Where Was I ?

Its catch up time again here so I have combined some of this weeks bloggable activities, such as they are, into one post.  Whenever any of the cycle racing ‘grand tours’ are on TV my external activities are limited to those that can fit into a morning slot.  I therefore had to scratch my head to remember what i did and then combine them all here.

Cycling’s ‘grand tours’ are the Giro d’Italia in the spring, The Tour de France in the summer and the Vuelta d’Espagna in the autumn.  All of these are three weeks long and due to the increased popularity of cycling here in the UK they are now live on TV for many more hours.  This week the Tour of Britain was also thrown into the mix with live transmissions of that and the ‘Vuelta’ on at a similar time on different channels.  Both races were on different Eurosport channels and the Tour of Britain was also on ITV4.  Fortunately I have Sky Plus so I was able to record one whilst watching the other.  There was also the advantage of advertisement break dodging by switching channels to avoid them so I was juggling between three channels at times.  However I think there might have been some collaboration between the TV companies as just recently I have noticed they do seem to go to adverts at more or less the same time.  I think the red hot TV remote control and the sofa might appreciate a well deserved rest next week.

On Monday morning the weather was favourable for a bike ride so I dusted down the Colnago and took it for a short Ouse Valley ride of about twenty miles to re-acquaint my legs with the rotating motion of pedalling.  It wasn’t too bad actually and the weather was great, which helps in motivating me to get out.

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On Thursday we went to the National Trust property, Ascott House near Wing in Bedfordshire.  Its somewhere we have never been before despite it being just a half hour drive from home.  I think the main reason for not visiting before is because of its restricted opening hours.  Its only open from 2pm until 6pm on weekdays, and only in Summer.  This was almost our last opportunity of this year as Friday was the last day of opening before the winter closure.

It is a beautiful Jacobean house with paintings by the likes of Stubbs, Gainsborough and Reynolds and extensive and spectacular gardens. It is another property donated by the Rothschild family to the National Trust and is still lived in by part of the Rothschild family, hence the visiting limitations.    After some research I found there are nine other residences in and around the chilterns and home counties that are or were part of the Rothschild property holding.  They are all very substantial and spectacular properties to say the least and parts of a lot of them will be familiar to filmgoers as filming locations for some very popular films.  (I will put the above and some more photos from the outing in my photo blog later)

On Friday I spontaneously phoned my friend Cyril in Wellingborough to see if he was either home and available for a visit or on a bike ride and we could maybe rendezvous somewhere or at home and fancied a bike ride.  When I spoke to him he said how spooky it was because he was just thinking about calling me for similar reasons.  So the upshot was that we organised a rendezvous at Earls Barton then rode to Emmaus at Carlton for a bottomless cup of coffee and a slice of their splendid carrot cake.  We didn’t take advantage of the free coffee refills though.  This ride totalled about thirty miles for me.

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All the current cycling tours finish this weekend to allow for the travel and preparation of the cyclists for the World Championships in and around Richmond in the USA next weekend.  This will mean that I will be back to having full days available for external activities, this could involve some longer bike rides (Except next weekend!!).  It will in turn hopefully also mean I will have more to write about and more pictures instead of just boring route maps to break up the text.

Two Big Houses…

Another ride today and another increase in distance, 72km today but no real increase in the average speed but I suppose that goes along with the increased distance, a bit of levelling out.  The ride began and ended with two big houses.  Well almost began with, about 8km after the start I went past Castle Ashby, pictured above, the home of the Marquis of Northampton when he is home..

About 8km before the end there was Tyringham House, home of goodness knows who.  Sitting in its own grounds and the park you can see in the picture usually has some deer in it, but none to be seen today.  Maybe they are venison now? 😦  A few years ago it used to be a health resort/spa.

 

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Tyringham is on the banks of the River Great Ouse, there is a very sedate and peaceful look to it as it meanders its way around North Bucks.

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Not much else to say about the ride really.  It was on familiar ground again but its been a while since I did that actual ride.  I covered some parts of it on my previous ride.

