Always have a plan.

The Tour Divide is off the menu for me this year. It’s a long story, it was kind of out of my hands but there’s no fallings-out or drama over a bike ride. I’ll just do other stuff. Guy’s still going to do it and I’ll help him to prepare for it as much as he needs me to.

We’re both riding coast to coast in Scotland, including all of the 7 Stanes red trails, then hopping on a ferry to Northern Ireland and riding coast to coast there too (including the red-grade trail centres over there) in a couple of weeks. Back in time for work on Monday. The ride is in aid of the Ride For Michael charity and we’re being joined along the way by various mates and cheerers-on. It’ll be ace. In fact donate some money on the Ride for Michael website in recognition of me and Guy having to put up with each other’s shit jokes for 4 days. 

Then I’ll be doing the 3 Peaks fell race, just to get this running thing out of my system for another few months.

I’m going to ride the Rumble in the Jungle MTB stage race in Sri Lanka in June (which coincidentally starts on the same day as the TDR). I’ve ridden my bike for long distances on repeated days before loads of times, but I’ve never taken part in a stage race nor have I ever been to a country where I need loads of inoculations beforehand, so that’ll be novel. I’ll be riding as a Singletrack Magazine “our man in the East” reporter so expect to see loads of inane drivel and photos of me riding bikes and eating curry later on…

I’m also planning to head down to Switzerland a week or so after Sri Lanka to have a crack at the European 24 Hour Solo Championship. I assume it’ll be a hilly one, that.

Apart from these adventures I’ll be lining up at as many UK MTB Marathon, 24 hour and XC events as I can before the grand finale to 2016, the UK 24 hour Champs in Fort William in October.

The Tour Divide however is right under my skin now, so the plan (my plan) is to do it next year, providing I can raise the necessary backing (and cash!) to do so.

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Green Jersey Gravel Rush

I don’t know where the ‘gravel racing’ scene came from, to be honest. I reckon people have been riding bikes on gravelly terrain way before it became an actual thing, but then I don’t work in marketing so probably lack some insight into such things. Gravel bikes, as far as I can tell, are cyclocross bikes but maybe a bit slacker with disc brakes. I think slacker, disc-equipped ‘cross bikes were known as ‘cyclocross bikes’ not that long ago, but then gravel was invented. Probably. I’ve no idea what that stuff was at the bottom of our fishtank cos I thought that was gravel. Can fish ride bikes?

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Anyway, riding a skinny-tyred (actually, skinny tyres aren’t as skinny as they used to be either) bicycle on some gravel is good fun, especially in the company of like-minded people also riding cyclocr…..I mean, gravel bikes.

While everyone else has been getting right back into racing and riding bikes in organised events, I haven’t been really. The break from the routine of training and racing that I blathered on about on here a few weeks ago didn’t end as quickly as I thought it would – I did more running than I normally do and I feel much better for it, thank you. I’m busy putting the miles in again now though (while still running – I’ve got the 3 Peaks fell race in a few weeks) and I entered and made the symbolic step of actually turning up to an event last weekend. Not a race as such, an ‘offroad sportive’, a long-distance cyclocross ride or the closest we in the UK can get to a ‘gravel race’.

It wasn’t a race, which was a bloody good job because I’d done my legs in by running 15 miles offroad the day before and I’d had the genius idea of riding 30 miles to the start with Phil, which always means a pacy ol’ pace.

After some coffee at the Green Jersey bike shop and meeting Dave and Daz, off we went. 60 miles of really steep roads and gravel tracks in the hills around Clitheroe, some singletrack and even a brief excursion on a man-made mountain bike trail, surrounded by armour-clad mountain bikers.

Darren’s back wheel fell apart. My legs weren’t doing what I wanted them to. Phil and Dave were waiting at the top of every hill. I considered my immediate future while drinking tea at the halfway feed station in Slaidburn (home of the poshest village hall in the world).

I was hurting really bad, I was slow, my brakes didn’t work AT ALL and I had another 30 miles to ride home. That’s if I rode straight home, which I didn’t.

10 miles or so later I arrived back in Clitheroe, accompanied by Daz and his now-terminal rear hub. I had the nicest bowl of curried parsnip and lentil soup I’ve ever had and got on with the 2 hour ride home on by-now busy roads on a cyclocross bike with no brakes.

It’s great to be back!

BBB Cycling – new sponsor!

I’m chuffed that BBB Cycling are very generously supporting me in my racing, training and ‘going out and getting a bit lost for several hours’ exploits this year. They’re helping me out with helmets and glasses – I’m now sporting the Icarus helmet and Select glasses as modelled by my assistant below….

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As well as helmets and glasses, BBB can also supply bike parts, clothing, brake pads, tubes, cables, pumps, handlebar tape, chainrings, tools….it’s a big list. In fact, there aren’t many things that BBB don’t do.

Have a look!