Thursday, 19 November 2015

Battling Barney

The forecast was not looking good; Hurricane Barney’s arrival was due to coincide almost perfectly with our regular Tuesday night ride. Gust of 60mph (or should that be 100kph?) were promised, and warnings against travel, and of widespread disruption swept across the twittersphere.

Barney was getting closer on the ride home from work, and it was becoming clear that riding on the road if the wind got any stronger (as per the forecast) would be at best foolhardy, and at worst, damned right dangerous.

Giving up on the evening and heading straight to HQ would have been an easy option to take, but where would the fun have been in that approach? No, instead we chose to change bikes, leave the tarmac behind, and to hit the trails. We were going to tackle Barney head on.

And what a fine decision it was. Over the next 2 hours or so we enjoyed one of those rides that remind you why you cycle. I’ve not laughed so much on a bike for a long time, and we enjoyed moments of pure comedy as Barney gave it his best shot. I’ve never cycled in anything quite like it; at times it was a full sensory overload.

At one point memories of Geraint Thomas at this year’s Ghent-Wevelgem came to the fore, as I took a Barney enforced, and entirely involuntary, left turn off the farm track and into the adjacent field. Scott and Max suffered the same fate and followed me into the field in almost perfect formation. Getting going again was another challenge in itself, but we were soon back with the rest of the group.

The rest of the ride was a real battle against the elements, and it presented some of the toughest conditions I think I’ve ever cycled in. But what a ride it was; just awesome.

As we rolled back into town, auto pilot was engaged and we headed straight for HQ, and the hard earned refreshments it offered. Heads were shaking as we walked through the door, people seemingly bewildered by the fact that we’d been out on our bikes. Somehow this made the beer even more enjoyable than normal.

What an evening, and what a ride. We’d taken on Barney, and whilst perhaps we’d not beaten him, I think we managed to more than hold our own.

Vive la Velo


Saturday, 19 September 2015


Everyone has their own reason(s) for riding bikes, from a young child discovering the unbridled joy of their first un-assisted effort, through to octogenarians still riding after a lifetime in the saddle. In between these extremes there’s an almost endless mix of reasons, from a simple ride down to the corner shop for a pint of milk, to taking on the challenge of riding from London to Paris in 24 hours.

For me though, increasingly it’s the less obvious benefits that are so valuable. Of course riding more will quickly impact your fitness, and as the speed builds many will also shed  a few kilos too. These early gains can be just the hook needed to keep your motivation levels high.

As the saying goes, ‘healthy body, healthy mind’, and it’s this aspect which to me is becoming ever more important. Whilst my day job involves working for a soulless large multinational company, the simple, and timeless act of riding a bike is its perfect foil. After a day of corporate drudgery, there’s nothing better than just getting on my bike and riding away from it all.

Missed deadlines, unanswered e-mail, and performance reviews are forgotten almost as soon as I’m clipped in, and my sanity(whatever that may be) starts to return. The madness of the modern corporate world dissolves as the pedals turn, and soon (relative)calm is restored.
I’ve come to the conclusion that cycling is my therapy, and without it my world would be an altogether worse place.

Vive la Velo


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