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Get It Where You Can… PBP

Here are a few photos I managed to acquire of Paris-Brest-Paris Audax riders getting a bit of sleep where they can en-route..

I just heard the first riders are back in Paris having completed the 1200km in 42 hours.. while some are still just reaching or have yet to reach Brest, the turn around point..

Three Counties And PBP…

Well that went better than expected.. I managed an extra 16km on top my last ride.. 61km today, more than I expected and intended.. and the average speed was up by 0.3kph.. marginal gains..

Once again I was slightly reluctant to go out and even as I left I wasn’t quite sure where I was going to go.  I was thinking of making it up as I went along, probably another few km. on my previous ride, just to keep the progress going up.  It was a nice day and there were plenty of cyclists about.  I haven’t been out on a Sunday morning for a long time so I was quite surprised at the amount of cyclists about.  I saw two tandems, quite a few men solo and in groups and more than few ladies out on solo rides as well.

I headed off into Bedfordshire then Northamptonshire and then back into Buckinghamshire to finish. I kept mainly to the quieter roads. I was adjusting my route as I went, taking into account the wind direction and making sure I got it right for the final leg.  I hadn’t checked the wind direction before I left but during my ride I deduced that it was probably from the north east.  So as it got towards decision time I had two choices for my entry back into Olney.  The short way back that would mean a couple of long drags into the wind or the longer route that would be into the wind but downhill into Olney and only involve a short sharp climb out of Filgrave.  I opted for this finish so I adjusted my route accordingly and took the longer route.

To keep it a shorter ride I could have come straight down from Hackleton/Horton to Stoke Goldington but opted to extend the route out around the outside of Salcey Forest and crossing the M1 motorway a couple of times.  It looked quite busy northbound and I will be on it myself and heading north next Sunday.  We will be heading for Brora in Sutherland in the very north of Scotland for a few days.  However we should to be leaving home around 05:00 a.m. so I hope most people will still be in bed at that time.  My SatNav tells me its 9.5 hours driving all told so I am allowing for about a 12 hour trip with stops.

I had enough energy left towards the end of my ride to push on a little bit and make sure it was just a bit faster than my previous ride, and just a bit it was.. three little bits of one kilometre an hour.  So now my next ride has to be longer than 61km..

On other matters, a few thousand cyclists will be setting on off on the Paris-Brest-Paris Audax ride tonight at 8pm, that involves 1200km of cycling!! (that makes my 61km look really pathetic),and are due back in Paris on Thursday.  Along the way they will grab a few hours sleep when they can in bus shelters, shop doorways and the like and maybe if they are lucky some village hall floors.  Among them will be Ritchie Dixon from my cycling club, Team Milton Keynes who has spent the last year or so accumulating the necessary qualifying rides,.  He is well used to Audax rides of 200, 300, 400 and 600km distances and and often rides a hundred or so the start as well.  Also riding is Steve Abraham, also from the North Bucks Road Club based in Milton Keynes who is doing this as part of his effort to beat the record of 76,000miles in a year long time trial.  He has been averaging over 250 miles or so a day since New Years Day 2015.  He is still on schedule but had a set back when he had few days off when he was in an accident and did some damage, a broken bone in his foot I think, but was fairly soon back on the road using a hand cycle for a while.

I feel like a real wimp so I am closing now..

Getting Out There…

I forced myself to get out on the bike this morning after what seemed a long spell of lethargy.  It was actually eight days since my last ride.  Just lately though it has been all too easy to find an excuse not to ride.  I am not sure exactly why.  I have had a few thoughts on the subject and I also had more than a few while I was out riding this morning, it certainly passed the time and made the distance seem shorter.

Even as I was going out of the door I could think of at least three reasons why I shouldn’t be going out but I did go out anyway, thankfully.  It turned out to be quite a nice ride, as I know it usually does once I get out on the road.  I extended the eastern side of my Ouse Valley route a little further east along the valley and once again I increased my average speed a little over my recent rides, surprisingly, so things probably aren’t as bad as I expected.  I could have been riding anywhere, I was not paying much attention to the scenery because I was so deep in thought and hatching plans.  The distance just seemed to pass by along with such climbs as there were.

