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.

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..

Battle From Naseby..

In search of longer rides as preparation for the 207km Tour of the Cotswolds I have entered for the 28th June I picked Naseby as my target for yesterdays ride.  It was a total ride of 109km and had over 1100 metres of height gain in the climbs.

I planned the route ‘blind’ once it was away from my locally known roads.  I didn’t do too bad a job on the outward stretch but the homeward half left something to be desired, not helped by missing a turn on the Garmin and it recalculating the route to my final destination, which was more direct than I had originally planned and took me all around the middle of Northampton.  I didn’t realise the recalculation had taken place until it was too late to do much about it.

It was all little lanes and the odd ‘B’ road on the way out but very little traffic, altogether a very nice ride.  I was in good humour and feeling good about life as I reached Naseby and saw this sign.IMG_2367

I realised I had just missed the anniversary of the battle by one day.  The Battle of Naseby was the decisive battle of the first English Civil War.  On 14 June 1645, the main army of King Charles I was destroyed by the Parliamentarian New Model Army commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell.

The memorial to the battle involved a detour to just is outside the village.  The signpost said it was one mile.  I think it s more than that or maybe just a delusion my behalf because the entire detour was either up or down.. no level road.

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Panoramic View of the battlefield.

Having had a little stay there and a pause for thought about the carnage that must have taken place in this now peaceful looking scene, I headed back to the village and the village shop to find some food.  I picked up a nice fresh ham salad sandwich and set off again until I found a suitable gateway for ‘lunch’.

Lunch is served...
Lunch is served…

It was just after lunch that it all went wrong.  After about half a mile I turned left onto the A5199.  I should have turned left againat at Creaton after a few miles but somehow the Garmin and I missed the turn completely and I stayed on the same road all the way to Northampton and it wasn’t the best of surfaces I have to say!!  I entered the north of Northampton and, navigating by a bit of local knowledge and not the Garmin I found my way across to the East side and back onto my originally planned route at Earls Barton.

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Altogether the ride was 109km, about at the halfway stage of the ride on the 28th.  I felt pretty good at the end of it all despite the large amount of climbing involved (about 1100metres).  I plan a few more long distance rides in the next couple of weeks pushing up toward the 150km mark.

Story Book Ride…

Had my second midweek ride of the week today, a pleasant pedal around 72km of one of my favourite rides, especially at this time of year.  Through lots of mainly Northamptonshire rolling countryside with 632 metres of height gain in total. Still quite a respectable average of just over 25kph though.  Just a little main road stuff but generally quiet country roads and lanes, especially attractive when the sun shines and fairly traffic free too..

I came across this place on my route, a little hamlet called Plumpton End.  I think if ever there was a place suitably titled for a children’s story book, this would be it.  Its just outside of Paulerspury heading west.

Plumpton End
Plumpton End
Plumpton End
Plumpton End

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Not a day for rushing around too much, just enjoying the humming sound of tyres on the road and sunshine on my back.  I was wearing the same kind of kit I was wearing in Spain couple of weeks ago, just shorts and a top. . My kind of cycling weather

Earlier in the week on Tuesday afternoon I rode my Ouse Valley route,  It was a little cooler then and quite a strong east wind blowing too. The journey out to Felmersham was a struggle into the wind but from Felmersham back to Tyringham was very fast with the tail wind.  I didn’t get one personal best on the Strava segments heading east, but every segment on the westbound journey was a personal best for the year.  I was in a mood for rushing that day and that resulted in  my fastest time of the year for that ride.

 

An Eventful Eighty !!!

I made the most of a sunny morning today and sent myself out for a bike ride.  I had decided on a ride of about 80km but I wasn’t sure where exactly I would go.  I thought somewhere in the Kimbolton direction.  This turned out to be a mistake as things didn’t turn out for the best, but it could have been a lot worse !!

Things were going pleasantly enough in the rare but welcome warm sunshine and very little wind.  I headed up through Poddington and Wymington and then eastwards and across to Yelden.

Yelden
Yelden

I continued rolling along the quiet country lanes through Upper and Lower Dean

Upper Dean
Upper Dean

I then turned down the B645 towards Kimbolton.  I was approaching Kimbolton along the main road and saw a car coming up the road on my left on the B650 to join my road at a ‘T’ Junction.   It was my right of way so I just carried on and was more than surprised when he didn’t stop at the junction and just drove straight out onto the main road and kind of side swiped me.  I was able to take some evasive action but he still caught the back of my bike with his front offside wing,  pushing the back of the bike into the road at an angle and across the front of his car. Thanks to a few bike handling skills from a history of mountain bike racing I was able to keep control of things and at least stay upright and not go under the car.  Also fortunately he stopped pretty quickly.  I can’t really recall exactly what happened at the time, or exactly what I did, whatever it was it was just instinctive.  Having had the back of the bike pushed out into the road the front of my bike was now pointing at the kerb.  I bumped up the kerb somehow at an angle to the accompaniment of two loud bangs, pinch punctures, one from each tyre as I whacked the kerb on my way to the grass verge.

The car driver pulled in and got out, and was full of apologies, well he was when I had finished my tirade of expletives and remarks about his eyesight and driving ability!!!  He did ask me the extent of the damage and what it would cost.  As it happens there was surprisingly little damage, one tyre sidewall was split and two punctured inner tubes.  A financial arrangement was come to for the replacements and he humbly went on his way.

I set to to replace the inner tubes, fortunately as is my practice I had two spare tubes with me.  I always carry a small section of old tyre with me as well, a few inches long.  I inserted this inside the tyre behind the split before fitting the inner tube, to stop the tube bulging out of the split when the tyre was inflated and I was soon on my way again.

