Saturday, August 16, 2014

Prudential London Surrey 100 2014 - Glory through suffering

Last Sunday I lined up at the Olympic Park ready to start the Ride London - Surrey 100.
It was dark and my 'all weather' glasses retained spots of light rain, blurring my view.
It was my second year and in the pens I heard the 'freshmen' moaning that the organisers had shortened the route by taking out Box Hill and Leith Hill.
Although  the remnants of Hurricane Bertha were due to hit the course that morning it was relatively tranquil in East London and here there were no safety issues.

There was however a bigger storm brewing on a more personal level.
One that appeared to be raging in my mouth.
Two days prior to the ride I developed a tooth abscess which was inconvenient to say the least.

The fact that it was upper rearmost molar meant that my jaw, ear, cheek and eye socket all got equal amounts of severe throbbing pain.
The fact that the course was shortened from 100 to 87 Miles meant nothing to me, by the time I had cycled to the start and back to the Hotel it was still over 100 miles so I was not complaining. only concern was about my suffering and with the announcement of 13 less miles it was a joy.

People often ask what is the difference between being a recreational cyclist and a club cyclist?
When you cycle in a recreational sense you can stop when you like, pack up and go home.
If its tough - you stop.
If your legs hurt - you stop
If your out of breath - you stop
If you have an abscess - you don't start

When you decide you want to ride properly you embrace adversity and start your journey on the suffers graph.
The ones who ride best of all are the ones who learn to suffer the most

Rapha have recently re published an essay by Graeme Fife about just this subject and I found myself recounting it as the minutes counted down.

Glory through Suffering

The history of cycle racing abounds with stories of endurance, will power and sheer courage on an epic scale. The capacity of bike riders to drive themselves relentlessly day after day through the pain barrier and way beyond makes them a breed apart. They redefine heroism in sport. The suffering is gratuitous, the mileage they cover Herculean, and both make a crucible in which a unique character is forged: an apparently cheerful indifference to the pain inflicted by bike and road, suffused with the transcendent desire to conquer both.
The greatest battle is not physical but psychological. The demons telling us to give up when we push ourselves to the limit can never be silenced for good. They must always be answered by the quiet the steady dignity that simply refuses to give in. Call no man brave, say the Spanish, say only that on a particular day he showed himself brave. Such strength of character radiates from every bike rider who has shown the requisite courage not to yield, has won his dignity, day after day.
The true test of any rider’s mettle is the road. How much punishment can you take on a bike? You will only find out after you hear the voice in your head saying no, no you’ve had it, any more of this battering and you’re going to weaken fatally, and yet, for some reason best left to God and guesswork, carrying on anyway. Every time that happens, into a savage headwind… on the sharp knocks of the Chilterns… the will-sapping hauls of the continental monsters, the experience is part of a continuum, the repeated battle against surrender.
No crowds cheer us lesser mortals up the big climbs, but the mountains are open and mountains are rarely if ever finished with you. No matter how often you climb them, you never beat them: each time you start at the bottom, from scratch. Reputation will not take you up a climb. The physical battle has always to be repeated. Through every repeat, mental strength accumulates.
The Tourmalet, lassoed by mist, 2000m up in the Circle of Death, where Apo Lazaridès climbed off one day to wait for the others for fear of Pyrenean bears. The dreaded Mont Ventoux, Domain of the Angels. Col du Galibier, the Giant of the Alps, ’premier cru’ to the ’vin ordinaire’ of the rest. That’s where you can follow the Tour, into the thin air, up the relentless hairpins, your tyres hissing across the tarmac catalogue of Tour riders who made the same journey.
Suffering is one thing; knowing how to suffer is quite another. You look at the dizzying peaks and say to yourself: What? Up there? Mad notion… and the experience of the hardest most exhilarating cycling you can ever accomplish is on you. The great gauntlet on two wheels, the triumph of inner resolve over disbelief.
For the mountains are the extreme case, where you really find out about yourself, in the scary realms of physical and mental exertion to the limit. Remote altitudes of geography, unplumbed depths in your spirit. Even local folklore recognises the weird forces at work on the cyclist chancing his fate against horrible gradients. Up here, they say, is where the black-hearted ogres of bad luck hang out: the Witch with Green Teeth and Hammerman, quick to pounce on any slippage in your resolve. Bogeymen personifying the mysterious factors which can freeze your nerve with the lonely prospect of failure.
That’s why we speak of heroism in cycling: it’s elemental.
This is the ultimate proving time. The spells of mind-numbing dysfunction when your head fills with disconnected trivia and only the wheels, still responding to the pedal stroke, like the cogwheels in your brain’s clock, seem to have any logic about them. Mechanically you mutter: if the road goes on, so can I. As Brian Robinson, first Briton to finish the Tour de France (1955) said to himself: I looked at the other guys and thought, they’re the same as me – if they can do it, I can. Good reasoning because there’s no ducking the argument. It’s simple: I can’t go on. I must go on. I will go on.
And through the bleak period when your wandering mind gets obsessed with the idea that you’re finished oh, it happens – you persist and you are learning the core lesson of cycling, just as every true rider learnt it: on this road, in this duress, you live in the moment with all your force, in the intensity, the fullness of the moment. Do you know a better definition of exhilaration?
Riding up the Col de la Core one blistering hot afternoon (First Category, Pyrenees) I was passed by a string of Française des Jeux riders. As their last man went by, dangling off the back, he gave me a wave Courage. We all suffer. Keep going.
But if something hurts so much, how can it be enjoyable? At the point where physical stress begins to take you beyond what you imagine to be endurable, you enter new territory of understanding, an expanded psychological landscape. The camaraderie of the hard road is as much in sharing that insight as in the laughs you have, riding in good company. The bike is the perfect vehicle to take you down those secret corridors of illumination. The pleasure comes when you grasp just what has happened inside your head and spirit. It doesn’t stop when the bike stops, when you reach the top of the col or peel off at the end of the ride, so tired you can hardly think or stand straight. That’s where the pleasure begins. The self-knowledge.
Behind glory lies the misery of training, the slog of getting through bad days, the torment of going at less than your best and the absolute conviction that giving up is never an option. Herein lies the heroism of this beautiful sport the inner revelation that makes the cyclist impervious to ordinary weakness because every ride he has ever made exposes him to that defeatist voice; he has known it, faced it and conquered the fear of it, again and again and again.

