 2010 I cannot believe a whole year has past and I am now back riding what was my initial Audax event, Crydiad Y Cestyll, the Gorseinon 100 km. Unfortunately I was at the same level of fitness as in the previous year having rested for over a month after damaging my hip in a fall on the bike in July. However I had learnt my lesson when it came to gears and was in an optimistic mood facing the challenge of this daunting event again.
Also present was the organiser of that event David Harris, whose latest event, ‘The Wesley May Memorial Super Grimpeur100K’, was only a week away. A few of the riders had entered that event as well and were pondering the wisdom of taking on two torturous audax’s in a fortnight. It was also good to see Lindsey Coombes back for another go at the Gorseinon. Rob John the organiser was his usual cheery self, which was a lot more than could be said of the weather. Last years sunny day was replaced by black clouds rolling in from the Atlantic and a freshening wind.
same boat so to speak. Each individual going his own pace to complete the event in the time limits but also happy to meet new cycle companions along the way, especially one’s that are going at your pace.
As per the previous year the group of about a dozen riders set off together and actually managed to get through the troublesome traffic lights at Gorseinon. This time thankfully the lights were green.
Hence, a team of two continued on towards Kidwelly. Jeremy, I learnt in conversation was in his first year of Audax and had ridden a few already this year. Very similar to myself, he was still learning the ropes in regard to these events.
Within 5k we were crossing the A484 estuary bridge and heading towards Bynea. There is a lovely view here looking out to sea, only partially spoilt today by threatening clouds. Onward through Bynea and turning right onto our first climb of the day towards Sylen, the group characteristically started to break up and smaller groups materialised.
I cringed when I saw the cassette he had fitted to his impressive looking bike. I think he had a 25T at best on the rear and a 42/53 chain ring. Deja vue came to mind. This was similar to my gearing last year on the same event and I warned him some of these hills could be painful to climb, especially with regard to the knees and with that gearing he could have a problem.
Now having fitted a large 34T in rear along with 42/32 chain ring, I was now feeling the benefit and was sure I’d make it up all the climbs this time. Goodness, that last sentence sounded very technical.
Descending to Kidwelly, we weaved our way through the sleepy town and onto the Sustran N4 pathway. (Having ridden this from Swansea to Kidwelly earlier in the year, I can highly recommend this route, especially as it passes along the Millennium coastal path and through Pembrey Wood.). We rejoined the narrow lane to ride along side the sea to Ferryside and the control point.
The next few kilometres of climbs and descents stretched the field of riders and I soon found myself almost isolated, apart from the one rider ahead and another following who turned out to be Jeremy Jones. One of the best things I find about Audaxing is that sense of camaraderie. We’re all in the
Rob awaited us there in the car park opposite the unfortunately closed café and we could only dream of the breakfast that
James Griffiths Jez Jones & Lindsey Coombes 30
The author, Gordon Jones
A few familiar faces were noticeable at the start, The Penyrheol Leisure centre. Mike Wood and Wyn Evans whose back wheels I had clung onto through the Bynea 100k in early July, whilst being buffeted by strong winds and torrential rain the entire day.
Everyone was expecting a drenching but amazingly it remained dry, the only dampener being the Ferryside Café was closed. Rob did let us know that there was a tearoom open in Kidwelly, if requiring a good breakfast.
could have been on the agenda. He did remind us of the café in Kidwelly but I think we’d both made up our minds to carry on to the next main control at Carreg Cennen Castle. Naturally having done this ride the previous year, I tried to pre warn Jeremy as to what dastardly hills awaited us including the climb out of Ferryside, which seemed longer and steeper than the last time I rode it.
Rhys Lewis Arrivée February 2011
- from Gordon Jones Having successfully conquered this monster, with growing confidence we rode through Kidwelly, past the Teashop where several riders including the quicker chaps had stopped for breakfast. It’s funny how a sense of devilment takes over and that competitive streak is suddenly aroused. With the likes of Mike Wood and David Harris of the faster brigade ensconced in the tea room downing their mighty breakfast, could us audax novices take advantage and stay ahead to the finish. Oh such mischievous thoughts. Through Mynydd y Garreg the next climb starts in earnest, and finally after 5k allows you to reach the solar signpost where you turn into the narrow lane and the inevitable nightmare climb. What a difference gears make. This I walked up last year but had no problems pedalling up the whole way this time. From there it was an uneventful ride till crossing the main Llandeilo/Ammanford road and heading for Trapp. The climb to Trapp is testing to say the least. It’s one of those climbs where, just as you think it’s all over, another one materialises. Finally after passing through Trapp you get a wonderful view of Carreg Cennen Castle perched ahead, high up on its mount. I reassured Jeremy at this point that the café was at the bottom of the mount but forgot to tell
Ian Sharpe & Michael Woods
him about the nasty climb out of Trapp. Basically, because I ‘d forgotten it myself, how I don’t know. After grinding our way up this hill you final turn right towards the castle but then inexplicably climb again to the café car park. Feeling fairly drained, having ridden 40k since the last stop, it was a marvellous feeling knowing food was round the corner. Even more surprising was finding out we weren’t the first there. Another bike was leaning against the café wall. I was enlightened when the smiling face of Wyn Evans exited the café. Wyn had also given the Tearoom in Kidwelly a miss and was now on his way for the final leg of the journey. So much for being at the head of the pack. I have to thank Jeremy here for allowing me to have the remaining cawl the café had to offer. He made up for it with an amazing range of cheeses in his ploughman’s lunch. Having ordered everything I could possibly eat, due to this being our only real stop, the rest of the riders soon caught up. In fact not only caught up but all left for the final leg before we’d finished lunch. Hence we found ourselves back at the rear. We left the café as a few of the Swansea Wheelers arrived to take a break. The final stage can be a nightmare climb over two mountains. Fortunately the earlier part of the first climb from Carreg Cennen Castle is
shrouded in trees and, with the gale force wind now against us, we gained some shelter before turning right towards Brynaman. Unfortunately just before this I had my most embarrassing moment on the ride. As we climbed, Jeremy’s high gearing was taking a toll and, riding a few yards ahead, I began wandering about on the climb, waiting for him to catch up. Just as I looked left, a rider came past who startled me as it wasn’t Jeremy. It was one of the Wheelers. Now wobbling like a drunk coming home from the pub, I meandered to the right kerb side and toppled over onto the grass verge, having failed to get my feet out of the clips. As other riders, including Jeremy, rode past with shouts of concern, I continued my roll into the adjacent ditch, finishing upside down, still holding the handlebars, with the wheels facing the sky, unscathed and actually laughing. I think the laughter was relief I hadn’t damaged the same hip again but thankfully this was a grassy verge and a ditch with no water at the bottom. With this hilarious moment out of the way we continued towards the mountain road signposted Ammanford. Finally climbing the mountain we came across one rider who had sustained a puncture by way of my favourite pet hate, “The cattle grid.” He was ok and so we
travelled on and finally down to the main road between Brynaman and Ammanford. I warned Jeremy of the final gruelling climb at Heol Y Mynydd. The view of it is enough to frighten the fittest cyclist. Actually ascending it is a nightmare. Jeremy was pushing on with great bravado but alas, with those gears, he didn’t have much of a chance of making it the whole way - he only gave up about a hundred meters short of the summit. The wind was now buffeting us head on and progress was slow but, after reaching another short descent into Cwmcerdinen, we faced the final climb with enthusiasm knowing the final downhill was only minutes away. The fast descent to the B4296 and then on to the finish at Penyrheol Leisure centre completed another wonderful day in the saddle. As I was leaving with Hazel in the car, I made one irretrievable mistake. Having said farewell to Jeremy and few of the other riders, without thinking I shouted out to Rob “I’ll see you next year then.” Rob’s reply was quick. “Good, well done. That’s one on the list for next year.” My thoughts. “Oh my goodness, what have I done,” but in those immortal words from Arnie “I’ll be back.” And so will others, I hope.
Photos by RobJohn & Mari Arrivée February 2011
ArrivĂŠe February 2011
Dartmoor Devil Narrative from Ribble Blue, Geoff Sharpe It was exactly as it was written on the tin. Heavy rain, flooded lanes, mud, potholes and high winds. This must go down as one of the wettest Dartmoor Devils and Kevin Presland, the organiser, was telling us this was the easiest of the three routes he uses. Over 200 sent in entries and about 165 turned up at Bovey Tracey to brave the elements for the 18th Devil. Just over 100 went off at 08.00, while I settled for 09.00 along with 60 others to tackle the first hill up Hind Street . I’m joined by fellow CTC Torbay members, Bob Gregg, Miles Barrington-Ward and Hampshire’s Malcolm McKendry. Pretty uneventful going up the main road to Moretonhampstead - the hard bits started as we turned off just outside the town and tackled Howden Hill, 1 in 5 with a rough surface. Kevin came by us and mentioned that he had never ridden up this hill before. Flooding at the top with grass and mud in the middle of the lane made for some sliding about before we started the steep descent through the forest to Clifford Bridge. It’s a long climb after the bridge before you descend down to the junction at Fingle bridge then right up a steep climb into Drewsteignton for the first control. Malcolm and Miles had gone on, Bob and I stopped for cake and a drink before tackling the next section to Lanterns Hotel near Ashburton. This bit’s a lot easier, only two short hills and a few miles over open moorland. Out of the village, up past Castle Drogo and descend into Sandypath. After a mile on the main road it’s right into a lane and up the first climb. I thought of pushing but, as everyone else was making the effort, it’s out of the saddle and join in. Through North Bovey and up the second climb, avoiding a couple of horse riders,we are joined by heavy rain and winds. As we pass Jay’s Grave and Hound Tor it’s really coming down and I’m blown all over the place. The road has turned into a river and I’m thinking, if I saw a sign saying ‘HOME’, I wouldn’t need much persuading in turning that way.
Photos opposite from Graham Brodie Riders in the rain Top left at Moretonhampstead Top right, climbing to Heatree Cross Centre, Karen and Andy Crompton on the way to Clifford Bridge Bottom left, helpers at first control Bottom right, John Berry Arrivée February 2011
Annemarie Winter Dartmoor Devil 2010 photo: Nigel Winter
Bob missed the right turn going down the hill and ended up in the town. Malcolm was already at the Lanterns, but saying he was packing, and Miles was having a soup before tackling the hills to Holne moor.
drinks and power bars you can buy. Pedal speed picks up and I’m soon at the control to get the card stamped, quick drink and a banana and I’m back down the road heading for Grimspound and Widecombe.
Setting out on my own, it’s stopped raining and brightening up a bit, this first hill steepens to 1 in 4 near the top, so I have to admit to getting off and pushing that bit. After passing along the top of the village of Holne the next climb isn’t too bad, just a bit long, you’re at the top when you cross the cattle grid. Across the reservoir overtook a few going over the moor and that wind seems to be on my back. Pass Combshead Tor and it’s a steep twisty descent over a narrow bridge, where I understand one of the 8 o’clock starters came off his bike rather badly, you have to be careful here in the wet. This is followed by another steep, twisty hill down into Hexworthy.
Usually, when riding this road, the wind is coming from the south west and helps you along, but not today. It’s quite a gale and in your face for the 10 miles or so to the turn for the control. Several climbs on this section and I’m finding hard going, nobody’s catching me up, but I’m unfortunately I’m not catching anybody up either.
Onto the Princetown road with the breeze still on my back I’m moving along quite well and just before I get to the climbs into Princetown a young,attractive lady rider coming out from the town calls, ‘Hi Geoff’ and gives me a nice smile - she’s one of the 8 o’clock starters. Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but when a young lady does that and she’s riding on her own, that is worth far more to get me going than all the energy
Turning off the main road to pass Grimspound, aptly named, there’s not a soul or house in sight, only sheep in the road. Nice easy roll down a valley from here all the way nearly into Widecombe and climb its infamous hill which killed off Tom Peaces’s old gray mare. This is the last hill, I rode the first bit but it starts to get steeper so, with plenty of time in hand, it’s a case of ride and push the bike to the top. Past Hound Tor and Jay’s Grave again, the road is still like a river, and into the finish at the Kestor Inn at Manaton, where I eventually catch up with the lady cyclist I have been pursuing for the last couple of hours. My ninth Devil, I can’t leave it there, so I’ll be out next October trying for number ten. 33
Just One Adventure on LEL from a ‘Lady’ by Denise Noha Day 1 Mistake no 1, we set off from Lea Valley at the earliest time possible, experience throughout the event told me that we should have set off in the afternoon, well in fact as late as possible! We rode well but were very cautious to take it as steady as possible, even though we did have a prevailing wind. I should explain that “we” are Mike, a cycling buddy, and me. We were really worried about going too fast after spending the last 12+ months talking to anybody we could find who knew anything about LEL. They all said don’t go too fast! We were inexperienced long distance riders (only 300K maximum distance in 2008), thus we were LEL virgins, so we took it steady, steady, steady. The morning was fine, in fact it was sunny (about the only sun we saw as it turns out) and we were full of high spirits. Off we trotted, or cycled should I say, no walking stints for us, we were proper cyclists, oh and it was mainly flat early on. Controls came and went, they were all good and we scoffed the food happily. Just after leaving Washingborough it started raining and it got heavier and heavier. We started to get quite wet but we had a back up crew. Yes, wimps I hear you cry, OK so we were wimps. We had agreed to meet our “backup crew”, John and Ben at a camp site in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire. We had difficulty finding it, the rain was lashing down. We found them, headed for the showers, we were shivering cold on the first night. Fresh dry kit brilliant; I said, “Mike we need one hour of sleep”. This is because of the “talking to anybody who knew anything about LEL for the last 12+ months”. We were told “power nap”, that’s what you do, no need to sleep five hours a night, waste of time, just power nap ... hmmm mistake no. 2. Mike had hurt his leg on day 1 and received a professional massage from our backup crew. Mike looked worried, I just hit the sack for an hour - bliss, our professional (sports) masseur was also an expert camper, the bed was very comfortable. Then after one hour my blackberry goes off. I was up full of beans, “let’s go”. Mike looked worried - I think his leg hurt a lot though he didn’t want to admit it. We cycled off into the dark in the very early hours ....
Day 2 We are on our way to the next village, as the camp site was very slightly off route. We pass two officers sat in their warm police car when it was chucking down about 2 am. The look on their faces as we passed, said it all, “****** hell, what are they doing out in this?” “Cycling from London to Edinburgh and back to London; didn’t you know there was a 34
fantastic ride on, doughnut face?” We found the next village en route and had a debate about which way we should be heading and then, whoosh, about 15 riders went past in the middle of the night, “Lets go”, we said simultaneously. Off we go at our own steady pace, not chasing these guys down who were going too fast for us. Steady as we go. The rain eases, we carry on and get to Thorne, Coxwold and then we get to Middleton Tyas with the Army camp beds. One young man comes up to me and says, “Melita told me to look after the ladies” (I may not be a “lady”, keep reading and you’ll find out why), he was an angel. I sat down, he fetched my food, lovely. “Can I get you anything else?” says my angel, “Yes please a bed for a power nap”, only two hours though, hmmm .... “I’m sorry”, says my angel, as he leads me across a field and into an Army Tent, “The blankets are a bit rough”. You will find
These notes have been written mainly on several business trips many, many months after the event. My memory is terrible and thus I should have done this a lot sooner but here is what I remember of my LEL adventure. This time our crazy idea did not materialise down the pub but on an Audax ride in 2008 with my cycling buddy. “Shall we do LEL, I ask?” “Yes”, was the reply. Then I told a few others Audax friends, who then told other mutual Audax friends and before you know everyone knew of our plans. Keith, an Audax friend, then started to send me cycling books and calling me, to explain how to prepare for such an event, he being much more experienced than me. With such encouragement and everyone knowing, there was no going back, it was going to happen. that things like rough blankets don’t matter too much when you are tired. A tent all to myself. Mike sleeps too. Wretched Blackberry alarm goes off again, I’m tired and starting to hate that alarm now. But up I get. Mike, meets me and off we go. Mike’s struggling, his leg has been hurting really badly. The hills start and I can see there is major problem. Mike manages a few serious hills but I am waiting for him at the top, normally its very much the other way round! He was in trouble. I could see the anguish in Mike’s face and finally he says “I can’ t go on, my leg hurts too much”. We both get tearful, “I won’t let you down”, I say, “I’ll give it my best shot” and I meant it, I wanted to complete LEL. Time was not on my side now, as Mike had been going slowly
due to his injury. I head up towards Yad Moss on my own, no cycling buddy, Mike returns to Middleton Tyas, very upset. It was getting hilly but I was going well and hooked up with some guys, Tim and friends. They were stronger than me but I was holding my own being just a “lady”. These guys had set off in the afternoon so they were half a day up on me. Going over Yad Moss I told the lads who were going maybe a little too fast (for me) and maybe I wanted them to take the edge off just that little bit, “I’ve got a back up crew you know, he’ll be here in a minute with coffee, do you fancy some?” Tim immediately reacted, “You’ve hot coffee arriving, I’m up for that”, all of the other guys declined. The camper van arrives, on Yad Moss, poor John the driver, he picked up Mike, who was not in the best of mental states (totally cheesed off ) and then drove him to the camp site and then drove all the way back to support me. What a guy! Tim and I shared a cup of coffee on Yad Moss and I gave Tim a Torq bar (he was most appreciative). We both thoroughly enjoyed the rest, the coffee, the Torq bars and John’s cheery company (even though he did mention something about it being very hilly from here on). We work our way over Yad Moss and arrive at Alston about 10 pm. The wind was so forceful and cold, I was shivering trying to get my kit out of my saddle bag and lock my bike up (more to prevent it from blowing away than security). Yes, I know, wimp, back up crew and a carbon fibre bike. I was tired. Tim went and sat with some friends he knew and I sat with other riders. “What you looking so worried about?”, one rider asks. “I’m out of time, I set off in the morning”. It went quiet, all the riders I was sat with at Alston set off in the afternoon, half a day up on me! Then one guy says, “you can still do it”. We poured over his schedule. I didn’t have one of those, hmmm ... mistake no 3. He was right I could still do it. I asked one of the controllers for a bed, “No, sorry, all taken, but I have got a really comfy set of chairs”. “Yes please”. He was right, they were very, very comfortable and guess who was next to me, Tim (who turns out to be an Iron Man athlete by the way). I sleep for a few hours. When I woke up I nearly gagged; the stench in the room was horrific, you would have to experience it, words cannot describe how bad it was. I believe the uniquely disgusting smell is caused by chamois cream, maybe, but I am quite sure that sweat and dirt were also factors (I must admit, I smelt a bit ripe myself ). My tummy was really upset and I had to dash for the loo. What a job that was, I could hardly find an inch of floor space between all the bodies wrapped in sleeping bags. I Arrivée February 2011
Randonneurs Mondiaux managed to tiptoe (very fast) out of the room without breaking anybody’s fingers or toes. Tim whispers “Good luck, see you later”. You know, there was even someone in a sleeping bag with half his body in the room (that was the last bit of floor space left) and his legs hanging down the stairs! I could not eat breakfast, my tummy was too upset – mistake no 4.