I thought maybe my reluctance was just because of the boredom of riding familiar roads all the time and the fact that I don’t really have anything to be aiming towards.  At the start of year I had a planned a long programme of 200km Audax rides, one about every two or three weeks.  I was busy then, with a purpose, accumulating greater distances so as to be able to complete the Audax ride distances of 200km plus.  However, as each Audax came around something seemed to crop up to prevent me taking part, functions, holidays, illness or just a feeling of not having accumulated sufficient distance in my legs to complete the distances.  The only Audax I managed to do this year was the 100km Kennett Valley ride way back in the Spring.  This was just supposed to be a preparation ride for what was to come.

I think I am the kind of person who needs to have something to prepare for to motivate me but its probably a bit late to consider anything major this year.  I do still have an ambition or two in mind that I would like to fulfil before I am too much older and less capable but thats something to think about and plan over the coming winter I think.

One of the problems with Audax rides for me is that it involves an early start as the longer events generally start about 8am and that usually involves an hour or two of  driving from home.  There are not that many that are close to the North Bucks area so there are not many to choose from.  I have considered doing DIY Audax’s where I would plan a route and submit it for approval before doing the ride.  The beauty of that is that, once approved I can do the ride whenever I like and send in the completed .gpx file from my Garmin along with proof of checkpoints I have passed.

But then I guess thats a lot of palaver because if I am going to go out on my own I might just as well do a solo 200km ride of my choice anyway.  Riding in an event with others though does have a greater appeal and its good to chat with people along the way and at the checkpoints.  However, whichever way I do it, once I get my head down and increase my mileage that is going to take me to pastures new and break the boredom.

The map of todays ride can be seen at the top of the page and further details can found here..  I had a bit of a problem with the cadence sensor right at the start of the ride today so I had to disconnect it, hence the very brief and slow cadence rate on the website.  Something else to keep me busy, sorting that out!

Another Step On Another Ladder..

This morning I took the second step on the ladder of my latest attempt, the fourth of the year, at getting fit again.  I rode a circuit of just over 50km into Northamptonshire and it seemed to go pretty well.  Todays ride was longer, hillier and windier than the previous one but the average speed was faster so thats encouraging.  You could say that a strong headwind cancels itself out but its not necessarily so.  But if you ride a circuit and you have a headwind along the long flat open bits and the tailwind occurs either up hill, or even down hill it doesn’t help that much, so it doesn’t balance itself out.  You could have a headwind for all of  the outward loop and all the hills could come at the end.

My shoulder felt OK again today, both during and after the ride so I think I am pretty much there.  I will just increase the distances by about 10km again for each of the next couple rides and I think I can say thats it.

By coincidence there was an article in this months CTC publication ‘Cycle’ in the Q&A section about exactly the same problem that I had.  Its exactly what the hospital consultant diagnosed for me.  I scanned it and I think its just about readable plus you get the bonus of a nice illustration thrown in.

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Back On The Road…

I ventured out for a bike ride again today after a break of ten days.. My shoulder seemed OK after this ride, unlike the last one when there was no pain before or during the ride but painful for a while afterwards.  There was no pain before, during or after todays exertions  though.

I pottered around my Ouse Valley Ride..

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I chose the shortened version today, which is a ride of 35km against the 50km of the longer one.  You can see from the map why I call it my Ouse Valley ride as the River Great Ouse is clearly seen.  Its hardly a ‘great river’ at this stage but I guess it helps to distinguish it from the other Ouse rivers in the country.  This one is fairly great by the time it gets to the sea at Kings Lynn though where it pours into the The Wash.

I even stopped to take a photo of the Felt bike, its first outing since the 30th May according to my Strava records.  I seem to have been favouring the Colnago most of the summer.  Its always a tough choice to make but the Colnago was always nearer the door and the Felt was hanging up and locked up.  So today I released it and now it will be the one nearest the door.