The organisers of the London - Surrey  100 were totally right.
As the day unfolded we were subject to weather I have on ever previously experienced in the tropics. Torrential rain whipped around us for hours by swirling winds, accompanied by lightening and thunder.
Roads turned to rivers, drains to water spouts and the course was covered with anything that the heavy laden trees could not hold onto.

A fully selection of water bottles, glasses, coats, keys and I even spotted a smartphone - spilled from slippery hands and pockets.
With the elements and obstacles alone it was testing even for the most skilful riders.
Sadly the risk did not stop there.

In eagerness to finish the ordeal an 'each man to his own' attitude prevailed where many who should have known better rode like total idiots, frequently putting themselves and others at risk by not pre-warning those around them of their slalom stunts.

I have never seen so many wretched souls crashed or punctured by the roadside.

When I crossed the line I was not joyous but relieved.
Relieved that my personal suffering was over
That I was still alive!
And most importantly that my bike was intact.

Recreational Cycling has now gone up in my estimation
Thank you - London

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Water Rail Way

For those of you who like a more sedate ride, up close and personal with nature amidst  beautiful surroundings then you can have a great local ride and raise money at the same time.

For the second year running Linkeage with the support and assistance of Sustrans are holding a cycle fundraising event with two distances along the water railway from Lincoln.

The event is being held  on Sunday the 31st of August 2014 with a 16 mile and 32 mile option.
The route on a newly resurfaced cycle track is total car free and wide and straight enough for even the most timid riders.
You can either go to Barney and back 16 miles or complete the longer 32 mile route to Kirkstead Bridge near Woodall Spa

Either way its all in a good cause as you raise money for people with learning disabilities in Lincolnshire.
Linkage are desperate to buy a new Minibus to provide and you can help.
This will provide many opportunities for those less fortunate, the like of which we often take for granted.

Having done the ride last year I initially questioned what I might get out of it apart from supporting this super local charity.
I was pleasantly surprised.
With so much wildlife and other quirky sights anything other than a gentle pace would ruin the Vista
Behind each turn there was another unexpected treat, where art and nature mimic each other.
Entry: Registration is £10 per rider.  Important Notice:  Get sponsored to ride and if you raise more than £50 you can claim back your registration fee! 
Register now by contacting the Fundraising Team on 01522 503190  All entrants will receive a registration pack with full details of the event and a cool T-shirt.
Registration commences from 9am with the bike ride starting at 10am from the Beech House Car Park, Waterside South, Lincoln. The Mayor of Lincoln will lead off the bike ride this year.
If you want to register a team for the bike ride please contact Julie Stubbs on the above number for more information.

