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Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Giant Bradley

Since last Sunday in Paris the country has been overcome by a wave of euphoria surrounding the triumphant exploits of Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France.
The media circus, with little else to cheer about - have been surfing this good news story as far up the beach that they can.

Now the whole nation knows about him. 
They have not only been told  that he is the first Briton to win the Tour de France - but what he eats, drinks, wears.
What music he listens to, and details of the 'mod' scooters he rides.
His side burns and nicknames also receive attention, I particularly liked 'The banana with sideburns'

Cycling rarely features in any of the red tops, but even they are cashing in.
 The Daily Mirror a paper renowned for cycling coverage (He says tongue firmly in cheek) provides us with Ten things we didnt know about Bradley Wiggins.
Who didnt know? Is that the royal 'We' or just the Non Cycling Public

Another headline that caught my imagination was from the Yahoo website which stated 'Bradley becomes a sporting Giant'

My attention was immediately diverted to the local people of Market Weighton who must have have had apoplexy when they woke up to the news that a giant called Bradley had won the Tour de France.
Surprisingly none of the editors of the 'fish and chip wrappers' seemed to pick up on a previous Bradley who was equally famous and somewhat larger than life.

William Bradley or 'Bradley the giant' as he has become known was born on 10th February 1787 in Market Weighton, about 13 miles from where I live. He was one of thirteen children.
John Bradley, his father, was a respectable master tailor, his mother seemingly a professional child bearer.
At birth William weighed 14lbs and at the age of 11 he weighed 154 lbs.
At 19 he weighed 378 lbs and was 7ft 9ins in height.
His stockings measured 3ft 9ins, his walking stick 5ft 10in and his shoes were 15ins long and 5.5ins wide.
I am quite certain Sidi do not do this size!

William occasionally worked assisting a local butcher, Robert Foster, and on such occasions could get plenty of food to satisfy his large appetite. It was said that he could eat with ease a full sized leg of mutton with vegetables at one sitting. For desert he settled for half an apple orchard.
With falling profits the butcher let him go.
In his teens he went into farm service but he broke the forks, rake shovels and other tools so his employers had to get larger and stronger tools made for him.

William once accepted a challenge for a wager that he could load a wagon with manure in less time than it took two men. He filled his wagon long before his two competitors.
Despite this achievement  nobody was brave enough to call him a S**T shoveller

Whilst at Market Weighton one year, Barnum’s travelling show were exhibiting a huge pig bred in Sancton known as ‘The Great Yorkshire Pig’.
They struck a deal with John Bradley to take William around the country along with Edward Calvet, a dwarf from Shiptonthorpe.
A giant, dwarf and inflated pig ...........They didn't scrimp on entertainment in the 18th Century!!!!
The show attracted vast crowds wherever it went.
 At the time he was as famous as our side burned hero.

As well as being the home of the Giant Bradley Market Weighton is also one of the landmarks on The Big G Cycle sportive which was another less famous cycling event that occurred last Saturday an warm up to the main event. Last year I swore that I would never do it again and was reminded why, when I took to the relentless succession of hills. My lack of climbing credentials are always highlighted on such sportives where it is now a standing joke that I have got the only bike with a reverse gear.
Nunburnholme hill featured below was a real leg burner, especially coming so close to the end.
I have never seen so many people toppling over into the verge.
Most cyclists will know that feeling....... When the hill is so steep that any kind of controlled extraction from your cleats is impossible. Fortunately It has not happened to me for a few years, but its a real art lining up that bit of 'softer' road or a verge with no nettles to execute your capsize.
Some people make it into an art form, others end up like bugs laid on their backs, their legs thrashing around  trying to remove their cleats from a horizontal position.
Thankfully I remained upright but was unable to muster a smile for the Camera.
Whilst the Anglo Mules were Taking part in the Big G the US Mules were completing The Katy Flat Lands
with 16 of the Team the largest group that they had assembled all in their livery...Some sight.
Unlike our course, theirs weres as flat as a pool table and they were able to average an impressive 20mph

I do like the sense of unity when the US and UK Mules are riding in events at the same time in different continents.

There next ride is the Hotter than Hell up in Wichita Falls North Texas.
It will feel strange not being part of it for the first time in Four years.

Instead I will be tacking another elevated climbing sportive in North Lancashirewhich is called  the Bradley Wiggins Sportive .
Yes you got it The Bradley Wiggins !!!!!!
It is to highlight his charity to get young people cycling.
 The great man will be riding so obviously I will be looking for for both his wheel and his approach to join the Mule Team.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

From Fat lads to Flat lands

When I used to play rugby I loved the way that the structure of the game embraced different physiology's.
In most sports only one 'body type' usually prevails with the athletic ''Mesomorph'  being the most common of three the other being the endomorph and the  Ectomorph
As a child I definitely wanted to be a Mesomorph, and after an early growing spurt I came quite close at the age of 13.
Unfortunately vertical growth gave way to that of the Horizontal type and the closest I got was being a mesomorph/endomorph mix. That was twenty years ago.
 I am now definitely an 'Endo' and really just have to accept it.

In rugby the tubbier, squat Enomorphs with their strong necks, and powerful legs provide an invaluable linchpin in any scrums formation. They are usually shorter and often hidden behind their more Herculean 'Mesos', but the Rugby 'Endos' can be easily spotted by their vegetable shaped ears.
With a low centre of gravity and bullish obstinacy they are able to push and grunt all day long  in any  elements that God might deliver.

