Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A week to remember Part 2 - Ride London

London Calling

As a enthusiastic cook I often surprise myself by my creations.
You know.......when you throw something together.
A bit of this, a bit of that and suddenly you have a gorgeous meal that is raved about.
Although I am always keen to take credit for anything, I realise that such culinary achievements could never be possible without a series of key ingredients.

At the very end of July a week started that contained some high quality ingredients, as well as enough drama to make even Kevin Spacey salivate.
The fact that the week ended in August is significant as the adventure seemed to have lasted a month.

It started with a Coast to Coast cycle ride across Merry Albion and ended with riding in 'Ride London Surrey 100' the first closed road sportive that any Major city has ever hosted.
So this is Part 2 of this Velo-adventure.  

Meggin reacquainted with 'Griffin' - her family name

Guardians of the City

When I was accepted to take part in Ride London I knew it would be good, but because it was the first event of its kind I expected some teething problems.
Things like delays, over-congestion, accidents, cars appearing on the course, poor feed stations and of course my favourite not enough toilets.
I was not sure how the Anglo and American mules would gel or whether egos would influence teamwork. There was a lot to go wrong.

Frankly I underestimated the ingredients.
Great people
Great attitude
Great organisation
Great weather
London served us up a dish to remember, one that I wish to gorge on, again and again.

When Paddy suggested that we travelled to London on Thursday, I was a little surprised.
I know he likes to get to the start early but three days seemed a little excessive.

He argued his case well.

1. 'We can register early at the Excell Centre and avoid the rush'. he expounded - Good point

2. 'We can check out the start and see how long it takes to get there' - Granted

3. 'We can work out a good place to meet up considering that some of us have differing start times' - He was doing well

4. 'We can make sure the hire bikes all have two wheels'.

So Thursday it was!!
Hays Galleria

By water is as good as by Wheel
Arriving late Thursday afternoon at the Excell Centre was meant to be straight forward, we 'pop in' register, collect our packages and go to the Hotel.

For convenience we had hired a van, however the hirer forgot to mention that there was no A/C.
We improvised by opening the windows, but road works most of the route not only elongated the suffering but prevented any airflow.
The 90 degree temperature made the cab very 'Moist'.
Paddy's attempted humour and made a few wise cracks about it being cooler than Houston - I told him that he was better equipped to do his day job.
Relief was palpable when I spied the signs to the Excell Centre with directions for a selection of car parking spaces. Unfortunately this did not apply to Vans.

Using some guile and poetic licence I managed to sweet talk a sweet Lithuanian Security guard into letting us park with the trade vehicles. I persuaded her that Paddy was Peter Segan and that he had put on a few pounds after finishing the Tour de France.

Thankfully none of the hurdles placed before us had anything to do with the organisers and once we gained access to the Excell Centre everything was life free wheeling with a tail wind.
There were hundreds of volunteers to help and guide us to the right place and enough trade stands to keep coax out even the most reluctant wallet
Wheres my spoke adjuster
The Explorer
Friday consisted of Team Bonding, sight seeing, and trying to see if they can brew beer 'Down South'. All  aspects went well apart from the beer evaluation - probably because the southerners seem to prefer lager and regard real ale as nothing more than mucky water.
The hired bikes were obtained from 'On Yer bike' which although highly recommended it is not the easiest of places to get to.
Having been deprived of my Addy (My Scott Addict) through an ill timed mechanical problem I secured an entry Level Trek 1.1 road bike.
Anything more advanced I would have required a small mortgage for deposit.
After a few adjustments, my own seat, pedals, water cages and well placed strips of red and black electrical tape, ride numbers etc - the result no longer looked like a 'hire bike'.
A well loved two wheeled companion had emerged from the corner of the hotel room, ready to carry me over 100 miles at a pace to out-pedal even the most enthusiastic of politicians.
Wheres the bike Shed?
Saturday featured a closed road 'Freecycle' around central London.
With our finest Mule livery we ventured out.

Guess we will just park here

It was a surreal experience riding on closed roads around the Iconic sights of London.
Every opportunity we had pictures were taken and the atmosphere was milked up in churn loads.
We even decided to add to the Guinness book of records by getting 6 mules into a phone box.
I am not sure its an official category but we are looking to beat it again very soon.

How many Mules can you get in a phone box?

Mule Train on the Embankment

I can hear a Siren

One day I was cycling by St Pauls..................

What would Christopher Wren have said ?

Meggin and her Mule

As lunch time approached, things got messy and to be frank dangerous.
I was wanting to have a closer look at the excess on my bike hire for fear of an inevitable spillage.
This free ride for all was being jumped upon by half of London with hundreds of cyclist everywhere you looked.
Each had there own speed, experience, spacial awareness, risk radar and more significantly levels of responsibility.
Small children criss-crossed the road in joyous abandon as if at home in their private cul-de-sac
parents looked on seemingly deaf to the screeching brakes and subdued curses.