Day 3 Off I go into the dark on my own, striving for Scotland. Well not exactly on my own, it doesn’t take long for another LEL Audax rider to come by and say hello. I eventually reach the “Welcome to Scotland” sign, which was great but I started to feel not quite right at all and I did not know what was wrong. I know, its time for the Pro Plus – on advice from “talking to anybody who knew anything about LEL for the last 12+ months”. I stop, get off my bike and faff around, no idea what I faffed around at, then get back onto my bike. Several minutes later, I still feel weird and then I realise that when I got off the bike and faffed around I still did not take the Pro Plus. Why did I forget the Pro Plus, it was the only reason I stopped? I stop again, have the Pro Plus and get back onto the bike; something is very wrong (Pro Plus no effect). I was pedalling in the lower front ring of a compact and hardly turning the pedals. “Right, come on girl think logically”, I tell myself. I look around and check the contours carefully and it’s quite flat. What is wrong? After a few minutes, it eventually dawned on me that I had bonked, no energy, zero, zilch! That was because I couldn’t eat the breakfast at Alston. I find my last energy bar in my saddle bag and start eating. Then I arrived in Longtown at about 6 am, in a bit of a state. The newsagent was just opening up – fantastic two Marathons (sorry Snickers) and two Mars bars. I couldn’t shove them in fast enough. After a short time, my legs suddenly worked and the pedals were spinning again; the effect was fantastic. Which is a very good job as the hills started again. Eskdalemuir here we come, then the secret control, I was well looked after at both. Secret control at Traquair deserves an extra special mention. “Porridge?”. “Yes please”. Then I heard someone ask another rider, “Would you like some whisky? “No, I couldn’t possibly”, came the reply from the rider. “Yes please, I could”, I shout (he hadn’t actually asked me, but no standing on ceremony). “I’ll put it in the porridge, OK?.” “Single malt, you must be joking, put it in a glass please”. He tipped the bottle up and gave me a good slug in a glass, which went down a treat. Oh boy, do we need some more of those secret controls on standard Audax rides, especially in the winter (oh, and sometimes in July, when the weather is bad), with a single malt whisky compulsory. Off I go with a smile on my face, Edinburgh is very, very near. The last ten miles to the Arrivée February 2011
control were all down hill with a strong wind behind. I made very fast progress but couldn’t help thinking about the slog I would have going back up all those hills with a head wind. I get to the control, it was well organised and I got stuck in to the food. Bag collected, I ask “where are the showers?” “In the back over there replies the guy.” Off I go, and find one set of showers, which I think were the men’s showers, I could hear the male voices you see. I looked all over for the ladies showers with no joy and finally I popped my head round the door of the men’s showers. One fellow (sounded Canadian) absolutely starkers (not surprising in the shower) said, “Can I help you?”, not batting an eye lid regarding his nakedness and seeing me. “Yes, I’m looking for the ladies showers, do you know where they are, please?” “This is it, I think, maybe you need to just muck in and come in here.” It was a Rugby club, so no facilities for the ladies. I suppose. Here comes the “lady” or not bit. I was rather tired, stank after 700K (437 miles) and wanted my shower, I only had one bag drop. What the hell; in I go and strip off with the boys (well, they weren’t boys but mature men). I was getting a few little looks, in the face of course, they were perfect gentlemen; just like me the perfect “lady”. Mind you, I couldn’t help noticing one poor guy, his bottom was red raw and looked ever so sore, but I really was looking them in the faces most of the time. I can’t see much without my glasses on anyway, honest. As I was stripping off, up spoke the guy next to me, “Well, its just a body and anyway we’re all too old”. There was a voice from the back of the shower, “Excuse me, you speak for yourself, I’m only 50!” I had my very much needed shower and was getting dressed again into nice clean kit. One of the many welcome foreign Audax riders, who was in the corner of the changing area, was looking over and saw me, he stopped in mid poise. He was busy plastering his nether regions in Sudocrem. I smiled, “Don’t mind me mate, you just carry on.” Well, what was a “lady” to say? I got dressed, damn I forgot to pack my comb. “Has anyone got a comb”, I ask without
thinking and certainly without looking? “I think I threw mine away in about 1980”. I looked around, no one had hair, well not on their heads anyway; we all had a good laugh in those showers. After the refreshing shower, I crashed for an hour or so on the comfortable chairs in the room at Dalkeith and then set off for the return leg. I had to stop at the secret control again, actually I didn’t “have” to stop as such but then there was porridge and whisky to be had, so I stopped. I had agreed to meet my back up crew at some main crossroads before Eskdalemuir. It started to rain heavily, the shorts I had changed into at Dalkeith (different make cheaper than my other shorts) were chafing. Mistake no 5, never, ever change your shorts / saddle combination once you have got it working for you. I was getting grumpy; lots of climbing, chafing shorts, raining, all on my own into a head wind and the back up crew were missing at the crossroads. The mobile phones didn’t work, I got even grumpier (very sorry back up guys but bad weather and chafing shorts made my fuse get quite short). The weather was getting worse, I was getting cold so I decided to go on. I should have gone in the pub at the cross roads and waited for my friends, mistake no 6. The weather was terrible on the way back to Eskdalemuir. The rain became torrential and horizontal, right into my face. I know you have all heard the stories but its true, I could only go down the hills in my lower front ring. I was really worried about stopping and getting hypothermia, I just wanted to get to the control at Eskdalemuir. It seemed to take ages but I got there and walked in looking like a drowned rat. “Get yourself dry immediately”, the controller advised. The room was full of cyclists huddling around the fire/radiators trying to dry off their clothes. I ate in my wet clothes, shivering. Advice from, yes you guessed it, anyone who knew anything about LEL, was your clothes dry on you - mistake no 7. I was so cold. I wrapped myself in a blanket and went to sleep, shivering, on the floor, under the table. It was so comfortable, because I was so tired. The backup crew did catch up with me after driving in the early hours to meet me. Mike 35
Randonneurs Mondiaux was there and the look on his face said it all. I was a bit of a wreck, still shivering. Fresh, dry clothes – thank you so much you guys. The time was ticking away, the road was like a river and I thought I wouldn’t make it back to London – I was annoyed and getting angry, I am no quitter. The back up guys were very supportive but I could see the doubt in their faces – it was too difficult for them to hide. “I hate quitting, I don’t quit anything”, I said angrily. They were very understanding and I could see that they felt sorry for me. After much heart wrenching the bike went on the bike rack on the back of the van and I went inside to tell the controllers I was quitting. “No, you can’t quit, don’t quit, you can still do it”, said the controller. “But I am out of time, I left in the morning”, I protested. “You can still do it and there will be a time extension.” Back to the van, “Get the bike off guys”, I’m not quitting. They were shocked, but I was adamant. I ate again in Eskdalemuir, and then got a few hours in a comfy chair; not sure I slept, too much on my mind, but it was a rest.
Day 4 I ate for a third time in Eskdalemuir before leaving, when it was still dark and still raining but not so heavy now. When I left, the control had closed some hours earlier – time was short. I stopped at the newsagents again in Longtown for supplies, my stomach was still not that good, it felt rough. No doubt it was a combination of tiredness, exertion, worry about the time and a lot of food, devoured along the way, not normally eaten so my body was not used to it. I had to nip into a wooded area not long after Longtown for very much needed relief. Mistake no 8 - it’s hard to s**t in the woods discreetly when you are wearing a bright yellow fluorescent cycling jacket. I rode well and headed for Alston. Just before I arrived my mobile rang and it was the back up guys, “Where are you?”, asks Mike. “About five miles from Alston”, I responded; “You’re joking” was the astonished but pleased reply. I arrived just as Alston control closed so I had made up some time between 36
Alston and Eskdalemuir. No walking up the cobbles, by the way, I may be a wimp on a carbon fibre bike with a back up crew but absolutely no walking is the golden rule! Alston was very quiet compared to the outward leg. Breakfast served, with waiter service to the table. I decided to have a power nap and found plenty of space and plenty of abandoned sleeping bags in the room that had previously been full to the brim with bodies. I only had about 20 mins or so rest, couldn’t sleep anyway – too little time left and I needed to get going. As I was getting ready, I saw it out of the corner of my eye; yes, there it was, a huge flapjack, just lying on the chair. It was totally mashed, looked like it had been in someone’s back pocket all the way up to Scotland and back again. I examined the wrapper – it looked well sealed and it did appear to be abandoned, so I sheepishly took it. As I climbed up the hill from Alston over Yad Moss I scoffed the flapjack slowly. It was the best flapjack I had ever tasted, no matter how mashed and mangled it was (the wrapper smelt a bit but … needs must). I flew over the top of Yad Moss with jet-propelled fuel in my legs. I even overtook another cyclist on the tops – I felt great, I was on a high, my spirit had returned after the events at Eskdalemuir. The controls came and went. I don’t remember every segment of the ride but at some point I hooked up with a couple of fellow VC167 members and got a very nice tow for a few miles – thanks guys. I met up at some point with the back up crew and they gave me some much needed support. I also met up with Tim again (I think at the Coxwold control, just as it was going dark), remember this is the guy who had enjoyed the coffee with John and me on the top of Yad Moss. We started riding together though the Iron Man was considerably the stronger. We left the Coxwold control just as it was going dark and headed for Thorne. This is where the tiredness really kicked in and my body just wanted to shut down. I was now not coping too well with the lack of sleep and the night riding. Tim was looking after me though and we were in
a group. We headed for Thorne and it seemed to take ages. In order to concentrate our tired minds and make sure we did not go off route, someone shouted out each instruction and we all had to agree to it, so that we did not go wrong. “5 miles, right turn, sign posted xxxx”. “I concur” (I felt like I was about to launch nuclear weapons, after confirming the code). A group of Italian riders whizzed past, I jumped on the back of them, I just wanted to get to the next control – mistake no 9. I was going a lot quicker, too quick and suffering terribly. When we arrived at Thorne I ate a little but was struggling to even do that, I just put my head in my arms on the table, collapsed and went to sleep. Tim was much more alert and got us a couple of camp beds for two hours; he woke me up, got me away from the table and escorted me to the room full of snoring bodies. Day 5 Tim woke me up after our agreed 2 hours sleep; I felt like death warmed up. The faces of people looking at me in the control, indicated that not did I just feel like death warmed up, I actually looked liked it too. Everyone was very helpful, one rider was trying to get me to drink electrolytes – I should have accepted his offer but was thinking quite wrongly it might upset me further – silly me – but thanks for the offer whoever you were. I managed to eat a little and we set off. Once the sun came up I started to feel much better and my legs got going but it did take a good hour or two for me to pick up properly. We stopped in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, when it was, could you believe it, sunny, for a snack at a café. But on the way out of Sleaford the weather changed. I have never seen anything like it; it was a mini hurricane, no joking. It took all my effort to hold the bike in a straight line as the wind was trying to blow me into the gutter - carbon fibre bike you see. Tim was shouting at me to stay out further in the road, I knew he was right but the traffic was heavy and I was just trying to keep the bike in a straight line away from the gutter. At one point I swear my bike and I left the ground and
jumped about 2 feet sideways. We reached a bridge where other riders were sheltering but we left there very quickly as we could see that if we kept going we could circumvent the storm. We were right and we did ride round the storm and quickly into more “settled weather”. On the way to the next control, the sun came out for a short time but the “settled weather” did not last long, the sky just went black. Tim and I were wondering what was going to be thrown our way next. The answer was a hail storm and not the small little ones but the big marble hail stones that hurt like hell when they hit you. Was this July – yes it was hmmm. Nothing phased us any more, we had endured torrential horizontal rain and a mini hurricane so a few cold marbles didn’t stop us, we just kept going. After the hail came the rain, it hammered it down, giving us a proper drenching. We arrived at the control and had a rest. We headed back out into the rain and the back up crew agreed to meet us near Thurlby, where I had a shower (not with the men this time, shame). Tim and I were going quite well but a strange thing happened on one leg of the journey. We could not get a rhythm going; one minute Tim was off his bike messing about with something, next minute I wanted to get off my bike and mess about; progress was slow, too slow. “I know, let’s play a game”, I said to Tim. “You are not allowed to get off your bike for 10K, so we have to ride 10K before either of us are allowed to stop”. It worked, the 10K segments rolled by, we settled down into a rhythm and stopped getting on and off our bikes. Tim started to get saddle sore on this leg of the journey, “I have no clean shorts left to try”, he said. “Why don’t you put your dirty shorts on top of the clean shorts you are wearing, for extra padding?” What a good idea – it did the trick. I picked that idea up from an article I read about Ride Across America - LEL preparation you see. We get to Gamlingay, the last control before the end. Of course we were feeling good, everyone was feeling good at this last control. It had just started to get dark and we Arrivée February 2011
Randonneurs Mondiaux headed for our final goal, London. This for me, I swear was the hardest segment of the ride. I read that someone’s description of this last segment “felt like being a rat in a tunnel”, I couldn’t put it better myself. As it was very dark and dingy on those last roads, my body wanted to shut down and go to sleep. I struggled, I couldn’t read the directions any more, my mind was all messed up and forming sentences was a real struggle. Would you believe that for the second time, so close to the end, I almost quit, it was so tough. We came across another of the many foreign riders on the event. His front light had given up so he was very pleased to see us and wanted to ride with us on this final leg. He could also see I was struggling a lot and when I stopped to rest he suddenly brought out his huge sausage. Now it wasn’t the first foreign sausage I had seen on this trip, but it was the first one I had forcibly shoved in my face and was strongly encouraged to chew on. He broke a piece of his sausage off and I nibbled it all the way back to London. The Iron Man Tim and our new found rider (sorry I didn’t get his name but I think he was from Greece) made sure I got to the end. Arriving at 2 am, just over 2 hours inside the original time limit for me; well inside time for Tim, who had set off half a day later. I learnt a lot on this ride about myself and how much punishment I could endure and also about the friendship, kindness and assistance of others. Thanks Mike (sorry you injured your leg mate), thanks Tim, thanks John and Ben, thanks controllers (especially the ones who told me not to quit at Eskdalemuir), thanks Keith for the books and encouragement, thanks VC167, thanks to the rider who left his mangled flapjack, thanks shower buddies, what a laugh, thanks Mr Foreign Audax sausage man and finally thanks to my husband (who, after some years of putting up with my Audax riding, just leaves me to get on with it now). Finally, should you get advice off other riders about long distance riding events – you know the “talking to anybody who knew anything about LEL for the last 12+ months”? Yes, you should, Arrivée February 2011
but expect some of the advice to be contradictory for a very simple reason - what suits one person on such a long hard ride will not necessarily be what suits another person. Three long distance riding myths that are, in my opinion, just not true: Don’t ride long distance on a carbon fibre bike they are too uncomfortable, you must use steel. Well my Storck Scenario 1.1 was very comfortable thank you very much, I love this bike, we move as one. Correct bike set up is far more important than the choice of material. You have to do lots of long rides before you attempt LEL or you shouldn’t really enter the event. Well, of course this is good advice to some extent, the more training you do the more you will enjoy the ride. I only managed two 400K rides in 2009 (my longest distance ever) before the event. Not everyone has lots of time spare, work and other commitments can get in the way. What gets you through the ride is pure grit and determination, especially in the face of adversity. You only need to power nap. What sleep you need on LEL is completely personal, some riders may well be able to power nap, others need more sleep. I found my body shutting down, when it got dark on the last two nights of the event. I should have got more sleep, but I ended up chasing control times, thus sleeping more was not possible or I would have failed the event. I always got off the bike if I was tired – you don’t want to crash. Personal note for next long distance ride – set off as late as possible so you are totally fresh for at least one night of riding and plan it out to finish in day light, if at all possible.
around the cranks of a girl’s bike (also a Denise I believe) after I left Eskdalemuir on the way back to London, when I was struggling for time. So maybe there is such a thing as “karma” because, as you can see from the above, I got plenty back in return for my good deeds. Three things that I got right – well at least three things that suited me: Don’t go too fast – this actually means you have to “go at your own pace, whatever that may be”. Several riders I met who quit LEL 2009 very early on in the ride gave comments along these lines, “I got in with our young fast club riders, now I just can’t go on any more, I’m exhausted”. Don’t get caught up in the moment, let the fast guys go. Set your bike up many months in advance and get comfortable on whatever machine it is. If you have more than one bike, for the year of the event only ride the bike that you are going to use for LEL (well as much as possible anyway). The bike has to be in top working order. Put on new brake blocks, new rear cogs, new front rings, new chain a month or so before the event. Put on
new tyres just before the event. In your mind, your chosen machine should be giving you no cause for concern; on the event you will have enough to contend with without worrying about your bike. Be prepared to improvise and mentally you have to be strong. You may well have it all planned out, I actually didn’t really have any plan, except just to finish. I found myself coming up with new ideas like “don’t get off your bike for at least 10K”, it was simple, it worked and helped us through a sticky patch. I find rides like this are 90% mental and only 10% physical. Of course you have to be fit but you know what I mean. Take or leave the above advice as you choose, what works for one person does not work for others; the only real way to find out how to ride such a long distance event is to do one yourself! Yes, you’ll make many mistakes, just like I did, but get out there and give it a go. Will I be back again for more? Of course I will. LEL 2009 was a very tough ride but the harder the ride the sweeter the victory. What an adventure!
