Monday, 3 August 2015

SCCA 4Up Championships – Race Report

The Team

That’s right a race report; a first for the us, and something which I really couldn’t have foreseen even 12 months ago. It just shows how things continue to grow from strength to strength. Although strictly speaking we all entered under banner of the SCCA affiliated clubs we’re members of, there was no doubt that we were competing as the SCS.

And what an event to choose as our maiden outing. The SCCA 4Up Championship is one of the real standout highlights of the local cycling calendar, and always attracts a very strong field. There’s obviously the overall win for those at the sharp end of affairs, but there’s also strong competition too within the local SCCA clubs to win their own club 4Up trophies. Not to mention the bragging rights for the next year as a bonus.

We had a plan for the ride, and three of us even managed a practice run the day before. With little more than gut instinct, agreement was set that a sub 1 hour 25 min should be our target, What could go wrong?

1039 was our allotted start time, and after the inevitable pre race faffing, it was time to be called into position. 30 seconds, 10 seconds, you go! The first target was to all get clipped in, on top of the gear, and into position. Soon we were into a rhythm, and we were riding well as a team. Changes were going well; we were sharing the time on the front, allowing that oh so precious recovery whilst in the shelter of your team mates.

Approaching the T junction that is that natural focal point of the course, our not so secret weapon was called into play – The Official SCS Supporters Club! Family members accepted, but the cheers and shouts of encouragement really did help to lessen the pain of the event. When we passed them the second time, the encouragement was just as vociferous, and again just what was needed, especially with the hardest part of the course laying ahead of us.

The 20 mile marker was passed, and we were still riding well as a team. By now the turns on the front were longer for the stronger riders, but that’s the whole point of a team time trial. It’s about getting round as a unit. It’s far too easy for the fastest man to make the team slower overall.

One final pass of the fan club, and we were into the home straight. A last big push for the final 5 miles or so. As the fatigue took hold we were getting more and more ragged. With about a mile to go the elastic finally snapped for our 4th man. With the time taken on the third man over the line though, this wasn’t a problem, and it was time to empty the tank in the race for the line.

Barely able to shout our numbers as we crossed the line, it was over. With legs screaming for mercy we rolled back to race HQ. The fan club followed and spirits were high. Congratulations were offered all round, and it was even better when we learned that we’d beaten our target time. Only by 6 seconds granted but every single one counts. For the record, we were 17th on that day, and covered the 50 kilometres, in 1:24:54. A thoroughly respectable result.

As we de-briefed over well-earned beer, the conclusion was that our first competitive outing had been a resounding success, and it would certainly not be the last.

Vive la Velo



Thursday, 30 July 2015

TdF Withdrawal Symptoms

Stage 22 Map

With the dust settling after a vintage edition of the greatest race on earth, it’s time to face up to that most unpleasant part of any cycling fans year, TdF cold turkey. No continual updates on social media; no regular podcasts or highlight shows to keep fans abreast of what’s happening. Instead, nothing; it’s all over for another year.

Sure, there’s the upcoming La Vuelta and Tour of Britain to look forward to, but however you cut it, this is cold comfort. These are akin to watching a game of village cricket after you’ve enjoyed an Ashes test match.

My mood however has been lifted by the ever excellent inrng’s Tour Stage 22 Preview. This proved just the ticket to combat the gloom. With rumours already circulating about the 2016 route, it’s time to start thinking ahead to next year.  Will Mont Ventoux make it into the route, or perhaps the Stelvio on a trip across the border to Italy? Either would almost certainly feature high on the agenda for next year’s trip.

What’s guaranteed is that the next edition will be every bit as enthralling as this year’s. Quintana will be back and looking to take the single step up required to win his first Maillot Jeune, whilst Froome will be looking to make it a hat trick of wins. Can Bertie win one more? Only time will tell.

Suddenly I’m feeling so much better!

Vive la Tour, Vive la France, Vive la Velo


Monday, 13 July 2015

#SCS at Le Tour


I've struggled for a week now for the words to describe this year's trip to the Grand Depart. Quite honestly, i've failed, and no words i can muster will do justice to last Monday's experience in Huy.

Instead i leave you with the above. The whole trip encapsulated in a single picture.....