Budding Laura Trott

Other older children in their mid thirties used the moving mass of as an obstacle course and weaved in and out as fast as they could.
Sadly they too seemed oblivious to the dangers they were presenting to both themselves and others or maybe they just did not care.
One particular over tattooed specimen took great exception to advice I offered.
His response 'unmeasured' was a decision to share with me all the curse words he had ever learned.
I had heard of most of them and insultingly some referred to animals other than a Mule.
Some he also used more than once - poor show, clearly he learned nothing else in life.

With tempers rising I did not want to share some Anglo Saxon traits with my American Cousins and offered a pilgreimage. All agreed so we decided to cease this glorious stupidity and detour to the Cyclist shrine - The Rapha Store.
Caffeine and things of beauty.................Bliss

Obligatory visit to Rapha Store

I want to be one of those!

Getting up at 4.45 on Sunday morning was not alien to me.......It was the usual time I get up in the week to commute so I did not have to adjust my alarm.
It was 2 miles from our Hotel to an official drop off point on Jamacia Rd, Bermondsey, and then a further 5 miles to the start.
We cycled past the Olympic Cycle stadium which was ironically illuminated by the first golden rays of morning sunshine.Goosebumps appeared on my arms a trend that was going to continue throughout the day.
Just Perfect
With your rider number you were allocated a letter to signify your loading pen. Most of us were letter 'K' and being Mules we were quite used to 'Pen life'.
The start was amazing with fast roads leading through a neutralised area to a formal start some 5 miles in.
It was clear straight away that some of the participants new to mass riding had not been totally honest when they filled in  their anticipated ride times.
They were soon found out being swamped by passing cyclists.
It must have been terrifying!!!!
We agreed to meet some of our earlier starters on the road and by the time we had reached the city we had our own Mule Train (Pace line) in place.
Caught in the moment their was no room for the nervous, as the pedals pushed out unprecedented watts and the air crackled with adrenaline.

Sun touched athletes

As ready as I ever will be
Richmond Park
There was no real need to stop at the first feed station despite it being warm most of us had both food and at least a bottle left, but how could you not stop at Hampton Court.
In all of my sportives I have stopped at schools, churches, garages, parks, in laybys, outside toilets and on moor tops, but this must take the prize as the most unorthodox of venues.
I think the stop extended our finishing time somewhat as we all wanted pictures.
Unconventional Feed Station

The unbridled joy of finding Toilets with no queue
The Pace continued throughout and up to Surreys version of a climbs featuring Leith Hill and Box hill.  For us  the only hazard was other riders knocked in their tracks by the increase in gradient as some southerners struggled we mocked that such climbs are considered false flats in Yorkshire.
Race Faces
From Box Hill to the finish I have never pedalled so fast for so long. Great crowds had assembled along the route, Raucous, encouraging and ensuring that adrenaline levels were topped up to the limit.We kept our paceline going which made spectators believe that maybe we were some professional unit as they seemed to keep their loudest cheer for us.
Or is it just my imagination?

Finally we arrived at the mall, a spectacular union jack lined corridor of pleasure, with pounding hearts, smiling faces and the odd tear in the eye.
It was A MAZ ING !!!!!!!!

Already looking forward to Next year....What a buzz

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A week to remember Part 1 - Coast to Coast 2013

Morecambe Welcomes Us

Ten years ago some of my work colleagues thought that it would be a good idea to cycle Coast to coast from Morecambe to Hornsea. At that time i had an old racing cycle and cycling was one of a number of recreational interests I had.
It was a memorable ride which took three days on an assortment of different cycles with riders of differing abilities.
Since that time I 'Discovered' cycling which soon became my singular recreational pastime and a near obsession.
I was not alone - the expression 'On your bike' seems to have been taken literally with tens of thousands of like minded people swapping trainers for two wheels
Old routes were revisited which included this cross country adventure.
Three years ago Sustrans had formalised a cycle route from Morecambe to Bridlington with an assortment of designated cycle paths, minor roads, and the occasional quirky thoroughfare.
The later stages even took in some of our own cycle playground - So it was a no brainer
We took our respective partners and completed again in three days on touring bikes.
Although the ride was a great adventure for me it was more of an endurance feat rather than a bike ride.
Travelling unsupported with panniers could never be described as travelling light especially if your doing the honourable thing by carrying your partners baggage.

My pannier dispersant was consisted of 20% of my essentials and 80% of Joannes non essentials. When they were clipped onto the bike it resembled a 1000cc motorcycle with a 10 Mulepower engine.
After having to push this burden up a particularly tough section climbing from Settle up onto the moor I commented on what the ride might be like carrying lighter burdens
Like say two water bottles.
Three years later that thought was turned into reality and combined with a family gathering
Please bring me Sunshine

Highly recommended

My twin brother Paddy, younger brother Andy, great friend Simon and I made up the cycling quartet, whilst sister Linda and Ian were our SAG wagon.
Unhindered by hair straighteners and multiple shoe choices we decided that we would complete the ride in two days on road bikes starting early.
We arrived in Morecambe on sunday and stayed at The Crown Hotel.
Now Paddy is very fussy when it comes to hotels and I was concerned that a small seaside establishment might not 'pedal his wheels'.
But he had not reckoned on Steve the owner.
He was so welcoming, sociable and accommodating, stored our bikes and sent us off with a memorable breakfast.
The hotel was a winner.
If you plan to do C2C and want to stay the night before I highly recommend this venue one that I will definitely revisit.