I got lots of help along the way but I did help others too. Some of the things that I remember – I was the the one who pulled a blanket over some guy in Eskdalemuir – you’re more than welcome. I had four extra copies of route sheets – they were all given away to help others Richard, who I met on Audax rides throughout 2009 had lost his, for others the route sheet had not printed properly. I also stopped to successfully unravel a chain, very badly wrapped 37
Mille Miglia 1600 km The Trip
with Chris Wilby August 2010 I succeeded in this 1600mm ride but not without some mishap. My left crank cracked at first daylight and, to keep going, I had to apply my weight to the right pedal and avoid putting any pressure on the left. This I did for 140 km over some serious mountains but, after an enlarged right thigh and rested left one, I managed to borrow a bike. It had a double rather than a triple – meaning some serious standing up to climb those brutish mountains. ‘Don’t even think about the top, just look up to the highest trees you can see and then when you reach them look again and see some higher trees. Try to get into the climb and eventually you’re over the top.’ ‘Now a descent - try not to brake too much to avoid rims burning.’ My theory is that, if there are chevrons on the bend, I can take the bike into it with no braking as the curve has been designed for faster vehicles. This seems to work but sometimes, when the curve is a switchback, I have to apply brakes. If I don’t see chevrons, I try to touch the brakes before the bend, reduce the speed on the straight, then let the bike fly round. Great fun but tedious for bend after bend and, after an hour descending, I was still not down onto the flatlands. The scenery was fantastic and one look down from those mountains reminded me of the flight over Italy. My ears were popping - it was that high. 38
To get to the airport and onto my flight, I was on the Huddersfield platform in plenty of time. I had checked all times so that I’d arrive in Manchester Airport exactly two hours before departure, giving enough time to get to the check-in. The train was delayed five minutes, then seven minutes, then it arrived, what a relief. At the airport I was speed walking on the moving pavement pulling two wheeled bags behind, scaring casual walkers from stepping into my path. When I found the lifts, which one was it? In too much of a rush I ended up going down to car park level first. At the check-in the bags were weighed and passport checked, ‘Window seat or aisle?’ I don’t know. Will I need the toilet a lot and have to step over someone, or will they need the toilet and have to step over me? If I sleep they will disturb me? If the plane crashes I will get out quicker from the aisle. Do I want to look out of the window? I said, ‘I’m not bothered,’ and she chose for me. In the airport lounge I found the screen monitor and looked for my flight - it wasn’t there, I was too early, so I sat in front of the monitor and set my alarm so I could check if it didn’t come up. I was not called in the first range of seats, or the second, I must be a straggler. I had a double seat to myself. Over the Alps and into Italy there was turbulence and heavy rain, you could hear it beating on the fuselage, it sounded like rain on canvas, making you realise how thin the skin of the plane was. Then I could see lightning and a white light entered the plane and passed me in an instant. It was a strike. A little bit later we were in the cloud and the plane dropped about a metre. Some lads were waving their arms, like being in a big dipper at the funfare, and others were very quiet gripping their seats and partners. Landing and picking up bags was easy but meeting Adrian was a real problem. The exit on ground level took you to a service road which only allowed for taxis and service vehicles. I didn’t know this and also Adrian was waiting at a different terminal. After an hour someone told me to go underground to the exit where all the buses stop. A few phone calls later and we managed to meet. I recommend the Poli Hotel, not only are the rooms spacious, with good quality furniture, but the hotel provided a basement room for bikes, where you could unpack and assemble them, and an underground car park where you could leave your car for the week. A short cycle to the town to find the bike check was easy and we were given lots of freebies including a useful waist bumbag. The usual things were given out, the control card, a swipe card for controls and a number for your bike. I wanted to get my Randonneur
debit card, that was advertised as the answer to checking in at controls and buying stuff on route. Finding the bank that processed these was not easy. Firstly, I asked a Swedish man who had one but said it was a bad idea and he was regretting his decision because it had taken over two hours and lots of signatures on Italian documents. He urged me to write a disclaimer on the document such as, ‘I am signing these whilst not understanding what I am signing, as I don’t understand Italian’. He was very anxious over his decision and gave me the wrong directions to the bank so I walked off in the wrong direction. Then I decided to use the bike and another cyclist offered to show me the way. The journey ended at a cash card machine, and on the way we had some road rage, a guy in a car, annoyed at two cyclists cycling alongside each other, took his rage out on his car horn and swerved round us, only to be stopped by lights with us behind him. We passed him again and then met him face to face at the cash machine as he was entering the building next to it. He was ready for a fight and there was a heated exchange. After that I asked for the bank at a shop and they pointed to it - we had passed it earlier. I had to go into an enclosed unit to enter the bank and I didn’t know which button to press. Was there one? I waited for the doors to open and shouted to the security man, ‘I could have suffocated in that thing’. He didn’t understand but it was a bit of excitement and his trigger finger itched closer to his revolver. In the bank the Swedish man I’d met earlier was having his card cancelled and he relaxed when they cut it in half. This put a doubt in my mind but I didn’t want to carry around all this cash so I went ahead. Why do they need to check my passport when I’m giving them money? I asked how many they had issued and they said around 20. So I thought OK, go ahead. About 30 minutes later, and oodles of copies of my signature, I had the card. We found the sleeping place for randonneurs which was empty except for some builders. One of the builders seemed to be staring at me so I turned to him and introduced myself and Adrian. He didn’t understand a word. We managed to get some sleep and on leaving found that the gates were locked and there was an 8ft fence to climb over. There did not seem any way out so I walked back through the building and saw a janitor. He was surprised to see us, I think he had already checked that the building was empty. As he opened the gate I said to him, ‘Was it your mates having a laugh?’ Back at the start we listened to the ride organiser, Fermo Rigamonti, talk about the ride, first in Italian, then translated into English. Only problem was that the Italian cyclists were not interested in the English part and were talking through it, making it difficult to hear. We then queued for our preride meal, the usual pasta stuff. The next thing Adrian noticed was a queue starting to Arrivée February 2011
Randonneurs Mondiaux form and, at two hours to go, we could see a group at the starting gates - keen riders ready for a race, well let them go, we’ll either catch them or lose them. So we joined the queue about half way down with many of the English riders.
tighten the loose crank. That done we went on. I thought that that was the end of it - and it was for then. I followed John Barkman’s GPS track files – it was still dark and I was thinking about whether I had reached this control later than last time on this ride, in 2008. Anyway, the control at Massa Finalese was a tent structure but with some good quality cycling food. Abraham Cohen was there shivering under a space blanket, he must have overdone it.
Eventually we were counted into groups and moved forward into a pen. Our cards would be marked with the electronic card swiped with the time ready for the next release of riders. This was a good system to avoid accidents at the start.
The Ride As we were let free spectators closed in on both sides clapping and wishing us luck and, on escaping from this enclave of spectators, we began following a tiny old Fiat into the cool night air. The noisy car made its way just ahead of riders, poisoning us with its leaded fumes. Police were positioned at various points along the road and were stopping other traffic from crossing our path. There were very few vehicles and after about 2 km the Fiat pulled in and its shotgun rider waved us onwards, ‘Farewell and good luck – better you than me’. The group filled one side of the road and I was at the front. We could see small groups of two or more riders - you would see a speckle of red, then it would disappear, then it would be back as a red light. We would sweep past even though they appeared to working hard. This peleton would go fast, then slower, then fast again, almost the same effect on the motorway as cars ahead slow for roadworks and a ripple effect happens for drivers further back. The reasons for this were that, at one point ahead, the road over half of our carriageway surface was destroyed. Police surrounded the bad road surface with motorbikes to keep cyclists off this area, which narrowed the stream of cyclists, thus slowing the whole field. Another reason for this effect was a technique to keep a high average speed. The cyclists at the front could maintain high speed by keeping their cadence fast but needed to pause to allow lactic acid build up to release, only for a moment or two but enough to send a ripple back to the rear. After the control another factor was introduced as scantily dressed ladies of the night appeared. They were standing by the roadside. At first they were at junctions where cars would be able to stop. Further on, lighted braziers would be spotted and as you got closer these ladies were wearing just a bra and G-string. About every 100 metres would be a lady. The cyclists would slow take a look and speed up. After a while people would stop for a toilet break, make sure you’re clear of the ladies, then back on and race to get back in. Failure to race back in can mean a lot of lost time. Adrian was behind me and stopped but managed to get back after a long struggle. As we went round a roundabout a front rider pulled in for a P stop and as he was a leader seemed to give the order to others, loads of Arrivée February 2011
Passignano sul Trasimeno - control 6 cyclists stopped but a few continued. I followed them and before I knew it there were only three of us in a breakaway group. We all took our turn at the front and I surprised myself that I had to slow my speed to keep them on my wheel. This was great but that damn peleton came back, just as we reached the Fombio control at 105km. This was a card stamp outside a gas station. You could stop but I was ready to roll and continued on my own, keeping a watch on groups coming up behind. As I was alone I had a quick P stop whilst waiting for the groups. Where was Adrian? A group came up so I kept with them, reaching the second control at Colorno where there were some horrible buns and some water and nothing else. Fortunately I had some personal supplies. Meanwhile, Daniel Moores arrived, with his father as backup in his car, but with no food. No cafés open at that time. I was not quick enough to move out with the peleton and ended up moving on my own but soon caught others, only to pass them one by one, drawing them in on a line. I was hoping I would see Adrian. I reached the tent control and remembered this one from last time - there was some good food and someone remembered me from the MGM in Spain. As others came in and removed their helmets I got a better look at who I had been racing with, normal people like me. Then off again, and I was expecting the heat to turn up, which it did, but I was OK. Now my mind is blank, but I remember racing with others and in fact, as it was now light, it was possible to get a glimpse of some of the five others with whom I had been riding. I was maintaining position three, and we all respected each others’ places, allowing others to slide back into position after a displacement from a turn or gradient. We were making friends. I was riding with an Italian, the two of us raced our way forward and took turns into the wind. As I was pushing pedals my left crank started to slip, then both feet landed at the bottom, I looked at him, he looked at my feet, mystified. I shrugged my shoulders. So we stopped and he asked some guy who led me to a farmhouse where a farmer had a tool to
Leaving the control it was still cold from the night but the heat was about to start. On this section I saw some guys at a rather nice café and thought I’d have a coffee. Meanwhile, I’d got a text from Adrian, who was half way and I was over half way, about 10km in front of him. I had a reasonable break, then went off at a steady pace, until I found a fruit shop where I stopped and ate fruit until he arrived. I had to shout to get his attention, he seemed in a daze. Now we were heading towards Faenza and lost each other as I tracked the GPS files and Adrian was talking with a lady rider. I arrived after him and discovered that there was a pasta party - basically backtrack to a café where you get some pasta provided by the organisers. Then we went back to the sports centre to get our planned four hours sleep. A Scottish man had fallen off and showed us his injuries, quite a lot of abrasions but he didn’t need to show us all his private parts. Another thing, why does someone have to mess with his bike in the sleeping area? The following ride to Dicomano was when the crank started to move and I thought about the reasons why this was happening. I’d had it before, twice in fact. There was a small crack in the metal which was allowing the crank to slip around the shaft. All I needed was a crank from an old bike so I started bike spotting. We came across a few bikes in a farmhouse and I knocked on their door to ask about swapping the crank. We looked at their bikes and, yes, there was a crank, but it was for a square taper and mine was octagonal (Octalink). They offered to let me sleep in a tent in the garden, so I looked at the wendy house, a single skin tent, and thought I’d freeze. All this was done via a mobile phone - they had rung a friend who could speak English. We went on up the climb. I continued to push right leg down on the right crank, just keeping the left for balance. Any pressure on the left leg would have moved the crank. I reached the summit and, just as the trees finished, a cold wind was pushing my bike. It was hard to stand up. There was a tremendous vista of the land below, a long way down. Adrian meanwhile – where was he? I waited and some others came and said they had not seen him. I’m not going back so put all my extra clothes on and descended into the howling wind. I learnt later that he was having a quick sleep. I reached the sports centre at Dicomano and waited for Adrian. I spoke to Daniel Moore about my crank and he offered to change it 39
Randonneurs Mondiaux for one off his spare bike on the car, but his dad was asleep in the car. I asked if he could ask his dad to buy one from the local bike shop in the morning and I could pick it up at the next control. He sent his dad a text. Adrian arrived and we had some sleep and something to eat; the sleeping area was inside the changing rooms next to the showers and, of course, someone had a shower making a lot of noise whilst we slept. Adrian wanted an hour.
morning grocer in Bonassola, where I bought more flat peaches, said you could go along the coastal path, a flat cycleway. Two riders came along and I said you could use that way - they went ahead to try it but came back three minutes later and took the road. So I carried on up the road where I met two Danish riders who said they’d been searching for the right way and couldn’t find it. Jesper Ahrenholt had rung home to Denmark and his sister was looking at a German website to try and help them.
The next stage took us up to Chiusi della Verna where I met Daniel and dad. It was agreed that the easiest solution to my problem was to swap bikes over and use my saddle on the other bike. This was done. Adrian found the sleeping quarters but the monks were making the beds and did not want to be bothered with us, so Adrian managed to get some sheets which we used on a hard wooden floor. Another hour’s sleep and soon after we got off. At the bottom of a hill we stopped to get supplies from a shop. Adrian placed his bike across a shop doorway. A guy came rushing in shouting at me about it. I didn’t understand and shouted over to Adrian, ‘I think we’re in trouble’. The guy relaxed when he realised we were two stupid foreigners and Adrian moved his bike. My new bike was great but it was a double rather than a triple which made me work a bit harder up the hills. The next climb just went on and on, over to Passignano where we had pasta, a shower and slept for an hour. I was looking forward to getting past the Todi control and the bike shop where I stopped last time in 2008. In the night I only had a head torch (no dynamo – that was on the broken bike) so I had to ride close behind Adrian, using his lights to see the road. At Todi there was a very pleasant café but no sleeping area - so a quick hour with heads on tables. We set off with another rider from Brazil (Isaac) and an American lady, Veronica. I was falling asleep on the quiet roads and lagged behind the group but then perked up when Adrian’s lights went out of sight, put my power into it, and passed the others to catch him. They didn’t even notice me, or at least Isaac couldn’t understand how I’d got in front of him. Bolsena was the worst control. The café, where I met Peter Turnbull, was OK, full of people getting some sleep, but the large wigwam tent had no floor, just people on mats with space blankets. It was cold without one but I managed to sleep. Someone gave Adrian one. In the morning, a couple of hours later, everything was shut but we found a local café for a coffee. The next control, Pomonte, was a sports hall, a bit difficult to find. Here the guy behind the counter was covering some food with foil so we couldn’t see it. Obviously this was not food for the riders, not covered in the ride costs. However, we paid for a really nice salad dish with pasta. Montalcino, our next control, was self-service with a stamp for you to mark your own card 40
I said, if in doubt use the road signs and, sure enough, right by us was a road sign to Deiva Marina. It was mountainous but with fantastic views of the Mediterranean below. This was the best control so far, sleep on camp beds, good breakfast, pasta again. Adrian was asleep so I woke him up. He had given the organiser a message for me (but obviously I didn’t get it) to sleep longer.
outside a garage. It was dark and we went past and had to retrace back. Montaione, up in the mountains was a superb lively village music, narrow cobbled streets full of pedestrians, an old castle town, fantastic. American lady Veronica caught us up here. I was struggling on the double gears up the climb, but when she started gaining ground on me, I somehow had something left to put into the climb and increased the gap. We then had a takeaway pizza. In Aulla we came into contact with the Mediterranean and early morning rush hour traffic. Cars were squeezing past, just because they could, and I’d had enough so rode in the centre of the lane claiming my space. This kept a queue behind - one car moved off on a side road and doing so a woman was hanging out the back shouting ‘basta basta’ at me. I didn’t know what this means but, on translation, ‘Enough is enough’. After that I followed the GPS through the centre of the town down some back streets and lost Adrian. After getting through the town I slowed down and bought more flat peaches - I’ve not found these in the UK yet. At the peach shop, Adrian appeared. Further on I thought I’d gone the wrong way, no sign of Adrian – he’d been suffering on that part. Soon we hit the hills and it was hot, there was no option but to just wear the reflective top and pants. I did find water springs as I was overheating and needed hydration. I found great comfort in sitting bare-cheeked on the roadside metal barriers. On the way to Deiva Marina, Adrian left me to sleep for an hour, as he was still awake enough to ride whilst I was not. We found a bench and he went on. After an hour’s sleep I continued, it was now light. The early
I reached Caselle before Adrian and handed in his pass which caused confusion as our cards had got mixed up. At this place the sleeping quarters were in the showers unit and, as we were at the back end of the ride, the place had seen a lot of wear - every bit of shampoo was used up, with empty packets everywhere, toilets well used. It was too dirty to get a shower, so I didn’t. On leaving here my chain came off and that was the last I saw of Adrian. I bought some more peaches and somehow got lost, heading in the opposite direction. I met a team of cyclists head on - they looked like audaxers, they had luggage for one thing and numbers on their bikes, so I stayed with them. They were going fairly slow so I jumped ship to a faster team who were overtaking us and would have caught Adrian except that he had done the same, hanging with another fast group ahead. Castellania was the birthplace of Fausto Coppi, and here we slept in tents, with comfortable camp beds, at the town’s museum dedicated to him. We walked into the village to have a meal which was given free in recognition of our ride. Only 55km to go and we seemed to be travelling through the wetlands of Milan. Everywhere was wet, with dykes all around us. We stopped to eat but couldn’t because Adrian was getting bitten by the flies. I had a couple of bites too. I’ve never cycled over a floating bridge before, which moves as you ride over it. With a fast river flowing just a metre below you, it is pretty scary. We got out of all this greenery and flies into the built up area and stopped on some benches for more sleep. It was fantastic arriving back, in Nerviano. The tension to get sleep was over. A good feed, medals given, photo, and then a slow ride back to the hotel. I found Daniel’s dad to swap bikes, we had a sleep, and then went out for a meal that evening. The next day Adrian and I started our journey back by car via Switzerland.
Arrivée February 2011
Hamburg-Berlin-Cologne-Hamburg 3rd Deutscher Super-Brevet 14th -19th August 2010 By Richard Thomas
ong may it rain! I was wondering, as I splashed through the continuous steady rain, how I ever got into this event and was reminded by my good friend Chris Tracey that it was John Spooner, whom we met on the ferry crossing on John Ward’s On and Off Shore 200, who told us what a good event it was. Chris and I were already aware of the event as Jack William’s wife, Sabine, who hails from Germany, had told us about it, when we were helping Rob Bullyment at the Ringmer control on the Invicta 300. Chris decided there and then, on the ferry, that both he and I would do the event in 2010, so I had no option, I was committed. We entered the event around December 2009 and paid our entry fee to Sabine, who was co-ordinating the UK entries. She did such a good job that a third of the field of 68 entrants were from the UK, with a strong Scottish contingent. Chris and I left the UK via the Dover/Calais ferry on the Wednesday before the event and drove up, stopping off just north of Brasschaat,north of Antwerp, on the first day at the family run Motel Dennenhof - good accommodation and a fine breakfast spread. We arrived in Grossendorf late afternoon on Thursday, met up with Jack and Sabine who were staying at the same hotel, the Hamburger Wald, and enjoyed a fine evening meal. Friday found us assembling our bikes before heading off for the registration and pasta party. The weather was fine and sunny, how that was to change. Off to an early bed, we were up at just before 5am to be greeted by the sound of steady rainfall. Saturday 14th Stage 1: Grossendorf to Nauen 269km aving left our bikes at the start, we drove down for breakfast at the start control. Donning overshoes we then headed out for the 6am start, a raucous noisy affair courtesy of the promoters. We had a countdown start from “zehn” to “ein” and were away, the 63 starters chasing the leadout car. What a pace it turned out to be as the first 270km is virtually pan flat. We were stonking along with the Scottish contingent who were setting a goodly pace. The rain did ease towards the first control, a petrol station in Wittenburg at 157km, where we arrived at 11:35am, near the back of the field despite a pace of 28km/hr. There was not much to eat there so we went round the corner to a Pizza emporium. On the road again an hour later we eventually caught Jack Williams and John Spooner, the latter having been away from
Arrivée February 2011
home for several weeks covering several thousand kilometres with camping gear, so found his bike today had wings! Jack was putting on a brave face, with a back problem which was to be the reason for his abandonment. The route sheet was difficult to interpret in some places and we went wrong near the first main control at Nauen, at 268km. We didn’t understand what “Strom” meant so did not look out for an electricity warning sign. We (me, Andy Wills of VC 167 and George Berwick) ended up heading the wrong way out of town so had to ask directions back. Fortunately Andy spoke a bit of German left over from his Army Service days. I must give a great thankyou to Andy who nursed me through my darker moments. By the time we got to the control John Spooner was there and explained where we had gone wrong.
terrain was still flat and we rolled along much as before. We soon came across our first incident; Duncan Johnston had fallen on a skewed level crossing and his bike was irreparably damaged, so his ride was over. He was eventually picked up by the organisers and treated to a week of German hospitality. Consciousness of railway lines and their danger, meant the ride through Brandenberg, with its tramlines and high kerbs funnelling you into a narrow strip between these two hazards, was a bit fraught. The route also took in sections of cobbled street, which tested to the limit the security of bolts and fittings. This was to eventually cause Andy’s front light bracket to fail - a lash up with cable ties and tape fixed the light and bracket to the head tube which, of course, does not turn on corners!