If you want to know more about Linkage please see the link below

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Professional attitude

With the build up to the Tour de France in Full swing 'The country' by which I mean Yorkshire appears to be in a cycle frenzy.
Cycle shops are being swamped with wannabe Chris Froomes, roads are littered in Lycra and domestic retailers are joining in the Velomania.

The world of cycling can now be found on beers, wine, clothing and even soft furnishings.

Yellow generally classified as a 'No no' in the fashion world has seemingly scaled the Ventoux in the world of Haute Couture, and received new respect.
Looking for a cycling related garment or gift has never been so easy, where you can purchase anything from a toilet brush holder to a sofa.

Two decades ago things were different most people had never heard of the Tour de France and most top cyclists in England had to mix training and events with holding down a job.
The Milk race was our top event at a time when milk was still delivered to your doorstep.

Year on year the sport and teams have become more professional with Sky recently leading the way using their highly successful  'Percentage theory' applied to all aspects of event preparation.

The now Famous Sky Bus

Dave Brailsford the director, is a man driven by performance always wanting and demanding the best of the  best.

Best bikes, clothing, nutrition,  training,  accommodation etc etc working on the belief that if each area can be improved by 1% then the cumulative gain would be significant.
As well as proving tangible improvement there was also a psychological benefit.

As a rider you would feel naturally feel better prepared than your opponent.
As an opponent you would feel at a disadvantage before the event starts.

The Anglo American Mules cycling club could never dream of competing with the wealth of 20th Century Fox the parent company of Sky but recognise that you don't need to be a professional to have professional attitudes.

For the American contingent any mornings ride under the blistering heat of south Texas concludes with an oasis in Zube car park.
The American Mule Wagon provides shelter, cold drinks and even a shower for its discerning riders whilst other local clubs look on with a mixture of  envy and astonishment.

  • No wanting to be left behind the Anglo Mules have their own Mule wagon to service its riders.
    This raised a number of eyebrows at last weeks WFK Sportive in Hornsea where the question on every ones lips was 'Who are those Mules?'

    If we were fitter and younger we could have mistaken for one of the professional Tour Teams
    however we are not but will always strive to have a professional approach

    Williams Farm Kitchen Sportive Roster (Hornsea)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cycling in Gran Canaria

When it comes to holiday time its a tricky time for cyclists.
Our cycle widows insist that they have some quality time without the inclusion of bidons, gels and lollypop pedals.
Having scarified at least one of the 'S' days each week for the whole calendar year they may have a point.
We however think its a time to further our boundaries increase our challenges and seek roads bathed in sunshine.

What is required is great skill and bravery, the type one might require catching up the peleton on a high alpine.
Risks have to be taken and the cost is sometime debilitating
As I pull back the curtains I could see the Mountain range on the horizon
Negotiations with Joanne had gone quite well and I was pleased with my position.
She had got a 5* hotel with latin waiters, fit pool attendants and an unlimited tab plus the promise of a new handbag.
I got two full days in the mountains.

The quality did not stop at the hotel steps as I was able to hire any of a full range of high end Carbon Bikes from Free Motion a local cycle shop within a few minutes walk of the hotel.
They also offered a number of tours for those who liked the company, competition or could not read maps.

I elected for a Cannondale Synapse with a 32 serving dish on the rear having been warned about some of the climbs.
As a bit of a lardy, climbing has always been tough for me so you would imagine that I would seek cycling trips to Holland or Texas but I actually love climbing. It just does not share the same love with me.

I have had relationships with Mow Cop, The Cat and the Fiddle, and Winatts Pass and am a quarter of the way through ticking off the UKs toughest climbs.   
Later in the year I seek to conquer Mount Evans in Colorado before completing the Tour de Moon in National Monument.
Up until this moment in time I had only climbed one 'proper' Mountain that of Mount Tamalpais in California which included some Category 3 segments 

I purchased a map from the cycle shop and asked for guidance on a route that would take me up to the top of the Island.
The attendant who looked like a cyclist and climber to boot, was not subtle when he focussed on my protruding girth and suggested that I try the coast road from Maspalomas to Faro de Morgan which he said was a bit lumpy.
On seeing me frown, he added that if I felt fine I could head North towards Risco Grande at over 3,000 feet. I could then turn back to Maspalomas.

It all sounded good to me, so I set off.
The coast road was lumpy but cooled by the onshore breeze.
With my I pod playing and the sun on my back I was in cycle heaven.
By the time I got to Faro de Mogan and headed inland it was close to mid day and the wind ceased, replaced by precipitation from my forehead.
My Garmin said 30 degrees which increased to 38 as I climbed.
I decided to count the number of switchbacks to hold my concentration but I soon ran out of fingers and toes.