Typical British Summer Seaside weather
Coats On, Coats Off, On, Off
This summer has been great for cycling apart from during our cross country gig, although we had the wind behind us we also had a procession of cloudbursts.
Some were so enthusiastic that they were accompanied by percussion and a light show
There were times that I felt my handlebars could be replaced by a rudder,as my primary steerage device

Bridging the Gap
Raindrops keep falling on my head
Wheres the Tail Wind?
Advertisment on the Hoof
Andy adapting to a bike with no other use than to ride fast
Strange creatures can be found on the Moor

Unburdened by unnecessary luggage we made great progress and as we climbed away from the coast towards the Pennines.
Paddy discovered that there was actually a use for the small chain ring having made it redundant in the texan plains. I smiled knowing that he would spend the rest of the day becoming more closely acquainted.
Andy at the same time reminded us that it also helps if you dont carry any personal panniers. Weighing in at the same weight as one of our legs he flew up the hills like he was born in Bogota.

Refreshments in Settle

After Settle we climbed onto the moor. It was not a usual climb but one that would have been devised in Hell and described by John Milton

“Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light.”

As it ramped up to 10% I selected by lowest gear and focussed on getting into a rhythm.
Paddy slipped past me ignoring my cries of 'Keep your powder dry' - I knew what this beast had in store.
Around the corner it increased to 27% and Paddy was trying to work out how to unclip without falling off. It was his first Rodeo
I had this climb hard wired into my memory and my powder was just about dry enough to blast me to the top.
Of course everything that goes up must come down and as you leave the Pennines to the East you descend into Patley Bridge. If you were travelling East to West it is one of Britain's longest and toughest ascents so going down should be easy right?
For this section I wore a head-cam.
Unfortunately I cant post it, not because of its 15 min duration but because the British film censoring board have classified it as an 18 certificate on account of bad language and scenes that might be disturbing. I have to agree on viewing it that I was disturbed - close to 50mph on wet roads and 25% slope was a tad risky
When we got to the bottom my wrists ached from braking and the wheel rims were as hot as a smelting furnace.

Wheel rims cooling down on descent to Pately Bridge
Colour Coordinated of Course
17th Century accomadation !!!

On arrival at Pately Bridge the sun decided to give us a brief visit as we consumed our lunch. With the bulk of the climbing completed all seemed well for our route up to Brigham Rocks before descending into Boroughbridge. Coats were packed away, lenses changed on sun glasses and protective cream was applied to filter the solar rays.
I smiled watching cyclist move in the opposite direction towards darkening cumuli nimbus clouds that were building over the moor.
Half an hour after resuming those darkened oversized clumps of cotton wool had moved.......they had seemingly wanted to check us out and were fast on our tail. Although out of direct vision their thunderclaps stood as a reminder that they could move faster than we could pedal and their presence shrouded the sun and cast a shadow over us. Each time I looked behind I was alarmed at the pyrotechnics.......It was not the 4th of July !!!!!!
Being a self professed meteorologist I reassured everyone that before the storm caught us we would change direction by 90 degrees and travel towards the only area of blue sky still visible.

My prophetic statement appeared to hold water- we turned right and accelerated as fast as we could possibly ride as if chased by the devil himself.
Once again into the sunshine again our anguished faces turned to smiles as we watched the storm seemingly move away from us. We took a moment to check the route and get our breath back.
Wrong decision
The storm had obviously thought we were mocking it and decided to teach us a lesson.
A huge thunderclap signalled its change of direction and despite renewing our escape endeavours it was on us in minutes.
If the lightening was not bad enough the roads became small streams and branches were torn from trees presenting us with a dodgem course.
For once in my life I rejoiced at not being tall knowing that Simons head was closer to the cloud-base than mine. Surely he would get struck first if I stick close to him.
Andy and Paddy had left their coats with Ian and linda at lunch time and were now drenched a mistake that they foolishly repeated the following day too.
As we arrived at Boroughbridge the sun came out and our drenched clothes started to steam, for the casual observer it may have looked like smoke from a lightening strike.
Maybe Mules have more lives than cats?
With beer all round we had a restful night.
The following morning started with the obligatory 'full English' not the fuel for the pros but definitely fuel for Mules.
The weather was forecast to be warm and sunny with no rain and a light tail wind.
We certainly got that later but after Andy and Paddy opted to not carry coats a rogue storm held back for us to give us an additional morning shower.
By lunchtime we started to see seagulls and soon after the north sea.
Epic ride - great people - well worth doing every year

C2Cin 2 Next year 1 Day?
The End Game