Some of the food on offer was not to my liking but I made the best of it - difficulty eating was to be a recurring theme during the ride. Jack Williams arrived looking fresh but he was going to pack due to his back problem. Having averaged 27.3km/hr riding speed, we were already at the back of the field. Not like Audaxing at home!
The climbing started before the intermediate control at Autohof Schopsdorf, at 74km into this stage, and we arrived there at 21:05, staying an hour, refuelling at the restaurant. John Spooner was there as were the Scots, including George Berwick. We also met Sabine as Jack was riding to this point to be picked up.
Jayne Wadsworth was having trouble, stuck in one gear due to cable problems, but left the control undeterred. Her gears were eventually made to work again due to the mechanical genius of the helpers at the Messenhausen control. She rode with Gary McGowan, very strongly to finish in a very creditable time of 113hrs 30 mins.
By the time we were approaching Ditfurt we were well into the climbing and darkness had fallen several hours beforehand. This had slowed our pace somewhat. Whereas we had covered the first 268km at an average of 27.3km/hr riding speed, the hills on the next stage slowed us to 22.4km/hr. The control was via some of the aforementioned cobbled streets. We arrived at 4am Sunday morning, 456km in 22 hours. We put our bikes inside the control, a museum, so they were out of the rain, and climbed the stairs to the controller’s desk. All I wanted to do was sleep so headed for the thin mats and a blanket, after letting the control know when I
Saturday 14th Stage 2: Nauen to Ditfurt 188km e - Chris Tracey, Mark Fairweather, Andy Wills and I - left at just after 6pm to head for Ditfurt, 188km away and our first planned sleep stop. The
Randonneurs Mondiaux wished to be woken. A fitful sleep followed and I woke ahead of the allotted time. Met George B. “abluting” in the shower room. He seemed chipper. Breakfast was a leisurely affair as we chatted to the helpers, who thought our relaxed attitude preferable to those whose only focus was to get to the next control.
Sunday15th Stage 3: Ditfurt to Messinghausen 276km ell rested, and with 456km under our wheels, we headed out into the rain at 8:35am and immediately got lost in the myriad of cobbled streets round the control. We eventually worked out how to get out of the maze, which we had entered in darkness, and were on our way into the hills - and some 12,000 metres of climbing. We would not be out of the climbs until nearly 1200km had rolled under our wheels. We came across a dirt road soon after the start and, as there was no mention of it on the route sheet , were somewhat confused. Anyway we opted to follow the muddy track in the hope we would come out in the right place which, fortunately, we did. Around midday we stopped for a coffee and sustenance and, on leaving, met Jack and Sabine in their car. They were to meet up with us several times that day, just as well, as this was the day it started to unravel for me. Soon after the midday stop my right upper arm gave up and, as the muscle weakens, I can’t pull on the bars, work the ergolevers or hold the bike, so I lean to the right. Normally I don’t suffer this until near the end of a ride. I dropped off the group and made my own way, missing a couple of junctions and finding it hard to climb. I was also having problems with my front changer, which had developed a propensity for dumping the chain on to the bottom bracket. This meant a frustrating stop at the foot of every hill and a manual and oily replacement of the chain. Never have I had this problem in all my years of riding so why it should have started is beyond me. Anyway, I did meet up with Sabine at the Shell petrol station control at Lutgenrode at 147km into the stage and she said I was only 10 minutes behind them (I think she was being kind as I am sure the gap was bigger). Sabine had found a decent café in a supermarket, just along from the petrol station control. I met up with Chris, Mark and Andy here and we were joined by Pat Hurt, doing the ride on an Airnimal on 72” fixed. Sabine kindly bought me a coffee and cherry tart. I rubbed in a goodly dose of “Deep Heat” into my right arm which seemed to do the trick. Needless to say it was raining as we left at around 6:15pm to do the remaining 130km. I think we stopped around 7:30pm for a pizza/pasta meal in a restaurant before continuing on up the many climbs to Messinghausen. It must have been hard because we took seven hours including the meal break and to get to the control involved a climb which was 20% at its steepest point. Just what you need in the dark after a hard stage. I thought of the riders in an early Tour
de France, when asked to climb the Alps they cursed the organisers calling them “Assassins”. I felt very much the same - and the swtage to Cologn is even harder! Our riding speed was now down to 19.1km/hr. Nearly half way, 733km, I must admit to being tired and could not find my drop bag despite walking round the hall three times. I was a bit short with the controller who found my bag straight away, much to my embarrassment. Removing all my delightfully wet clothing I crawled into my sleeping bag and slept fitfully, only to be woken by the pain in my wrists. I eventually got up, had a shower and breakfast, made a couple of rolls for the journey and we set off into the rain at 8:55am, having arrived 5 ½ hours earlier.
Eventually, after many uphill “battles” we reached the Youth Hostel control at Herkenrath (about 20km outside Cologn) at 30 minutes after midnight, via some very uneven road surfaces, again making us wonder whether it was really the right way. And it was still raining. The controller assured us that it is possible to see Cologn Cathedral from there on a clear day! Tuesday 17th Stage 5 Herkenrath to Messinghausen 174km
e had a really good sleep in the beds at the Youth Hostel. The controllers and helpers were very friendly. The rain persisited throughout the night and it was still raining enthusiastically when we came to leave at 8:30am. The road out of the Youth Hostel on the rough track Monday 16th Stage 4 Messinghausen to Herkenrath 209km meant we could see what we had ridden This is the “Queen” stage to use Tour de France over the in the dark. Once on the road proper again we made good progress up a terminology. I soon lost touch with my three load of hills and the rain was still going at riding companions yet did catch up with Pat Hurt who, having left a bit earlier than me, got lunchtime when Mark spotted a restaurant through an underpass. We thought it looked an attack of “la Frangale” and headed for a a bit too posh for us but we had a wondeful coffee and a cake. Pat took a picture of me grovelling, as my right arm was threatening to welcome and a great meal. Still raining when we left. Riding on through the afternoon, we give up. I then found Chris again. reached the intermediate control, another We knew this would be a hard stage as we had petrol station, at 15:00. We had taken 6½ hrs to cross some 30 ridges, the valleys running to do 100km - slow progress indeed. By north south and we were going west. My evening the effect of the lunch was wearing front changer problem persisted throughout off so we had to find somewhere to eat. the day. The route took us to minor roads with Fortunately something turned up. The steeper, shorter climbs than the day before. proprietor put plastic sheets on the fabric The midway control was at the Kreuztal Esso covered seats so we did not drip all over garage and we rolled in at 4:20 pm. them! Fortified by the meal we made At around 7pm, after a long climb, we were in reasonable pace, arriving at Messinghausen need of sustenance and stopped at a small at 21:56, having walked up the steep café, where the only seating was outside approach this time. Nearly 7 hrs including for under an awning . Chris saw I was in a bad the 100km, so slowing down! Andy and I had way and ordered me chips and a coffee. I was ridden the last hour or so together, as Chris quite low and it started to rain heavier - I and Mark had gone on ahead again. seriously thought of packing. In Pat’s words, Unbeknown to us, George Berwick had “Eventually, caught up (again) with the entire arrived here before us with his frame broken mob, where much needed sustenance was and greeted the controller with the taken; Richard was feeling pretty dire at this understatement, “I’ve had a broken brake point. Given the wet conditions he nearly cable, a split tyre, 3 punctures and a broken packed but after some food and TLC managed frame. It’s just not my day today. Can anyone to carry on”. help me repair my frame?” George had made a temporary repair on the road and the helpers at the control persuaded him to get some sleep, and they would fix the frame. (which they did - see left - Ed).
Wednesday 18th Stage 6 Messinghausen to Lindern 194km
T Pat suggested I got a train back from Cologn. Well, I had no money for such a thing and no credit card, the reason being that, if I had the temptation, there would be no choice but to go on. In any case, we were over half way, how much harder could it get. The effect of the continuous wet weather was sapping all our energies. One significant effect was that on the climbs I could not raise my heartbeat enough to deliver the “extra boost” required.
his, in theory, should have been the last day but it turned out differently in practice. Although the control closed at 4:10am we had persuaded the controller to let us sleep a bit later. Hence we left at 5:35am, with 1 hour 25 minutes time to make up to make sure we were not out of time by the next control at the Shell garage, Bad Salzuflen -109km to be covered in just over 6½ hours. At long last we would soon be out of the hills but not until we had negotiated a very steep climb on deep, loose gravel. The top revealed flat terrain for as far as we could see, and the wind was favourable too. The favourable wind had been a feature of the ride. The speed went up to 20km/hr (may Arrivée February 2011
Randonneurs Mondiaux seem slow but hard to maintain given the distance and terrain already covered) and so the kilometres rolled by, enabling us to reach the control by 11am. We were once again prompted to stop for sustenance around lunchtime, finding a café/ restaurant in a town en route. In the afternoon the sun began to shine for the first time; we thought we were in heaven! Once again we came across major roadworks, and were diverted onto a muddy track, leaving us no option but to hope to pick up the route again at the other end, which we did. Some time later Chris and Mark were away off the front again. I was thankful that Andy stayed with me, as he was strong enough to go with the other two. We rode together, stopping at a café for a coffee and cake (and a loo) half way through the afternoon, and were one of the last to arrive at the Lindern control at 16:34. Chris was still there as Mark was catching up on a bit of sleep. Most of the food had gone but the stew on offer was the best meal on the whole ride. Wednesday 18th/Thursday 19th Stage 7 Lindern to Grossendorf 209km
hen we all left at 17:45 we honestly thought that we could do the last stage by 7am next morning. It was just over 200km and 13hrs should be long enough but that was not how it turned out. There were two intermediate controls on this leg and we reached the first at Verden, 53km away, in daylight, just after 8pm. The next leg took an age, through the night. Once again Chris and Mark rode on and Andy and I were left to our own devices. We had a short 20 minutes nap on a bench in our survival blankets at around 1am. At least it wasn’t raining. We got to the penultimate control, another petrol station at Winsen, at just after 4am. Mark and Chris were getting ready to go, as was George Berwick, who had got a bit lost overnight. Also there were the Dutch couple, who we last saw at the Shell garage at Bad Salzuflen. Andy and I needed sustenance and a rest, so we stayed until 5:40am, by which time it was light. George had returned, being unable to find the route out. So much for the instructions, eh! We all rode on together but then got horribly lost trying to find the cycle track over the River Elbe. We were going in totally the wrong direction on a road that prohibited the use of cycles and got blasted by the trucks’ hooters. Eventually we got off that road and retraced, still finding the route unclear and going wrong a few times more. I was concerned that we would run out of time. We lost George who missed a left turn and obviously did not see us take it. The next instruction indicated a left turn in 1.2km yet we could not find it and we eventually retraced only to find that it was straight on and we were in fact on the right road. More time lost. To make it worse, the sign was on the right on a right hand bend on a fast downhill stretch of road and easily missed as we were looking to see where the road went. Arrivée February 2011
Anyway we did eventually finish, at 10:32am, having done an extra 23km, and having ridden a total of 1544km. The distances on the route sheet between controls were not that accurate, and I had verified my computer readings with those riders using GPS. If we had not gone wrong then the ride would have been around 1521km. The jersey states 1527km and the route sheet 1535 km so take your pick as to how far it was! Anyway we got back in time to be greeted by the Scots, handshakes all round. Of course they were waiting for George to arrive, as word had got back about his misfortunes with a broken frame, multiple punctures, a shredded brake cable and losing his way. I felt a bit guilty about losing him on the last leg, especially as he had come back to find us at the penultimate control. But at the end of the day we all finished within time. Although we had taken 16 ¾ hrs for the stage, we had ridden at an average of 20km/hr, our scheduled riding speed. We stopped for 5 hours! To my mind the hero of the ride was George Berwick. George had ridden the final 500km with a broken frame, Someone reportedly rode George’s bike down the road slowly and said it was very unstable and that it was incredible that George had ridden it at all, let alone for 500km and downhill in the dark to boot. Out of the 68 entries, 63 started, 48 finished the 1527km in a time range between 73hrs 31 mins and 126 hrs 38 mins. 8 riders missed out the “Queen” stage to be awarded the 1145km ride, and 7 did not make it due to a variety of problems, either mechanical or physical. Of these seven, 2 riders packed at 270km (Stage 1), one at the 2nd control and three at the 3rd control. A lady rider on a recumbent got as far as 950km before tendontis got her! My thoughts about the ride... I must admit to not seeing a lot of the scenery, mainly just low cloud and grey skies. It was the hardest ride I have done, beating both the wet 2007 PBP and the Pennine
weather on the 2009 LEL. I found the climbing hard, particularly as it was concentrated into the “middle” of the ride. I usually cope quite well with hills and I had prepared well and even did Dave Hudson’s South Downs National Park grimpeur the week before this event. I did maintain my 100% finishing rate. It took 9 weeks to fully recover. Maybe because “tempus is fugitting” (as per Frankie Howard in “Up Pompeii”). Is it time to draw a line under this madness and return to sanity? Not just yet, fellow readers. Next year is the National 24hr Champs (a first for me but it is on local roads) and PBP (my 4th). So how did the Brits get on? Some had less luck than others as shown below. Note that the organiser allowed riders to miss out the Messinghausen-ColognMessinghausen loop (the “Queen” stage) and still get an authenticated ride of 1145km. Firstly, the Scottish group; Martin Berry, Neil Fraser, George Berwick finished the 1500km. Alex Pattison, David Fawcett, Graham Fraser Wyllie, Philip Jurczyk, Robert McReady, finished the 1145km. Duncan Johnson crashed on a level crossing wrecking his bike. Then the other Brits; Michael Thompson, Julian Dyson, Gary McGowan, Jayne Wadsworth, John Spooner, Pat Hurt, Chris Tracey, Mark Fairweather, Andy Wills, Richard Thomas, finished the 1500km. Jack Williams retired injured The fastest rider was the German, January Chudula in 73:31 and second place went to another German, Eric Manke in 77:43. 5 riders did 80hr rides, then 7 were around the 87/88hr mark followed by one rider at 95hrs. The rest (33 riders) were all over 100hrs. 10 riders ducked under 110 hrs, 10 under 120hrs and the final 13 were in before the 127 hr finishing time. My average riding speed was 20.7km/hr and average overall speed (ie including all stops) was 12.4km/hr. 43
Twin Town Trip John Spooner warms up for a 1500 with a 1200 km ride between twinned towns in Belgium and France. Brussels sightseer and on to Paris “So what is an Englishman doing here in Belgium?” asked Guy from Flanders as the bunch sped south through the half-light towards Brussels. Good question, but no easy answer. Apart from the obvious one that I don’t need a reason to ride a 1200. Just put one on and I’ll ride it. Probably. Firstly, the ride fitted in perfectly with my plans. I was committed to riding HBKH 1500 from Hamburg in late August, and I’d made my mind up to ride to the start. Belgium is on the way to Hamburg so it made perfect sense to include the 1200 as a warm-up. Besides that the organiser Jan Geerts had done the hard sell on me during the preliminaries to LEL. The USPs were: ∙ The route goes from Jan’s home town, Herentals, via Paris to its twin town Cosne sur Loire, and back via Reims. ∙
Takes place in early July
∙ Hotel accommodation all 3 nights included in price. Also breakfasts and picnic lunches. ∙ To Jan’s frustration you don’t see anything of London or Edinburgh on LEL, or Paris on PBP, so Jan planned the 1200 to include sightseeing tours of Brussels, Paris, Orleans and Reims, as well as a champagne tasting session near Epernay.
I had breakfasted at 4 am that morning at a B&B Jan himself had recommended, only 200 metres from the start at the sports hall at Morkhoven, a village within the city limits of Herentals. Also breakfasting round the big farmhouse table there were, as well as Bernd, Andreas from Karlsruhe, US-resident Dutchman Karel, Kristoph from Kortrijk, and Germans Michael and Stefan. I’d also renewed my acquaintance with Claude, a Walloon I’d ridden bits of LEL with. There wasn’t much time for formalities at the start just pick up your card and prepare to go. We set off in a tight bunch, all on road bikes except for a man on a rowbike. Altogether we were 17 Belgians, 5 Germans, 1 DutchAmerican and just yours truly flying the flag for Blighty. I normally wouldn’t be fast enough to enjoy 3 nights’ sleep on a 1200, so it would be interesting to see how this one turned out. I’d have to ride much quicker than normal to make the most of the hotels, so staying with the bunch for as long as possible would be crucial. Not only would I benefit from the drafting effect, but I wasn’t exactly sure how my navigational skills would stand up ∙ ∙
in unfamiliar territory with a routesheet in Flemish.
tranquility of a canal-side bike path, which we followed for miles out into the countryside. So far the ride had been flat, and I had little trouble in staying in the bunch. These two facts were not unrelated, as I found when the route became a bit lumpier it was taking a huge effort to keep up as soon as the road went upwards, the sort of lungbursting effort best left for gym sessions rather than the start of a 1200. Nevertheless, I arrived with Jan and the rest at the first control at the Café du Jeu de Balle in Naast after 100km. A quick coffee, a bite to eat from rations I’d put together the evening before and we were off, soon crossing the border into France, not though you’d notice. After Bavay the inevitable happened. On one of the ups of a dead-straight rollercoaster the elastic snapped and I was left grovelling at a snail’s pace while what was left of the bunch disappeared slowly but inexorably into the
∙ A car to carry bags from hotel to hotel, and buy fresh bread, cheese and ham for our breakfast and lunch ∙ Barbecue at the finish. As the whole field would start the last day together, there would be no big time gaps, and the whole field would be able to attend. ∙
All this for €120. A bargain.