They are always valued and often emerge to be the most unlikely of hero's.

There was also some space for the slighter wirey Ectomorph.
For me they always looked like they could do with intravenous drip of liquidised cream cakes.
Their light nimbleness is their greatest attribute, being able to waltz out of trouble and then run like Forrest Gump.

When I started cycling it was the Ectomorphs who appeared to dominate and be the chosen form.
On any mixed terrain they are accomplished and in the hills they are peerless.
When trying to hold a position in a 'Ecto' Paceline I would often find myself  gasping for breath.
They on the other hand would be idly chatting away.
' B*****D's!!!!'

Sometimes their greatest asset is also their Achilles heel. They hate strong side winds, where they bend and twist like weeping willows, often struggling to hold their bikes on line.

At the end of June I took on the 112 mile Flat out in the Fens for the forth year in a row.

The course is totally exposed and on previous years we had been blessed with fine weather.
This years summer has been so poor with frequent autumn type gales.
One particular gale, decided to join us and whipped up the wind over the fens.

Being a classic 'Endo' with a low centre of gravity, and shorter frame size the conditions were fine by me.
I found an easy rhythm  using my comedy over sized thighs to push the 'Diner plates' on my chain ring.
The 'Ectostickss' were not happy being blown from dyke to dyke. Where they could they sought refuge behind my rear wheel.
At one time I counted over thirty.
I was forced into a smile........
I was as happy that day as I once was on the rugby field.
Pushing and grunting all day long, in the weather that god had provided.

Unfortunately the road is not always flat and in most events the terrain is totally unsympathetic to us Tubby 'Endos'.
In ten days time I do the Big G which is 100 miles of climbing and descending up and around the East Yorkshire Wolds and Howardian Hills.
When I finished it last year I crossed the line totally spent and cursing.
I swore that I would never complete it again.
Curiously I must have registered this year whilst intoxicated or through some peer pressure as my number has mysteriously arrived and now mocks me daily.
Alarmingly last year I was  fitter, lighter and of course one year younger.

In a ridiculous attempt at some sort of reverse psychology I devised a plan to overcome my fears.
I thought that if I complete a much harder prior to this event,  then the main event might seem easy on the day!!!
With the plan hatched out came the ordnance survey Maps as I scoured the sheets for the illusive 'double chevrons'  >> indicating the most brutal of climbs.
My 'hillometer' inclined towards the North Yorkshire Moors.

Curiously Her Majesties Stationary office must have had their office party when they printed this particular map as there appeared to be some sort of chevron spillage.......they were everywhere!!!!! >>>>>>>>>
This was the place.>>>>>>>>>>>>
Early on Saturday morning I was joined by two Mesomorphs and an Ectomorph to bear witness to my fool hardiness. 
We set off at 7am from Sledmere in the East Yorkshire Wolds. 
Jokingly I taunted my fellow riders with tales of roads so steep that only tractors could get up them, something I regretted later.

We energetically moved quickly onto the Vale of Pickering and on to Thornton le Dale where we started to climb.
During the first gradients, limited conversations were just possible as we moved up into the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.
From there we headed towards Lockton and Levisham when we were abruptly stopped in our tracks.
Our jaws dropped our mouths muted.
To me it was obvious....I must have misread the map and we had come to the edge of a cliff.

After checking again and again It dawned on me that this was actually the Mystic world of double chevrons, You know......The ones with roads so steep that only tractors could be used.
If ever there was a time that I wanted to resign my Endomorph status.....It was now.
I could hear every muscle in my legs screaming as I cajoled my Mule up each climb.

In the Yorkshire Wolds we are used to seeing the 16% gradient sign....even the very rare 20%

But here the baby Brutes were 20% with Mum and Dad 25% and 33% respectively.
If ever there was an argument to introduce three chevrons >>> it was here.
So on we went through Levisham and across the rail track which hosts the North Yorkshire Moors Steam railway. We then climbed through a pine forest up to Stape. By now the topography had changed to barren moorland punctuated with splashes of deep purple heather.
Once on top of the Moor we headed North towards Egton Bridge.  With all the rain that we had been experiencing I was concerned about a number of 'Fords' that we had to cross. The first we encountered presented no more than a photo opportunity with the water just lapping the edge of the road.

Later we came across Wheeldale Gill at the bottom of a small gully.
The picture below shows the location on a normal day.
This was no normal day. We came across it after a months rain fall had fallen in the previous 24 hrs.
The water was a frothy mass of brown liquid .....a bit like Guinness, although moving at a far greater rate than from a glass to my mouth.

Duncan a new addition to our Saturday adventures did not wait for a debate about how to overcome such an obstacle. Bravely he accelerated parting the waters like a modern day Moses. Like the many Lambs on the moortop we followed suit.
I know I am often prone to exaggeration but in this case there is no need.
As I rode through the deluge the water came half way up my calf and physically moved me sideways a few inches.
 From Egton Bridge we knocked off the 20%+ climbs like a walker bags a Munro moving across the Esk Valley to Grosmont and Sleights. From there it was up Blue Bank and onto the Hole of Horcum Via Goathland.
 By the time we had reached that stage any future ride was going to feel easy especially the next ten miles with a gradual decent to Pickering. Amazingly my legs decided that I could use them again and during that stretch we we close to 30mph for most of the passage.
The rest of the Journey back to Sledmere was pretty routine with some 16% climbs....Paaaaaaaah
I'm the first Endo in the 33% club.

It was a great ride, great company and great pain if there is such a thing