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This picture was taken at the bridge at Felmersham.  I seldom stop on my bike rides, especially ones this short so you are especially privileged to see this photo.

I think the Felt was pleased to see the sunshine but just after I took this photo it got a bit of a soaking as I came to a stretch of road that was flooded from various streams of water, well probably torrents would be a better description, pouring down from the ridge on my left, and there were various other outpourings for about a mile.  I thought at first it was rain water from the recent rains draining down, but there seemed too much. I later decided there was probably a very big burst water main somewhere because a little further up the road I came across an Anglia Water van parked up in the middle of nowhere.  Nobody was to be seen so I am guessing the driver was wandering the fields somewhere.

Blessings In Disguise..

I am writing this on Sunday morning, the morning I should have been up early and pedalling around a 200km Audax down into the Cotswolds. I was prevented from doing so by the events of last weekend that were documented in my previous post. I am thinking in some ways it was a kind of a blessing in disguise as its pouring with rain here as I type this.  Not the best day for pedalling 200km+.

I was pleased to see this morning that the road rash on my thigh had grown some new skin over it when I removed the dressing,  I was wondering what I might find there after a few days of being covered up.  I went to hospital on Thursday to get my shoulder x-rayed and there were no broken bones but I have torn the ligaments and they will take about six weeks to heal by all accounts.  I don’t think that will stop me cycling though as when I am riding the bike I have no pain from my shoulder at all.  I didn’t know how it would stand up to 200km ride though so thats why I opted out of todays ride.  Now my road rash has healed over I will try some steadily increasing rides and check my shoulder out as I go.

I have been passing my time this morning checking the future Audax calendar and my next scheduled ride would be the Kidderminster Killer if all goes well, a 200km loop from near Kidderminster and heading west.  To quote the site details :- ….

THE KIDDERMINSTER KILLER is an audax with a long history. Worcestershire to Montgomery and back via plenty of scenic but challenging hills including The Long Mynd. It is a ride to be beholden and fondly remembered.”

While browsing the ride details further I found this YouTube video made in the 2013 version that I posted on my Facebook Page ‘Bricycling’ earlier.  I will share it here as it might be of interest to those who have no idea of how an Audax works or what it ‘looks lik’.  It features the home clubs riders quite heavily (Beacon RCC) but is quite typical of how an Audax is.  You might just be tempted to give one a try sometime..

Have to go now, Its now time for me to settle down and watch somebody else suffer in the National Road Race championships, men and women live on TV all afternoon.

Downfall In Denton…

Team MK C Group Ride To Carlon, 81km
Team MK C Group Ride To Carlon, 81km

The weather forecast for yesterday was dull with very little sunshine and maybe a little rain late in the afternoon.  That is just how it appeared when I dressed and set off for yesterdays ride with Team MK.  Shorts and a tee shirt under a sleeveless shirt were the order of the day as it was quite warm even at 8:30.  I decided against the rain jacket even as a means to just keep warm as it was unnecessary.

I was about halfway to Stony Stratford when I felt the first tiny drops of rain.  It can’t be be much I said to myself as its not forecast and anyway I am wearing so little it won’t take long to dry out.  It was still raining when I reached Stony Stratford and was still doing so by the time we set off for Carlton, the days assigned coffee and cake stop.

There were twelve of us to start the ride but we picked up somebody else en route making it up to thirteen.  I remember making some flippant remark at the time about that being an unlucky number.  However we were an orderly group and going at a good steady speed.  We had come down into Denton village, near to Castle Ashby when IT happened, en route to Grendon and then on to Wollaston and Carlton.