∙ I’ve known Jan for a few years - if you do 1200km+ rides in Europe you’re bound to bump into him sooner or later - and I knew it would be well organised. Before I could give Guy my carefully considered reply, the bunch had shuffled, and Bernd Kaminski rode off the front using a ginormous gear, pulled into the side of the road for a brief Pinkelpause, then caught the speeding bunch up again with enviable ease. I wasn’t surprised - Bernd had told me the previous evening that he had recently annoyed Heino Harms, a mutual acquaintance and the organiser of his local 600, by finishing in 23 hours and ringing up from the finish to ask why noone was there to greet him. By this time I too could have done with relieving my bladder, but I would never have recaught the bunch, so I just hoped an opportunity would present itself.
It wouldn’t help that I’d been off the bike since the end of May, so I’d just have to see how I got on.
Brussels In less than two hours we had reached the outskirts of Brussels, and the morning sun lit up the shiny silver atoms of the Atomium as we paused for a quick photo stop. I wanted a picture, but had other priorities, and with great relief followed the example of several others and made a beeline for some handy bushes. My next priority was stashing my jacket, and only then could I quickly snap the nine gleaming steel spheres, just as we were moving off towards the royal palace. My overriding memory of Brussels, however, is of bouncing along cobbled streets, dodging rush-hour traffic and avoiding tramlines, then finally reaching the
distance. I’d done about 160km in the group and was now left with over 200km to ride on my own before Paris. I caught up with them at the café at Le Cateau-Cambrensis (177km), but didn’t attempt to join them when they left. I know when I’m beaten.
Échappée! Just before Bohain-en-Vermoindois I rode past a row of stationary but unoccupied cars. Something out of the ordinary was on, obviously. Then the penny dropped. Jan had warned us about this - our route coincided for a short distance with that of the Tour de France (you may have heard of it). I rode past the large ‘Route Barrée’ sign and carried on through the town ignoring the gendarmes, and in return they ignored me. Crowds were lined up on both sides of the road, and from the flags and souvenir hats on view I judged Arrivée February 2011
Randonneurs Mondiaux that the caravan publicitaire had already passed and it wouldn’t be long before the riders came. I started waving and got a big cheer. A portly sapeur pompier with a grin from ear to ear greeted my arrival with a shout of “Échappée! Échappée!” and bellowed with laughter. I stopped where our route diverged from theirs and waited. And waited. I reckoned I was already last on the road and waiting would just delay my arrival at the hotel near Paris, keeping others up, so I gave them another 5 minutes. Reluctantly with no sign of the Contador, Cavendish & co I turned away from the throng and into the countryside. It was now getting very hot, and my eyes were beginning to sting as they got blasted by the headwind. I got a little relief by washing them with some water from my bidon, but almost immediately a combine harvester in a field next to the road whipped up a cloud of dust into the air, which the wind then blew straight into my eyes. Progress seemed painfully slow now, but I still stopped for a quick drink at Bar Le Maryland at La Fère. The barmaid there quizzed me about our ride, and she was most impressed with my answers, comparing us most favourably with the top pros who were battling it out a few kilometres away. “You’re doing HOW MANY kilometres today? And they’re only doing 150? What wimps! Oi! Gaston and Georges! Come and meet this bloke - he’s a REAL cyclist.” (a loose translation but you get the gist). A woman of impeccable judgment, obviously.
Find your way in Flemish The routesheet turned out not to be a problem, ‘T>R’ and ‘X>L’ are pretty obvious whether you are English or Flemish. The phrase ‘voorbij spoorweg’ had me thinking for a while - ‘voorbij’ must mean past or beyond, and I guessed that ‘spoorweg’ was a railway line (‘Just think in German’ Jan had advised, and by and large that worked). My guess was confirmed by the instruction at 236 km when I went over a level crossing, but a few kilometres later the same phrase occurred, this time with no sign of a railway line. Still, the rest of the routesheet made sense so I carried on. This was a really nice stretch, on small roads through lovely French villages, enough turns on the route to demand a little concentration, and best of all the temperature dropped from its peak in the mid 30s as the sun gradually dropped. At 289 km I reached the second control at Choisy-au-Bac, where Jan had booked a meal for us. To my surprise all the fast boys were still here, and to my even greater surprise I wasn’t the last on the road, as Toon, Karel and André turned up after me. After a €20 meal, I set off into the evening with Toon and swapped cycling stories with him. At one point he asked me about a 600 in Wales someone had told him about. I confirmed all he had heard, and then I twigged - he must have ridden the BPB (Brussels - Paris - Brussels) 600 with Els Vermeulen, a big fan of the Brian Chapman 600. In the comparative cool of the evening Arrivée February 2011
our ride took us through some lovely trafficfree roads and tracks through the historic Forêt de Compiègne, where we joined forces with Karel and André.
with a backdrop of the Eifel Tower, at the Belgian war memorial, and again in front of Notre Dame. These are some of the places mentioned on the routesheet:
As the sun set, Toon warned us of some dodgy road surfaces coming up. He wasn’t wrong. I soon found myself bouncing about out of control on huge bumpy cobbles on a twisty dark wooded descent past the abbey at Fontaine-Chaalis, somewhere near Parc Asterix. Eventually some time after midnight we reached the control at a Formule 1 at Villeparisis (365 km), about 24km east of the centre of Paris. Unfortunately rooms had been pre-allocated and I was with fast men Bernd and Stefan, who were woken up when I opened the door and collapsed into bed.
Paris Sightseer A scrum, albeit a well-mannered one, is the only way to describe the arrangements for breakfast and packed lunch the following morning. Twenty-four riders were trying to get their hands on the bread, cheese, jam, coffee and everything else which was laid out in the cramped room 9 of our Formule 1. Fortunately an international incident was avoided. But we wouldn’t have to wait long. Before we set off at 5 am, Jan gave us a quick briefing, in both Flemish and English, on getting through Paris. ∙ We would follow a canal path for 21 km into Paris. ∙ Once in Paris, Jan would lead us on his ‘Paris Sightseer’ ∙ It was OK to stop and take photos, but he wouldn’t wait, other than at a couple of predetermined regrouping points. ∙ It was possible that the group would split at red lights, so if you find yourself behind, just follow the routesheet. It was all carefully planned so that we’d arrive just as the sun was rising, and we’d see the sights in daylight but before the traffic got too heavy. In theory.
Swearing and Shrugging It was all going swimmingly until the path veered left and ramped steeply up onto the bank, and Claude, finding himself losing his momentum and in too high a gear, couldn’t unclip in time and toppled sideways, bringing Stefan down, and comprehensively pretzelating his front wheel. After an admirable coordinated display of German swearing and Franco-Belgian shrugging a small wheelbuilding committee formed, but by the time Stefan’s bike was rideable, daylight had arrived and we were at least half an hour behind schedule. And we would be half an hour later into the rush hour. The next hour was about the most exhilarating I’ve had on a bike. Glancing left and right to spot the sights, sprinting to keep as close as possible behind Jan, making fine judgements about whether it was safe to cross a junction (which got harder as the rush-hour traffic got busier), criss-crossing the Seine, whipping out my camera if there was the slightest pause, and all in a beautiful morning sunlight. We paused for breath, regrouping and photographs somewhere
Sacre Coeur Le Moulin Rouge Arc de Triomphe Place du Trocadéro Eifeltoren standbeeld konig Albert I Place de la Concorde Obelisque Louvre Notre Dame
The routesheet also contained the instructions: O Place de l’Etoile > RD =Arc de Triomphe >RD :Place de L’Étoile: 6° exit > R >> Av Kléber Personally I don’t think you can begin to consider yourself a randonneur if you haven’t tackled this instruction. During the rushhour. Using a Flemish routesheet. We were making our way along the side of the Seine, and I was congratulating myself smugly for keeping up with Jan, when I found myself somehow near the back of the group and confronted by a red light. Jumping the light would have resulted in a messy end under the wheels of the three lanes of cars already snarling across the junction, so we just had to wait and watch as the bunch powered into the distance. When the lights finally changed in our favour, Jan’s peloton was already out of sight, but the routesheet seemed straight forward enough - keep on the fietspad next to the Seine. Along with Claude, Robert and Daniël and Karel I made my way along the bike path for a few kilometres until we came to a big junction where the path just petered out onto a busy dual carriageway. Where now? The ensuing route conference was carried out largely in Flemish and included a large amount of pointing in different directions, but it seemed obvious to me we’d missed an instruction. 500 metres previously we’d passed an ugly concrete bridge, and a glance at the routesheet showed an instruction “betonnen brug > L+L+L=over brug”. Obvious to you and me where we’d gone wrong, but how to get my point across to my companions? I just turned my bike 180° and rode back down the path and over the bridge. A glance over my shoulder showed they had accepted my finely reasoned argument and had decided to follow. There was no hope of catching Jan now, especially so when Daniël punctured, followed immediately by Robert. We met up with them briefly at an Intermarché at Viry-Chatillon, where our route left the Seine. Much to Claude’s disgust, they left before we’d had time to fill our bottles, and so we set off again through the outskirts of Paris and negotiated a maze of roundabouts in a massive retail park before reaching open country after 80 km. And the country became even more open after 125km when we hit the D97. Dead straight, huge cornfields on either side as far 45
as the eye could see, no villages, only a occasional minor undulation, a blazing sun, and a stiff headwind. 40 km of this until Orléans, and some helpful soul had put up kilometre posts counting down the distance. I recall seeing the 37km-to-go post. An eternity later I crawled past the 36km-to-go post. Our little grupetto had split up by this time and I wasn’t enjoying life (you may have guessed this). There weren’t even any cars or lorries to keep me company. Once past Orléans I imagined we would have a pleasant 100km evening ride to the day’s destination along the banks of the Loire, a thought which kept me going as I slowly wilted. Eventually Claude and I joined forces coming into Orléans, got lost, wasted ages finding the cathedral, couldn’t match the routesheet with our route by the river, and ended up making for the next town rather than the riverbank route we’d expected. Those with GPS tracks didn’t fare any better - Bernd told me later he had ended up crossing a dried-up river bed. At one point Karel and I found ourselves on the wrong side of the river and could see Claude bombing along on the other.
Rain and sun
Everything changed after Romilly-sur-Seine (162 km). After a stamp and a couple of Lidl nectarines, I carried on through the town where I met Karel again. After this control the sun came out, and the landscape changed into one of endless cornfields in a cruel replay of the previous afternoon. So much for the fresh drizzle I had been enjoying that morning.
Breakfast the next morning was in the darkness of the car park of the Petit Casino supermarket across the road from our hotel, so more room for us to eat, drink, and prepare our sarnies, even if it meant we couldn’t see what we were doing. It had rained during the night, and there was still drizzle in the air as we set off northwards. I was glad of the freshness, and looked forward to a day without the scorching sun of the previous two days.
Champagne Karel is a Dutchman, but learnt his randonneuring in Montana and Alberta. Consequently as soon as he finds himself surrounded by endless cornfields below a big sky, a couple of mph are added to his speed, and before long he pulled away into the distance in a repeat of the previous day.
The bunch soon split up as we hit the hills, and I was alone when I reached Joigny, but found André sheltering under a shop awning when a short sharp downpour flooded the road into the town centre. I joined up with Claude for a while then found myself on my own when he stopped at a café. This section was a perfect contrast to the previous day - small fields and farms compared to yesterday’s prairies, small twisty roads up and down hills compared to the dead-straight D97, and refreshing drizzle contrasting with scorching sun and headwind.
He also had another motivation. This afternoon Jan had arranged a champagne tasting, and we had to get to the rendezvous in Vertus by 16:45 in order to take part. I’d given up on any chance of getting there on time, but Karel wanted to get his money’s worth.
I made my solitary way through the Champagne vineyards in the pleasant evening sun, passing villages boasting their caves and vintages. I lost time getting through Epernay - the routesheet said get to the centre and then cross the bridge and turn right - but after a couple of laps of the town centre I found my way out on the correct road. On the run in to Reims I was caught by Karel - he’d got to the tasting okay, but had wasted oodles of time in Epernay and was furious at the sparse instructions. When we reached the hotel (a Formule 1-type) it was still daylight and we went next door to MacDonalds to enjoy an open-air meal with the rest of the riders.
Perfect start and finish 4:30 am the next morning saw us back at MacD’s, using their tables for an alfresco breakfast in the dark. The lady who arrived to open up didn’t mind us being there, and even wished us a cheery “Bon Appetit!”, but several dampened riders had to beat a quick retreat when a timeswitch turned on the sprinklers concealed in the shrubbery.
At the champagne tasting
Ewoud & Jan at Lidl in Romilly
We managed to join up with Claude eventually, but Karel mentioned to me that he found Claude’s pace just a little too high. I tried to engage him in conversation in the hope it would slow him down, but he just kept recounting the things which had annoyed him during the day and as he got angrier and angrier he just got faster and faster. As the sun was setting we reached the booked meal at the Auberge de La Tour at Beaulieu just 20km before our destination for the day. This was a lovely way
to end the day - sitting outside waiting for our meals, having a cool drink and chatting with the patronne who was genuinely thrilled to have such a cosmopolitan clientele - an Englishman, a Belgian and an American. Jan’s group had been joined by some members of the local bike club on the run-in to Cosne, and we found them all spilling out of a bar in the town when we arrived. At 650km we were now over half way, and had the chance of a few hours’ sleep in a comfortable bed in the traditional French provincial town-centre hotel Jan had booked.
The author & Ewoud heading north from Reims
Arrivée February 2011
Randonneurs Mondiaux creeping up towards the high thirties again, so by the time I reached the next control at Cerfontaine I was happy to collapse under the nearest tree. Gino was doling out nectarines, but Jan, celebrating reaching Belgian territory, treated himself to a tray of hot greasy sausages from the supermarket deli.
Pro and Con
The next 60km had lots of climbing and rather too much main road for my liking, including one bizarre stretch where I found myself riding over the starting grid of a Le Manstype motor racing circuit.
A big advantage of the way Jan had organised the ride was that even a sluggard such as myself could meet faster riders along the route and not just at the start. The previous evening’s meal and drinks together, and now riding together in the cool of the morning were examples of this and one of the aspects I really enjoyed.
In complete contrast, the next 40km from Namur to Hoegaarden was entirely on a Ravel (RAilVELO) converted railway bike path, punctuated by a short stop at the Café des Sports at Eghezée, where I watched the conclusion to the day’s Tour stage, Sylvain Chavanel winning the stage and taking the maillot jaune.
But there was one disadvantage of the setup of this ride compared to a ’normal’ 1200, namely inflexibility. Given the scorching days and the balmy nights, I would have preferred the possibility of more night riding and a good afternoon siesta, but as I didn’t really want to give up my hotel bed, I was forced to ride through the midday sun. We must have done 50 km or so before the first climbs of the day started to split us up. After 75 km for the day (and 999km overall) we reached the beautiful market place at Brunehamel, where the support drivers Gilbert and Gino Maes were waiting with bread, cheese, ham etc for a snack and packed lunch. Gilbert (father) and Gino (son) did a brilliant job throughout the four days, transporting our bags, arranging hotel rooms, buying bread and spreads, making coffee, and generally bending over backwards to make the ride go smoothly. Best of all they gave encouragement and greeted us warmly whenever we met on the road. By the end they were like old friends.
‘Ard day in the Ardennes After Brunehamel came a rude awakening when we hit the Ardennes. Peter Menneke had ridden in 2008, and he’d warned me about how hard the last day was. The sun was now high in the sky, and the temperature was Arrivée February 2011
‘kassei bergop’ Jan’s promised barbecue was now getting closer. I could almost smell the sausages. After joining forces with Karel for the run-in on the last 3 days, it was inevitable that we’d do so again, and indeed just after Hoegaarden that is what happened. Less than 20km from the end we came to an instruction which was new to me, ‘kassei bergop’, and initially we went past the turn. But all became clear when we retraced: a cobbled climb. Karel didn’t appreciate it, but in the land of the Tour of Flanders surely no self-respecting ride is complete without a cobbled climb. This one was short but steep with the added spice of a greasy surface as it had just begun to rain. And it was followed immediately by a matching short, steep, slippery cobbled descent. Am I the only person who thinks it funny that 16km from the finish of a 1200 we went through a town called Aarschot? (mispronounced ‘Arse shot’, although I hasten to add that mine was and still is in mint condition). The rain had now developed into a terrific electric storm, with forked lightning and deafening thunder every few seconds, and rain so torrential that we took shelter in someone’s garage for a few minutes, even though we were only a stone’s throw from the finish.
Aankomst When it had subsided to a mere deluge, we made our way the few kilometres in the dark down the cycle track to Morkhoven, dodging the branches the storm had brought down. At the finish, we were warmly congratulated by Gino and he directed us to the barbecue which was in full swing in a marquee behind the social club. Bernd and Kristof had obviously taken advantage of their early finish to down a few beers, but there were still plenty of sausages, chicken and other goodies left for us. With our arrival, it meant that everyone was there, and the awards could begin. While the storm continued to rage all round the tent, Jan introduced each of the riders in turn, and we had to go up and receive a medal and a souvenir rucksack from the mayor and his wife. Eventually a few beers later the party started to break up, with the general agreement that we’d all see each other next year in Paris. A very satisfactory way to finish the event.
Epilogue That left me with 5 weeks to get to Hamburg, so I the next day I headed south again. My route took me through the Ardennes,
then almost to Nancy before crossing the Vosges (bumping into my chum, legendary 9-time PBPer Alain Collongues in a village shop), then riding north through Alsace, into Germany through the Pfalz, along the Mosel, across the Rhine, and through the Westerwald and Sauerland, before heading through the Luneburg Heath to the Baltic coast, and round into Schleswig-Holstein and south to Hamburg. After an eventful 1500 I headed home via northern Germany (meeting Bernd by chance at some traffic lights near his home) and the Netherlands, and got home after an allnighter from Harwich in early September. Jan told me he’ll be putting the ride on again next year (2011) in early July, with accommodation in gyms rather than hotels (an improvement in my opinion - 3to-a-room in a Formule 1 in a heatwave is not a good recipe for sleep). I think it would make a nice leg-stretcher and sharpener between the end of qualifiers and PBP. Morkhoven is part of Herentals, about 30 km west of Antwerp. There’s a campsite less than 2km away, and it’s about 35 km from Brussels airport. There really is no excuse not to ride. I may well be there again myself.
