Christmas so far…

It’s all been ace up to now. The kids have had a great time, me and Deb have been able to chill out (a bit) and I’ve managed to put some quality riding/training in. As well as some hellish turbo training sessions I had a hard but picturesque ride back from Macc via some big Peak District hills on Boxing Day – the mixture of blue skies, sunshine and snow on the ground turned a straightforward long tempo ride into a memorable afternoon out.

The day after that was the Macclesfield cyclocross race. Back to Macclesfield we went, I got signed in, met up with Budge and got ready for the race. Plenty of time to go. No need to panic. Pin the numbers on….stroll towards the course with Deb…hmmm. Looks like everyone’s ready for the start. Glance at watch. Arrgh! I should be over there RIGHT NOW.

After a mad 100 metre sprint to the start of the race I joined the pack, with 10 seconds to go, right at the back. Cursing my stupidity I didn’t bother trying to elbow my way closer to the front as I’d probably cause chaos by doing so at this late stage so I decided to see how many other riders I could get past in the next hour.

Rather a lot, as it happens. After the shambles of the start I actually started to feel pretty good – the mud wasn’t at all bad either. Granted it was very runny and got everywhere but it wasn’t preventing the wheels from turning – I was ticking other riders off left right and centre. I always lose count of how many laps I’ve done at these things but I do recall seeing Nick Craig fly past me more than twice.

On the last lap I had to put up with some minor chainsuck – no problem as long as I kept things smooth. The pace increased in the last few hundred metres however and with it, so did the chainsuck. Eventually and rather inevitably, the chain completely jammed between the chainstay and the chainring, 200 or so metres to go to the finish line. I knew that there was a large pack that I’d just left behind now closing in so I picked up the bike and ran to the finish. That hurt quite a bit, but at least I only lost 2 or 3 places as a result. Next time I’ll try to make sure I don’t give myself such a big handicap and start near the front…

a big chill

Despite the ‘widespread misery’ ‘roads chaos’ and plenty of ‘travel nightmares’, I’ve been really enjoying the recent cold weather and heavy snow (heavy snow for this part of the world anyway). My studded snow tyres had only just arrived when it started to snow so I’ve been using them daily ever since. This is despite them being so crappily made that they’re going back; one of them is badly twisted and the other has the wire bead poking through the tyre wall, causing two punctures before I noticed and bent it back. I’m swapping them for something a bit more high-quality.

The highpoint of the week was a late night snowy ride on Monday, over towards Darwen, met up with Simon, did a short but very tiring loop over there then rode back. It must have been at least -8 on the moors, so cold in fact that Simon’s freewheel froze, my bottle of energy drink turned to slush and the water in my Camelbak froze solid. Luckily this was quite late in the ride….

For last night’s training ride I decided to play it safe(r) and ride a shortish local loop repeatedly for 4 hours or so – good for training the mind for 24 hour racing as well as training anything else. As I set off, it started to snow again. Within an hour the snow was really falling and visibility was getting very poor; the trails and cobbled roads disappearing under a thick white blanket. The route crossed two motorway bridges and whilst the traffic seemed to be moving quite normally early on, by 10pm the flow of cars and traffic was reduced to a slow single file procession as the entire carriageway vanished. I noticed that during each lap, I couldn’t see any of my own tyre tracks from the previous lap – this was snow the like of which I’ve not seen for a long time (not around here anyway).

Despite the near-whiteout conditions I did see a couple of young foxes. I fed one a liquorice Mule bar 😉

the hills all to myself

Day off today, so I finished work yesterday and immediately hatched a plot on the way home to get out for a proper long ride. My regular loop these days is what I used to call a ‘long ride’, my old regular loop now seems tiny and has long since been discarded in favour of more climbing and hurt. Everything moves on and evolves.

Due to my day off work I decided it was possible to ride into the early hours of the morning without causing anyone too much grief – in other words, I didn’t have to sit at a desk and stay awake the day after. So I left the house around 8:30pm and rode towards Bolton and then to Winter Hill. Past the naked couple in their car with the interior light on (each to their own) and up the tarmac road to the summit of the hill, past the mast. It was eerie up there, clouds were swirling around the mast, illuminated by the red lights. Down the San Marino track and then along the road towards Edgerton. Soon I was offroad again on the Witton Weaver’s way, past the Strawbury Duck and then climbing towards the Maggot farm and Holcome Moor.

Resisting the tempation to take the quick route home at Ramsbottom (it was approaching midnight by now), I carried on towards Edenfield via Irwell Vale – eventually arriving at Rooley Moor and looking forward to the final 15 miles back home, much of it downhill.

I got back home around 2am, earlier than I expected but happy to have established in my mind the new ‘big loop’; one day this might become the ‘regular’.

Christmas Cracker Sportive

Unlike the last time I rode this event, this time I was riding with a few mates from work. Since selling my road bike some time ago I’ve not really had chance to replace it so I swapped the knobbly tyres off the Rodwell for some fast and grippy Michelin Pro Race 2’s.

We all met up in Grasmere ready for the 9am start but it was postponed until 9:30 due to ice on the road – well it was better than last time when the start was delayed by 3 months! The route had been altered at the last minute too, presumably to avoid a completely treacherous section.

As we waited for the start, getting colder and colder, I noticed a few other riders who were evidently in this for the ‘full winter experience’. One guy in our group was wearing fingerless gloves. Another bloke was wearing triathlon shoes with no socks. As if in an attempt to outdo the people riding full suspension mountain bikes in a 60 mile road event, one chap arrived in full GB kit astride a Specialized time trail bike – deep section aero rims, carbon tri bars, etc. He set off like a bullet but I expect it was a bit of a handful at times (maybe I’m wrong).

In contrast, the Rodwell proved to be just as good as my old road bike in events like this – surefooted going down,  a breeze on the climbs, no noticeable flex when I ‘stomped’ hard on the flat bits but also all-day comfortable. Everything you want in a sportive bike really. Not bad for a bike apparently designed for 60 minutes of mud.

To start with I behaved myself. I rode with the group as much as possible, I even had conversations. Whenever I found myself a long way out in front I’d slow down or stop and let everyone catch up, then carry on the chatting. It was ace – I was able to look around, take in the scenery and appreciate the majesty of the lakes on a crisp winter’s day. I did put the hammer down on a couple of occasions, just before and straight after the tea and cake stop but generally I was a good boy.

At the top of the final climb in Grizedale I stopped to wait for the group and noticed that Nick wasn’t with them. Apparently he was last spotted dropping off the back of the group in obvious glycogen shortage. Knowing from experience how much worse hitting the wall can be if you’re riding on your own, I decided to hang about and wait for him.

Eventually Nick appeared. I asked him to eat all of his remaining food and we rode together to the finish, some 10 miles away.

We eventually reached the finish back in Grasmere 5 and a bit hours after we had set off. The last time I did this I finished in 3:23 including a cake stop. Still, it was a damn good day out.

me again

It’s been a while since I last wrote anything on here – work has gone a bit ballistic which has coincided with me increasing the training miles and the effort in preparation for the Strathpuffer.

Another piece of the jigsaw arrived today in the form of a pair of ice tyres – I’ve been riding on patches of ice quite a lot recently during my regular late-night training rides but I’m going to need something a bit better than mud tyres for potentially 24 hours of the stuff. Hopefully I’ll get to try them out soon if the cold spell kicks in properly…