I was riding in the middle of the group, along the village high street thinking about the climb ahead, back out of the village.  I remember spotting a manhole cover in the middle of the road and pointing it out to the riders behind and moving over to avoid it.  The next thing I knew I was losing control of the bike for no apparent reason and I knew I was coming off.  There was nothing I could do about it, I just instinctively did what I could to protect myself as I went down and hoped for the best as the person behind me clattered into me as well.  There was nothing they could do about it  either.  I gingerly got up as soon as someone realeasd me from the jumble of bikes and checked myself over for damage.  I could feel pain in my left shoulder, upper left thigh and left arm.  I was fairly sure, despite the sharp pain that I hadn’t broken my collar bone as I could move my arm OK.  I didn’t look at my thigh but my shorts were not torn so I expected some kind of friction burn there, I would check that out later in the privacy of my home !! I could see a big graze on my arm that was sore but not too much blood.  When we checked the scene of the accident we could see oily ‘rainbow’ patterns pattern on the wet road and there was also an adverse camber on that bit of road so I think it was just an unlucky combination of events.

After a few more minutes of recovery and analysis and some bike checks I decided I was fit enough to carry on with the ride.  As it happened I was only about six miles from my home at the time despite having ridden about thirty miles since I left home, so I could easily have given up on the day I guess.  The rain stopped for a while soon after we restarted and then it was intermittent for the rest of the ride.  When we reached Carlton I could have just carried on and not stopped for refreshments as its quite near to my home.  I did stop though because the journey back to Olney was into a headwind and I thought I would take advantage of a little shelter, riding in the group.

On later inspection I was right about the friction burn, about three inches diameter of exposed flesh on my left thigh.  Sleeping last night was a bit tricky with my painful shoulder as well, I had to lay in just the right position and a few times I woke up with a start when I happened to move the wrong way in my sleep.  The pain is right around the shoulder joint so if its not feeling any better in a  couple of days I will probably go and get an x-ray.

I am hoping I am going to be OK for the planned 200km Audax ride next Sunday as I was feeling in pretty good shape to tackle that before my fall.  I will hopefully try a bike ride tomorrow and see what hurts and hopefully by the end of the week there will be a big improvement.

Ride To Oxford

Just two days after my longest ride of the year I set off on another, even longer.  Ever since my ride to Cambridge last year I had promised myself a ride to Oxford to complete the ‘pair’ of University cities within striking distance of home for a days ride.  They are pretty much equidistant and in opposite directions.  This ride totalled a little bit under 158km or 99 miles.Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 19.24.01

Along with needing the fitness I had been waiting for nice weather with a favourable wind for the return leg.  Yesterday seemed to be just that day but I omitted to check the strength of the wind.  It was pretty strong going out, therefore an average speed of 21kph on the outward leg was compensated for by a return leg averaging 26kph.

The trust steed of the day, Specialized Allez, Audax equipped.
The trusty steed of the day, Specialized Allez, Audax equipped.

I managed a selfie photo as proof of my arrival..

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Me and the Radcliffe Camera building.. ( An unintentionally appropriate name for a selfie subject I guess? )
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My bike is the one leaning on the gate post, but bicycle space was hard to find here..
Oxfords version of the 'Bridge of Sighs'..
Oxfords version of the ‘Bridge of Sighs’..

I have to say I could easily have arrived somewhere in Japan judging by the amount of Japanese people I saw and heard.  It was easily the most predominant language I heard while I sat eating my lunch,  half a Soreen malt loaf eaten ‘neat’ from the packet.. and a banana!

There was one little ‘hiccup’ on the route a few miles before Bicester. I had planned to use a road that when I got a mile or so up it ended in a sign saying “No admittance and cycling prohibited”, According to my map it was a public right of way but i obeyed and retraced my steps (pedals?) carried on another way to Bicester with not too much extra mileage.

Over the last two rides I have quite enjoyed the exploration of new roads away from my home territory and roads frequently pedalled.  It made me think about more rides further afield.  I had already planned some 200km Audax rides over the coming months which I enjoy for the same reasons of discovering new roads to ride and scenes to see.  It was as preparation for the upcoming 207km Tour of the Cotswolds on the 28th of this month that I made these two recent longer rides, just to test my legs.  I have to say I fancy some more on a regular basis..