The morning’s ride took us out of town past the cathedral, and the pre-dawn stretch though the countryside north of Reims was one of the highlights of trip. The whole field was together, and there was a definite end-of-term feeling. As I chatted with PBPhopeful Ewoud and Etienne (“I only know 7 words of English, but I use them very well”), Bernd worked his way back though the group, taking pictures of each pair of riders as we sped along, using the pink dawn sky as a backdrop.
Union des Audax Francais
Centenaire du Tourmalet 1000 km Brevet The word passed around a select group of long-distance bike riders towards the end of 2009. The Union des Audax Francais (UAF) would be organising the Centenaire du Tourmalet 1000 km brevet in 2010, to mark the Tour de France first climbing the Col du Tourmalet in 1910. The UAF’s motto is “start together, finish together”, quite different to the allure libre style of most of the brevets organised by AUK, where riders are free to ride at whatever pace they like, between overall maximum and minimum speeds of 30 km/h to 15 km/h. Given that the UAF-recognised brevets I’d ridden in Australia only lasted one day and that I was planning on riding the 1200 km Paris-Brest-Paris Audax 1200 km brevet in 2011, it seemed a good idea to try riding a long UAF brevet first.
Entrée Judith and I rode a 300 UAF brevet starting from Ostend Belgium on the last weekend of May, just to get used to the concept of group riding again. It was a relaxed free-form ride in the flatlands of Western Belgium and Northern France but the trip to get to the start was anything but relaxed. The ferry wouldn’t allow bike riders or even foot passengers, it was car, truck or nothing. No dramas, we’ll take the car over. The online driving guide suggests allowing 2.5 hours to drive to Newhaven ferry, so we’ll give it an extra hour to figure on Friday afternoon traffic. No chance (bloody M25...). Despite all efforts, we arrived at the ferry port exactly when the ferry was due to leave. Luckily the ferry had been delayed earlier and we managed to squeeze on as the very last vehicle. Driving around Ostend, well after midnight, trying to find our pre-booked hotel was annoying but happily the owner had left the door unlocked for us and we could fling ourselves into blessed sleep for a few hours. Up at 04:30 to ride the kilometre or so to the start and we joined a small group of locals and a tandem from the Netherlands for what mostly turned out to be a tour of various canals. Aside from my flat tyre in the first five kilometres (quickly repaired while the group waited for me as I swore under my breath), we had a great ride. No rain on the bike, though there was some worthwhile wind to enjoy or growl at, depending on our compass heading. Shelter from the bunch was most appreciated. It didn’t rain on the bike but it absolutely hammered down just as we arrived at the 200 km rest stop. Luckily it stopped again just as we went to leave, the gods were obviously smiling upon us. Judith’s and my mudguards were appreciated as the others gradually changed to various shades of mud brown over the next 40 km or so. Sunday morning, we finally met our hotel’s manager at breakfast and paid our bill. Full marks to the Hoevehotel T Kruishof, a very bike-friendly place: http://www.swhosting1.com/users/kruishof/#HOME
Main Course Packing our bikes to get to the start of the Centenaire du Tourmalet took a little longer than I expected and it turned out that the Metropolitan Underground had a major hassle, just as I wanted to get to the big smoke. Cue frantic phoning of minicab companies to get somebody to take me, two bike bags and another bag to meet Judith so we could get on our prebooked (and nonflexible) Eurostar. The usual Friday traffic hassles (even though the rush hour was going the other way) meant I arrived about five minutes before our train left and well after our check-in had closed. After some swearing, off to the booking office I went, prepared to hand over hefty wonga to make sure we made it to Paris that day. The gods were smiling upon us, the lady at the counter had heard about the Metropolitan Line problems and happily booked us on the next Eurostar at no extra cost. Result! Lugging the bags onto the RER train wasn’t too bad and it got us to within a few kilometres of our prebooked hotel. The very first Tour de France started from the Hotel Reveil Matin in 1903: http://www.hotelreveilmatin.fr/ and that was where we were headed. After a couple of false starts, trying to work out where we were, and trying to get a taxi to turn up, I played ‘the Australia card’. A fellow at the local kebab shop grabbed his tired people mover and took the bags and us straight to the door, only tapping another car once! A quick chat with a lady behind the bar and it turned out that our prebooked hotel room wasn’t. No matter, a room was hired and we settled in for dinner, admiring the decor. There were photos of just about every Tour de France winner up to Armstrong on the wall, even the bar was decorated with historical bike parts.
and we eventually worked out where we needed to sign on and load our bags into ‘the luggage’, the large van following us across France (something like the Luggage in Discworld, unfortunately sapient pear wood but with an auspicious FFCT rune on it!).
After lunch, we were off, 49 riders, a luggage van, the organiser’s car and three traffic controller motorcycles. At first I thought the motos were just to get the peloton out of Paris but no, they were to guide us the whole way. I think we had to put a foot down at stop signs, roundabouts and traffic lights, perhaps eight times in 1100 kilometres; otherwise the motos with melodious horns gave us the full Tour de France treatment!
Saturday morning, we spent some time building our bikes, greeting other riders and looking around the place. We found the plaque on the wall marking the first Tour de France
A UAF ride is quite different to the normal randonnées ridden in the UK. The average ride speed between rest stops is generally 22.5 km/h, controlled by a couple of ‘ride captains’ that ensure relaxed climbing speeds and covering ground a bit quicker on the flat. The ride captains were very experienced riders, one had completed nine PBPs, 2 x Audax and 7 x Randonneur. Rest stops (15 minutes long) occur about every 50 km. Getting drinks during these short stops was the only expense we had, everything else was included in the entry fee. When leaving a rest stop, the road captains just get on their bikes and ride off, no faffing at all. Till I got Arrivée February 2011
Union des Audax Francais the hang of things, this strict timing would mean I’d be flinging on my gloves and helmet and sprinting after the bunch each time. Judith and I got asked to lead the bunch for a couple of stages, considered a bit of an honour.
Each night, we’d stop for six to seven hours at cheap hotels or university apartments, a long way from the ‘huddling in bus shelters’ approach beloved of AUKs. Our sleeps were at Le Mans, La Rochelle and Marmande before we finished at the Lourdes youth hostel on Tuesday afternoon, high above the religious tourist trap of the town itself, nestled in the Pyrenees. Think of a downmarket Blackpool with plastic St Bernadette statuettes and glow-in-the-dark pictures. After a little ceremony where we all spent quite a bit of time telling each other how good we were, and having a bite to eat, we all collapsed ready for the next day’s ride. Several of us wandered a little way down the hill to drink beer (the foreigners) or wine (the locals) and to chat some more. Good times.
We rolled up the hill at a steady pace that seemed very easy early on but by the last few kilometres I was very happy the group hadn’t gone any faster. Another kilometre or two and I reckon I would have stopped for a breather. Along the way, we’d picked up the families of the riders, clad in the same commemorative jerseys. We climbed well above the clouds and the view from the top was stunning, looking down on the hairpins below. The summit was packed with spectators, riders, coaches and vehicles carrying folk working on the Tour de France to that day’s locations (Mr Liggett didn’t wave back when he drove by)
Unfortunately, I blotted my copybook on the last day by riding a bit too fast and tending to split the bunch. A Belgian rider got dropped from the bunch and so didn’t get his brevet homologated. A German lady had to sit out one stage in “the luggage” and suffered the same fate. Lunches and dinners, on the other hand, are taken very seriously. An hour and a half long each, usually four courses and complementary carafes of vin blanc, rouge and rose on the table. Perfect riding food in my opinion! I was impressed by a dinner in Restaurant Le Pinky, the place was painted a lovely shade of blue (perhaps I was a little tired). On the last morning, we stopped at the Notre-Dame des Cyclistes, an amazing chapel that I’d never heard of before (unlike Italy’s Madonna del Ghisallo). The inside was filled with memorabilia and signed jerseys from just about every noteworthy racing cyclist from the last 60 years. This was the only place where we overstayed our scheduled stop but I would have been happy to stay there all day.
Though we had completed the more than 1000 km of the Centenaire du Tourmalet brevet in 75 hours, we hadn’t actually ridden up the mountain that the ride was celebrating. This suited me, I wasn’t sure I could maintain 22.5 km/h up grades approaching 1:10. That statement is a little inaccurate actually, I’m quite sure I can’t even get close to holding that sort of speed on those sorts of slopes. The next morning, the group tackled the Tourmalet (again following the motos in a big bunch) riding over 100 km and gaining more than a mile of altitude by the top. Temperatures had dropped by morning and there was low-hanging cloud in the valley, so some people stayed in town to avoid a possible soaking. The rest of us had a lovely relaxed ride to Luz St Sauveur, checking out the hoards of folk preparing to watch the Tour de France professionals racing up the same road later that day. Motorhomes were parked in all sorts of unlikely places. There were plenty of other riders emulating the pros on the climb, though usually not their speed.
Sean Kelly (an Irish ex-pro from the 1980s) had ridden with a group on 1910 racing bikes (and appropriate clothing) up the steeper side of the Tourmalet, they were at the top when we arrived. Good to see. We stopped for a picnic lunch partway down before the group drifted back down to Lourdes in a somewhat relaxed fashion to pack up our bikes. The riders who’d avoided the Tourmalet had missed a great ride. The impeccable organisation included an overnight coach to take us back to Paris. A lift to the train station, then RER, Eurostar and Metropolitan Underground to home, no dramas. A great ride and a remarkably enjoyable way to cover 1000 km in 75 hours. This must be something like how it felt to ride PBP Randonneur in the 1970s and 1980s. The starters included AUK’s Judith Swallow and an Aussie, a Belgian, a Dutchman, three Germans (one lady) and a Spaniard with 41 Frenchmen. The foreign riders were really made to feel special and my poor French was graciously accommodated. Overall, I found the even-paced riding much more fun than the 1000 km randonneur brevets I’ve ridden previously (admittedly somewhat faster). A large contributor to the enjoyment must be the organiser’s careful routing and scheduling, a hillier course would be noticeably more difficult. On the other hand, it was difficult staying with the group during my occasional bad patches and it took a little while to get used to the slower climbing and descending pace. I’m definitely looking forward to joining the very small group of riders who’ve ridden PBP Audax and PBP Randonneur in the same year.
Dave Minter Arrivée February 2011
Blue Lamps off Mont Blanc ...
for Stephen Poulton
further examination by the day staff. Come the morning, rather attractive junior nurses prepared me for an arterial examination. A full team of medics discussed my treatment and a junior doctor and a trainee nurse stitched up my forehead. At mid-morning I was wheeled to theatre for my check-up, which determined no coronary problems. At last, I was transferred to an observation ward, where I had my first meal since the ride. They did not replace the drip and fed me well for my discharge the following morning, when a tram ride, a train journey and a bus ride reunited me with Shirley.
To view the Alps from the comfort of the Grande Belledonne Hospital in Grenoble is not the preferred way to end the 334km/8000m Tour de Mont Blanc Randosportif but 280km and 6260m in 15hr 18m cannot be regarded as complete failure. It had been a thrilling and memorable journey. Firstly, by Pompier, then to be met by and transferred into an ambulance from Albertville, only to be met by another from Chambery, which, with doctor and nurse attending, whisked me to Grenoble, a specialist Cardiac Hospital. I was up at 04.20 in the dark and cool for a 0500 start. Lengths of the start tape were tied to bikes (for luck?) and we started with an immediate cool descent from Les Saisies. In the cool, I wore full finger liner gloves and goretex top. With only 140 starters, the road was soon quite lonely, as I was worked towards the rear. The early descent was quiet and on lights, so full road through Megève and St Gervais and over a col to Verdagne and Chamonix. Then a long climb after Chamonix to Col de Montets (1419m), before crossing into Switzerland and the climb of Col de la Forclaz (1526m). The 970m descent to Martigny was smooth and fast, regrettably hindered by traffic ahead. I was early enough at the next food stop to climb the steep 860m to Champex Lac (Heart Rate Av 145 - 45min later and I would have been directed straight to Grand St Bernard), before a superb 500m descent to Orsières for the 1570m main road climb to Col du Grand St Bernard. The day was now fully warm and the climb steady. The road surface worsened after the tunnel turn and 50
I woke up a couple of times, having alighted from the support van to be sick and found the others in the van concerned. I had fainted and the first fall cut my forehead. Alan, the driver became more concerned when I asked to stop to vomit, to the point that he took me straight to a doctor in the village for a check up. He plastered my torso with sensing pads and quickly determined irregular heart rhythms and a heart rate of 38bpm that warranted an immediate transfer to a cardiac unit for a specialist check up.
Will I enter this event again? Probably not - age has reduced my pace below that required for the tight time schedule. My training had been AAA-SR and AAA-RRTY, and the Marco Pantani Sportif three weeks before. A good check on ability for the ride might be a m/hr climbing test; at age 63, I was climbing at 640m/hr on the Gavia, 680m/hr on the Mortirolo, Champax Lac at 690m/ hr, Grand St Bernard at 590m/hr and Petit St Bernard at 535m/hr. Returning home and on the same bike, I climbed the shorter Gospel Pass two weeks later at 730m/hr. I deduce that to succeed at Tour de Mont Blanc you need to climb at 750-800m/hr in the UK. You need the lightest bike and low gears. 8000m brings a huge penalty to carrying excess gear so perhaps I should have left my Goretex behind? I wore a light mesh under vest to match the excellent full zip jersey included in the entry fee. I under-estimated drink needs. Whilst I carried both water and isotonic, I did not drink enough. During sportifs, you do not have relaxing ‘café stops’ and tend to eat higher carbo foods than audax. I love Mont Blanc and climbed it in 1974, walked round it in 1980 and skied the Mer de Glace. This route would make an ideal Audax over 2 days. In fact, there is a 600km from Italy in Jun 2011.
My transfer to Grenoble had been the equivalent of Casualty à la Français. Round about 0200, I was being scanned, as an exploratory emergency, before being hooked up to a saline drip and left for the night wired up to cardiac monitors. I would undergo
Editorial Note: also, FFCT do a Permanent Tour de Mont Blanc - Francis & I toured round in 2½ days some years ago. Details: www.ffct.org under randonnées permanentes/Rhone-Alpes - Sheila
there was little food at the Col feed at 2469m, though I admit I had little appetite and sucked isobombs. I had little time in hand now and would gain on the descent. The descent to Aosta involved 30km of fairly rough road but I made the valley feed in 36˚ heat in time and left with15minutes in hand. Shirley and I had driven from Pré St Didier to Les Saisies by the finish route the day before, so I enjoyed the climb. But my pace was low with HR av at 125. When I gained the summit, I could not eat and thought to pack here but it was cooling and I quite fancied the 30km descent, having driven it, with its long slopes and wide bends. With little traffic, I relished the descent, averaging 37.4kph for 50mins with speeds without pedalling hitting 54kph. I bottomed at Bourg St Maurice at nearly 20.30 and it would be dark by 22.00. The gathering of support vehicles was tempting to pack, so I thought through the options. The event ended in 3 hours (officially); I still had 2000m to climb, which would need at least 4 hours and that excluded a 20km dark descent to Beaufort. Wisdom won the day...
Arrivée February 2011
Hitchbiking through South America with Simon Ryntjes
This is the tale of two people approaching a mid-life crisis, who packed up their lives in London in 68 boxes for 10 months of travel before heading for a new life in Australia. One of the highlights of our journey was the four and a half months cycle touring and backpacking in South America. The following recounts some of the more memorable moments from this trip and hope it inspires you to do the same. When we were planning of our journey, Simon complained, “There’s not enough cycling in this trip, in fact none at all!”, “But isn’t trekking in the Himalayas and Patagonia and my ashtanga yoga retreat in India not boot camp enough for you? Ok we’ll do some cycling in South America.” After three fabulous months in India and Nepal, we arrived back in London for a quick transition, swapping our trekking gear for cycle touring gear. Simon was frantically trying to get our bikes ready whilst I was researching and formulating a vague route. We’d seen some interesting blogs of cycle trips on a 1,200km remote dirt road in Chilean Patagonia, called the Carretera Austral, and most people recommended cycle touring from north to south in South America. We arrived in Buenos Aires late January 2010. Gone from the land in India where the cow is sacred to Argentina where the cow is all you can eat. After a few days of acclimatising to the steak, wine and superb ice cream in the capital, all in the name of carb loading, we had to make a decision about where to start cycling. Our logic suggested ignoring conventional advice about cycling northsouth, and instead head south as quickly as possible, to make the most of the relatively warm weather and long days in this otherwise inhospitable region. We could then head north to warmer climes as summer developed into autumn. Summer was high holiday season for the south, so flights were heavily booked from Buenos Aires. We were forced to consider travelling over 3,000km by bus to the southern-most city in the world accessible by road called Ushuaia. Of course travelling with a bicycle on public transport is rarely easy. When the bus arrived the driver and male trolley-dolly looked at our cardboard bike boxes and shook their Arrivée February 2011
heads in what was to become the regular drill. After 2 years of studying Spanish at the prestigious Cervantes Institute, all I could blurt out was, “But the woman at the ticket office said there was ‘no problemas con bicyclettas’!”. Sixty pesos (GBP 10) later our bikes were placed neatly in the luggage cabin and we were seated comfortably on the luxury bus, just like business class on British Airways. We were fed, offered wine and whiskey with our meals and shown lots of movies. We travelled down Route 3 across the barren pampas, mainly grazing farmland, sparsely populated by the occasional cow and llama.
Against the wind - Tierra del Fuego Ushuaia is billed as the ‘town at the edge of the world‘, too touristy for our liking. It is, however, a good place to stock up on provisions, do last minute checks on the bikes, and buy spares. Loaded with about 20kg of gear each, we set off, cycling back north, backtracking along Route 3. After 40 hours of near continuous bus travel, luxurious as it had been, the freedom of independent travel was intoxicating - and as we’d travelled this stretch during the night, we could now enjoy the spectacular mountain scenery. Our legs were appreciating the exercise and gradually getting used to cycling again.