Vive la Velo


Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Palpable Excitement

The Mur de Huy

Every year’s different, but every year’s the same. With the Spring Classics a distant memory, and the Giro going the same way, as June comes to an end, the excitement is building fast. It’s that time of year when any cycling fan has only one thing on their mind. The greatest sporting spectacle on earth; the Grand Boucle, Le Tour de France.

With last year’s Grand Depart in Yorkshire being judged as one of the finest editions ever, this year’s race returns to the mainland for its opening weekend. And what an opening weekend it promises to be. Possibly The Panzerwagon’s best ever opportunity to pull on the Maillot Jeaune, a finish on the Mur de Huy, and a few cobbles thrown in for good measure.

Best of all, we’re going to be there. A baker’s dozen of us are making the trip this year, a far cry from our original trip to see the Grand Depart in 2007. Things have certainly moved on a bit since then.
We’ll have the flag flying, so keep an eye out for us on the tv. We’ve even had some special edition jerseys made for the trip as well……

Excuse me whilst I go and lay in a dark room with a collection of maps, stage timing details, and a copy of cycling weekly.

Vive la Velo


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

#L2Pin24 - The Longest Day

On the start line......

Six months planning; twenty four hours riding; a lifetime of memories; a day on the bike I don’t think anyone who took part will ever forget.

As we stood outside Buckingham Palace in the sun, I’m not sure any of us really understood what we were about to undertake. Over 430 kilometres (that ‘s 270 miles in old money) lay between us and our destination, and this was comfortably more than any of us had attempted before in a single ride. We might have had a ferry crossing to break the journey up, but in reality this was more a hindrance than a help, taking a good chunk of time out of the already tight schedule.

The first challenge was to escape the clutches of London, every stop and start upsetting our momentum. Blackheath marked a most welcome change though, and as we crossed the A2, the congestion seemed to ease slightly, and our progress picked up.

After our main re-fuelling stop in England , it was time to turn inland from the north Kent coast, and head towards Dover. By the wonders of technology we’d already been warned that our ferry was going to be approximately 45 minutes late, and whilst this ate even further into our schedule, it also gave us some breathing space. Our passage through Kent had taken longer than we’d planned.

Once on the ferry, it was time to take on more fuel, and to charge battery packs in preparation for what would be possibly the toughest part of the whole ride, the night shift. Not for the last time on this ride, caffeine was most certainly our friend.

The ferry doors slowly opened; the darkness ahead welcoming us onto French soil. Paris may well have still been almost 300km away, but at least we were in the right country. Calais was soon a distant memory as we navigated through the eerily quiet lanes of northern France. The temperature had dipped noticeably, but thankfully it was dry.

The next two hundred kilometres or so are all a bit of a blur to be honest. My focus was on making sure I was eating and drinking enough, as well as just trying to keep the pedals turning. One memory which does stick with me is when our route took an easterly turn, and we were met with the sun coming up over a distant ridge. Quite beautiful, and perhaps most importantly, a real boost to our group’s morale.

As we passed the 100km to go marker, the group came to a simultaneous and unanimous decision. Caffeine was required, and it couldn’t come soon enough. Ten espressos later, we were back on the bikes with just the kick we needed to get us over the line.

Even though our progress in France had been good, the knock on of the earlier ferry delay meant that this was going to be very tight. We were certainly going to make it to Paris in time, but we might just be fashionably late getting to the Eiffel Tower.

Our 24 hours ran out as we rode through the Parisian suburb of Montmorency, just over 15 kilometres from the middle of the city. We all came to the decision that this was an absolute victory, and we’d done it, we’d managed to ride from London to Paris in 24 hours.

All that was left to do was navigate into the centre of Paris by bike on unfamiliar roads, when we’d all been awake for upwards of 30 hours, and had ridden over 430 kilometres!

As I rode across the Pont D’lena, blue sky was the backdrop for the Eiffel Tower. I really can’t think of a better place to finish a ride.

A sight for sore eyes!

After the celebratory pictures were taken under the tower, the tiredness that had been building so slowy, was gone in an instant. An absolutely amazing experience; without a doubt the toughest thing I’ve ever done on a bike. As I said earlier, a ride that none of us would ever forget!

We even attracted a fan club!
Here are the ride details.......

