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Monday, June 28, 2010

'Flat out in the Fens' with no rear wheel

As we enter the last week before the start of The Tour de France I have been reading about Lance Armstrong's preparations on his Twitter and the Radio Shack site. He has been having a look at some of the climbs he is about to endure by riding them.
Not wanting to be outshone by Lance I decided that I too would have a look at my course for The Flat out in the Fens Ride this Sunday gone.

Riding the course seemed a bit excessive to me, so I persuaded my good friend Colin to take me up in his Aeroplane for some aerial reconnaissance.

I already appreciated the Course would be flat, very flat but by this method I would be able to get an idea of the road widths, traffic etc.
Airborne reconnaissance is hungry work so after a few loops around the area I was to ride Colin elected that we might stop off somewhere and have breakfast.
That appealed to me as I was in my Carbo loading mode.
I am not sure that a full English breakfast fits that criteria but that's what I had at a beautiful Fenland airstrip near Holbech.

When we took off to leave, the Air traffic tower called us up.
They usually do to bid us farewell. This time there was a level of anxiety in the transmission.
'Golf-Alpha-Papa..............When you took off something fell off your plane'

My basic knowledge of these things was that everything that might be attached to the plane was actually required for some reason or another.
The props propelled us, the wings guided us etc etc......
The radio crackled again.......'Golf-Alpha-Papa..........we have found your rear wheel on the fact the whole unit has come off'
To make things worse a student pilot had just taken off for her first Solo flight and was doing a short circuit prior to landing.
She was told to circle the airstrip.

Colin remained as Cool as Ice and interjected ......'the student should land prior to me as if anything happens she may be stuck with a closed runway.

Closed Runway !!!!!!!! I did not like the sound of this.
Colin continued 'I will do a 'wheeler' landing once the runway is clear'

As Colin banked the plane around I did not think it would be appropriate to ask too many questions.
He did however look at me and tell me to tighten up my harness as tight as possible and then proceeded to explaining how to get out the plane quickly in case it caught fire.
I listened intently.

He came in very low and very fast.
At one point I asked him if he was going to fly 'above' or 'below' the electric pylons that we were fast approaching........I don't think he answered me.
As we got close to the Airstrip I saw the firetrucks moving and nearly swallowed my tongue.

The landing was terrifying I thought that we were going to flip over in a cartwheel as the plane surged forwards on the grass strip. Finally he let the unprotected tail drop and we shuddered to a stop. WOW !!!!
Up until that time Colin had been Mr ICE, but now I could see his hands shaking.

We had to leave the plane at Fenland and get a lift home......I was quite happy with this more traditional form of transport even if it did take hours.

The Ride seemed a bit of an anticlimax in comparison.

Mark did exceptionally well in his first sportive of 112 miles and I don't think he will ever complete on in such temperatures......Well not in this country. It was far hotter than last years 'Hotter than Hell' in Texas and many participants were suffering.
After deciding that we would spend the day as 'wheel suckers' our pride got the better of us and we had some long stints at the front pulling.
What is clear to me is that there is no substitute for miles in the bank. Although I am still heavier than this time last year....I am so much fitter and now look forward to a proper Hotter than Hell challenge in August with the American Mules.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Flatout in the Fens

The last month has seen a huge amount of activity in the International cycling World.
We have had The Giro, Tour of California, Tour of Luxembourg, Dalphine Liberee and The Tour of Switzerland.
Frankly its been a double bonus.
Having been forced by patriotic obligation to watch our national team show their ineptitude in playing our national game, I find myself searching a thesaurus for new words that describe frustration and boredom.

Even watching the cycling 'domestiques' collect bottles from team cars was more exciting than watching Mr Rooney and Co audition for the remake of 'Out of Africa'.

The whole cycle scene is so intriguing with our entrees of 'pre Tour de france racing' served up with dollops of Drama and sub plot.

It has been really fascinating to see who has entered what and to note the general omission of the Tour de France General classification contenders facing each other.

Contador looked so comfortable in the Dalphine and he will take some beating.
Basso looked rejuvenated in the Giro
Mr Armstrong got a 3rd in Luxemborg, 2nd in Switzerland. As he says 'Do the Math'

There are so many podium contenders in the melting pot.
I enjoyed seeing Cadel Evans find some real form and I am looking forward to see how Sky go with Bradley Wiggins and the talented Edvald Boasson Hagen.

This Norwegian baby face is my dark horse to do well.

Over the next week all of the teams will be publishing their rosters for the Great event and I expect there will be a few surprises too.

Whilst all of this is going on 'The Mule Team' are ramping up their training for the Annual 'Hotter than Hell' ride in Witchita Falls, Texas in August.

I expect to announce a full Roster for this team soon when The Mules have been shod and had their manes cut. Some have spent too much time in the fields eating grass!!!!!!!

In the meantime two of the Anglo riders are taking part in 'Flat out in the Fens' this Sunday a 112 mile sportive.
With the temperatures forecast for the mid 80's it will certainly be a challenging ride.

I will be completing this with a new 'Mule' - Mark Kelk.

Mark is a strong and powerfull rider especially away from the hills .
Such is his prowess on the bike that they have seemingly named a village after him.