Our first night was spent at a crazy campsite by Lago (Lake) Fagnano. Roberto, the owner, entertained the eclectic mix of campers with a one-man variety show. By the end of the evening everyone at the campsite was jamming with various musical instruments and singing through megaphones - quite a surreal experience. The next morning we stocked up on provisions at an extremely good bakery in the nearby town called Tolhuin. We would later share fond memories of this bakery with other cyclists had passed through this town. A stray dog followed me for over 15km (Simon is much faster and was further ahead) until I gained some speed going downhill. All I could hear was the pat pat of its paws in the road. We encountered our first experience of the notorious westerly wind that blows towards the Atlantic. We were heading northwest and it was like no head wind we had every experienced - this is why most people recommend cycling north to south. There
were road signs with a picture of a windblown palm tree, in case you hadn’t noticed. We met a fellow cyclist from Canada, travelling for 3 years around the world. As the wind was so strong none of us had the energy to make it to the next town, a further 33km - in addition to the 80km already done. We found an abandoned shelter along the Atlantic beach and, with the kindness of strangers, we had enough water to sleep out rough overnight. It was the first of many nights of rough / wild camping. We arrived at Rio Grande, popular for trout fishing, and rested our sore butts. Our plan now is to cross the border into Chile and then hokey pokey in and out of Chile and Argentina. It appears that these southern neighbours do not cooperate with each other. Our map of Argentina only shows Chile with little to no detail of roads and we could not purchase any Chilean maps in Argentina. We were to find the equal and opposite problem on the Chilean side. Rio Grande was the Argentinean base for the Falkland War. We were served by a man at the tourist office who fought in the Falklands. He asked Simon where he was from. “I’m British” replied Simon. He said he no longer held a grudge against the British but the man’s face began to redden and the blood vessels in his neck were about to explode. I thought he was going to lean over the counter and strangle Simon. I distracted him by saying “I’m from Australia!”. “Aah kangaroos!” he replied. They like Australians here, despite charging us USD100 to fly into the country whilst the Brits get in for free. We followed the Atlantic Ocean and reached the Argentine border. The hamburger man at the border told us that the hotel would be open later that day and suggested we sleep in the border control waiting room rather than pay for the hotel. It had a small stove and we could ask the cleaner for keys to the shower. There was even a bike rack. After checking out of Argentina the paved road ended. We cycled 16km along a dirt track in no man’s land towards the Chile border post. We checked into Chile and ate all our fresh produce at the border then continued on the ripios (gravel) and into the wind. It was pretty tough going and every 5km cycled for me was a real milestone. This area was a lot more remote and we truly felt we had ‘got away from it all’. 51
An Auk emigrates to Oz the long way round Patagonia A few days later we reached a small frontier town called Porvenir (another great bakery). In my view there appeared to be some evidence of inbreeding. As this was the end of the road, we took a ferry across the Beagle Channel to Punta Arenas. We met an Italian cyclist with narrow tyres who complained that it was quite difficult on the ripios. At Punta Arenas we discovered alfajores made of dulche de leche sandwiched between two shortbread biscuits. Dulche de leche is like the “offee” in banoffee pie (boiled condensed milk which becomes caramel). We lived off tubs of this during our touring days and spread it on everything. Back on the paved road again, the first 30km out of town was smooth sailing and no wind - until we turned the corner and headed west again. The next 20km were miserable, averaging 8km per hour on the flat and 13km on the down hill. The cross wind was so strong that it often blew us off the road onto the gravel shoulder. When a truck came the opposite way we just wobbled in the middle of the road and it was like hitting an invisible wall. We found shelter in a bus stop by the side of the road and made a cup of coffee whilst trying to decide whether to continue or wait for the wind to die down. A ute passed by and the driver waved to me, I waved back and then kept waving. He stopped, reversed back and offered us a lift to our next major destination, Puerto Natales access to Torres del Paine National Park. Without hesitation I placed my bike in the tray and surprisingly Simon did the same with no complaints. The wind was so strong that the radio antenna was snapped off the ute. A few weeks later we met a Polish guy called Paris who could not speak English but fluent Spanish and it took him 6 days to cover this same 250km stretch of road against the wind – life is too short. Torres del Paine National Park is famous for its trekking and views of glaciers, lakes and Cerro (Mount) Torres. Treks available include the “Circuit”. To get value for money from the park fees we did the Circuit.
The first 2 days were wet, windy (again), boggy and the clouds covered the views. On the 3rd day, when we were to go over a pass, the weather turned for the better and at the top of the pass we were faced with the most amazing views of the glacier moraines, one long highway of ice. The weather and the 52
views just got better and, when we arrived back in town, a guide staying at our hosteria (hostel) remarked that this was the best days of a miserable summer season (el Nino). In Puerto Natales we met some cycle tourists heading south. I asked them if they come through the Carretera Austral and what was it like. Their only comment was “wet”. After nine days off our bikes, we departed town for the best day of cycling yet - great weather, nice quiet road lined with condors and other birds of prey waiting to eat the road kill. As soon as we hokey pokeyed back across the border into Argentina, the wind picked up again (of course not in our favour), the road deteriorated to gravel and the sun went behind the clouds. We were now on the classic Route 40 (made famous by Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries) on the wide pampas stretch. As we were battling against the wind and clocked up a few km for the day I began to tire. Simon jumped over a fence and found a barn for us to stay in on the side of the road. The next day I could not get the carol of “Away in a manger” out of my head. As it was raining we stopped at a petrol station (the only petrol station for miles) for cover and met the estancia (farm) owner. Although nothing was said, I think we all realised that we had trespassed on his property the previous night. He told us that Route 40 deteriorates and it would not be nice to cycle on that surface in the rain but the other alternative was a 100km detour on paved roads. Off we bounced along the dirt track and within 10 minutes a pickup truck passed and waved to us. We must have looked so pathetic (well at least I did), that the truck stopped and offered to give us a lift to the end of the dirt track. Hey why not hitch bike? Simon was not too keen to accept another lift, but I have no pride. We loaded the bikes on and sat the inside the cabin with Alturo the mechanic and Alberto the welder. Practicing our Spanish, we discover that Alberto had 9 children because he did not have a television. Along the road we passed a touring truck with Swiss Family Robinson travelling for one year with their three children removed from Swiss schools. We recognized the truck, having seen it on a few occasions further south. Their brakes did not work. No problema, Alturo jumps under their truck and fixed the brakes in a few minutes. The two men were rewarded with top of the range Swiss army knives. We ended up going all the way to El Calafate (150km) with them as the rain did not subside and besides we would need to retrace part of this route. Oh the shame of it all when we arrived in town and fellow cycle tourists helped us unload our bikes off the back of the truck.
started farting. We moved out the next day. The rain had cleared and we did the gringo thing by getting the tourist bus to the Perito Moreno Glacier. Simon said “what are we going to do at the glacier for 6 hours?”. Well the time passes just watching and listening to the massive chunks of ice coming crashing down into the water and creating waves. An awesome experience to witness. Happy to leave the touristy town of El Calafate we cycled north towards a mountain town called El Chalten, which was only created in 1988. For a few hundred kilometers we were faced with views of more lakes, glaciers and Mount Fitz Roy, no traffic and the odd guanaco (like a llama) running across our path. We arrived in El Chalten. Actually we could’ve made it a day earlier but there were so many inconsistencies between the distances quoted of the different road signs, maps and our odometer reading. We bumped into a hitchhiker whom we had met on the road a few days back and had just arrived in town too. Simon said to me, “See, cycling is faster than hitchhiking”. In El Chalten we had a couple of cycle days off, which involved 20km day hikes, of which one was to the glacier lake at the base of Mount Fitzroy. As it was a beautiful day, Simon stripped off all his clothes and took a quick dip in the lake. I just dipped my feet in but I am sure the water was warmer than the Parliament Hill Lido.
“Short cut” border crossing The next part of our adventure was to get over the border to Chile to start the Carretera Austral. This southern highway was built in 1976 and links all the small towns in Patagonia. To this day, most of the 1240km road remains unpaved. There is a “short cut” border crossing into Chile only accessible by foot, bicycle or horse which involves the following; A) From El Chalten, 40km cycle on a very bad gravel road to Lago Desierto; B) get the boat to the northern end of the lake where we would camp outside the Argentinean border control (this was the most beautiful campsite we had so far with magnificent views of sunset over Mount Fitz Roy); (A and B took 1 day) C) 2km steep uphill push of the bikes where
At El Calafate we had an unfortunate experience in the dorm room (yes Argentina is expensive!) with a guy who had a chest infection, coughed all night and when he woke himself up with the coughing, he Arrivée February 2011
On Tour we often had to remove the panniers, push the bike through the narrow path, return down the hill and carry our bags up, my shins and ankle got scarred from pedal scratches, Simon removed the pedals from my bike, there is a lot of swearing and grunting, 5km of more pushing across streams and over fallen logs to the actual frontier (3.5 hours), followed by 15km of dirt track, pass an abandoned air field on the Chilean side with big rocks over windy cliffs (2 hours) to check into Chile totally exhausted (total 1 day) D) wait for really expensive boat to “maybe” turn up to sail across Lago O’Higgins (2 days, it was 1 day late).
I was smiling and sailing across the gravel looking forward to this part of the adventure. Within 2km I skidded on some loose gravel whilst trying to maneuver leftwards out of a camber and fell off my bike, as I cannot seem to land on my left foot. Over the next 3 weeks I fell on my left side quite a few times and, without the aid of a tan, my left arm and leg look as though I enjoy self mutilation. Simon warned, “Be careful, you might damage your bike!” Along the way we would meet a few other cycle tourists heading to Ushuaia. We always stopped to chat and give each other hints of where to stay and collect fresh water.
E) Cycle 7 km from port to start of the Carretera Austral in Villa O´ Higgins At Lago O’Higgins we camped 1km away from the Chilean border control near the boat dock on the property of the Mancilla family, the only people around here (they also rent horses to carry the bikes across the border). We were so isolated, when the boat finally arrived, a cycle tourist heading south mentioned that there had been an earthquake in Chile but we had no other details. Disembarking off the boat was another Polish guy who had hooked up with a Japanese guy called Hiro.
Hiro has been cycling for 1 year and 9 months from the most northern point in Alaska to finish in Ushuaia. He speaks very little English or Spanish, weighs about 50kg and has about 80kg of gear on his bike. They have the same symbiotic relationship as the zebra and wildebeest where the zebra (Polish guy) leads the wildebeest. At Villa O’Higgins we got online at the library and understood the true devastation caused by the earthquake. As the entire town is wired we were able to get in touch with friends and family to let them know we were fine and about 1300km south of the epicenter of the quake. It’s times like this you know who cares for you and is taking an interest.
Carretera Austral Chile So we commenced the Carretera Austral with a free map from the tourist office (this map is better than any we had seen for purchase) with only the knowledge that it was wet and unpaved. When we left Villa O’Higgins it was sunny and there was a gentle breeze. The mountains gave us protection from the wind. Arrivée February 2011
We diverted from the Carretera Austral go along Lago General Carrera. The road was extremely hilly and rough but compensated by spectacular scenery. We caught a ferry from Chile Chico to Puerto Ibanez and reconnected with the Carretera Austral (limited ferry pre booking, just turn up to the boat and pay captain). Having your own independent transport is the best way to experience the Carretera Austral. Most of the towns (except Tortel) are uneventful, just a place to rest and stock up on food. The scenery of fiords, glaciers, mountains and rivers and lakes of all hues greens, blues, emerald, sapphire etc take your breath away (it could also be the dust from the passing traffic too). We were surprised to meet a Polish girl attempting the Carretera Austral heading south by herself with very little cycle maintenance knowledge. She was also going to miss the boat across Lago O’ Higgins as the service was starting to wind down. She said to us “I can’t steer in a straight line”. “Did you drink too much last night?” Simon checked out her bike and discovered that all the spokes on her back wheel were loose. He gave her a lecture on needing the correct tools and showed her the spoke thing, which I recognise as the silver tool that looks like a piece of Toblerone chocolate. I headed off gloating on the inside, as Simon had told me off the other day for my lack of cycle maintenance knowledge, when parts of my bike were about to fall apart. Just the other day he cycled past me and said, “Your chain is squeaking, can’t you hear it?” I was too scared to tell him I thought it was the sound of some birds flying overhead and that would explain why I couldn’t see them.
A few days later we saw Swiss Family Robinson drive by in the opposite direction and stopped for a chat and gossip about other cycle tourists we have mutually met along our journey. When they leave, Simon says, “See, cycling is faster than a touring truck!” Along the Carretera Austral our bikes took abit of a bashing and so did my body. Our final stats: Simon - 2 punctures, broken front rack, worn brake pads and various bike parts had to be replaced. Me – broken front racks (both sides) - to be repaired and broken again on several occasions, broken rear rack, worn brake pads, many broken spokes, torn pannier, worn out shoes etc, 6 falls, bruised hips, strained shoulder etc but amazingly no punctures. When we returned to London I had my shoulder x-rayed at the Royal Free hospital as I did not have full movement after landing on my left shoulder many times. They rang me a few days after and said, “We’d like to inform you that you have a chip on your shoulder.” “I didn’t need to have an x-ray for you to tell me that.” During our cycling days we lived like hobos, sleeping out rough on the road depending on where we could find shelter - sometimes in abandoned farms, barns, school halls, fishermen huts, jumping over fences into private property or alongside a river in our tent. This seems to be the norm when cycle touring here as proper accommodation can be few and far in between - and it is even recommended by the locals.
We were blessed with superb weather (unlike the earlier people we had met) for most of the way except in the region near Quelat National Park which on every account I have read seems to be damp and the low hanging cloud covers up the scenery. As we are off the main gringo trail we have had the great fortune to meet many friendly Argentineans and Chileans on the road, offering us help, food, water or just wishing us well and having a photo with us. The touring motorcyclists (following Che Guevara’s route) are even more encouraging with a wave and thumbs up but they always tell us it’s more difficult on a touring motor bike than cycling. Access to fresh water was not a problem for most of the journey and we didn’t have to 53
On Tour treat it either as it was all pure water running off the glaciers. I suspect our immune system was also strong from surviving any contamination in India & Nepal. We completed most of the Carretera Austral but decided to hokey pokey back into Argentina via Futaleufu (rather than Puerto Montt) to avoid a town in Chile, that was destroyed by a volcano in 2008, with limited ferry services.
Argentina yet again Back in Argentina, the land of good bakeries, we visited Esquel which still has a tourist steam train nicknamed “The Old Patagonian Express” after a book written by Paul Theroux. It was in this town where we found an aluminium welder who repaired our pannier racks for us. Our poor bikes were placed on his operating table whilst we stood back and watched the sparks fly.
Coconut highway to Brazil We bid farewell to Argentina to head to warmer climates, celebrating with long distance bus rides, “tips” paid to coach drivers to carry our bikes, a cycling winery tour and visiting the Iguazu falls. We were excited yet apprehensive about entering Brazil, not being able to speak Portuguese and hearing all the scare mongering stories of getting mugged, “You have to be crazy to cycle in Brazil”, bad drivers etc. We cycled across the border along a bridge decorated in the Argentinean blue and white colours which then changed to the Brazilian green and yellow.
We missed the freedom of our bikes, so we planned to cycle from Salvador down the Atlantic coast to a place called Porto Seguro as that’s all we had time for. This trip would be approx 500km by bike with 5 boat / canoe crossings.
Bariloche is marketed as the “Switzerland of Argentina” and is full of chocolate shops and, being Easter, the shop windows were adorned with beautiful displays of chocolate creations. It also has the best ice cream I have ever tasted at Jauja Ice cream (honestly better than Italy!) and we treated ourselves to a big slap up steak dinner. As we cycled out of Bariloche I yelled out to Simon, “We forgot to try the chocolate here!” The days were now getting shorter and the nights were much colder. We continued along the “Seven Lakes Route” to San Martin de Los Andes, where we ended the bulk of the cycle touring.
The locals did not know what to make of us as cycle touring is not so common in these parts. Kids yielding machetes used for chopping down grass and coconuts would turn and stare and did not wave back. On some rare occasions the oncoming traffic would toot and flash their lights at us. In the larger towns the locals would come up to chat, however we were not able to interact as much as we’d like to due to language difficulties, so we would just shake hands and smile at them. We stayed in pousadas (guest houses) where it is customary to serve a fantastic buffet breakfast of tropical fruit, bread, cake, fresh juice and strong coffee as a minimum. A great start to a long day in the saddle. At our final bike touring stop in Porto Seguro the pousada owner had a party and we were invited to join. The local girls showed us how to gyrate Brazilian style. Despite their solid rotund bodies, they have no shame in flaunting it and good on ‘em I say.
The cycling here was very different to Patagonia. The sunshine and the humid heat made it tough going at times and we were happy to have some tropical rain on occasions to cool off. When there was easy access to the ocean, we would stop for quick swim. The roads were quiet with a decent shoulder and lined with banana, mango, papaya and palm trees and beautiful tropical flowers. There were even bike lanes close to the town centres. As this area was more built up with small townships along the way we did not need to wild camp (and abandoned looking houses were actually inhabited).
The coastal highway was lined with many outdoor drinking shacks and it seems the louder the music the better, so for quite a few km we had music to ride along to just like a spinning class.
The Brazilian police at the border took great interest in us and made sure we got through safely. “Where are you going?” they asked. “We are going to Salvador,” I replied. “But that´s over 4000km away and you only have a 90 day visa!” “We´ll get the bus”. In Brazil we got back on the gringo trail with a mix of wildlife in the Pantanal, river snorkeling in Bonito and political architecture in the capital, Brasilia. Happy to leave Brasilia we took another epic bus ride to Salvador on the Atlantic coast. Salvador has a strong African base from the Portuguese slave days. It is here where looking good is the second favoured hobby after football. On the beach were the famous thong and bikini tops barely large enough to cover the nipples, yet surprisingly there was no topless bathing.
We continued to cycle north, back on paved roads to the Lake District, and arrived in Bariloche, which was overrun by Israelis during Passover and Hebrew was the first language, followed by Spanish. It was a shock to see the traffic, lots of tourists and smell the car fumes.
We met a guy on a bike whom we thought was the local coconut seller. He tried to explain to us in Portuguese that he was attempting to break some world record for cycling 42000km around Brazil on an extremely heavy bike (it weighed over 100kg and he didn’t have much gear).