Vive la Velo


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

#SocialImperial100 – Ride Report

An amazing turnout

Cycling and challenges go hand in hand; undertaking the former leads us almost inevitably to the latter. It’s these personal challenges which keep things fresh, and without them life would be a whole lot duller.

This year’s challenge thrown down by the ladies section was, by comparison to our last two efforts, fairly straightforward. One ride, 100 miles, an imperial century; simple enough to say, but even having ridden a number of imperial tons, it’s still a fair achievement.

With the date set, and the route designed to take in many of the roads which make cycling in Shropshire so special, the challenge was on. I knew we had half a dozen or so definites, but I really had no idea just how many would turn up on the day.

The day of the challenge dawned, and as I rolled down to No5 with @ASL191 and @TF2109, it looked like the weather was going to be kind to us as well. A little windy perhaps, but more importantly, dry and bright. As pre-ride espresso was consumed, riders kept arriving. Ten and counting and still more were turning up for the challenge. As we lined up for the group pre ride shot we had 17 riders. Just amazing, and a testament to just how far we’ve come.

As the saying goes, you can’t eat an elephant in one meal, and with this in mind I’d split the route up into manageable chunks interspersed with coffee and cake stops. Our first stop was another of our favourite coffee shop, the excellent Jones’ in Market Drayton. They handled the influx of cyclists admirably, and in no time at all, coffee, tea, and cake was served. Refuelled, it was time to get back on the bikes; we still had some way to go.

Spirits were high amongst the group and our progress was good. New acquaintances were made, and old ones renewed as we passed through Woore and Audlem and towards Lunch in Nantwich. We even ended up with a brass band playing to us as we had lunch in the sun.

With a total of 1700 miles being covered by the group, punctures are an inevitability, and sure enough we suffered our first. Fixed in double quick time, a second was quickly followed by a third. This was getting silly! Fortunately though this was to be out final mechanical issue of the day, and we were soon back on track.

Our final scheduled stop of the afternoon was Wem, and another favourite watering hole of ours, Joules’ Castle Hotel. #MaltedRecoveryBeverageConsumption completed, we were on our final leg. Shawbury passed, closely followed by Edgmond and Newport.

The Imperial Century mark was passed just as we passed under the M54 on the final sprint into town, but that didn’t stop some from doing a lap of the town. Just to be sure you understand ;¬)

With a post ride curry planned for the evening, the was only time for a very swift one in HQ. The mood was buoyant and it was fair to say that the challenge had been well and truly #Smashed. A massive thankyou to everyone who made this such a great day on the bikes!

So, what’s next? The bar has been set high…..

Vive la Velo


Thursday, 23 April 2015

Just Another Tuesday Night

As we climbed out of the gorge via Coalport Bank bathed in the early evening sun, all those dark and cold winter nights seemed an oh so distant memory. However, it was payback time, and we were reaping the reward from the work we’d put in over the winter months.

With @Daicycling riding the Tour of Pembrokeshire this coming weekend, it seemed only right to take in a few hills, and so after the pre ride coffees(just don’t mention the @SJ1202’s Iced Latte….) it was time to head south towards Coalport, Broseley and beyond. I’d a route in mind that involved many of our favourite climbs.

On the climb back up onto Wenlock Edge from Bourton, the initial group had split into two, with the breakaway featuring the grimpeurs, whilst the remainder were taking things at a more leisurely pace. We didn’t know it at the time, but the breakway’s fate was sealed when we suffered a puncture in the main group. Of course, no assistance was offered, or for that matter expected. Instead a steady stream of advice and guidance was shared with @SJ1202. To his credit he took it all in spirit in which it was intended.

In no time at all we were back on the road, Cressage came and went, as did Ironbridge. On such a beautiful night it seemed only right to take a pitstop at the All Nations Arms on our way back out of the Gorge. As ever, the beer was excellent, and from there it was a short ride back to HQ.

The remainder of the breakaway group was waiting for us in HQ when we arrived, and as the inevitable post ride post mortem took place, the beer flowed freely, and the well-earned Cobs and Chips arrived. Tales of punctures and wrong turns were shared alongside the inevitable inane chatter that follows our regular Tuesday night rides.

Just another Tuesday night perhaps, but noteworthy all the same. A great ride, good beer, and a top group of lads.

Looking forward to doing it all again next week.

Vive la Velo