Mark we welcome you into the pasture and hope you do the Mules proud with Hard riding and good charity work.

A full report and Pictures will follow after the weekend

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Embrace the inner loser in you

About a month ago I was returning home from work on my bike.
It was Friday evening and there was a large group of teenagers gathered on street corner next to some traffic lights I had stopped at.
They were smoking, drinking and the males were jostling for position of 'Alpha status' in front of their female counterparts.
With the lights remaining at red for some time their attention seemed to be distracted to myself.
A 50 year old overweight male dressed in Lycra on a road bike.
With my Head phones covering my ears they may have mistakenly believed that their conversions may not have been registered with me.
Why would they think otherwise in their eyes my age may have also determined that I was also deaf!
One of them turned to his girlfriend and sniggered saying look at that 'fat bastard on the bike', this caused them all to laugh, some instinctively, some through peer pressure.

I am not that sensitive to be effected by the immature posturing of a teenager, but if it had not effected me in some way I would not find myself typing about this incident now. I guess I was a bit hurt.

Yes I do struggle with my weight. In the Winter I am FAT, this winter I got very FAT.
But by the start of the summer I slim down to ensure that I can hold my own in the sportives that I enter.
This year I have given myself a new goal. To trim down, get very, very fit and to maintain that throughout the winter.

So what of these kids.......well my retort was simple.
I removed my sunglasses and fixed the gaze of the offending Neanderthal, and spoke.
My voice was calm and monotone
'When you have finished your fag and supped your cherryade would you like to race me up to the top of Westwood (A local climb) I am happy to wait, maybe your buddies might like to join in too.........(I was now on a roll)
In fact if you want an even chance maybe you could form a relay team, because looking at you, I expect you will be blowing out of your arse after about a hundred yards.

The girls laughed, not at me but at him and their potential suitors.......needless to say nobody took up the challenge.
Last night and 16 lbs lighter i pulled up at the lights again and there was the same group.
They all put up there hands with an appreciative greeting, all apart from the previous 'rude boy' who still looked as sheepish as he did when I last saw him.

Over the next few months I have two major bike rides.
Flat out in the Fens 112 mile sportive on 27th of June In the fenland's of Lincolnshire, and Norfolk.
And Hotter than Hell in Witchita Falls, Texas at the End of August.
The latter is the ride that I will try and peak for, and between now and then I will continue to get fitter and faster and hopefully thinner.
There maybe days I don't want to train and days that I want to depart from my healthy eating schedule.
But as long as I move forward it does not matter.

As Theodore Roosevelt stated 'In the Arena'

It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs,
comes up short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows the great enthusiasms,
the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end
the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails,
at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those
cold and timid souls
who neither know victory nor defeat.
Hotter than Hell 2009 (L to R :- Me, Paddy).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Fair-weather cyclist

In February I started commuting to work for the very first time.
With the weather being generally dreadful my appearances on the early morning roads were tempered to perhaps two or three days a week.
My excuses however were not of frostbitten toes, or having to put on wet clothing, clearly the truth would have presented me as an impostor in the world of ‘cycle commuting’.
Instead, my excuses revolved around logistics.
The requirement to have smart and pressed clothes ready for work each day, the retention of that highly important ‘corporate image’.
Other cyclists and colleagues at work offered advice and help in how to overcome these barriers.
They volunteered to take my clothes in for me or suggested that I collect during working hours (Whilst driving close to my house).
Eventually my excuses wore out and rather than admit to being a ‘Lilly livered wimp’, I now commute 5 days a week whatever the weather.
I don’t particularly like getting up at 5am every morning and find it strange going to bed before the illumination of my residential street, but these are now constants that I have now adapted to. They are part of my daily routine.
There are also other constants:
At 5:46 I meet Joanne at the Long lane junction
At 5:51 I see the chestnut mare in the adjoining pasture
At 6:01 I wave to a spotty youth on a mountain bike going the opposite direction
At 6:06 I overtake 3 Eastern European ‘Greenhouse’ workers who are also riding to work, there are no buses available at this hour. They don’t get to choose.
At 6:13 I wave to a road racer on his morning training ride
At 6:17 I see three more cyclists travelling towards and past me, on their way to Swift Caravan Manufacturers. Two are older on old bikes, they wear fluorescent jackets, the other much younger is on a red road bike, he wears black and smiles.
At 6:19 A low loader passes too close to me carrying two Swift Caravans – I shake my head and show the finger
At 6:20 I part company with Joanne as we peel off towards our differing destinations.
At 6:22 I see a deer drinking from a pond.
At 6:27 I see a woman on a motor/scooter travelling towards and past me. She never wears a helmet and seems happy about it.
At 6:33 I arrive at work.
I don’t have to look at my watch to know when I reach my respective way points, I just know.

Last week the weather was glorious light winds, clear skies and temperatures in the mid 70s.
Cycling was a pure joy, but with the sunshine came a plague of cyclists ‘The Fair-weather Commuter’ They flooded my roads with overly exuberant smiles and destabilizing waves, knocking out my metronomic inner timepiece and diluting my landmarks in a sea of Lycra.