We finished in the vibrant city of Rio de Janerio. Rio has one of the most dramatic settings of any large city in the world flanked by the rough Atlantic waves and huge granite rocks and offshore islands. It was too dangerous to swim when we were there. We stayed at Copacabana. I had trouble getting Barry Manilow out of my head until we reached Ipanema beach when another tune kicked in. Our main task though was to find cardboard boxes to pack our bikes for the plane journey. We got the last 2 free boxes in town having just beaten a Czech couple by a matter of hours. We had met an amazing array of people all with a sense of adventure. It has been an incredible experience and I would rather be sitting on the saddle with the wind in my hair than stare aimlessly at a computer terminal any day. Arrivée February 2011
Blast from the Past Charlie Chadwick was a gifted northern artist and descriptive writer whose work has been brought to a wider audience by his friend David Warner. David has set himself the task of typing and scanning Charlie’s work, much of which is now displayed on the website of the National Cycle Collection, Llandrindod Wells. This article, which brings to life the atmosphere of the Great Depression, is one of a series entitled Scottish Holidays and will ring a bell with all who enjoy cycling long distances. Hopefully it will encourage you to visit Charlie’s work on the web. Reproduced by kind permission of the National Cycle Collection, Llandrindod Wells
Days in the Highlands by Charlie Chadwick “Why should we not rouse with the spirit’s blast Out of the forest of the pathless past These recollected pleasures ?” Shelley In the many weathers year of 1931 my whole position was more than usually precarious. I was on the register as “totally unemployed”, and along with most of my fellows I made some efforts to find work. That is, until I became convinced that seeking a job at that period was a waste of time. By that time a belated Spring had made her appearance full of the bright blush of her apologies. With my camping kit and a little ingenious arranging I turned the whole summer into a series of delightful, prolonged weekends, which made unemployment a poem of freedom and pleasure. I had no false sense of “shame”, and little worry; I was physically and mentally fit, ready for any job that might be offered, and here was a chance to get something out of life. Never was time wasted. But I became ambitious to extend my activities. The snag was my inevitable appearance twice weekly at the Labour Exchange. My trade union secretary paved the way. For the purpose of “seeking work” in other districts a ‘Vacant Card’, to be stamped at the Exchanges on my route, was forthcoming, and as a prelude, I spent a week in the North-East. This was followed by twelve days in the Home Counties, then, as Jo’s holidays approached we fell to discussing ways and means of carrying my ‘search for work’ into Scotland. The upshot was that I arranged to start a week earlier and meet secretly across the border, on the first day of Jo’s holiday. Leaning over bridges is a pleasant sport of mine on hot days. Great measures of ease, and contemplation that leads to all sorts of thought fall to one’s mind in this way. The Devils Bridge at Kirkby Lonsdale accommodated me in one of its alcoves. Sunday tea-time; Jo had turned homeward after we had spent a sultry weekend at Kingsdale, and I had become slave to my own fancy for a week. Time passed, gallons of swift water rushed beneath the grey arches, other alcoves emptied, filled, emptied again. Figments from my wandering mind swirled into vision, were borne swiftly away on the Arrivée February 2011
surface, were replaced at once. Time flies in this way. Besides, I was living cheaply. I was saving money. This was quite in accordance, for in my pocket lightly rested all the money I had in the world - one pound six shillings and fourpence. I tore myself away from my niche regretfully, for I was leaving behind a sound source of economy. On that splendid evening I made my way over Shap summit and on the branch road to Orton found a green patch and a clear spring, the first essentials of a camp-site. There I had wandered by chance; chance would have to lead me to other places! A broiling sun beat down the whole of the next day. Some time during the afternoon I spent a period scrubbing tar off hopeless hands and cursing the Dumfries County Council industriously. Why must tar be sprayed only during hot weather – why must I have a puncture at the crucial moment! From Dumfries a lovely road climbs through rich country into the hills, historic ground of the ‘Killing Times’. Almost every local churchyard has its Covenanters graves, usually with some harrowing description or crude rhyme chiselled on the stones. Allowing for the rough methods of that period, these iron-bound Puritans got little worse than they deserved. Their accounts of their hounding from place to place make thrilling reading, no less harsh were the troops of “Geordie” than they had been, ruling from kirk and castle, with bible and sword, the bible, as always, providing the best of excuses for the wielding of the sword. One wonders that human beings can be so hard in such a land of beauty, as that glen from Dunscore to Moniaive, the bubbling Cairn-water always at hand. The hint of ‘grey Galloway’ crept in beyond Moniaive when the road tilted and lost its tarry gloss for the rough tan of a moorland pass. The summit thrilled me – my first near view of the Galloway Highlands. Swelling moorlands with rocky peaks, and a shapely range of mountains holding the horizon. A mile further on I pitched camp by a stream, and anon there came a shepherd to talk to me in the rich Lowland accent. “Ye are in the parish of Dal-ry”, said he, “County of Kirkcoobrie, and yonder, behind the fine peaks, I was born and bred. Right under the brow of Merrick”. “The fine peaks” of Kells were purple just then, before the flushing sky of sunset. He
and I seemed quite alone in Galloway. No sound or movement disturbed the colour, only the chatter of the stream there. My informant loved his hills. They were personal, and Merrick, his sire, was also his Lord. “Are they not the beautiful ones?” he asked, and I had to agree. I was offered eggs, milk, paraffin, anything, and the good man was concerned that company I had none. “Ye are all on your own-alone” he often repeated, and with a final shake of the head, gave me a “guid-nicht”. For a short time I stood on the bridge with a cigarette, contemplating the fading wonder of twilight over the Kells, then, with my shorts for a pillow, I curled up in the sleeping bag. Kirkcudbright gave me a shocking road surface and wonderful scenery to Carsphairn. A lonely road by moor and stream, with sometimes a deep gorge, always with tantalising views. After Carsphairn I glimpsed Loch Doon, a long mirror of water with a magnificent bulk of mountains behind, the crowning heights of the Western Lowlands, Merrick. The valley of the Doon Water may once have surpassed; now it is ruined by the Ayrshire Coalfields, and a hard, tiresome road climbs ridge after ridge to Ayr and the coast. Robbie Burns is vehemently claimed by Ayr. I renounce all claims. After the “Tam-o’ Shanter” Inn and the Auld Brig I lost interest. It is a holiday resort. The coast road northward, along the Firth of Clyde profoundly disappointed me. For some distance it was not along the sea-edge, but through dune-country and at the edge of sprawling industrialism. About Irvine were many huge camps in dirty fields, untidy scatterings and crowdings of a variety of tents from the big marquee carrying the stains of strenuous summers to the sackcloth makeshifts of wandering tramps. Amongst them sported girls with flimsy attire of colours hostile to the environs, young chaps in flannels and shirts probably a virgin shade before the camp, now of a shade commiserate with the ground; hordes of youngsters to whom the camp was the fine 55
Blast from the Past excuse for a long summer unwashed, and more sedate groups of elders sunning themselves. At Ardrossan Docks the Arran steamer was in, and only my slender pocket, now hardly worth a pound sterling, deterred me from boarding her. Thence the seashore, with faint tracings of the mountains of Arran high above the hazy horizon. A swim, and tea half-dressed among the dunes. I met the cyclist at the drinking fountain in Largs. His bike was loaded with camping kit; his face had the tan of long days awheel. In conversation we discovered a kindred spirit. Now he was homeward bound to Greenock only for the purpose of ‘signing on’. Three months ago the slump caught him up, since when he had contrived to live exclusively on the road, returning only to sign the register. Up to now the weather had constantly played him false; now that a heatwave had come along he had heard that a foreman in his shipyard was on the lookout for him. He was bitter. He would slip away unseen on the morrow, the Highlands were grander than the Clyde shipyards; time enough for work when Scotland’s short summer broke down. He had the skill of trapping rabbits, tickling trout, and preparing food where many would starve. We parted on good terms. The sun went down as I rode along the Clyde coast, and the mist lifted off the sea, revealing the peaks of Arran, fantastic summits rearing three thousand feet above the water. From Inverkip I climbed up a steep lane till the Firth was stretched below with jumbled mountains on three sides and wedged among them the narrow entrances to long sea lochs. There was lowland Cumbrae laid in the sky-white water, Bute behind, the magnificent ranges of mountainous Arran to the westward, and far behind, delicately etched, the lower hills of Kintyre. In a search for a campsite I climbed the glen of the Kip to where two bridges cross the gorge, one ancient and parapet-less, designated “Roman”. This provided me with enough space for my tent on its very edge, hard, solid ground too. ‘Business’ compelled me to visit Greenock next morning. I will gloss over the ride along 56
Clydeside to Erskine Ferry, along dockland with a nightmare of railway lines, potholes, narrow places where the copious traffic stream is blocked, then suddenly released to rush madly around. Perhaps the Rock of Dumbarton commanding the northern side of this great river, a Scottish Gibraltar of other days relieves a dull scene. I had tea by Loch Lomond. The scene captivated me. For the first time I was in the Highlands, and, expecting little from Loch Lomondside, I was delighted. Especially with the magnetic jumble of peaks towards the head. The whole evening was crowded with beauty. I just strayed along, half bewitched, down to Arrochar at the head of Loch Long, along with wild Glen Croe, where the fantastic rocks of the ‘Cobbler’ overhang, and the quiet road winds round little promontories of rock, and the stream makes green pools and small, rushing linns. At the end, the road is jerked up to the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ stone, erected by General Wade’s troops. By building roads through the Highlands the English Government, in the surest way, broke the power of the Clans, removing for ever the danger of recurrence of the rebellions which almost set on fire the first half of the eighteenth century. A wild swoop down Glen Kinglas took me to Cairndow on Loch Fyne, and four miles round the head of it, on a lovely pitch where the air had the tang of the sea in it, I set my camp. The great warrior Clan McMidge sorely troubled me. All travellers to Scotland speak in awe and fear of them, and I share it. On Loch Fyne they were a pest, thriving on the Essence of Lavender I had paid a shilling for, in the hope that it would keep them off. After supper I strolled far down the Loch, and the peaceful beauty of it beguiled me. The tide was out; there was still a streak of day lingering far down the waters. Surely nowhere can one find greater camping places than those freely scattered along the sea-lochs of the Western Highlands! But the next morning I was literally chased away by clouds of ferocious midges. I became a fugitive as surely as were I a fleeing Jacobite of the unruly ’45. The weather too, had changed with the shifting of the wind
from east to south-west, bringing a mist to the mountains and a stifling dampness to the glens. The road down the western side of Loch Fyne was in a shocking condition. Repairs were in hand – the beginnings of a movement for better roads that has since become widespread. Beauty, however, was not lacking, nor romance either, where Dundarave, the ‘Castle of the Two Oars’, on its rocky point, made a picturesque feudal relic of the departed MacNeills, and again where the road made a crook round Loch Shira, and the damp mists rolled up Shira Glen, a home of the dubious MacGregor, Rob Roy – on the rare occasions when he was at home. And picturesque Inveraray, tiny capital of huge Argyll, where once the Campbells dispensed a kind of irregular justice, vacillating betwixt the English George and the Scottish Jamie or Charlie. The justice of the Campbell Court was least in doubt when a Campbell happened to be right. Now that those rough clan days are no more than an oft-told tale, Inveraray has rebuilt itself, taken on a quaint odour mingling with the powerful odour of its staple industry, the fishing, and yet keeps the consciousness of its own lovely surrounds as a bait for the siller [sic] of the tourist. Below Inveraray, in the brackish growth of the Lochside, six or seven cannons pointed useless muzzles toward the sea. Rusted, with fangs of them happily drawn, they were still a grim reminder of the panic days beginning in 1714. I can’t recall how many miles I rode down to Lochgilphead, mostly by the shore, once inland over a lovely little glen, and once round an elbow of the inlet called Lochgair. Again, I lunched on a grassy mound by Otter Ferry, with a superb view seaward down the widening waters. Another great sweep round Loch Gilp brought me to Lochgilphead where I ought to have bought supplies, but didn’t, and went on, with not a crust, along the Oban road, beside the Crinan Canal which makes the great arm of Kintyre into an island. In six miles I turned off to the hamlet of Kilmichael where my road at once became grassgrown and climbed steadily into a mountain region cradling little Loch Leathan. The hills were half
out of their mists, and the sun shone at intervals, so that there was beguiling beauty there, heightened by wandering Highland cattle. There was a startling likeness to the framed prints of Highland scenes common on our English walls. The track dwindled, became a mere path by a cascading burn, with a loch called Ederline gleaming through trees, and just as I was wondering if my mapreading had gone awry, and to what wild adventure I was rushing, I came to a road – and Loch Awe. When I think to describe the twenty-four miles I covered by the shore of Loch Awe, my head becomes bewildered and nothing clear comes from it, but such a succession of pictures as to take me back to a delightful mental ramble all along that loveable stretch of white road. I hesitate at the writing, as I hesitated so many times at Fincharn Castle, Innis Channel, a dozen surprises, until my inattention to the very bad road led to a tyre burst. In the mending of it I discovered a very real hunger, with empty saddlebag and never a shop in miles. I climbed a long hill behind a man who wore the kilt of his clan and carried a scythe on his shoulder. On the summit the head of Loch Awe lay below, a fine assembly of peaks, close on a dozen over 3,000ft, dominated by Ben Cruachan, whose head was buried in a single white cloud. I forgot the hunger tumbling down to Cladich fork-road, where better sense prevailed only after a mental struggle. The forward road would have led me into the heart of Cruachan, but I must needs turn southwards towards a rendezvous with Jo. I climbed hard, feeling the warning knocks of hunger all the way. The descent that followed wound down a moorland pass with the young river Aray growing in sound, down into Glen Aray and bewitching woodlands which reached magnificence in the grounds of Inveraray Castle. Never had I seen fir and pine of such girth, such spreading stateliness. It was past eight – seven hours since my last meal – when I reached Inverarary again, and all the shops were closed. There are side doors to every shop, however, so I went nothing short in the packing. But I was past my Arrivée February 2011
Blast from the Past tea, unable to eat, though not feeling too strong. Back round the head of Loch Fyne, by Dundarave at sunset to Cairndow, this time continuing along the lochside, steadily climbing, steadily loosing the power in my legs. At the summit I was nigh completely whacked, with nine hours and sixty-five Highland miles behind my lunch at Otter Ferry. Night was upon me. The darkening silver of Loch Fyne placidly fading into distance below; the shadowy outline of the Loch Awe giants barely visible. I turned into a rift in the hills and descended fiercely at a careless speed, heedless of the awful surface, heedless of anything. Hellâ€™s Glen. Hellâ€™s Glen is a savage place of rock and crag and a wild desolation about it. I pitched my tent hurriedly by a roaring burn that came in a leap from a tottering corrie. A ledge of rocky earth tilted steeply was my bed. During supper a little wind grew into half a gale that fitfully whined and howled up the glen, shaking the little tent like a leaf. What a place! Beneath a gash in the cliffs; a rushing stream below, desolation without a tree or habitation; the howling wind buffeting and mingling with the chatter of water. A place that might grip the imagination and let that imagination people it with other-worldly things. But I was tired and went to sleep. A very strong westerly wind brushed the mists across the cliffs of Hellâ€™s Glen. The tortuous road bumped me down its defile, awe-inspiring in the daylight, utterly deserted, to its confluence with the steep glen that runs down to Lochgoilhead. Here the road made a double hairpin through a wood scene of great beauty. The road up Glen Goil was no better in surface, a walk uphill for the most of an hour, if one includes the many stops to look back towards the woods and uprearing crags. Then I was suddenly back at the â€˜Rest and Be Thankfulâ€™ stone, with a hundred mile circuit behind that was hard to leave. By Loch Long I lunched while the Cobbler peak was pushing its splintered head through the mist. There was sunshine all the way down the lakeside; a summit view down the narrow fiord before I branched to Garelochhead. The â€˜promenade roadâ€™, seven miles along ArrivĂŠe February 2011
Garelochside to Helensburgh was not striking, except in the large numbers of steamers anchored, silent and deserted in this backwater of the Clyde â€“ out of a job like me. Now the other bank of the Clyde by Dumbarton to Erskine Ferry again. There is a â€˜recommendedâ€™ route to Carlisle avoiding Glasgow, by way of Paisley, Clarkston, East Kilbride and Strathaven, a string of small places, and in following the route I went wrong, coming to my senses in a village on a plateau called Eaglesham, so I provisioned for the night and plunged into a network of lanes which got me to Strathaven at dusk, a â€˜down-in-the-daleâ€™ sort of place liberally plastered with signs â€˜Carlisle 79â€™, which reminded me that England was only seventy miles away, and the Highlands definitely behind. Anyway, with only four shillings to my credit I could not have stayed on much longer. Tomorrowâ€™s rendezvous with Jo was only fifty miles away, so I should have camped at the first opportunity had not a local cyclist whirled me away with ready talk on his lips and braggatio in his tone. Amused, a little interested, I rode with him through half a dozen grimy Lanark coalfield villages, on another blind crazy way, while darkness came with neither in possession of a lamp. I rebelled at last in the glen of the infant Clyde, just below Lanark town, where lay nothing but fruit farms and occasional collieries, said good-night, and was given a campsite at the nearest farm.
in a tone of humiliation and â€˜respectâ€™. This to an unemployed foundry-man! Another change took place in the weather that night. Much rain fell, while the wind veered blowing hard from the northeast. My comfortable breakfast was jarred by the thought of Jo, who even then must have been fighting the wind for hours, on a hilly road, 128 miles long. What rare pluck, what enthusiasm, to start in the small hours and face the wind and rain, the better to get a start with me! Few men would do it, let alone a woman.
Buttertubs. There the wind blew fierce and cold, but put a fine effect of cloud and sun sweeping over the moorland peaks towards St Maryâ€™s Loch. I trysted for Jo at the very same spot in Moffat where I had checked and fed our Albert Mather the day he broke the Liverpool-Edinburgh record all but five years before. Jo was an hour overdue; I rode out to meet her, but met instead her sister and beau loaded on a motor-cycle camping trip. Jo was a long, long way behind, struggling against the wind. I swept the 18 miles south to Ecclefechan, waited there until 7pm then went to Mrs McCallâ€™s. Anyone in northern cycling circles will know Mrs McCall. In her cottage is a vast table groaning with fare. Her variety of Scotch cakes and pasties is endless, and the price is absurdly low. A favourite rendezvous for Glasgow lads, but just a bit too far from Aberdeen without a meal en-route! It is said that the roads from Aberdeen to Ecclefechan are strewn with cyclists fallen by the wayside.
With a large, complimentary bag of tomatoes, I turned into Lanark. The wind was behind; the fine, sweeping highway under the shadow of Tinto was a ribbon of ease. A lashing storm of rain was my first since last Saturday. Beattock Summit was childâ€™s play, and soon after noon I found myself within a few miles of Beattock. A lane up the hillside called Greenall Stairs crossed a fine section of limestone scenery to the Devilâ€™s Beef Tub on the Edinburgh road. This deep fissure or pit is a single Thither came Jo, at last, example of the Yorkshire utterly tired. #YCLE?PDF
These estates are very big, and their main products are peas, # beans, black-berries and raspberries, cultivated in the open, whilst in huge glasshouses tomatoes are grown on 9 the grand scale. The farmer #employs three or four permanent -9 men, and in the picking season augments his labour with youths#9 and girls recruited at low wage#-9 rates from the slums of Glasgow + and its satellites. At this farm were about twelve boys and eight girls, each sex housed in separate army huts, spacious enough but very dirty. A ragged crew, treated, it seemed, not as human beings, but as some inferior type of animal; this treatment being reflected in the foul language freely used by the females. The boys came to talk to me, and I was interested in their outlook and work, but felt very uncomfortable as they persisted 57
Quarterly magazine produced by audax uk. The long distance cyclists' association.