It was never too steep but and endless grind of beauty, terror and panting.
with very few barriers I soon worked out that any mistake would mean instant death on falling sometimes 1,000's of feet below.
I did not think I suffered from Vertigo but found myself riding in the middle of the road and was anxious every time I got my Camera out.

On reaching the top of the Mountain in one piece and receiving some ernest applause from some german tourists who had travelled up my car I felt quite proud of myself.
Realising I only had the descent to complete I finished off my water second bottle.
In this part of the Island there are no shops, houses, very few cars but a real sense of isolation.
This became particularly marked when the route I wanted to take apparently was no longer available for cyclists. What!
I suddenly felt sick and very thirsty.
On reviewing my map I could either retrace my steps about 40 miles or head further into the mountains and take a route back via San Bartolome another 27 miles
I chose the later..........

It was the wrong choice..........No water and lots more climbing.
I eventually got back in one piece, hot and bothered and in need of beer.
My mood was lifted with this reinactment of 'Ice Cold in Alex' especially when I saw the result of my Garmin download.
There were a few Cat 4 climbs, a few 3's too but to see a smattering of 2,1 and the big daddy Catogory HC all the pain subsided.

On recounting my trip in the bike store the guys held their bellies and laughed loudly.
Before I raised my fists they explained that the sign that I had seen had only signified the end of the cycle route and not the end of the road.
They also said Chapeaux........acknowledging that I had dragged my lardy arse over two more mountain passes

A few days later I took a shorter trip up to Soria.
Despite the million and one switchbacks and 9km of climbing it was a comparative breeze.
Going up and back down even I could understand.

All I all Gran Canaria was a massive hit for me and I will return

I know I need to loose a lot more weight to tackle the rockies but with HC under my belt and hours of continuous climbing I think I am on the right route.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Cobbled Climbs

The Santini Lincoln Classic Sportive
The pace gets faster as we descend into the belly of this ancient city and crowds increase in anticipation of the final crescendo.

I hear a group of scouts cheering gleefully and informing us of the impending terror ahead!

400 meters of cobbled climb, at a gradient enough to lift your front wheel.

The climb greets you like a kick in the teeth and after yards you can taste the blood in your throat.
A cloudburst changes the surface into shimmering sliders and your wheels struggle for traction.
The crowd cheers and the announcers calls out my name and the name of the Mules 

Rule 5 is applied today
We all smile :)


Friday, May 9, 2014

The Stable door is Open

If you are afflicted with a compulsive cycling disorder there are only ever two sorts of days
Days when you Cycle and days when you wish you were cycling.
The later are usually ones that a shared with other significant dates such as weddings, births and funerals.
Work does not count as you can usually sneak a few wheel revolutions in prior to or after this important role that pays for your compulsion.
For those who do not regard rule Number 5 (Harden the F*** up) as obligatory there is a third type of Day.
Days you should be cycling - and could, if you were not made 'candy floss'.

As a new follower to Rule 5, I acknowledge that I previously had 'candy floss' days when instead of cycling I would write about it in my blog.
So now my excuse for the lack of Blogposts is Rule Number 5
Thank you Velominati

With a kind winter us Anglo Mules have managed to rack up some impressive mileage achieving a level of fitness that one might expect to achieve in June or July.

In April we took part in the North Lincs Sportive which unsurprisingly was another windy one.

Every year at this particular weekend the elements never disappoint in their consistency of blowing over 30mph.
If I were a kite surfer, newly erected  wind turbine or a piece of discarded litter such consistency may please me, But as a cyclist I knew it would be a day of tired turbulence which would end up with some obligatory tramadol to cure a stiff neck.
It was also a reminder that its not quite time to take off those toe warmers

 North Lincs Sportive (Brigg) 100km (64miles) and 130km (100 Miles)
Centered around the North Lincolnshire Wolds this Sportive holds a similar terrain as that found on our own East Yorkshire Wolds.
Most did the 100km ride.......peer pressure pushed me to take on the 100 miles.
Tramadol was used!

Matt and Paul on hearing the shipping forecast.........................

Andy looking for somewhere to hide

 April ended with the Heart of the Wolds which again saw some Mule representation with both the longer and Medium Ride. Full livery was displayed which was both eye catching and formed a topic of conversation amongst other riders.
Mule enthusiasts had apparently graffitied the road with words of equine encouragement.