I got a through Kimbolton and all the way up the hill out it, towards Swineshead.   just started the descent when I realised that there was no cadence showing on my Garmin!!  I looked down and the sensor was missing, obviously another victim of the accident.  I turned round and headed back to the scene of the crime, all the time hoping it hand landed somewhere safe.  When I got there I could see the rubber mount in the middle of the road and with a little more looking I could see the sensor in the gutter on the other side of the road.  Fortunately it wasn’t damaged so I pocketed it and set off once more.

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The rest of the ride was uneventful apart from a clunk every time the section of tyre that had the reinforcement behind it hit the road.   It wasn’t  too noticeable except on the smooth sections of road, which in this day and age are not very prolific.  The ride turned out to be 79km, just 1km short of my intended distance so that bit worked out OK.  When I got home and stopped and thought about events I had realised I had a pretty lucky escape really.  If I had been pushed across the road in the other direction I would have gone into the oncoming traffic and probably wouldn’t  be sitting here typing this at the moment.

Team MK C Group to Marston Moretaine.

Hi, I am back and blogging again now, I was also back out on a Team MK club ride this morning, six weeks after my last one before my Spanish sojourn.  The ride to the Forest Centre cafe at Marston Moretaine became a 90km ride for me including my ride to Stony Stratford to the start of the ride.  Its quite a hilly route anyway but it contains two of my least favourite climbs.  The ride up from the Two Locks pub at Stoke Hammond and just seems to go up and up in three stages until you get to Little Brickhill.  Then to round things off on the way back there is the long drag up Marston Hill into Cranfield right after restart after the coffee break.  They both have varying gradients all the way up and I can never seem get a good rhythm going.

Team MK C Group ride to Marston Moretaine
Team MK C Group ride to Marston Moretaine.

I was a bit apprehensive about my condition before the ride, I did a 50km ride on Wednesday and that was my first ride for just over two weeks, the previous one was in Spanish sun.  The notorious Tramuntana wind in Spain put paid to anymore rides out there in the last week or so.  The wind comes down from the mountains and it was around 50mph with frequent gusts up into 80’s!!

Anyway, I survived pretty well today, better than my expectations, especially on those hated climbs.  Talking of which I spent the afternoon in front of the TV watching the pro’s riding up the last mountain stage of the three week Giro d’Italia.  They were fierce.  Todays stage was over five hours and 199km the last 40km of which was more or less “UP” to over 2000 metres of altitude.   Mind you the riders were mostly 40 – 50 years younger than me so I guess everything is relative!  So after the professional final stage tomorrow I get my afternoons back.  I don’t have to cram everything in to the morning to free up the afternoon.  The sofa could probably do with a break as well.

I am hoping to get some photos of the recent trip up on my photography blog just as soon as I have finished editing them and selecting the best for your delight and delectation.

Two Mountains And A Beach Between…

Today I repeated a route I did last year.   Along to Roses and then up a climb that becomes the top of the climb up from Cadaques.

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This picture was taken about halfway up looking back the way I had come

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Back down towards Empuriabrava in the distance, where I started the ride..

 

Most of this climb was around the 6% mark and pretty even,  so a good steady rhythm was called for.  After I reached the summit at the junction to Cadaques I turned left and there was a nice long descent down to Port de Selva.  A brief stop by the beach for a photo and a bit of hydration before starting the long climb.

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Then it was up to the St Pere de Rodes Monastery at the summit.  I stopped for these photos after about 3km of climbing with another 6km to go.

Back down where I cam from.
Back down where I cam from…not sure what the graffiti is about but some kind of protest I am sure..
Where I am heading, onward and upward
Where I am heading..

I reached the top after a climb of about 9km with garments between 6% and 15%.  I had a bit of a break for more rehydration and took a couple more photos.

 

This one where I was going.

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And this one back where I had come from..

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Next the best bit, the ride down! I was going pretty fast when I came round a hairpin bend to find these cows crossing the road at their own leisurely pace.  Not ideal when descending at about 60kph but my brakes held up to the job as this photo proves!image

I continued my descent to the village at the bottom where there seemed to be some kind social event taking place.   Across country then past Marza where we rode to yesterday and then to Castello Empuries where it seemed to be market day.  Just a couple of kilometres after that on main roads and I was back at the site and ready for a cool beer or two…  The temperature had touched 30C at times.. but generally around the 26C mark..

Afternoon Ride To The Lake ..

I decided to fit in one last ride this afternoon before moving on to new location tomorrow.  It was an abbreviation of the mountain ride I did on Wednesday,  this time no mountain.  It was also one of the first rides I did here last year.  The temperature was in the mid 20’s C, very pleasant for cycling.

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Its a really pleasant ride for most of the way.  The outward run along the C51 main road is fast through some of the coastal towns.  Light traffic and generous cycle lane along the road.

I turned off at Cubelles and headed into the country then the best bit starts, an undulating quiet road, great surfaces and fine  scenery up.  I stopped to take these photos at Castellet, almost at the top of the triangle the route forms.

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Panta del Foix from Castellet
The view to the castle at Castellet
The view to the castle at Castellet
The view down the road from Castellet
The view down the road from under the castle at Castellet
The view back up from where the last photo was pointed
The view back up from where the last photo was taken

A bit more cross country riding to L’Arboc,

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Then there is a bit more main road work with a few trucks on it down to Bellvei where I switched to a quieter road but still a generous cycle lane on both the roads.

Wherever there is no cycle lane or path there is generally a few of these dotted about.. a useful addition that would be welcome on some of our roads I think .

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It was mostly a downward gradient all the way from Bellvei back to Calafell and ‘home’ for a bit of a relax and dinner before starting to do some of the packing ready for the morning departure up to our next stay for a week or so.  Oh and finding time to write this post too !!